Monthly Archives: June 2010

How the Daily Mail covers the EU

They invent something that the EU is supposedly about to enforce on us: ‘EU to ban selling eggs by the dozen: Shopkeepers are told all food must be weighed and sold by the kilo‘. Then, when the EU respond to such inane and invented slurs and make it perfectly clear the Daily Mail is talking rubbish, the Daily Mail then claims that it was a ‘backlash’ that has led the EU to back down: ‘Eggs by the dozen will NOT be banned, say Brussels after backlash by Britain‘.

So, something which was never going to happen, now will not happen because of a ‘backlash’, rather than the fact that the original story was an invention that you’d have to be utterly brain-dead to fall for (step forward Ian Dale).

The ‘Safety brigade’

A charming piece of guff on the Mail website today: ‘Do you remember your first car? ‘Yes, it cost £150 in 1956 – and I’m still driving it‘. Contains a rather bizarre dig at the ‘safety brigade’ from the car’s owener:

He drove it car on the roads of France soon after Caroline was born and his most vivid memory is of Jenny breastfeeding the baby as she sat in the front seat while he drove at 110mph.

‘You couldn’t do that now – the safety brigade would make sure of that,’ Mr Harrison said.

Yes, absolute madness of them to want to stop that sort of behaviour, isn’t it?

Reporting in ‘good faith’, again

The Daily Mail have jumped on some figures obtained by the Daily Telegraph from the Metropolitan Police on black crime statistics: ‘Black men ‘to blame for most violent city crime’… but they’re also the victims‘. As with most Daily Mail journalism this article – from Rebecca Camber – is a copy-and-paste job from the Daily Telegraph article and makes the following claims:

The majority of violent inner-city crime is committed by black men, police figures suggest…

Police hold black men responsible for more than two-thirds of shootings and more than half of robberies and street crimes in London, according to figures released by Scotland Yard.

The Daily Mail then goes onto detail – the same as the Telegraph article – the percentages involved. However, what the Daily Mail fails to include is the caveat printed at the very end of the Telegraph article:

The figures relate to those “proceeded against”.

This includes those prosecuted in court, whether convicted or acquitted; those issued with a caution, warning or penalty notice; those the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to charge; and those whose crimes were “taken into consideration” after a further offence.

As well as missing out this valid counterpoint:

“Just because the police treat black men as more criminal than white men, it does not mean that they are.” Simon Woolley, speaking as the director of the Operation Black Vote pressure group, but who is also a commissioner on the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Although the charge rates for some criminal acts amongst black men are high, black people are more than twice as likely to have their cases dismissed, suggesting unfairness in the system.”

Seems odd to these such important contextual points out, I mean, given that Daily Mail journalists claim to be ‘reporting in good faith‘.

The comments, by the way, under the Mail article are pretty soul destroying with explicit racism in spades, even though the comments have been moderated in advance.

A lie about Tesco breaking the law

Another classic misleading headline – although misleading is a bit euphemistic, it is a clear lie from the Daily Mail:

Tesco Not breaking any lawHas the practice of selling lager below cost price now law? No, of course not as the content of the article clearly states:

Tesco has emerged as the only supermarket to be ‘caught’ pricing its alcohol below cost since calling on the Government to outlaw the practice only a month ago.

According to research compiled for Financial Mail, the supermarket sold Stella Artois lager at 6p below the cost of tax and excise duty alone, the day after saying below-cost sales should be banned.

It was also selling 24 cans for £10 in a promotion the weekend before it made its plea, according to market research firm Assosia.

So, it may have been hypocritical, but the practice has not been outlawed, so why the lie? Pointing out hypocrisy whilst lying to create more sensation kind of devalues your point – as does pointing out hypocrisy in Daily Mail.

Nonetheless the bovine readership clearly cannot understand that no laws have been broken here – thanks to the lying headline:

Tesco lager

Interestingly one reader points out a further inaccuracy as well as the headline:

Tesco Lager 2

Still, the journalist writing this crap was surely lying in ‘good faith‘.

Fact-checking and ‘good faith’

A while back  I posted a blog on the charming story of a pig that had a phobia of mud, and pointed out that it was in fact a story completely made up to sell sausages and promote a campaign for the fairer pricing of pork. I linked to the PR company which was using the example as evidence at how for a small fee it could get you in all the national papers and even onto Radio 5live and other BBC programs. Yet in the comments I was excused of being unfair to the journalist who ‘wrote’ the story and that:

If you had quoted the full Mail story, you would see that it was the owners of the pigs, farmers of twenty years, who are the ones saying she has a phobia of mud and that she likes to wear boots. The papers and media outlets reported in good faith what they said. Nor does PR woman Emma Cantrill say they are making this up – as Angry Mob claims – she is simply pointing out how they found a good angle that as well as being a fun story also helped advertise her client. Come on Angry Mob – once you were a source of light in the dark, but mow you are spinning stories as much as exposing the spin.

