Monthly Archives: September 2010

Daily Mail links Gordon Ramsay to Chef suicide

I read this in the dead-tree version of the Daily Mail today and was struck at just how accusatory the article was: ‘Chef told by Gordon Ramsay that his business was about to ‘swim down the Hudson’ is found dead after jump into river‘. It seems to me that the Daily Mail is implying that the two events are linked and the article – written by two people: Tom Leonard and Daniel Bates – continues in the same vain:

The scene over lunch in the Campania dining room in suburban New Jersey was classic Gordon Ramsay.

The British chef and presenter of Kitchen Nightmares tore strips off the Italian restaurant’s hapless owner and self-taught chef, Joseph Cerniglia, ensuring maximum effect by doing it in front of customers.

‘Why did you decide to go into business if you haven’t got a clue how to run a business?’ Ramsay, 43, asked him loudly.

As the relentless bombardment hit home, he said: ‘Are you feeling upset now?’

Mr Cerniglia replied he was ‘getting really upset’, to which Ramsay said: ‘Thank **** for that. Hopefully, I’m getting through to you now.’

The notoriously blunt, three-starred Michelin chef likes to point out to the restaurateurs whose ability he monsters that he has only their best interests at heart.

He may do, but his warning to Mr Cerniglia that his business was ‘about to ****ing swim down the Hudson’ has come back to haunt him after the 39-year-old father of three’s body was found floating in the river.

As if to make things even clearer the article continues:

It is not the first time that a chef featured in one of Ramsay’s three American shows – often more confrontational than their British counterparts – has met such a tragic end.

Rachel Brown, a 41-year-old chef from Dallas, competed in 2006 in Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen. She later said she had no regrets about appearing in the show, although she didn’t win. In May the following year, she was found dead in her home after shooting herself.

Furthermore, the article keeps making reference to the stress that Joseph Cerniglia was being put under during the show and in particular during his interaction with Ramsay, but the writers purposely keep the timeline hidden so that you cannot put the appearance of the deceased into any clear context. For example, the article says the following:

Although neighbours said Mr Cerniglia’s restaurant in Fair Lawn had been doing brisk business, his wife Melissa and mother Pat had expressed fears to Ramsay about the stress he was under.

‘People like us put everything on the line for a dream. If this business fails, we will lose everything,’ Mrs Cerniglia tearfully told Ramsay during the show.

Her husband had sounded similarly desperate, describing his debts as ‘overwhelming’.

This clearly implies that the reason for the apparent suicide was the debt of the business and the prospect of failure faced during the show and highlighted by Ramsay. Except for one small detail the Daily Mail saves until the end of the article: Joseph Cerniglia appeared on the show in 2007. As the Daily Mail goes onto explain:

In Ramsay’s defence, he and his camera crew returned to Campania a year after his first visit and he heaped praise on its transformation.

A delighted Mr Cerniglia said it had been ‘nothing short of a small miracle’, as customers had almost doubled while his profits had improved by serving smaller portions…

Joseph Cerniglia’s brother-in-law last night praised Ramsay’s approach during the show.

Kevin Wynn, 43, said: ‘In no way did Gordon have anything to do with Joe’s death. When we were filming I found him to be nothing but a gentleman and I have the utmost respect for him.

‘The lessons he gave us such as keeping your food costs under control have stood us in good stead and we were just about to start a refurbishment.

As his brother-in-law makes clear: they place no blame on Ramsay’s intervention in 2007 at all, and considering Ramsay’s intervention was described by the deceased as ‘nothing short of a miracle’ it seems as if the Daily Mail have produced not just another utterly misleading headline, but one which seems to border on being libellous. The article could also be considered libellous considering how it spends a great deal of time implying that Ramsay and the show – only revealed to have been filmed in 2007 right at the end of the article – was responsible for the apparent suicide. This seems even more implicit that the final reveal is prefixed by: ‘In Ramsay’s defence…’, which clearly suggests that the first part of the article was firmly placing the blame upon Ramsay.

I could not find the article on the Mail website and nor could I find it by searching the Mail website. In the end I had to find it via Google, which suggests that the Mail might be attempting to bury the story somewhat. It will be interesting to see whether Ramsay contacts the Mail over this, given that the article seems to flirt with defamation (‘the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image’ [Wikipedia]. You do not have to like Ramsay’s style or agree with it to realise that being implicitly and unsubtly accused of causing someone to commit suicide (along with the aside that this isn’t the first time someone featured in the show has committed suicide) is very unpleasant indeed – and typical of the style and wanton aggression of the Daily Mail.

