Daily Telegraph reheats Daily Mail rubbish

Last week the Daily Mail claimed that Thomas the Tank Engine had got rid of Christmas in an attempt to be politically correct. The article did seem to contradict this claim by including the following two paragraphs near the end:

Hit Entertainment, the company behind the DVD, said: ‘It was put out some time ago. It was not a seasonal release specifically aimed at a Christmas audience, but we do put out seasonal releases that have Christmas in the title.

‘Last year we had Christmas Express and next year we are planning another Christmas title.’

So, the Daily Mail article made it clear that the DVD they were referring to was an older release, and as such was not exactly ‘news’ nor was the DVD intended as a seasonal release.

The Daily Telegraph today ran the following headline: ‘Christmas removed from Thomas the Tank Engine to be politically correct’. They followed up this headline with this sub-heading:

The daughter of the clergyman author who created Thomas the Tank Engine has criticised television producers for writing Christmas out of a new series. [emphasis is mine]

The article continues:

In the offending TV episode called “Keeping up with James”, the trains compete to carry presents to children against a background with a fir tree decorated with baubles and a choir.

But instead of using the word Christmas, the programme talks of the “winter holidays” and a “holiday tree.”

Just a couple of problems:

  1. The episode referred to in the Telegraph article – presumably what the Telegraph means by ‘writing Christmas out of a new series‘ – first aired in 2005.
  2. This year a Thomas the Tank Engine Christmas special is being released on the 31st October – complete with ‘Wishes come true in this Christmas special!’ slapped on the front cover.

The Telegraph does seem to make the vaguest reference to what the Mail article made clear: the removal of overtly Christmas language was a cynical attempt to flog the DVD all year round and all-world-round. However, it doesn’t offer the same level of transparency that the Daily Mail article does and simply states in the closing paragraph that:

Hit Entertainment has said references to Christmas were removed because the DVD on which it featured was designed to be sold all the year round.

And, as is very clear by the expected 31st October release of the Thomas the Tank Engine Christmas special, we can clearly see that new episodes will indeed be cynically exploiting the Christmas theme for profit. Just as Jesus would have wanted, no doubt.

With thanks to @notjarvis for tweeting this story to me.

In the media spotlight

Last month the Daily Mail wrote a worried piece titled: ‘How will children ever grow up if schools won’t let them take risks?‘ which was followed by the following in bold: ‘A passionate attack on politically correct nannying by the inspirational teacher sacked for allowing pupils to go’. Not only does this highlight Stewart Lee’s point that a lot of people confuse ‘political correctness’ with health and safety legislation. The teacher in question – Richard Tremelling who was Head of Technology at Cefn Hengoed School in Swansea – has received coverage from all major media outlets for allegedly being sacked for taking some students sledging without carrying out any form of risk assessment.

Obviously the school in question has now been on the receiving end of a large amount of angry correspondence from people who were encouraged by certain newspapers to contact the school about such an outrageous decision. The deputy head – Geoff Brookes – has now responded to this correspondence he has received in a humorous manner and confirms that ‘the reality of the case was much more complicated than that and I can’t go into it now for legal reasons’. What he finds ‘fascinating’ is the response he has received from those encouraged to contact the school:

It could have been quite hurtful if it wasn’t so bizarre. Clearly, there are people out there who have far too much time on their hands, along with access to old typewriters – still the instrument of choice in some of the remoter areas – while the skill of corresponding in capital letters using a blunt pencil clearly continues to thrive in Essex.

It is disturbing that there are those who accept everything they read at face value. If it appears in their newspaper of choice, then it must be true. So the letters are based on half truths, incomplete understanding and assumptions. A tabloid headline seems to confirm the fears of the confused elderly about the state of the world and draws out their prejudices along with lined paper and a grubby brown envelope.

