Odd comments on standard Mail Hitler article

The Daily Mail likes stories about Hitler and even after over 60 years of revelations regarding the dead dictator it always seems like their is fresh information to raise the interest of the newspaper that quite like fascism back in the day (and, arguably, still does). The story is of no consequence but the moderated comments are interesting in what comments are positively rated and which negatively:

How can it be that a comment stating that the reader dislikes Nazis and thought that what they did was bad get 22 negative ratings? How can comments suggesting that the history we are taught regarding Nazi Germany and Hitler is wrong, attract 251 and 98 positive ratings?

The persecution of Muslims by the British Media is real, and endorsed by millions

Unitas Communications has today published the report that it has submitted to the Leveson inquiry entitled: “Race and Reform
: Islam and Muslims in the British Media.” Overall, the report finds that:

a persistence of anti­‐Muslim trends in British Media reporting on issues relating to Islam and Muslims has directly contributed to inaccurate stereotypes and misconceptions about British Muslims in wider British society, and thus to an increasingly hostile climate that has enabled a escalation of anti-Muslim hate crimes over the last decade.

The report has some interesting survey findings detailing the sheer scale of negative reporting towards Muslims, Islam and the repeated assertion that British Muslims are ‘extremists’ and a ‘threat’ to the UK. The report also details the impact that such reporting has had, making non-Muslim British citizens increasingly believe the narrative being spun by an influential media – and the report does comment on the ability for tabloid newspapers to set the agenda and tone of news coverage in Britain. The figures are stark:

In 2010, 75 per cent of non‐Muslims now believe Islam is negative for Britain and that Muslims do not engage positively in society. 63 per cent do not disagree that “Muslims are terrorists”, and 94 per cent agree that “Islam oppresses women.”

The report makes several recommendations – some of which address the issues that this blog and others have repeatedly highlighted. For example, their first recommendation:

A key problem that has been identified with the PCC is that the code of conduct applies only to individuals who have been reported about inaccurately, with a resulting inability to launch third party complaints. Therefore the code of conduct must be amended to address discrimination against groups through false and inaccurate reporting, rather than just individuals.

This is something that is badly needed, and something that seems so obvious. It is has been frustrating over the years to blog about purposefully inaccurate reporting targeted at groups, knowing that the PCC (powerless as it is / was to provide effective sanctions) couldn’t even pass comment on one of the most popular and insidious hobbies of the press.

There seems to me to be an concerted effort in Western societies to solidify the misguided belief that the systematic targeting of a race or group of people stopped when Hitler shot himself in a bunker in Berlin. Our obsession with Nazism stems from the belief that this was something extraordinary, unique and never to be seen again. World War II has taken on some kind of mythic status in which the good civilisation – and more worryingly, America, a nation that had all but wiped out the indigenous population of the land they claimed as their own and whilst fighting the horrors of Nazi Germany still retained its right to segregate its black population – won and evil was defeated, for the final time (after all, the war was labelled as a sequel).

Although nations swore never to stand idly by whilst millions were persecuted by the apparatus of the state or its population, it remains a fact that genocide didn’t stop with the death of Hitler. We have seen plenty of genocide since then – in Europe as well as beyond – but we now refer to it dishonestly as ‘ethnic cleansing’ so as to avoid the legal obligation (drawn up after WWII to prevent such horrors ever happening again) to do anything about it.

My point is that we need to move on from this belief that we’re all decent folk because our ancestors played a part in defeating Hitler, this doesn’t make us his antithesis, and it doesn’t prevent our institutions from targeting groups through the systematic use of propaganda. It seems to me that we use WWII as some kind of persecution benchmark, which means that unless British Muslims are being rounded up and sent by train to deathcamps then they’re not really being persecuted. It leads to a society in which Right-Wing newspapers can publish an wilfully inaccurate article aimed to demonise Muslims as an homogenous group, whilst offering a free DVD about Britain’s glorious role in defeating Hitler who demonised Jews as an homogenous group.