‘Learning’ from America

Keith Macdonald – famous in Tabloid-land for allegedly fathering 15 children by 14 different mothers – has not been put in prison for his actions. However, in America a similar man – by the name of Howard Veal – has been given a prison sentence, with the judge summing up:

‘You are the poster child for irresponsibility. You’re an insult to every responsible father who sacrifices to provide for their children.

‘Animals procreate, human beings are supposed to nurture their children.’

According to the Daily Mail the judge was so angry with this ‘animal’ that he ‘far exceeded the state guidelines by sentencing Veal to up to four years’. The Daily Mail seems to approve of the judges decision and contrasts it to the obviously woolly-liberal laws here in the UK: ‘America shows Britain how to deal with feckless fathers: Dad of 23 children by 14 women is JAILED for not paying child support‘.

There does seem to be one glaring problem with this: how is putting the father in prison supposed to help the mothers get any child support from Veal? Furthermore, Keith Macdonald has already been vilified for racking up a future bill to be paid by the taxpayer of around ‘£2million’ according to the Daily Mail, so how would they react to the cost of also keeping Macdonald fed and watered in prison for up to 4 years (and lest we forget that prison to the Daily Mail is little more than a holiday camp)? None of this makes any sense at all. I guess the only conclusion that can be made is that the Daily Mail is all for shoving people into prison for costing taxpayers money (even though technically they have broken no laws) and even though doing this will lead to yet more taxpayers money being spent.

Who is ‘Red Ed’ and why should he get married?

The Daily Mail is anxious that we all know that Ed Miliband is not married to his partner (or as the Mail prefers to say: ‘partner’) as if this is supposed to shock us into thinking he is really evil. Just look at this headline: ‘Red Ed: I don’t do God, I don’t even believe in Him (but I WILL get married and I’m embarrassed my name isn’t on child’s birth certificate)‘. It is as if the Daily Mail has a total disconnect with reality, given the huge amount of people who live perfectly happy and loving lives without needing the formality of the marriage ceremony. The Daily Mail is also quick to imply that atheists are either not keen on marriage or should not have the cheek to get married, which is strange given than many atheists (myself included) get married quite happily in civil ceremonies that are about two people making a commitment to each other – without the need for praising god or pretending that we actually love god far more than each other and so forth.

The Daily Mail is also insisting on calling him ‘red Ed’ as if this is somehow clever or true or at all meaningful. It’s not, it is a pathetically callous smear given that such a term of abuse has been used primarily to destroy any individual or group striving for just a little fairness in society. I would encourage everyone to read Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath for a little context on exactly what a ‘red’ really is:

“What the hell is these reds anyway?”
Timothy scraped a little hill level in the bottom of the ditch. The sun made his white bristle beard shine. “They’s a lot of fellas wanta know what reds is.” He laughed. “One of our boys foun’ out.” He patted the piled earth gently with his shovel. “Fella named Hines – got ’bout thirty thousan’ acres, peaches and grapes – got a cannery an’ a winery. Well, he’s all a time talkin’ about ‘them goddamn reds.’ ‘Goddamn reds is drivin’ the country to ruin,’ he says, an’ ‘We got to drive these here red bastards out.’ Well, they were a young fella jus’ come out west here, an’ he’s listenin’ one day. He kinda scratched his head an’ he says, ‘Mr. Hines, I ain’t been here long. What is these goddamn reds?’ Well, sir, Hines says, ‘A red is any son-of-a-bitch that wants thirty cents an hour when we’re payin’ twenty-five!’ Well, this young fella thinks about her, an’ he scratches his head, an’ he says, ‘Well, Jesus, Mr. Hines. I ain’t no son-of-a-bitch, but if that’s what a red is – why, I want thirty cents an hour. Ever’body does. Hell, Mr. Hines, we’re all reds.'”

