Will the Daily Star dig up dirt on Richard Peppiatt?

I am sure by now that you have heard about and probably read the letter of resignation written by Richard Peppiatt explaining his decision to leave the Daily Star. In many ways the letter is merely stating the obvious – describing the stories he made up and the ‘cascade of shit’ that poured from the offices of the newspaper. We all knew that the Daily Star made up a huge amount of its stories – not just the filler content, but front page after front page of pure fiction usually concerning Muslims or Jordan. Still, it is somewhat a valediction to have it confirmed by a journalist who didn’t just work for the newspaper, but one who also claims responsibility for some of the worst examples of front page lies – such as the  ‘Muslim only toilets’ story [which was debunked almost immediately by Jamie Thunder].

The response to the letter was absolutely laughable, with the Star claiming that he worked ‘purely as a casual reporter at the Daily Star for almost two years’ and was only angry because the newspaper passed him over for promotions. It also counters one specific claim, trying to sound as if the newspaper had the real facts and Peppiatt was lying. This would be more convincing if the Star didn’t claim dishonestly during the statement that ‘For the record, the Daily Star editorial policy does not hold any negativity towards Islam and the paper has never, and does not endorse, the EDL’. Once again, the Star cannot stop lying – as even a cursory glance at a few front pages demonstrates the agenda the newspaper has against Muslims – and they cannot sweep their endorsement of the EDL under the carpet either.

The Independent updated the story somewhat today by revealing that it seems that the EDL is now in discussions to become a political party – even claiming that they have “been sitting down with a couple of lads who are posh-speaking, public school boys, who have been in politics before, and we’re discussing with them where it can go.” It also has a brief paragraph on the fallout experienced by Peppiatt since sending the letter:

Since making his resignation letter public, Mr Peppiatt has received numerous emails, phone calls and text messages from unknown sources. One such message says: ‘We r (sic) doing a KISS AND TELL on u.’ Whilst an email reads, ‘I’m one of your FB [Facebook] friends and it’s about time you were honest with people. Stop the bullshit Pepps. We all know everything about you. Meet me at 8pm outside GH.’

In my opinion I cannot see the Star retaliating in public against Peppiatt, to do so would essentially confirm that Peppiatt had really struck a chord with the Star – which would strongly imply that he was being entirely truthful. It would also draw far more attention to Peppiatt and far more people- perhaps even readers of the paper – would search for his letter and read it. Tabloid newspapers – in spite of incessant cost-cutting when it comes to real journalism – can always be very resourceful and powerful when it comes to muck-raking and I would imagine almost everyone has made mistakes in the past that they are not proud of (it is the essence of being human) but no mud-slinging can obscure the verifiable truth of what Peppiatt wrote (thanks to media bloggers such as Tabloid Watch we know just how much Star output is complete fiction). A personal attack on him – irrespective of what was dug up – would only increase the wider support for him – and increase him fame.

I know a lot of media bloggers like to remain anonymous for fear of getting the tabloid treatment (something akin to what happened to the entirely innocent Chris Jefferies) but I think that it would be counter-productive for them – I write for a very limited audience and 99% of tabloid readers probably don’t know I exist, so why would any tabloid want to give me the oxygen of publicity – even if it was intended to ruin my life? Perhaps the sad realisation is that the press don’t need to crush their opposition because their readership is happy to not step outside of the tabloid bubble that surrounds them. I even wonder if any Star reader would stop buying the Star if they read Peppiatt’s letter. I’m not sure they would.

More ‘Elf ‘n’ safety’ nonsense in the Mail

‘Cathedral spends £140,000 on hundreds of wooden chairs… because PLASTIC seats ‘are a fire hazard” writes the Mail On Sunday Reporter. Of course, this seems like absolute madness, given that wood is generally seen as being more flammable than plastic. However, as always, a quick read of the article reveals that the headline is absolute rubbish:

officials say the fabric covers are a fire hazard…

Cathedral steward Les West said safety chiefs had claimed the same chair material was responsible for a fire at Bristol Cathedral.

Obviously, ‘fabric covers’ as a fire risk is a completely different proposition from the ‘plastic chairs’ used in the headline, but the reporter tries to imply that it was only a claim that the same chair material caused a fire elsewhere. A quick read of a more detailed article – from the Worcester News website – sheds more light on this ‘claim’:

Cathedral steward Les West said the same type of chair was now considered a fire risk and had been responsible for blazes causing damage in other cathedrals, including Bristol.

So the fabric was responsible for causing fires in other cathedrals, rather than merely being linked to just one fire in Bristol. No wonder the ‘journalist’ preferred an anonymous byline. The same steward goes on to say:

“They were showing signs of wear as well as being a fire risk, so we decided that we would replace them over the next three years. “

It is simply part of the ongoing work carried out on the cathedral, it is mentioned in the cathedral newsletter [pdf] – without any reference to the decision being forced upon the cathedral by ‘safety chiefs’ – probably because they are not being forced to abandon the current chairs, rather that they see the fire risks posed by the chairs as another good reason to phase in new wooden seating. Also referred to in the same newsletter is the generous amounts of money gifted to the cathedral in wills (four donations alone totalled £137,000) for precisely this kind of continual renewal of fixtures and fittings.

Increasingly there seems to be two main kinds of ‘journalism’:

  1. Churnalism – the act of copying and pasting PR / wire copy.
  2. Local news sifting – a story covered by the local press is taken by a national newspaper, stripped of context, detail and – above all – journalistic integrity and slotted into an existing media narrative (in this case, the story is distorted until ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ can be blamed.

