Tag Archives: media bias

Amanda Platell on Rory Weal

The Daily Mail is nothing if not predictable. After Nick Clegg made a good impression during the first party leader TV debate Mail writer en masse set about doing their best to smear him – as if they had received orders from on high that they just had to work in some kind of attack even if politics was not their normal topic. To a lesser extent Rory Weal has become a victim of the same kind of attack, which is incredible really given that he is a 16-year-old boy and gave a speech that only lasted a few minutes.

What has been unpleasant is not that Daily Mail writers have taken the time to engage with Rory Weal, but the way in which they have resorted to gross distortions in order to do so. First Melanie Phillips went on a standard rant based on a version of Rory Weal’s family life that existed in her own mind, then others joined in, all claiming that this poor unfortunate Rory Weal was actually quite wealthy and privileged – at least before his family lost everything. This was something that Rory Weal hadn’t hidden, and his point was that any family, irrespective of how secure they might seem, may one day need the safety net afforded by the welfare state. All pretty simplistic stuff.

Yet Amanda Platell still makes the same, dishonest and silly argument in her column today:

Labour found a new hero, Benefits Boy. Sixteen-year-old Rory Weal captivated conference when he attacked the Tories’ benefits reforms.

He said the welfare system had saved his life. It turns out he’s a privately-educated aspiring actor whose father’s a property tycoon. He lives with his mother in a £300,000 house and has ambitions to be Prime Minister.

So, an actor and a fibber with a love of the good life — the perfect heir to Blair.

But the point is, Amanda, that his family did lose everything and needed to be rescued by the welfare state. Wealth before or after this event is completely irrelevant. Calling him a ‘fibber’ is not only dishonest, but it is in itself a lie.

The Daily Mail and its army of writers can always be relied to smear anyone who dares criticise the Conservative world-view; just once it might be nice if the smears were at least factually accurate.

EU does not plan to enforce 20mph speed limit

The Mail wesbite today printed the following headline: ‘EU plans to enforce 20mph speed limits in residential zones and replace Highway Code with European laws sparks outrage’. Then, in their article – which is full of the normal enraged quotes from the standard frothing Tory rent-a-gobs – they clearly state that:

today’s proposal is only an ‘own initiative’ report and unlikely to see the light of legislative day

There are only two comments so far, but both are very interesting:

There are no “plans to enforce a mandatory 20mph speed limit”. What this non-legislative resolution said was that “Parliament strongly recommends a 30 km/h (19 mph) speed limit in residential areas and on all single-lane roads without cycle tracks.” And clearly this would be set at 20mph and not 18.64mph. Since when has a strong recomendation constituted “dictatorship”? This recomendation copies what the DfT recommended in December 2009, so is hardly revolutionary stuff. Already local authorities in the UK with a combined population of 6.8m have adopted a policy of a 20mph limit for all residential streets with appropriate exceptions. A sensible rcommendation for a sensible way to share the public space between our houses that we call “streets”. Rod King – Campaign Director 20s’s Plenty for Us

And:

I wonder, if a single MP (as opposed to MEP) would suggest a silly law to limit speed to 20 mph, would your article’s title be “Britain plans to enforce 20 mph”? Silly laws get tabled in every parliament (including our own). Your anti-EU bias is making you do things which are beyond the realm of fair reporting.

This isn’t, I imagine, the response the Mail Online editor was hoping for.

Richard Littlejohn and Baha Mousa

14th July 2009, the day after an inquiry was launched into alleged abuse meted out to Iraqis held captive by the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment in Basra in September 2003, Richard Littlejohn wrote this two paragraph aside on the matter:

Richard Littlejohn finds torture hilarious

Richard Littlejohn was reacting to allegations that prisoners had been:

verbally abused, burned, stamped and urinated on and forced to lie face down over full latrines… [and were subject to] conditioning techniques such as hooding and the use of stress techniques, outlawed in 1972 as a result of abuse in Northern Ireland…

As was pointed out at the time, the inquiry was not about the British Army ‘making people dance in an amusing way’, but it was actually centred around the death of Baha Mousa, a 26 year old man who died from 93 separate injuries inflicted on him over a 36-hour period. It was an inquiry into this death – and many others who also suffered extensive injuries during the same period – that Littlejohn felt the need to mock.

