Stop buying the Daily Mail: it is not out to help you

It’s been a while since I last posted anything on this blog, or indeed have written anything about anything. Yet every now and again the Daily Mail does something that stirs up Twitter and occasionally it makes me want to make some sort of comment, but I don’t get round to it or I feel as if everything has already been said. But as it has been such a long time since I blogged about just what a terrible newspaper the Daily Mail is, I thought it worth going over again.

The Daily Mail is a cowardly newspaper. Attacking Ed Miliband through his dead father is just the latest in the long line of comment published solely in an attempt to discredit someone (without ever wanting to actually debate the points made). The argument of the press that it exists as a check and balance to the rich and powerful has long been a sick joke (too often repeated by spineless politicians of all bland and samey flavours who are too scared to court the vitriol of the industry) and the state of our society today is evidence enough that they have not provided any kind of check to the power of big business or giddy politicians.

The Daily Mail is part of a press that is largely part of the system of control, the noisy attack dog of big business and politicians bent on giving the last remnants of the state over to private firms to run into the ground for the benefit of a few shareholders – who increasingly hoover up the wealth of the planet into the hands of a few thousands of people (money does not ‘trickle down’ in the form of capitalism the world has been forced to adopt, it steadily – and increasingly rapidly – flows up; evidenced by the fact that the rich keep getting richer and the rest of us squabble around for ever smaller bites of the capitalist apple).

The Daily Mail is not a newspaper, it never has been. It is a wonderfully successful vehicle to ensure that enough people largely fear and despise one another whilst not really noticing that the people around them are, in fact, just like them; only different in some inconsequential way. The Daily Mail is brilliantly evil because it doesn’t do this by carpet bombing the nation with free newspaper drops, it actually sells this hatred to a willing public. One of the things that society enjoys repeating is the sorry cycle of electing politicians who wear different colour ties, but enact policies that are largely the same. We boot out the Tories, only to then boot out Labour for being just as bad… just to return the Tories; who are terrible, so we vote in Labour and so on.

We exist in a permanent state of limbo in which politicians only focus on short-term populism which ultimately results in bad choices and long-term decline. Politicians only attempt to make changes that they can push through in their short time in office, each competing vainly to make the biggest impact during their time on stage – a stage which they are normally ill-equipped on which to stand (Michael Gove possibly being the worst of the current very sorry bunch). Thus politicians dabble in education, bringing in sweeping changes on nothing more than a whim and a misty-eyed view of their own schooling, reorganize the NHS, safe in the knowledge that the next incumbent will only serve to twist it into a different shape anyway.

Meanwhile the country drifts towards blackout because a long-term energy strategy is expensive, unpopular and doesn’t give the politician the chance to make a noticeable mark in the same way that blaming teachers for the state of education does (hint: teachers are not the reason why education is increasingly becoming the antithesis of the word). Part of our inability to take action, to understand the problems that we face, is the constant disinformation spread by the Daily Mail and it’s sorry cohort of newspapers determined to maintain the status quo and indeed tighten the grip of the rich around the throats of just about everyone (they allow us just enough breath to watch TV and buy more shit we don’t need to distract ourselves from the misery of existing in a world in which millions die of starvation, whilst millions shovel money into the hands of false saviours to try and halt their descent into morbid obesity).

We can’t get out of this cycle unless we organise ourselves and change politics to actually work for the majority. We need a long-term energy goal, we need worthwhile jobs and decent housing for all. I sometimes feel that we look back through history at the rigid class system and extremes in wealth and poverty as if those days are gone, when clearly little has changed. It’s not enough to point to Alan Sugar and argue that the class system is dead, its just that most people born on housing estates clearly aren’t working hard enough (although the media seems intent on trying to make this case).

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: we will not move forward as a society or planet if we keep buying newspapers, or indeed willingly believe most forms of media with which we are bombarded. These organisations are not looking out for us, they are there to silence us, to bully us into submission with the their power, or cower us into inaction because we fear the fellow citizens without which we are incapable of enacting change.

Buying most newspapers is an antisocial act, reading the Daily Mail and disseminating the hate within is akin to smoking and blowing smoke into the faces of the people around you. You can’t avoid the health hazards of smoking if people smoke around you, anymore than you can avoid the poison breathed by the readership of the Daily Mail. Turning your back is not an option, the Daily Mail will not be defeated with a blind eye, it needs to be stared down.

Buying the Daily Mail should be as socially unacceptable as drink driving – we don’t care if you die from your own stupidity, but it’s the danger you cause to others that we will not tolerate.

P.S. it would also help if millions of people slapped themselves firmly around the face and realised that the lives of celebrities are a pointless distraction and stopped making the Daily Mail website one of the busiest on earth.

Just imagine a world in which people spent time informing themselves about the things that matter instead of reading celebrity drivel. The things we might achieve.

