Monthly Archives: February 2010

Dealing with rape and sexual assault

I met Susan George over a year ago. She had been sent to see me because she had just completed a Counselling course at the college I work in and she wanted to move onto an undergraduate course, but her tutor was concerned that she couldn’t work at that level. After working closely with her for a couple of months on essay writing and research skills I gradually learnt about why Susan was reluctant to sit amongst students and interact with strangers. Just over a year ago she had been brutally raped by an ex-boyfriend and was lucky to escape with her life.

The story was covered by the national press, including the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail Reporter gave a fairly accurate version of events and the comments under the story were entirely positive. This is because Susan George was an acceptable rape victim. By this I mean that she didn’t drink, wear ‘provocative’ clothing and wasn’t sexually promiscuous.

Do not misunderstand me, I completely understand that the only person to blame for rape is the perpetrator and that none of the above factors should lesson the seriousness of the assault or place any blame on the victim. However, as Susan made clear to me, in her experience women feel shame after a rape and if they feel that they were drunk, or wearing a short skirt they are somehow responsible for their rape. Susan took the step of waiving her right to anonymity and it turns out that her rapist had a history of rape and serious sexual assault over a 21 year period. Several other rape victims came forward during the trial and her rapist was eventually found guilty of 19 offences.

Susan had not shied away from her rape and although she was still (and is still) attending counselling to deal with the trauma she has been through she went back into education in order to become a counsellor – specialising in helping trauma and rape victims. She wants to help victims of rape pursue their rapists through the courts in order to bring them to justice. She is acutely aware of how rape is a subject that is not talked about openly, and that rape victims are reluctant to come forward.

This is why she has now put her story on the Internet and offered her perspective on what happens if a rape victim decides to come forward. She has set up a website – rapecounselling.co.uk – with a chat forum and is ready to listen to and help victims of sexual assault. She has also started a blog and has just posted an introduction to herself.

So, please go and read her story, visit her blog and link to it so that she can help other rape victims come forward and bring more rapists to justice. She is also on <a href=”http://twitter.com/coming_forward”>Twitter</a> and should be using it regularly just as soon as I have shown her how to use it all, so please follow her.

Peter Hitchens absolutely wrong about sex education

Peter Hitchens regularly writes some pretty barmy things, as most Mail columnists are paid to do, but occasionally he seems to stray beyond this into madness. Yesterday was one of those days, as he used the title: ‘More sex education means more teenage pregnancies…always‘ for his column arguing that sex education is pretty much the sole reason for teenage pregnancy.

You see Hitchens – rather like the Mail – blames sex education for teenage pregnancy and seems to think that if schools didn’t mention sex at all, then no teenager would engage in it. The whole argument is simplistic and wrong, teenage pregnancies happened before Labour and would continue to happen even if schools never mentioned it again. As ever, the Daily Mail pretend that the terrible liberal Netherlands doesn’t exist, seeing as they teach sex education to five-year-olds and have the lowest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe.

But facts aren’t important to Hitchens, as is made clear by the fundamental flaw in his basic argument: if more sex education leads to more teenage pregnancies, and we’re currently delivering more sex eduction year-on-year, then surely the teenage pregnancy rate must have increased year-on-year? The trouble is that they haven’t. Most years rates have dropped, with rates increasing in 2002 and 2007, and this latest report shows a drop of 13%.

So Hitchens’ whole argument is beyond silly, more sex education leads mainly to the year-on-year reduction of teenage pregnancy, the current figures show a reduction of 13% and a truly liberal sex education such as in the Netherlands leads to the lowest teenage pregnancy in Europe.

Hitchens makes his argument worse with the childish prudishness that makes him so employable to the Daily Mail – a paper that claims to have a moral objection to sex whilst plastering its output with half-naked females. Sex education to Hitchens is some evil liberal ‘invasion of school classrooms by supposedly educational smut’. Hitchens makes the classic Mail assumption that sex education is the teaching of various positions and techniques before handing out free condoms and contraceptives and turning the classroom lights out for a quick practical.

