Monthly Archives: July 2010

Goodbye for now

Well, it is approaching midnight and I’m getting married in the morning so this is just a quick goodbye as I’ll be on my honeymoon for the next two weeks.

This is just a short post to say thanks for reading, commenting and linking to this blog; and also thanks to all those people who voted for me in the competition I entered. Although I didn’t win, I made it into 5th place for a short time – after joining 2 months late – and finished in10th place, this was a massive achievement. Apparently I might receive some kind of prize for finishing in the top ten, I’ll keep you posted if I do.

Anyway, a huge thanks to all my readers and followers on Twitter for all your support over the past year or so, I will be back in 2 weeks or so. In the meantime you might still find me on Twitter

‘Outrage’

A favourite tabloid word, and rarely used in its proper context – for example, when over 24,000 people complained to the PCC about Jan Moir’s Gately article the word was not used by the Mail or any of the tabloid press. However, if the BBC has 7 complaints out of an audience of over 6 million for an episode of Top Gear then ‘outrage’ is inevitably used: ‘Jeremy Clarkson outrages viewers by announcing on Top Gear he’d seen saucy underwear beneath Muslim woman’s burka‘ – interestingly the URL shows that originally the over favourite word ‘fury’ was used originally.

Viewers is rightly plural, but rather than the hundreds or perhaps thousands that you would assume would make the story newsworthy it turns out that it was in fact just 7 complaints. The article soon turns towards the issue of the Burka, retreading old ground with the ‘debate’ about whether it should be banned or not – a debate that increasingly seems to be taking place only amongst the tabloid press and a few right-wing MPs. It is almost as if the Daily Mail are testing the waters, getting a feel as to whether they should launch a ‘Daily Mail campaign’ to ban the Burka.

Top Gear wasn’t the only show sparking ‘outrage’ today, ITV is also having to field the fury of a handful of puritanical viewers: ‘Emmerdale causes outrage over crude and offensive shopping list in the Dingles’ kitchen’. Not just ‘outrage’ but also ‘offensive’, which is a bit strange because when the tabloid press invents something that has been banned or criticised because it could ‘offend Muslims’ it is PC gone mad and ‘them’ taking over, yet here we have an offensive shopping list which causes people to be rightly ‘outraged’.

The offending items are: ‘jam rags’ and ‘piles cream’, they appeared on a black chalkboard in the background of a shot. Only a few people would have noticed it, most sane adults would have perhaps allowed themselves a wry smile. Sadly a few adults – assuming they haven’t simply been made up by the reporter, which is not unlikely – feel the need to complain (the only reason I can see why anyone could complain about this is that they lack the intelligence to distinguish between what will or will not harm them / their children or society and therefore complain about anything). One ‘outraged’ parent claimed:

‘I couldn’t believe my eyes when it appeared on screen – it’s not the kind of language you expect to appear in one of our oldest soaps.

‘I had to cover my young son’s eyes because I didn’t want to have to explain that kind of crass language to him at such a young age.

The whole story is really silly, and the irony is that hardly anyone knew about this supposedly offensive shopping list until the Mail published a story on it. What about the young children who read the article, who will cover their eyes? Those watching the show would have been unlikely to have seen the shopping list, now it has been screen-grabbed and repeated for them. It is utterly pathetic that the Daily Mail will give news space to any puritanical idiot just because they like using the word ‘outrage’ and pretending that every form of media is amoral apart from the Daily Mail.

This explains the hypocrisy of the Daily Mail writing about Jon Venables and his ‘1200 upskirt photos’, whilst featuring an upskirt photo of Alesha Dixon right next to the article. As the brilliant Charlie Brooker pointed out, TV – even the worst kind of reality / Victorian freak show exploitation TV – is a million times more sanitary than the tabloid press:

if TV broadcast the kind of material you see in the press – if it paid women in lingerie to recount graphic celebrity fuck’n’tell stories, or shoved its cameras up the skirts of girls exiting taxis so viewers could wank to the sight of their knickers, or routinely broadcast grossly misleading and openly one-sided news reports designed to perpetuate fear and bigotry – if the box in the corner smeared that shit on its screen for 10 seconds a night, it’d generate a pile of complaints high enough to scrape the crust from the underside of Mars.