At the time he blamed the ‘Not In My Name crowd’ for ‘clutching at straws’ in order to try and pin some kind of blame on UK soldiers, as well as finding it hilarious that prisoners might have been made to dance like Michael Jackson.

Given that today the result of that inquiry has been announced, can we expect a grovelling apology from Richard Littlejohn? Here is a summary of what the inquiry found from the BBC:

An Iraqi man died after suffering an “appalling episode of serious gratuitous violence” in a “very serious breach of discipline” by UK soldiers, a year-long inquiry has found…

Mr Mousa, a father-of-two, died two days after his arrest.

The inquiry concluded that the death was caused by a combination of his weakened physical state and a final bout of abuse.

Cpl Donald Payne had violently assaulted Mr Mousa in the minutes before he died, punching and possibly kicking him, and using a dangerous restraint method, the inquiry found.

While this was a “contributory cause” in the death, Mr Mousa had already been weakened by factors including lack of food and water, heat, exhaustion, fear, previous injuries and the hooding and stress positions used by British troops.

Sir William said Payne was a “violent bully” who inflicted a “dreadful catalogue of unjustified and brutal violence” on the detainees, also encouraging more junior soldiers to do the same.

The report ends with a paragraph that Richard Littlejohn might want to read over and over:

Mr Mousa’s 22-year-old wife had died of cancer shortly before his detention, meaning his death left his two young sons, Hussein and Hassan, orphaned.

Go on, Richard, make a joke out of that.

What about the real news?

Today’s Daily Mail editorial condenses all of the basic arguments that have been trotted out by their ever-so-compliant columnists in the past week as to why we should all forget about hacking and move onto something else: ‘Never mind phone hacking, what about the real issues facing Britain?‘ [istyosty.com link].

In the real world, bleak economic storm clouds are gathering.

The euro crisis, which has already cost the beleaguered British taxpayer £12.5billion in bailout loans – an average of £600 for every family – deepens by the day.

Italy is the latest debt-ridden Eurozone country causing panic in the markets and even the credit-rating of the USA may be cut, which would spark a major crisis on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Britain, rampant fuel and food inflation cripple household budgets, unemployment remains around 2.5million and there’s fear on the High Street as big names like Habitat and HMV go under.

Despite empty promises from Business Secretary Vince Cable, the banks – whose criminal recklessness and greed created this crisis – cynically starve small businesses of vital funds they need to help kick-start the economy.

Even when loans are given, interest rates are usurious.

Mortgages are almost impossible to get for first-time buyers, leading to sclerosis in the housing market. Growth has stalled and we may even be back in recession by the end of the year.

In a sane world, politicians would be working round the clock to help rectify these dire problems. But sadly, they are far too busy enjoying a frenzy of vengeful score-settling against the Murdoch press.

It’s an insidious argument and the editorial reads as if it was written by Richard Littlejohn. One of the key narratives that the Daily Mail has tried to sell for the last week is that the phone-hacking story is only of interest to politicians or those in the media. Richard Littlejohn referred to the ‘politico/media village’ exploding into a frenzy as if the story had no impact outside of this sphere. In today’s editorial the writer falls back on one of Littlejohn’s favourite turn of phrases: ‘In the real world’. Basically this argument is used simply to dismiss one topic by implying that there are far more pressing problems to deal with – it is also used to again distance a topic from being in the public interest. In this case the editorial is clearly suggesting that only money problems impact upon its readership, whilst hacking is something that only politicians or the BBC care about (because it does not take place in the real world).

Clearly, the phone-hacking story is no longer about the actual hacking itself, but rather it is beginning to look at the utterly unchecked power held by a morally reprehensible press. This impacts all of us because we all realise that we are just one incident away from becoming a victim – whether we are a landlord of a murdered girl or the relation of a missing girl or dead soldier; we are all just one piece of bad luck or personal tragedy away from being hacked, smeared or otherwise invaded by a rampant press. This story is real, it is important, it dramatically affects the real world in which we live. The media for far too long have been completely free to lie, distort and attack anything that suits them, vastly impacting on political process and societal harmony. If phone-hacking is the foot in the door that allows us to tackle the wider unaccountability and ethical bankruptcy of the press then it is quite simply one of the most significant stories of our lifetime.

All of this is obviously ignoring the staggering hypocrisy of the Mail editorial telling us what is ‘real world’, important news and what ‘in a sane world’ would be ignored. This is, after all, the newspaper that regularly leads with stories about wheelie bins – followed up by ‘special investigations’ about them:


Tabloid Watch has also covered this as well, go read it.

