Dishonest journalism has serious consequences

Yesterday I covered the Daily Telegraph rehashing a story that the Daily Mail had invented – and I had covered – last week. Basically, both the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph were claiming that Thomas the Tank Engine had abandoned Christmas in order to be ‘politically correct’. The current writers behind Thomas the Tank Engine, HIT Entertainment, were quoted by each newspaper and clearly informed them both that their claims were false, but to no avail. For the record, they have now felt the need to publish this statement on their website:

Media Statement (UK) – Representation of Christmas in Thomas & Friends

Any reports that HIT Entertainment, rights owner of ‘Thomas & Friends’, has been “writing Christmas out of a new series” are completely inaccurate. Nothing could be further from the truth. The episode recently referenced in some press articles is six years old and was contained in a four episode DVD that was not sold as either a “Christmas” or a “Holiday” themed release.

Thomas has a great deal of Christmas themed content and does not shy away from celebrating the occasion, as last year’s DVD ‘Thomas & Friends: Christmas Express’ makes clear. Currently we are working on another DVD ‘Merry Christmas, Thomas’.

We take the legacy of The Rev. Awdry’s work very seriously in the creation of all of our new content and work closely with his family to best manage Thomas for future generations of children. Christmas was, and continues to be, celebrated on the island of Sodor, the home of ‘Thomas & Friends’.

However, the truth is fairly irrelevant to both our broadsheet and tabloid media – indeed the Daily Telegraph article was worse than the original Daily Mail rubbish – and the Daily Telegraph article was picked up by the English Defence League and used as evidence that foreigners (read: Muslims) were forcing more British culture to be abandoned. I know that neither the Daily Mail nor the Daily Telegraph implied any religious motivations behind the untrue allegations they made about the series, but they must realise that any invented stories about the ‘banning’ or eliminating of Christmas will be used by the far-right to bolster their anti-foreigner (read: Muslim) agenda.

Perhaps what is more worrying is that at several points during the discussion thread people point out that the story isn’t true – indeed, some EDL members heave a sigh of relief that they don’t have to boycott Thomas the Tank Engine – but look at how many new comments simply ignore this and just fume with hatred and rage anyway.

This is why journalists should not be able to publish such blatant lies. There are elements of our society that are fearful, vulnerable and simply not intelligent enough to know when they are being lied to. Such people rely on dishonest journalism to hide their own inadequacy with a culture of hatred and blame aimed at ‘others’. Such a culture leads inevitably to the creation of organisations like the EDL.

Just read this thread and once again it becomes essential the we pursue with every energy genuine press regulation:

Click to enlarge

OK, enough, this has to stop

The Daily Mail is still publishing stories about the BBC’s non-banning of AD/BC from ever more bizarre sources:


The ‘journalist’ behind this article is Simon Caldwell and if he doesn’t realise that this story is a complete lie, then he must be one of the most incompetent journalists around, or one of the most morally bankrupt. The article is just breathtakingly dishonest:

The Vatican has accused the BBC of an ‘act of enormous foolishness’ for dumping the terms BC and AD in case they cause offence to non-Christians.

The Roman Catholic Church also severely criticised the ‘senseless hypocrisy’ of Britain’s public service broadcaster for using a false respect for other religions to purge Christianity from Western culture.

Caldwell claims, despite the BBC issuing clarifying statements and the original Mail on Sunday admitting that each presenter was free to choose what terms to use, that:

The new guidance from the BBC asserts that the abbreviations for Before Christ and Anno Domini (the Year of the Lord) infringed its protocols on impartiality.

It instructs employees to instead replace them with the non-religious phrases BCE and BC – Before Common Era and Common Era.

No, the BBC have not issued any such instructions. Anybody with seconds in which to search Google knows this. Everyone who knows how the Daily Mail blusters and lies constantly to attack the BBC for the most inane reasons knows that any such story should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

How can articles like this be published? How can the Daily Mail exist in such a vacuum of truth? This story was an invention of the Mail on Sunday and it was immediately debunked – indeed people reading to the end of the Mail on Sunday article realised that is was invented because the Mail on Sunday admitted as much in the original article. Yet here we are, another myth has entered part of the national consciousness – the paranoid, ignorant and vocal minority of Daily Mail readers who our politicians feel it is so important to pander to.

I cannot clearly express how frustrated and angry I am becoming that shit like this can be published day after day when it is just a lie, a complete fucking lie. The BBC have never issued any order for presenters to abandon AD/BC and you only have to watch BBC programmes to realise that AD/BC is still used, frequently. It is beyond a joke now. People lap this bullshit up, believing it even though it seems laughable to anyone with half a brain how anyone could take this myth seriously.