One writer seems to regard ‘Allo ‘Allo! as a wartime documentary. Apparently, if we had been in charge “between 1939 and 1945 we’d all be speaking German now, doing the double-time goose step and calling each other Fritz and Heidi”. Another letter tells me it is my fault that “the country is full of queers, tramps, no-goods, dossers and what have you”. No wonder my performance management document is published in chapters.

“You should bow your head in shame,” another letter tells me and I could hardly disagree, given the fact that I am responsible for raising “wimps in a litigious society”. It is something I can tell my grandchildren, I suppose. “No wonder the country is in such a mess.” In fact our purpose is to “grind the planet to a standstill”. This explains why I am so tired at night.

The attitudes that underpin some of the letters are very disturbing and primitive. Our leadership team is described as half-wits “who speak a language no one outside of Wales can understand or would want to”. How do they know? A writer from Bristol addresses the headteacher helpfully, saying that “one characteristic of the female mind which I have recognised from observation during my lifetime is that women placed in positions of authority lack the ability to use the judgment that men could make”. Sadly, the rest of the letter isn’t quite as reasoned or well balanced.

I urge you to go and read the rest and consider, once again, just what impact newspapers do have on people. As easy as it is to think that no-one really believes what they read in the papers, there is a lot of evidence that they do. And when they do, it is those at the center of the story have to face the consequences.

The Daily Mail and the Gay Agenda

/* This post originally appeared on my old blog on 30 April 2009. As part of the migration of content from my old blog I may occasionally post them here as a current post if I feel they are relevant. Due the the constant themes / narratives in the Daily Mail old posts often cover ‘new’ Mail articles. */

‘If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.’
Malcolm X

The Daily Mail has contained quite a few articles on ‘gays’ recently and the tone, content and spin of the articles is uniformly depressing – whilst the comments underneath the offending articles are shameful. Today’s effort skewers an incident so once again the ‘homosexual’ or ‘gay’ lobby are the aggressors, and the intolerant and bigoted are the victims of some kind of ‘gay agenda’.

It is an idea fomented by – amongst others – Richard Littlejohn; who sees teaching diversity in schools as a mission to ‘peddle’ or ‘force-feed’ ‘gay propaganda’ to children. So, in the world of the Daily Mail the very act of reaching for equality is seen as an act of aggression – in simple terms the gay agenda is not seeking equality but is actually intent on banishing heterosexuality and converting us all to homosexuality.

This article, like many others, pitches a god-fearing Christian teacher against an evil homosexual preaching ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance’. The headline, naturally, is designed to raise the blood pressure of any Daily Mail reader: ‘What makes you think it’s natural to be heterosexual?’: Christian teacher suspended over gay rights promotion row.

The basic story is:

A senior teacher has been suspended from his £50,000-a-year job after he complained that a training day for staff was used to promote gay rights. Kwabena Peat, 54, was one of several Christian staff who walked out of the compulsory session at a North London school after an invited speaker questioned why people thought heterosexuality was natural.

Now, this is essentially the crux of the ‘gay rights promotion row’, Sue Sanders appears to have asked a philosophical question: ‘what makes you think it’s natural to be heterosexual?’. Now, without context this does seem to be an odd question, but consider for a moment the question being used as a discussion point, which as this was training, seems likely.

The question seems to be designed to get participants questioning what is ‘natural’ – what does the concept mean and does the concept of natural differ based upon individual perception? The point probably being made is that for a gay person, to them being gay is perfectly natural; consequently, from the perception of a gay person, heterosexuality – for them – would be unnatural.

The important thing to remember is that this is a question, it is not a statement decreeing that heterosexuality is abnormal and homosexuality is normal. However, to properly engage with the question a person needs to be free of the common misconceptions about homosexuality. This is the difficult part for a Daily Mail reader as they are constantly being told that homosexuality is a perversion, a choice made by perverted people (hence the fear of education in schools, tell more people, more will choose to be gay).

