Lofty Visions, Rarely Shared

In Wales the Heads of the Valleys communities face a range of problems:

  • a declining population (9% decline over the 21 years to 2002)
  • high levels of economic inactivity (in 2004 30.7% of people of working age were economically inactive, whilst the unemployment rate was 7%)
  • low educational attainment and skills levels (in 2004 24% of people of working age had no qualifications)
  • low quality of jobs and opportunities
  • a high incidence of long term health problems (in 2004 36% of people of working age had a long term health problem)
  • an unfavourable image – the Valleys are typically associated with crime, underage pregnancy and drug abuse
  • deprivation, a lack of quality housing and poorly equipped town centres
  • limited transport and telecommunications links in some areas
  • poor maintenance and management of key natural resources and historic assets

In the recent election Blaenau Gwent – the county which contains the Heads of Valleys communities – had a massive swing from an independent candidate to Labour, but more interesting was the 1,211 votes for the BNP and a further 488 voters choosing UKIP. You might argue that the above social and economic problems highlight perfectly the dissatisfaction with being part of Europe and the media narrative that local communities are being left to rot whilst the state pursues an agenda of diversity and multiculturalism.

However, Blaenau Gwent is hardly touched by immigration, with 92% of residents born in Wales (the highest of any local authority in Wales) and less than 1% of people living in the area having been born outside of the UK and Ireland. The ethnic population is also just as insignificant, standing at less than 1% of the population, lower than the overall figure for Wales which is a piffling 2%.

As research has shown, the BNP gets significantly less support in areas with a high immigrant population, and more votes in areas with low immigration. The media narrative that dehumanises immigrants is less likely to be effective in areas where readers actually have human contact with immigrants (i.e. they clearly see that immigrants are human beings). Whilst the same media narratives are effective in areas like Blaenau Gwent because the local population has little or no access to immigrants as human beings, they are merely a bogeyman that they read about.

The research suggested the primary drivers for BNP support were socio-economical and lack of access to immigrants, which would support perfectly Blaenau Gwent being a likely place for BNP to attract support.

However, in terms of what is being done to try and help the Heads of the Valleys communities, this economic driver seems born out of ignorance. In 2006 the Welsh Assembly Government published ‘Turning Heads‘ a document which outlined the plans to revitalise the area. This report estimated that the area was already receiving £1billion from central and local government and a further special funding budget of £140million had been made available over the 15 year lifetime of the project. The project aimed to get at least a further £360million of investment from the private sector over the life of the programme.

The project has already re-opened a railway line from Ebbw Vale to Cardiff via a range of other towns which is both frequent and cheap – ideal for commuters working in Cardiff and wanting cheap housing. It has also created excellent road links to Cardiff and improved links both East and West. The five Valleys local authorities will have invested £0.6billion in the social housing stock by 2012.

Ebbw Vale is receiving a new ‘Learning Campus’ incorporating local sixth forms, the Ebbw Vale campus of COleg Gwent and HE courses will be run by Glamorgan and Newport universities. This new campus is situated next to a new hospital and other new developments on the site of an old steel works. Town centres are being renovated and pieces of art are being distributed, with the vision being that these towns make perfect weekend breaks, situated as they are at the edge of Brecon national park.

The vision is ambitious, the aims are noble and the money being spent is immense – particularly considering the current financial climate. Yet even when the area is a beneficiary of the European Social Fund you still get over 1,600 votes for parties who want to leave the EU. Even when this 99% white, 92% born in Wales population has billions of pounds spent on it you still get 1,600 votes for explicitly racist parties who campaign on the platform that the ‘white man’ is neglected.

Obviously I point the finger at the tabloid media for the majority of these votes. Not just because they create narratives in which the immigrant is always to blame, but also because they never give any coverage to regeneration projects like this. High ideals are never covered, whilst ‘broken Britain’ narratives are invented and flogged until we all despair at the world that we live in.

This is a valiant attempt to restore pride, prosperity and health to one of the most deprived areas in Wales. Yet I’m not sure even the residents understand just how much is being done to help them. I’m not going to pretend that the project will solve all of the problems the area has, but I certainly cannot think of anything else the Welsh Assembly Government could do to help this area.

The ‘Wilful misreporting’ of Immigration

Tabloid Watch has already covered this, but I think it is worth repeating on this blog – in fact it is worth repeating on every blog until it starts to sink in: tabloid coverage of immigration is a dishonest disgrace. Panorama reporter Paul Kenyon has written an article for the latest issue of British Journalism Review, which has been cut down and published in the MediaGuardian today. Kenyon’s conclusion of his experience of tabloid coverage of immigration is clear:

the seemingly non-stop campaign against asylum- seekers, and the wilful misreporting of the issue among some tabloid newspapers, is getting worse.

‘Wilful’ is a strong allegation, but it’s a fair one.

Important distinctions, such as that between asylum-seekers and economic migrants, are often fudged or overlooked; the language is inflammatory; there seems to be a lazy hostility towards them, implying a universal acceptance that what asylum -seekers represent, what they are, is wrong.