The irony of Hitchens is that he complains right at the start of his column that so many people ‘put up with so many separate insults to their intelligence in any given week’, then insists on insulting the intelligence of his readers with childish arguments and constantly referring to ‘smut education’. This idea that New Labour are attempting to breed a generation of Labour voting porn-stars seems to stem from Hitchens research into the history of sex education and his discovery of the invention of sex education:

I didn’t then know about its first invention, during the Hungarian Soviet revolution of 1919, when Education Commissar George Lukacs ordered teachers to instruct children about sex in a deliberate effort to debauch Christian morality.

And it gets worse, Hitchens genuinely believes that:

the people who want it are always militant Leftists who loathe conventional family life; that the pretext for it has always been the same – a supposed effort to reduce teen pregnancy and sexual disease; and that it has always been followed by the exact opposite.

Except that is hasn’t of course, because the figures do not support his argument at all. Furthermore, the simplicity of his argument ignores the reality of the relationship between sex education and sexual promiscuity. It would make equal sense to argue that as teenage pregnancy increases so does the government program of sex education, therefore the relationship between the two is inverse – it is more teenage pregnancies that causes more sex education, not the other way around.

But Hitchens is so certain that he is right that he doesn’t even try to form a coherent argument to support his viewpoint, probably because the evidence doesn’t support him he ignores it and spends his time acting like a paranoid child. He doesn’t even consider the completely different world that children are growing up in, constantly swamped in sexual images by a media obsessed with it – and the Daily Mail is no different. Hitchens would rather ignore the wider social influences on teenage sexual patterns and instead simply blames sex education. The whole argument is utterly without foundation and intellectual honesty, but I imagine that’s exactly why the Daily Mail prints it.

Paul Dacre: old, going bald, very grey and has jowls like the Churchill dog

He was once a sprightly young man who according to one eye witness ‘would stalk through the newsroom… shouting “what the fuck is this, you cunt, there’s not a fucking brain in this office” – tearing up pages’ and terrifying staff [1]. Yet recent video footage of Paul Dacre has revealed he is a grey, balding, plump-faced pensioner who struggles over basic sentences.

It seems a far cry from the man dubbed ‘the Vagina Monologue because he call[ed] so many people a cunt’ [2]. He also seemed to be obsessed with incoherent ideas and concepts that seldom bore any relationship with reality; at one point he claimed with a straight face and earnest voice that rather than members of public sue the Daily Mail he would: ‘obviously encourage people to go to the PCC [instead] where they get free and instant justice’. As well as claiming that ‘we have, i think, quite an effective system of self-regulation in the media, we come under a lot of scrutiny, rightly’. Amazingly, such was the sympathy garnered by Gollum’s dilapidated cousin, not a single peel of laughter rang out from the committee room. It was clear that Dacre was no longer a feared and powerful newspaper editor, but rather a senile old man who really thought the most useless ‘regulator’ ever created was a great success.

He increasingly looked like the father of Richard Littlejohn (which I really think he does and would certainly explain a lot), and his sense of victimised conspiracy – as well as complete disregard for reality – could have been plucked from any of Littlejohn’s Daily Mail columns.

The above is an attempt at a ‘Daily Mail Reporter’ style article pointing out that someone has got a little older, bolder, greyer and fatter. Something that Paul Dacre’s paper takes great pleasure in doing, as if it somehow constitutes news. Following yesterday’s post on what I consider to be the real outrages of the taboid press – the constant lies and inhumanity – I had a message from Macguffin from Tabloid Watch, who made a small correction: Dacre didn’t provide a written statement to the HoC Culture, Media and Sport Committee, he actually turned up to answer questions. He actually said the following with a straight face:

“It is a matter of huge shame if an editor has an adjudication against him; it is a matter of shame for him and his paper. That is why self-regulation is the most potent form of regulation, and we buy into it. We do not want to be shamed.”

So I was curious to see what else Dacre said, so the above quotations are actually transcribed from his grand day out, yes, he actually said those things with a straight face as well. Dacre goes on to say far more completely hypocritical things, like his statement on the human rights act.