But as we witnessed with Jan Moir and her Gately article, a record-breaking 24,000 complaints against a tabloid newspaper merits a wall of silence across all of the tabloids. Whereas 7 complaints about a presenter who purposely courts controversy (for which the Daily Mail loves him) just because he happens to be on TV generates an article; as does the words ‘jam rag’ and ‘piles cream’ when shown on TV. If the tabloid press wasn’t such a influential, toxic mess it would be funny.

It is not a question of taste

This is the last time I will be writing a post on this subject so I hope it is definitive enough for some visitors to this site to understand. The visitors I am referring to – or people on Twitter or message boards or wherever – who shrug their shoulders and tell me that if I don’t like the Daily Mail I should stop reading it and just ignore it. I’ve tried to respond to this several times in the past, but the latest comment on this site has made me determined to write this post on the topic:

Stop reading the Mail then! Presumably you don’t go to gigs by bands you hate just so you can whinge about them afterwards, so why subject yourself to news media that you fundamentally disagree with *because it isn’t aimed at you*. Personally, I don’t like the Mail either – that’s why I don’t read it.

Firstly, the analogy of going to gigs is simply wrong because this website is not about my taste in something, I do not rant simply about something I do not like, rather I try to point out when the tabloid media (read by millions) is lying to its readers or being racist, homophobic or otherwise unpleasant. It is not a question of disagreeing with their worldview per see, it is the fact that this worldview is built out of a series of dishonest media narratives. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I want an opinion to be based on facts, not a series of lies and distortions created by the tabloid media and neatly packaged for the consumption of confused readers who sadly do not see that they are being lied to.

This is why your analogy does not work. Bands are very much a question of taste, they have little or nothing to do with basic humanity, honesty or truth. I can accept that there are thousands of manufactured pop bands out there that I dislike intensely (and you could rationalise some of this dislike if you talked about the commercialisation of music and the replacement of genuine creativity and art with music written, sung and packaged to a predictable corporate formula) but I can see that there is no real harm in it. I can ignore it because, on the whole, it is not hurting anyone.

The tabloid media on the other hand are inciting racial hatred against Muslims, immigrants and asylum seekers. They are distorting reality to scare their readership into docile submission. People are becoming increasingly disconnected from reality and are unable to see that they are being repeatedly lied to. A comment on the Daily Star headline: ‘MUSLIM-ONLY PUBLIC LOOS, council wastes YOUR money on hole-in-ground toilets‘ the other day hit the nail on the head – and much as I try to avoid invoking Nazi Germany I will repeat it here:

I can’t believe these headlines are published and nothing can be done about them. Change Muslim to Jewish and the context of demonising a religious or racial group suddenly seems a little clearer.

The reason blogs like this exist is that currently nothing can be done to challenge dishonest headlines because in 2005 the Press Complaints Comission ruled that: ‘a headline should be regarded as a comment and so not subject to the Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code’. How can an effective regulatory body argue that headlines have no need to be accurate? As a result of this ruling the Express frontpage headline: ‘Bombers are all spongeing asylum-seekers’, was ruled as being perfectly acceptable and the complete lies about Muslims go unchallenged in any formal capacity.

I do not disagree with the Daily Mail because ‘it is not aimed at me’, I disagree with the Daily Mail because they lie to their readers, as proven on this site over and over again. If the Daily Mail stopped lying then I would not have anything to write about, nor would any of the other bloggers who expose media dishonesty on a daily basis.

Ignoring the tabloid press is not going to change anything. Pretending that it doesn’t exist will not make the world a better place. I do not write about bands I do not like because not many bands spend their time inciting racial hatred, inventing stories about health and safety or political correctness (to the detriment of us all) or trying to pretend that everyone under 30 in the UK is a knife-wielding killer-in-waiting.

It is not a question of taste, it is a question of truth. I write this blog because – as utterly naive as this sounds – I’m a dreamer and I want to make a difference to the world. I want people to spend more time focusing on the beauty of being alive; the realisation that we have infinitely more common desires than cultural differences. Fundamentally we are all human beings, following our instincts, needing to love and be loved, to have shelter, food, freedom and the chance to raise a family.