Kelvin MacKenzie tried to argue on Question Time recently that the tabloid media was never responsible for whipping-up outrage, they merely reflected the outrage that the public already felt. I beg to differ. Likewise, when I post something on Twitter about Richard Littlejohn writing a disgraceful column full of lies and hate, I sometimes get replies saying simply: ‘who cares?’. Well I do for starters, and as I have argued before: we should all care because tabloid lies infect the lives of all of us, whether we read tabloid newspapers or not.

Most of us will have had the same leaflet from the BNP (or, indeed, the Conservatives) during the election campaign, a leaflet that just happened to neatly parrot the tabloid narrative of immigrants getting a better deal than pensioners. Something which is a complete lie, one driven forward by utterly dishonest journalists – none more so than the Richard Littlejohn that I’m supposed to ignore.

We also might happen to work in an area like Blaenau Gwent, in which 92% of residents were born in Wales (the highest proportion of any local authority in Wales) and less than 1% of people living in the local area were born outside of the UK and Ireland. The ethnic population in Blaenau Gwent is comparably small, making up less than 1% of the overall population (Wales 2%). So, this population, despite living in one of the least diverse areas in the UK, had a BNP turnout of 1,211 along with 488 voting for UKIP.

As research has shown, the BNP get significantly less votes in areas with a high immigrant population, and more votes in areas with low immigration. This research demonstrates that the tabloid narrative that it is ‘uncontrolled immigration’ feeds the BNP is false; and it instead points to the tabloid media as the real culprits for boosting BNP support in areas that have no experience with the reality of immigration (areas such as Blaenau Gwent).

When I deal with students and they repeat tabloids lies about immigration and express their hatred of immigrants it makes me even more determined to not just ‘look the other way’ as some commenters seem to suggest occasionally. There are real consequences to dishonest tabloid narratives, I see it in the people I meet and the students I teach. I don’t think I am strange or indeed alone in wanting a better tabloid media; one that doesn’t continually distort reality to create hatred and anger in groups that don’t know better and even some that really should.

An Unfair System: Interesting Consequences?

So, on the face of it things went pretty badly for the Liberal Democrats, who look set to end up with less sets than they had in 2005. However, you then start to look at how many people actually voted for the Liberal Democrats and you start to get pretty angry with the current system. The Conservatives gained 10,615,958 votes and currently have 302 seats. The Liberal Democrats received 6,781,005 votes (over 60% of the Conservative total) and currently have just 57 seats. That means the Conservatives have fewer than twice as many votes, but six times as many seats.

The results for Labour are equally unfair. Labour received 8,535,952 votes, fewer than two million more than the Liberal Democrats, but currently have exactly 200 more seats – nearly four times as many as the Liberal democrats, even though the Liberal Democrats had over 75% as many votes as Labour. The Liberal Democrats made electoral reform one of the central features of their campaign and, fittingly, the election results have more than proven their point that reform is needed.

I made these points on Twitter and someone responded with a ‘problem’: ‘ah’, they said, ‘but if you brought in Proportional Representation then UKIP and the BNP would win seats, and that is a bad thing’. I’d disagree in principle: it isn’t necessarily a ‘bad thing’, it is merely democracy in action. We need to realise the reasons why the BNP are gaining support (up 1.2% in this election) and it isn’t – as newspapers would argue – that immigration is ‘uncontrolled’ or that British people are being treated as ‘second-class citizens’.

If we want to stop the BNP gaining seats in an election we shouldn’t block electoral reform, we should actually tackle the reasons why people vote BNP. The reasons are simple: a lack of education, a lack of personal experience of immigrants – meaning that they always remain an abstract concept (the ‘other’, ‘them’, ‘they’), rather than a human being – and most importantly the constant dishonest stories run by the press that are regularly quoted on the BNP website and by BNP voters when they explain why they vote BNP. If we want to stop the BNP gaining voter share we need to tackle an unregulated, racist press that has an agenda of creating hatred towards immigrants.

As I pointed out recently, immigration is an issue that cannot be discussed whilst the current dishonest tabloid narratives remain unchallenged. Research has been conducted that has shown that BNP voter share is less in areas with a high immigrant population, precisely for the ‘access to reality’ reason I have mentioned above. When newspapers blame New Labour’s immigration policy for the rise of the BNP they are lying to cover their own complicity in the rise of the far right in this country.

This does raise an interesting dilemma for the tabloid press. Currently they can offer implied support to the BNP by printing a consistent stream of lies for BNP voters and leaders to feed on without having to overly worry about such lies having an electoral consequence. As we saw last night, most BNP candidates polled quite poorly (although in several areas – such as the almost exclusively white, immigrant-free Blaenau Gwent – they got well over 1,000 votes) and not even party leader Nick Griffin could win a seat. However, if PR was brought in then the tabloid press would be well aware that the current BNP vote could win the party seats. Then when the inevitable recrimination starts after such a result the press wouldn’t be able to avoid their own complicity in creating the very lies that drives people to vote BNP.

Essentially, PR would demonstrate just what a evil influence the tabloid press has over poorly educated or poorly integrated voters. Currently a lot of people understand that the tabloid press is the biggest recruiter for the BNP, but because of our electoral system we can all be content with just a quiet boo when the low polling results are announced for each BNP candidate. I cannot help but think that if BNP votes turned into BNP seats we’d all have to be a lot more vociferous about just who is to blame.