A sad day for palliative care

Three weeks ago I wrote about my dismay at the Daily Mail’s attack on the Liverpool Care Pathway. This week Baroness Neuberger’s team has published its report: “More Care, Less Pathway.” Amongst its recommendations is this:

The name ‘Liverpool Care Pathway’ should be abandoned, and within the area of end of life care, the term
‘pathway’ should be avoided. An ‘end of life care plan’ should be sufficient for both professionals and lay
people.
Unsurprisingly the Mail is gloating over its victory:
  • Ministers order Liverpool Care Pathway to be ditched within a year,
  • Review by Baroness Neuberger reveals how end-of-life treatment was used as an excuse for appalling levels of care
  • Families were not told their loved ones were on the ‘pathway’ to death

The Mail has been leading a campaign against it…

I stand by every word I wrote three weeks ago. I am quite disappointed by how much the report has pandered to the Mail. If you read the comments sections of my last post, you will see many of the commentators are strongly opposed to the LCP. Whilst I think many of the comments are misguided, and just plain wrong I have not moderated any of them. (Unlike the Mail website which always blocks all of my comments posted as ‘alienfromzog’). I want to take this opportunity to respond to the comments, to the report and to the Mail. My main frustration is that when you read what people think caring for the dying should involve, it’s often words like “Caring,” “TLC” or “Individual” are used. Similarly many relatives say they want good communication. What is so frustrating is that this is precisely what the LCP is. What it’s for. If you don’t believe me , read this: Marie Curie Example LCP documentation.
It took years to recover from the damage done to the vaccine program by the Mail’s irresponsible reporting – and we’re still not there yet. This is why the Mail is so malevolent. And yes, I do blame the Mail in part for the children who have died of measles. Years of hardwork, research, evidence and education – all undone by Melanie Phillips and her malicious publication. And who suffers? The most vulnerable in society. There have been various articles and blogs written to defend the LCP. In all of them that I’ve read, they begin with an acknowledgement that the LCP used inappropriately has led to many of the problems reported in the press. I have not done that and this is deliberate. I am not pretending that bad practice does not occur. It does – in all areas of healthcare and all healthcare systems. I will always condemn bad practice but the idea that not using the LCP pathway properly means there’s a problem with the LCP is ridiculous. Moreover, by beginning with such acknowledgements I believe that all these articles and also the Neurberger report has conceded too much ground – allowing the LCP critics to claim victory.
Perfectly preventable problems of communication between clinicians, relatives and carers
appear to account for a substantial part of the recent controversy and unhappiness
surrounding the LCP.
I care about quality of care. Abolishing the LCP will make the Daily Mail happy. It will make the government look like they’re doing something and will almost certainly lead to less-good care. Almost without exception, the critics have said “Care of the dying should be….” and what follows that, as I said above, is in the LCP. So, in order to improve care we plan to abolish a tool that works when used properly rather than addressing the issues that lead to it not being used properly. This is insane. But then, that’s what government by tabloid press always is. My great fear is that scrapping the LCP will mean a return to ad-hoc, ‘hit and miss’ palliative care. This is a major backward step.
I do want to address a couple of specific points as well; firstly the LCP is not euthanasia by the back door. Secondly the payments for use of the LCP to hospitals have been presented as money for killing off patients and this is a gross misrepresentation.
I am against euthanasia. I think giving doctors the power the kill is a grave error – even when people are suffering horribly. Good palliative care is the very opposite of euthanasia. My professional experience – and this is especially true in children – is that we over-treat to the nth degree. We are not good in the profession in acknowledging that we cannot cure and fix everything. Most of us in medicine are ‘fixers’ by nature. A lot of what we do in medicine is nasty and invasive. I have no problem with doing nasty and invasive things to people who will benefit from them. I have major issues with doing nasty and invasive things to people when it will not help. This is about not having another round of chemotherapy when we know it won’t help. This is about not force-feeding people with artificial nutrition as their body shuts down. This is about not doing endless – and increasingly difficult  – blood tests just so we can chart the dying process. Integrating care pathways for dying patients mean we provide comfort and care for people in their last hours and days. This is vital.
The way the NHS funding works is quite complicated. Since the early 1990’s there has been a so-called purchaser-provider split and hospitals then get paid for providing specific treatments. One of the parts of this is so-called ‘quality-care indicators’  (or whatever they’re called this week). Essentially a portion of the money paid by primary care trusts / GP consortia is dependent on meeting the quality indicators. One such indicator was the use of the LCP in dying patients – x% was the threshold for payment. This actually makes a lot of sense; Let us assume that the LCP provides an excellent framework for caring for dying patients. Secondly, all patients who die in hospital are categorised as ‘expected’ or ‘unexpected.’ Death is often not a surprise – i.e. medical staff know that a patient is in the last phase of illness. The internal audit process simply reviewed what percentage of the ‘expected’ deaths were on the LCP when they died – i.e. had the medical team stopped doing invasive procedures on someone or were they still trying to cure? Nothing is absolute and some patients will die unexpectedly. Some people will have a theoretically reversible condition and it is right to keep on treating and yet we still fail – but the evidence is clear, in the majority of cases, we know someone is dying and the focus of care should change. A simple audit of whether the LCP is used of not is a good marker of this. The use of money to drive things is an inevitable consequence of how the modern NHS is structured – a perhaps cynical view that NHS trusts will only do things for financial incentives. On a more practical level, the trusts used this money to pay for specialist palliative care teams to support the use of the LCP and help the other clinical teams use it effectively. The abolition of such payments is a sensible political move but will probably also result in trusts not focusing on palliative care.
Speaking as the son of someone who died in an excellent hospice; speaking as a doctor who has worked on the wards where integrated care plans for dying patients have been used – and as someone familiar with LCP specifically I say this:

