Monthly Archives: October 2010

Kendall Jenner / Kardashian: Mailbait extraordinaire

Following on from my post on how the Mail hypocritically cashes in on publishing vast quantities of semi-nude photos of celebrities, all the while wagging their fingers and shaking their heads in disgust it is even more disturbing when the girl featured is only 14 years old. One of their favourite female celebrities is Kim Kardashian – who the Mail once put down with the observation that she: ‘has made a bit of a name for herself from turning up to the opening of an envelope’, which must make the Mail even more pathetic given that they feel the need to cover each non-event in huge depth with a flurry of articles.

Kendall Jenner (Kardashian is always used nearby to get maximum traffic) is famous for two reasons:

  1. She is the half-sister of Kim Kardashian.
  2. Aged 14 she posed in a bikini on a beach. The Daily Mail now insists on always referring to it as ‘THAT bikini shoot’ whenever Kim or Kendall are mentioned, along with an obligatory photo.

To make the point really sink in about just how utterly pathetic the Mail website is let’s get down to some figures. First off, the Daily Mail is so disturbed by ‘racy’ photos of a 14 year old in a bikini they publish them in at least 6 separate articles:

  1. After THAT bikini shoot, Kim Kardashian’s little sister Kendall lands a role in a pop video.
  2. ‘I never intended to be racy': Kim Kardashian’s 14-year-old sister Kendall defends bikini photo shoot.
  3. Now that’s more age appropriate! Kim Kardashian’s little sister Kendall is back to being a regular teenager.
  4. Kendall’s the rebel Kardashian as she hits the red carpet in biker boots NOT high heels.
  5. That’s better! Kardashian sister Kendall, 14, dresses her age after bikini row.
  6. Keeping up with the Kardashian’s careers: Now youngest sister Kylie’s a model. [This article features photos of 12 year old Kylie, photos which are more ‘age appropriate’ than the bikini shot of Kendall they print immediately below.]

You can kind of spot the logic behind how they print the bikini shots; basically if Kendall wears anything other than a bikini the Mail can write a story about how she is finally dressing ‘appropriate to her age’ whilst at the same time they can publish once more the bikini shoot photos. Even for the Daily Mail website this is really scraping the barrel of what can be considered newsworthy.

Next up, a simple search of the Mail website for ‘Kardashian’ returns 427 articles. I don’t even know what this person does. After flicking through a few articles it appears she is some kind of ‘reality TV star’ who is famous for being famous, if that makes any sense. The Daily Mail love her because she takes a good photo and being on reality TV they can publish screen prints of her doing something completely innocuous and pass it off as news.

A worldwide Google search for ‘Kim Kardashian’ reveals a Daily Mail article on page 2, which is not a bad result. However, search for UK pages only and the Mail website dominates results – getting 3 out of 3 ‘news results’. Again, this kind of gutter journalism is all about driving traffic to the website. The Daily Mail might pretend to have moral objections to a 14 year old posing in what they label as a ‘racy’ photo shoot. However, these objections still don’t stop them publishing said photos over and over again in complete non-stories.

Once again, please forgive me for publishing this statement from Mail Online editor Martin Clarke:

News is far more important to us that showbiz. News is what drives our site.

Shameless attempts to cash in

I’m currently building a new blog that will attempt to draw together some of the narratives discussed on this blog into essays that have a bit more depth, that can start to draw together blog posts into a proper exploration of how the tabloid press functions. One of the key ideas that I want to expand on is that that bad journalism is good business, the tackier the ‘news’ the more website traffic is generated and the more advertising revenue is made by the Daily Mail and others. It is therefore essential that the Daily Mail (the busiest newspaper website) attempts to win the Google search traffic as well as the bemused Internet users who regularly link to Mail articles because they are so ludicrously stupid or offensive (for example the Jan Moir Gately article or any number of Mail articles linking Facebook to cancer / murders / evil people in general and so on).

This means that the Daily Mail is pretty shameless when it comes to content because this is no longer about good journalism, but good traffic. The Daily Mail does not care whether you visit their website to bash your head against the desk at the sheer inanity of its content or the insanity of its comment, or whether you are actually the sort of person who enjoys either. The only thing they do care about is that you do visit. It reminds me of Howard Stern the American ‘shock-jock’ who had a huge audience and when research was done into who listened and for how long it was concluded that people that disliked the show listened far more regularly and for longer periods than fans of the show. The reason given was that people who disliked the show wanted to listen to keep up to date with how offensive he was and be properly outraged.