The BNP: Another Consequence of the Tabloid Press

I received a BNP leaflet through the door the other day from Kay Thomas, my local BNP candidate and meant to post on it straight away, but got distracted by Gillian Duffy and the whole ‘You can’t talk about immigration‘ issue. However, picking apart a BNP leaflet is too easy a task to ignore, and because the BNP are almost entirely created by a dishonest and ill-regulated press, then they are also an issue too important to ignore.

bnp_leaflet_front bnp_leaflet_back

It is easy to get distracted from the real poison of BNP ‘literature’ on account of just how laughably terrible it is. What you have to remember is that nobody with a shred of intelligence or creativity could possibly be a BNP member, so when you get Nick Griffen’s chubby confused face overlapping the black and white face of Winston Churchill you have to remember that this is meant to create the notion that somehow they’re a bit similar. It isn’t supposed to just make Nick Griffen look very stupid. Likewise the phrases used are supposed to get you worked up and voting for the BNP, rather than just making you laugh out loud: ‘We’re NOT Second Class Citizens!’ screams the front of the leaflet. Then why do you keep saying we are? But the leaflet deserves more serious criticism as do the press which have created the mythical narratives that allows the BNP to create an entire manifesto on getting ‘even’ with immigrants and asylum seekers.

For example, take the two main pledges on the front page: ‘Put a stop to Immigration’ and ‘Raise the Weekly Pension to £150’; along with the claim of a BNP ‘voter’ on the back:

I’m voting BNP because I’m sick of seeing asylum seekers coming here and being given a better deal than our own pensioners! Charity begins at home and it’s time we looked after our elderly.

So, do asylum seekers ‘get a better deal’ than pensioners? And would ending immigration be a good thing? Interestingly, the two points are intimately linked, and not in the way that the BNP would like to imagine.

The current Basic State Retirement Pension for a single person is £95.25 per week and £152.30 for a couple. This is the full basic pension, requiring you to have worked and contributed full National Insurance payments for 30 years – an improvement under New Labour as previously you had to clock up 49 years for a man and 44 woman (a total that assumes work starts at 16 which is no longer the case for the majority of people). The basic pension is lower than the income support threshold, meaning that if a pensioner has no other income then they can top-up their pension with income support. This is a means-tested Pension Credit that brings up the weekly amount to £130 for a single person and £198.45 for a couple.

These sums are not massive, but a range of other benefits are available to pensioners. The main problem is a large percentage of pensioners do not claim all of the benefits that they are entitled to; one estimate suggests unclaimed benefits for pensioners can amount to as much as £5 billion annually.

Pensioners are an age group that a lot of political parties are keen to offer extra support to, and a group that are seen as being badly let down by the current government. They are also a group that tends to vote, so they are a key election demographic. However, they are also a problematic group because providing a basic state pension has become more and more expensive – irrespective of whether the weekly payments have increased or not. In 1949 there were approximately 4 million pensioners in the UK. There are now 10.5 million and this number is expected to rise to £14 million by 2050. This is largely because people are living longer than ever before, meaning that pensions are paid for longer periods to more people, making the basic state pension an increasingly expensive proposition.

This increase is compounded by the fact that population growth is slowing, meaning that there are fewer younger people entering employment. Currently there are 4.5 working people to contribute taxes towards each pensioner, by 2025 there will only be 3.5. One of the economic arguments being made for increased immigration is that we need to increase our working population in order to support our retired population. Immigrants offer a quick boost to the economy because they are not immediately entitled to benefits, they have not required state education in the UK and are therefore a ‘free’ source of tax revenue – because they do come here to work. However, the BNP is pledging to end immigration and increase the basic state pension, seems like they just haven’t thought this through and just want to keep foreigners out – almost as if they were just a racist party and nothing else. You will not see this point mentioned often – if at all – in the mainstream right-wing press either, but if you sit down and look at it then the positive economic contribution that immigrants make  (£2.5 billion) is helping to fund the current state pension.

The reality is that if we want a more secure retirement we need a much larger working population and as this is not expected to be achieved through population growth then increased immigration is the only solution.

The real point that needs to repeatedly reiterated is that Asylum seekers are only a small group, and that they do not receive anywhere near the basic benefits of a pensioner. The reality is that asylum seekers receive a weekly living allowance set at just 70% of income support – the weekly payment for an asylum seeker over 25 is just £35.13, £95 (or 70%) less every week than a pensioner claiming income support; and just over half of what the government says a person needs to live on. Furthermore the vast majority of asylum seekers are not entitled to claim any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Job Seekers Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Benefit
  • Social Fund
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Invalid Care Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Non-contributory incapacity benefit
  • Working Families’ Tax Credit
  • Disabled Person’s Tax Credit
  • Child Benefit

The UK asylum system is strictly controlled and this is reflected in the numbers of people seeking asylum in the UK. There were only 25,670 asylum applications to the UK in 2008. Applications have fallen by almost half over the last five years. The home office detains roughly 2,000 asylum-seeking children with their families each year. The treatment of asylum seekers is a national disgrace.

