Tag Archives: Daily Mail

Winterval: Still alive and kicking

Remember the dim and distant days of November 2011 when the Daily Mail published a correction to a Melanie Phillips article in which they finally acknowledged that Winterval had never renamed Christmas:

We stated in an article on 26 September that Christmas has been renamed in various places Winterval. Winterval was the collective name for a season of public events, both religious and secular, which took place in Birmingham in 1997 and 1998. We are happy to make clear that Winterval did not rename or replace Christmas.

As I wrote recently in my E-Book about Winterval (which this blog post will repeatedly plug) this correction from the Daily Mail did more to kill the myth than any debunking had managed before, and apart from the occasional mention the myth had pretty much died.

However, the Daily Mail has – 3 days ago – published another article on the myth: ‘She may as well have wished us Happy Winterval!’ MP who sent out Happy Holidays card faces backlash for ‘marginalising’ Christmas’. The article suggests – in one of the Mail Online’s various bullet-point sub-headings – that such a card ‘Draws comparisons to the 1990s Winterval furore in Birmingham’. The Mail also makes room for the following handy reminder to readers:

winterval

This little box is crammed full of lies. Winterval was never about ‘reflect[ing] the diverse nature of the city’s population’, nor did the council ever say anything about making the city a more welcoming place for ethnic groups. These are lies, I have read every single piece of news coverage, in both local and national newspapers, since 1997 on this subject and I have never, ever seen anything that could possibly justify these assertions. I know this will not come as a shock, but the Daily Mail is making this up, they are lying to their readers.

As for the then Bishop of Birmingham’s comments, they were made a year after the initial Winterval celebrations in 1997 (of which he seems to have been completely oblivious) and they were reported by a newspaper that up until that point had not criticised Winterval at all – indeed, newspaper reports after the 1997 event talked about what a success it had been and how Winterval 1998 was going to be bigger and better.

If you care about the state of journalism, or you want others to realise just how happy newspapers are to make stuff up to incite hatred towards target groups, then please buy and read my E-book on the Winterval myth. It will – I think – open the eyes of any reader as to how one little myth can fuel a media narrative (atheists / Muslims / PC brigade are banning Christmas) for over 15 years, and how in each passing year the original myth becomes more and more embellished to suit the political needs of the newspaper at the time.

In other news, Ann Widdecombe recently crammed as many media myths into a few hundred words as I’ve ever seen, including Winterval and a Dr Chris Allen has completely ripped-off all of my research into Winterval in a blog post in which he basically rejigs my writing on the topic – adding nothing new.

The only way anyone can make me feel better is to buy my E-book:

winterval-book

The Daily Hate

Fresh from one of the vilest, most dishonest and openly hateful front pages in recent times the Daily Mail is continuing its attack on those receiving benefits, this time with a poll. It warns its readers that such a poll may be ‘hijacked by the Left’ (just in case the results do not go in their favour) and posts several articles around the main subject that argues that the ‘Left’ is once again trying to censor debate:

mail-hate

It always amuses me when so much of the political ‘debate’ (it so often does not deserve the term) is set by a powerful press that is – by quite some majority – firmly on the right that they still claim to be some kind of persecuted minority. It is an especially stupid argument to make when the Right-wing press just happen to be completely in agreement with the policies of the party in power. The Daily Mail is a huge believer in the need to destroy the welfare state and is therefore doing all that it can to support the coalition in its very successful attempt to do so. The newspaper’s role is to lay the ground for acceptance of change, to make its readers hate those in receipt of benefits irrespective of the reality of the situation, once this is done, the changes don’t receive grudging acceptance – or simply a lack of resistance – but instead the baying masses cheer on the result; after all, the scroungers don’t deserve a penny.

This tired, fallacious argument has been repeatedly rebuffed with statistics to little effect because the exceptional cases override statistics in our irrational minds – emotion beats logic, as newspaper editors well know. Therefore the occasional story of the convicted benefit cheat easily outweighs the millions receiving benefits legitimately. The occasional story of the ‘feckless’ family that has never worked but has a widescreen TV and a big house, outweighs the thousands of people who receive benefits to supplement their poorly paid jobs (because the market that we are supposed to so slovenly obey, doesn’t actually pay a huge amount of workers a living wage and the government recognises this, subsidising not so much the poor, but the businesses that employ them at such a low wage).

