Tag Archives: media bias

The Daily Mail and the Gay Agenda

/* This post originally appeared on my old blog on 30 April 2009. As part of the migration of content from my old blog I may occasionally post them here as a current post if I feel they are relevant. Due the the constant themes / narratives in the Daily Mail old posts often cover ‘new’ Mail articles. */

‘If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.’
Malcolm X

The Daily Mail has contained quite a few articles on ‘gays’ recently and the tone, content and spin of the articles is uniformly depressing – whilst the comments underneath the offending articles are shameful. Today’s effort skewers an incident so once again the ‘homosexual’ or ‘gay’ lobby are the aggressors, and the intolerant and bigoted are the victims of some kind of ‘gay agenda’.

It is an idea fomented by – amongst others – Richard Littlejohn; who sees teaching diversity in schools as a mission to ‘peddle’ or ‘force-feed’ ‘gay propaganda’ to children. So, in the world of the Daily Mail the very act of reaching for equality is seen as an act of aggression – in simple terms the gay agenda is not seeking equality but is actually intent on banishing heterosexuality and converting us all to homosexuality.

This article, like many others, pitches a god-fearing Christian teacher against an evil homosexual preaching ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance’. The headline, naturally, is designed to raise the blood pressure of any Daily Mail reader: ‘What makes you think it’s natural to be heterosexual?': Christian teacher suspended over gay rights promotion row.

The basic story is:

A senior teacher has been suspended from his £50,000-a-year job after he complained that a training day for staff was used to promote gay rights. Kwabena Peat, 54, was one of several Christian staff who walked out of the compulsory session at a North London school after an invited speaker questioned why people thought heterosexuality was natural.

Now, this is essentially the crux of the ‘gay rights promotion row’, Sue Sanders appears to have asked a philosophical question: ‘what makes you think it’s natural to be heterosexual?’. Now, without context this does seem to be an odd question, but consider for a moment the question being used as a discussion point, which as this was training, seems likely.

The question seems to be designed to get participants questioning what is ‘natural’ – what does the concept mean and does the concept of natural differ based upon individual perception? The point probably being made is that for a gay person, to them being gay is perfectly natural; consequently, from the perception of a gay person, heterosexuality – for them – would be unnatural.

The important thing to remember is that this is a question, it is not a statement decreeing that heterosexuality is abnormal and homosexuality is normal. However, to properly engage with the question a person needs to be free of the common misconceptions about homosexuality. This is the difficult part for a Daily Mail reader as they are constantly being told that homosexuality is a perversion, a choice made by perverted people (hence the fear of education in schools, tell more people, more will choose to be gay).

Richard Littlejohn – as just one example – has grouped homosexuality with fetishes, and as I said at the time:

He… does not seem to understand that being gay isn’t really a choice. ‘Why a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender month, anyway?’ he argues, ‘Why not a Foot Fetishists, Spankers, Sadists and Masochists History Month?’. Littlejohn lists these fetishes for two main reasons: one; to make Gay, Bisexual or Transgender people sound as perverted as Mail readers assume those who practice those fetishes to be, and two; to make it seem as if being Gay is a behaviour that one can choose not to indulge in – with the implicit assumption that to indulge in such a behaviour is a perversion.

Littlejohn clearly wants to ferment the idea that homosexuality is a perversion and as we all know, a perversion is something considered outside of ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ sexual practice. Therefore, when the notion of what is ‘natural’ is placed in front of a Mail reader, they already harbour a strong prejudice against homosexuality.

Therefore the question allegedly asked by Sue Sanders will be met with horror, as homosexuality has already been labeled unnatural, so in the eyes of the Mail reader the perversion in this instance is the philosophical questioning of why heterosexuality is considered natural.

This is not the only problem with the. The article is also constructed to make the Christian teacher the victim, yet in many ways he seems to be the aggressor:

According to Mr Peat, Ms Sanders, herself a lesbian, said that staff who did not accept that being gay was normal had ‘issues’ they had to deal with.Mr Peat, a history teacher who is also a head of year, said he was upset that people who disagreed on religious grounds had no chance to respond.