We need proper press regulation because a loud minority have provided consistent evidence that they do not have the mental capacity to tell fact from fiction anymore and they must be saved from their own ignorance.

As for the Vatican: this is an organisation that can find the time to be outraged at the BBC because they are under the false impression that they are swapping one arbitrary term for another; whilst they are painstakingly attempting to cover-up years of systematic child abuse. I think they need to reassess their priorities.

George Carey: ‘Challenged’

George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, weighed in a couple of days ago (not sure how I missed it) on the BBC unequivocally NOT BANNING THE USE OF AD/BC: ‘Why are we letting the BBC abandon the Year of our Lord?’.

This myth is interesting because we’ve all been there at the inception of it – that first article plastered on the Mail on Sunday front page. We’ve all known from the off – simply by reading the whole article – that it was complete rubbish and every single idiot that has repeated it since whilst frothing away at a keyboard should hang up their rage-worn fingers in shame. If they did we could kiss goodbye to the following ‘writers’:

  • James Deliingpole
  • Richard Littlejohn
  • Melanie Phillips
  • Steve Doughty
  • Boris Johnson

What a wonderful world that would be.

Anyway, Tabloid Watch has carefully documented the way this myth has been happily repeated by people who must be aware that it is a complete lie, but just don’t care. It’s even won the Tabloid Bullshit of the Month award – for which it was necessary for the award to be issued to everybody writing at both the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail.

Anyway, in wades the Bishop irrespective of all this:

Dionysius Exiguus would be dumbfounded at the attempts by the BBC to issue guidelines that amount to ditching the well-known terms in our calendar, BC and AD…

[so] why does the BBC wish to challenge and, we assume, discard this ancient usage?

Wait, sorry Mr Carey, did you just write ‘assume’? You ‘assume’ they are trying to ‘challenge’ or ‘discard’ BC/AD but surely you’ve had enough time to look into the matter? I will not bore you with the whole piece of persecution-complex drivel but I will pick out a few classic Daily-Mail-reader/writer devices/ For example, the classic ‘I’m not… but’ used here:

I am trying to be charitable to the BBC in not seeing this as a deliberate attempt to sideline the Christian faith, but I am quite sure that it amounts to a denial of our Christian heritage.

Breathtaking. Absolutely breathtaking. Just re-read that a couple of times to appreciate the mental leap it takes to join those two opposed ideas together in one sentence.

Next up, wheel out some more tabloid lies to support the lie you’re currently writing about:

The BBC changes are only a symptom of this crisis of historical memory.

We have recently seen the police investigate a cafe owner for displaying biblical texts. Street preachers have been arrested for handing out leaflets about the Christian faith. Nurses and other workers have been barred from wearing crosses.

A doctor is currently being investigated for praying with and for a patient.

The cafe owner was spoken to after the police received complaints that what was being displayed was homophobic – nothing to do with it being a Christian text. Nurses have to remove all jewelry – and a cross is not classed as being an essential part of the Christian faith – i.e. it is not standard practice to wear one, but personal choice (see Bill Hicks on why Christians should perhaps stop wearing them). Basically, tabloid stories about Christians being persecuted should always be taken with a huge dose of salt, not repeated as fact to support the lie you’re currently spreading.

To round off a thoroughly ignorant article Mr Carey finishes with a wish I’ve read all too often lately:

I would like to think that the BBC might rethink the guidelines it has sent out to its programme directors but, if that is too much to expect, is it too much to hope that presenters will use their intelligence and ignore such silly and yet potentially harmful advice?

Editorial decision rests with each producer / presenter Mr Carey, hence why the Daily Mail have also been moaning that different programmes switch between the two – and some programmes even use the terms interchangeably. I do recall watching QI on the weekend and Stephen Fry used BC. What you ‘would like to think’ about the BBC is actually the reality, had you only looked briefly into the matter you could have avoided inflicting your stupidity on the world.

For once, I will leave the (almost) last word to the utterly, utterly brilliant Mail sub who wrote this caption underneath a photo of George Carey:


I could not think of a more fitting term.

With thanks to Metaltoast for pointing out this article to me.

More ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ balls from the Mail

‘Elf and safety brigade slaps ban on footballs in the PLAYGROUND… because they’re too dangerous’ Screams the Daily Mail as it heard about one primary school’s decision to stop kids using leather footballs in a cramped playground and use sponge balls instead. The reasoning behind the decision is sound:

Malvern Primary School yesterday insisted the football crackdown was not new, saying the reminder had been issued after a parent complained that a child was nearly hurt.