The Daily Mail mock Miliband for being a union man and they portray all unions as greedy and in some way undemocratic – as if demanding a fair wage and a decent pension is somehow evil socialism that must be stamped out. Look at the private sector, the Mail always argue, their employees don’t get decent salaries or pensions (accept of course the few at the gold-plated top of a pyramid of poverty) so why should public sector workers get treated differently? The Daily Mail wants all employees to be treated like shit, working from 18-68 (minimum) for a shit salary, crap holidays and a pathetic pension. The worst part is that readers of the Daily Mail seem to get right on board with this idea, believing that public sector benefits should be cut and working conditions worsened to bring them on par with the private sector (not that there is a massive difference anyway). You would think employees in the private sector would be arguing that all employees should get a fair wage and pension, rather than trying to drag everyone into the gutter.

As for the fuss the Mail makes about Ed Miliband’s ‘set-up’ causing ‘consternation since he became the first major political leader in British history not to be married to the mother of his children’, well that isn’t really true, at all. As a wonderful blog post points out:

First major political figure in British history not to be married to the mother of his children?

Poor Charles II. Forgotten again, and by a very Royalist newspaper.

Still he probably had a good time having kids (well, having the attendant sexual intercourse) with Lucy Walter, Elizabeth Killigrew, Catherine Pegge, Barbara Palmer, the Duchess of Portsmouth, Moll Davis, and of course, Nell Gwyn. What a randy monarch (but apparently not a major political leader despite being, y’know, a pretty major political leader and figure).

Of course there was also Henry I, William IV, numerous other male monarchs…

And what about David Lloyd George? Prime Minister from 1916-22, of whom a newspaper wrote in 2008 “there are no politicians today who could ever think of getting away with the uber-sexed personal life, peppered with illicit lovers and illegitimate offspring, that Lloyd George led over 14 years in Downing Street, first as Chancellor, then as Prime Minister, from 1908 to 1922.”

The newspaper in question? The Mail.

It would be really nice to live in a world where people could discuss fairness without being labelled a ‘red’ or an ‘agitator’ and in which marriage was irrelevant in the thought process of judging someone’s competence. I guess what I mean is: it would be really nice to live in a world where the Daily Mail didn’t exist.

The Daily Mail on Asbestos

Richard Wilson has an excellent guest post on the Guardian website today on how Daily Mail published an article by Christopher Booker that claimed white Asbestos was ‘relatively harmless’ and that the threat from such products was ‘vanishingly small’. Wilson calmly highlights what the Daily Mail reader probably does not know:

What many reading the Daily Mail article won’t have known is that the author, Christopher Booker, has a long track record of downplaying the health risks of white asbestos. Though not a scientist himself, Booker has written at least 42 newspaper articles on this subject since 2002, making claims that run counter to the views of most experts, but are remarkably similar to those of the asbestos industry.

Several of the claims in the Daily Mail article – including that an HSE study once concluded the health risks of white asbestos cement were “insignificant” – have previously appeared in Booker’s Sunday Telegraph column, prompting a series of direct rebuttals from the HSE. The available evidence, as assessed by – among others – the World Health Organisation, the UK and US governments, and the European Union, is that white asbestos poses a serious risk to human health that needs to be carefully managed.

It is highly recommended that you read the rest of the article about why correcting such disinformation matters and why it takes 7 months to the Daily Mail to print a correction.

Jumping to conclusions…

The Mail wasn’t alone in blaming ‘yobs’ for a ‘sick prank’, but I’m too busy to round up just how many news outlets churnalised this story so I’ll just focus on the Mail’s coverage:

Pink cat and yobs

Followed up by this, just two days later:

Pink Cat

The Daily Mail is quick to point out that it was the RSPCA that had jumped to conclusions:

A nationwide appeal was launched to find the person responsible for dyeing her white fur, with animal welfare officers believing it was a sick prank.

Of course, the Daily Mail didn’t believe it was a sick prank and made this clear in the original article:

Perhaps she’s blushing at her new appearance. It’s difficult to tell right now.

For some prankster has dyed this white cat a rather fetching shade of pink.

Quite.

Jessica Satherley – where did it all go wrong?

The Enemies of Reason wrote a short post the other day pointing out the hypocrisy of the Daily Mail complaining about a BBC commentator commentating on the weight of young tennis player Laura Robson:

Some might say that portly commentator David Mercer should keep his views to himself on the subject of weight.

That did not stop the BBC veteran offering the opinion that British starlet Laura Robson needs to lose some ‘puppy fat’.