This is a very sad day for the healthcare in the UK. There is not a problem with the LCP – there is only a problem with poor practice – rarely. The number of patients who have received excellent care far outweighs the few who haven’t. Not that those don’t matter, they really do but I am sure that the bad practice was worse before we had integrated care for dying patients and will probably be worse again. What’s most annoying is when you read the comments sections or listen to radio phone-ins people talk about what they want end-of-life care to look like and it is precisely what is in the LCP. It is worrying to me that the Daily Mail wrote a couple of sensational and misleading articles and forced this change of policy. Deeply worrying. I know that a small group of people in the late 90s worked very hard to put together the research and develop the LCP. I suspect they are very demoralised. I know a lot of people work in palliative medicine and I expect they are depressed and despondent. All because a lying, evil rag – not even fit to be fish ‘n’ chip wrapping – calls itself a newspaper and constant prints streams of lies and sensation. A sad day.

Dr alienfromzog BSc(Hons) MBChB MRCS(Ed) DCH

Liverpool Care Pathway – The Daily Mail vs Care for the Dying

An inevitable philosophical question:

I’ve been occasionally contributing to Angrymob for a few years now. Kevin (aka Uponnothing) very kindly gave me a login. I write because I care about the truth. I write because I believe that the lies and agenda of the Mail are pervasive and damaging. I write because I hope to share my thoughts with enough people to help change the story – to help people realise what the media in general and the Mail in particular are doing. To provide the facts – as best I can – so that people who know the Mail is lying have the ammunition to respond.

I have no idea really if I’m achieving anything.

But the question that I’ve pondered for sometime now – especially when I read stories like this one – is what is going on within the Mail? I wonder if they believe what they write? I wonder if they just want an agenda to push? And I wonder what level of research they do before holding a particular position?

Either way, what they publish is demonstrably false and often deeply poisonous. This is why I have written about vaccines so much. The recent events in Wales with measles have shown the real-world effects of the Mail’s agenda. And this is moreover true is so many areas – immigration, race relations, the Welfare State, the NHS, our attitudes to poverty…etc. etc.

So, whilst I continue to ponder that question, which I admit does intrigue me greatly, I will try to continue to respond when I have the time. For the most part I write about healthcare issues as this is what I know about.

On the subject of poverty I invite you to read this from my personal blog. (I make no apology for the theology).

 

The Liverpool Care Pathway

I think I should begin with a confession; I am not a big fan of the LCP. I will explain that comment in a moment but first I need to alter it slightly. My feelings have changed and I have become very keen to defend it because the attack by the Mail seeks to (well maybe not, see above, will- ) damage the way we care for the dying in this country. If you want to read about the pathway itself and to understand what it is and how it works, here is a good place to start.

Simply put, the LCP was designed to consolidate best practise in the care of dying patients. In the UK we have a hospice movement to be proud of. Most people, however don’t die in hospices – most people die in hospitals. Historically (by which I mean the last 30 years) and culturally, hospitals are not conditioned to best care in the process of dying. Hospitals are places for curing. Modern medicine particularly is built on the notion of curing everything. Trust me, doctors know this to be a lie. Most of us have had enough humbling experiences with meeting death to know that we can’t cure everything and that the old saw about medicine being the art of delaying the inevitable is not without its truth. However, and this is a vital and massive ‘however’ – we are in the business of healthcare. Providing curative treatment when possible and appropriate and dignity, compassion and comfort when not.

Recognising that a patient is dying is notoriously difficult but experienced nursing and medical staff will tell you that we often know that it’s time to stop. I graduated in a time when these kind of approaches were widely accepted and beginning to be more formalised. It is about the fact that most people die relatively slowly – by which I mean hours to days  and not the seconds to minutes we see in TV and movies. Given that putting everyone in a hospice is not practicable, I think most of us will agree that providing the best kind of end-of-life care in hospital is a priority.

The principals are this: When a patient is near to death; stop unnecessary and invasive interventions (like blood tests) and treat symptoms effectively. This usually means three things; analgesia, treating anxiety and treating secretions.

The Liverpool Care Pathway codifies these in a way designed to ensure that best possible care is provided. Feeding may be stopped as in the last few days as artificial feeding does more harm than good.

So why do I not like the LCP? Well, this is not really my area of medicine and as I’ve moved into my specialty of paediatric surgery, I haven’t done any adult work for over three years now. But I was a junior doctor on the wards – and anyone who has done that job will have dozens of stories of how the LCP is a really effective way of CARING for dying patients. My objection is the same as that of a professor of palliative care I know, the LCP is a little cumbersome and involves too much paperwork and it got a lot of national attention and funding  – potentially at the expense of other areas. But is does work. Really well.

The LCP is very very good at what it does. The LCP – or something like it – is exactly what I would want for me, for anyone I love – or for any human being near to death.

 

The Daily Mail’s latest Witchhunt.

Back in November, I picked up on Melanie Phillips evil comment piece on the LCP and its effects. I do not use the word ‘evil’ lightly but something so completely dishonest that increases distress and anxiety for people who are watching loved-ones die I think is evil. If someone wants to provide me a better word, please do. Again I don’t know if Phillips is being dishonest of just not bothering to research properly – but I suspect dishonesty as she has never effectively engaged with the debate or criticism – where it has been repeatedly demonstrated where she is wrong.

