One minute, you’re relaxing on holiday…

The next, someone contacts you to tell you that you’re in the Daily Mail and you soon realise that whilst you were out of the country someone had grabbed your life, twisted out of all recognition and published it to the world.

Welcome to the story of Hayley Quinn who this happened to in October.

Hayley Quinn describes herself as a ‘dating coach and writer’ and a ‘specialist in the arts of conversation, persuasion and seduction’. The Daily Mail described her as: ‘the matchmaking expert who cannot hold down a boyfriend’. Just one slight problem with that description: Hayley was at the time of publication on holiday with her boyfriend of 10 months. Hayley has been kind enough to go through the entire Daily Mail article and point out just what parts of it were inaccurate or simply an invention of the writer – the byline belongs to one Lauren Paxman, you are all welcome to join me in a slow handclap for her once you get to the end of this blog post.

All the parts highlighted in bold are my emphasis and are tackled by Hayley below the chunks of the Mail article. Bear in mind that Hayley never gave any form of interview to the Daily Mail so the constant ‘she said’ stuff the article uses are either made up or taken from a Now magazine article which you can read in full here – links given at the bottom of the article. If you read the Now magazine article – which must presumably be the source of the Daily Mail article – you can see just how much invention, exaggeration and distortion is used by the Daily Mail to ‘sex-up’ the article and to create a completely different Hayley Quinn than you meet in the Now magazine article.

It’s an age old problem that even formed the basis of Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, the better you are at advising others on dating, the harder it often is to find yourself a partner.

But Hayley Quinn, who has helped teach 100,000 men how to seduce women cannot find a boyfriend for a reason that would have scandalised high society Georgians: she is addicted to casual flings.

The 100,000 figure is inaccurate: more like 10,000. Internet forums have thought that I purposely exaggerated this figure: in fact the paper just made it up.

As for the ‘addicted to casual flings’ accusation: I’m not a saint but I am not a sex addict – and ironically this article came out when I was on holiday with my boyfriend of 10 months in Malta.

The frustrated 24-year-old earns £40,000-per-year as a professional dating expert who teaches shy guys to bag the woman of their dreams.

Made up figure: I also didn’t want any salary released to the public as I didn’t want to appear to be in a better/ worse position than my competitors.

But despite going on more than 200 dates in the past year herself – often as many as seven in seven days – she cannot hold onto a man.

Made up. I have maybe been on 30 but I’ve been monogamous with my boyfriend for some time.

Hayley says she has become so good at seducing men she is ‘addicted’ to it and finds it impossible to settle down.

The pretty brunette, who lives in central London, describes herself as ‘a more extreme Carrie Bradshaw character from Sex and the City’.

She said: ‘My bigger problem is that there’s one client I just can’t crack – me‘.

A fantastic piece of creative writing.

‘Despite what my job may imply of me, I’m a hopeless romantic at heart, and can’t seem to find the right guy for me’.

‘I would love to be whisked off my feet and proposed to but, despite falling head over heels numerous times – often with clients – it just hasn’t happened’.

This implies that I’ve had romantic affairs with my clients, this is untrue and detrimental to my business.

‘I can’t follow my own advice and seem to be able to find love for anyone and everyone but me.

‘I’ve kept a diary of all my dates, work and personal, so I can keep track, and call it my ‘Sexcapades‘.’

This implies I go on dates for work = escorting. Nope I teach other guys how to date women in a theoretical, seminar based fashion.

I haven’t named it this [‘sexcapades’] (in fact working title is ‘first date to wedding bells’ as the diaries mainly describe the progression of my relationship with my boyfriend. I may have used the word ‘sexcapades’ historically but this is anachronistic.

She added: ‘The problem is I’ve become so good at the dating game that I’m addicted to it.

‘Now, if I spot someone I find attractive I challenge myself to seduce him into bed. And I never lose.

‘I simply can’t get enough of the thrill of the chase. I’m addicted to dating and each fling only fuels my appetite for the next.

‘It’s meant that, for now, I’ve had to postpone all thoughts of my dream wedding to Mr Right.’

I don’t think I’ve ever challenged myself to seduce someone into bed. I traditionally have dated mostly women and have only ever slept with 6 men… which is hardly a record breaking amount. Two of those were ‘flings’ four ‘long term relationships’… not salacious stuff. The truth is my luck with guys is a bit rubbish – or it has been – but not because I have an addiction.

‘The irony isn’t lost on me – I train men how to be successful with women, but can’t find the right guy myself!’