I can’t help in some ways to see my use of the Mail website – and reading the print edition – in the same way. I read it purely to keep tabs on it, to be outraged and to write about it. However, I would argue that I at least try to do something constructive with my visits; I attempt to correct false stories and draw attention to opinion pieces that I think are offensive but are based on lazy stereotypes or lies. I to compete with the Daily Mail for Google traffic and I hope that when people search on Google for something they heard about through the tabloid press they will find blogs like this at the top of those rankings so they at least have the truth in front of them, even if they choose to ignore it.

Returning to my original point that the Daily Mail is pretty shameless when it comes to content is their use of half-naked female celebrities to drive traffic to the website. They could just be honest and write articles about how Christina Aguilera has a great rack and how they have lots of pictures and a video for you to look at. However, they feel the need to dress up such articles with a turned-up, disapproving nose as if they are merely pointing out how awful such things are:

It’s supposed to be an advertisement for her new fragrance Royal Desire.

But the commercial for Christina Aguilera’s latest perfume looks more like a low budget soft-porn film as the newly-single pop star shows off her curvaceous figure.

Showcasing her ample cleavage in a very low cut dress and writhing in a chair in ecstasy as she sprays the perfume across her chest, the singer’s ad may be a bit too risque for her younger fans.

This attitude can exist for two reasons:

  1. The Daily Mail is puritanical in outlook (there are probably lots of arguments to support this, however, their content suggests this is not the case).
  2. The Daily Mail wants to draw in those looking for some semi-naked pics of celebrities whilst at the same time driving the bemused Internet traffic, i.e. people like me and others who perhaps heard about the story on Twitter or Facebook. We visit the webpage to laugh at the irony of the Mail saying how awful semi-naked celebrities are whilst plastering lots of photos and a video around the article.

I think the second reason is very powerful. What the Jan Moir Gately article taught the Daily Mail is that being offensive (or just plain crap) can draw in far more traffic than good journalism. Twitter is a great way of driving traffic to a website, but traffic is only driven to something very good or very crap, the Mail knows it is rarely going to attract the very good traffic but it knows it leads the market in crap content. When it posts an article claiming that Facebook gives you cancer it knows that it will get traffic from Facebook (a massive resource for Internet traffic) users who will share the article pointing out how silly it is – but as above, it does not matter how or why it is shared, only that it is shared and that people click the link. The same goes for the link being shared on Twitter. Someone posts a link to the article saying ‘have you seen this in the Mail? Laughably stupid!’ or whatever, and the link gets clicked on and shared.

We all have a good laugh or a facepalm at how stupid the Daily Mail is, whilst they sit back and count the advertising revenue.

This, ironically, brings me to the reason I started this blog post: have you seen this ‘news’ in the Mail about Charlie Sheen and the porn star? It really is laughably hypocritical: ‘Now Charlie Sheen’s porn star date attempts to cash in… as sordid new details emerge’. The Daily Mail points out that:

Porn star Christina Walsh, who goes by the stage name Capri Anderson, is shamelessly using the incident to promote herself.

They make sure to include her real name and screen name several times throughout the article to ensure they get as much Google traffic as possible, all the while claiming that it is the porn star that is ‘shamelessly using the incident to promote herself’. Indeed, Christina Walsh appears to be responding to the immense media coverage already created by the Mail and other tabloids. Whether she issued a response or not the Mail was always going to print as many follow-up stories as possible to ensure maximum advertising revenue, so she really couldn’t win either way. [As an aside, I always find it amusing that this kind of article always implies that these details arrive in the public domain naturally: ‘sordid new details emerge’. It sounds as if the details have revealed themselves to us, that the Daily Mail has nothing to do with this process. Clearly the Daily Mail is revealing these ‘sordid new details’ and an accurate headline would be: ‘Now Charlie Sheen’s porn star date attempts to cash in… as we publish sordid new details’. Details emerging as if on their own accord is a very Orwellian use of language, and it fools nobody.]