It pointed out that its cramped playground was shared by pupils of all ages but stressed it was supportive of sport and backed the importance of physical exercise.

In a statement it added: ‘Malvern Primary School treats the health and safety of its pupils as a top priority and has for a long time had a policy of protecting children by recommending sponge balls in the playground before school starts and during breaks, especially as the playground accommodates children from the age of four to 11.’

As someone who always played football during school breaks I can well understand the risks – I lost count of how many windows we broke over the years, but luckily we had big outdoor spaces so we could always be avoided by other kids. If Malvern Primary School has cramped playgrounds shared by pupils of 4-11 then it seems perfectly sensible to make that space as safe as possible. Put it another way, if a group of boys started booting a football around in a busy shopping centre the Mail would be screaming for ASBOs before a sweet old pensioner even took a 20-yard screamer directly in the face. What is the difference? These are both shared public spaces, they should both be used responsibly, the sponge ball is a sociable compromise, not an example of ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ gone mad.

As pointed out in the comments (and currently well in the red):

DM having a go at health and safety again how predictable. Anyone who thinks this policy is wrong should try the following experiment. Find a four year old relative, preferably one you love. Have an eleven year old blast a leather football into them. On the way back from the children’s hospital try to think about what you have caused and how it might have been prevented.

As for the Mail trying to bring obesity into the article as if replacing the material that a football is made of is part of the cause, it really is pretty pathetic stuff. The rent-a-quote wheeled out by the Mail doesn’t even make any sense:

But Tam Fry, chairman of obesity prevention charity the Child Growth Foundation, said: ‘Children must be exposed to risk, otherwise how can they be expected to learn?

‘It may think it is protecting the children, but they could just as easily fall over playing with a sponge ball.

‘Policies like this mean our children are in danger of becoming cocooned cotton buds.’

Point one: what does a child learn from being hit in the face with a football?

Point two: the decision is not being made to protect those playing football (who understand and accept the risks of getting a ball smashed into their groin), it is to protect the other young kids who are using the space. It is easy to avoid being hit by a ball if you are involved in the game, less easy when you’re chatting to friends and get smashed on the back of the head.

Point three: how does making a space more sociable possibly equate with children ‘becoming cocooned cotton buds’ (which doesn’t even make any sense)?

It’s hard to believe that this is what modern journalism has become in the Daily Mail – or that it is now by far and away the busiest newspaper site in the UK with over 56m unique users each month*.

*which is about 56m more each month than this blog.

Shameful ‘journalism’

Saw this headline on the Mail website today and immediately thought it sounded dodgy: ‘Bah humbug! Father Christmas banned at children’s centre… to respect faith of one Muslim family‘. Bad journalism is like a virus that is easily carried around the globe via the Internet. Searching for more information on the story led to me having to trawl through hundreds of blog posts, news sites, forums all of which were littered with the most hateful and violent denunciations of all Muslims because of this one story.

Going back to the source of the story takes us right back to the 14th December when the Mankato Free Press run this story: ‘Santa gets the heave-ho-ho-ho‘. The article makes a number of assumptions and is fuelled by the suspicious of the ‘banned’ Santa:

Dennis Jackson said it was over-reaching cultural sensitivity that led to being told his annual Santa appearances must cease at St. Peter Head Start classes for young children.

Jackson said he was told “it was against some people’s wishes” for him to make the half-hour appearances for two classes catering to about three dozen children.

He said St. Peter Head Start personnel gave him no reason for the action. He’s made Santa appearances there the past four years to dispense candy bought at his own expense.

“It kind of burnt me up,” he said, speculating that program officials turned him away in deference to requests from immigrant families that don’t celebrate Christmas.

So, right away we are told that the Santa (Dennis Jackson) was given no reason for the action and that it is Jackson’s ‘speculation’ that he was turned away at the request of immigrants. This does not seem to fit in at all with the Daily Mail’s confident assertion that the ‘ban’ was caused by one Muslim family. The spokeswomen for the organisation does not necessarily help matters with her comments – but then, who knows if she has been quoted in full or in context:

“We have Somali families in the program,” she said. “We’re respecting the wishes of families in the program.”

She didn’t say how many objections were made, but said that program parents are surveyed annually to gauge their feelings toward holiday observances in classes.

She indicated that more than one objection would be sufficient to waive an observance.

“The simple truth is that southern Minnesota has become a much more culturally diverse society than it was a few decades ago,” she said.

“Part of our challenge in Head Start is providing an environment where young children from many different cultures can all feel comfortable.”