Richard Littlejohn – as just one example – has grouped homosexuality with fetishes, and as I said at the time:

He… does not seem to understand that being gay isn’t really a choice. ‘Why a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender month, anyway?’ he argues, ‘Why not a Foot Fetishists, Spankers, Sadists and Masochists History Month?’. Littlejohn lists these fetishes for two main reasons: one; to make Gay, Bisexual or Transgender people sound as perverted as Mail readers assume those who practice those fetishes to be, and two; to make it seem as if being Gay is a behaviour that one can choose not to indulge in – with the implicit assumption that to indulge in such a behaviour is a perversion.

Littlejohn clearly wants to ferment the idea that homosexuality is a perversion and as we all know, a perversion is something considered outside of ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ sexual practice. Therefore, when the notion of what is ‘natural’ is placed in front of a Mail reader, they already harbour a strong prejudice against homosexuality.

Therefore the question allegedly asked by Sue Sanders will be met with horror, as homosexuality has already been labeled unnatural, so in the eyes of the Mail reader the perversion in this instance is the philosophical questioning of why heterosexuality is considered natural.

This is not the only problem with the. The article is also constructed to make the Christian teacher the victim, yet in many ways he seems to be the aggressor:

According to Mr Peat, Ms Sanders, herself a lesbian, said that staff who did not accept that being gay was normal had ‘issues’ they had to deal with.Mr Peat, a history teacher who is also a head of year, said he was upset that people who disagreed on religious grounds had no chance to respond.

He wrote privately to the three staff members who organised the session, complaining about Ms Sanders’ ‘aggressive’ presentation. In his letter, he cited the Bible and warned that practising homosexuals risked God’s ‘wrath’.

But the staff complained to the school’s principal that they felt ‘harassed and intimidated’ by the letter and, after an investigation, Mr Peat was placed on paid leave.

It does not seem unreasonable to state that staff who do not accept homosexuality as normal have issues they need to deal with. As we have already discussed the question asked by Sue Sanders seems a perfectly valid discussion point – that if properly considered by an adult mind helps to tease out why the concept of normality can apply to both heterosexuality and homosexuality. What does seem unreasonable is the response of Mr Peat, the supposed Christian.

You’d have thought a devout Christian would turn the other cheek, be tolerant or do unto others, but instead he preaches violence and intolerance as a perfectly acceptable solution to a problem he has. It seems to be significant that although the Mail claims that Kwabena Peat ‘was one of several Christian staff who walked out of the compulsory session’ this is never elaborated on; whilst what is a fact is that Mr Peat has been suspended after the complaints made against him by staff.

The Daily Mail sets Mr Peat up as the victim, yet the truth seems to show that he is an intolerant Christian being wheeled out as a martyr to the ‘gay agenda’. Not that this seems to have been realised by the majority of commentators on the article:

In answer to Ms Sanders, “What makes you all think that to be heterosexual is natural?” It’s bloody obvious, you’re here on the planet! If it wasn’t normal then the human race would have become extinct as it had failed to reproduce. Or would you even twist science and history around?

Again,the public are being force fed left wing political correctness, just to keep so called minorities ‘happy and in control,’ The scarey part is that they are allowed to be in schools to preach their views!!!!!

– David ex-pat, Perth, Australia, 26/4/2009 4:39

David – he is not alone, but I dare not copy and paste reams and reams of ignorant Mail commentators for the sake of some brevity – again, thinks that normal cannot ever apply to a homosexual. His argument is a biological one: homosexuality doesn’t allow for reproduction, therefore it is not natural. Yet, what he hasn’t the intelligence to consider, is that people are born gay.

It isn’t – as Littlejohn likes to believe – something we can be forced into or converted to by interacting with gay people, or by attending diversity or awareness sessions. Therefore, can it be concluded that as sexual preference is not a result of nurture, it must be the result of nature? This conclusion would mean that homosexuality is perfectly natural and must be biologically determined – making David ex-pat’s argument as bad as his spelling.