The ‘Human Rights Act was a very well intentioned act, I mean who could deny human rights to anybody’ he says, seriously (15:58), which is presumably why the Daily Mail has spent years campaigning to have the act scrapped. In a typical Daily Mail article entitled: ‘What about OUR human rights‘ the Mail reported that a poll showed 61% of people where in favour of scrapping it, largely thanks I imagine to the negative reporting of the tabloid press towards the HRA. The Mail also stated that the act had caused many ‘affronts to natural justice’, listing numerous cases of criminals not deported, bombers let in and so on to support their view that the HRA was an act of madness. However, as the Guardian pointed out: the majority of those cases had nothing to do with the HRA and everything to do with legal loopholes. The HRA was a convenient target because the Mail does not support equality or basic rights to ‘others’ such as ethnic minorities.

He also bangs on about privacy – of course, that is the point of the committee – but here he again seems to be a complete hypocrite. As the Guardian points out, ‘until recently, Dacre has studiously avoided the public gaze’ and enjoys his perceived right to privacy. That is why I took a small delight above in looking at the man behind the hatred, judgement and bullying articles that make up such a huge bulk of Daily Mail content. He is, after all, a human being, as frail and as flawed as anyone. I would argue, though, that he deserves more limelight for most after his years of editorship of the Daily Mail, he dishes out the abuse but rarely seems to be on the end of it.


1 & 2 – Nick Davies, Flat Earth News, p379.

The Real ‘Outrage’

It’s no secret that the press – particularly the tabloids – are a vindictive bunch. You cross them and chances are your bins will be trawled, your old partners / school friends etc contacted for dirt, your phone calls / Internet use / bank statements / credit card statements and so on tapped for juicy information to take you down. The press are the worst bullies of all, and worst of all, because they stick together anything that doesn’t fit their worldview is simply not reported.

The situation isn’t helped by the fact that the PCC is so utterly spineless and ultimately powerless to do anything about the situation. The press like to cause ‘outrage’ amongst its readers, yet I cannot help but feel a different sense of outrage. Take the Daily Express for example, two recent examples (from a shameful collection of hundreds of similar headlines) have been covered by the Enemies of Reason on his shiny new blog.

The first is this:

This VIP club turns out – you’ve guessed it – to be nothing of the sort. The whole story is a completely made up farce designed to get complete idiots riled up about how the hard-working taxpayer gets fleeced while Johnny foreigner is given everything on a plate. The whole thing is ludicrous, the French aren’t exactly known for their lenient attitudes towards immigrants, so why would they want to build them a VIP departure lounge? The only thing more surreal than the story is that it can be published on the front page of a national newspaper without any consequences whatsoever. The PCC does not even bat an eyelid when such blatant lies are told with the sole aim of stirring up hatred towards migrants.

The second is today’s Express and is no better:

Again, the PCC will take no action against the Express for another utterly deceptive front page designed solely to stir up hatred towards migrants. It makes a mockery of the idea that in society we are held accountable for our actions, when our press – who take such pleasure in judging society and those within it – are completely unaccountable.

The truth about immigration and asylum seekers is in the majority of cases the polar opposite to the common perception spread by lying tabloids, as Chicken Yoghurt points out, a Human Rights Watch report released yesterday:

…documents how women asylum seekers with complex claims are being routed into a system designed for much simpler claims. The women are held in detention largely for the UK’s administrative convenience, have very little time to prepare a legal case, and have only a few days to appeal if refused. But the claims often involve such sensitive and difficult issues as sexual violence, female genital mutilation, trafficking, and domestic abuse. There is little time for lawyers or other representatives to build the trust with their clients needed for them to explain their claims or to obtain medical or other evidence needed to verify them.

Still, when most of the comments on immigration stories – no matter what the asylum seeker had suffered before leaving their country – basically state: ‘Not our problem / who cares send them straight back’ this report won’t make any difference to the hardened minds of those that actually believe the newspapers report immigration factually.

This moves us to Tabloid Watch’s latest post, and it is essential reading, The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has published its long-awaited report on Press standards, privacy and libel today. Read Tabloid Watch’s posts for the criticisms levelled at several tabloids and their editors, I just want to draw your attention to the complete lack of coverage such a report has gained. As Tabloid Watch points out in his conclusion, Sky News could not contain their bias as they completely dismissed the report as a political ‘vendetta’ and other media outlets managed a fleeting mention or editorials that dismissed the report as worthless.