I know I quoted Bill Bryson recently, but I think it is worth quoting again here:

Every living thing is an elaboration of a single original plan. As humans we are mere increments – each of us a musty archive of adjustments, adaptations, modifications and providential tinkerings stretching back to 3,8 billion years. Remarkably we are even quite closely related to fruit and vegetables. About half the chemical functions that take place in a banana are fundamentally the same as the chemical functions that place in you. It cannot be said too often: all life is one. That is, and I suspect will ever prove to be, the most profound true statement there is.”
– Bill Bryson in “A Short History of Nearly Everything” (2003)

Sure, I could stop reading the Daily Mail and I could ignore the casual racism I encounter everyday from Mail readers, students who have been brought up in tabloid households and so on. But, although doing this might make my life a little more beautiful, it would not make the world a better place. I am not saying this blog is making any difference, but it is at least trying and I’m not simply sticking my fingers in my ears and prentending that this awful manifestation of personal insecurity, jealousy and impotent rage doesn’t exist.

As I wrote during the election: whether you read a tabloid newspaper or not, you cannot avoid being exposed to the poisonous narratives that they create.

Think of a tabloid reader as if they were a smoker and the tabloid newspaper is a cigarette. A lit cigarette is hard to ignore, is has a fiery tip and billows smoke, the smoker inhales the poisonous smoke and then exhales it, often in the vicinity of others. You don’t have to be a smoker to inhale this second-hand smoke, nor do you have to be a smoker to see and smell the lit cigarette. The tabloid press acts in the same way: the headlines scream at you from newstands, whilst any tabloid reader who inhales the message exhales it – frequently – in your company. We are all passive tabloid newspaper readers. The poisonous stench is unavoidable.

Every Time you hear someone fearfully talk about the population hitting ’70million’; every time you hear that immigrants / illegal immigrants / asylum seekers are ‘showered in benefits’ whilst ‘hard working taxpayers / pensioners’ are left without; every time people say that there aren’t enough jobs because of immigrants; every time you hear that local schools / hospitals are ‘full / stretched / overrun’; every time you hear people moan about ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ or the ‘PC brigade’ or ‘political correctness gone mad’; every time you hear someone talk about ‘open borders / no border controls / unlimited immigration’.

Every Time you hear these things you are the passive victim of a tabloid newspaper.

Think back to an election in which immigration was a central topic as the three potential leaders competed to be toughest on the subject and consider whether immigration deserved this coverage, given that it has been a net contributor to the economy and studies have shown – all over the world – that immigration does not impact on wages or the number of jobs available. Immigration became the number one topic – and the only one talked about at length during all three of the televised debates and when prospective and current PMs went on Radio 1 it was the main issue that young voters brought up. The whole election was fought around immigration because the tabloid press has set up immigrants as the bogeymen behind all the problems (real or otherwise) that they editorialise about.

All the while the tabloid press still claimed that you could not even talk about immigration, an argument so fallacious that it staggers me how people fall for it.

My point is, as it always is, that tabloid journalism has real consequences for all of us – whether we read a tabloid newspaper or not. We are all passive tabloid readers, unavoidably inhaling the hatred, the outrage and the distorted media narratives on a range of topics that impact on our lives. You cannot stop inhaling tabloid messages by turning your head any more than you can stop inhaling a rank smoke that engulfs us all. In the end we all have a choice, we either quietly gulp it down and pretend it does not exist, or we do everything in our power to challenge it and stop it at its source.

I’ll write this blog and perhaps even work up the courage to start openly challenging people; what you do is up to you.

The Daily Star: Capable of blocking toilets

A dose of Youtube can sometimes be just as nauseating as browsing the Daily Mail website; and in many ways it is actually worse because Youtube is the place where all the tabloid reading dullards pick up a video camera and film themselves regurgitating their confused interpretation of the world around them. They are the sort of people who buy the Daily Star because they think it is a newspaper. They probably believed that councils were building hole-in-the-ground toilets WITH THEIR MONEY just for EVIL MUSLIMS to use, even though as pointed out by Jamie over at exclarotive the entire story was a complete lie: firstly, it was a privately run shopping centre and nothing to do with the council and secondly the toilets were not just for Muslims.

The trouble is with these stories is that although they are complete rubbish they have already been committed to paper and imprinted on the minds of the absolute simpletons who stare vacantly into a camera and claim that Britain is losing a war against immigrants imposing their culture and laws on us. The sad thing is almost their entire evidence base for these assertions is the absolute drivel printed by tabloid newspapers. People will now seriously believe that local councils are so scared of Muslims that they are using TAXPAYERS’ money to build them special toilets that only they are allowed to use.