You will not read about any of the above in the vast majority of tabloid newspapers. Those newspapers instead prefer headlines like: ‘Asylum seekers are lured to the UK by its ‘enormous’ benefits, says Calais mayor in blistering attack on Britain‘ (The Daily Mail), ‘Former asylum seekers on benefits live in £1.8 million home‘ (The Daily Telegraph) and ‘Asylum seekers wrongly paid £10m in benefits‘ (London Evening Standard). These headlines are on the first 2 pages of Google results for ‘asylum seekers benefits’.

In a recent article on immigration I argued that tabloid newspapers are as poisonous as cigarettes in that you don’t have to directly read a tabloid newspaper to suffer, you are poisoned merely by existing in the same atmosphere as one. Just as the passive smoker inhales the carcinogens of the cigarette, so the passive tabloid reader inhales the toxic messages of the tabloid press. You cannot ignore tabloid newspapers anymore than you can dodge inhaling the smoke of a lit cigarette in your proximity. When a BNP leaflet lands on your doorstep urging you to vote BNP in order to stop putting asylum seekers above pensioners you are inhaling the toxins of a un-regulated tabloid press. When hatred and bigotry is typed onto glossy paper and posted through your door as a supposedly creditable political option then you should look not just towards the ignorant racists that put the message onto the leaflet, but also towards the tabloid newspapers who carefully created the message for them in the first place.

The next time you hear someone complaining about asylum seekers ‘getting it all’ or playing any part in the current economic crisis ask them how many people seek asylum in the UK each year. I doubt they would have a clue. Then ask them just how much an asylum seeker is entitled to each week, and what benefits they can claim. Again, I doubt that they have a clue. Yet they are happy to blame around 25,000 people living on just over half the amount that the government says a person needs to live on – 70% less than pensioners claiming income support – for ‘broken Britain’. Whenever someone exhales a tabloid lie about immigration or asylum seekers in your face, be as offended as you would be if a smoker exhaled cigarette smoke in your face. Say something, challenge them, let them know that parroting tabloid lies is not big and not clever. If you can make just one person see the reality the tabloids try so hard to obscure, then you’ve done something amazingly positive for humanity.

A Richard Littlejohn Fan Writes…

A while back whilst posting about Richard Littlejohn I pondered over what sort of person actually reads his made up tripe and thinks: ‘Yes! Richard Littlejohn is really telling it like it is, I believe his output.’ I suggested that I had found a Littlejohn believer after Barry Faulkner posted this comment on my blog:

I like him,,,, but then i’m probably from the same generation and views. This country is sliding downward at an ever faster pace. You need ppl like Littlejohn to speask their mind and say what the vast majority are thinking

Furthermore I visited the link to Barry’s blog and concluded that he was exactly the kind of semi-literate, gullible, ranting tool that laps up not just Littlejohn’s fact free content, but the entire message of the Daily Mail. From further comments posted under the same article I can see that a few of you have visited his angry rantings and posted some highlights. Obviously Barry has seen the increase in traffic and found my original post, which he has taken the time to respond to:

Thanks for not publishing my replies…..typical …say wht you want and silence any other views.

Considering I have never used comment moderation I found this published comment rather humorous, especially because it revealed perfect Littlejohn paranoia: that although the vast majority of the mainstream press is slightly to the right of Hitler; somehow the left actually dominates discourse and someone silences any other views… although we can find these views every day in the Mail, Express, Sun, Telegraph and so on. Seems the left – including me, presumably, for publishing Barry’s comment – is doing a pretty bad job of suppressing dissent.

Still, Barry is nothing if not a trier and he managed to get not one, but two comments past my non-existent moderation:

Well, first off thanks for promoting my blog…. but if you are going to call me an idiot then get a few facts right…I have no truck with the far right and certainly am not a ‘ diversity Nazi’ my blog asks for arguments and comments so let’s dispel that lie from you.

At no point did I call Barry a ‘Diversity Nazi’, here is what I actually said:

He’s the sort of person that could probably sit there with a straight face and argue that people interested in equality and fairness for all human beings are actually ‘diversity nazis’.

So Barry, get your facts straight, I wasn’t calling you a ‘diversity Nazi’, I was calling you an ignorant half-wit who was probably stupid enough to use the term on others. You know, I could be a ‘diversity Nazi’ by being fond of our multi-cultural society and accepting of people who are different to me, whilst at the same time suppressing comments on my blog from right-wing basket cases as if I were a Nazi suppressing free speech. Of course, I do not moderate my comments, so the accusation would not be accurate, but I hope you understand the point I am making all the same.

Kendo needs to check facts before deriding them and both Subtle and JB need to do the same. C M Carter goes to my blog but can’t be arsed to read it….perhaps he goes to library but can’t be arsed to take out a book…I don’t hide behind pseudonyms and snipe and I would think that under your lefty constitution I would get more than a set of crayons in my old age…how about a large piece jigsaw and a colouring book…so please get things right before posting… now you must all be very tired with your childish sniggering so go get your nappies changed and have a little sleep. And if all you can fault is my placing. of . full stops. get a life.

As for the rest of the comment, I really am at a loss. Like reading your blog I can barely make any kind of sense of this Virginia-Woolf-on-speed stream of consciousnous. If you’re going to call me names, at least take the time to make sure I know I am being insulted. Your comment should be aiming to upset or belittle me, not make me rather smugly point out that yes, Littlejohn’s fans really are thick enough to believe him.