He wrote privately to the three staff members who organised the session, complaining about Ms Sanders’ ‘aggressive’ presentation. In his letter, he cited the Bible and warned that practising homosexuals risked God’s ‘wrath’.

But the staff complained to the school’s principal that they felt ‘harassed and intimidated’ by the letter and, after an investigation, Mr Peat was placed on paid leave.

It does not seem unreasonable to state that staff who do not accept homosexuality as normal have issues they need to deal with. As we have already discussed the question asked by Sue Sanders seems a perfectly valid discussion point – that if properly considered by an adult mind helps to tease out why the concept of normality can apply to both heterosexuality and homosexuality. What does seem unreasonable is the response of Mr Peat, the supposed Christian.

You’d have thought a devout Christian would turn the other cheek, be tolerant or do unto others, but instead he preaches violence and intolerance as a perfectly acceptable solution to a problem he has. It seems to be significant that although the Mail claims that Kwabena Peat ‘was one of several Christian staff who walked out of the compulsory session’ this is never elaborated on; whilst what is a fact is that Mr Peat has been suspended after the complaints made against him by staff.

The Daily Mail sets Mr Peat up as the victim, yet the truth seems to show that he is an intolerant Christian being wheeled out as a martyr to the ‘gay agenda’. Not that this seems to have been realised by the majority of commentators on the article:

In answer to Ms Sanders, “What makes you all think that to be heterosexual is natural?” It’s bloody obvious, you’re here on the planet! If it wasn’t normal then the human race would have become extinct as it had failed to reproduce. Or would you even twist science and history around?

Again,the public are being force fed left wing political correctness, just to keep so called minorities ‘happy and in control,’ The scarey part is that they are allowed to be in schools to preach their views!!!!!

– David ex-pat, Perth, Australia, 26/4/2009 4:39

David – he is not alone, but I dare not copy and paste reams and reams of ignorant Mail commentators for the sake of some brevity – again, thinks that normal cannot ever apply to a homosexual. His argument is a biological one: homosexuality doesn’t allow for reproduction, therefore it is not natural. Yet, what he hasn’t the intelligence to consider, is that people are born gay.

It isn’t – as Littlejohn likes to believe – something we can be forced into or converted to by interacting with gay people, or by attending diversity or awareness sessions. Therefore, can it be concluded that as sexual preference is not a result of nurture, it must be the result of nature? This conclusion would mean that homosexuality is perfectly natural and must be biologically determined – making David ex-pat’s argument as bad as his spelling.

The point I am trying to make is that gay people are not making a choice about their sexuality anymore than a straight person is. What equality is trying to achieve is the freedom for a person to be comfortable with whatever biological attraction they are born with. The message that being a homosexual is normal is being delivered because as a society we do not want people wandering around suppressing their nature in fear that they will be victimised or ostracised for simply being who they are.

In particular the issue is important in schools because we want to let children know that whatever they are feeling is OK. If they have an attraction to the same sex they should not feel like a freak, and they should not feel scared. Instead they should be given the opportunity to understand and embrace their biology, embrace what is for them natural and normal. The insidious implications in recent Daily Mail articles that ‘promoting homosexuality’ in schools is damaging children is to deny them their biological right to be happy.

It is assumed by bigots that children would all be happy heterosexuals if they didn’t hear about homosexuality through the ‘gay agenda lobby’, when in fact if they deny their basic urges or desires because they feel uncomfortable expressing them, is surely a recipe for unhappiness.

There is no such thing as a ‘gay agenda’ or ‘gay lobby’ that works on behalf of all gay people. To give gay people one voice is to homogenise, judge and dehumanise them. We are all individuals doing our best to make some sense of the world around us and our own emotions, it makes no difference whether an individual is gay, straight or bisexual.

Unless of course, you read the Daily Mail and other tabloid newspapers.

Spot the swastika

Compare and the contrast the two images below. The first is a picture of the gay couple turned away from a hotel, who recently won a discrimination case against the owners. The second is the Daily Mail cartoon by Mac, who is covering the story in his own unique style. See if you can spot the swastika in the Mac cartoon and then challenge yourself to try and come up with an innocent explanation for why he decided to add it.