The point I am trying to make is that gay people are not making a choice about their sexuality anymore than a straight person is. What equality is trying to achieve is the freedom for a person to be comfortable with whatever biological attraction they are born with. The message that being a homosexual is normal is being delivered because as a society we do not want people wandering around suppressing their nature in fear that they will be victimised or ostracised for simply being who they are.

In particular the issue is important in schools because we want to let children know that whatever they are feeling is OK. If they have an attraction to the same sex they should not feel like a freak, and they should not feel scared. Instead they should be given the opportunity to understand and embrace their biology, embrace what is for them natural and normal. The insidious implications in recent Daily Mail articles that ‘promoting homosexuality’ in schools is damaging children is to deny them their biological right to be happy.

It is assumed by bigots that children would all be happy heterosexuals if they didn’t hear about homosexuality through the ‘gay agenda lobby’, when in fact if they deny their basic urges or desires because they feel uncomfortable expressing them, is surely a recipe for unhappiness.

There is no such thing as a ‘gay agenda’ or ‘gay lobby’ that works on behalf of all gay people. To give gay people one voice is to homogenise, judge and dehumanise them. We are all individuals doing our best to make some sense of the world around us and our own emotions, it makes no difference whether an individual is gay, straight or bisexual.

Unless of course, you read the Daily Mail and other tabloid newspapers.

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.

Money for nothing

Peter Hitchens is somehow paid for being a hateful little man. If one writer really embodies the backward, bigoted bitterness that is the Daily Mail then it is him. Staggeringly misogynistic, sneeringly homophobic and unflinchingly elitist his latest column argues that university is a place where people become ‘parasites’ and learn nothing whilst wasting taxpayers money. Peter is bitter because he ‘went to one and spent the whole time being a Trotsky­ist troublemaker at the taxpayers’ expense’, so he therefore projects his own inadequacies on every other graduate / undergraduate in the UK:

We seem to accept without question that it is a good thing that the young should go through this dubious experience. Worse, employers seem to have fallen completely for the idea that a university degree is essential – when it is often a handicap.

For many people, college is a corrupting, demoralising experience. They imagine they are independent when they are in fact parasites, living off their parents or off others and these days often doomed to return home with a sense of grievance and no job.

And it gets worse, because students get up to all sorts of puerile things like SEX and drinking alcohol, which non-graduates avoid presumably:

And they pass through the nasty, sordid rite of passage known as ‘Freshers’ Week’, in which they are encouraged to drink dangerous amounts of alcohol and to lose what’s left of their sexual inhibitions after the creepy sex educators have got at them at school.

‘Creepy sex educators’ in school? Why are so many Daily Mail writers utterly obsessed with sex and children? What is creepier, a Mail article about a ‘sexualised’ 10-year-old (complete with lots of photos) along with a discussion about why she is wearing a bra, or children receiving education about relationships in schools? He carries on:

And if they are being taught an arts subject, they will find that their courses are crammed with anti-Christian, anti-Western, anti-traditional material. Proper literature
is despised and ‘deconstructed’.

Our enviable national history is likewise questioned, though nothing good is put in its place. Even if they are study­ing something serious, their whole lives will be dominated by assumptions of political correctness, down to notices in the bars warning against ‘homophobia’ and other thought crimes.

Somehow Peter Hitchens claims to know what is taught in every single arts subject the length and breadth of the UK. Even though he went to one university. 30 years ago. Imagine the horrors of drinking in a university bar that doesn’t even condone homophobia – note the inverted commas around homophobia as if it isn’t real and this sentence isn’t an example of it.

So does Hitchens want all universities shut? No, he just wants them to return to the good old days:

time has come to close most of our universities and shrink the rest so they do what they are supposed to do – educating an elite in the best that has ever been written, thought and said, and undertaking real hard scientific research.