We need to start making more of these worrying incongruities, because they really matter.

The report makes interesting reading and it reminds me of this strange Internet phenomenon where apparently any argument is automatically lost if any parallel is drawn between the point under discussion and Nazi Germany. This is, again, trying to isolate Nazi Germany as exceptional, something that captures our imaginations so vividly because it seems to us a kind of fantasy world in which a civilised country abandons any kind of moral code and commits state-led genocide. I just think this kind of attitude – even if it is intended to be flippant and aimed at people whose first response to any argument is to mention Hitler and consider the discussion over – is dangerous because it makes us complacent. It makes it sound as if we are absolutely certain that we would never commit those acts and therefore any comparison of events in our society to events in Nazi Germany is inherently laughable and should immediately result in that person being labelled as so wrong they are do not even require refuting.

I think there are a great deal of parallels that can be drawn between the Nazi persecution of Jews and the British press’ treatment of Muslims. When anyone is taught about propaganda they are, again, taken back to WWII with an analysis of Nazi propaganda, as if propaganda began and ended in Nazi Germany. In truth, you could easily study the increasingly negative and hysterical propaganda aimed at British Muslims and gain just as clear an understanding of the evils of propaganda in a civilised state as you would by looking at Nazi propaganda.

Just because the end result is unlikely to be the same, doesn’t mean we don’t need to start asking serious questions about the kind of press that the citizens of the UK fund with their buying choices. Not to mention a regulatory system that doesn’t even concern itself with the possibility that newspapers could target groups with dishonest reporting in order to demonise them.

It’s been a while

Well, it’s been a while. After trying to push The New Journalist forward (and failing miserably) and messing around with other projects with mixed results I have reached the point where I seem to have the time to write, but not necessarily the motivation.

This is strange, given that the Leveson inquiry has really provided a wealth of issues to get worked up about with regards to the conduct of the media these last few years (and has basically validated my observations about the conduct of certain newspapers since I started blogging about them). I think the problem is that I have no faith in the outcome of the inquiry, or in humanity in general. Since I’ve been away it seems that it has become much clearer just how corrupt our society is. Our politicians still hunt down the poor and disenfranchised whilst simultaneously lining their own class with the wealth of the state. The corporate body goes on poisoning the world, destroying its resources and doing its best to make us fatter, dumber and more subservient to meaningless consumerism (whilst paying little tax and remaining unaccountable to the society it feeds off of). The banks stride from one Titanic act of fraud to another, only to be kept afloat by a collection of world governments who seem to think that if the banks are endlessly handed more money to pass on (at a decent %) that somehow society will kickstart itself eventually and rejoin the road the doom it was speedily heading down before the banks realised a lot of money they handed out would never be seen again.

The point is that everything is so fundamentally wrong that writing about any issue without using that realisation as the starting point seems a little futile. We cannot keep expanding the human race and consumption indefinitely, this isn’t conjecture, it’s a fact: we live in a finite world. Yet everything that is being done around the planet today is aimed at doing just that. All we are told as citizens is that at some point growth will come back and we’ll start increasing our consumption again and make shit and buy shit that we don’t need and everything will be fab. But it won’t be.

Growth in consumption is probably the worst measure of a successful society, yet GDP seems to be the only measure governments want to pursue. When corporations increase consumption, GDP grows and we’re told the economy is doing well, that we should all feel prosperous. The main problem with this is that such growth is always unsustainable because the wealth is never spread out, and it sure as hell doesn’t trickle down, instead it flows upward, leaving a few billionaires at the top, a few more millionaires doing favours for the billionaires and a wedge doing OK. The rest of the planet merely subsists in abject poverty. This, of course, can be masked (for a while) by banks issuing credit so we can all have a slice of the good life until it becomes clear that most people can’t even afford credit and it all comes tumbling down.

