Thursday, 18 March 2010

How newspapers influence their readers

Over at Angry Mob, Uponnothing has written about the brainless comments left on the Mail website about the treatment of Gurkhas and immigrants.

The gulf between what Mail readers (and indeed, Mail columnists) think immigrants, illegal immigrants and asylum seekers each get when they come to Britain, and what they actually get (or more likely, don't get), is immense.

And another comment on another story on the Mail website today showed the same thing:

So Steve believes illegal immigrants register to vote and he pays taxes just so they can claim benefits and housing for a 'lifetime'. You might think that would be hard to do while remaining 'illegal'.

Yet the Mail moderators think this nonsense is a legitimate comment to be posted.

And, sigh, at least 721 Mail readers agree with them.


  1. 721!!!! that's surreal.
    is there like a massive synapse lapse between thought and typing or something? it seems so obvious - if someone is an illegal immigrant than they can't exactly pop down to the dole office with the HUGE amount of paperwork and info that the dole office demand from you and get a handout. it isn't easy to get benefits if you're legally in the country anyway!
    and why can't they make the very simple link, if you are in the country ILLEGALLY then how the hell are you going to get on the electoral roll? stupid stupid stupid

  2. What's surreal is your lack of appreciation of the realities of the situation. People don't just piss and moan because of what they read in the paper. They piss and moan because of what they see happening around them all the time. The mail just taps into this and reinforces it.

    Case in point. My job took me abroad years ago, but my folks still live on the same estate in a rural village. This estate has been swamped over the last five years with immigrants who, by and large, orginally entered as illegals. Indeed, the next door neighbour, a Kosovan, boasts quite freely about the amount of benefits he and his family have received over the last ten years, despite jumping off a lorry in Dover back in 1999. Now he lives in a 350K house and drives a 2008 BMW. He manages to work (cash in hand I presume) and still claims benefits. Voting, I don't know, but it wouldn't surprise me.

    Shouldn't happen, agreed. Does happen, absolutely.

    While I love seeing someone put the boot into the Wail as much as possible, I find these blogs equally offensive sometimes. There's a gulf between what the papers say and what is, eh? Well, feel free to enlighten us. I'm willing to bet MacGuffin here has never got within 10 yards of an illegal immigrant to canvass their opinion on the whole immigration/benefits system. I'd suggest that if it wasn't relatively easy to claim such, then there wouldn't be such a massive influx, would there? Oh, wait, don't tell me, they made that up too, right?

  3. Anonymous - How much would you be willing to bet on that? You make yourself look a bit foolish making claims you have no way of backing up.

    If you don't think the newspapers influence them, why do you think readers of the Express, Mail and Sun believe numbers of immigrants in this country are far higher than actually is the case?

    If you could tell us the actual status of this Kosovan neighbour then we might be able to judge but you are just making meaningless assumptions.

    And I'm not convinced you fully understand what an illegal immigrant actually is.

    You may also want to familiarise yourself with recent research which said three-quarters of asylum seekers had no idea they would receive any financial support when they came to the UK.

    I'm not sure how much more enlightening I can do. The gulf is evident on this blog (the Polish abortions story a recent example). If you have actual evidence which negates anything I have written feel free to send it to me.

  4. And your research is extensive is it?

    ///The gulf between what Mail readers (and indeed, Mail columnists) think immigrants, illegal immigrants and asylum seekers each get when they come to Britain, and what they actually get (or more likely, don't get), is immense.//

    Is it? Show me, don't tell me. An unsubstantiated claim, if ever there was one.

    //You may also want to familiarise yourself with recent research which said three-quarters of asylum seekers had no idea they would receive any financial support when they came to the UK. //

    Ah, the old 'recent research' trick! Don't bother actually showing me the research, just tell me it exists. I'll believe you that it a. exists, and that b. is credible. Besides which, that's the type of 'research' where you could easily get the answers you want. Besides (Part 2), if I'm an illegal immigrant, I'm hardly going to admit I came to the UK for the money, am I? I had no idea, guv'nor!

    Ain't statistics a bitch, MacG?