Again, no confirmation of how many objections were raised or who had raised them. If this journalist had any decency they would not have run the story as essentially conjecture, knowing the result would be mass intolerance from people seeking a justification for their own racial and religious hatred of Muslim immigrants. Who knows, the lack of invitation (which is not exactly a ban, is it?) may have been caused by one Muslim family, but equally it could have been for other reasons. This is why journalists spend time being trained, so that they can look into things to establish the facts prior to publication. Journalism is not accepting the comments of one aggrieved individual and sending them around the globe as pure speculation.

None of this really matters though. The sad thing is that people all over the world cannot separate the individual from the group label. Why would the complaints of one Muslim family (if this is the case) automatically lead to anyone wanting every single Muslim person out of the country? People act as individuals, irrespective of what labels we might want to apply to them. Everyone on earth can be labelled – whether it be through nationality, race, religion, gender and so forth – and we all deserve to be respected as individuals because we very often don’t choose the labels that are applied to us. As individuals we want to be judged for our own deeds and actions, not the actions of any other individual who can be put under the same label as us.

Racism, intolerance and bigotry is born out of ignorance. This kind of journalism is precisely the ignorance that helps to perpetuate and feed such behaviours. The outrage has been stirred, sent around the world and absorbed before any journalists has even attempted to establish the true facts.

That isn’t just bad journalism, it is dangerous journalism.

As for the Mail’s utterly unfounded assertions that:

Father Christmas was banned from visiting children at a Head Start Program… because Santa, and all he stands for, offended one Muslim family.

They are an absolute disgrace. Remember articles like this the next time the Mail pretends it does not support the EDL.

The BBC repeats health and safety myths

The BBC are not as gleeful as the Daily Mail in reporting that the Tories intend to ‘reduce the health and safety burden’ but they are equally culpable of repeating myths. The article currently on the BBC News website actually takes myths created by tabloid newspapers and repeats them as fact:

It follows a number of well-publicised cases – such as this year’s official cancellation of a 200-year-old cheese-rolling event in Gloucestershire, due to safety concerns.

This myth has been thoroughly debunked because the event was cancelled due to the event outgrowing its location, the HSE had nothing to do with it. Likewise, the first accompanying photo contains another classic health and safety myth:

Conkers and goggles

The Health and Safety Executive featured this in their Myths section in 2007 and even produced a free poster to reassure schools that wearing safety goggles to play conkers was ridiculous:

This is one of the oldest chestnuts around, a truly classic myth. A well-meaning head teacher decided children should wear safety goggles to play conkers. Subsequently some schools appear to have banned conkers on ‘health & safety’ grounds or made children wear goggles, or even padded gloves!

Realistically the risk from playing conkers is incredibly low and just not worth bothering about. If kids deliberately hit each other over the head with conkers, that’s a discipline issue, not health and safety.

Even the Daily Mail has recognised that this story is a myth – although they still happily report fearful headteachers who insist on the measure and wrap it up in ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ and ‘nanny state’ overtones when it clearly is nothing of the sort – it is another classic misleading headline from the Mail, but at least they point out that the HSE poster and dismissal of the matter. The next picture repeats the cheese-rolling is banned myth:

cheese rolling

The BBC then repeats Cameron’s claims at the time:

When he launched the review in December, Mr Cameron cited cases of children being told to wear goggles to play conkers, restaurants being banned from handing out toothpicks and trainee hairdressers being banned from using scissors as examples of silly practice.

Without challenging any of the examples. For the record the HSE myths section mentions the ‘toothpick banned’ myth, ‘cheese-rolling banned’ and I work in a college in which hundreds of trainee hairdressers happily handle scissors and cut real hair on real people with them.

A few people being daft enough to ban something within their small jurisdiction – their shop / school / restaurant / hair salon – should not shape government policy on health and safety and nor should it make the HSE such a mocked and hated organisation. The HSE have nothing to do with these individuals and as they made clear in April this year, they ban very little:

We’ve said it all before, but there are still too many reports that HSE and health and safety law are responsible for all sorts of bans – cheese-rolling events, knitting in hospitals and even toothpicks!

In reality HSE has banned very little outright, apart from a few high-risk exceptions like asbestos, which kills around 4000 people a year.

Too often health and safety is used as a convenient excuse, but it’s time to challenge this and remind people to focus on the real risks – those that are still causing people to be killed, injured or made ill at work.

Challenge the myths, tackle real risks!

It seems we are still a long way from doing this and the BBC should be ashamed of today’s article.