It hardly needs stating that Mick Philpott is the product of many things, but the welfare state is not one of them. As many people have pointed out on Twitter, the same logic would place the NHS squarely to blame for Harold Shipman’s killing spree. It’s utterly nonsensical, but here it is, one of the most popular newspapers in Britain and one of the most visited websites on Earth are not just making the link, but repeatedly beating their ignorant and fearful readership around the face with it until they submit to the logic that the benefits system is actually murdering children and must be stopped.

Child benefit is just £20.30 a week for the eldest or only child and £13.40 a week for each additional child. Having a small army of children is a route to poverty, not prosperity – although no doubt a senior Tory will pop up claiming they could easily feed, clothe & educate a child for £20.30 / £13.40 a week and still keep Mick Phillpott waste deep in cigarettes and alcohol.

This kind of nonsensical hate campaign supports a point I made recently, that buying the Daily Mail or supporting it in any way is essentially an antisocial act. Imagine someone living in a block of flats, pumping out rave music 24 hours a day at a 1000DB, arguing that this person is making a worthwhile contribution to the music scene is the same as arguing that the Daily Mail is contributing anything of value to social or political debate. It also reinforces my point that we really should start to formally separate ‘news’ from ‘propaganda’ and start labeling newspapers more accurately as ‘comment sheets’. The bias exhibited by the Daily Mail on the topic of benefits is about as extreme as it gets, they only run negative stories, they never publish the full statistics on the matter (i.e. the huge amounts of unclaimed benefits, the true rate of benefit fraud etc) – they are entirely blinkered, for political reasons, on the subject. Yet they are still allowed to call themselves a ‘newspaper’, even though they rarely print news without a hugely political slant which means so much of their content is hugely distorted.

Buying the Daily Mail is an antisocial act in the same way that attending a local council meeting and proceeding to do nothing but throw faeces at everyone present is. That is all the Daily Mail and its ilk do, they throw shit at everyone they want to destroy whilst pretending that they’re actually trying to make a serious effort to engage in ‘debate’. Just remember the Phillpott front pages, editorials and columns the next time Paul Dacre appeals to the noblest traditions of journalism to stave off much needed regulation. He might know what noble journalism is, but he’s very rarely practised it.


PS. If you like this blog post, spending a couple of seconds clicking the videos on the right ensures I get paid around 1/100,000,000 of what Richard Littlejohn earns for shitting out two columns a week. Thanking you kindly.

The Talented Mr Littlejohn

We didn’t need a 2,000 page report by Leveson to demonstrate that something is rotten in the state of journalism, we just need to remind ourselves of the glittering career of Richard Littlejohn.

Here is a man who has worked in journalism since 1971 and in his most recent form – twice-weekly ‘satirical’ columns – has been handsomely paid by both the Sun and the Daily Mail (rumour from a few years back put his annual salary at £800,000). Along the way he has been named Fleet Street’s Columnist of the Year and he was also given a place in the inaugural Newspaper Hall of Fame as one of the most influential journalists of the past 40 years. Even this year Richard Littlejohn was runner-up (‘highly commended’) for the columnist of the year award in the 2012 UK Press Awards.

Only an industry which has no standards, no concern for facts and no qualms about regularly printing hateful spite aimed at the weakest in society would enable Richard Littlejohn to become one of its leading lights.

Littlejohn is infamous for writing unpleasant things and his column on Lucy Meadows was nothing out of the ordinary. Indeed, it was exactly the kind of column that Paul Dacre pays him so handsomely to write (and we must ultimately blame the editor, not the writer for what is deemed fit to publish). Lucy Meadows was the perfect victim for a Richard Littlejohn attack job. She wasn’t rich, powerful or influential; she was vulnerable, had no voice and was most importantly different. Whilst Richard Littlejohn’s surreal personal website insists that he is some kind of crusader taking on the rich and powerful, the evidence of column after column attacking the disenfranchised suggests that this is the one thing he doesn’t actually do.

