Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Mail and 'hate campaigns'

On the front of today's Daily Mail, Stephen Fry was singled out as leading an 'atheist hate campaign' against the Pope's visit to Britain.

They may well be holding a grudge over Fry's tweeting about the Jan Moir incident, maybe it's just the usual smears and misinformation from the paper.

Either way, the claim is totally bogus and an editorial which labels him and others 'self-satisfied' is beyond parody.

Fry has written an excellent, eloquent response in which he says:

It is the final proof, if proof were needed, that the Daily Mail is not just actually wicked (intentionally, knowingly lying) but actually now quite, quite mad.
He adds:

I can always be certain that I have done a good thing when out of all the descriptions they can choose, their leader writers select “quizmaster”. “What has this country come to,” they want to know, “when an egregious, self-satisfied quizmaster presumes to make moral pronouncements on a two thousand year old institution etc etc.”

As it happens I have spent many many more hours of my life as a writer and a journalist than as a “quizmaster”, yet, oddly enough, we don’t read the Mail coming up with: “What has this country come to when a journalist presumes to make moral pronouncements on a two thousand year old etc.?” Perhaps the Mail leader writer would be kind enough to explain to the world what qualifications are needed to allow one to express an opinion, or write a letter to a newspaper? What profession should one belong to and can we have a list of those which in fact disbar us from expressing one’s views?

As for his 'hate campaign':

I was one of 50 signatories to a letter that called into question the official state nature of the papal visit. I didn’t write the letter, but am proud to stand behind it and with my fellow signatories.

Otherwise my “hate campaign”, as they well know, begins with the words, “I’ve no objection to the Pope coming to visit Britain, he is welcome to do so…” it is, as I go on to say, none of my business. I go out of my way to make it clear that I fully respect the desire of the pious, the faithful and the devout to welcome their spiritual father, their supreme Pontiff.

So saying you have 'no objection to the Pope visiting' is what the Mail calls leading a hate campaign.

Frankly, when it comes to 'hate campaigns', that doesn't really qualify and it's certainly not in the Mail's league.

Take the Mail's ongoing attempts to bring down the BBC.

In amongst their coverage of the Pope's visit was a short article gleefully reporting comments from Mark Pritchard MP:

The Tory, who is vice chairman of the parliamentary group for the Holy See, said the BBC had displayed a form of 'blatant, anti-Christian bias'.

He said he was fed up with wall-to-wall reports of the how the church was supposedly in decline.

The BBC's main bulletins have also led with debates on the Vatican's response to child abuse and homosexuality.

The Tory MP for the Wrekin also questioned why there were no positive stories about the church. 'The Catholic Church is an imperfect institution but it is amazing the BBC has found nothing positive to say about a church whose key message is to love thy neighbour including feeding the poor and helping the homeless,' he said. '

The coverage of the church ahead of the Pope's visit so far shows yet more evidence of institutional Christianaphobia at the heart of the BBC.'

Quite where this 'institutional Christianaphobia' has been today as the BBC fills its News Channel with blanket coverage of the Pope's activities is hard to say.

There's also no evidence of the Mail questioning Pritchard about these views - why would it?

But could Pritchard point to the copious amounts of articles about the Catholic Church 'feeding the poor and helping the homeless' in, for example, the Mail? Or in any other national newspaper? Or on any other national broadcaster?

In this twelve sentence article, the BBC is mentioned seven times.

Compare that to another article in today's Mail, about newly-crowned Britain's Amateur Scientist of the Year, Ruth Brooks. The contest was a:

BBC search to find the country's best amateur scientist.

Yet while acknowledging the search was done for Radio 4's Material World (five sentences from the end of the story), the Mail doesn't mention the BBC once in the entire 500-word article. Indeed, it appears (from the URL) that a reference to the BBC in the headline has been removed.

Consider also the DVD giveaway that the Mail has been running all week. It has been trying to flog copies of the paper by tempting readers with episodes of Sir David Attenborough's series Life.