Mercer, 60, was forced to say sorry to 16-year-old Laura for his words, broadcast live on the BBC’s ‘red button’ service to cable and satellite viewers.

Mercer apologised for his comments which were – to be as fair as possible to him – about an athlete so at least it is kind of his job to comment on issues like fitness. The Daily Mail – as Anton points out – criticises Mercer for his comments whilst also calling him ‘portly’ which seems to totally defeat the moral purpose of their article (not to mention that as a commentator he has no need to be anything else). Furthermore, it isn’t as if the Daily Mail fill their pages (pun not intended) with ‘news stories’ that are simply photos of larger people going about their daily lives: ‘Let’s hope he’s sharing that! James Corden grabs a takeaway with his girlfriend‘.

The whole story – ‘written’ by Jessica Satherley, more on her in a moment – is about a man buying a takeaway to share with his girlfriend.  In case you cannot possibly imagine what this looks like the article is accompanied by three photos of James Corden and partner walking down a street with a carrier bag. The article is full of fascinating details and the nagging question: why does James Corden not worry about being fat?

When the temperature drops at the end of summer there’s nothing more satisfying than jumping into your tracksuit bottoms and grabbing a takeaway, and that’s exactly what James Corden did yesterday.

The 32-year-old and his girlfriend Julia Carey popped out to pick up the fast food in north London before returning home to dig into their feast.

The Gavin & Stacey star is obviously not concerned about his waistline, despite his new upcoming role on Britain’s Got Talent.

Again, David Mercer’s comments related to an athlete, the Mail’s article relates to a comedian / TV presenter, in what way is his weight at all relevant – unless the Mail is arguing that fat people should be too ashamed to eat takeaway or appear on TV. As if the article wasn’t offensive enough or vacuous enough already it also manages to insult the vast majority of the population:

Down to earth: Despite being a successful actor and comedian, James Corden still prefers to live a normal lifestyle with his girlfriend Julia Carey

Fancy that, a celebrity wanting to slum it just like the rest of us plebs living a ‘normal lifestyle’ where we don’t even warrant a Daily Mail photographer following us around and snapping away as we go about our lives. The article also implies that the photographer was politely invited to snap away:

as he strolled down the street with girlfriend Julia, Corden was more than happy to be pictured in his baggy tracksuit bottoms, trainers and loose cardigan.

‘More than happy to be pictured’? Did you ask him? Or did the big smile and thankful puppy dog eyes – not featured in any of the photos – give away his delight at having a camera shoved in his and his partner’s face? This is not just drivel, but offensive and intrusive drivel that invites readers to laugh at the fat person daring to look content with their shape, and even being shameless enough to dare eat a takeaway.

Those of you familiar with the ‘journalism’ of Jessica Satherley – featured on Buff the Banana with Paul Dacre a couple of times for her raunchy articles about famous women – will know what to expect from her: celebrity shit, celebrity shit and more celebrity shit. Apparently – if I have the right Jessica Satherley – she has:

a Bachelors Degree in Journalism and started working at local newspapers where I wrote, interviewed and researched my own stories.

Where did it all go wrong, Jessica? On your profile it says you used to be a journalist? At what point during your degree did you imagine that you would one day be writing an article based on three photos of a slightly chubby man walking down the street with a takeaway? At what point did you think: ‘one day I’ll be the proud name next to:’

  • Ashley Greene forgets to take her ankle weights off after sweaty gym session
  • LeAnn Rimes battles through relationship criticisms in gladiator sandals
  • Una Healy plants public kiss on boyfriend after celebrating the end of summer at hotel party
  • ‘There’s no place like home…’ tweets Kim Kardashian after ending her European tour
  • Gisele Bundchen flies the flag for Brazil at New York gala
  • Chantelle hits boot camp in preparation to meet Preston for love talks
  • Nicole Richie celebrates 29th birthday in Mexico with Christina Aguilera and Sam Ronson
  • Incredibly thin Emma Rigby shows off her tiny waist in skin-tight bodysuit
  • Kerry Katona enjoys girls night out and actually looks chic
  • Now that IS unusual! Tom Jones’ receding hairline is transformed into luscious locks
  • Brian McFadden gets a very friendly hug from pretty young brunette on lads night out

And on it goes, the Mail website has 144 of her articles along these lines and she also manages to churn out this shit for the Sun, Express and Metro. Yet she claims to ‘write about health, lifestyle, women’s interests and travel’. I think she needs to update her profile somewhat to reflect the bulk of her ‘journalism’.