If you are at all representative of Littlejohn’s fan club I can finally understand why you want him to be PM, call him a genius and genuinely think that Littlejohn is the satirical heir to Oscar Wilde (without the overt gayness of course). Compared to you, he is a bloody genius and a fantastic writer because he can generally put commas and full stops in the right place and although his childish arguments can be torn apart with a quick Google search or simply by the reader having a double-figure braincell count – at least we can vaguely understand them. As opposed to the incomprehensible gibberish you spout or your blog and in my comments section.

Still, at least you finally have evidence that New Labour are hell bent on only employing immigrants, if I may quote a recent blog post of yours (titled: ‘Its a fact Brown‘ [sic]);

Whilst our young people waste away in the benefit wilderness….one million nine hundred thousand UK jobs have gone to immigrant labour since Labour took control in 1997 Fact.

I’ll just kindly you point you in the direction of the following blog posts:

Of course, if you find those links all a bit to confusing – being referenced, factual, adult blog posts may come as quite a culture shock to a Littlejohn reader – then why not hop over to Littlejohn’s latest column. In it he is correcting the entire aviation industry with his superior knowledge of jet engines and ash, as well as correcting the entire scientific community (apart from the ones working for oil companies) on global warming: which as we all know is a myth because we had some snow over Christmas.

For those of you reading this who are not Barry Faulkner, remember: you might think there is no-one stupid enough to really believe what the tabloids print, but sadly there is, and his name is Barry Faulkner.

If you feel you can help Barry overcome his addiction to Richard Littlejohn, please contact him via his blog (WARNING: not safe for braincells).

Daily Mail Readers on Asylum Seekers

This story: ‘UK Border Agency whistleblower: ‘Staff ‘made asylum seekers act out shootings and sang offensive “Um Bongo” song’‘ didn’t get a huge amount of publicity on the Daily Mail website – considering how often stories relating to immigrants appear as the lead story. Nor did it even justify a actual reporter to write it up, instead it was rehashed by the Daily Mail Reporter. It did though, manage to attract a few inhumane shitstains who delight in the cruel treatment of anyone not born in the UK – or should we be more honest and say: anyone with dark skin.

Here is a quote from the whistleblower:

‘I asked about the claimants and their [the staff member’s] thoughts and was told “If it was up to me I would take them all outside and shoot them”.

Here are some comments from Mail readers:

We need more of these people. Give them a raise!

– Dave, Birmingham, England, 3/3/2010 14:45
Click to rate Rating 262

Another idiot throwing the racist card wanting to be noticed

Vote BNP to save Britain

Then there will be no need for a UK Border Agency

– John Beatson, Sheffield England, 3/3/2010 9:33
Click to rate Rating 131

I think the people that work at the Boarder Controls are sick to the back teeth of seeing all these asylum seekers coming to our Country i know i would.

– wind, in the willows, 3/3/2010 10:37
Click to rate Rating 119

lets all cry racism!!!-makes me sick!!-dont like it,,then DO NOT try to enter this country illegally!!

– ukman, hampshire, 3/3/2010 10:07
Click to rate Rating 113

They can’t be that racially biased with so many getting through !

– trev, Brive France, 3/3/2010 10:39
Click to rate Rating 112

What a complete non story. Instead of concerning itself with this nonsense, the agency should explain to the British people why there are at least 1 million illegal immigrants in the UK. After all thats its job – protecting our borders. If it can’t do that, what is the point in having such a body.

– Ian McDougall, Edinburgh, 3/3/2010 10:30
Click to rate Rating 88

What is the point of this organisation;everyone knows that virtually all these foreigners are allowed to stay and claim Benifits so why bother.

– Brian Powell, neath Wales, 3/3/2010 10:37
Click to rate Rating 78

I hate to think what accusations would be levelled at the UKBA if they were actualy doing their job properly.

– Robert, Croydon, 3/3/2010 10:39

Who cares ?

– Harry Bluenapp, Surrey, 3/3/2010 10:17
Click to rate Rating 78

Most of these comments bear little relation to reality – the implication that this somehow isn’t racism, that they’ll all get benefits and let in etc. They only reflect the world created by the tabloid press, in which asylum seekers and immigrants are so evil that they deserve all the bad treatment they encounter. The constant misinformation published about migration and asylum has led to people treating outsiders as little better than animals. I don’t like to casually invoke the Nazis, but as they seem to be the bogeymen we can all compare situations to, I think it is obvious to point out that dehumanisation was pretty central to their attempted extermination of an entire religious group (and gypsies, of course, which no doubt pleased Richard Littlejohn).

Certainly the tabloid propaganda campaign creating such intense hatred should rightly be compared to the lies told about the Jews by Der Sturmer. The only difference is Der Sturmer was one weekly paper, not a collection of daily national tabloids.

The Daily Mail Distortion of Terrance Gavan

I’ve just finished reading Nick Davies Flat Earth news and it is a brilliant book that ends with a chapter on the Daily Mail that I really wish every Daily Mail reader was forced to read. In it Davies describes the Daily Mail selecting stories based on what readers want to read, serving up any distortion that it knows will satisfy its readers: attacks on black people, gays, women, the loony-left, Muslims, asylum-seekers, immigrants, single parents and so on. Likewise, popular stories that did not fit into the narrow worldview of the Daily Mail reader were simply not run – no matter what their inherent news value may have been.