David Cameron admits he was badly wrong about the PCC

Im May this year David Cameron – appearing on Radio 4’s Today Programme – defended the concept of press self-regulation and in particular he made sure he directed some praise towards the PCC. He said:

“I sense that there’s still more to be done to recognise that actually the Press Complaints Commission has come on a lot in recent years, and we should be working with that organisation to make sure that people get the protection that they need…. while still having a free and vibrant press.”

As Roy Greenslade noted at the time:

He added: “We don’t want statutory regulation of the press.” And, pushed further on the whether there was a need for a specific privacy law, he reiterated his support for the PCC.

Greenslade suggested that ‘it may be the only time’ that a prime minister had gone ‘in to bat for the PCC’. Perhaps his defence isn’t that surprising given that he had appointed Andy Coulson (director of NOTW from 2003 to 2007) as his director of communications and the PCC – along with the Metropolitan Police – had so convincingly failed to investigate the role of Coulson or properly challenge his denials of having any knowledge about what his journalists go up to during his time as editor. If Cameron criticised the PCC or gave the impression that it was failing to tackle the endemic problem of phone hacking then it might have opened up the can of worms that is only now being scooped out thanks to the Guardian.

As Greenslade noted, Cameron’s defence of the PCC was completely out-of-step ‘with the negative views on the PCC in recent reports by the media, culture and sport select committee, chaired by Tory MP John Whittingdale’. Furthermore, Cameron’s defence came at a time in which the PPC had ‘been under consistent fire’.

Suddenly, after the dramatic and ongoing revelations about the News of the World, Cameron has changed his tune, according to the BBC today:

He said the scandal showed the PCC was “ineffective and lacking in rigour” and there was a need for a new watchdog.

Furthermore:

Mr Cameron said a second inquiry would look at the ethics and culture of the press and he also said the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) would be scrapped, adding: “I believe we need a new system entirely”.

If the News of the World revelations were really shocking – i.e. we hadn’t known for a significant period of time that phone hacking was a standard journalistic tool employed by many more newspapers than just the NOTW – then you could perhaps understand Cameron’s sudden change of heart.

But it’s not. His backtracking has only come about because his hand has been forced by the NOTW overstepping the line in terms of what the public find acceptable. What needs to be remembered is that hacking the phone of Milly Dowler is no more illegal than hacking the phone of any given celebrity. Isn’t it odd that it took moral outrage to force the police and the government to finally acknowledge that an illegal act should be properly and fully investigated irrespective of whom it is used against (although I would of course make clear that the public interest defence should always remain strong to protect genuine journalism).

One final point that must be made – and driven home – at this juncture is about censorship. Many people – including the hopelessly simple Jon Gaunt on BBC Question Time last night – equate regulation with censorship. When Hugh Grant argued that the Press Complaints Commission and along with it the notion of self-regulation for the media should be scrapped and replaced with a properly enforced regulator, Gaunt screamed that this simply meant Grant wanted to censor the press.

This is an moronic argument. There is a vast difference between ensuring that the press does not lie to its readers, libel or defame the innocent or break the law by hacking, blagging or otherwise pursuing individuals when there is no justifiable cause and censorship. There is a vast difference between breaking the law to pursue a corrupt politician or a corporate scandal when such actions are clearly in the public interest and hacking the phone of a missing girl.

Calling for proper regulation should never be confused with censorship, and the freedom enjoyed by the press should never be allowed to be abused by that press. With great freedom and power comes great responsibility and it is now proven – beyond all reasonable doubt – that self-regulation cannot enforce responsible journalism.

It is time for change. It is time for every newspaper lie – be it about immigration, the reporting of science, the European Union, gypsies, gays, single mums, those on benefits, the disabled or any other target group – to be properly challenged and for the press to finally have to take accuracy seriously.

You do realise that anyone can apply?

In the United Kingdown people have free will and the right to pursue whatever career they wish. Not everyone will have an equal chance of getting the job that they want because people will be limited to different extents by inherent ability, social class and means and of course the education that is made available to them. If you are following the growing demonisation of the Public Sector you would think that to be in the employ of the state you have to win some kind of lottery or you inherit your position through some kind of birthright.

The truth is that there are many reasons why people prefer to work in the private sector. I’d like to receive an honest answer from those working in the Private Sector about whether they fancy some of the key positions available in the public sector.

