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?

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