Daily Mail prints latest article in support of the EDL

Another Daily Mail story of those sensitive Muslims getting offended by a tradition upheld by the ‘indigenous’ population of the country they happen to be living in. This time a 63-year-old Austrian has been fined £700 for ‘yodelling while mowing his lawn because it offended his Muslim neighbours next door‘. Obviously, any sane reader would immediately think that there was something more to this story because you don’t just get fined on the spot for upsetting a neighbour, even if they are Muslim – no matter how much the Daily Mail would like to think so.

Thankfully, another blogger has already taken the time to look into this and reports that in fact:

the fine was the result of a year-long campaign of disturbances by the OAP, and that he would time his Friday yodelling practice with the Muslims call to prayer. Apparently, according to the court papers submitted (although Kobuk is vague on the details), Griese also used other methods of disruption. Basically, it sounds like one man hassling his neighbours because he doesn’t like them and their call to prayers, and instead of talking to them or calling the police, he decides to torment them. Ah, neighbours, gotta love them.

Kobuk goes on to report that the Muslims tried to reason with Griese and stopped broadcasting the call to prayer over loudspeaker. When that didn’t stop Griese, they turned to the police, who, after repeatedly warning off Mr Griese, did not have a choice but to take the matter to court (something to do with Austrian law). The case was settled after Griese agreed to pay the €800 fine (so the court didn’t actually sentence him, but that’s nitpicking).

Whilst it is difficult to verify this information – given the language barrier, the Austrian newspaper – the Krone Zeitung – is not only described by this blogger as being:

to quality journalism what used toilet paper is to a napkin, and has a similar attitude to foreigners and anything that is different from pickety fency conservatism as the Daily Mail. Its stories thus cannot be taken at face value.

But it has also now removed the story.

However, as usual, the comments section of the Mail article makes for depressing reading and another distorted media report on Muslims has provided yet more fuel for the EDL – a group which the Daily Mail had the cheek to investigate the other day, as if they had played no part in creating and sustaining them with their diet of anti-Muslim stories based on complete distortions of the truth.

An irritable response to a blogger

I was minding my own business this afternoon when I was tweeted by someone who had suggested that ‘you should put a point of view not say the opposition make stuff up‘ and it linked to their blogpost discussing my recent post on the latest Daily Mail attack on immigrants. Basically, the writer of said blog post made the point that there was too much ‘hyperbole’ on the Internet and that:

most of these attacks come from the blogosphere. Here people seem to spend a large amount of time reading newspapers that they know they won’t agree with. This way they can then write a fatuous blog stating in no uncertain terms that everything in the paper is made up and only idiots read it.

I’ll leave this alone for the moment and move onto his real point:

The recent outrage and counter outrage over Harriet Harman’s comments about heroic immigrants sending their dole money abroad is a good example.

Probably unsurprisingly this story broke in the Daily Mail with Tim Shipman giving us the ‘facts’ and Melanie Phillips telling us Harman is ‘immoral’.

Fair enough wouldn’t you say? A news article with a few comments, mostly from Tories but it’s not like anyone is deceived as to the political slant of the Mail. Anyway, the story is about something a prominent Labour person has said so a Tory response is in line with standard journalistic practice.

Not according to the Angry Mob blog it isn’t.

Angry Mob is a website devoted to pointing out the daily lies written by the Mail. In their article More Lies About Immigrants the Shipman article is portrayed as completely misrepresenting Ms Harman’s statement. The key area of discussion was whether she was pleased immigrants were sending job seekers allowance back home or whether they were sending home part of their earnings which included benefits for low income earners.

Angry Mob was not interested in dissecting the Mail’s argument that if you are on income support or housing benefit you shouldn’t have enough money left over to send any home and that the real hero is the unassuming British tax payer who is now funding social security in Africa as well. They just claimed that the Mail made it all up and Ms Harman said nothing of the sort.

This is a shame because the Mail’s argument is pretty easy to pull apart. If people are receiving benefit for being on a low income then they are employed, paying tax, doing a job no Brit wants to do. If they can scrape by and send a few quid home then they are epitomizing the selfless behaviour the Mail now believes is lacking in our society.