He famously decided to attack the five female victims of a serial killer, labelling them as ‘disgusting, drug-addled street whores’ who were ‘in the scheme of things… no great loss’ because it wasn’t as if they were  ‘going to discover a cure for cancer or embark on missionary work in Darfur’.  He commented on the Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 people died:

Does anyone really give a monkey’s about what happens in Rwanda? If the Mbongo tribe wants to wipe out the Mbingo tribe then as far as I am concerned that is entirely a matter for them.

When Japan suffered a Tsunami in which over 19,000 people died Richard Littlejohn wrote that:

the Japanese people have a distinct culture of their own, which is entirely alien to our own values. They are militantly racist and in the past have been capable of great cruelty.

And went on to explain that whilst you shouldn’t blame current generations for the sins of the past, he does exactly that by explaining why some WWII veterans wouldn’t be joining in the minute’s silence for Japan because of Japenese cruelty during the war (77.4% of Japan’s population were not even born until after the end of WWII). Indeed, Richard Littlejohn – never a model of consistency, even had the gall to write: ‘But why Japan and not, say, those massacred in Rwanda or starved to death by Mugabe in Zimbabwe?’. Obviously, we’ve all read his real thoughts on the 800,000 killed in Rwanda, it’s just that Littlejohn hates so many nameless foreigners that he can’t keep up with which genocides he has in the past written derogatory comments about.

Richard Littlejohn is well known for his need to dehumanise his victims – indeed, most newspapers use this technique to make the targets of their hate easier to insult; if you take away a person’s humanity, you can write what you like about them with impunity. He’s also well known for his staggering laziness, rehashing the same few columns over and over again and failing to engage in even the most cursory research to avoid making simple mistakes or repeating the same tired old media myths (a lack of research is the kind way of viewing this, it could be he knows the truth, but just does not care).

He is, in short, terrible at being a journalist.

And this is what Leveson failed to really address, the fundamental problem that what falls under the general label of journalism because it appears in a newspaper is often the antithesis of the common understanding of what journalism should be. What Littlejohn et al clearly demonstrate is that the issue is best dealt with by Trading Standards – they need to determine what it is acceptable to label as a ‘newspaper’. If a newspaper should primarily be concerned with a factual reporting of general interest news items, then the label should not apply to the Daily Mail and it’s tabloid brethren. Perhaps we need to start from scratch and have a formal system that regulates news and separates it from comment – we need to recognise that most of our newspapers are little more than propaganda sheets published solely in the interest of wealthy owners.

Above all, we need to recognise that papers like the Daily Mail exist because their brand of hatred is popular and people buy it. The same goes for Littlejohn, he has – and continues to have – a glittering career because editors see value in writing populist myths as fact and in attacking the disenfranchised. All I ever wanted from Leveson was for him to come up with a regulatory system that leveled the playing field by ensuring that newspapers have to stick to the facts. I don’t mind newspapers having an opinion, but I do object when the evidence put forward to support their opinion is a vast tissue of lies.

It seems to me that the best way to detoxify newspapers is to create a system in which they are punished, substantially, for lying to their readers. Would the tabloid press really be as popular as they are if they couldn’t rely on wheeling out the same old populist myths to feed the flames of anger in their readership? Would Littlejohn have carved out any kind of career as a columnist if he couldn’t rely on telling lies to whip up anger and hatred?

The case of Lucy Meadows is very sad and anger should be rightfully directed at the Daily Mail and its editor, Paul Dacre, along with Richard Littlejohn for writing the piece. It should also be directed at the other newspapers who sent photograpers and journalists to harass Lucy Meadows and the people around her. However, it should also be directed at the people buying these newspapers – buying the Daily Mail et al is an anti-social act and should be looked upon as such by any decent citizen.

The only way we can change the press we get, is to change the press we buy.

For the Daily Mail Sorry really seems to be the hardest word

The Daily Mail today published a correction to an article published on 12 December 2011:

AN ARTICLE on 12 December 2011 suggested that Ned RocknRoll was still married to his wife Eliza when he met Kate Winslet. In fact, the marriage had already ended in divorce. We apologise for any contrary impression given.