    Generally - I hear you. But, as I said, it happens. Makes me wonder, though, if 75% of A/S have no idea of financial support, why they struggle so hard to traverse through numerous EU countries to get here?

    Foolish? Hardly - I'm not making claims. That's your department. I'm just saying what I see. As far as our Kosovan friend is concerned, I'm merely stating fact. His status now hardly matters - even if he's legally resident now, he spent a fair old time not being - and the 'facts' in his case speak for themselves, as he himself will gleefully attest to.

    Sorry for taking issue with you - I can see you like to believe in yourself as an illuminating light of righteous indignation. But sometimes, where there's fire, there's smoke, know what I mean?

    SergeantPluck (posting as 'anonymous' as I can't be arsed to sign up to Google)

  5. Are these immigrants coming here to take advantage of the massive benefits afforded them the same ones who are taking all our jobs?

  6. //And I'm not convinced you fully understand what an illegal immigrant actually is.//

    I missed this first time round. A very Daily Mail-esque sneak attack on my credibility. Classic! What did Nietzche say again:

    'He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.'

  7. Anonymous/SergeantPluck - Obviously I can't hope to win an argument with someone who quotes Nietzche at me.

    Someone, moreover, who fails to engage with most of the points I raised in my initial response.

    You're 'not making claims'? Really? You've made several, including about me, which are well wide of the mark. Do as you say, not as you do, eh?

    The research I mentioned was from the Refugee Council. You may have missed it because the tabloids didn't give it much coverage.

    The quoted comment and the link to Littlejohn's claims about asylum seekers are a good start to substantiate the other claim. Or any of the Judge Trigger stuff. Or comments such as Mark Rees' on 24 August that illegal immigrants get £500 a week and a free car. Or Martyn Robinson's on 31 October that illegal immigrants get free cars and houses. Just go look at the immigration stories on the Mail website and read the comments. You will soon get the idea.

    I still don't get the sense you know what an illegal immigrant is, whoever you quote at me.

    I see you rowing back a little on the Kosovan case. 'His status now hardly matters'? Surely even you can see it entirely matters to the point you were trying to make originally?

    I have no problem with people taking issue with what I write, and I'll happily correct any error. So once again, if there are specific things on the blog that are provably wrong, please do let me know.

  8. Claims - heard. Agree. Apologies. It was the injustice of being referred to as foolish that provoked me.

    Refugee council. No, I'm sure they wouldn't have an interest in skewing the figures, would they? (wink wink) Interestingly, how are they funded? (not a trick question - I don't know?)

    Anyway, yhatever Littlejohn says (makes up) is hardly reflective of what I (as the man in the street) 'know' what an illegal immigrant gets. Nor does it tell me what an illegal immigrant gets? Your assertion that a gulf exists between what 'I' know and what the papers tell me, is bollocks, frankly. As is your inference that ALL Mail readers are thick as pigshit.

    //I still don't get the sense you know what an illegal immigrant is, whoever you quote at me.//

    This a meaningless non sequitur. Who cares about your 'sense'? Show me evidence that I am ignorant? Educate me, O Fount of Knowledge.

    //Surely even you can see it entirely matters to the point you were trying to make originally//

    I don't see how. I gave you a specific personal example of how an illegal immigrant managed to build up a portfolio of around 400K in 10 years. I know for a fact he was illegal for at least seven years, and may still be. I don't see how his status as of 19/03/10 invalidates all that...

    Anyway, I'm finished for the week. Much as I love my office, I don't love it enough to stay here talking to you on a Friday afternoon.

    Have a good weekend!


  9. Plucking hell.

    Even if your one personal experience of a Kosovan refugee is completely factual and correct, that does not therefore equate to 'all immigrants (illegal or legal) get loads of benefits'.

    Take the Gurkhas for example, the Mail highlighted their plight yesterday as living penniless and destitute in the UK because they are not entitled to anything (the same as other immigrants, incidentally).