Hayley, who grew up in Devon, became a serial dater after the DJ boyfriend she moved to London with aged 18 cheated on her with two women – at the same time.

Cornwall actually.

She said: ‘I was very much a one man woman and wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with him.

‘So when I discovered he had cheated on me with not one, but two women while on holiday in Las Vegas, the revelation shook my outlook on life and love to the core.

John B (my ex) is a great friend of mine and I would never have wanted something so scathing printed about him.

‘I felt like I was out of my depth and I hated the way he’d made me feel so helpless and unable to influence my own happiness.

‘My life had been turned upside down by the man who told me he loved me and had then had a threesome behind my back, and so in a bid to take back control I went on a dating spree.’

This happened when I was 18, we were then together in a monogamous relationship until I was 23, then I began to date again after we’d broken up. His behaviour did not trigger a ‘dating spree’.

Hayley has also been given regular dating columns in men’s magazines and on dating sites, reaching out to more than 100,000 men.

Earning a healthy £40,000 salary from all of her dating exploits, she has turned her passion into a career.

She said: ‘I’ve been so successful I frequently receive messages of thanks and gifts from men I’ve helped find romance.

Many of the guys who come to me are just happy they get to sleep with someone!’

‘But as for me, I’m still single I’m continuing my search for Mr Right.’

Repetition of inaccurate figures.

I’ve received one book from a client- no other presents. This again feels ‘escort-y’.

This REALLY implies that there’s more to what I teach than conversation skills.

I’m not single anymore.

Hayley would like her version of events to travel as far and as wide as possible, so please share this on Twitter (you can find me: @uponnothing or Hayley: @hayleyquinn to RT). You can also visit her website to find out more about what she actually does.

For my part, let me just repeat one of the claims that the Daily Mail makes in this article: ‘Many of the guys who come to me are just happy they get to sleep with someone’. No matter how many times I read this I cannot take away any other message but: ‘Hayley’s service includes sleeping with all of the men who use it’.

The Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press must have our full support. We can’t go on accepting that this is just what newspapers do.

You can start the slow hand-clapping for Mail hack Lauren Paxman now.

Here are the two Now magazine pages hosted on my Mediafire account: Now Page 1, Now Page 2.


What’s your poison?

The wonderful people behind the NHS Behind the headlines section have released their first in-depth report on how media coverage impacts public perception of a particular medical issue – in this case, alcohol. The report – What’s Your Poison: A sober analysis of alcohol and health in the media – examines the media’s relationship with research on alcohol, the science behind it, and what all this means for us when we consider raising a glass. In particular it discusses the media’s need to treat most research in absolute isolation from each other; something which leads to the constant contradictions surrounding alcohol reporting.

For example, one day drinking red wine is lethal, the next day it is the secret to long life or a potential cure for cancer and so on. Furthermore, few of theses stories actually point out the well-known health problems with alcohol (i.e. liver problems etc) and instead spend their time questioning whether various drinks are the cause of or cure for cancer which is kind of missing the point about the dangers that are well-established.

Anyway, it is an interesting report and one that has come about thanks to the NHS Behind the Headlines team realising just how poor the standard of medial reporting is in the UK.

Go here and read the whole document.

Steve Doughty: Dear black footballers…

Toughen up you big girls! Why are you whingeing about a bit of (alleged) racial abuse on the pitch? You do realise black players 20 years ago had it much worse 20 don’t you? As for this whole ‘kick racism out of football’ malarky it’s getting dead boring.

I paraphrase, but here are a few choice quotes from Steve Doughty today:

When we read about British footballers levelling complaints of racism against each other, it’s worth making the comparison with what passes as everyday behaviour in a nearby country we are often invited to admire.

Translated: let’s not take racism in British football seriously, because other countries are much worse.

the horrid and open abuse of the past is gone. When crowds pick on black players these days it is the exception, and the fact is quickly reported and condemned… Every club seems to be promoting a kick racism out of football campaign, beyond the point of boredom.

Translated: OK, so a couple of players claim to be have been racially abused, so what? Not like they get it all the time is it? Worse, even though racism isn’t that bad anymore the bloody clubs keep banging on about stopping racism all the bloody time. (Or, he might mean that football without racism is boring.)

I took my elderly mother to watch a game at Highbury for the last time before they knocked it down… In the second half Arsenal sent on an African forward called Kanu. Kanu could either be brilliant or spend all afternoon falling over the ball. On this occasion he kept falling over the ball. A youngish bloke sitting in front of us lost his temper after one particularly ludicrous pratfall and yelled, at the top of his voice, something about ‘you black b*****d’.