A quick Google search for ‘Christina Walsh’ gets the Daily Mail into the top ten search results twice. However, when searching for her screen name (don’t try this at work) ‘Capri Anderson’ the Daily Mail gets nothing on the first few pages. It seems they still have a long way to go before they can compete with Internet porn. Perhaps one day they will make the editorial decision to embed hardcore tube videos into their articles to really compete in terms of sex traffic.

For now they will just have to be happy with the traffic generated by hypocritical celebrity drivel, insane, offensive columnists and terrible, terrible journalism.

An important question about the MailOnline iPhone app

MailOnline has finally launched their iPhone App whilst Android and other mobile platforms ‘on their way’. The blurb for the app makes pretty depressing reading: ‘Now you need NEVER be without your favourite website again‘. What exactly can the app do for you? well it can provide you with exactly the same crap that the Mail website can:

Our brilliant app is everything you’d expect from Britain’s biggest newspaper website.

It’s got all the amazing breaking news, showbusiness gossip, glitzy pictures and fantastic sports stories that have made MailOnline a must-have part of millions of people’s lives.

The application is free for 60 days and then costs £4.99 for 6 months or £8.99 per year, which probably makes it cheaper than buying Closer or Hello! magazine.

However, even though the Daily Mail provides plenty of information about getting the best out of the app, at no point does the Daily Mail make it clear whether it causes or cures cancer. Until it can clarify this I for one shall not risk installing it.

The same old stories

It has been another busy week for media disinformation on a range of their favourite topics. The Daily Mail has made more extremely misleading claims about migration, this time attacking skilled workers by implying that only 1 in 4 of them actually work in a ‘top job’. The figures in fact could only confirm that 29% were in low-skilled work, whilst almost half of the sample returned unclear data – data that the Daily Mail or anyone else cannot possibly draw any conclusions from.

They have also made some very bizzarre claims against health and safety, again. This time they claim that ‘A ten year old champion swimmer has been banned from wearing his goggles in the pool under health and safety rules’. As Minority Thought points out ‘the decision to prevent Alex from wearing goggles has nothing to do with health and safety rules of any kind’ and in fact as the articles confirm the reason is as follows:

The school, St Anne’s in Royton, Greater Manchester, says it is following Oldham Council swimming guidelines which state that beginners and improvers should become used to eye contact with water.

It seems to me that the traditional tabloid portrayal of ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ would demand that goggles be worn at all times in order to protect eyes from the water, this is the complete opposite of the normal ‘elf ‘n’ safety gone mad’ myth.

This story is little more than an aside in the real story that an hospital eye consultant (ophthalmologist Parwez Hossain) has advised that participants in apple-bobbing should wear goggles and that bottled or boiled water should be used and the stalks removed from the apples. The Mail refers to this advice as ‘Halloween health and safety horror’ and insert the normal comments from outraged Joe Public:

Shop assistant and Halloween enthusiast Ben Richards, 29, from Southampton said: ‘This seems like health and safety gone mad.

‘I’ve done apple bobbing for years and never had any problems. It is all part of the Halloween experience.’

And, oddly, they even give some space for the thoughts of Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples & Pears (which represents apple growers) as if because he deals with the marketing of apples he is somehow in a position to comment on the dangers of bobbing for apples:

‘Health and safety can be taken too far and in this case it is ludicrous in the extreme. I have never heard of anybody suffering an injury as a result of apple bobbing.’

If he had read the comments of Parwez Hossain he would have known the following:

Mr Hossain said three people were admitted to the hospital with apple bobbing injuries last year. He added: ‘Casualty staff have seen children and adults turning up on Halloween with scratches on the cornea and eye injuries from impacts caused by apple bobbing…

‘Admissions to casualty on Bonfire Night have gone down as people have become more aware of health and safety but we have not seen a decline on Halloween.’

The Daily Mail declares that ‘now apple bobbing has fallen foul of the health and safety police’, even though this is merely advice given out by one hospital in an attempt to reduce the numbers of people they treat for avoidable injuries during halloween. The Daily Mail really needs some basic lessons on risk and they really need to stop using the word ‘police’ to accompany any advice that they do not wish to heed. There is no ‘health and safety police’, this advice is not backed-up by any kind of sanction or legal impediment. It is advice you are free to ignore or heed, something very different to the laws enforced by the police.