Whether you agree with that or not, it is the argument that could be made.

I’m not really sure where to start. Firstly, as I have tried to get across numerous times to the passing readers of this blog, I do not read the Mail simply to write fatuous blog posts about how terrible it is. I write it because bad journalism has a real impact on all of us, it is as pervasive and as poisonous as passive smoking. Secondly, I don’t really think it is ‘fair enough’ that the Daily Mail can attack immigrants simply because it has a certain political agenda and wants to attack a senior Labour figure. It is branded as a newspaper, not a propaganda outlet for any political party; the article was sold as news but was based on a series of lies and distortions.

Frankly, the statement that responding in a ‘Tory’ way ‘is in line with standard journalistic practice’ just highlights poor journalistic practice. A journalistic is supposed to seek legitimate balance, not just open political hostility. Yes, a Tory response is obviously going to be sought out, but the job of the journalist is to put both sides of the argument into clear context so that the reader can make an informed judgement as to which view carries the most weight. In this article Shipman provides a dishonest supporting context for the Tory comments – it is a classic example of anti-journalism. I’m sure real journalists would be utterly appalled of a clearly distorted article like this.

Now, let’s go back to the Shipman article to see if my claims stand.

OK, so what benefits was Harriet Harman specifically referring to, and who was sending them home is what needs to be established. The Mail article quotes Harman:

‘There are many people in my constituency who come from Africa and work and study and bring up their families here.

‘Many of them also send money back to their village in their country of origin.’

Clearly, Harman was referring to immigrants from outside of the EU, specifically, Africans. Next, the benefits:

Some of these families will be receiving child benefit and tax credits to which they are entitled. Charitable generosity has never been confined to the well-off.

So, the benefits being discussed are child benefits – currently a universal benefit that the rich and poor receive alike, and tax credits, something received by all eligible earners.

So, this blogger looks at the Mail’s argument about those receiving ‘income support or housing benefit’ and that they shouldn’t have money left over to send abroad and claims I am not interested in discussing it. But that is the reason I have accused the Mail of spreading more lies about immigrants, income support and tax credits are two very different things. Income support is what is given to someone who cannot work – i.e. a single mother with a young child. Tax credits is the benefit available to anyone over 18 working 37 hours a week or more and earning less than £20,000 per year. Income support entitles you to full housing benefits and council tax benefits, tax credits are paid to ensure you can afford to pay your own rent and council tax because you do not get these benefits.

The Daily Mail is purposely implying that these are immigrants not working and raking in so much in benefits they can afford to send lots of money home, it is a lie, plain and simple. I did consider the Mail’s argument and I did pull apart, quite how the blogger can suggest I ignored it is beyond me. Perhaps what they mean is: ‘It is a shame you didn’t spend more time considering the utterly false argument made by the Daily Mail…’ – it didn’t need attention or time, given that it was false and I pointed out why it was false.

OK, moving on. The Daily Mail article stated that:

Harriet Harman said it should be made easier for immigrants to send benefit payments to relatives abroad.

At a meeting in her constituency, the party’s deputy leader praised claimants who funnel taxpayers’ cash to Africa as ‘hidden heroes’.

Bizarrely she claimed the practice – widely seen as an abuse of the overstretched welfare system – was a way of boosting international aid.

Taxpayers foot a £20million annual bill to pay child benefit to immigrants whose children are not even living in Britain.

Firstly, immigrants are not sending ‘benefit payments to relatives abroad’. This is a lie. They are sending money home whilst possibly – Harman only says that they might be – in receipt of working tax credits and child benefits. This means that a proportion of income sent home could be made up of some benefits. It is not – as the Mail tries so hard to imply – the case that they all get a lump sum of benefits that they just stick in the post to their relatives in Africa. Spending your own money on whatever you want is what any person is entitled to do, just as the wealthy couple can spend their Child benefits on wine if they wish and can afford to – it is their benefit, they can do what they like with it. Likewise, the working tax credit is designed to allow people to pay rent, council tax and live. If they have any income spare they can spend it on whatever they like. The point Harman was making was that it was quite heroic for them to choose to send this home rather than spend it on themselves.