Hands up who would like to be a Police Officer? And I don’t mean, hands up who would like the right to retire at 50 on a decent pension (length of service dependant or course) because surely we would all hold our hands up to that. I mean, who really, deep down, would like to perform the role of a Police Officer? The long shift patterns, dealing with the very worst aspects of society, the social stigma that goes with the role and the fact that to attain any kind of position in the Police you must do your time on the beat.

Then you ask yourself: are you adequately qualified to perform the role? Are you fit enough, can you pass the physical aspects of the application process and then can you pass the lengthy role-play sessions and interviews. Do you have a degree, have you any experience – most likely gained whilst as an un-paid (or at the very best low-paid) and essentiallly powerless Community Support Officer – and can you deal, in a non-judgemental way, with people from every possible background?

Getting into the Police is not easy, but neither is it a random lottery in which people are selected irrespective of personal qualities. It is an application process and anyone can apply. You just might not want to.

Hands up who fancies being a teacher? And no, I don’t mean who fancies the summer off, a pension at 60/65 and short working days. I mean, who fancies spending most of their working life in the glare of 30 school kids, who they have to get to a certain level each year irrespective of the quality of kids that turn up. Who fancies spending much of their time at home marking, planning and worrying about constant observations, grading and inspections?

It is the easiest thing in the world to suggest that the Public Sector is one big gravy train full of incompetents living the high life just waiting to retire on a huge pension. But it isn’t true, at all. The average Public Sector pension is just £4,000 a year, for example. As for the suggestion that every position is filled by simpletons who couldn’t survive in the Private Sector, then why don’t the whingers apply? If working in the Public Sector is such an easy ride, why isn’t every single post advertised deluged with millions of applicants all desperate for their slice of the easy pie?

Could it be that not everyone wants to spend 4 years training to become a teacher. Not everyone wants to go back to college to complete an Access to Nursing course (1 or 2 years, unfunded) only to face huge competition for a very limited amount of Nursing degree places (which is a further 3 years if they do get a place) – a large number of Access to Nursing students will simply not be accepted onto a university course.

You will never become rich working in the public sector. You can in certain job roles become very comfortably well-off (Headteachers, deputy heads, senior police, senior civil servants etc) but these are a tiny tip at the top of an pyramid in which the vast majority of public sector workers occupy the lower base. Teachers, nurses, fireman, admin VAT advisors, tax workers, call centre workers and everyone else working in the public sector knows that their earnings will always be clearly finite and relevant to the role they perform, which in turn is governed by their qualifications.

I don’t think it is unfair to expect to live in a country in which teachers, nurses, fireman, police officers, social workers (and who wants the grief that they get for working in often impossible situations?) etc should not have to worry about being poor, either during their working life or in retirement.

And, if you still think it’s easy, then why don’t you get a job in the Public Sector? No one is stopping you, it is not an exclusive club (although it is becoming harder to get into thanks to media-driven government cuts), anyone can apply. You just have to be qualified, experienced and prepared to put up with all the flak that most of the jobs entail.

Shocking ‘journalism’ from the Mail on Sunday

A lot of people on Twitter yesterday predicted that the Mail on Sunday would cover the March 26th protests only in terms of violence or vandalism and they were not wrong:

According to the Guardian more than a quarter of a million people marched – the vast majority peacefully – on London yesterday, so the Mail on Sunday decides to ignore that and instead publish a photo that appears to show just 3 people smashing a window. It’s the worst kind of ideological journalism and it paints a completely distorted picture of what actually took place yesterday.

It gets worse for the Mail on Sunday when you see their ‘exclusive’ on Gordon Brown, which is also online [istyosty.com link]: ‘The seven months pregnant woman told to give up her British Airways seat… just so Gordon Brown could fly Club Class’. The headline seems to be a complete lie, given that BA issued a clear statement to the Mail:

A spokeswoman for the airline said Mr Brown’s arrival on the flight was a coincidence, and he had been unfairly blamed by the mutinous passengers.

‘The situation had absolutely nothing to do with Gordon Brown,’ she said. ‘We have apologised to [the complainant] and we have offered to pay compensation.

‘It is very rare for a customer not to be able to travel in the cabin that they have booked and we are extremely sorry that this happened on this flight. Gordon Brown and his party were booked in advance and were not involved in any way.’