Daily Mail repeats ‘cheese-rolling banned’ myth, again

In March the Daily Mail invented  a new ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ myth:

Tabloidwatch covered the myth at the time, pointing out that:

as usual with such stories, it’s not entirely accurate.

Yes, this year’s race at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester has been cancelled. But:

‘The organisers of the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake regret to announce that the 2010 event has been cancelled.

The attendance at the event has far outgrown the location where it has traditionally been held for several hundred years: last year more than 15,000 people tried to attend (according to official estimates) which is more than three times the capacity of the site.’

So the organisers cancelled it. Not ‘health and safety killjoys’ then?

And it’s nothing to do with the actual cheese-roll race itself, which the Mail seems to imply.

Naturally Richard Littlejohn repeated the myth in a segment where he was attacking the chief executive of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health for daring to accuse him of making up health and safety stories. Seriously, Richard Littlejohn attempted to defend himself by repeating yet another invented health and safety story:

Badly timed attack
The chief executive of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health has accused me of making up stories about elf’n’safety.

Never mind that he can point to only one example, a story which came not from my imagination, but from the Rotary Club of Stranraer, which was told that it would have to employ a lifeguard and a ‘trained outdoor specialist’ if it intended to use a footpath alongside Loch Ryan.

He also, rather unfortunately, chose the day on which we learned that the traditional cheese-rolling contest in Gloucestershire had been cancelled this year on grounds of elf’n’safety.

Sometimes, even I can’t make it up.

Well, I guess his final line is correct, he didn’t make this one up, the Daily Mail did. He just repeated it. This was a complete non-story and in the end a ‘unofficial’ event took place which gave the Daily Mail another chance to repeat the myth that the event had been banned for being too dangerous as well as the chance to print a picture of a woman with her boobs hanging out. It was the perfect Daily Mail one-two of an invented ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ myth wrapped around heaving breasts – the editor must have been giddy with delight.

Fast forward to today and the cheese-rolling myth has been rolled out (apologies) once again: ‘At last! An end to the elf ‘n’ safety madness as meddling officials face fines if they ban events. They illustrate the article with a picture of cheese-rolling as the example of the kind of thing ‘meddling officials’ will face a fine for banning:

Click to Enlarge

Except of course that officials – meddling or otherwise – have never attempted to ban cheese-rolling and it has never been classed as ‘too dangerous’. This is what I really despise about the tabloid press; they invent stories and repeat them until they become fact and are perceived as being a real evil. This then leads to extremely dim politicians getting involved to tackle a problem that does not exist. The Daily Mail then screams hurrah at job well done and claims it as a victory for ‘common sense’.

This is now at least the fourth article the Daily Mail have produced based on a complete lie; how many more will there be? I guess we’ll get some idea of how brazenly the Daily Mail is prepared to lie if they dare to mention ‘Winterval’ as a PC attempt to ban Christmas this year. They certainly flirted with the myth when the Pope stated we should stand up and defend Christmas against those attempting to outlaw it. I imagine at least one tabloid newspaper will repeat it. If you spot any newspaper – local or national – repeating it, please get in touch.

The Daily Mail responds to the idea of a fairer society

Today saw the introduction of the Equality Act 2010 which is designed as a ‘basic framework of protection against direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation in services and public functions; premises; work; education; associations, and transport’. Typically the Daily Mail is outraged that we should dare to treat all human beings as equal: ‘Death of the office joke: Coalition enacts Harriet’s PC equality law which means ANYONE can sue for ANYTHING that offends them‘. This is fantastic news, given that my organisation pays for the Daily Mail to be stocked in the library, and as such I can now sue them for offending me (and, in fairness, the Daily Mail fails to meet a lot of equality legislation given its penchant for misogyny, racism, xenophobia and homophobia).

The article froths:

New equality laws masterminded by Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman have come into force today, threatening to create a political correctness minefield for recession-hit businesses.

Under the Act, vegans, teetotallers and atheists are to be given the same protection against discrimination as religious groups while gipsies and travellers will get special favours because of the ‘many socio-economic disadvantages’ they face.

Fancy that, people who do not eat meat, drink alcohol or believe in god deserve the same fair treatment as people who believe that the world was made in 6 days by a fairy that lives in the sky. You can hear the Mail team discussing the Act: ‘And gypsies – bloody horrible tarmac-laying pikey bastards who our best writer – Richard Littlejohn really hates – are going to get special treatment from being discriminated against!’  Truly, political correctness has gone mad. If the Daily Mail dislikes this ‘special’ attention being paid to tackling discrimination against gypsies perhaps it should admit that it is partly to blame for the situation, given their disgraceful coverage and treatment of them and the hate that such coverage fuels.