The Daily Mail apologises for the ‘suggestion’ or ‘impression’ that Ned RocknRoll was still married to his wife when he met Kate Winslet. When you look at the original article this looks like a very slyly-worded apology indeed:

[After Kate Winslet started dating him] Abel Smith, who eccentrically changed his name by deed poll some years ago to Ned RocknRoll, subsequently informed his wife, Eliza Pearson, 23, the sweet-natured daughter of multi-millionaire Viscount Cowdray, that he had fallen for the Titantic star. While Eliza took it on the chin and decided to divorce him, Louis is still struggling with what happened.

The Daily Mail’s apology, therefore, seriously implies that the original article merely ‘suggested’ or gave the ‘impression’ that the couple were still together at the time. What it actually does is clearly state that after meeting Kate Winslet he ‘subsequently informed his wife’ who ‘took it on the chin and decided to divorce him’.

This half-hearted, weasel-worded ‘apology’ is made by the Daily Mail in the week in which its Editor-in-chief Paul Dacre has had to appear twice before the Leveson inquiry. Dacre was – as ever – bullish about press standards – especially when concerning his beloved Daily Mail – and he argued that press standards had improved greatly in recent years (how bad must it have been before?) and that statutory regulation was not needed.

Since the inquiry started Paul Dacre has taken great pleasure in repeating that the Daily Mail has taken the trouble to offer prompt apologies / corrections on page 2 of its print edition.

However, the reality is that apologies are not prompt or sincere and don’t even attempt to admit or acknowledge the true gravity of the original error. They are in many ways absolutely representative of the culture, attitude and ethics that pervades a press that like a stubborn and naughty child isn’t used – or even prepared – to say sorry properly.

The MailOnline’s spinning moral compass

The MailOnline has become an increasing flesh-fest of celebrities, reality TV stars and anyone else vaguely worthy of a bikini-shot mention. However, at the same time the Daily Mail website retains the hypocrisy that has been a long-time feature of the print edition; as ever it is a case as do as we preach, not as we do when it comes to MailOnline judging the actions of other media organisations.

The Daily Mail kicked off the new year with an attack on the BBC’s much-talked-about and successful take on Sherlock Holmes daring to feature some women-back-flesh before the nudity claiming that the BBC was under-fire from viewers who thought that it had ‘gone too far with the raunchy scenes’. The MailOnline naturally took the opportunity to post the key screengrabs – on a 24-hour-no-possible-watershed-website and also decided to stick a large photo on page 9 of the print edition.

The Daily Mail has a special distaste for the Internet and the fact the entire spectrum of human depravity is available at the click of a button (providing you have entered the right key words into the search engine of course). The Internet – according to the gospel of the Daily Mail – corrupts us, keeps teenage boys locked in bedrooms with boxes of tissues, whilst teenage girls chat to pensioners in anonymous chat forums. Middle-aged people seek out suicide partners and meet in deserted industrial estates possessing nothing more than a desire to end it all with a stranger and a length of hosepipe.

But the thing is parents can install Internet filters onto their children’s laptops, middle-aged people have the free will to search instead for dinner-party inspiration and everyone makes the active choice whether to seek out the darker side of the Internet – we all know that if you wanted to watch a video of a hostage being beheaded you’d find a million websites hosting the video and so on.

What we can’t prevent is the young and innocent logging on to one of the largest news websites in the world and being able to watch a 7 minute video of an alleged rape that took place on Brazilian Big Brother. Or indeed, a video showing ‘Moment base jumper plummets 200ft and breaks both legs after botched wingsuit leap off Table Mountain’.

The rather obvious and indeed laboured point is that the Daily Mail likes to lecture us on morality and decency yet they will publish anything to gain a few extra hits, to draw in a few more curious rubber-neckers who just can’t resist a click on something illicit. The Internet has a million websites dedicated to people who want to watch dubious videos, but the point is that you have to actively seek them out and most filtering software can block them from younger viewers.

What shouldn’t happen is one of the world’s largest ‘news’ sites publishing them in amongst content that is supposed to be suitable for all.