This comment was posted from an proxy IP address for one Associated Newspapers Ltd, owners of the Daily Mail. Brilliantly the commenter / journalist demonstrates just how stupid certain tabloid employees can be, given that his comment is full of complete lies.

Firstly: his accusation that the reporters reported the owner’s claims in good faith and that the claims were not made-up by the owners. The owners claimed – as I have clearly quoted in my blog post – that they ‘were at a loss, until they remembered the four miniature wellies used as pen and pencil holders in their office. They slipped them on the piglet’s feet – and into the mud she happily ploughed.’

Yet, as I clearly point out in a quotation from the PR agency in the original blog post: “Debbie and Andrew had suggested that we use one of their pedigree pigs for the campaign, as she had a distinct personality and was slightly more fastidious than her colleagues” – i.e. they picked a pig that was only slightly cleaner that the others – hardly sounds like a pig with a phobia of mud – and that: “Ross Parry Agency took this one step further and created the ‘pig in boots’ shot”.

So, the agency had the boots idea, not the owners, which makes the owners liars and the press lazy churnalists – this wasn’t a case that they happened to just have four miniature wellies in their office, but rather I suspect that the agency went out and bought some. I claimed they were making it up not because I was also ‘spinning’ ,  but rather because the PR agency is admitting to making it up. This is not the case of the PR agency ‘finding a good’ as the tabloid employee suggested, but it is a PR agency creating an angle specifically to draw in lazy journalists who can never resist a cute animal photo.

Secondly, the suggestion that ‘the papers and media outlets reported in good faith what they said’, well, forgive me for having expectations that ‘journalists’ are paid precisely because they don’t just ‘report stuff in good faith’. Even some basic checking would have revealed this story to be absolute pants, but then I’m 100% certain that 90% of tabloid journalists wouldn’t even care about truth in this instance, because at the end of the day this story makes good, quick and cheap copy and you get a cute picture of a pig in the paper.

As if to further prove my point that journalists really are a lazy bunch of gullible idiots who happily write articles without even the vaguest attempt at fact-checking The Media Blog reports this:

How journalism works: First, see this (ignoring the bit on the right about it being a parody):

Jobs_tweet

Next, write this (ignoring the bit about it not being true):

Steve-jobs-iphone

Then, explain to your editor that you didn’t need a second source because you heard it straight from the CEO himself… sort of, before hearing the dim and distant sound of a penny dropping.

That is poor, I mean really, really poor. The Daily Mail have now done the usual deletion of the story, but a search for ‘Steve Jobs’ on their site still reveals the original article:

Steve JobsThere is something more sinister behind this idea that Daily Mail journalists simply ‘report in good faith’ because they don’t have the time or basic intelligence to fact-check and that is that Daily Mail journalists have plenty of time to dig around for alternate angles on a story when it suits them. Take for example the way they report health and safety stories, whereby they take an anecdote or measure and then spend a lot of effort kneeding it into an outrage story. Or the sheer amount of invented stories that only involve the reader taking the word of the journalist in ‘good faith’, given the complete lack of any sources whatsoever.

When it comes to spinning stories (or simply making the whole thing up) about immigrants, gypsies, homosexuals, the ‘PC brigade’, ‘elf n safety’, the public sector and any other Daily Mail target journalists have plenty of time to mould bullshit into an article. So don’t give me any bullshit about ‘reporting in good faith’, when clearly this is something you not only do not do, it is in fact the exact opposite of what you do.


Thanks to @deardamselfly for the hat-tip.

Another misleading headline about human rights

Daily Mail headlines are so frequently laughably inaccurate, just to secure the right amount of outrage as people rush straight to the comment section to shit-out their ignorant opinion. This is never more true than compensation paid out with even a vague mention of human rights. Take this top story for example:

Yuman rights

All that money for the loss of a filling? It’s PC-elf’n’safety-yuman-rites gone mad according to commenters. That is, unless you actually take about 1 minute of your life to read the article:

Michael Steele, one of the notorious ‘Essex Boys’ gangland murders, complained that being refused dental treatment left him in severe pain for years…

Soon after he was handed three life sentences, one of his fillings fell out at Belmarsh Prison…

[causing] almost seven years of agonising toothache

The irony is, of course, that if the prison had taken steps to properly safeguard the health of the prisoner (perhaps respected his human rights a little more…) then this whole expensive case would have been avoided. To those of you that might want to argue that as a murderer he deserves agonising pain for all those years I would merely point out that in this country we sentence people to prison terms; not to terms of agonising pain. Preserving the dignity and basic rights of everyone in society – irrespective of their actions – is what separates us from them.