In other news the Daily Mail has been horrifying readers (and providing fuel for the EDL) by claiming that the ‘Islamification’ of Britain is in full swing because ‘Mohammed’ is the most popular name for newborn boys in the UK. Accept, of course, that is isn’t. It is actually in 16th place but the Daily Mail adds together all the variant spellings of the name until they force it into first place. Even then it only accounts for 2.09% of all newborn boys born each year in the UK. You can read more on this story on the following blogs:

Meanwhile this blog might be a bit sporadic for a bit whilst some other projects are being developed.

Bad Journalism

As has been highlighted before on this blog the Daily Mail is particularly adept at exploiting the PCC’s ruling that ‘headlines are not actually part of a story’ and hence do not have to be accurate.

I was browsing through the brilliant Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science blog this morning and found an excellent article highlighting another way that the Mail seeks to mislead and yet stay within the ‘constraints’ of the PCC codes.

In essense, Dr Goldacre explains how the Daily Mail – continuing it’s bizzare oncological-ontology project* – ran a story claiming that a certain diet could reduce breast cancer risk by 40%. As Ben explains, there is no basis at all for this claim within the research. This study doesn’t assess cancer risk at all. It simply shows that certain dietary pattern can have effects on hormone levels. It is speculative in the extreme to make the link from the diet to breast cancer risk.

The Daily Mail know this. I know that they know this because they admit as much – all the way down in paragraph 19.  Ben explains very well in his blog the research that shows how people read newspapers and how this caveat is very likely to be missed by many (if not most) readers. However the Daily Mail can still claim accuracy for their article because it’s in there somewhere.

I do not think this is accidental. I think they know exactly what they are doing – they are using this technique to deliberately misinform.

That is journalism of the worst kind.

AFZ

*Daily Mail’s on-going oncological-ontology project: to categorise all objects in the world as either ‘those that cause cancer’ or ‘those that cure cancer. Recent entries include Facebook as both a cause and a cure.

The extent of Daily Star research

From the good folks at F365’s Mediawatch:

Maybe Mediawatch is being snobbish, but we don’t imagine those at the The Daily Star to be the spiciest chillies in the pot.

Therefore, their exciting news story, trailed on their back page, that David James was apparently ‘DRUNK when he agreed to join Bristol City’, was hardly a surprise.

We’ll gloss over the fact that he said nothing of the sort, simply that he was a little tipsy when he took the initial call, rather than rolling into the City offices with his pants on his head, bottle of Spar gin in hand and singing ‘Delilah’.

Instead, we prefer to note that the quotes on which they base their story are not really quotes at all, merely an extract lifted entirely from James’s column in The Observer two days ago.

The Star: turning mildly amusing asides into news since 1978.

Some poorly-constructed thoughts on blogging and journalism

Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have realised that I was invited down to Bristol on Friday night to sit on the secondary panel of an event titled ‘What’s the blogging story?’ which was designed to be a debate on the relationship between bloggers and the media. The debate itself was reasonably interesting, albeit at times the debate seemed too wide and not a great deal was resolved or looked at in depth. This leads me to the collection of thoughts that make up this blog post.

My first thought is that the two terms – ‘bloggers’ and ‘journalists’ – are not fit for purpose and only lead to natural conflict whenever people try to grapple with the difference between the two. In order to remove this barrier we need to accept that all journalists and bloggers are writers and we should attempt to judge them purely in terms of how accomplished they are as writers – the label they write under is irrelevant.

Andrew Marr’s comments are designed to ridicule the kind of person presumed to be a blogger, rather than aiming any criticism of the actual writing that is published on blogs. Likewise, the label of journalist is no more inclusive, given the lofty connotations that the word inspires. Journalists are sometimes little more than copy-and-paste merchants regurgitating press releases or writing copy to accompany banal celebrity stories.

There are good bloggers and rubbish bloggers, just as there are good journalists and rubbish journalists. To try and pit such broad groups against each other is pointless; the only comparison that can be made is on an individual basis and the only criteria should be the quality of the writing.

It seems to me that if we consider someone a ‘blogger’ or ‘journalist’ first and a writer second we set up the debate to fail because the bloggers will always be written-off as socially inadequate ‘amateurs’ or failed journalists; whilst the journalists will either be automatically given the label of talented professional or someone who has no qualities as a writer but is happy to copy and paste MigrationWatch press releases or write several articles a day discussing the increased / decreased weight of celebrities.