In an age when global media corporations are run by a few individuals the truth has become a twisted concept, moulded to suit the agendas of those that run the news corporations. As a result the truly outrageous lies of the tabloid press provoke not just from their intended audience, but also from those who value truth. The only difference is that the real outrage isn’t reported and therefore doesn’t exist, whilst the phony outrage – such as that over immigration – is repeated again and again completely without consequence.

As Tabloid Watch points out, the tabloid press really have no shame and hypocrisy just isn’t a word they seem to know the meaning of. Paul Dacre, for example, editor of the Daily Mail, a newspaper which is consistently and comfortably the most successfully complained newspaper in the UK, stated this in this new report:

“It is a matter of huge shame if an editor has an adjudication against him; it is a matter of shame for him and his paper. That is why self-regulation is the most potent form of regulation, and we buy into it. We do not want to be shamed.”

Did he write that with a straight face? Or was he laughing at the fact that an adjudication from the PCC is utterly meaningless and completely unreported, so who cares? Apart from a few websites pointing out the shameful lies in the Mail and the occasional lawsuit that they lose on account of them, who else knows or cares? The readership are all too busy blaming immigrants and threatening to move to France or Spain because ‘Britain is broken’. Other newspapers are so deep in the same stinking shit they dare not cast the first stone for fear of the rightful rocks that are waiting to be flung back.

I hang my head every time I see a person reading a tabloid newspaper and raging about something I know to be completely false. I know it isn’t entirely their fault that they believe these things, because surely, in a civilised world in which truth, honesty and justice are supposed to be prized values, the tabloids can’t possibly print huge lies on their front pages, can they? That they do is to the eternal shame of the governments that rather than reign in the excessive lying and bullying of the tabloid press have instead done so much to seek their approval – much as Brown has with his shameful treatment of those seeking safety in a country supposedly committed to basic human rights.

Disabled Bastards Wasting Parking Spaces, Says Mail

There are not many minority groups that the Daily Mail haven’t attacked and disabled people are no different. Today – in a wonderful example of what has become of investigative journalism – the Mail have uncovered the shocking truth about disabled parking bays: ‘Revealed: Why all those disabled bays stay empty‘.

The article seems to sum up everything that makes the Daily Mail and its readers such a depressing force:

Hundreds of thousands of prime parking spaces in shopping centres are unused because of a legal obligation to provide four times as many disabled bays than are actually needed.

Supermarkets, shopping centres and leisure centres must allocate up to 6 per cent of their parking bays for disabled badge holders – even though just 1.4 per cent of the population is registered disabled.

This means the priority spaces – which must be near to an entrance to shops – are rarely full, while millions of mothers and fathers with young children must fight for a meagre number of designated ‘ parent and child’ spaces.

The Daily Mail turns legislation designed to ensure disabled people have access to adequate parking facilities in carparks into the chance for parents and others to whinge about how they don’t receive similar treatment. Last time I checked having children wasn’t a disability and was still a choice people made. I understand parents might want bigger spaces because they have young children and prams etc to get in and out of the vehicle. However, supermarkets do allocate spaces for parents and children and the actual need for this would pale into comparison with someone who is disabled.

The comments are pretty depressing, as is the fact that the article has already attracted 476 of them. This to me sums up the world view of the Daily Mail and its readership. Give them a story about say the need for investigation into whether Britain was complicit in the torture of terror suspects and they manage a paltry 6 comments (most of them barely intelligible rants about how human rights should be scrapped). A cheerful story about the first Winter Olympic gold Britain has won for 30 years and you only get 100 odd comments – and just look at some of them:

tea_tray

The comments on the disabled parking story are pretty soul destroying, some of them from self-righteous, selfish arseholes who smugly claim they have always parked in disabled bays and now they’re even more glad they always did. Others come from people disgusted that ‘positive discrimination’ is allowing disabled people to park nearer to supermarkets than law-abiding-middle-class-families.

