Daily Mail repeats ‘cheese-rolling banned’ myth, again

In March the Daily Mail invented  a new ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ myth:

Tabloidwatch covered the myth at the time, pointing out that:

as usual with such stories, it’s not entirely accurate.

Yes, this year’s race at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester has been cancelled. But:

‘The organisers of the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake regret to announce that the 2010 event has been cancelled.

The attendance at the event has far outgrown the location where it has traditionally been held for several hundred years: last year more than 15,000 people tried to attend (according to official estimates) which is more than three times the capacity of the site.’

So the organisers cancelled it. Not ‘health and safety killjoys’ then?

And it’s nothing to do with the actual cheese-roll race itself, which the Mail seems to imply.

Naturally Richard Littlejohn repeated the myth in a segment where he was attacking the chief executive of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health for daring to accuse him of making up health and safety stories. Seriously, Richard Littlejohn attempted to defend himself by repeating yet another invented health and safety story:

Badly timed attack
The chief executive of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health has accused me of making up stories about elf’n’safety.

Never mind that he can point to only one example, a story which came not from my imagination, but from the Rotary Club of Stranraer, which was told that it would have to employ a lifeguard and a ‘trained outdoor specialist’ if it intended to use a footpath alongside Loch Ryan.

He also, rather unfortunately, chose the day on which we learned that the traditional cheese-rolling contest in Gloucestershire had been cancelled this year on grounds of elf’n’safety.

Sometimes, even I can’t make it up.

Well, I guess his final line is correct, he didn’t make this one up, the Daily Mail did. He just repeated it. This was a complete non-story and in the end a ‘unofficial’ event took place which gave the Daily Mail another chance to repeat the myth that the event had been banned for being too dangerous as well as the chance to print a picture of a woman with her boobs hanging out. It was the perfect Daily Mail one-two of an invented ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ myth wrapped around heaving breasts – the editor must have been giddy with delight.

Fast forward to today and the cheese-rolling myth has been rolled out (apologies) once again: ‘At last! An end to the elf ‘n’ safety madness as meddling officials face fines if they ban events. They illustrate the article with a picture of cheese-rolling as the example of the kind of thing ‘meddling officials’ will face a fine for banning:

Cheese-rolling
Click to Enlarge

Except of course that officials – meddling or otherwise – have never attempted to ban cheese-rolling and it has never been classed as ‘too dangerous’. This is what I really despise about the tabloid press; they invent stories and repeat them until they become fact and are perceived as being a real evil. This then leads to extremely dim politicians getting involved to tackle a problem that does not exist. The Daily Mail then screams hurrah at job well done and claims it as a victory for ‘common sense’.

This is now at least the fourth article the Daily Mail have produced based on a complete lie; how many more will there be? I guess we’ll get some idea of how brazenly the Daily Mail is prepared to lie if they dare to mention ‘Winterval’ as a PC attempt to ban Christmas this year. They certainly flirted with the myth when the Pope stated we should stand up and defend Christmas against those attempting to outlaw it. I imagine at least one tabloid newspaper will repeat it. If you spot any newspaper – local or national – repeating it, please get in touch.

5 thoughts on “Daily Mail repeats ‘cheese-rolling banned’ myth, again

  1. If they’re bothered about we atheists and our mythological imposition of the evil Winterval on poor defenceless Christians, what are they going to make of the Charity Commission’s decision to recognise Druidry as a religion ‘with a strong moral framework’? Maybe Littlejohn will burst a blood vessel.

  2. Excellent website, always drop in to see what ill-informed stuff the Mail et al are peddling at any moment in time. The cheese-rolling story puts me in mind of the classic Arnold Bennett quote: “journalists say a thing that they know isn’t true, in the hope that if they keep on saying it long enough it will be true.” I think that quote is a good 70 years old at least, and as valid now as it ever was.

  3. I noticed that concern at RL’s, er, stakeholder engagement has attracted interest in the comments :)

    I don’t understand this elf ‘n’ safety madness but my husband has been banging on about it for ages – that said, he’s also afflicted with this very strange fetishism for 1970s sitcoms. It’s a good job that he’s got an easy job these days.

    – Wendy, Florida, USA, 1/10/2010 22:53

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