My second point is that the quality of writing is always going to be impacted by the integrity of the person or organisation producing it. Good journalism is supposed to be neutral, factual and clear. Yet most journalists work for a newspaper that has a clear agenda, good journalism will not make it into print if it does not suit the editorial expectations of the newspaper.

As I tried to argue when I as given the chance to speak: it is not just a question of accuracy, it is far more important to recognise why an article is not accurate. Nick Davies in his book Flat Earth News argued that newspapers produced bad journalism because of time constraints, lack of resources and staff; essentially bad journalism was an accident. I do not find this argument convincing, given that so much of the bad journalism in recent times comes not from journalistic mistakes but are driven instead by the ideology of the editor.

When the Daily Star reports the completely false story that Muslims are getting their own, exclusive toilets and that the taxpayer is picking up the tab it is not the result of journalistic incompetence, but is the product of a newspaper that seeks to whip up hatred against Muslims. Likewise, just before the event on Friday the Daily Mail deliberately took a complaint out of context to imply that an extractor fan was being blocked simply because the smell of bacon had ‘offended’ some Muslims.

This is not misinformation (accidentally giving someone false information or a false impression) but disinformation (purposefully giving someone false information or a false impression). Journalists are only required to gather the information necessary to print a story that supports the media narrative, this has little to do with time constraints or lack of journalistic skills.

I think the main point that was not made on Friday night was that whilst journalists might traditionally be trained to write objectively and to ensure their articles are clear and balanced, this seems to me to be impossible when most media outlets have such clear political bias and a range of distorted media narratives that journalists must adhere to. Whilst the independent blogger might suffer from internal false narratives and bias they at least have more chance to be objective.

That seemed to me to be one of the more interesting discussion points, which perhaps bloggers might want to take further. Who knows, perhaps bloggers might want to put on an event like this without the distraction of ‘proper journalists’?


I will write a separate post addressing Roy Greenslade’s comments on ‘media policing’ because otherwise this blog post will turn into an essay.

You can watch and listen to the full event online here (if you just want to hear the sound of my voice, skip to 54 minutes).

For a proper review / overview of Friday’s event read Jamie Thunder’s article on the EJC website.
Anton Vowl has also blogged about it here.
Roy Greenslade has also mentioned it here.
The Bristol Editor covers it here.

The Freak Show business model of modern journalism

I attended a blogging event over the weekend which I want to write up at some point – I’m still gathering my thoughts somewhat – and I had the chance to get across my basic disgust at the disinformation printed as a matter of course by the tabloid media. What I didn’t get round to saying was how a substantial amount of journalism had become simply sticking a few pictures of a women in a bikini and writing about how she looks. Every day on the Mail website you will see articles like this one: ‘Wild Thing no more: A fuller figured Neve Campbell emerges from the Hawaii sea in bikini’. You all know the drill:

  1. Said celebrity is a bit too fat for the Daily Mail.
  2. What is worse is that they used to look incredible – here, have some photos of said celebrity 12 years ago so you can all shake your heads in disgust at how she has let herself go.
  3. You will notice that the old photos of said celebrity feature naked breasts, we have pixelated the nipples because we think that might offend you. We do not think this kind of ‘journalism’ could offend you.
  4. The celebrity happens to have a new movie out. We’ll list the names of all the main actors, along with the name of the film as many times as possible. This helps our website get as many hits as possible.
  5. You’ll notice we have also put photos of said celebrity over the years looking nice at film premieres. This is because we have lots of these photos on file, it is effortless for us to print them and we know how many of our visitors prefer pictures to real journalism.
  6. Please enjoy the film trailer. Again, we are just making sure we hoover up as many Google searches as possible. It also helps to bulk up an article that essentially could be reduced to ‘woman goes to beach’.