And so we come to this week’s piece. The British Medical Association has been discussing the LCP and the public’s perceptions leading to this Daily Mail headline:

‘Don’t call it the Liverpool Care Pathway’: Doctors admit it sounds like a one-way ticket to the grave

  • Leading doctors have admitted that there are problems with the controversial end of life care regime
  • Involves withholding food and water from the dying patient and is meant to help them die with dignity
  • Doctors admitted some patients have been left on it for weeks without having their case reviewed
As always, the culpability lies with the medical profession and not with the Daily Mail for printing misleading articles… The implications that doctors are killing patients or that they don’t care or that somehow this is a NHS initiative to save money are ———– well, I don’t know, I’ve run out of adjectives… (insulting, misleading, offensive, damaging, dangerous, horrific, indefensible, typical for the Mail, wrong, cynical, plain dishonest) – take your pick!
Well, actually I think all of those and then some more:  The implications that doctors are killing patients or that they don’t care or that somehow this is a NHS initiative to save money are insultmisleadinglyoffensivelydamaginglydangeroushorrificlyindefensiblelytypical-for-the-Mail-wronglycynicallyplain-dishonestetc!
As always the comments section provides a worrying perspective, but this is my favourite:
comment
No my dear-UKIP Supporter the reason they don’t have this ‘uncomfortable controversy’ in the States, is I suspect, because they are blessed enough not to have the Daily Mail.
AFZ

You can’t hate anyone anymore, can you?

Since the death of Lucy Meadows Richard Littlejohn – chief amongst the guilty parties who monstered her so publicly – has written not one word in defence of his actions or in apology for his attack. Instead, he has continued to attack people just as before. For example, WPC Kelly Jones is suing a suspected burglary victim for damages after she after allegedly tripped over a kerb, hurting her left leg and right wrist during the investigation. Littlejohn wades in claiming that ‘WPC Kelly Jones is not fit to wear the same uniform as a proper copper’ and that:

WPC Jones is an especially appalling example of a breed of so-called public ‘servant’ who, to invert John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s famous phrase, asks not what she can do for her country but what her country can do for her.

And he isn’t finished there, either:

Off-duty, she’s not much of a poster girl for the police. Visibly overweight with unkempt hair, she looks less like a policewoman and more like one of those ferocious female members of the ‘travelling community’ engaged in pitched battles with Plod at illegal camps such as Dale Farm.

It’s just typical Littlejohn, attacking those who do not have any hope of responding – not exactly the brave warrior holding those in power to account that his website makes him out to be.

In between the normal personal attacks he has also found time to speculate that half of Romania already lives in the UK and that they’re a one-nation crimewave, as well his classic confusion between ‘weather’ and ‘climate’ – in which the recent cold spell is used as the final proof that global warming is ‘lunacy’ and the product of ‘bovine stupidity’. The irony.

Speaking of irony, he also spends a column ruminating on April Fool’s stories in newspapers, wondering why ‘Every year newspapers go to elaborate lengths to spoof their readers on April Fools’ Day’ when ‘Looking at the papers, it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish fact from fantasy’. One of the few slithers of truth in a Richard Littlejohn column is, of course, entirely unintentional – and rather amusing considering he’s been responsible for some fine work of fiction down the years being passed on as fact. Remember, for example, when he claimed that ‘Haringey [council] hired someone to give hopscotch lessons to Asian women’. Turns out, no-one could ever find any evidence for this, but Fullfact discovered that ‘it later transpired that the public money had been given to the Hopscotch Asian Women’s Centre, a well-respected voluntary organisation that deals with domestic violence, language and integration issues in Camden, which neighbours Haringey’.

Littlejohn’s latest column decides to bemoan the fact that ‘now it’s a crime to hate the Sex Pistols’, which is actually Littlejohn commenting on the fact that:

[The Greater Manchester Police are] becoming the first force to extend ‘hate crime’ status to those with ‘alternative sub-culture identity’. In future, these groups will be granted the same special treatment as racial, religious, gender identity, disabled and sexual minorities.

Which seems fair enough, presumably because such attacks rely on how someone looks or what they are perceived to be – like racist or homophobic attacks. As usual, whenever Richard Littlejohn talks about someone who looks a bit different he invokes his ‘friend’ ‘Black Mike’ who ‘always jokes when he spots a Sid Vicious lookalike gobbing his way down the High Street: ‘Gi’ us a stick and I’ll kill it.’’

Which, presumably, is the sort of response that has made the GMP think that such hate crimes need to be formally dealt with as such. So, Littlejohn unintentially undermines his own argument. However, worse is to come because, of course, Littlejohn’s never really sure about what he has written in the past – and God knows his readership isn’t intelligent enough to call him up on it. You see, he decides to talk about the ‘tragic death of 20-year-old Sophie Lancaster, who was attacked along with her boyfriend in a park in Bacup, Lancs, by a mob who took exception to her goth clothing and stark make-up’.

The Daily Mail reported on the trial of the attackers in 2008, noting that:

A gap year student was kicked and stamped to death and her boyfriend left fighting for his life by a gang of drunken teenagers just because they were dressed as Goths, a court heard yesterday.

Just two months before this trial Richard Littlejohn had written about another couple who dress and act differently:

Much hilarity at the tale of the woman who describes herself as a “human pet” and her keeper, thrown off a bus in Yorkshire for being weird.

Tasha Maltby – runaway winner of this week’s Here We Go Looby Lou award – goes round the streets of Dewsbury on a dog lead.