This week the Daily Mail have buried the story of Terrance Gavan – an ex-BNP member (according to the Daily Mail at least) and former soldier given 11 years for making and hoarding a substantial cache of weapons and explosives. Someone like Anjem Choudary for example is constantly attacked by the Daily Mail – pointing out that he is on benefits and digging into his past: ‘Swilling beer, smoking dope and leering at porn [all things that the average Mail reader despises], the other side of hate preacher ‘Andy’ Choudary’. A search for ‘Anjem Choudary’ on the Mail website brings up 80 articles attacking him because he is exactly the kind of target that Mail readers want to go after: he is a Muslim extremist, he is a supporter of terrorism and is clearly someone with a badly distorted view of the world.

However, the same accusations could easily be levelled at Terrance Gavan: according to The Times he told police he was a BNP member (whatever Mail readers may argue in the comments: this is an extreme political party), furthermore he had specifically joined the BNP because he had a ‘strong hostility towards immigrants in this country’ (the words of Judge Calvert-Smith) and had indicated that he had ‘planned to target an address he saw on a TV programme that he believed was linked to the July 7 bomb attacks in London (words of the Times). So here we have someone who was equally linked to extreme political views but someone who had actually manufactured the devices to enable him to carry out attacks, their is currently no evidence to suggest that Anjem Choudary – no matter how unpleasant his views may be – has ever actually tried to manufacture explosives or other weapons.

Yet the Mail reader gets 80 articles on Anjem Choudary and just 1 article on Terrance Gavan (this is the only result a search for ‘Terrance Gavan’ the Mail website yields). It is clear to see the news value of the average Daily Mail reader dictating the coverage that the Mail gives to these two individuals. Davies argues in Flat Earth News that this selective deliverance of news has not only made the Daily Mail the most popular, profitable and therefore powerful newspaper in the UK, it has also made it one of the most distorted in terms of the worldview that it projects.

The inevitable result of believing the lies of the tabloid press

All thanks to tabloid lies
This is currently the highest rated comment under an article on the BNP on the Daily Mail website. You’ll immediately recognise lies from the Daily Express, Daily Mail and others in his post. Support for the BNP is the inevitable result of concerted tabloid lies about Muslims and immigrants in general.


The article on the Daily Mail website is: ‘Thank you for being so stupid’: BNP leader Nick Griffin hails BBC for boost to his party. The lies that the commenter is referring to are as follows:

1, Fairness (to the immigrant) – refers to the notion that Immigrants get massive handouts and social housing whilst the ‘white indigenious’ population are left with nothing. See here for how the Daily Mail only report the myth about social housing and not the facts.

2, Justice (no thanks we just want Shariah Law) – this refers to the frankly disgusting Daily Express headline that stated ALL Muslims want Shariah Law to be adopted in the UK. The truth is that a few frothing loonies want such a thing to happen, which is entirely insignificant to the general Muslim population. See TabloidWatch and The Enemies of reason for more on this.

3, equality (you will shut your schools…) refers to an article in the Daily Mail (amongst others) this week about schools being shut for certain religious holidays. As Tabloidwatch points out: a, this has been happening since the 80s, so it is hardly news; b, it is under review due to criticism and c, it is only by 3 councils – so not really something being imposed on the whole of the education system as the Mail would want you to believe.

The point I have been trying to make recently is that the Daily Mail and other tabloids can write all the bitchy articles they want about how terrible the BNP are, but they cannot escape they fact their reporting is inherently racist. The tabloid agenda is designed to spread fear of minorities and it does this through perpetuating the same old myths all of the time.

For the tabloid press to then turn around and blame other myths – mass immigration, open borders, putting immigrants ahead of the indigenous population – for the rise of the BNP is not acceptable. A BBC article today spoke to people in London – including a BNP Councillor Bob Bailey – about their views of the BNP and those who supported the BNP churned out tabloid myths as reasons for supporting the BNP. Take June, a middle-aged woman:

“Good luck to Nick,” says June. “I voted for the BNP because England is ruined, completely. They’ve let too many immigrants in. Full stop. Their housing comes before ours, before the English people. This area has changed for the worse, I think it’s a terrible area because there are too many foreigners, sorry about that, but it’s my opinion.”

The housing myth has been put to bed by a lengthy report, the Mail simply failed to report this and instead still peddles the myth every chance it gets. I’m not sure who is really to blame, the tabloids for reporting myths, or a percentage of the public for being too stupid, bigoted or ignorant to see through them?

We’re not supporting the BNP, honest

I’m sure most people are aware that Nick Griffin is set to appear on BBC’s Question Time tomorrow night and I’m sure it is far to say that opinion has been somewhat divided over the BBC allowing him to appear. From my point of view I have no real argument to make against him appearing and I only hope that the others attending are up the job of pointing out the hatred and holes in his rhetoric. However, it is interesting to see a series of journalists scrabbling to distance themselves from the BNP, as if they wouldn’t be seen dead talking to them and definitely are not responsible for creating popular support for a fascist party. Step forward two principle Daily Mail writers: Melanie Phillips and Richard Littlejohn.

