Dishonest journalism matters

I know I don’t blog much these days and I rarely read the Daily Mail, but I used to do both of these things. A lot. During this period I experienced a lot of eye-rolling if I attempted to talk to people about what the Mail (or other terrible newspapers) had written, and why it was a lie and what it was trying to do. Most people just didn’t care or they implied that they did care, but that in the great scheme of things it didn’t really matter because most people take what they read with a pinch of salt anyway.

This is the great paradox of a lot of people in Britain, and perhaps worldwide: we often profess to not trust journalists or newspapers, yet we seem to be entirely convinced by the media narratives that they create. We don’t trust newspapers, but we do blame all of our woes on the welfare state, benefit scroungers and immigrants. We don’t trust newspapers, but we do believe that obscene inequality is only right and natural and that the immensely wealthy are innately better people than us and they not only deserve to be that wealthy, but they have also earned the right to dodge as much tax as they can as well.

We don’t trust newspapers, but we’re pretty sure that climate change is a scam dreamed up by hippies and governments to tax us more. We don’t trust newspapers, but we do know that having human rights is definitely a bad thing. We don’t trust newspapers, but we do know that Christianity is under attack by the PC brigade and that they’re banning Christmas because it ‘offends Muslims’.

For a people distrustful of the mainstream media, we sure do take on board a lot of their narratives. This brings me to this year’s Christmas card sent out by the BNP. Naturally, the card unsubtly wishes the receiver a ‘white Christmas’. Equally as expected, the BNP have edited the stock photo of the girl on the front – changing her eyes from hazel (brown) to blue (Aryan). Also par for the course is a short and cheery Enoch Powell quotation on the back (“It’s never too late to save your country!”), who is introduced as ‘The legendary Enoch Powell’.

I can live with all of those things, after all, what else would you expect to get from the BNP? What annoys me – in my position of being the world’s foremost expert on the Winterval myth – is that they only go and bloody repeat it! Under the banner ‘Protecting our Christmas’ they warn the reader:

Our Christian values underpin our British Identity. It’s why they’re under attack, not just from Islamification, but also from the Politically Correct authorities who put immigrants before us, the British people.

Christmas is being stealthily and ruthlessly dismantled and replaced. We’ve all heard of Winterval, it’s the Politically Correct replacement of our traditional Christmas – an engineered replacement complete with polar bears, penguins, and snowflakes to eradicate our traditional nativity scenes, with baby Jesus, Joseph, Mary, and the Three Wise Kings all to be airbrushed out.

Firstly, it does seem ironic that the xenophobic BNP miss the traditional ‘British’ Christmas – the celebration of a virgin birth in Jerusalem, which is a bit, well, foreign, is it not? Secondly, could it not be argued that we’re increasingly a less Christian country because people are finding it hard to believe that a white couple, with Western names, gave birth in the Middle East to a baby conceived as a result of angelic intervention? It might be less the result of ‘Politically Correct authorities’ and more a case of ‘it is quite clearly bollocks, and I object my child being subjected to it’.

Secondly, the idea that Neo-Nazi skinheads marching drunkenly through a city centre are motivated by the marginalisation of baby Jesus seems somewhat incongruous. After all, if they were good Christians they’d surely either turn the other cheek, forgive them or love thy new neighbours. I don’t think Jesus’ teachings would quite gel with the BNP worldview.

And finally, I love the idea that Christmas is being ‘stealthily’ replaced. Presumably, it’s stealthy in the sense that you cannot perceive it happening… because it is not happening. Those stealthy PC authorities, they might be putting up Christmas trees and sending out cards, but they’re ‘ruthlessly dismantling’ Christmas behind the scenes.

Which brings me, in a rambling, verbose way (I am out of practise), to my main point: when newspapers lie to pursue a media narrative it does matter, it does have consequences. Here we are, 16 years after the Winterval myth was initially spread by tabloid and broadsheet alike and it is still acting as an enabler for extremist right-wing views. As I demonstrated in my ebook, the longevity and popularity of the Winterval myth was largely because of its power as the seed from which other myths of Christian marginalisation could grow. Increasingly it formed the cornerstone of a rampant media narrative that authorities – out of fear – were actively pandering to the sensitivities of Muslims.

It is easy to ignore the direct output of the Daily Mail – and all newspapers which pursue a similar worldview and agenda – but it is impossible to ignore the consequences. When the upcoming election is dominated by the ‘problem’ of immigration or the ‘reality’ of austerity and continued cuts to the welfare state, remember: this is because a lot of people buy into these media narratives. Politicians spend huge amounts of time and energy responding to the media agenda, irrespective of whether that agenda has any basis in reality or whether it best represents the interests of the majority.

We will never have be able to improve our society for as long as our media is owned by vested interests. They have sold us the lie that there is no alternative to inequality, injustice and unfairness – and, like Winterval, enough of us have fallen for it to make their lie, our truth.

You can buy my ebook from Amazon or Kobo.

Trust in the media

YouGov has today published the results of a ‘Trust in the media’ survey and it is bad news for newspapers. The survey found that ‘this summer’s phone-hacking scandal has resulted in media mistrust among members the public’.  Here are some of the results:

  • 64% of UK adults saw TV as the most trusted media outlet
  • 58% said the same about radio
  • 38% trusted newspapers, while 25% thought the same about magazines

Interestingly – given the ongoing Leveson Inquiry – nearly 1 in 5 (17%) UK adults think that they will be less likely to consult newspapers for their current affairs content in 2012. This is also perhaps a result of the ongoing phone hacking investigation; with 58% of respondents saying that the recent scandal has reduced their level of trust in the newspaper industry, while over half (51%) said it had reduced their trust in the UK media as a whole. Perhaps the most damning finding was that:

  • Three in four people (74%) in the UK think media outlets sometimes, or frequently, lie to their audiences
  • Over half – 55% – agree that the content in the UK media has been dumbed down in recent years

If 3 in 4 people really believe that media outlets ‘sometimes, or frequently, lie to their audiences’ then why do newspaper sales continue to hold out fairly well? Perhaps as I suggested earlier: people really are addicted to this kind of news output and newspapers lie because it brings in sales. Remember, newspapers want to earn sales, earning trust is irrelevant if not doing so does not impact on sales.

However, you can safely ignore what I think because ‘blogs are trusted by under one in ten people (9%)’.