This kind of article forms the bulk of Mail Online content and it is not journalism. Furthermore, it is creating the atmosphere in which women are reduced to objects that can fit into three main categories*:

  1. A women with a ‘fuller figure’, meaning that they used to look really slender and have let themselves go; or that they have always ‘bucked the trend’ by seeming happy to have a fuller figure. These women are bad because with a bit of effort they could conform to the Mail’s exacting standards of womanhood.
  2. A women who is too skinny. The Mail will inform you of the ‘shocking’ diets these women follow in order to maintain an unhealthy figure – they will accompany this information with photos of said ‘bony’ body in a bikini if possible. This celebrity should in theory gain weight (which would also be covered as they would then enter the unacceptable territory of category 1) but the Mail will sometimes let their approval of category 2 slip by referring to such women as ‘slender’, or having a small frame. This implies that they are not unhealthy and that weight is natural. This category is therefore bad in some ways – in that strict diets are shocking and skinny women look all bony; but at the same time because categories 1 & 3 are even more unacceptable we can only conclude that all women should strive to be in category 2, even if the Mail will still criticise both the end result (whilst also happily ogling the end result) and the way it was achieved (even if they admire their self-control and discipline whilst on such diets, discipline sadly lacking from categories 1 & 3).
  3. A women who is grossly overweight. These women are clearly really fat and as such the Daily Mail will delight in taking photos of them and giving their readers free reign to abuse said women in the comments. Often the worst thing about category 3 women is that they seem proud of their weight, or at the very least they look ‘unconcerned’ when wondering around in public. Generally these women need to be shamed into taking the ‘shocking diets’ which will then lead them into the criticism faced by category 2, along with photographs showing protruding bones and so forth. However, category 2 is infinitely preferable to the Daily Mail.

The same website that criticises Neve Campbell for daring to age and having a ‘fuller figure’ (which appears to be to the untrained eye** a very nice figure) can happily feature an article not far away criticising (ostensibly) a different female celebrity for being ‘skinny': ‘”I ate 1,000 calories a day”: Skinny Whitney Port reveals her punishing diet secrets’. Yet the Daily Mail only refers to her as skinny in the headline, they use the much more positive ‘slender’ throughout the article to describe her. Women cannot win. The best they can hope for is to be a category 2, which is to be dangerously obsessive about their weight and diet at the expense of their long-term health.

The Daily Mail website is a modern freakshow in which women and men are paraded in order to be mocked by the visiting reader. It is also an unintended freakshow in which the sorry business model of modern journalism is revealed: pack in the reader by appealing to their basest instincts. It seems that body fascism along with a large dose of patronising misogyny sells. Sadly, because it sells it is also here to stay.


* I think you can also put male celebrities into the same categories, except replace really skinny in category 2 with really muscular.
** I am aware after my exposure to proper journalists on the weekend that I am not a real journalist as I haven’t had the formal training which makes real journalists the very elite of ‘writing stuff down’. Presumably real journalists will be mocking my perception of Neve Campbell because they can see her figure in a proper journalistic context, i.e. they will be sat there going: ‘Sure, I mean a casual non-journalist would think she looks OK, but put a photo of her with her tits out taken 12 years ago next to a photo of her now and you can see just how wrong she is.’

Ban this sick filth

Peter Hitchens is nuts. Not eccentric, provocative or playing the devil’s advocate, just plain bonkers. He’s always been a bit mad, but every now and again he would write something half-decent, as if a tiny piece of sanity was fighting back from the depths of a complete mental breakdown. Not any more, now it is column-after-column of increasingly ludicrous ramblings – each of them more self-assured than the last. We had a treatise on why single mothers should receive no benefits whatsoever, although ‘Existing victims of one of the stupidest policies in human history should continue to get their handouts and subsidised homes until their children are grown’. You can read more about that column from the excellent No sleep ’til Brooklands.

Then he moved onto the terrible state of higher education where he claimed that entering further education was a ‘corrupting, demoralising experience’ enjoyed by ‘parasites’  who sit courses ‘crammed with anti-Christian, anti-Western, anti-traditional material’. You can read more about that here. Today he moves back to the welfare state and argues that no cuts have actually taken place because by 2014-15 we’ll be spending more than we are currently. ‘What cuts?’ is the opening question he asks, before moving on to attack housing benefit as ‘probably the single most fraud­ulent and wasteful state handout ever invented.’ Peter Hitchens is so utterly faeces-up-the-wall mad that he then starts getting to the root of our problems by arguing that Britain is run by a ‘more-or-less communist state machine’.

Councils employ lots of people in fake jobs with huge salaries whilst new hospitals ‘can be hosting MRSA within months of opening’, largely, suspects Peter, because:

Its nurses – now armed with costly and useless so-called degrees, but often lacking the dutiful discipline of their forebears – can still leave the old to die of dehydration or to fester in their own filth.

