As I tried to argue in my Winterval essay, media myths might start out as fairly harmless things. The newspaper might roll their eyes and laugh at the silly PC brigade, wondering what those crazy, sandal-wearing, lentil-munching, Guardian readers are going to do next, but there isn’t necessary real malice or real victims – given that there is no ‘PC brigade’. However, when these myths become part of a wider narrative – such as Muslims are intent on domination in the West and they are starting by banning Christmas and stopping Austrian men from yodelling – then the laughter stops and you realise there is a darker method behind the initial madness.
Sometimes the victim gets a chance to debunk a myth, and when they do the message needs to be spread as far and as fast as possible, which is essentially what this blog post is attempting to help with. The Red Cross have had a lot of people posting on their Facebook page ‘from people angry with us for “banning Christmas”, which we haven’t, and the story now seems to be spreading on some American websites’. And the source of this anger – along with the promise from certain members of the public that they will no longer be donating to the Red Cross because of this ‘ban’ – none other than the Daily Mail:
It turns out that these people have stumbled across an article that appeared in the Daily Mail in 2002 and now forms part of the paper’s online archive. Unfortunately, the article isn’t dated on the Mail’s site, which had led some people to believe this was a current news story – although references in it to Sangatte, the Calais refugee camp that closed in 2002, do serve to date it. We denied the gist of the piece strongly at the time.
The point is that the Red Cross is not a political or religious organisation. This neutrality is one of our fundamental principles and governs everything we do in the whole Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. It means that we can reach and help people in need, whoever and wherever they are. Often we provide help in countries that other organisations cannot or will not work in.
We cross front lines in times of war to help conflict victims and visit prisoners of war on both sides. We can only do this life-saving work because we are understood to be a completely neutral, independent organisation. Put simply, our neutrality saves lives.
We can’t let people in need down by compromising our neutrality. That is why we do not align ourselves with any particular political cause or religious creed anywhere in the world. And that’s why we don’t have any items of a religious nature in our shops.
The comments underneath the blog post demonstrate just how pervasive the myth that Christmas is being banned is, given that the clear explanation given by the Red Cross is ignored in favour of idiotic conspiracy theories. It is another example of why bad journalism matters: a charity is losing donations because of the lies told by the Daily Mail.
In other news, the BNP were back today and have an important message for us all [7th picture down].