Indeed, the denial was so clear that when the Mail on Sunday contacted Gordon Brown’s office they received the following response:

‘I assume you have read the BA statement and are now not ­running the story…

‘As BA has made clear, the arrangements were nothing to do with Mr Brown, who had booked his flight and seats well in advance and made no requests for – nor received – any special treatment.

‘As BA will confirm, all questions about bookings, overbookings and allocations of seats are not – and could not be – a matter for Mr Brown but for British Airways.’

But run the story they did, on the front page, as if it were based on something more substantial than the opinion of an anonymous passenger. I wonder if Brown’s office will register a complaint with the PCC, or whether they might just get the lawyers in? It seems to me that the Mail on Sunday thought they were onto a winner, had it totally destroyed by the BA statement but decided to run with it anyway under a completely dishonest headline.

Multiculturalism and the Monkeysphere

The Monkeysphere is the group of people who each of us, using our monkeyish brains, are able to conceptualize as people. If the monkey scientists are monkey right, it’s physically impossible for this to be a number much larger than 150…

we all have limits to our sphere of monkey concern. It’s the way our brains are built. We each have a certain circle of people who we think of as people, usually our own friends and family and neighbors, and then maybe some classmates or coworkers…

Those who exist outside that core group of a few dozen people are not people to us. They’re sort of one-dimensional bit characters.
David Wong, What is the Monkeysphere?

Whenever I hear people argue that multiculturalism is dead I always think of Dunbar’s number and the Monkeysphere. Robin Dunbar – an anthropologist – researched monkey brains and found that the number of social group members a primate can track appears to be limited by the volume of the neocortex region of their brain. He then studied a human brain and estimated (based on the volume of the neocortex) that human beings also suffer from a similar limit (albeit slightly larger than a monkey) and theorized that the average human being can maintain a stable social relationship with a maximum of around 150 people.

As the above quotation suggests, anyone outside of this sphere of understanding essentially becomes a caricature, a one dimensional stereotype that is simply not a real human being to us. It is for this reason that we can be extremely upset when a loved one has a bad day at work, but can remain surprisingly unperturbed when a busload of schoolkids plunges over a cliff in Chile. We simply do not have the mental capacity to visualise them as human beings. Some people argue that this limited number serves an evolutionary purpose, for why should we concern ourselves with the lives of those that we cannot possibly influence? 24 hour rolling global news can be a terribly depressing affair, given that all of the events take place outside our monkeysphere and we have virtually no chance of having a positive impact or influence on any of the awful events we witness. We’re selfish creatures able to enjoy buying clothes that we know are made by kids in sweatshops because our brains don’t force us to see them as being like the children that reside in our monkeysphere – they exist only fleetingly in an uncaring periphery.

Given the high rate of depression in developed nations it appears that stepping outside of our limited social sphere is not good for us and that in many ways, ignorance is bliss. This brings me back to this idea – so loved by politicians, the media and nationalist groups – that a national culture really exists and that we must somehow all engage with defending it. David Cameron’s recent declaration that ‘Multiculturalism has failed’ just doesn’t stand up to the merest whiff of scrutiny. Culture isn’t a racial thing, it isn’t something that divides people of different skin colours, it is something that divides all of us. Just as I have absolutely nothing in common with a stereotypical EDL member and would never envisage socialising with one, David Cameron would never dream of socialising – or even having anything in common with – 95% of the UK. Likewise, I can never imagine socialising with the elite into which Cameron and most of the elected cabinet of our government were born: culturally we are divided by an impassable chasm.

For David Cameron to imply that Britain has some kind of culture that immigrants should be assimilated into is quite ridiculous, because the people of Britain are not an homogeneous blob. We all live in our own little Monkeyspheres which are full of people just like us. We don’t really know anyone outside of this sphere and what’s more we don’t have the capacity to really know anyone outside of this sphere (nor necessarily the desire). David Cameron and his elitist monkey-chums don’t know anybody who doesn’t have inherited wealth, he’s not necessarily taking any pleasure in the cuts that his government is pushing through, he just simply doesn’t understand the concerns of those who live outside of his monkeysphere. He doesn’t know anyone who has ever had to rely on the government for support, or anyone to whom money is an issue. He can only appreciate the needs of those inside his tiny sphere, hence why he cannot see any problem with combining savage cuts to the not-human-in-his-eyes masses with tax breaks for his friends in the banks. He’s just looking after his own interests in the same way that the person shopping in a high-street fashion store does when they buy stuff they know has been made using slave-labour.