Naturally the council responded and pointed out that ‘the installation of a particular type of toilet at the Rochdale Exchange shopping centre has had nothing whatsoever to do with the council’. But of course this will not ever be reported in the Daily Star, so the original front page will still be true:

And the Daily Star can then follow it up with another lie that makes it seem as if the original story was genuine:

The amount of excrement printed by the Daily Star is enough to block any toilet, although in this case the ‘blockage’ is rather uncertain as Jamie points out:

There never were going to be Muslim-only toilets, so they can’t be ‘blocked’. Even if you ignore the ‘Muslim-only’ bit, the article only says the toilets are being reconsidered – and that’s from an anonymous source who’s in neither the Manchester nor Rochdale local papers.

All in all, another Daily Star front page that is a complete lie and the PCC have never so much as raised an eyebrow, let alone got the brush out and forced this vile shit firmly around the u-bend.

News of the World pays damages to Brad and Jolie

The BBC have reported that:

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have accepted an undisclosed sum in settlement of their privacy claim against the News of the World.

The stars sued the newspaper in January over a story saying they would separate and had agreed custody arrangements.

Appearing in London’s High Court, the couple’s lawyer said that News Group Newspapers now accepted the allegations were “false and intrusive”.

Furthermore, not only did some publications identify a divorce lawyer who had never even met the couple, the News of the World saw fit to wheel out the old ‘reported in good faith argument:

In court on Thursday morning, lawyer Keith Schilling said the News of the World, which argued that it had acted in good faith, had now agreed to publish an apology.

Again, I thought reporters and journalists received a salary precisely because they do not simply report things in good faith and actually attempt to verify and fact check stories.

Daily Mail Dosing

The repitition of writing about Daily Mail ‘journalism’ makes me realise that I so often start a post in exactly the same way. I always seem to start with the old cliche that just when you think they could not get any worse, they do. However, this is not done for effect, it is written because I genuinely despair at how the Daily Mail manages to sink lower almost every time I happen to visit their website. The story that has me shaking my head with frustration is this: ‘I-Dosing: How teenagers are getting ‘digitally high’ from music they download from internet‘.

This story – written by Daniel Bates* – is currently selected as one of the editor’s ‘six of the best’ and is trying to convince readers that teenagers are listening to music designed to replicate the effects of popular drugs.

Seriously. This is not a joke:

They put on their headphones, drape a hood over their head and drift off into the world of ‘digital highs’.

Videos posted on YouTube show a young girl freaking out and leaping up in fear, a teenager shaking violently and a young boy in extreme distress.

This is the world of ‘i-Dosing’, the new craze sweeping the internet in which teenagers used so-called ‘digital drugs’ to change their brains in the same way as real-life narcotics.

They believe the repetitive drone-like music will give them a ‘high’ that takes them out of reality, only legally available and downloadable on the Internet.

The craze has so far been popular among teenagers in the U.S. but given how easily available the videos are, it is just a matter of time before it catches on in Britain.

It always amuses when you read a story on the Daily Mail website that warns you that the Internet is evil and will give you cancer and allows your CHILDREN to download music that works JUST LIKE DRUGS, because the Daily Mail website is a drug. Thousands of people visit it every day to get their dose of outrage, to post angry comments over made-up stories about ‘elf n safety’ or the PC brigade or pathetic stories about the dangers of Facebook.

Some visitors (or ‘users’) – like myself do suffer violent shaking and extreme distress. Here I would like to start the next Internet craze to see whether the Daily Mail will report it: film yourself visiting the Daily Mail website and show your distress, violent shaking, vomiting and rage that is induced just by scrolling down the homepage and put it on Youtube. If enough of us did that then we’d soon forget about the I-dosing worries and start worrying about a real Internet menace.

Seriously, when I have some time I will be doing this video and encourage anyone with a camcorder and a sense of humour to do likewise. If anyone is good with make-up / theatrics then you can make your eyes bleed for the camera as you are filmed scrolling down the screen. It would be fantastic.


* I am trying to name and shame ‘journalists’ as much as possible.