I know I am repeating myself: but the Daily Mail is a complete joke. Just look at its website:

The Daily Mail: a sick joke
Click to enlarge

The lead story is a backward scream of rage about people daring to want the freedom to go to work at not be subjected to someone else’s idea of a ‘joke’. The whole act is about creating a working environment in which jokes about ‘Pakis’, chain emails about immigrants and other tabloid hate figures can be properly dealt with – irrespective of whether anyone from the target group is offended. The Equality Act 2010 is a clear acknowledgment that any decent human being should be offended by casual racism or discrimination and they should have the full support of the law in raising an objection against it. The Daily Mail article is as laughable as its claim that it is in any way a serious newspaper. Just look at the other top story: ‘Christine Bleakley reduced to tears of laughter as a hawk with a mind of her own causes mayhem in Daybreak studio’.

What is that doing in a newspaper? The juxtaposition between the offensive, backward intolerance and the cosy, meaningless celebrity hit-counter articles sums up the Daily Mail. It hates the world and 90% of the people living in it, but do please take the time to click on this inane article about someone on TV doing something.

I’ve been torn for a long time about requesting that my employer stops purchasing the Daily Mail – after all, we have an equality and diversity policy in work that the Daily Mail clearly breaches – or maintaining my access to the print edition in order to give me stuff to write about. I’m not sure what is in the bests interests of the greater good, getting the Mail banned from work, or keeping it in order to help this blog. Perhaps now is the time to say something.

It is not a question of taste

This is the last time I will be writing a post on this subject so I hope it is definitive enough for some visitors to this site to understand. The visitors I am referring to – or people on Twitter or message boards or wherever – who shrug their shoulders and tell me that if I don’t like the Daily Mail I should stop reading it and just ignore it. I’ve tried to respond to this several times in the past, but the latest comment on this site has made me determined to write this post on the topic:

Stop reading the Mail then! Presumably you don’t go to gigs by bands you hate just so you can whinge about them afterwards, so why subject yourself to news media that you fundamentally disagree with *because it isn’t aimed at you*. Personally, I don’t like the Mail either – that’s why I don’t read it.

Firstly, the analogy of going to gigs is simply wrong because this website is not about my taste in something, I do not rant simply about something I do not like, rather I try to point out when the tabloid media (read by millions) is lying to its readers or being racist, homophobic or otherwise unpleasant. It is not a question of disagreeing with their worldview per see, it is the fact that this worldview is built out of a series of dishonest media narratives. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I want an opinion to be based on facts, not a series of lies and distortions created by the tabloid media and neatly packaged for the consumption of confused readers who sadly do not see that they are being lied to.

This is why your analogy does not work. Bands are very much a question of taste, they have little or nothing to do with basic humanity, honesty or truth. I can accept that there are thousands of manufactured pop bands out there that I dislike intensely (and you could rationalise some of this dislike if you talked about the commercialisation of music and the replacement of genuine creativity and art with music written, sung and packaged to a predictable corporate formula) but I can see that there is no real harm in it. I can ignore it because, on the whole, it is not hurting anyone.

The tabloid media on the other hand are inciting racial hatred against Muslims, immigrants and asylum seekers. They are distorting reality to scare their readership into docile submission. People are becoming increasingly disconnected from reality and are unable to see that they are being repeatedly lied to. A comment on the Daily Star headline: ‘MUSLIM-ONLY PUBLIC LOOS, council wastes YOUR money on hole-in-ground toilets‘ the other day hit the nail on the head – and much as I try to avoid invoking Nazi Germany I will repeat it here:

I can’t believe these headlines are published and nothing can be done about them. Change Muslim to Jewish and the context of demonising a religious or racial group suddenly seems a little clearer.

The reason blogs like this exist is that currently nothing can be done to challenge dishonest headlines because in 2005 the Press Complaints Comission ruled that: ‘a headline should be regarded as a comment and so not subject to the Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code’. How can an effective regulatory body argue that headlines have no need to be accurate? As a result of this ruling the Express frontpage headline: ‘Bombers are all spongeing asylum-seekers’, was ruled as being perfectly acceptable and the complete lies about Muslims go unchallenged in any formal capacity.

I do not disagree with the Daily Mail because ‘it is not aimed at me’, I disagree with the Daily Mail because they lie to their readers, as proven on this site over and over again. If the Daily Mail stopped lying then I would not have anything to write about, nor would any of the other bloggers who expose media dishonesty on a daily basis.