We’re never all going to get along; it’s physically and mentally impossible. The sooner we realise this, the quicker we can stop thinking about the world in such simple terms. Being British by birth can only mean that I share the same place of birth with other British people. It does not mean I share a common bond or culture. Chances are I will never even get close to interacting with a fraction of 1% of my fellow birth-buddies. I have good relationships with the people I work closely with, I have a professional passing recognition of others outside of that small group. I have a couple of friends from university that I keep in contact with, and a few close friends from various jobs I’ve had down the years. I commute to work in my car, I get home, get inside and spend most evenings with my wife. I speak to my neighbours occasionally, not because I consider myself anti-social, but because they’re just not part of my monkeysphere – just as I am not part of theirs.

I enjoy my life but I live in the knowledge that I will spend the vast majority of my adult life in work, not socialising. Our ability to form and maintain close social bonds is limited by how much time we have to participate in such behaviour (Dunbar even argues that language was developed as an easy way of performing social grooming). And for those of you thinking that social networking sites are going to change all of this, think again:

Dr Marlow found that the average number of “friends” in a Facebook network is 120, consistent with Dr Dunbar’s hypothesis, and that women tend to have somewhat more than men. But the range is large, and some people have networks numbering more than 500, so the hypothesis cannot yet be regarded as proven.

What also struck Dr Marlow, however, was that the number of people on an individual’s friend list with whom he (or she) frequently interacts is remarkably small and stable. The more “active” or intimate the interaction, the smaller and more stable the group.

Thus an average man—one with 120 friends—generally responds to the postings of only seven of those friends by leaving comments on the posting individual’s photos, status messages or “wall”. An average woman is slightly more sociable, responding to ten. When it comes to two-way communication such as e-mails or chats, the average man interacts with only four people and the average woman with six. Among those Facebook users with 500 friends, these numbers are somewhat higher, but not hugely so. Men leave comments for 17 friends, women for 26. Men communicate with ten, women with 16.

What mainly goes up, therefore, is not the core network but the number of casual contacts that people track more passively. This corroborates Dr Marsden’s ideas about core networks, since even those Facebook users with the most friends communicate only with a relatively small number of them.

The truth is we all exist in tiny bubbles which will always encourage us to act in the best interest of those within our particular bubble. We can certainly acknowledge that we live in a world much bigger than this bubble by creating basic expectations to nullify as much as possible our selfish instincts – this is why we have laws, the Human Rights Act, equality and diversity policies in work and so forth. It is to try to ensure that when we step outside our monkeyspheres we are able to treat those strange beings around us as humans, even if we cannot truly visualise them as such.

What is dangerous with this assumption that somehow other cultural groups cannot also abide by these basic tenets of civilisation and that they must therefore abandon anything that might signify that they are outwardly different to the majority is that it feeds our natural instinct to dehumanise any outgroup. How can we possibly say because a group of around 20 Muslims protested against British soldiers serving in Iraq and 4 individuals bombed London in suicide attacks that somehow multiculturalism has failed? The 2001 census recorded 1,591,000 Muslims living in the UK – making 24 a minute percentage,  whilst a survey conducted in 2009 of attitudes of British Muslims suggested that they ‘were found to identify more strongly with the UK than the rest of the population, and have a much higher regard for the country’s institutions’.

Yet because of our monkey brains we have the EDL demanding that all ‘Muzzies’ or ‘Muzz rats’ be thrown out or worse because of the actions of an utterly insignificant few. We never demand the slaughter of all men whenever a male paedophile is convicted. It is no less insane to treat all Muslims in they way that some people are now.

Repeated experiments across cultures show that when human beings are put into groups – even in the most arbitrary way, such as at the toss of a coin – they will always display ingroup bias and a desire to maintain distinctiveness from other groups. Media narratives about Muslims or any other group that exists outside of our Monkeysphere play into this irrational desire to negatively perceive those outside of our immediate groups – whilst maintaining a positive bias to those in our own groups. Arguing that somehow all his could be resolved if massive cultural groups – which are in themselves split into near infinite amounts of vastly different spheres – were somehow assimilated into what is seen as the dominant cultural norm is ludicrous.