Littlejohn Column ‘not totally shit’ shocker

A strange thing happened this morning, I read Richard Littlejohn’s main column and largely agreed with it. His basic argument was that the middle-classes who complained about the budget – ironically such complaining was as usual led by the Daily Mail – were complaining about a loss that could easily be covered by decreasing unnecessary spending. He points to the fact that thousands queued overnight for the new iPhone which at £500-600 a go is hardly cheap, nor is the equally popular iPad. If the middle classes can afford to keep up with bleeding edge technology then losing £700 or so over the course of the year isn’t going to put them into poverty*.

He even seems to understand that the budget for many does mean increasing poverty, but it also highlights that often poverty goes hand-in-hand with purchasing processed foods, which are more expensive than fresh veg and bulky foods. Avoiding poverty for many involves altering lifestyles, go out less, consume less, shop more carefully – and stop throwing billions of pounds worth of rotten food away each year. We are all guilty of some waste and could all cut back to some extent.

The budget will hit people at the bottom of the economic pile, and it is those that we should as a society try to protect and raise up – which I firmly believe this government will fail to do and that they will make their lives worse. However, as Littlejohn points out, if you can afford to spend £500 on a new mobile phone, you can afford to pay a little more in tax. It is a shame that this isn’t expanded: if a great deal of society can afford to pay a little more in tax, then why are we not raising taxes to protect the public sector that does so much for us?

Nonetheless, this is still Richard Littlejohn we’re dealing with so of course he couldn’t fail to mention Gordon Brown, the person who underwent gender reassignment and has won their legal battle to claim a woman’s pension and of course the obligatory lie about ‘elf n safety':

A couple of weeks ago I wondered who would want to live in a wheelie bin, following the issuing of new elf’n’safety guidelines to dustmen.

They now have to check before emptying that there’s no one lurking inside, after three people were crushed to death.

After he mentioned it a couple of weeks ago the HSE took the time to shake their heads in despair and issue a short response – not for the first time – to Richard:

Re: Richard Littlejohn “I’ve heard of living in a box. But living in a wheelie bin is plain daft.” – 15 June 2010

I am disappointed that Mr Littlejohn misrepresents the scope of the guidance that has been issued to help reduce the likelihood of people being crushed horrifically after seeking shelter in bins.

The guidance was drawn up in direct response to requests from the waste management and recycling industry following three deaths in the last year alone. It is not new law as your article suggests, but simply a guide to help businesses comply with current law.

The guidance clearly applies to commercial waste bins and communal domestic bins only – not household wheelie bins. We do not expect refuse collectors “to poke around in the contents of every bin on the off-chance that they might find a drunk taking a nap”. This would be neither proportionate nor sensible.

The guidance also outlines simple measures those who produce waste, such as shops and restaurants, can implement to discourage people from entering bins in the first place.

HSE fully appreciates that vulnerable people will not be reading Materials Recycling Week and that is why we are also working to make homeless charities and organisations aware of the issue so they can help warn the people they work with.

It says a lot about Richard Littlejohn that he completely ignores the facts even when explicitly informed of them and happily repeats lies.


* For the record my wife-to-be-next-month and I are both in education and both face 2 year pay freezes so I do understand the impact of this budget on the real middle earners; i.e. those earning around £22-23,000 per year. I appreciate that it is much easier for millionaire tax-dodgers like Littlejohn to say ‘stop moaning’, because he has no financial worries like the rest of us. I also understand that the Daily Mail idea of ‘middle’ earners is those on around £50k a year, so I have much less sympathy for those people who should really understand they earn over twice as much as the real middle earners.

Lofty Visions, Rarely Shared

In Wales the Heads of the Valleys communities face a range of problems:

  • a declining population (9% decline over the 21 years to 2002)
  • high levels of economic inactivity (in 2004 30.7% of people of working age were economically inactive, whilst the unemployment rate was 7%)
  • low educational attainment and skills levels (in 2004 24% of people of working age had no qualifications)
  • low quality of jobs and opportunities
  • a high incidence of long term health problems (in 2004 36% of people of working age had a long term health problem)
  • an unfavourable image – the Valleys are typically associated with crime, underage pregnancy and drug abuse
  • deprivation, a lack of quality housing and poorly equipped town centres
  • limited transport and telecommunications links in some areas
  • poor maintenance and management of key natural resources and historic assets

In the recent election Blaenau Gwent – the county which contains the Heads of Valleys communities – had a massive swing from an independent candidate to Labour, but more interesting was the 1,211 votes for the BNP and a further 488 voters choosing UKIP. You might argue that the above social and economic problems highlight perfectly the dissatisfaction with being part of Europe and the media narrative that local communities are being left to rot whilst the state pursues an agenda of diversity and multiculturalism.