Ignoring the tabloid press is not going to change anything. Pretending that it doesn’t exist will not make the world a better place. I do not write about bands I do not like because not many bands spend their time inciting racial hatred, inventing stories about health and safety or political correctness (to the detriment of us all) or trying to pretend that everyone under 30 in the UK is a knife-wielding killer-in-waiting.

It is not a question of taste, it is a question of truth. I write this blog because – as utterly naive as this sounds – I’m a dreamer and I want to make a difference to the world. I want people to spend more time focusing on the beauty of being alive; the realisation that we have infinitely more common desires than cultural differences. Fundamentally we are all human beings, following our instincts, needing to love and be loved, to have shelter, food, freedom and the chance to raise a family.

I know I quoted Bill Bryson recently, but I think it is worth quoting again here:

Every living thing is an elaboration of a single original plan. As humans we are mere increments – each of us a musty archive of adjustments, adaptations, modifications and providential tinkerings stretching back to 3,8 billion years. Remarkably we are even quite closely related to fruit and vegetables. About half the chemical functions that take place in a banana are fundamentally the same as the chemical functions that place in you. It cannot be said too often: all life is one. That is, and I suspect will ever prove to be, the most profound true statement there is.”
– Bill Bryson in “A Short History of Nearly Everything” (2003)

Sure, I could stop reading the Daily Mail and I could ignore the casual racism I encounter everyday from Mail readers, students who have been brought up in tabloid households and so on. But, although doing this might make my life a little more beautiful, it would not make the world a better place. I am not saying this blog is making any difference, but it is at least trying and I’m not simply sticking my fingers in my ears and prentending that this awful manifestation of personal insecurity, jealousy and impotent rage doesn’t exist.

As I wrote during the election: whether you read a tabloid newspaper or not, you cannot avoid being exposed to the poisonous narratives that they create.

Think of a tabloid reader as if they were a smoker and the tabloid newspaper is a cigarette. A lit cigarette is hard to ignore, is has a fiery tip and billows smoke, the smoker inhales the poisonous smoke and then exhales it, often in the vicinity of others. You don’t have to be a smoker to inhale this second-hand smoke, nor do you have to be a smoker to see and smell the lit cigarette. The tabloid press acts in the same way: the headlines scream at you from newstands, whilst any tabloid reader who inhales the message exhales it – frequently – in your company. We are all passive tabloid newspaper readers. The poisonous stench is unavoidable.

Every Time you hear someone fearfully talk about the population hitting ’70million’; every time you hear that immigrants / illegal immigrants / asylum seekers are ‘showered in benefits’ whilst ‘hard working taxpayers / pensioners’ are left without; every time people say that there aren’t enough jobs because of immigrants; every time you hear that local schools / hospitals are ‘full / stretched / overrun’; every time you hear people moan about ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ or the ‘PC brigade’ or ‘political correctness gone mad’; every time you hear someone talk about ‘open borders / no border controls / unlimited immigration’.

Every Time you hear these things you are the passive victim of a tabloid newspaper.

Think back to an election in which immigration was a central topic as the three potential leaders competed to be toughest on the subject and consider whether immigration deserved this coverage, given that it has been a net contributor to the economy and studies have shown – all over the world – that immigration does not impact on wages or the number of jobs available. Immigration became the number one topic – and the only one talked about at length during all three of the televised debates and when prospective and current PMs went on Radio 1 it was the main issue that young voters brought up. The whole election was fought around immigration because the tabloid press has set up immigrants as the bogeymen behind all the problems (real or otherwise) that they editorialise about.

All the while the tabloid press still claimed that you could not even talk about immigration, an argument so fallacious that it staggers me how people fall for it.

My point is, as it always is, that tabloid journalism has real consequences for all of us – whether we read a tabloid newspaper or not. We are all passive tabloid readers, unavoidably inhaling the hatred, the outrage and the distorted media narratives on a range of topics that impact on our lives. You cannot stop inhaling tabloid messages by turning your head any more than you can stop inhaling a rank smoke that engulfs us all. In the end we all have a choice, we either quietly gulp it down and pretend it does not exist, or we do everything in our power to challenge it and stop it at its source.

I’ll write this blog and perhaps even work up the courage to start openly challenging people; what you do is up to you.

Headline lies from the Daily Mail

A few more dishonest or misleading headlines from the Daily Mail website today.

Firstly: ‘Now health and safety chiefs ban Red Arrows display… because ‘vibrations’ could damage nearby buildings‘. This story is one of the most pointless and stupid health and safety slurs I’ve heard for at least a few days:

The Red Arrows have been banned from putting on a flying display over a seaside town – over health and safety fears.

The world famous RAF team were scheduled to top the bill at the annual regatta in Dartmouth, Devon.