The Mail has called the series 'fantastic' and 'glorious'. Yet it has completely forgotten to mention it's a BBC programme.

The Mail certainly named the BBC in its front page on Tuesday, when it reported on possible strike action by employees at the Beeb.

It was a front page lead in stark contrast to its absolutely minimal coverage of the new claims in the News of the World phone-hacking case. Apparently, the Mail is less interested in the allegations of possible illegality among tabloid journalists.

But the BBC splash was typically overblown.

The front page sub-head said:

Strikers plan to black out Cameron's key conference speech.

The first paragraph of the article repeated this claim. Yet a few sentences later the paper admitted:

It is thought the corporation would still be able to put together coverage of the events.

Which is an interesting definition of 'black out'.

So, a final word about the Mail from Stephen Fry:

Because I have a theological turn of mind, the people I feel most sorry for, and always have, are those who work for the paper.

I have never met a Mail journalist whose first words weren’t an apology. “We’re not all Paul Dacre types…” they mournfully beg us to believe. Well, leave before it’s too late!

Just imagine that there really is a St Peter to greet you after death.
Suppose he asks what you did with your life, your mind, your heart, your whole being and your immortal soul and that you have to reply you that wrote for the Daily Mail.

(hat-tip to Andrew Smith)


  1. If you read the Mail leader thoroughly (ugh, yes, I know) I think the reason it likes the Pope is that he may be (in the writers view) against gays. And Mr. Fry is, of course,well, slightly well known for being a bit gay. In other words, the Daily Mail, Queer Bashing once again.

  2. It is interesting indeed to see that the Mail enthuses about, and gives away DVDs of, BBC programmes, yet never acknowledges their source because it doesn't fit with their wider agenda of pretending that the likes of 1Xtra represent everything the BBC does.

    This is one of many senses in which the Mail's hardline Beeb-bashing is actually (at least in the sense of its being, as it increasingly often is, an attack on the BBC's *very existence* rather than it simply being an attack on the likes of 1Xtra) very much at odds with its core readers' priorities and tastes. Mail readers, on the whole, appreciate and enjoy a type of broadcasting that only the BBC is now in a position to do - they are often hideously intolerant of the BBC's other activities, but compared to Sun readers many fewer subscribe to Sky and fewer still want total, unrestricted commercialism. Once again, capitalism eats its own ...

  3. Surprised, but glad to see that the majority of the comments they have let through the filtering system support Stephen Fry etc. This is slightly odd for a DM comment section to show a lot of "liberal" views, or people who disagree with the article in question. Perhaps it shows more people are starting to realise what nonsense they really write at DMHQ and are starting to open thier eyes.

  4. Oddly enough there was a half page colour advert for Frys new book accompanying a rather large picture of the man himself someway into the paper. I thought that was funny.

    I have to say though as much as i love him Fry just embarrasses himself when he wades into topical affairs, as he did with the MPs expenses business. Keep your mouth shut man for christs sake.

  5. the bbc reports the news!
    shock horror!
    it doesn't report things that aren't in the news!

    well said from stephen fry.

  6. After attacking the BBC's coverage of the Pope's visit yesterday the Mail down graded the pope's visit to a single column on it's front page today prefering instead to give more space to a picture of Jamie Oliver and to it's advert for the free Cliff Richard DVD.

  7. For further irony, David Attenborough is also an atheist.

  8. To show how much the Mail actually cares about the Pope, instead of the visit being their lead story, at the moment it has David Cameron at his fathers funeral...the headline, of course, Making a point of the fact he took his own daughter with him. SHOCKER!

    Surely, if they cared so much and wanted to take the holier than though stance then why splash images of a greiving family over thier site and demote the Pope to a less prominant area?

    Why even cover the Cameron Funeral at all?

    One of the images in the article actually looks like the photographer crouched behind some gravestones and waited to picture the Camerons!

    Beyond words.

  9. Surely the Mail isn't suggesting Fry et al should have refrained from their comments for fear of offending a religious minority?

    That would be ... all together now ... political correctness gone mad !!!


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