This means, of course, that suggesting that sending their own money to Africa is ‘widely seen as an abuse of the overstretched welfare system’ is an absolutely disgraceful statement, utterly repellent and importantly, completely dishonest. How can receiving tax credits or child benefits to which they are entitled possibly be an ‘abuse’ of the system? The last paragraph of the above quote follows suit, given that this £20 million annual bill is incurred from migration within the EU. It is EU practice for the country that receives the taxes to pay the benefits. So, for example, if a Polish guy lives and works in the UK – so that the UK government gets all of the tax receipts, it is seen as fair that the UK government pays the benefits, even if the children of that worker live elsewhere in the EU. If a British citizen worked in Poland the same would apply.

So, obviously this has nothing to do with the specific immigrants being discussed because they are from outside the EU and therefore outside of this arrangement, this ‘abuse’ and tax bill has nothing to do with the immigrants in question, but nonetheless that Mail is blaming them anyway.

I guess my main rebuttal is this: the blogger claims I was ‘not interested in dissecting the Mail’s argument that if you are on income support or housing benefit you shouldn’t have enough money left over to send any home’. I am making it abundantly clear that this argument was utterly false, given that income and housing benefits were not what was being discussed by Harman. I made that clear in my original post, I pointed out that Harman is talking about working tax credits and child benefits that some of the immigrants might have been receiving whilst the Daily Mail shoved in different benefits that they were all getting to completely distort her points. I dismissed the Mail’s arguments because they were transparently dishonest, not because I was not interested.

As for the blogger’s closing paragraphs:

Political debate is certainly not aided by pretending that everything is a distortion just because it is accompanied by some opinion.

Perhaps if we could all just grow up and have a discussion about the issues rather than believing that everything is some sort of conspiracy people might engage again with politics.

Let me say this. If they still feel I am merely ‘pretending that everything is a distortion just because it is accompanied by some opinion’, then please get in touch because I’ll try even harder to point out that the Daily Mail is branded as a newspaper. Yes, the Melanie Phillips piece was opinion – she is a columnist and plays by slightly different rules – but the Shipman article was news; it was supposed to be based on facts, not opinions. As I have demonstrated above – selecting just a few paragraphs from Shipman’s article – Shipman does distort the views of Harman considerably – talking about different benefits entirely, and inserting EU benefits that have nothing to do with this news story. The whole article is clearly designed to feed into the media narrative that immigrants receive so much in un-earned benefits that they can send some to Africa. If this blogger still genuinely thinks ‘fair enough’ when he reads the Shipman article, then, well it seems they need to drop their frankly patronising pseudo-intellectual attitude and reflect on just what is fiction and fact both in the mainstream media and the ‘blogosphere’.

As I argued originally and have done so again here, these are benefits – universal in the case of Child benefits, an entitlement to any full-time worker earning less than £20,000 in the case of tax credits – that are a basic entitlement for any UK worker. Perhaps the Mail should run an expose next week on the full time ‘indigenous’ recipients of the working tax credit or child benefit who may dare to spend some of their own money on little luxuries for themselves or having a direct debit to Cancer research each month.

PS, please can people stop referring to me in the plural. I am one person. The Angry Mob title refers to the Kaiser Chief song, you know the one: ‘We are the Angry Mob, we read the papers every day, we like who we like, we hate who we hate, but we’re also easily swayed’. The Angry Mob is the Mail reader, not me. The amount of times I have had to explain that has made me seriously consider changing the title of this blog.

PPS, If anyone has a new name suggestion then I really am open to a name change.

Some new media myths

As you can probably guess I spent a lot of time researching and writing my Winterval essay. Throughout the process I often just sat there, annoyed and depressed with each utterly ignorant repetition of something that was always utterly untrue – and obviously untrue. Fittingly via Twitter I was informed that on the day I finally made the essay available the Winterval myth was being repeated by yet another journalist – this time Nick Robinson on his BBC blog. I guess we can’t accept proper journalism from a man who is essentially nothing more than a paid gossip.