At least he is honest: he hates liberals, gays, women and the poor and just wants merry old England to return to the age of landed gentry and serfs. I know people will want to point out that Peter is merely being paid to be provocative, but I’d urge you to look at his output (and the arguments he sometimes gets into with commenters on his blog) and you will see that he really believes what he writes.

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.

The world is full of sexually deprived saddoes with a laptop and a broadband connection

I live in South Wales and my drive to work has been affected over the last year by the construction of a new bypass around Church Village. The last few months I noticed some metal structures being built over the roads (like posh goalposts), which I initially thought were for hanging road signs from. Then they became more elaborate and I thought they had been built for squirrels to use. However, in conversation with a work colleague yesterday I discovered they had actually been built for dormice to use, because they would not cross roads otherwise.

So, imagine my delight when I saw Richard Littlejohn’s column today: ‘A walkway for dormice is a bridge too far…‘, I just knew he had discovered what I had. Quite a feeling to know that thousands of miles away Richard and I shared a moment of discovery. However, I imagine the sharing ends there, given what thoughts I took away from the discovery and what he has managed to spew out.

His column begins – as so many do – with something that will be contradicted by the rest of the column. His claim that:

On the face of it, there’s something rather charming about the decision to build a special bridge to help dormice cross a busy new road.

It reminds us that there are more important things in life than constantly bickering about politics and spending cuts.

Britain is a nation of animal lovers, and our concern for the welfare of even the most humble forms of life is touching.

When I discover that a bypass has been delayed because its proposed route would involve bulldozing the natural habitat of the lesser spotted water vole, I find it strangely reassuring.

Eccentricity goes to the very heart of our identity as a nation. Any society which can be bothered to worry about the impact a new road may have on dormice can’t be all bad.

Is completely ruined by the rest of his column that Britain and the EU (for it is naturally their fault) is a screaming wasteland of insanity for building such bridges for dormice. It is all numbingly familiar, like the time when he claimed at the start of a column: ‘I don’t condone torture’… but then went on to demand that we attach electric cables to the testicles of every suspicious looking foreigner.

It’s a bit silly really and again he misses the whole point of his claim that we’re an ‘eccentric’ land of animal lovers. Surely his initial argument is that it is good that we spend time and effort ensuring that our society tries to work around (to some extent) some of the native inhabitants of our small island; such an argument must be aware that such eccentricity costs money. Furthermore, his use of the word eccentricity actually implies that the cost will not be insignificant.

Let me try and break it down for Richard (in case he ever reads this – you never know). Richard, you are a columnist who is paid around a million pounds a year for choosing around 1000 words twice a week and putting them into your column. You get paid an awful lot of money per word, so you really should be expected to have a mastery of language. The word ‘eccentricity’ is most commonly used in relation to money when someone is spending a lot of it on something considered by others to be wasteful (like: ‘John Smith is eccentric for spending his life savings on a luxury apartment just for his cat’).

This means, Dick, that you cannot then move onto the next part of your column and say the following:

In the scheme of things, a couple of grand spent building an underpass for frogs, in the context of a multi-million-pound motorway extension, is little more than a round of drinks.

Because, Dick, that is not eccentric in any way, is it? Eccentricity in financial terms would be spending £1000 on a motorway extension and £10 million on a underground underpass with escalator, calming music and central heating for moles.

But, you’re not finished, are you Dick, with displaying your fundamental stupidity as you go on:

when I learned that Rhondda Council, in South Wales, had constructed three walkways to allow dormice to traverse a bypass near Pontypridd.

I assumed a couple of workmen had strung a length of wire between two poles and dangled a piece of Welsh cheddar to encourage the dormice to use the makeshift bridge, instead of getting splattered beneath the wheels of an articulated lorry taking bananas from Barry docks to Britain’s greengrocers.

Then I saw the pictures and read about the cost. What should have been an afternoon’s work has escalated into a major engineering endeavour, consuming £190,000.