A degree in journalism for this? I write for a blog that does not give me fame, fortune or even readers yet here I am thinking: ‘It could be worse, I could be a journalist like Jessica Satherley’. I think that says an awful lot about the state of the UK media and the shit it insists on serving up every day.

I find the Pope’s lack of faith disturbing

The Daily Mail’s claims that ‘militant atheists’, the ‘PC brigade’ and ‘celebrity vendettas’ are out to destroy the Christian faith in Britain have been loud and clear for several years now, but the visit of the Pope has really drawn out just how ludicrous these claims are. It reminds me of the media narrative that ‘you can’t talk about immigration’ that has existed for years but was screamed loudly and repeatedly during the last election. As I pointed out at the time: the media, political leaders and the vast majority of phone-in shows, interviews and so forth were absolutely dominated by the topic of immigration. The media whilst claiming that they couldn’t talk about immigration, in reality filled front pages and reams and reams of copy talking about nothing but immigration.

This leads me to the coverage of the Pope’s visit. Whilst the Daily Mail claims that the BBC is a hotbed for left-wing atheism and obsessive negative coverage of the Pope’s visit – you know, for mentioning that the current Pope is directly responsible for the cover-up for the rape of hundreds, perhaps thousands of children – we actually have a huge amount of positive BBC coverage which actually drowns out – wrongly in my view – the child abuse, the Aids issue and the rabid homophobia of the Catholic Church. It is another media narrative that is completely false; the Daily Mail is equating justifiable public disquiet and protest for Britain being an heathen society deliberately setting out to destroy our ‘Christian tradition’.

The Pope – as The enemies of reason suggests – seems to have gained his entire knowledge of Britain from the Daily Mail and the tabloid press have predictably been loving every ignorant minute of it. The Pope claims that:

‘There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none.’

This is perfectly constructed nonsense that a tabloid newspaper would be proud of. Firstly, it is always ‘those’ people or ‘them’ in the context of this media narrative; we are never actually told who these people are or who they purport to be representing. Likewise, the people who might be offended are ‘those of other religions or none’, again, we have no idea who is actually offended, but in saying this the Pope appears to be certain that someone is arguing that that Christmas should be discouraged and that someone, somewhere is claiming offence at the festival.

Tabloidwatch has a brilliant round-up of the ‘Winterval’ stories that appeared in pretty much every tabloid newspaper following the Pope’s claims and it makes depressing reading. The myth that one council tried to replace Christmas with the more neutral title of ‘Winterval’ has been repeated every year hundreds of times in print, on TV, during phone-ins and so on as evidence that ‘they’ really are trying to ban Christmas. In reality Winterval was one council’s attempt to – you might say cynically – stretch out the Christmas period so that shoppers and revellers would enter the city centre and spend money not just during the traditional Christmas period but also in the weeks before and after. As the council made clear at the time – and makes clear every Christmas when brainless reporters start ringing for a comment: Christmas was the central part of the celebration and that:

During the part of that period traditionally celebrated as Christmas, “there was a banner saying Merry Christmas across the front of the council house, Christmas lights, Christmas trees in the main civil squares, regular carol-singing sessions by school choirs, and the Lord Mayor sent a Christmas card with a traditional Christmas scene wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

The name Winterval was created in order to stretch the period the council and shops could milk Christmas without incurring the wrath of starting Christmas celebrations too early – something that ironically tabloid newspapers do not like. It was never created to replace ‘Christmas’, which, as the council makes clear, was the focal point – in all of its traditional garb – for the whole celebration. The name Winterval makes perfect sense when you consider that the Mail is already running stories this year on shops starting Christmas too early: ‘As the summer holiday kick off and the sun shines Selfridges launches CHRISTMAS grotto‘. Still, it is safer for Selfridges to start Christmas early than attempt to re-brand the period running up to Christmas because any attempt to do so would be used as more ‘evidence’ that THEY are trying to ban Christmas.