It was also a day in which the usual suspects were inventing new reasons to be outraged. The Daily Mail was accusing the BBC Blue Peter team of ‘sacrilege’ for supposedly burning the Blue Peter advent crown. As Tabloid Watch points out, this is complete rubbish and the photos that accompany the article clearly show that the crown was not burnt at all. Yet they still printed the story as fact. It is not bad journalism, it is ludicrous journalism. The reader can see that the story is complete rubbish. Essentially the journalist is asking the reader to literally abandon their senses and take their word for it instead. Still, readers do fall for this, and worse, other media outlets repeat the story as fact – in this case Carolyn Hitt for Wales Online. She manages to get all of this:

Christmas is so frazzled this year even the Blue Peter Advent crown has spontaneously combusted.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. In an act of sacrilegious vandalism, the presenters set fire to the coat-hanger and tinsel icon of our Christmas Past.

In a bizarre studio stunt, which also involved the ceremonial melting of a Blue Peter badge, a “chain reaction machine” turned the Advent crown to ashes.

Shame on you Blue Peter.

You have trampled on one of most precious Yuletide memories.

The Advent Crown countdown was an essential part of our 1970s childhoods.

Christmas could not begin until John Noakes lit the first corner of the coat-hanger.

By the time Lesley Judd had set the fourth candle aglow, we were at festive fever pitch.

But a 21st century Christmas on children’s telly is evidently more Jackass than Jackanory. Or even a bit Dennis Wheatley with all those witch-crafty flames.

What next?

Sacrificing virgins in the Blue Peter Garden?

So how does one recapture the Magic of Christmas when even Blue Peter has burnt out?

Out of something that was invented by the Daily Mail. All those column inches for something that never happened.

Every time I see bad journalism now I see flashbacks of the thousands of words, the despair, the accusations, the blame, the hatred, the bigotry and the xenophobia that were all tagged onto the Winterval myth. Something that never happened.

Likewise, the absolute rubbish written about immigrants by the Mail yesterday provided the basis for an entire column from Melanie Phillips who swallows the Mail’s lies whole and adds layer upon layer of bitter, twisted and outraged distortion to them – as is her way. She states:

Such payments are intended to relieve their own poverty. So if welfare recipients can afford to give some of their income away like this, it might be thought that, far from amounting to no more than breadline subsistence, welfare benefits are rather too generous.

The more fundamental point, however, is that this is money provided for the hardship relief of people who are living in Britain and contributing to its economy. It is emphatically not provided for the relief of those abroad who have nothing whatever to do with Britain — except milk its coffers…

she is trying to pretend that welfare payments to people living in Britain are in fact a branch of overseas aid.

But they are nothing of the kind. And it is outrageous to extol their diversion to prop up the needy abroad. For this is ­swindling the British taxpayer, who understands that this money is to be used to support the needy at home.

That indeed is what a ‘welfare state’ means. It is a compact between Britain’s government and those who reside in the country. The idea that it is to be used instead as a kind of global poor relief fund is utterly bizarre.

Just one slight problem Melanie, Harriet Harman was not talking about immigrants on welfare sending home money because they get so much of it from the state they can afford to send it home. She was talking about welfare payments that are paid to WORKING PEOPLE – like tax credits and so forth. The benefits that any UK employee is entitled to. At no point was it suggested that unemployed immigrants were sending home chunks of welfare because they had more than enough to live on.

When I read Melanie Phillips I understand extremism. I know that there is no debating, no reasoning, no exchange of facts that could ever convince her that she is utterly wrong about 99% of the things she writes about. So, what can you do?

More lies about immigrants

It is amazing that after all this time of reading the Daily Mail and browsing the Daily Mail website I still find certain headlines and articles shocking. Perhaps what I really find disturbing is that the Daily Mail – and other media outlets – can get away with dishonest headlines written purely to stir up racial hatred. The Daily Mail can pretend all it likes that it dislikes the BNP and the EDL, but their agenda is utterly in support of both of those organisations. As soon as I saw this headline I thought it must be rubbish: ‘Harriet Harman praises ‘hero’ immigrants who send welfare handouts home’, and I was right.