If I had to try to specify one quality that the majority of Daily Mail readers have – and I do try to avoid crass generalisations – then I would say it is that they love to whinge and they want to whinge. They buy the Daily Mail so they can read this kind of bullshit and have a bloody good whinge about how unfair the world is when the chap down the road with severe disabilities can struggle into his wheelchair, get himself and it into his car and then drive straight into a parking space almost RIGHT OUTSIDE THE STORE. THE JAMMY, LUCKY BASTARD. IT’S SO UNFAIR ON ME, A TAXPAYER WHO ISN’T LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE DISABLED AND HAS TO PARK IN A SPACE NOT QUITE AS BIG OR AS CLOSE TO THE STORE.

I am extremely thankful that I am fairly fit and healthy and I don’t mind walking across a carpark, in fact I’m grateful that I can. If parking slightly further away from a supermarket means I am guaranteeing that someone less fortunate than myself can park a little closer, have room to get out of the car and into a wheelchair etc, then I’m more than happy to do so. If you don’t feel the same way as I do, then you’re a ignorant, selfish, lazy twat and probably a Daily Mail reader.

Terrible Journalism Isn’t Confined to Tabloids you know

It isn’t just tabloid newspapers that are guilty of writing completely pointless news stories, as the Telegraph prove today with this ‘gem': ‘Missing cat poster brings £75 graffiti fine‘. ‘A teacher who put up “missing” posters in a bid to find her beloved cat Fluffy was astonished to be hit with a £75 for graffiti by her local council’ starts the Telegraph, before quoting the shocked cat-owner:

Mrs Dyson said home-made posters have helped people to find missing pets for centuries and should be treated differently.

“In a world where there is less and less community spirit, to impose a law and fine me for something like this is horrible,” she said. “Pets are a very important part of people’s lives. Without those notices, I would never have got her back.

Fair enough, you would be entitled to think, it does seem to be pretty harsh to fine someone for putting up a missing cat poster or two. Wait, what’s this at the end of the article:

A spokesman for Waltham Forest Council said the fine, issued last month, was given “in error” and later cancelled.

“In this case a mistake was made and we would like to apologise unreservedly to Ms Dyson for any offence or alarm that was caused,” he said.

Oh, so my outrage at the council jobsworths seems to be completely wrong, and the Telegraph article seems a monumental waste of time and the headline is a complete lie. The trouble is with the practice of churnalism this story is picked up and regurgitated all across the Internet because – sadly – people are fooled by the headline into thinking that the owner was genuinely fined £75 for putting up the poster, rather than it being a simple mistake. The truth, as usual, has been lost by the way it has been reported, but more importantly, this kind of drivel should never have even been reported in the first place.

Remember: just because it is printed on bigger pages doesn’t necessarily mean it is any good.

Georgina Littlejohn is worse than Richard Littlejohn

If you’ve read anything by Richard Littlejohn you’ve probably asked yourself: ‘Can writing get any worse than this?’. It can, much worse. Imagine, for example, that Richard Littlejohn had managed to get a woman into bed and actually have sexual relations with that woman – I know, it is a foul image but bear with me. Imagine if that woman then gave birth to a child who grew up and started to write for the Daily Mail. Scary, and, as it turns out: true.

Tabloid Watch has already covered one of Georgina Littlejohn’s utterly pointless traffic generating stories, but shamefully I have missed this absolute gem posted on the Mail website on the 4th January: ‘Gerard Butler packs some paunch on his Barbados holiday as his Spartan muscles become a distant memory‘.

Essentially it is just your typical Daily Mail story: person gets slightly bigger than they were, ugh, how disgusting they must get down the gym:

Only three years ago he was the hunky Spartan whose rippling torso caused an excitable frenzy among millions of women.

But Gerard Butler appears to have succumbed to the calorific excesses of the Christmas period and alarmingly piled on the pounds.

However, it is much worse than that, for although the article makes no mention of this, it is clearly stated underneath a picture that: ‘Gone to pot belly: Long gone is the taut – admittedly computer enhanced six-pack – instead the actor’s once fit physique has softened considerably’ (emphasis is mine).

So, Georgina Littlejohn has made an entire article out of someone appearing less toned than they did when they were digitally enhanced in a Hollywood film. And you really thought Richard Littlejohn could drag out bullshit for a paycheque like a true pro.