All we can do as individuals is realise that we don’t normally process people outside of our tiny social groups as being real human beings. This is why a loving, doting son is able to mug someone else’s mother and we need laws with significant punishments to suppress such actions. We are hard-wired to stereotype outgroups, homogenising millions of people into one simple schema. But we have conscious thought, we can take a step back and challenge our default cognitive processes so that we can force ourselves to realise that Muslims are individual human beings and they cannot possibly be judged by the actions of an insignificant minority who happen to share the same religious belief.

Multiculturalism hasn’t failed, it’s not even a real concept when we consider how our brains function and that we only really share a common goal with the select few inside our Monkeysphere.

The ‘Thought Police’

A lot has been written about the sacking of Andy Gray and the forced resignation of Richard Keys, with some papers printing articles suggesting that men are the real victims of sexism, punished for being the perpetrators of it whilst no-one has sacked the Loose Women team. You can read an excellent blog post here on why that is not an argument, but this post is going to try and unravel the latest Peter Hitchen column which as usual takes a rather unique view of the situation.

The headline pretty much sums up his argument: ‘Think it was right to sack Andy Gray? See how you feel when the Thought Police come for you’. Peter is adamant that ‘Mr Gray and Mr Keys should not have been sacked, or disciplined in any way’. His reasoning is that:

The things they said were not intended for broadcast and they were not transmitted. They were private conversations. I don’t care that those conversations were leaked. Any remotely public figure has to assume this will happen nowadays. But if Mr Gray and Mr Keys didn’t intend their remarks to be broadcast, they shouldn’t be judged professionally as if they had intended it.

It is quite simply unjust to condemn a man for having his private conversation transmitted to the world by someone else.

In your own time, amongst your own friends you can say what you like. If you hate blacks / gays / whites / women / Coronation Street / the Daily Mail / the Guardian or whatever you will normally end up with a group of friends who share the same values as you do. Conversation amongst your social can cover whatever topics you want because you know they will not be offended because you know they think / feel the same way. The world might not like racists, but it makes no attempt to ban their thoughts, stop their congregation or conversations and it allows them to form groups such as the BNP or EDL. There is no such thing as the thought police, and no barriers to private conversation – or indeed public expression, just visit Youtube, message boards, blogs and comment threads for evidence. If you want to publicly be a misogynist, you can be and you will not be alone.

However, sometimes in life you will be forced into situations in which you must sacrifice your personal opinions. Every single person who has a job must for the hours they are in work comply with the ethos of that company and the company must conform to set standards of behaviour – yes, specifically with regards to equality (be it race, religion, sex or sexuality etc). This is not about having a ‘thought police’ or preventing said employee from holding private conversations with friends about how they would love to ‘hang out the back of that bird from HR’ or ‘smash that bitch from the call centre’ or whatever the hell they want to say amongst friends. No, it is simply the acknowledgment that when in work you are not amongst your friends. Instead you will be forced to work with people who may not share your values, who have no desire to be your friend or even like you. Likewise, you might not like them or share their values and you would never consider being friendly with them outside work. That is their right and that is your right.

This is why a company must have policies in place to let every employee know what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in the work place – after all, you are being paid to perform a role and to represent a company, as soon as you accept a contract of employment you give up your right to be yourself to some extent for the period of time when you are in work. When you are in work you change your behaviour because the people around you are likely to be far more diverse in thoughts / feelings / beliefs than your social group. Every individual reserves the right to choose their friends, media (newspapers, TV news, entertainment, websites etc) to suit their own tastes. All an employer asks in return is that when in work people just switch off their strong views and instead just treat everyone with a neutral respect. If you wouldn’t choose to go drinking with a misogynist, why should you be forced to listen to one whilst you are in work? If you don’t choose to read the Guardian in your spare time, why should you be forced to be constantly heckled by a Guardian reader in work?

It is called ‘being professional’. Andy Gray and Richard Keys can meet up whenever they want outside of work and privately discuss who they’d love to smash, or what jobs women are not suited to and so on. However, when they are in work they cannot, it is that simple. In reality, when you are a public figure, paid handsomely to be the front-men for Sky Sports you do give up some rights to even do this, as your job involves you having a public profile I’m sure Sky would want them to represent the corporation positively outside of work. Much-maligned public sector workers have to conduct themselves responsibly in their private lives for this reason.