In my mind I have a thousand things that I want to write, but they are all jumbled and too big to pin down into a blog post or any other format. Too many things are soiled by an uncontrollable sense of despair that no matter how clear it becomes that our world society is a corrupt and hollow shell serving a tiny elite at the expense of the overwhelming majority, we’ll all still be too distracted by the TV or celebrities or anything that just is not important to actually stand up and do something.

What frustrates me is that the events of the last few years are not a series of isolated incidents (or bad apples) but actually form a coherent narrative about reality that we should all want to understand and challenge. In fact, it’s more than that: we need – for the sake of all of our futures – to understand and challenge it.

I just don’t have any belief that we will.

I didn’t know what I sat down to write when I created this blog post. It just happened and is probably largely cathartic. It isn’t some kind of personal manifesto (and it certainly didn’t set out to be), it hasn’t been months in the writing (about 20 minutes, as you can no doubt tell), it’s merely the frustrations that I may as well put out there to see if I’m alone or not in having them.

In short: I want to make a positive difference to the world, that was why I started this blog a long time ago now, and I haven’t given up; I’m just really struggling to find the words or hope these days.

For the Daily Mail Sorry really seems to be the hardest word

The Daily Mail today published a correction to an article published on 12 December 2011:

AN ARTICLE on 12 December 2011 suggested that Ned RocknRoll was still married to his wife Eliza when he met Kate Winslet. In fact, the marriage had already ended in divorce. We apologise for any contrary impression given.

The Daily Mail apologises for the ‘suggestion’ or ‘impression’ that Ned RocknRoll was still married to his wife when he met Kate Winslet. When you look at the original article this looks like a very slyly-worded apology indeed:

[After Kate Winslet started dating him] Abel Smith, who eccentrically changed his name by deed poll some years ago to Ned RocknRoll, subsequently informed his wife, Eliza Pearson, 23, the sweet-natured daughter of multi-millionaire Viscount Cowdray, that he had fallen for the Titantic star. While Eliza took it on the chin and decided to divorce him, Louis is still struggling with what happened.

The Daily Mail’s apology, therefore, seriously implies that the original article merely ‘suggested’ or gave the ‘impression’ that the couple were still together at the time. What it actually does is clearly state that after meeting Kate Winslet he ‘subsequently informed his wife’ who ‘took it on the chin and decided to divorce him’.

This half-hearted, weasel-worded ‘apology’ is made by the Daily Mail in the week in which its Editor-in-chief Paul Dacre has had to appear twice before the Leveson inquiry. Dacre was – as ever – bullish about press standards – especially when concerning his beloved Daily Mail – and he argued that press standards had improved greatly in recent years (how bad must it have been before?) and that statutory regulation was not needed.

Since the inquiry started Paul Dacre has taken great pleasure in repeating that the Daily Mail has taken the trouble to offer prompt apologies / corrections on page 2 of its print edition.

However, the reality is that apologies are not prompt or sincere and don’t even attempt to admit or acknowledge the true gravity of the original error. They are in many ways absolutely representative of the culture, attitude and ethics that pervades a press that like a stubborn and naughty child isn’t used – or even prepared – to say sorry properly.

‘Could Spider-Man become a reality?’ asks Mail Online

For some reason the Mail Online editor has filed this article under ‘Science’: ‘Could Spider-Man become a reality? Bizarre white cobweb found on nuclear waste that could have come from a ‘mutant’ spider’.

The article – remember Dacre today telling the Leveson inquiry that the Mail employs some of the finest journalists around – reports that:

In a freakish echo of the Spider-Man comic strip, workers at a U.S nuclear waste facility discovered the growth on uranium last month.

In what way is that ‘a freakish echo of the Spider-Man comic strip’? Sadly, it gets worse. First of all, the Mail explains what has been discovered:

Experts from Savannah River National Laboratory collected a small sample of the mystery material to run tests.