There was a terrible silence.

The bloke leaped up and wheeled round 180 degrees in the same movement, shoved his face straight in front of my mother’s, and said in firm and formal tones: ‘I’m terribly sorry about the racist comment.’

You could not imagine such a thing happening at a football match 30 years ago.

Hurrah, you see? Racists apologise politely to old ladies straight afterwords! Aren’t the blacks living in a dream world! This is wonderful progress:

Football reflects us all as it always did, and these days it’s both racist and not racist at the same time. Things may not be perfect but, at the end of the day, Gary, there are worse things to complain about.

Football, you see, reflects us all according to Steve Doughty which makes us all racist and not racist at the same time – by which he means we all complain about ‘black bastards’ but we do apologise straight afterwords if an old lady happens to be present.

I’m pretty sure Steve Doughty isn’t speaking for me here.

Anyway, he does make his message to black footballers clear right at the end – just in case they didn’t pick up on the vibes throughout the article:

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

Another wonderful contribution to ‘Rightminds’ – Simon Heffer must be so proud.

Avoid deportation by joining a Gym – claims Daily Mail

According to the Daily Mail website today: ‘Failed asylum seeker who has dodged deportation for a decade told he can stay… because he goes to the GYM’.

What the judge actually said was:

‘He had integrated well within the Glasgow community, had a large network of friends, most of whom were Scottish, and socialised with those friends at the gymnasium, at five-a-side football, in coffee shops, at college, in the library and at their homes.’

The asylum seeker was appealing to Article 8 of the ECHR which allows a human being the right to remain in a country if they have established a private life. Going to the gym was one small part of this case, rather like owning a cat was one small part of another case back in 2009 that has been doing the rounds again lately thanks to Theresa May. Needless to say this article has already attracted over 500 comments, largely from utterly stupid people who cannot see how ludicrous the headline actually is.

Kelvin MacKenzie on Dale Farm

Last week Kelvin MacKenzie joked about reporting himself to the Press Complaints Commission for being ‘anti-gypsy‘ after he published his idea of a gypsy flag (a photo of some fly-tipping). This week he finds room for a joke about Dale Farm:

Forty travellers from Dale Farm arrive at the Pearly Gates in their caravans. St Peter goes to the gatehouse and phones up God, asking: ‘Can I let them in?’

God replies: ‘We are full, but tell them to choose among them which are the 12 most worthy and I will let them in.’ A minute later St Peter calls God again: ‘They’ve gone.’

‘What?’ says God, ‘all 40 of them?’

‘No, the Pearly Gates.’

He doesn’t joke about the PCC this week, but he does find room for a correction:

The number of days lost at Nottinghamshire County Council is 8.9 per person per year, not per quarter as I wrote last week. The correction was pointed out by the council’s media department, who were clearly busy at their desks.

What a wonderful place Rightminds is.

The Daily Mail and I enter the Ricky Gervais ‘mong’ ‘debate’

I like most of the work of Ricky Gervais. The Office was a brilliant comedy in many ways – subtle, inventive, intelligent and above all it had an underlying tragic sensitivity that elevated it above your average comedy. The Office was an examination of how TV searches for people that will provide perfect rubber-necking TV. David Brent was the archetypal reality TV star – someone so ignorant of his own limitations that they could be easily edited into a bumbling, embarrassing incompetent by amoral TV executives. The point of The Office was that the documentary makers were inviting audiences not to laugh with David Brent, but to laugh at him and the show is frequently infamously cringe-worthy because of this. Essentially, the Office was actually a dark series about how TV executives could happily film a man teetering on the edge of a mental breakdown who gradually loses his job and dignity as the ‘documentary’ goes on because it makes ‘good’ TV. The series played on the fact that most people would still tune in and not even realise this – instead they happily mocked Brent just as the fake producers of the documentary show inside The Office knew they would.

One consequence of this is that now Gervais faces a lifetime of being asked to ‘do the dance’ by people who completely missed the point.

Most people don’t really think too much about TV, it seems. Most people might miss the subtle editing that reminds the audience that you’re not seeing David Brent the human being, you’re seeing David Brent the edited-for-good-TV version. One scene – for example – in the second series starts – very briefly – with the employees laughing along with Brent with real warmth and it is obvious that we have missed a moment when Brent was connecting with his staff. Brent’s new boss (or equal in the eyes of Brent) then makes a humorous introduction to the staff and Brent follows up with a floundering mess culminating in him doing a John Cleese goosestep whilst imitating Hitler. The Office is a comedy that requires the viewer to be aware that we are not viewing the whole scene, but rather the snapshots that are designed to set up Brent for a TV audience to poke fun at.