It is not about truth

I often write about how Daily Mail readers swallow any old rubbish if it suits their prejudices – even the ‘stories’ that are nothing more than a completely dishonest headline and the article clearly states that the truth is completely different attract legions of outraged comments from Mail readers. Yet the current top story on the Daily Mail website has attracted some cynical comments from an otherwise gullible readership:

I do not believe it

I think you can probably guess the article: ‘Black British couple give birth to white blue-eyed blonde baby girl‘. It is strange how the same readership can utterly believe an entirely made up story about the Red Arrows being banned from flying in Dartmouth (when presented with zero evidence and actually told in the article that they had not in fact been banned), yet this story – with evidence from doctors and the hospital – is not believed.

Almost as if Daily Mail readers just believe what they want to, rather than what is actually true…

Momentum

There have been some good talks recently instigated by Tim Ireland over at Bloggerheads at revitalising some old websites and creating some new ones to better promote the work done by those who blog about the media. In particular it has the aim of having a website for each major tabloid newspaper that will appear as high as possible in the Google rankings; the idea being that when  a reader searches for their newspaper they will see that a website exists to monitor that newspaper’s output. Daily Mail watch is currently achieving that, but is not often updated, something that should change with the team being brought together. A new website is being created for the Daily Express and the Sun already has The Sun Lies.

To some extent it seems that momentum is slowly building and what started as disparite, frustrated bloggers is building towards something more, a joined-up approach to really promoting just how dishonest and hateful tabloid journalism is. Perhaps this has been helped by columnists like Jan Moir and her article on Stephen Gately, which received a huge amount of publicity even though it was in many ways just another horrifically spiteful, ignorant and phobic piece churned out by increasingly desperate newspapers. The veil – always pretty see-through – is really slipping as racism becomes more pronounced and lies ever easier to track down thanks to numerous blogs like this – and Google just a click away.

This is a project that will be built over the coming months and when it comes together I’ll let you know. But in the meantime some new bloggers along the same lines as this blog have sprouted up which you should check out:

Daily Mail and horrific deaths

I’m not sure if it is just me, or has the Daily Mail been making more effort to report in great, lurid detail more and more terrible deaths? It seems to me that thousands of people die across the UK each day for a variety of reasons and the vast majority of these deaths are not considered newsworthy. However, should you die in circumstances that raise a snigger, an eyebrow or tweak the horror senses then your death is news, your death sells newspapers.

The recent and utterly shameful reporting of the young woman who died from a heart condition whilst using a vibrator was splashed – complete with big picture – over the web pages of the Metro and Daily Mail was not an exception, but an all-t0 common example of how the press has no boundaries, no line that it will not cross in the abuse of someone’s death.

Today a strange story in the same vain appeared, it first aroused the readers with some ‘tragedy porn':

Smiling shyly in his smart riding clothes as he sits astride his beloved horse, this is the last picture of the little boy killed in a tragic accident on a rope swing at his family home…

His mother Sarah Bray tried frantically to give him mouth-to-mouth – and thought she had saved his life when he started to breathe again.

But tragically the little boy lost consciousness and was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Southampton hospital at 6pm on Tuesday.

And then follows it up with some ‘envy porn’, cramming in every detail about the house and lifestyle of the grieving family:

Nine-year-old Jamie Bray had been playing on the rope swing in the back garden of his family’s five bedroom country house…

A horse, horse box and stables are set to the left of the picturesque £800,000 home in Bishops Waltham, near Southampton, where Jamie lived with his mother, his father Richard and his older brother Sam.

The picturesque house is set at the top of a 20 metre dirt track and is surrounded by fields.

A Porsche Cayenne 4×4 and a silver-coloured Volkswagen were parked outside of the home on Friday, where a tree house by the front gate had flowers and a candle laid underneath as a tribute to the youngster.

Quite what relevance this extract from what seems like MTV Cribs has to the story seems utterly beyond me, but seems rather typical of the Daily Mail who seem to think that their readers absolutely must know the net worth of any protagonist, starting with the value of their house. The story doesn’t give the reader any particular advice to avoid such an accident – apart from don’t let your kids use a rope swing unsupervised, so it is hardly a shock story to warn parents of danger. Rather it seems that ‘freak’ deaths sell newspapers, especially if the victim lived a dream lifestyle.