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.

Winterval: still continuing to fool lazy journalists

I had a message from a Twitter user a couple of days ago that Winterval had been trotted out again by yet another lazy journalist, this time Mary Kenny in a column for the Belfast Mercury. In her column she recounts how:

A few years ago, Birmingham city council sought to replace ‘Christmas’ with ‘Winterval’, alleging that it was “offensive” to Muslims and other non-Christians that a holiday based on ‘Christ’s Mass’ should be on the calendar.

Like so many later repetitions the Muslims are to blame, scaring Birmingham council with the very thought that such a holiday should even be on the calendar!

Of course, as I’ve repeated here and elsewhere many times: Birmingham council did no such thing, and the events they did hold (of which Christmas – called Christmas – was the focal point) were a marketing ploy to drive business into the city centre and had absolutely nothing to do with the religious sensitivities of anyone. Winterval took place in 1997 and 1998, as a media myth it has been debunked again and again, yet here we are, 17 years later still having it repeated by peopleĀ paid to write for a living.

Now seems a good a time as any to plug my e-book on the subject, available via Amazon and Kobo for a very small price. In a year in which the press avoided regulation (again) it makes for pretty painful reading about how journalists are happy to repeatedly lie to push their media narratives – and how these media narratives become more extreme over time.