As has been pointed out to me on a few occasions, I should not blame journalists for the headlines that accompany their articles. So I will not blame Simon Walters for this headline. However, I will give him credit for the opening paragraph:

Harriet Harman has praised ‘heroic’ immigrants who claim welfare payments in Britain and use the cash to support families living abroad.

She said the Government should make it easier for them to send the money home and called for tax refunds to encourage more immigrants to follow suit, in particular those who paid for their children to be educated in the Third World.

Walters then finds an audience member – unnamed of course – to give ‘their’ opinion:

one member of the audience said Ms Harman would have to be ‘careful’ how she campaigned on the issue. ‘She was told that if it was found the majority of people sending remittances were on benefits, critics would say it proved that they are receiving too much in State handouts if they can still send money abroad,’ according to one person who was present.

Yes, critics, like the Daily Mail for example who publish this headline and make the allegation that it is ‘welfare handouts’ that are being sent home. Harman said nothing of the sort, instead she praised immigrants ‘who come from Africa and work and study and bring up their families here. Many of them also send money back to their village in their country of origin. We should respect and encourage that. International development is not just something done by governments’.

As far as benefits are concerned:

‘Some of these families will be receiving child benefit and tax credits to which they are entitled. Charitable generosity has never been confined to the well-off.’

So, it seems that this is not a case of immigrants coming over here to be ‘hosed down with benefits’ – as Littlejohn would say – so that they can afford to send loads of money home. No, it is the case of working immigrants who receive the same benefits that all employees receive whilst in the UK sending a little money home to help relatives. What is wrong with this? Do immigrants working in the UK have to spend all of their money in the UK? I seem to recall a lot of British people like to holiday abroad, draining the UK economy of much-needed money, should the Daily Mail campaign to stop this to?

Depressingly the article is accompanied with a photograph of Harman and a black immigrant, which the picture caption informs us is ‘one of her Muslim constituents’. Not that the Mail would want to make a link between immigrant scroungers sending ‘welfare handouts’ and Muslims, of course. The article ends with an unnamed ‘Conservative official’ who rages:

‘The idea that people should come here from Africa, claim welfare benefits and send it all back home is ridiculous and irresponsible.’

Yes, that idea is ridiculous, but no-one has said anything about this happening – the Daily Mail has made this up, no doubt along with all of the anonymous ‘sources’ in the article. Thanks to the pathetic PCC the Daily Mail doesn’t even need to be creative, it can just make stuff up and print it.

Still, the readers get the right message:


The Media Agenda

I listened to the segment on Radio 4 this morning that featured London Mayor Boris Johnson and Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson discussing the attack on Charles and Camilla. Part of the discussion focused on why, when it is standard practice in the protection of ‘principles’ to have many alternative routes planned before the vehicle sets out, the vehicle was driven past the scene of protests anyway.

Now, it seems to me that there was a strong political motivation for doing so. The Royals could never have been considered at real risk from what were ostensibly peaceful protests by students, but the car was bound to have something minor done to it – after all, the protests are about fairness and democracy, the sight of inherited wealth and divine birth being driven past in an expensive limousine would probably be too much for most people to resist.

This would then be the front page of newspapers, not the vote, not the peaceful majority of protests, not the numerous incidents of police brutality that were passed around Twitter throughout the day or the fact that ‘kettling’ is an extremely dubious tactic that almost seems designed to turn peaceful protests violent.

The most worrying part of the R4 program was the repetition by Sir Paul Stephenson that the armed police protecting Charles and Camilla acted with great restraint throughout – i.e. they were really good not to shoot anyone. I just find that a bit worrying. Surely the whole point of employing protection in the first place is that this situation is avoided. They should have taken an alternative route – or less obvious transport.

Instead, they just happened to be caught in a media storm with protesters and photographers on hand to ensure that today only one thing is being discussed – and it has nothing to do with fairness, democracy or the right to peaceful protest:

Judging by the reaction I have heard this morning to the Daily Mail frontpage, this PR has been very successful and students are being demonised. People have been distracted, once again, from the real issues in politics.

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.