Both of them are anti-journalism.

Stop blaming teachers

It’s my own fault that I’m sat here typing this, I know I shouldn’t ever read anything by Amanda Platell because she’s just a typically simplistic Daily Mail writer to whom everything is easily explained away with a few right-wing cliches. She starts with Jamie Oliver’s Dream School and explains that all of the kids behaved badly because they are the ‘the victims of the liberal educationalists whose obsession with ‘child-centred -learning’ has destroyed their futures’.

Like most right-wing journalists she considers this to be an absolute truth and therefore feels no need to provide any evidence or indeed explanation as to how exactly this is the case. It never seems to occur to people like Platell that child-centred-learning was created to tackle ongoing attainment problems in schools, not to create them. The education system has always failed a certain amount of children – the only real debate has been whom to blame, the school or the parents. Teaching methods have evolved (for the better in my opinion) but better teaching is only half of the problem: you cannot teach when the class does not want to learn and makes teaching impossible.

Platell kind of addresses this point, but only in a typically tabloid-shallow way:

they respect no one and nothing.

They know no boundaries, because no teacher or parent has ever tried to impose them.

I get incredibly frustrated when teachers are accused – as a homogeneous group – as never having tried to impose discipline in the classroom. Not all teachers have great classroom management skills (it is something that is difficult to learn during teacher training), some teachers are not great at setting boundaries and sticking to them and some teachers are overly aggressive which creates just as many problems as being overly lenient. Managing a classroom is a balancing act, especially when you have 30 students of differing abilities, attitudes and backgrounds all vying for different kinds of attention. Remember, you might have started teaching because you had a passion for your subject that you wanted to impart to others, not because you wanted to win constant battles with varied groups of students. However, all schools have clear rules which are enforced as much as realistically possible, but given that you cannot use force to make children comply there will always be occasions when it is impossible to control a child who does not want to behave. The accusation that no teachers have ever tried to impose boundaries is not just utterly wrong, but insulting.

From a sociological point of view it is the role of parents to instill basic social skills into children. Functionalism suggests that every human being is a mere resource that is raised to perform a certain function in society. The school is the institution which divides the children into different sets based on ability which directs them into different job roles in adult life, it is also the place where children learn to obey those in authority without question – it is the first situation in which children learn that the many should always obey the few in power. However, the schools cannot perform this function unless the child has already learnt basic socialisation skills from its family and immediate peers. It is these role models that teach (or fail to teach) manners, respect and basic obedience – it is the parent’s role in a functionalist society. If a child is not taught these behaviours then they immediately encounter problems entering and functioning in a more social environment – and teachers for example have trouble controlling them – after all, if a child has no respect for their own parents / family, then what chance does a teacher responsible for 30 children in a classroom stand of instilling such behaviours in the child?

Behaviours are something we learn, they are not something we are born with. A child cannot be blamed for being raised in a family that fails to instill socially acceptable behaviours, anymore than a child can be blamed for being born into a family of extreme privilege. It is time to stop blaming the education system and realising that society as a whole needs to come to terms with an underclass of families who are trapped in vicious circles of bad parenting. You don’t give a chef a pile of rotting vegetables and expect them to make a Michelin star dish, but for some reason the right-wing press expects schools to take any given child and achieve the same positive outcomes. It’s impossible.

Anyway, I had never even meant to talk about that aspect of her drivel, I had wanted to talk about her little aside on multiculturalism. There is nothing more depressing than someone in the right-wing media repeating the lie that BNP support is driven by ‘uncontrolled immigration’ and the pressures this supposedly places on social services and employment. I’ve covered this before, so, having written the above I won’t repeat it here, so if you want a rebuttal of this, you can read it here.

To churn, or not to churn

Earlier in the week Ginsters – famous for pasties and pies – decided to get some cheap advertising by conducting a poll using Onepoll.com that they knew would appeal to the Churnalists out there. Naturally the poll is referred to in sombre tomes as a ‘study’ and it just happens to confirm the sort of misogynistic drivel that makes your average tabloid editor very happy:

Three quarters of all important household decisions are made by women, a study found yesterday.

I won’t bother you with any further details – it’s just a typical poll ‘finding’ that ‘confirms’ a few lazy stereotypes about women being the ones with the real power etc – but I’ll just focus on the fact that it worked. The Daily Mail managed a spectacular 83% cut, 98% pasted with 2499 characters overlapping; whilst the Daily Express worked really hard, cutting just 61% and pasting just 60%.

Another successful result for Onepoll.com (who I appear to be essentially but unintentionally plugging here – but do visit them as a one-stop-shop for all your churnalism needs) and another happy client, getting press coverage for a fraction of the cost. However, Onepoll are not always successful. If they take the round side of a gender issue, then the papers won’t go near their CTRL-V keys. Austin Reed followed up the Ginster poll with another ‘revealing’ gender poll:

It’s official – men are better at shopping than women, it emerged yesterday (Weds).

Research has revealed that even though they shop more frequently, women are more likely to come home empty-handed having failed to find what they were looking for…

And when it comes to updating their wardrobe men like to spend MORE on clothes than women.

Note how this poll is also referred to as ‘research’ and a ‘study’ which seems a bit of a glorification. Regardless, the result doesn’t suit the media narrative about women and shopping and it has yet to be churned by any newspaper. I guess there are some filters applied to churnalism after all.