It has been pointed out in the past that Melanie Phillips seems to be officially endorsed by the BNP and that her incessant rambling about the ‘Islamification’ of every aspect of Britain is there for everyone to see on her blog and on the Daily Mail website. Yet this week she has been trying to make out that the BNP are racist, but some of the things that they stand for – and she calls for – are not, such as standing up against ‘mass immigration, Islamisation and the loss of sovereignty to the EU’. However, one could easily argue that having such viewpoints demonstrates at least an ignorance of reality and at most demonstrate that the person raising those points is racist. Melanie Phillips constantly flogs the ‘open-border, uncontrolled immigration’ myth which the BNP feeds on, so it is no wonder that now that Nick Griffin – the demon child partly raised by the tabloid press – is about to go very public certain writers who peddle such myths are worried that Nick Griffin being shot down rightly is a blow to their credibility to.

Richard Littlejohn has written a similar article this week arguing that he wouldn’t want to debate with Nick Griffin because ‘Once you’ve said he’s a racist, where else is there to go?’ and makes some valid points in his article about why the BNP are unsavoury and racist. However, Richard Littlejohn is being extremely hypocritical when criticising the BNP because he is one of journalists most responsible for repeating myths about immigrants and other minority groups. Nick Griffin once said that Littlejohn was his favourite writer and judging by the comments underneath his column today an awful lot of BNP supporters are very upset that Littlejohn of all people should be sticking the boot into the organisation that he is usually so reliably providing ammunition for.

As if to prove just how Littlejohn’s inherent racism supports the BNP agenda he finds himself inserting an anti-immigrant story right next to his piece on the nasty BNP, is he really that thick? Yes, he is, in a column when Littlejohn is trying to distance himself from the BNP he supplies them with some more made-up fodder. The title of the piece quickly dismisses the notion that Littlejohn is not racist: ‘Hey diddle diddle, they are all on the fiddle’. The ‘they’ that Littlejohn refers to is of course immigrants, he is stating, in an article that tries to argue against the overt racism of the BNP that all immigrants are on the fiddle. Just who is Littlejohn trying to kid when he claims not to support what the BNP stand for? This is exactly the kind of shit that the BNP and Nick Griffin love him for.

Naturally the content of the article is completely ficiticious and Tabloid Watch had taken it apart the day before Littlejohn regurgitated it – and he predicted that Littlejohn wouldn’t be able to resist sticking it in his column. Littlejohn isn’t just a racist, he’s a predictable racist that is incapable of doing even the most basic piece of research. As Johann Hari pointed out during an TV encounter with Littlejohn and a BNP member a few years back:

For him to present himself as a neutral arbiter between the BNP and non-fascists was so absurd (and typical of Rupert Murdoch’s empire) that I thought I could have a chance to expose that too. After all, BNP leader Nick Griffin has described Littlejohn as his favourite writer… The BNP fool was very easily dispensed with… So I asked Richard how much a single asylum seeker is given in benefits each week. You’d think that a journalist who writes about asylum twice a week would, of course, know something so incredibly basic. His response was clear. He snapped: “I have no idea”.

No idea. I pointed out that he refers constantly to asylum-seekers being “hosed down” with benefits… He began to howl: “It’s people like you who help the BNP!” He declined to talk me through the mysterious process by which people who peddle urban myths, exaggerations and prejudice about asylum-seekers are really stopping the BNP, and people who correct those distortions are helping them… Littlejohn’s response was to accuse me of staging “a student prank”.

Likewise, Littlejohn offering criticism today of the BNP is utterly absurd when his ‘journalism’ does so much to champion their cause. As No Sleep ‘Til Brooklands argues:

Let me make myself clear; the BNP are much worse than Phillips and Littlejohn, and I’m not trying to suggest their views are identical. But when Mail columnists like them constantly bang on about political correctness stifling debate, and depict accusations of racism as underhand tricks to create ‘thought crimes’, when you repeatedly say, as Phillips does, that “The hallmark of a liberal society is the toleration of offensive views”, can they then realistically simply dismiss the BNP as racists? As Five Chinese Crackers wrote, these extremist groups seem to be at least partly fuelled by the relentlessly negative stories about Muslims and immigration and overbearing political correctness that the Mail churns out. I can’t help but feel that when Mail writers lash out at the BNP, maybe somewhere in there should be a little twinge of guilt. There won’t be, of course, they simply blame it on the left.

I’m inclined to be less generous to Littlejohn here, I think as a very highly-paid journalist we should expect more from him, we should expect him to engage with facts and stop publishing unfounded hate stories against minority groups. I’d like him to stop saying that every immigrant arriving in the UK is ‘on the fiddle’ and only here to milk a generous benefits system that ‘indigenous whites’ don’t have access to. I’d like him to stop referring to the absurd notion that the UK has ‘uncontrolled immigration’ and ‘no border controls’. I’d like him to stop mocking gays and other minority groups that the BNP hate simply because he thinks it is so hilarious to pander to the prejudices of his moronic readership. I’m not overly inclined to criticise Melanie Phillips because I genuinely believe her to be mentally ill – and I do not say this flippantly or lightly, I have just simply come to that conclusion because her articles are so detached from reality.