Naturally, ever the serial recycler, Littlejohn invokes his friend:

My Geordie mate, Black Mike, would take one look at her in her absurd “Goth” outfit and remark: “Gi’ us a stick and I’ll kill it.”

Which, given this is pretty much what happened to Sophie Lancaster, Richard Littlejohn looks even nastier than he normally does. He really doesn’t understand what a hate crime is, even when he writes down an example:

When her owner – er, fiancé – Addams Family lookalike Dani Graves tried to take her on to a bus, the driver stopped them, saying: “We don’t let freaks and dogs like you on.”

And what did this couple have the gall to do? Well:

The couple complained that it was a “hate crime”.

Presumably, judging someone for what they wear / how they behave is just as bad as judging someone based on their skin colour or nationality. Tutting inside your own head about what someone is wearing is one thing, calling them ‘freaks and dogs’ and chucking them off of a bus is another. You could say that’s crossing the line between merely thinking something is a little odd to committing a hate crime. It’s a barrier most of the population don’t seem to have an issue with, so what Littlejohn’s issue with hate crimes is, I don’t know.

Anyway, back in 2008 he continued:

Where it really ceases to be funny is when we learn that the couple live in a council house, on benefits, spend all day in the pub and plan to start a family – maybe that should be a litter – which we will be expected to pay for.

Why should the taxpayer support their soppy, self-indulgent “lifestyle” – let alone pay them to bring puppies into the world?

His pithy conclusion?

They should be neutered

It therefore bus me somewhat that years later Littlejohn dares to talk in respectful tones about the death of Sophie Lancaster – especially when she is used solely as his normal ‘isn’t is tragic… BUT’ device.

Hate crime exists, it needs to be recognised and treated as such. Ironically, hacks like Littlejohn who regularly flirt (being overly generous to him) with the language of hate crime and invoke ‘friends’ like ‘Black Mike’ actually make it more likely that other police forces follow suit.

And, of course, Littlejohn’s premise that it is now illegal to ‘hate’ things / people is completely stupid. He is evidence enough that hating people is very much legal – and indeed can be very rewarding when you hate professionally for a newspaper. I think what the police are trying to stop is when hate crime is directed at individuals in a threatening way or when people are physically assaulted, which I think most people agree is fair enough (indeed, arguing the opposite seems very anti-social – supporting my whole ‘buying the Daily Mail is an anti-social act’ idea).

Of course, Littlejohn could be offering up a genuine complaint, best summarised by paraphrasing Stewart Lee: ‘You can’t even write racist smears on people’s houses in feces anymore, it’s political correctness gone mad!’.


PS. If you like this blog post, spending a couple of seconds clicking the videos on the right ensures I get paid around 1/100,000,000 of what Richard Littlejohn earns for shitting out two columns a week. Thanking you kindly.

The Daily Hate

Fresh from one of the vilest, most dishonest and openly hateful front pages in recent times the Daily Mail is continuing its attack on those receiving benefits, this time with a poll. It warns its readers that such a poll may be ‘hijacked by the Left’ (just in case the results do not go in their favour) and posts several articles around the main subject that argues that the ‘Left’ is once again trying to censor debate:

mail-hate

It always amuses me when so much of the political ‘debate’ (it so often does not deserve the term) is set by a powerful press that is – by quite some majority – firmly on the right that they still claim to be some kind of persecuted minority. It is an especially stupid argument to make when the Right-wing press just happen to be completely in agreement with the policies of the party in power. The Daily Mail is a huge believer in the need to destroy the welfare state and is therefore doing all that it can to support the coalition in its very successful attempt to do so. The newspaper’s role is to lay the ground for acceptance of change, to make its readers hate those in receipt of benefits irrespective of the reality of the situation, once this is done, the changes don’t receive grudging acceptance – or simply a lack of resistance – but instead the baying masses cheer on the result; after all, the scroungers don’t deserve a penny.

This tired, fallacious argument has been repeatedly rebuffed with statistics to little effect because the exceptional cases override statistics in our irrational minds – emotion beats logic, as newspaper editors well know. Therefore the occasional story of the convicted benefit cheat easily outweighs the millions receiving benefits legitimately. The occasional story of the ‘feckless’ family that has never worked but has a widescreen TV and a big house, outweighs the thousands of people who receive benefits to supplement their poorly paid jobs (because the market that we are supposed to so slovenly obey, doesn’t actually pay a huge amount of workers a living wage and the government recognises this, subsidising not so much the poor, but the businesses that employ them at such a low wage).

It hardly needs stating that Mick Philpott is the product of many things, but the welfare state is not one of them. As many people have pointed out on Twitter, the same logic would place the NHS squarely to blame for Harold Shipman’s killing spree. It’s utterly nonsensical, but here it is, one of the most popular newspapers in Britain and one of the most visited websites on Earth are not just making the link, but repeatedly beating their ignorant and fearful readership around the face with it until they submit to the logic that the benefits system is actually murdering children and must be stopped.

Child benefit is just £20.30 a week for the eldest or only child and £13.40 a week for each additional child. Having a small army of children is a route to poverty, not prosperity – although no doubt a senior Tory will pop up claiming they could easily feed, clothe & educate a child for £20.30 / £13.40 a week and still keep Mick Phillpott waste deep in cigarettes and alcohol.