If you are in work it is just common sense to restrain from making racist comments, or grinning at a female member of staff picking something off the floor before greeting her with the line ‘while you’re down their love’. It is not acceptable behaviour, it is that simple. It is obvious that the kind of comments made by Gray and Keys are repeated all across the country because a lot of men are still in the grip of a deep-rooted misogyny, but no-one is interested in stopping these conversations taking place. There is no thought police. All that this story represents is that this behaviour is totally unacceptable in a professional environment, which should be apparent should anyone spend a few minutes reading their contract of employment. You wouldn’t turn up to work in Bermuda shorts swigging lager, so why should you reserve the right to turn up to work and be racist, sexist or whatever else.

Peter Hitchens – as always – is just utterly wrong. The fact that the recordings were never meant to be broadcast is completely irrelevant because they were still in work, they should have been acting professionally at all times – colleagues could be just as offended as the potential viewers. It is that simple. We would have no sympathy had they been drinking on the job, or if they had been berating an assistant referee for being black and therefore incapable of grasping the civilised rules of football. All most people want is the freedom to go to work and not face verbal mocking for their sex, sexuality, race, religion and so on. To me, this really doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, but sadly – thanks to the twisted arguments of the right-wing media – equality has become just as evil a word as liberalism.

Bias

According to his website – currently not operational for some reason – Richard Littlejohn:

has no party political affiliations and believes journalists should be in a state of permanent opposition and scepticism, opposed to vested interests of all political persuasions and fiercely protective of civil liberties.

His job is to sit at the back and throw bottles.

But as I have pointed out before, this clearly isn’t the case and today’s column is no exception. Today Richard has a few words to say about sexism, more specifically the trouble that Andy Gray and Richard Keys have got themselves into for their off-air comments about a female assistant referee and West Ham vice-chairman Karen Brady. Not surprisingly – given that Richard habitually and patronisingly refers to women as ‘pet’ in his column (he does so again today) – Richard asks for mercy for the two men, claiming that ‘their considered view that women have no business running the line at Premier League football matches would be considered utterly uncontroversial by most gentlemen of a certain age’ – not to mention that ‘most women of a certain age would probably agree, too’.

All pretty standard fare for Richard, but more interesting and amusing is Richard’s opening gambit: ‘Why on earth should Sky presenters Andy Gray and Richard Keys be pilloried for something they said off-air?’ Cast your mind back to Gordon Brown’s ‘off-air’, private comments about Gillian Duffy that were leaked to the press, did he stand by Brown? Not quite, he wrote a lead column on it titled: ‘Gordon hates everybody – Labour voters included‘. Indeed, he claimed the ‘deranged outburst’ (that was muttered quietly, in private and sounded tired rather than ‘deranged’) provided him with all the evidence that he needed to support and justify his earlier claim that Brown was a ‘sociopath’.

Clearly, Richard ‘permanent opposition’ Littlejohn is biased towards the Conservative Party and only ever attacks Labour – whether they are in power or not. He is inherently biased towards Conservative ideology, even though he claims that ‘has no party political affiliations’. It is therefore even more hypocritical that he attacks the BBC for their supposed left-wing bias just because Peter Sissons (a person who presumably holds right-wing values and someone the BBC obviously forgot to sack to maintain its left-wing bias for a number of years) said so and Littlejohn agrees with him.

Let’s face it, when you are as far-right as Littlejohn that you attract fan mail from racists, compliments from BNP leader Nick Griffin and you’re one of the highest-paid columnists writing for a notoriously right-wing (i.e. supporting Facism in the UK and Hitler during the 1930s and the editorial stance has got worse under Paul Dacre) newspaper, you probably view most other news sources as ‘left-wing’. The BBC has to adhere to strict impartial standards, if it had a systematic bias then action can be taken to correct this. The BBC has to report fact and not get involved in the business of opinion in its news pieces. Often these facts are uncomfortable for writers like Littlejohn because truth to the tabloid press is whatever they wish to print, truth is a construct, not an absolute. Anything that dare contradict this outlook must be smeared, which is why the BBC gets so much stick for being ‘left-wing’, when it is clear that what the newspapers really mean is that they hate the BBC because it is a source of truth that has enough influence to actually resist the world view that the tabloids have tried so hard to create. Why do you think Murdoch hates it so much?

As for Littlejohn, his claims of impartiality, opposition and integrity are not just laughable, they are indicative of just how far from reality most tabloid visions of the world actually are. If you are being criticised by the Daily Mail or the tabloid press in general, then you should – as Stephen Fry does – treat it as a badge of honour for you must be doing something right.