It is a theme that Gervais memorably returns to in Extras when during a powerful penultimate scene his character (Andy Millman) comments on the nature of celebrity and pseudo-celebrity TV shows when he has entered Big Brother and suddenly realises what he – and a significant part of TV has become:

fuck you, the makers of this show as well. You can’t wash your hands of this. You can’t keep going, “Oh, it’s exploitation, but it’s what the public want.” No, the Victorian freak show never went away. Now it’s called “Big Brother” or “American Idol,” where in the preliminary rounds we wheel out the bewildered to be sniggered at by multimillionaires. And fuck you for watching this at home. Shame on you.

The Office was the Victorian freakshow, where documentary makers wheeled out the bewildered David Brent so the audience could laugh at him as his life fell apart. The point of the Office was that David Brent wasn’t an evil man, he was simply a man unaware of his own limitations who desperately wanted to be significant (hence his belief that he was some kind of amazing comedian / philosopher who was having a positive impact on the world). He wanted to be liked and respected but his weakness (his lack of self-awareness) instead meant that he was vulnerable to be filmed, edited and put on display for the entertainment of millions who could mock him from the comfort of their own sofas.

The Victorian freakshow never went away.

And then we get to Science – screened recently on Channel 4 – which was weak, really weak. Gervais’ projects that have had a real heart and an intelligent subtlety have almost always – it seems to me – involved a significant role for Stephen Merchant, when Gervais is alone on a stage he just seems to revert to lowest-common-denominator comedy. It’s unfunnily ironic, considering that in Extras Gervais warns us about what good comedy can become when it is butchered for the mass-market – When the Whistle Blows (Millman’s sit-com in Extras) is an imagination of what The Office might have become had the BBC insisted on dramatic changes in order to make it appeal to a mainstream audience – people who Gervais and Merchant mock as knowing nothing about good comedy.

Science was tired stuff – I mean the amount of time spent basically mocking the fact that Noah couldn’t possibly fit two of every animal on the Ark through the use of a child’s book was amazingly lazy and weak – it has been done a million times before. It’s the kind of comedy sketch that has been done not by just comedians but pretty much anyone who has ever discussed the story of Noah with even the faintest whiff of worldy cynicism.

Anyway, that is of course not what the Daily Mail is complaining about and not, ultimately, the point of this blog post. Ricky Gervais pursued the ‘outraged response’ crowd by using the word ‘mong’ and then inviting people to not complain because that would be stupid because the word isn’t offensive anymore. Language evolves, seemed to be his point, and in isolation it is a fair one.

Language clearly evolves. There are tens, hundreds, thousands and possibly tens of thousands of examples of this that he could have picked to demonstrate his point. But he picked ‘mong’ simply because he knew this would get him the most attention. And it did. He has a standard faux-outrage (their outrage is false because they happily and frequently publish far more offensive things) article from the Daily Mail to hang on his wall of achievements – after all, anyone on the end of a Daily Mail attack can normally smugly know that they are not only right, but moral as well.

But I don’t think that is the case here. I don’t want to get into the whole argument about the word ‘mong’ because I think it is fairly clear to see that it is still used in a broad context to mock people with disabilities and others have already made this argument. What I want to point out is that Gervais’ Science show was obviously trying to portray itself as being intelligent comedy and Gervais’ response to the ‘mong’ debate on Twitter has been mocking – i.e. only stupid people are upset because they are not clever enough to understand what Gervais is doing.

But it wasn’t clever, it was just shit. We live in a period where language is being distorted and abused all of the time by our corporate and political overlords (see Unspeak by Steven Poole for example) and we’re currently staring into the abyss of the complete collapse of the capitalist system. If Gervais wanted to do intelligent comedy he doesn’t have a shortage of material. Instead he decided to treat us to his view of the recession – is it real? I’m rich so I don’t know – a bit where he uses mong to try to claim that it isn’t offensive at all, and that anyone who is offended by his use of it is just a stupid person because language evolves – as if he was making some deeply philisophical observation- and finishes with a lazy skit about how the story of Noah’s ark is a bit silly (as if we didn’t already realise that).

Basically, my point is this: Ricky Gervais is free to make lazy, unchallenging, unintelligent and tired lowest-common-denominator-comedy which he can sell to packed-out audiences, but what I object to is his attempt to package it as something more than that.