This kind of nonsensical hate campaign supports a point I made recently, that buying the Daily Mail or supporting it in any way is essentially an antisocial act. Imagine someone living in a block of flats, pumping out rave music 24 hours a day at a 1000DB, arguing that this person is making a worthwhile contribution to the music scene is the same as arguing that the Daily Mail is contributing anything of value to social or political debate. It also reinforces my point that we really should start to formally separate ‘news’ from ‘propaganda’ and start labeling newspapers more accurately as ‘comment sheets’. The bias exhibited by the Daily Mail on the topic of benefits is about as extreme as it gets, they only run negative stories, they never publish the full statistics on the matter (i.e. the huge amounts of unclaimed benefits, the true rate of benefit fraud etc) – they are entirely blinkered, for political reasons, on the subject. Yet they are still allowed to call themselves a ‘newspaper’, even though they rarely print news without a hugely political slant which means so much of their content is hugely distorted.

Buying the Daily Mail is an antisocial act in the same way that attending a local council meeting and proceeding to do nothing but throw faeces at everyone present is. That is all the Daily Mail and its ilk do, they throw shit at everyone they want to destroy whilst pretending that they’re actually trying to make a serious effort to engage in ‘debate’. Just remember the Phillpott front pages, editorials and columns the next time Paul Dacre appeals to the noblest traditions of journalism to stave off much needed regulation. He might know what noble journalism is, but he’s very rarely practised it.


PS. If you like this blog post, spending a couple of seconds clicking the videos on the right ensures I get paid around 1/100,000,000 of what Richard Littlejohn earns for shitting out two columns a week. Thanking you kindly.

Vile Product

I genuinely didn’t think it was possible for me to have more contempt for the Mail. It turns out I was completely and utterly wrong:

20130403_073440

I think that pretty much everyone who’s heard this story of the Philpot family will have been deeply saddened and upset. It is a very bizzare tale of a couple conspiring to set alight their own home and implicate someone else. Ultimately, six children lost their lives in this fire. The Philpots will be sentenced today for manslaughter.

Of course you can trust the Mail to provide a different angle.  There is much to be said about this story but according to those wise social commentators at DM it’s emblematic of the Welfare Culture of Britain. The implication is clear, anyone on benefits may be just like them.

This leaves me with a question, which is more revolting; implying that all benefit claimants are like them or using the death of six children to further an agenda?

I am really not sure, but I am astounded, once again by the vileness of the Daily Mail.

AFZ

The Talented Mr Littlejohn

We didn’t need a 2,000 page report by Leveson to demonstrate that something is rotten in the state of journalism, we just need to remind ourselves of the glittering career of Richard Littlejohn.

Here is a man who has worked in journalism since 1971 and in his most recent form – twice-weekly ‘satirical’ columns – has been handsomely paid by both the Sun and the Daily Mail (rumour from a few years back put his annual salary at £800,000). Along the way he has been named Fleet Street’s Columnist of the Year and he was also given a place in the inaugural Newspaper Hall of Fame as one of the most influential journalists of the past 40 years. Even this year Richard Littlejohn was runner-up (‘highly commended’) for the columnist of the year award in the 2012 UK Press Awards.

Only an industry which has no standards, no concern for facts and no qualms about regularly printing hateful spite aimed at the weakest in society would enable Richard Littlejohn to become one of its leading lights.

Littlejohn is infamous for writing unpleasant things and his column on Lucy Meadows was nothing out of the ordinary. Indeed, it was exactly the kind of column that Paul Dacre pays him so handsomely to write (and we must ultimately blame the editor, not the writer for what is deemed fit to publish). Lucy Meadows was the perfect victim for a Richard Littlejohn attack job. She wasn’t rich, powerful or influential; she was vulnerable, had no voice and was most importantly different. Whilst Richard Littlejohn’s surreal personal website insists that he is some kind of crusader taking on the rich and powerful, the evidence of column after column attacking the disenfranchised suggests that this is the one thing he doesn’t actually do.

He famously decided to attack the five female victims of a serial killer, labelling them as ‘disgusting, drug-addled street whores’ who were ‘in the scheme of things… no great loss’ because it wasn’t as if they were  ‘going to discover a cure for cancer or embark on missionary work in Darfur’.  He commented on the Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 people died:

Does anyone really give a monkey’s about what happens in Rwanda? If the Mbongo tribe wants to wipe out the Mbingo tribe then as far as I am concerned that is entirely a matter for them.

When Japan suffered a Tsunami in which over 19,000 people died Richard Littlejohn wrote that:

the Japanese people have a distinct culture of their own, which is entirely alien to our own values. They are militantly racist and in the past have been capable of great cruelty.

And went on to explain that whilst you shouldn’t blame current generations for the sins of the past, he does exactly that by explaining why some WWII veterans wouldn’t be joining in the minute’s silence for Japan because of Japenese cruelty during the war (77.4% of Japan’s population were not even born until after the end of WWII). Indeed, Richard Littlejohn – never a model of consistency, even had the gall to write: ‘But why Japan and not, say, those massacred in Rwanda or starved to death by Mugabe in Zimbabwe?’. Obviously, we’ve all read his real thoughts on the 800,000 killed in Rwanda, it’s just that Littlejohn hates so many nameless foreigners that he can’t keep up with which genocides he has in the past written derogatory comments about.