I mean, sure, they could have dangled a piece of string between two poles, but then that wouldn’t be eccentric, would it, Dick? I know I might be boring you all with what maybe amounts to not a great deal, but I just think that language matters, words matter, meaning matters and that if you’re being paid an obscene amount to string a few together you should at least consider what connotations your choice of words has – particularly if one word seems to completely destroy your argument.

Furthermore, his claim that he imagined the bridges would be cheap and ‘makeshift’ he is using a word that clearly has connotations of not being permanent. After an earthquake people create ‘makeshift’, temporary structures until they are able to rebuild something more solid and lasting in the future. The bypass around Church Village is now a permanent feature of the Welsh landscape, so why is he shocked that the bridges have also been constructed in the same fashion? Perhaps, once again, he is just stringing these words together without really thinking.

To put things into a little perspective, the overall project has a budget of £90 million, so £190,000 makes up just 0.2% of the overall project budget. Again, this is the complete opposite of eccentric spending. Consider it this way: a new bypass has been built and just 0.2% of the budget has been put aside to deal with the impact on local wildlife. Hardly seems like the kind of outrageous waste that should be written about by a columnist, does it?

Just one final point to demonstrate Dick’s complete lack of self-awareness is that he writes this in another segment today:

The world is full of sexually deprived saddoes with a laptop and a broadband connection.

Couldn’t agree more, Dick. Some of them are even paid obscene amounts by the Daily Mail, or choose to write extremely misogynistic, sexually confused ‘novels’ in their spare time.

You couldn’t make it up!

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.

How can we speak out against racism?

This is a blog post that has been partly written in my mind for quite some time and I’m sure parts of it are already out in the public domain as comments on other blogs, responses to reader comments on this blog or half-formed thoughts on blog posts stretching back over the last year or so – not that this or any blog post I write is anything more than a series of whispering thoughts partially collected and imperfectly recorded. The question I have been pondering is the title of this blog post: how can we speak out against racism? We are supposedly moving away from living in a racist society and bigotry in general is supposed to be the preserve of those old enough to be excused. Then why is it that I still encounter racism in every age group I engage with?

Encountering racism is one problem, challenging it is the next, far bigger dilemma. I wonder how many people reading this post have been in groups, around the partners of family members, in work or in any other social environment and encountered casual racism. Perhaps someone mentioned the ‘paki’ shop or referred to an Asian person as a ‘paki’ or complained about the ‘bloody ethnics taking over the country’. You might sense that they do not neccesarily mean it in an offensive way, but it is offensive and you want to say something, but you don’t know how.

The trouble is – it seems to me – that very few people do challenge casual racism like this. It seems to me that we have developed a rather skewered sense of social politeness where it is not socially acceptable to point out that someone is being offensive or racist. To be the one person in the group who speaks up you make yourself an instant outcast, you are the one making an accusation that is out of order – you are immediately tarred with the media brush of the ‘PC brigade’, infringing someone’s right to use a word they have always used. What is worse – so the logic goes – is that I’m not even black or Asian, so why am I even complaining, since I surely cannot be offended by the term?

If the tabloid media have achieved one thing in their interaction with the ongoing social problem of racism, they have made it extremely difficult for anyone to challenge racist language or engage in any real debate. They have taken ownership of the language of racism and the debates surrounding racism and distorted them so that it is the white man that is the victim; whilst the black man is the perpetrator of false victimhood. Instead of genuine racism we now have ethnic minorities ‘playing the race card’. Instead of offensive racist language we now have ‘political correctness gone mad’, it is no longer the language that is the real offence, but the person or society that challenges it. If anyone attempts to engage with other ethnic minorities or worse still, understand their culture or needs then they are ‘pandering’ to the evil doctrine of ‘diversity’ or ‘multi-culturalism’.