Daily Mail still lying about asylum seekers and social housing

In July 2009 the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released a report on social housing in which they correct the misconception that asylum seekers or immigrants somehow are top of the housing queue. The BBC reported:

There is no evidence that new arrivals in the UK are able to jump council housing queues, an Equality and Human Rights Commission report says. Once they settle and are entitled to help, it adds, the same proportion live in social housing as UK-born residents…

“It is largely a problem of perception,” he [Housing minister John Healey] told Today.

“The report shows there is a belief, a wrong belief, that there is a bias in the system.”

I posted a blog article on this at the time because just about every tabloid and media outlet reported the findings, except the Daily Mail who went with:

The article failed to make any reference to the fact that immigrants / asylum seekers do not ‘jump the housing queue’ or get any favourable treatment whatsoever. Fast forward to today and the Daily Mail are still pushing this false media narrative: ‘Asylum seekers last in the housing queue: Britain’s biggest council decides to put its locals first‘. The article gets exactly the response it wants from its readers, just look at the current best-rated comments:

Daily Mail readers hate immigrants

This is a myth that the Daily Mail just will not let die.


Put the term ‘gold-plated’ into the search box on the Daily Mail website and you get 601 results, the vast majority of which of results of course concern pensions, public sector pensions. For example, stories like this: ‘Taxpayers must foot MASSIVE gold-plated pensions bill as Darling’s report reveals ‘ultimate stealth tax” which contain statements like this:

Shocking new figures reveal the ‘rocketing’ cost, which must be paid in full by taxpayers, of paying the gold-plated pensions of Britain’s 5.8million public sector workers.

But are the 5.8million public sector workers really going to get ‘gold-plated’ pensions? Lord Hutton, leading the independent commission conducting the public pensions review, according to the BBC has made it clear that the term is not appropriate:

Lord Hutton rejected the frequently made claim that public sector pensions are gold-plated.

He pointed out that the average pension in payment was currently £7,800 a year, which he described as modest, not excessive.

The BBC report also has some interesting figures for the Daily Mail to consider given how much hatred they throw at civil servants: the average current pension payment for civil servants is just £6,200, whilst local government employees languish at the bottom, averaging just £4,044. Police officers fare best, averaging £14,000 whilst fire-fighters aren’t far behind at £12,000. Teachers on the other hand who must work longer than both only manage to average £10,000.

The Daily Mail obsession with ‘gold-plated’ pensions in the public sector is only ever evidenced with the salaries of MPs or leaders within the civil service and is simply not applicable to the vast majority of workers in the public sector. It is rather like looking at what CEOs retire on and using that as evidence to suggest that all of the workers in the company must also be receiving massive pensions. It is, in short, complete nonsense.

I look forward to seeing how the Daily Mail covers this report. The BBC point out that the commission is considering the following long-term changes:

  • changing the public service schemes from a final-salary to a career-average structure
  • copying the Swedish and Dutch examples of defined-contribution schemes
  • raising normal pension ages beyond their current levels – typically 65 – as longevity increases.

The BBC also point out that George Osborne said that public sector pensions as they stand are ‘unsustainable’. However, they also point out the following:

The interim report points out that the long-term cost of funding public service schemes has already been drastically reduced.

The recent decision to uprate pensions in line with the consumer prices index (CPI) rather than the retail prices index (RPI) has shaved 15% from the cost of the schemes.

Taken together with other changes in the past few years, such as raising the pension age to 65 for newer recruits, the schemes now cost 25% less to fund than they did a few years ago.

“All these past reforms, the current pay freeze and planned workforce reductions will reduce the future cost of pensions,” the report said.

“The gross cost of paying unfunded public sector pensions is expected to fall from 1.9% of GDP in 2010-11 to 1.4% of GDP by 2060.

It will be interesting (and rather too easy to predict I fear) what parts the Daily Mail will choose to include and what to leave out. One final point that I think is extremely important to mention is this comment from Lord Hutton:

he rejected the idea put forward by employers’ organisations that because private sector pension provision was poor by comparison, public sector pensions should be dragged down to the same level.

“I have rejected a race for the bottom,” he said.

It is the ‘race to the bottom’ that the Daily Mail fully supports every time it tries to ensure public sector workers suffer the miserable retirement that so many in the private sector do. What this interim report suggests, if anything, is that a lot of public sector pensions are already there.