Science was not clever, nor was his point about the word ‘mong’ accurate or philisophical or remotely clever or even challenging comedy. It was just lazy and shit – as has his defence of it been (linking to one blogger who even claimed that those criticising him were just as bad as Hitler). Ricky Gervais can do clever comedy, what he cannot do is try to package shit comedy as intelligent comedy simply by being purposefully controversial.

‘Scare over miscarriage scans unjustified’

From the NHS Behind the headlines blog:

Several news sources have today reported that errors during early-pregnancy ultrasounds are leading to unnecessary abortions. The Daily Mail said that hundreds of babies a year may die due to ‘blunders’ in testing and the Metro said that unreliable tests caused a baby to die every day…

Despite what headlines have suggested, early pregnancy ultrasounds are invaluable and highly accurate diagnostic tools, and even using current guidelines, the vast majority of cases would be accurately diagnosed…

It should be noted that while the researchers did suggest there may be around 400 cases of misdiagnosis each year, there is no indication that the majority of them would be terminated, as newspapers have reported…

The news is based on four studies examining the use of ultrasound scanning to monitor early-stage pregnancies…

Press coverage of these studies tended to be quite alarming, with suggestions that 400 babies a year die or are terminated due to errors in testing. For example, the Metro ran front-page coverage saying that ‘a baby per day dies due to test error’, while the Daily Mail said that fears were ‘hundreds of healthy babies are being aborted every year simply because of scan blunders’.

However, this figure appears to be based on one research paper that estimated around 400 UK pregnancies may be misclassified as miscarriages, which does not necessarilly mean they are terminated.

At a press conference attended by reporters from a number of national newspapers, some of the study authors stated that there was no reliable source of evidence to confirm how often misclassified pregnancies would be terminated…

Also, many press stories were accompanied with pictures of late-stage ultrasound scans, showing clearly visible foetuses. This would suggest that doctors are performing terminations close to the natural end of pregnancy, when in fact these studies were concerned with diagnosis within the early stages of pregnancy, when an embryo might typically be around 5-6mm in length.

Read the full examination of the research here.

The Daily Mail Reviews: Nirvana

At the end of August (for some reason I only saw this today) Paul Connolly decided to review the legacy created by Nirvana – to mark the 20 year anniversary of the release of Smells Like Teen Spirit. Here is what he had to say:

Let’s get this straight – Nirvana were glorified one-hit wonders. Smells Like Teen Spirit was a freak, albeit a wondrous, magical one. They only wrote two more decent songs – Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle (from In Utero) and Oh, The Guilt (a limited edition split single with Jesus Lizard).

Don’t worry, like many of you, I had my head turned by the hyperbole. But now we can be dispassionate and admit Nirvana were not only not much cop but their influence on pop has been mainly pernicious…

So why was Nevermind so huge? Simple. The turn of the Eighties/Nineties was such a wretched time for music that a song as good as Teen Spirit, and a man as pretty and beset by demons as Cobain, were assured of attention and adoration. It’s just a shame that many of those devotees decided to form bands and adhere utterly to Cobain’s “poor me” blueprint.

You can blame all those wretched “emo” bands on Nirvana. There are armies of kids who believe that a guitar and a persecution complex makes them an artist. Well, they’re wrong.

Ten million miserable black-clad kids – that is the extent of Nirvana’s pitiful legacy.

Something isn’t quite right in the world when an occasional and dire blogger on the Daily Mail website feels in a position to criticise the legacy created by what is generally accepted as one of the most influential albums of the last 50 years.

The PCC is a joke

This week Paul Dacre went on the attack at the Leveson inquiry by defending the PCC against what he called ‘myths’. One such myth he wanted to tackle was that the PCC was a toothless regulator because they could not issue sanctions against newspapers for wrongdoing. Dacre argued – as he has before – that editors feel a great sense of shame at having to publish an adjudication:

[the myth is that] Editors regard adjudications as a slap on the wrist: They certainly don’t. They are genuine sanctions. I, and other editors, regard being obliged to publish an adjudication as a real act of shame.

This does seem odd, given that Paul Dacre chairs the Editor’s code of practice whilst simultaneously editing the most complained about newspaper in the United Kingdom. Dacre wasn’t alone in attacking any idea of having real press regulation, he was joined by Kelvin MacKenzie – infamous for his front page lies about Hillsborough for which he has never faced any fitting punishment for – who in his Mail column today shows just how seriously he takes the PCC:

gypsy flag
Click to enlarge

Isn’t it about time we had a form of press regulation that wasn’t simply a cheap joke to morally bankrupt columnists?