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.