That Mac Cartoon

OK, the Mac cartoon equating immigrants to animals has done the rounds and you’ve probably seen it by now. It has been retweeted around the twitterverse since @dailyquail tweeted it last night and has done the rounds via Liberal Conspiracy and Pickled Politics. Still, I feel it is important to at least mention it here for those of you that have missed it:

It isn’t subtle, it isn’t pleasant and above all: it just isn’t funny. It still staggers me that every year the Daily Mail brings out a ‘Best of Mac’ book just in time for Christmas. I guess you can laugh at Mac and buy the book every year, but only if you’re a racist. I’m sure people who regularly look at Mac’s cartoons would be able to point out a lot that really are just designed to stir up hatred of ethnic minorities, but I have one example that stood out enough for me to cover it quite some time ago:

In reality Mac does little more than sketch the worldview of the Daily Mail, if you enjoy a Mac cartoon it’s because you enjoy reading the Daily Mail and both tally with your own view of the world. You probably think immigrants are no better than animals, and the idea of a multicultural marriage is as laughable or grotesque as marrying a sheep.

However, perhaps I’m not giving Mac enough credit, as a commenter on the Mail website muses:

This is hiliarious because you see the difference between humans and sheep are cultural differences. It’s not like they are another species, it’s just cultural. Mac is so funny lampooning how insane the right-wing are when they equate gays/other races with animals, it’s funny.

This is supposed to be a satire on pretty much the entirety of the Mail’s output, right?

– Ari Ovin, Berrichon du Cher, 11/2/2010 14:50

Nice of the Daily Mail to let that comment through.

The Standards of Daily Mail Journalism

Peter Andre’s fury as Katie Price gives toddler Princess a glamour model style makeover‘ – quotations from Peter Andre: none; mentions of him being ‘furious’ about this from a spokesman: none; advertisements for ‘What Katie Did Next on ITV': three.

All smiles on American Idol as Ellen DeGeneres and Simon Cowell give no hint of behind-the-scenes row‘ – article introduction: ‘Ellen DeGeneres was said to be furious after Simon Cowell kept her waiting for over an hour on her first day as the new American Idol judge.’

Actual quote from Ellen DeGeneres about ‘row':

And she commented on their row.

‘Everyone’s making such a big deal about the tension,’ she told Idol presenter Ryan Seacrest on his radio show this week.

‘You know, there’s been a lot of fun on that panel. Kara [DioGuardi]’s been great, and Randy [Jackson]’s been great. And I think it was either Wednesday or Tuesday, Simon was great.’

But it seems the pair are managing to work through their differences, at least for now.

‘I think he’s a funny guy and I think he’s a smart guy,’ she said. ‘I like Simon.

‘He’s going to be a challenge. He’s Simon, and I’m me. We are completely different people.

‘We’ll see how it goes.’

Wow. She sounds furious. American Idol will no doubt be screened on ITV2 shortly. Almost as if the Daily Mail’s churnalism of invented controversies is providing a free advertising service for ITV…

Adrian Chiles could quit The One Show over plans to give Chris Evans his Friday night slot‘ – quotations from Adrian Chiles: none; nameless inside sources at the BBC: at least five, but more are implied by the article; people linked to this possible change: 2 (Chris Evans and Vernon Kay); proper evidence on which a story should be based: none.

This story reminds me of the one the Daily Mail ran back in November, where they claimed Chris Moyles was facing the axe and the BBC had lined up Vernon Kay to replace him. Both stories required two writers and one of the them (Paul Revoir) also co-wrote the Moyles piece. He must be pretty proud of his journalistic output, which seems to consist of making up conversations with BBC ‘insiders’ who just happen to have enough time spare each day to spread rumours to tabloid hacks too lazy to do any real reporting. We cannot completely write off the Chris Moyles sacking though, because Paul was careful to be extremely vague about when Chris Moyles was to be sacked: ‘[his] reign over the airwaves could end next year’.

Two journalists worked on that article and the best timeframe they could provide for the disposal of Moyles was a window of an entire year. More top quality journalism from the UK’s best selling newspaper.