However, Blaenau Gwent is hardly touched by immigration, with 92% of residents born in Wales (the highest of any local authority in Wales) and less than 1% of people living in the area having been born outside of the UK and Ireland. The ethnic population is also just as insignificant, standing at less than 1% of the population, lower than the overall figure for Wales which is a piffling 2%.

As research has shown, the BNP gets significantly less support in areas with a high immigrant population, and more votes in areas with low immigration. The media narrative that dehumanises immigrants is less likely to be effective in areas where readers actually have human contact with immigrants (i.e. they clearly see that immigrants are human beings). Whilst the same media narratives are effective in areas like Blaenau Gwent because the local population has little or no access to immigrants as human beings, they are merely a bogeyman that they read about.

The research suggested the primary drivers for BNP support were socio-economical and lack of access to immigrants, which would support perfectly Blaenau Gwent being a likely place for BNP to attract support.

However, in terms of what is being done to try and help the Heads of the Valleys communities, this economic driver seems born out of ignorance. In 2006 the Welsh Assembly Government published ‘Turning Heads‘ a document which outlined the plans to revitalise the area. This report estimated that the area was already receiving £1billion from central and local government and a further special funding budget of £140million had been made available over the 15 year lifetime of the project. The project aimed to get at least a further £360million of investment from the private sector over the life of the programme.

The project has already re-opened a railway line from Ebbw Vale to Cardiff via a range of other towns which is both frequent and cheap – ideal for commuters working in Cardiff and wanting cheap housing. It has also created excellent road links to Cardiff and improved links both East and West. The five Valleys local authorities will have invested £0.6billion in the social housing stock by 2012.

Ebbw Vale is receiving a new ‘Learning Campus’ incorporating local sixth forms, the Ebbw Vale campus of COleg Gwent and HE courses will be run by Glamorgan and Newport universities. This new campus is situated next to a new hospital and other new developments on the site of an old steel works. Town centres are being renovated and pieces of art are being distributed, with the vision being that these towns make perfect weekend breaks, situated as they are at the edge of Brecon national park.

The vision is ambitious, the aims are noble and the money being spent is immense – particularly considering the current financial climate. Yet even when the area is a beneficiary of the European Social Fund you still get over 1,600 votes for parties who want to leave the EU. Even when this 99% white, 92% born in Wales population has billions of pounds spent on it you still get 1,600 votes for explicitly racist parties who campaign on the platform that the ‘white man’ is neglected.

Obviously I point the finger at the tabloid media for the majority of these votes. Not just because they create narratives in which the immigrant is always to blame, but also because they never give any coverage to regeneration projects like this. High ideals are never covered, whilst ‘broken Britain’ narratives are invented and flogged until we all despair at the world that we live in.

This is a valiant attempt to restore pride, prosperity and health to one of the most deprived areas in Wales. Yet I’m not sure even the residents understand just how much is being done to help them. I’m not going to pretend that the project will solve all of the problems the area has, but I certainly cannot think of anything else the Welsh Assembly Government could do to help this area.

Schoolboy Errors

The Daily Mail have taken great delight in mocking the ‘schoolboy error’ of ‘bungling workmen who missed the C in SCHOOL‘ on road markings. Yet, as spotted by @Mavis_Cruel, today in this story Sophie Forbes makes the following ‘schoolboy error':

Jolie, who turned 35 last week, is caught up in a racially charged debate over whether the role should of been played by a black woman.

Of course, as any schoolboy (or girl) should know, ‘should of’ is not proper English, it is a common mistake that occurs when people hear the pronunciation of the contraction ‘should’ve’ as ‘should of’, not ‘should have’.

People in glass houses…*


* This blog is highly unlikely to be error-free, but then I never normally dedicate articles to pointing out typos or other insignificant mistakes. I also lack an editor and the time to properly proofread before posting. Just getting this caveat in before readers start pointing out all the mistakes I make on a daily basis.

Update:

1 Comment pointing out an error, which also contains an error! Hurrah for the mistakes of pedants!