MailOnline fakes Austrian snowstorm picture

MailOnline have an article on heavy snow in Austria, and have decided to claim that a photograph taken in a famously snowy region of Japan is actually of one of the locations in Austria that they describe in the article. Here is the photograph from the MailOnline homepage (note a pretty dire headline fail as well):

In the article itself the photograph is accompanied by the following caption:

Tunnel vision: The road into Ischgi was briefly open before being closed because of avalanche fears

If you do a search for the image using TinEye you get 142 results clearly showing the Japanese origins of the photo. Here is a link to one blog that not only contains the picture from the Daily Mail article, but also lots more lovely snow pictures to look at to take your mind off of the mild, grey winter we’re experiencing this year. Also, check out the date of that blogpost: 29 December 2010. The Mail is claiming a picture that is over a year old has just been taken in Austria. Not to mention that the cars in the picture are driving on the wrong side of the road for Austria.

What baffles me is how the Mail ever thought they could get away with this obvious deception – a deception that has been pointed out numerous times in the unmoderated comments under the article. You would have thought everyone would be on their best behaviour whilst the Leveson inquiry was ongoing. Obviously not.

UPDATE:

Whilst is appears that the Mail website has now removed this image, they did not have time to remove it from the print edition of the Daily Mail:

The photo includes the same caption as the original online version of the article, claiming the photo is from the recent snowstorm in Austria. This is embarrassing considering the Daily Mail’s photo editor – Paul Silva – is currently appearing in front of the Leveson inquiry.

Daily Mail still not exactly racially sensitive

In the week that Paul Dacre tried to claim credit for bringing two racist murderers to justice the Daily Mail website is quickly returning to form with some standard comment moderation in which racially abusive comments are happily let through, even though the comments section clearly states that all comments are being moderated. The story is the police investigation into alledged racism that supposedly took place during the Liverpool – Oldham game last night and which resulted in a young black player breaking down in tears.

Considering what has happened in the last week, and considering the way in which Paul Dacre lorded his newspaper’s moral superiority over us all you would think that the comments would be closely moderated – even more so given the reputation MailOnline has for not letting through many a sensible, non-abusive comment if it doesn’t agree with the editorial line. But, sadly this is not the case:

Way to take the high ground, Daily Mail. Still, what most of these comments are saying – ‘grow up you baby, people have heard worse’ – only echoes what Steve Doughty wrote a couple of months back:

So, Mr Evra and Mr Ferdinand, I know you feel insulted. But perhaps in this case you could just put up with it and get on with the game.

The Daily Mail: institutionally racist even after the Stephen Lawrence case.

Daily Mail nicking photos, again

This time from blogger IanVisits:

The blog post in question is the one the other day about the anniversary of the Cock Lane ghost…

I trawled through my own collection of vintage newspapers and engravings to see if I could add much more to the story – but ended up with a summary of the facts. I did however visit Cock Lane to take a photo of it as it is today, and got copies of a couple of contemporary newspaper reports.

You can imagine my surprise then when one of the newspaper scans, and my photo of Cock Lane appeared in the Daily Mail.

Published yesterday by a “Daily Mail Reporter“, then rewritten, rather better to be honest, a few hours later by Nick Enoch – both articles used my photos, without permission, payment or acknowledging my copyright.

The blogger has emailed the Daily Mail and is awaiting response. However, they do know who he is and they really should have paid him given that:

the photo editor has been in touch in the past to ask about using my photos, and they have on record how much I charge for that.

I’ll watch and wait to see if the Daily Mail do respond. Online content theft is certainly becoming quite a serious issue with certain newspapers and it is perhaps something that the Leveson inquiry should also be looking into.

The Daily Mail’s initial coverage of the Stephen Lawrence murder

A lot of rumours and half-truths have been buzzing around Twitter and comment threads about how the Daily Mail initially reported the Stephen Lawrence case, and why Paul Dacre allegedly changed from being hostile towards it to one of its biggest champions.

In 1997 The Observer and Guardian newspapers covered the Daily Mail’s famous ‘Murderers’ headline in some detail and commented on the fact that the headline marked a significant departure from the Mail’s coverage of the murder up until that point. A Guardian editorial published on the 15 Feb 1997 comments:

Cynics can also point to a very belated conversion by the Mail. Until yesterday, the Mail’s coverage of the shameful killing had been somewhat peripheral. The murder was only mentioned in three stories in the last year before the inquest, only six the previous year, and just 20 since the murder was committed. Moreover, compare yesterday’s leader with the paper’s editorial shortly after the murder which, while hoping the guilty would be caught, was quick to sneer at the supporters campaigning for the Lawrence family: “What is not helpful is the gusto with which the more militant of the anti-racist organisations have hijacked this human tragedy. The black African leader Nelson Mandela was enlisted, while on a visit here, to give publicity to the case. Racism is abominable . . . but is there not also something contemptible about professional protesters who capitalise on grief to fuel confrontation?”