Richard Littlejohn is well known for his need to dehumanise his victims – indeed, most newspapers use this technique to make the targets of their hate easier to insult; if you take away a person’s humanity, you can write what you like about them with impunity. He’s also well known for his staggering laziness, rehashing the same few columns over and over again and failing to engage in even the most cursory research to avoid making simple mistakes or repeating the same tired old media myths (a lack of research is the kind way of viewing this, it could be he knows the truth, but just does not care).

He is, in short, terrible at being a journalist.

And this is what Leveson failed to really address, the fundamental problem that what falls under the general label of journalism because it appears in a newspaper is often the antithesis of the common understanding of what journalism should be. What Littlejohn et al clearly demonstrate is that the issue is best dealt with by Trading Standards – they need to determine what it is acceptable to label as a ‘newspaper’. If a newspaper should primarily be concerned with a factual reporting of general interest news items, then the label should not apply to the Daily Mail and it’s tabloid brethren. Perhaps we need to start from scratch and have a formal system that regulates news and separates it from comment – we need to recognise that most of our newspapers are little more than propaganda sheets published solely in the interest of wealthy owners.

Above all, we need to recognise that papers like the Daily Mail exist because their brand of hatred is popular and people buy it. The same goes for Littlejohn, he has – and continues to have – a glittering career because editors see value in writing populist myths as fact and in attacking the disenfranchised. All I ever wanted from Leveson was for him to come up with a regulatory system that leveled the playing field by ensuring that newspapers have to stick to the facts. I don’t mind newspapers having an opinion, but I do object when the evidence put forward to support their opinion is a vast tissue of lies.

It seems to me that the best way to detoxify newspapers is to create a system in which they are punished, substantially, for lying to their readers. Would the tabloid press really be as popular as they are if they couldn’t rely on wheeling out the same old populist myths to feed the flames of anger in their readership? Would Littlejohn have carved out any kind of career as a columnist if he couldn’t rely on telling lies to whip up anger and hatred?

The case of Lucy Meadows is very sad and anger should be rightfully directed at the Daily Mail and its editor, Paul Dacre, along with Richard Littlejohn for writing the piece. It should also be directed at the other newspapers who sent photograpers and journalists to harass Lucy Meadows and the people around her. However, it should also be directed at the people buying these newspapers – buying the Daily Mail et al is an anti-social act and should be looked upon as such by any decent citizen.

The only way we can change the press we get, is to change the press we buy.

The Mail Online’s idea of a ‘New Craze’

There are lots of things that I have never heard of. The Mail Online’s latest warning is about one of them: the ‘salt and ice challenge’. The Mail Online has lifted a report from the Huffington Post (which they credit) about how some teenagers in America (one doctor in Detroit – population over 700,000 – had seen 3-4 cases in the past 6 months) have been trying this challenge and causing themselves various levels of skin burns. I can’t help but think that if the Mail had really wanted to prevent this dangerous challenge they’d probably do the responsible thing and not report on it (complete with several photos of effects and a video showing how the challenge is performed). Let’s not forget that the Mail website is now one of the most visited websites on the planet and can therefore presumably spread a ‘craze’ like few others.

I can’t help but think that for the sake of a few more web hits the Mail website has just given more people a dangerous activity that they’d probably never have heard about otherwise. The Internet is full of crazy stuff and I have no objections to this, but what annoys me is organisations like Mail Online – which pretend to be above the trivialities of the Internet – producing such content and dressing it up as journalism and labeling the writer a ‘reporter’. One of the aspects that Leveson didn’t address what was does the label ‘newspaper’ or ‘journalism’ actually mean? Should it only refer to an organisation that seeks to deliver news in a reliable, factual and unbiased way; or is it fine for anyone to write anything with any bias or factual inaccuracies and label it journalism just as long as they work for one of the established newspapers or their various online spin-offs?

The problem with real journalism is that no-one wants it, or at least that no-one wants to pay for it. We therefore end up with newspapers that only ever chase readers, rather than actual news. What we end up with is the exact thing that socially conservative newspapers like the Daily Mail – on the surface at least – supposedly rail against: the systematic dumbing-down of ‘news’ until newspapers become little more than vehicles for celebrity PR men to create exposure and wealth for those who have some tenuous relationship with fame. We get Mail Online, one of the most soul-destroyingly popular websites on earth.

The Mail website is a cesspit of celebrity drivel, freakshow exposures of anything deemed outside the narrow norms of conservative Western culture and stories taken from across the website which are not news in any traditional sense. Again, I don’t mind that such websites exist – I love the randomness of the Internet – but for the sake of convincing me that humanity has some hope, please stop calling this journalism.

Something Positive About The Daily Mail

Now, bear with me!

On Facebook there is an identity referred to as “The Medical Registrar” this is a small number of doctors who post pithy and interesting comments about medicine. Sharp humour is the usual modus operandi. Along with the occasional rant.

A couple of weeks ago they posted on the drivel that Melanie Phillips constructed to assault the Liverpool Care Pathway. If you’re not familiar with the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), it has been around for a few years now and is a consolidation of best practice in patients who are dying. This is important because whilst we have an unbelievably excellent hospice service in this country, most people who die in the UK, die in hospital. In part because there are not enough hospice beds. In part because it is not always possible to transfer people in a timely manner.

If you want to read Melanie Phillips’ nonsense you can find it here. Subtle as always.