A report filed by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board – a federal oversight panel – concluded: ‘The growth, which resembles a spider web, has yet to be characterised, but may be biological in nature.’

The report said the initial sample of the growth was too small to characterise, and that ‘further evaluation still needs to be completed’.

Then the Mail steps back into childish fantasy:

he bizarre growth will stoke fears that nuclear fuel can cause Frankenstein-style mutations.

It echoes the plot of Spider-Man, where Peter Parker becomes a superhero after being bitten by a mutant spider at a nuclear waste laboratory.

Whilst a image caption claims:

Web of intrigue: The discovery means mutant spiders, like the one that bit Peter Parker, could become a reality.

And to think that Paul Dacre genuinely believes his newspaper group does serious, decent journalism and is prepared to argue his case under oath.

The New Journalist

Just a short message to let you all know that I’m not sure how much longer this blog will be continued.

As you know I have started The New Journalist and it is taking up quite a lot of my time and I’m not sure whether I should post new content to that site or this one.

In the meantime do please visit The New Journalist website, follow the project on Twitter and do consider contributing to the project – whether it be as a writer or reader – and please feel free to post comments on articles as writers should engage with you.

Many thanks.

PS. New posts will still be appearing below this one.

Met Office responds to Mail on Sunday article

Following on from my last blog post about David Rose from the Mail on Sunday telling us to forget about global warming I will provide the full statement from the Met Office that was given to Rose before the article was published (he just chose to ignore it):

A spokesman for the Met Office said: “The ten year projection remains groundbreaking science. The complete period for the original projection is not over yet and these projections are regularly updated to take account of the most recent data.

“The projections are probabilistic in nature, and no individual forecast should be taken in isolation. Instead, several decades of data will be needed to assess the robustness of the projections.

“However, what is absolutely clear is that we have continued to see a trend of warming, with the decade of 2000-2009 being clearly the warmest in the instrumental record going back to 1850. Depending on which temperature records you use, 2010 was the warmest year on record for NOAA NCDC and NASA GISS, and the second warmest on record in HadCRUT3.”

Furthermore, the Met Office were able to confirm that:

Despite the Met Office having spoken to David Rose ahead of the publication of the story, he has chosen to not fully include the answers we gave him to questions around decadal projections produced by the Met Office or his belief that we have seen no warming since 1997.

As well as clarifying Rose’s assertions about the possible impact of the Sun on global temperatures (Rose suggested reduced Sun activity was about to drag us into an ice age):

Furthermore despite criticism of a paper published by the Met Office he chose not to ask us to respond to his misconceptions. The study in question, supported by many others, provides an insight into the sensitivity of our climate to changes in the output of the sun.

It confirmed that although solar output is likely to reduce over the next 90 years this will not substantially delay expected increases in global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases. The study found that the expected decrease in solar activity would only most likely cause a reduction in global temperatures of 0.08 °C. This compares to an expected warming of about 2.5 °C over the same period due to greenhouse gases (according to the IPCC’s B2 scenario for greenhouse gas emissions that does not involve efforts to mitigate emissions).

Just another example of a journalist having the facts to hands, but choosing to ignore them in order to pursue an editorial agenda.

Mail on Sunday encourages us to ‘forget global warming’

Apparently the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit have released some figures that will prove ‘an inconvenient challenge’ for the ‘supposed “consensus” on man-made global warming’. Naturally, the Mail on Sunday online article provides not one link to what it is they are actually talking about (seriously, the busiest ‘news’ website in the world cannot even use simple Internet etiquette) but the writer – David Rose – seems convinced that this data completely changes every piece of evidence ever collated to support the greenhouse model of global warming.

Those of you with a good memory might remember that the Daily Mail have covered the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit before when hackers targeted the unit and released internal emails supposedly showing that the unit had been massaging figures to maintain the illusion that global warming was real. Now it seems that their figures are to be trusted because they happen to coincide with the newspaper’s editorial belief that global warming is not real.