But organisers decided to cancel the display – which has taken place every year since 1980 – amid fears that vibrations from the low-flying jets might damage buildings.

So, given the word ‘ban’ appears in the headline and ‘banned’ in the first sentence, alongside the statement that organisers have ‘decided to cancel the dsiplay’ it seems to be pretty clear cut that the display has been banned / cancelled. Furthermore, given that the display ‘has taken place every year since 1980’the ban is surely another mad health and safety decision, given that no buildings have suffered from vibrations in the last 30 years.

Then you read on and get to the truth of the matter:

A number of properties dating back to Tudor times were recently affected by a massive fire that swept through the town centre.

Mayor Richard Rendle said there were fears over vibrations from the aircraft which would fly just a few hundred feet above the town.

He said: ‘There were expressions of concern because at the moment the buildings are still moving and have not yet been stabilised.

‘Those concerns were fairly well received by the regatta committee, which has promised to carry out a risk assessment.’

So, this year is different because of the unstable buildings left behind by a substantial fire – so the display having taken place every year for the last 30 years is completely irrelevant. It also seems to be apparent that this is another example of health and safety being made the evil bogeyman when in fact the concerns stem from the town’s mayor who wants to preserve a ‘historic part of Dartmouth’s town centre’, something that is probably a sensible thing to do given the importance of tourism in the area.

So, has the display actually been banned – as the headline and introduction clearly stated? No:

Officials have called for a full risk assessment after concerns were raised at a recent meeting.

These fears have been passed to the regatta committee who have said a risk assessment must be carried out or the Red Arrows cannot attend…

‘The RAF will carry out a risk assessment. They are the experts on noise and vibration.’

A decision has not been made. All that has been decided is that the RAF experts will be consulted to ensure that any display doesn’t cause an historic part of Dartmouth to collapse. This is being done to protect the town and residents, but the residents the Mail spoke to do not seem to appreciate this:

Barry Whittel, a 60-year-old retired gardener, said: ‘The Red Arrows have been coming here for 30 years and it has always been the highlight of the weekend.

‘They put on a marvellous display. I just can’t understand why they would ban it because of a few vibrations.

‘Of course we want to protect our historic buildings, but this is absolutely ridiculous. I’m sure we’ll see a poorer turn-out at the regatta this year.’

Deborah Green, 52, a grandmother, added: ‘The fire was terrible but it was months ago. There’s no way the Red Arrows could do any more damage.

‘It’s just health and safety nonsense. The buildings have been there since Tudor times and even a fire couldn’t bring them down, let alone a few vibrations.’

The saddest thing about local people making these inane statements is that if the RAF did no risk assessment and the buildings collapsed they would be in the same paper complaining about reckless people wrecking their town centre. They are the perfect encapsulation of the Daily Mail mentality: whatever the situation or outcome I will be outraged.

You simply cannot win.

Secondly: ‘Hero British soldier shot in face by Taliban SPITS out the bullet‘. Wow, quite a claim, that he actually spat out a bullet and presumably it must be true because it is in CAPITAL letters:

A brave British soldier who was shot in the face by the Taliban spat out the bullet – then walked nearly two miles for treatment before being rushed home for an emergency operation.

Except that of course in the real world of basic physics, no bullet was ‘spat out’:

the bullet bounced off Luke’s body armour, went up into his lower cheek just below his ear, and broke his jaw before bouncing back out through his mouth.

So, a bullet ricocheted out of a soldiers mouth. No spitting or conscious action was undertaken. The headline and introductory paragraph is once again, a complete lie.

Finally – sticking to the subject of war: ‘Gunned down as they slept: Rogue Afghan soldier shoots dead three British troops inside military compound‘. OK, an Afghan soldier shot dead three British troops as they slept, seems pretty clear what happened. Even more so after the introductory sentence reiterates the point:

A renegade Afghan soldier is on the run today after killing three British soldiers in southern Helmand while they slept.

But, just two paragraphs later we have the truth:

One of the three who died was killed in his bed as he slept at around 2am. The other two were apparently on guard duty at a tower overlooking the base when were hit when the attacker fired a rocket-propelled grenade.

So, once again the headline is a complete lie as is the introductory paragraph.

Once again the Daily Mail are relying on their bovine readership to read the headline and first paragraph and move straight to the comments section to be outraged. Something that always works, no matter how many exasperated comments are left asking other commenters to just read the article before commenting from a woefully ignorant position. However, this ignorance could be avoided if the Daily Mail stopped lying in the first place, something it will not do as long as the website is getting enough clicks from the witless, scared and outraged.

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