However, this post by the Medical Registrar last week made me smile a lot:

I do think that ‘publicity seeking hack’ is spot on, as indeed is ‘fish and chip wrapper.’

Now, I really like fish and chips, so I have to admit that The Daily Mail makes very good wrapping and to be honest, I can think of no better use for it.

AFZ

Internet Trolling, Twitter and the Daily Mail

The Daily Mail has a long history of attacking Twitter users as sad loners trading insults anonymously with each other and directing their ire at celebrity targets en masse when it suits them – as if Twitter is one giant hive mind. This then seems to contradict with the other articles that the Daily Mail runs, that Twitter is also a site that allows self-important liberals to get all offended all the time and lead ‘campaigns’ against things (like certain Daily Mail articles / writers).

Either way, the Daily Mail enjoys trawling Twitter for easy copy and to generate page hits to the now all-consuming Mail Online website (when it comes to Internet trolling the statistics don’t lie: the Daily Mail is king). There have been a couple of articles that have caught my attention recently. Firstly, the Mail writes some standard guff about how Twitter trolls have been targeting Carol Vorderman – they ‘trade vile insults about her looks‘. Fair enough, but they should perhaps pay more attention to Vorderman’s words:

Speaking to the Mail, Miss Vorderman added she does not let online bullies affect her self-esteem. But she said Twitter abuse should be monitored to protect more vulnerable victims.

Yes, protect vulnerable victims from Internet abuse, I think we can all agree that insulting someone who can fight back is one thing, whilst insulting vulnerable people is generally considered at the very least unsporting. Step forward Daily Mail Reporter and the recent article on Emily Lloyd posted on the Mail Online website. This article is a particularly nasty example of the ‘look at this person, they were beautiful 20 years ago, BUT JUST LOOK AT THE STATE OF THEM NOW!!!’ articles that the Daily Mail delights in (both online and in print). What you need is a little background – which, amazingly in the context of the article, the Mail Online gives:

In 2009 Emily revealed she had been suffering from crippling chronic insomnia and admitted this led to her having more time to analyse her situation during long nights in her bed dwelling on a career that might have been.

For Emily has suffered from mental illness on and off for 20 years and there have been various diagnoses, among them mild schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and attention deficit disorder.

Emily Lloyd is the sort of vulnerable victim that deserves protection from Internet trolling, yet the Daily Mail is happy to print this kind of article (which is now edited, the original having been airbrushed from history as usual by Mail Online). What the Daily Mail never acknowledges is that most Twitter users spray their hate to a handful of followers and occasionally direct it at a celeb who might have thousands of mentions a day; this is a world away from having the platform of being one of the world’s busiest websites and printing trolling articles aimed at vulnerable individuals.

It isn’t the first time Emily Lloyd has come under fire from newspapers playing the ‘look at what celeb X wore to the shops!’ game, and the Mail article acknowledges this as well;

Trademark wit: Emily may not look on form, but three years ago she laughed off critics of a similar photo by asking what attire might have been appropriate – a ball gown and tiara?

Yet, elsewhere in the article: ‘She wore a mismatched outfit as she walked her dog, carrying a few items from a local shop.’

Even though they acknowledge the stupidity of the main thrust of the article, they go ahead and publish it anyway (You can read more about the Emily Lloyd article on the Rethink Mental Illness website).

Elsewhere Amanda Platell attacks Twitter users in her weekly column of increasingly confused and desperate bitterness:

However many loyal fans a celebrity has on Twitter, it has become the underground playground for twisted inadequates who revel in others’ misfortune.

Be it Stephen Fry or Rebecca Adlington, no one is spared their malign attacks.

Twitter allows trolls, under the cloak of assumed identities, to make comments that they would not dare say even to their worst enemy in the pub. Comments that can be fired off in seconds without thought, decency or shame.

And as soon as one troll attacks, others pile in, validated and encouraged in their bravado by each other’s odious spite. The language of hatred becomes a badge of honour for these subterranean internet-obsessed losers.

This from someone employed as a professional troll, working for the most famously hateful newspaper / website in the world. Especially look at the accusation that Twitter users hide ‘under the cloak of assumed identities’ to make comments they don’t want to take responsibility for, isn’t that exactly the same as all the hateful Mail Online articles attributed only to the Daily Mail Reporter?

Not to mention that Platell exists purely to spread hate – in fact, she’s so good at her job that the Mail have even had to issue apologies for her articles in the past:

A column by Amanda Platell on 17 September 2011 referred to Sheryl Gascoigne as a ‘gold digger’ and as ‘sleazy and degrading company’ for the other participants in the Leveson Inquiry. We now accept that these allegations are entirely unfounded and went beyond fair comment. We have sincerely apologised to Ms Gascoigne in court for the distress caused and have agreed to pay her substantial damages and costs.

You know you’re spreading some hate when even the ‘only-apologise-when-forced-to-in-a-court-of-law-whilst-paying-damages’ Daily Mail feels that a columnist has gone ‘beyond fair comment’.

Platell does reserve a special hatred for Twitter (maybe it’s that Twitter hate is seen as competition) in the past she has dismissed Twitter as ‘the domain of the inane, the insane and the desperate’ whilst declaring:

In a civilised democracy, the idiots who use Twitter should be banned from voting altogether.

At least Twitter trolls do it for the love of hate, rather than the money.