The worst part about the Winterval myth is that it is so clearly a myth. It has been debunked on so many occasions, one quick Google search and the truth is revealed; yet it has lost none of its appeal to tabloid readers who seem to believe it year after year. We will all see it trotted out over and over again this Christmas every time a piece of tinsel falls from an office ceiling it will be blamed on ‘those’ people that want to ban Christmas. If any council tries to save taxpayers money by not buying a 40ft Norwegian Christmas tree it will be because they are SCARED OF OFFENDING MUSLIMS.

And on and on and on.

This post wasn’t even supposed to be about this myth. It was supposed to be about why the Pope is a fraud.

The Pope is a fraud because – this is stolen from Bill Hicks before anyone slams me for stealing it – because he is supposed to be the supreme icon of religious faith in the power and protection offered by God… but he drives around in an armour-plated car. This just seems as if the pope is admitting that he has no faith in the protection of god and has instead turned to the evils of science for protection – which given his views on science is pretty ironic and hypocritical. Consider that the pope believes that condoms spread aids or at the very least they offer no protection, he is using his position to essentially kill people, take away their only protection against a sexually transmitted disease. Then consider that this same man is driven around in an armour-plated car and afforded every technological protection possible and you can start to see why I really despise him.

As for his rallying calls for the faithful to take up arms against science, reason and secularism I don’t think this is at all a christian way of approaching things. I had always thought that faith was supposed to be a very personal thing, that having faith was an internal process and didn’t need external reassurance – because that would dilute the real meaning of faith. It seems odd therefore that a man of faith even cares what other people think about faith or religion. Firstly, as a christian he should just turn the other cheek, and secondly, as a man of faith he should have no concern with what others think or how they act, external factors should have no relevance to internal faith.

God supposedly gave us all free will, yet here we have the pope trying to imply that such free will should be resisted and challenged, as if somehow the existence of science and reason was somehow damaging the internal pursuit of faith. If you really believe in god and the eternal afterlife of heaven, why would you care about worldly issues that have no impact upon your internal faith? Not to mention why would you bother armour-plating your car – if the pope fears death then what hope do other Catholics have about the afterlife?

The last two points I want to quickly make is that I find it highly amusing that the pope criticises the shallow pursuit of celebrity, fashion and fame… whilst he stands dressed in silly (not to mention obscenely expensive) robes, carrying a huge gold cross and wearing a huge gold hat whilst being the ceremonial head of an obscenely rich organisation followed by over a billion people. Whilst at the same time he is trying to act repentant about the terrible ‘shame’ the Catholic Church felt over the child abuse scandal, when in reality it is he who should feel ashamed, given how it was he who decided the course of action that the church took in response to child rape (hide it, move the priests on and excommunicate anyone who speaks out). In between these apologies he kisses as many babies as possible.

The next ‘Wave’

Another scary immigration headline in the Daily Mail today, implying that Bulgaria has granted British citizenship to non-EU residents:

Another dishonest James Slack article

What has actually happened is that Bulgaria plans to grant Bulgarian citizenship to around 500,000 human beings currently residing in the Ukraine and Moldova. The Daily Mail implies that Bulgaria is giving these people the right to move to move to the UK:

Bulgaria has announced plans to hand passports to more than 500,000 non-EU citizens – giving them long-term rights to live and work in the UK.

Which is a bit misleading given that in the very next paragraph they write this:

Nationality minister Bozhidar Dimitrov says the new citizens – currently in the Ukraine and Moldova – would be free to come and live in Bulgaria.

This does mean of course that once given an Bulgarian passport the 500,000 people would be free to move anywhere within the EU. However, what evidence is there to suggest that a significant number of people would want to move to Bulgaria, let alone move across Europe to end up in Britain – a country that is, let’s not forget, ‘Broken’. The Daily Mail just assumes that all 500,000 will get a passport and catch the first bus to Britain.

This kind of scare tactic – employed here by James Slack, who seems to be ‘writer-in-charge-of-dishonest-immigration-stories’ – has been used before by the Daily Express when it claimed that: ‘BRITAIN was last night warned to expect a new wave of immigration from Eastern Europe after almost half a million Ukrainians and Serbians were given the right to live, work and claim benefits in the UK‘. The number of potential immigrants (500,000) is the same in both stories, as is the implication that the people involved are not being granted the right to live in a European country hundreds of miles from Britain, but rather they are being given direct access to work and live in Britain – and claim benefits of course.

The comments make it clear that the readers of the article have taken the message to heart: Britain is about to be swamped again by a new wave of immigrants. It almost seems kind of pointless to point out that this just is not true.