He ends with a wonderfully uplifting vision of the future:

This cannot continue for ever. My own guess is that it will be swept away some time soon by a wave of terrible inflation, which will destroy the provident and the prudent as well as the parasites, and which finally will reduce this country to the Third World status it seems so anxious to attain.

He does find time to mention a few other of his favourite things, he has another short piece on the untold misery of millions of children who are victims of a one-parent family and he returns to a favourite idea of his:

Yet more reason for a full, deep inquiry into so-called ‘anti-depressants’. How many suicides have been prescribed these ill-researched and unpredictable pills, also possibly linked with rampage killings? Both Yvonne Brown and her son Ben, who threw themselves to dreadful deaths from the Humber Bridge within weeks of each other, had been prescribed with ‘anti-depressants’.

Firstly, anyone even without any scientific understanding of the impact of anti-depressant drugs could make a few arguments as to why people on anti-depressants commit suicide. For instance, the argument could be made that anyone taking such drugs is depressed and may already be contemplating suicide, the drugs can therefore be seen as a result of their depression and suicidal thoughts rather than a cause of them. Secondly, when you look at the scientific evidence a key study has:

found an overall trend for any antidepressant treatment to reduce the risk of suicidality in people aged 25 years or above.

In the under 25s, however, there was a non-significant increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviour (preparatory actions for suicide or attempted or completed suicide) with antidepressant treatment. When limited to suicidal behaviour alone this increased risk became significant.

So, in specific circumstances there is cause for concern and further investigation. However, Hitchens general link has no evidence, and as for his suggestion that anti-depressants have been ‘possibly linked with rampage killings’, well yes, they have, by various media outlets as a quick Google search shows, but I have yet to see any scientific arguments for this. I can’t help but feel that the terrible state of tabloid journalism is never going to improve whilst people like Peter Hitchens are given a paid platform. If only we could start some kind of campaign to ban this sick filth without sounding like the Daily Mail…

Richard Littlejohn: ‘no excuse’ for ‘lazy, biased reporting’

Richard Littlejohn – unsurprisingly – has no sympathy for the ‘self-pitying grumbles of the “victims”‘ of the government cuts. He identifies the ‘victims’ as:

from bone-idle Welsh benefit bandits who can’t be bothered to catch a bus five miles to get a job, to middle-class teaching assistants complaining that the ‘cuts’ will mean they’ll have to forego one of their foreign holidays next year.

The Welsh reference seems to be made about what I overheard being repeated on Radio 4 this morning, the unemployed residents of Merthyr Tydfil – along with Blaenau Gwent it has the highest level of benefits reliance in the UK – could get a bus to Cardiff where there are jobs. The thing is, the distance is 20 miles not 5, which Richard would have known had he done even the slightest bit of checking.

The next point is really offensive, attacking those notoriously overpaid and under-worked ‘middle-class’ teaching assistants. Firstly, the term middle-class does not mean middle-earner when the Daily Mail uses it. In the past they have claimed that the ‘middle class’ was being slammed based on a single-parent family with one salary of £50,000 per annum. Yet the true average wage in the UK is just £26,020, whilst the median gross annual earnings are even less at £20,801 – this is the salary point at which half of the country earns more than you and half less.

So, presumably Richard wants to imply that teaching assistants earn huge salaries and that the ‘cuts’ (which he refers to in inverted commas as if they are some kind of invention for fuck’s sake) might only affect their ability to have a second foreign holiday! These bloody teaching assistants! The thing is the average salary for teaching assistants is actually around £15,153, they are poorly paid and often limited to term-time only contracts – meaning their actual salary is far less than this. Richard Littlejohn as ever revels in bullying the poor from the luxury of his Florida mansion paid for by writing not even two columns a week in which he recycles stories he has read in the Mail.

In a final, astonishingly hypocritical insult he then declares that the cuts are not actually bad at all, its just a media invention:

This sense of grievance is fed by the broadcast media with its endless stage-managed, vested-interest ‘case studies’ intended to terrify the ‘most vulnerable in society’.

I’ve worked in TV and know how ­difficult it is to fill half an hour, let alone a voracious 24-hour news ­channel. But that’s no excuse for some of the lazy, biased reporting.

There is ‘no excuse’ for ‘lazy, biased reporting’? Then do the decent thing and resign Richard. To think that I was actually starting to feel sorry for this clueless, inhuman piece of shit.