What kind of person challenges racism? Well, the most evil person of all: the liberal. Sadly we live in a society that freely uses the word liberal as a catch-all insult; a really hearty term of abuse designed to shut down debate. You can try and tackle any issue using rational arguments, studies or science and if your ideology does not match conventional conservatism: you are an evil liberal. You are the sort of person who is ‘soft on crime’ and would see killers put back on the streets – even if you are just arguing that looking at the offending rates suggests prison is not a deterrent and looking at the reoffending rate it is not a cure either. You might be suggesting that tackling the root causes of criminal behaviour is the real key to reducing crime in the long run; but you’re easily dismissed as a daft liberal when the real answer is simply to lock up more people for longer (even though the same person then complains about hight taxes and their irrational belief in the current system just serves to keep them that way). You become a ‘friend of the criminal’, rather than someone merely suggesting their might be a better way of reducing crime – and you would think that reducing crime would be something the conservative would support.

You also the sort of person who is likely to be ‘pandering to diversity’ or insistant on spreading the evil doctrine of multi-culturalism. You’re easily dismissed as a ‘pant-wetting Guardian reader’, without the need for the person to even engage with any arguments you put forward. In short: you are despicable and wrong.

And so it comes to challenging casual racism, where you face the full wrath of your peers if you break the unwritten rule of polite silence in the face of a racial slur. We might content ourselves with platitudes that it is simply a generational thing, that it will die out and we will all start using more acceptable terms to describe people who are not as white as us. Yet I have no doubt that this is an unfounded assumption. Casual racism lives on and it gains in strength with each dishonest tabloid article on ‘the PC brigade’ banning something else we cannot do or say in case it offends an ethnic minority (you become as laughable as the ‘PC zealot’ ‘banning’ spotted dick). Each article makes it difficult for anyone to tackle racism without instantly being dismissed as a ‘PC zealot’ or part of some big evil plot to overthrow the white man and replace him with women with covered heads.

I’m not a PC zealot, I’m just a person who believes that it really isn’t acceptable to refer to someone as a ‘paki’ or ‘nigger’ and I really do not want you to use such terms in my presence. One day I might even grow a pair and challenge you, accepting that I’ll be seen as the bad guy in the situation, the one who is out of order and making things awkward. But, perhaps one day, I’ll be the outcast if I don’t stand up and say something. Now that will be the day when racism really can be discarded as no longer a real issue. Until then, headlines like we saw in the Express and Star today* will be acceptable to far too many people and rarely challenged in ‘polite’ conversations.

A blog post rounding up the best blog posts on this topic will follow.

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Winning ‘Banned’ in schools…

Another dishonest headline from the Daily Mail: ‘Winning banned in two thirds of schools as teachers reward ALL students‘. Of course this headlines just reeks of bullshit and the whole article seems to be an ill-thought mess. You know the headline is a complete lie from the first two paragraphs:

Two out of three schools are rewarding all pupils on sports days to ensure that nobody feels left out, according to a survey.

Teachers want to be ‘inclusive’ and give prizes to both winners and losers to stop anyone’s feelings being hurt.

So, winning clearly has not been banned at all, merely two-thirds of schools choose to reward to some extent all competitors whilst still acknowledging and rewarding winners. Considering the Daily Mail is supposedly concerned with obesity and the lack of activity in young people they might want to think about the importance of rewarding anyone who participates in physical exercise rather than just those that win any given event. For a lot of people sport is not something they want to get involved with precisely because of the pressure involved, or the emphasis placed on winning rather than the pleasure of competing. If 20 children run 100 metres the winners should be recognised, but what is wrong with acknowledging that all 20 children still essentially completed the same task.

So, has winning been banned at all then? Well, according to the survey: ‘Nine per cent of all schools refuse to single out any winners at all’, which is very different to the Daily Mail headline which states that this is 2/3 of schools, whereas it is actually the case in only 9/100 schools. Of course, we all know who is to blame for this madness:

Left-wing councils that scorned it as ‘elitist’ and insisted on politically correct activities with no winners or losers.

Loony-left-wing-councils, is there anything they haven’t banned – according to the Daily Mail that is?

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