First Pictures and other intrusions into death

I know that the Daily Mail and other newspapers have always scrabbled for ‘first’ or ‘exclusive’ pictures of the recently deceased as if it is a sign of what a great newspaper they are if they first to intrude upon someones private grief, but recently it seems to be getting worse. I wanted to write a post a while back on young girl who died in a banana boat accident, news considered worthy of a front page photo for the Mail – you can probably see why:

Yes, the Mail takes pains to describe her as ‘beautiful’, that she went to ‘the private school to which Mick Jagger sent his children’ – which costs ‘£4,000-a-term’ and that:

She lived with her wealthy South African-born parents Andries and Ancia, and her brother Andre-Pierre, about a mile away from her school in a £1million five-bedroom home in Putney.

Mr Cronje, 44, is a director at UBS Wealth Management.

Mr Cronje made a statement shortly after this horrific accident and it is included in the Daily Mail article:

Our beautiful 11-year-old daughter was killed in a tragic water sports accident on Saturday afternoon at Princes Club, Bedfont, near Feltham. She was a guest at a children’s birthday party.

‘We are still battling to come to terms with the news.’

I feel sorry for him, and his family, not only for the loss of a loved one, but also that a national newspaper feels it is appropriate to turn their private grief into a front page piece of tragedy porn for their readership. The story is dripping with unnecessary details about the family’s wealth, as if somehow this makes the story really interesting; I really do wonder if the child had lived on a council estate whether they would have been worthy of a place at all in the Daily Mail, let alone the front page.

I don’t know what this kind of story exists for, is it really news? It seems to me that there is no journalistic justification for printing this intrusive kind of story, even more so when you consider that the Daily Mail spends so much time mocking ‘elf ‘n’ safety’. It isn’t as if there is any message to take away from the story; the article makes clear that accidents involving this activity are ‘very rare’ so it is not as if the Mail is trying to highlight some kind of preventable risk. It’s just wallowing in tragedy porn.

All this brings me to the current lead story on the Mail website – the story that the Mail website editor currently considers the most important in the world:

Suicide

Somehow the story is important because it now has a picture attached. I’m not sure whether this is responsible reporting, given that suicide is generally committed by vulnerable people how healthy is it to have infamy given so easily to those who commit suicide? Like the wall-to-wall coverage of lone gunmen elevates an unknown person to worldwide fame and encourages others to do likewise, what exactly does this story do to the mental state of others considering suicide.

I’m not saying this type of reporting does lead to more suicides, but I am saying that really does not seem to be any justification for the scramble for the ‘first picture’ or the publicity given to such stories. It’s just intrusion into death, it isn’t news and the sensationalist, shallow and quick turnover that such reporting represents teaches us nothing about death or life. It only teaches us that tabloid newspapers will do anything to shift a few extra copies.

Quaking With Terror

A terrifying article in the Daily Mail today warns us that we are as usual just seconds away from a gory death: ‘Quake Britain: We’re overdue a massive tremor that could kill scores of people at any moment, warn experts’.

As usual the Daily Mail is taking advantage of the PCC ruling that headlines are classed as opinion and therefore do not have to be accurate; although to be fair the opening paragraph is pretty sensationalist as well:

Britain is overdue a killer earthquake that could see up to 100 people crushed to death… it would also cause billions of pounds’ worth of damage to buildings and infrastructure.

According to the Mail, Dr Roger Musson (the expert concerned) suggests that a fracture beneath the English Channel ‘could fail at any time’. The last quake caused by this fault was in 1580, measured 6 on the Richter scale and killed two children. The Mail suggests that according to Dr Musson the effect of a similar quake today would be ’50 times more serious’ and leads the Mail to multiply the two deaths by 50 to get the ‘100 dead’ figure they use in the introduction.

However, this fine prediction and logic is undermined somewhat by an accompanying table which states that the largest earthquake Britain has suffered occurred in 1931, measured 6.1 on the Richter and killed just 1 person. Furthermore, towards the end of the article the Mail describes the effect of a 5.5-6 earthquake:

[it] is unlikely to demolish buildings, but will topple old chimneys on older homes.

Quite where the ‘scores’ of dead and ‘billions of pounds’ worth of damage to buildings and infrastructure’ will come from is not explained.