The Daily Mail editorial quoted by the Guardian above seems very ironic given the role of the Daily Mail in becoming the ‘professional protester’, giving publicity to the case through the ‘Murderers’ headline and in particular Paul Dacre’s grandstanding video ‘interview’ on the Mail website which was also published in full in the Mail’s print edition. An edition which was a virtual commemorative Stephen Lawrence edition – followed up with exclusive interviews with both parents of Stephen Lawrence.

Things could have perhaps turned out very differently according to an Observer article printed on the 16 Feb 1997 titled: ‘Hostile Mail changed tack on Lawrence justice campaign’. The article gives the full details of the incident that has been doing the rounds in various forms on Twitter / comment threads:

THE Daily Mail, the newspaper which last week named as ‘murderers’ the five white youths linked to the killing of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, was originally hostile to the campaign to bring his killers to justice…

the reporter dispatched to cover the story last night told the Observer that the Mail changed its editorial line to support the close family of Stephen Lawrence when it emerged that Stephen’s father had once worked as a plasterer and decorator for Paul Dacre, the paper’s editor.

When the newspaper first covered the story in 1993, Hal Austin said he was ‘detailed’ to write a ‘knocking’ story about the Lawrence campaign, which it believed was orchestrated by a ‘rent-a-mob’, did not have the family’s approval and which it condemned in a fierce leader…

In May 1993, shortly after Stephen’s murder at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, the paper sent Mr Austin, a black reporter, to interview his parents, Neville and Doreen.

Stephen’s murder had ignited passions in the area. On the previous Saturday, 19 people, including five policemen, had been injured in street protests. Several rival political and anti-racist groups had contacted the Lawrences to offer their support.

The initial Mail approach was to treat the ‘campaign’ with hostility. Mr Austin, who no longer works for the Mail, said yesterday: ‘I was detailed to write a story knocking the campaign.’

During the interview with the family, Mr Lawrence asked what would appear and made inquiries about the Mail editor. He asked if he was a tall, balding man with a house in Islington. It emerged he had worked for Mr Dacre some 10 years previously. Mr Austin advised the dead boy’s father to contact Mr Dacre directly. It is understood that there was a phone call to Mr Dacre at about this time.

‘The following day my instructions were suddenly changed,’ Mr Austin said. ‘I was told by the news desk to forget the previous instructions and that they now wanted a positive story.’ Mr Austin felt the original approach undermined the family’s case because it implied that their grievances were not to be taken seriously.

Furthermore, the Observer article also comments on the Mail not normally being sympathetic to the black victims of crime, quoting the example of:

One black journalist who wrote for the paper about a sexual assault on a Tube train [who had] recently found her photograph replaced in the paper by one posed by a white, blonde model.

The Observer article also quoted another Mail ex-staffer’s cynicism of the Mail’s sudden change of heart:

‘It’s not an ethical position, it’s just expediency. I’m disappointed how many astute people are falling for it,’… ‘The Mail has a cast-iron agenda and it’s not suddenly going to get a social conscience. It’s a one-off, a personal thing. The Mail wouldn’t really care if all British blacks were pushed off the cliffs of Dover.’

It has been widely reported in the past few days that the Mail was initially hostile to the campaign that was building up around the Stephen Lawrence murder, and that Dacre supposedly changed his heart thanks to his fleeting personal connection with Stephen Lawrence’s father. However, I just wanted to clarify just what was reported at the time to correct a few versions of events that I have seen being spread, and to highlight in more detail the version of events as given by Hal Austin – a name which I hadn’t heard connected to the story before.

I also wanted to give the details from the 1997 Guardian editorial which points out not just the initial hostility of the Daily Mail towards the Lawrence story, but also how little coverage the newspaper gave the story until that headline in 1997.

Given the evidence above a cynic might suggest that Paul Dacre was more upset by the mocking, uncouth and sweary attitude of the 5 alleged murderers towards the British justice system than the initial murder of a black teenager.