I’d also point out that often people try to argue that members of the BNP learn their hatred and maintain through a lack of education and ignorance. The tabloid press is responsible for creating and repeating myths about minority groups, so are they as guilty or even more guilty than those who believe such myths? It is far too easy to trust the content of a newspaper and to really believe that Littlejohn ‘couldn’t make it up’, which lays more guilt at the hands of Littlejohn than the morons that follow the BNP. This isn’t to lessen the burden of responsibility that should be felt by those who follow the BNP, because at some point they have chosen the path of hatred and paranoia and they must take ownership of this choice.

Nonetheless I cannot help but feel that the tabloid press is behaving incredibly hypocritically when it runs any criticism of the BNP when it publishes vile racism every single day. Take today’s article by Leo McKinstry in the Daily Express, it is every bit as abhorrent as Jan Moir’s article on Stephen Gately yet it passes by with hardy a ripple. Racism is the staple diet of the tabloid press and outside of certain blogs it is very rarely commented on, until this changes and the tabloids banish their own inherently racist tendencies they should play no part in criticising the emergence of the BNP as a faintly credible political party – especially you Littlejohn.

Impotent Anger

Thanks to Google putting a previous article I wrote on Jan Moir on the first page of search results for ‘Jan Moir’ this website has received a lot of traffic regarding Jan Moir’s article on Stephen Gately. Because I do not in the first instance moderate comments it has also led to some angry comments, some wishing death to Jan Moir and others disgusted at such a sentiment. I want to address both sets of comments to try and reason as to why people have reacted in the way that they have.

Firstly, as some commenters have pointed out, the Mail moderates comments on controversial stories, or blocks them entirely if they do not agree with the writer or the editorial line. This leads to a great deal of frustration because people who disagree with the Daily Mail or any of its writers are not given a platform to engage with them. Instead the majority of the time readers of the Mail website are subjected to a comments section that is as ignorant, biased and misinformed as the article or editorial line.

This causes a great deal of anger, in particular with the Jan Moir article because it demonstrates the complete lack of accountability that journalists or columnists have. It is a one-way process, they feed us their opinion – no matter how disgusting – and we have to lump it, without even being able to leave a comment underneath the offending article. I can completely understand people searching to find more about Jan Moir, finding my article pointing out another occasion when her staggering judgemental ignorance is attacking the family of a recently murdered young girl and writing something that perhaps they don’t mean.

I don’t really think that the commenters underneath that article on this blog really want Jan Moir killed, I just think it sums up a level of impotent disgust that has been reached by certain sections of the public. The truth is that tabloid newspapers have considerable influence, with politicians slithering up to tabloid editors to please them and avoid being regularly attacked by them. All the while the general public has to be subjected to the terrible racism, homophobia and general fear-mongering of the tabloid newspapers without even being able to post their disgust on the offending websites.

The latest comment on my article says the following:

What hate filled postings below, shame on you where is your famous tolerance for free speech. The loony left realy has taken over.

Whilst I agree that ‘hate filled postings’ are not doing anyone any good, I would wonder what action the ‘loony left’ should take? After all, freedom of speech is not granted on tabloid websites – even though that is the defence that they use to publish whatever they like – and the only other option is to complain to the PCC. This second option is utterly pointless when only someone directly involved in the article can have a complaint investigated by the PCC. The tabloid press know that they only have to worry about those involved complaining (so it helps newspapers if the victim of an attack is dead, like Stephen Gately) and even if those directly involved do complain, the PCC is only likely to impose the sentence of forcing the newspaper to offer an apology, in tiny print, buried somewhere deep in the paper.

In the light of the record 21,000 complaints received about Jan Moir’s article, the PCC has asked the Daily Mail for a letter of explanation. Doesn’t that sound like a regulatory body that lacks any real power; or perhaps is worried about upsetting Paul Dacre (Daily Mail editor) who just happens to hold an important position within the PCC.

Little wonder that if a regulatory system is not fit for purpose people harbor vigilante thoughts and impotent anger. After all, violence is a last resort, taken on when a person or people feel that they have no other option to make their opinion heard. Jan Moir’s complete lack of an apology shows that she isn’t going to give anyone the satisfaction of answering the criticism she has received, and the shrugged shoulders from the Daily Mail shows that they certainly aren’t prepared to take any action to punish Moir.

I do not condone wishing that someone would murder Jan Moir, but I can understand the sentiment when uttered in anger and impotent frustration that there is no more constructive route for the general public to take in this situation. I would also point out to to those readers disgusted with such sentiments being expressed on this website is that as pointed out by those posters: they posted them on this website because they couldn’t post them on the Daily Mail website. However, when you read the comments on the Daily Mail website absolutely full of hatred – as long as it suits the editorial line – it makes you realise that the Daily Mail isn’t against murderous sentiments, only against murderous sentiments that don’t target the right groups.

For a closer look at the utter uselessness of the PCC see The enemies of reason. For a look at how the Daily Mail exists to stir up racial hatred, read this post by Tabloid Watch.

I really hope a lot of people saw Panorama tonight, because that kind of racism is what the tabloid newspapers have fostered through their hate-filled and dishonest agenda. Like for example, another Richard Littlejohn column that lies about immigrants, basically telling readers that immigrants will use any ‘trick’ to stay in the UK.