However, before this can be established we need to know exactly what data has been released by the CRU and how the Mail on Sunday has arrived at its conclusions. Sadly, thanks to the newspaper’s complete lack of transparency we can only hazard a guess because no MailOnline / Daily Mail / Mail on Sunday writer seems to have permission (or the decency) to link to any external website (unless they are cut and pasting PR copy, of course).

Visiting the CRU website shows that the most recently updated information sheet was updated back in January 2011 and states that:

The period 2001-2010 (0.44°C above 1961-90 mean) was 0.20°C warmer than the 1991-2000 decade (0.24°C above 1961-90 mean). The warmest year of the entire series has been 1998, with a temperature of 0.55°C above the 1961-90 mean. After 1998, the next nine warmest years in the series are all in the decade 2001-2010. During this decade, only 2008 is not in the ten warmest years. Even though 2008 was the coldest year of the 21st century it was still the 12th warmest year of the whole record.

This time series is compiled jointly by the Climatic Research Unit and the UK Met. Office Hadley Centre. Increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities are most likely the underlying cause of warming in the 20th century.

Presumably, the figures that the Daily Mail has got hold of must completely contradict the figures that they have released previously; or that newspaper must have arrived at a very different conclusion to the report’s authors.

The latest press release issued by the CRU (October 2011)- at least the latest one that I could find on their website – seems pretty equivocal:

The University of East Anglia notes the provisional findings of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group (BEST) that any doubts about the previous peer-reviewed, published research showing that the world has been warming are unfounded.

If the BEST studies are confirmed by independent peer review, they will further strengthen the scientific consensus built over the last 30 years by groups around the world, including our Climatic Research Unit (CRU). They will also vindicate – once more – those in CRU unfairly accused of scientific fraud following the theft of their personal emails in November 2009. The university has stood by the science and stood by CRU throughout.

Prof Phil Jones, research director of CRU, said: “I look forward to reading the finalised papers once they have been reviewed and published. These provisional findings seem encouraging and echo our own results, particularly our conclusion that the impact of urban heat islands on the overall trend of global temperature is minimal.”

If the figures David Rose has found are that groundbreaking then the least he could do is point us in the direction of them. Instead he describes any climate change skeptic as a ‘leading climate scientist’, or ‘solar expert’ or ‘one of America’s most eminent climate experts’ whilst relegating the Met Office’s statement (‘But yesterday a Met Office spokesman insisted its models were still valid’) to one throwaway line without any fancy introduction.

You see it’s simple really, all of the graphs put together over the years by scientists who have demonstrated beyond question that global temperatures have risen in the last 30 years have now been disproved by those same scientists releasing another graph. The sole reason for believing this latest graph and disbelieving all the others seems to be that it roughly corresponds to the prejudices of the author and the newspaper that they write for.

And it’s even more simple than that. Everyone who agrees with David Rose’s view is ‘the very best leading expert in the whole wide world’ whilst anyone with any different viewpoint is not even worth mentioning.

This is ‘journalism’ at its very worst and the longer publications are allowed to publish propaganda rather than at the very least flirt with established scientific fact, the longer such manufactured controversies will be allowed to flourish.


Incidentally, The New Journalist has now been launched so if someone more scientifically-minded and patient than I wants to track down this Met Office report and cover it for The New Journalist that would really be good.

More on The New Journalist

This is just a quick message to all those taking an interest in The New Journalist project. Things are progressing well, a good range of writers have been in touch and the website coding has been completed. The project is now waiting for the following:

  • Completion of the website – mainly installing widgets, setting up profiles for writers and so forth
  • Completion of the various codes of conduct covering the website
  • Collation of enough content to launch – and enough content to keep the website updated for a few days at least whilst it gets settled.

If you can please spread the word, follow The New Journalist on Twitter and obviously get in touch if you would like to be involved. Click here for full details.