    If an genuine asylum seeker arrives in the UK they are put up in available accomodation (often ex-council stock which is no longer acceptable for council tennants) and given £35 a week to live on until their case is heard. I don't think your Kosovan neighbour made that stretch to a house and BMW, I think they must have earnt it somehow (legally or otherwise). Furthermore, that would be assuming he was an asylum seeker. If he was, as you suggested, here illegally, then how could he possibly be claiming any benefits?

    You need to be careful of the availability error, in which we irrationally use 1 personal example to override the reality of a subject because we deem personal experience more 'available' than abstract facts. We know for a fact (read UK gov website) what benefits immigrants and asylum seekers are entitled to, we know for a fact that those benefits would not buy a luxury house or car.

    Likewise, we know that an illegal immigrant is someone who is not technically allowed to be in the UK, therefore they are not on any government system and are not entitled to benefits. An attempt to claim benefits would lead to arrest and deportation.

    These are provable facts, they are not to be over ridden with an observation you have made, that as we can see, cannot have been a result of a lavish benefit system, because no such system exists.

    Your Kosovan neighbour made some money, congratulations to him. But he sure as hell didn't get it from the UK taxpayer.

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  11. Probably way out of my depth getting involved in this, there's plenty smarter people than me that could join this debate, but here's what I'm seeing.

    Pluck seems to think that because his neighbour was apparently an illegal immigrant and somehow got his hands on benefit money that amazingly bought him this huge house and nice car, that means they're all doing it. I think the problem comes when he takes that personal anecdote and turns that into "they..." As in, "my neighbour exploited the system, so I know what THEY get".

    It's like saying my black neighbour is a convicted rapist, therefore I know that they (black people) are rapists. Or my lion tamer neighbour got away with not paying the tv license for a few years, so I know that they (lion tamers) don't pay their tv licenses.

    The fact that a minority (which is grossly over-estimated and over-exposed in tabloid media) of immigrants are exploiting the system IS a sign that the system is broken. But its just a loose stitch in a tapestry. And I'm of the opinion that people, immigrants or not, are more important than money or taxes, and the way tabloid newspapers and ignorant readers that buy into these newspaper talk about immigrants like they're a virus or some kind of hostile force - rather than what are almost entirely just people seeking a better life or trying to escape a much harsher society than ours.

  12. Come one, at least try and read! I never said they were 'all' doing it - I said it was indicative. Your analogy (rapists and lion tamers) are wonderfully irrelevant, but I take your point. But is it really so difficult to believe that it's endemic? Supposing I told you that there was a legal loophole you could exploit to reduce your tax liability by 50%. Would you do it? More importantly, would you deny that such a practice is widespread, or at least bet against it. If you can do it, why can't your neighbour? And his neighbour, etc etc

    Here's the real problem. Littlejohn is briliant. You know why? Because neither he, nor the media he represents are remotely interested in the truth. What he does so, and does it brilliantly, is tap into that white, Christian, middle-England angst. He writes like he's your mate in the pub. He takes a perception and he reinforces it. He's Goebbels for Middle England, and the Mail's shareholders reckon he's cheap at half the price (700k p.a. apparently). And they're right. If anyone had found a perfect niche in British journalism, it's LJ...with Johann Hari as a close second.

    So, all these blogs picking him up on the truth and dissecting his columns are spectacularly naive. The truth? Fuck the truth - the truth is merely what you can make people believe, and say what you like about him, he does it very well. Add this to an ineffectual Press regulator, and it's a licence to print money.

    So, clearly, he's not right, but he ain't wrong either. The best lies are always the ones that contain some element of truth, and it's pretty obvious that a fair proportion of readers have had some negative experience of the real immigration situation. I can see it happening in my home town, and I'm hardly some jack-booted card-carrying BNP nutjob.

    And that's why these blogs are doomed to fail. They're not interested in the truth either. MacGuff here is not remotely bothered in considering the possibility that LJs opinion may have at least some basis of truth - he's too busy analysing every sentence looking for an opportunity for discredit the guy.

    I'm sure MacGuffs issues are far closer to the truth than LJs, but these blogs won't work if they're simply interested in fighting black with white. The Mail feeds on the grey areas, and with a circulation of what, 2m a day, are laughing all the way. You want perfect truth - go live in a cave and meditate all day.


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