Wednesday 30 September 2009

Recommended reading on HPV vaccine

Lots of excellent blog posts about the scandalous coverage of the HPV vaccine (as it should be called, rather than 'cervical cancer vaccine'). The Mail, as with MMR, has been at the forefront of the shameful, groundless scaremongering.

Malcolm Coles has been rating the irresponsibility of the media from yesterday and today.

Good posts also from Jamie and Anton.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Old letter writing racist influenced by the Mail

It has been noted here before that Mail stories turn up on the BNP website with few changes and last week the Star was recruiting for the English Defence League. The link between the tabloids and the rise of far-right groups seems undeniable.

Now the Guardian is reporting this:

Police are hunting an elderly letter writer responsible for sending more than 50 racially abusive letters to people across the country, including the prime minister.

The letters, some sexually explicit in content, have been sent to schools, hospitals, mosques, universities, doctors' surgeries and private individuals, leaving some recipients "extremely distressed".

According to Hampshire police, which is heading the investigation, the letters are all pro-English in content and racially inflammatory, with many appearing to have been sent in response to Daily Mail articles. All the letters are offensive and racist against a wide variety of nationalities and cultures...Clippings from the Daily Mail have been included in many envelopes.

Some of the letters are just about readable on the Times website.

Littlejohn supports abuse of returns policy, wonders why shop changes rules

Last Friday, as pointed out by Uponnothing, Richard Littlejohn wrote a 'hilarious' imaginary discussion between a dumb American and a British person called Brit (I know, it's too much) about Gordon Brown, the Special Relationship and Baroness Scotland.

It included the American being bamboozled about an unelected, appointed Attorney General. The American says:

What a cockamamie country. They'd never get away with it in America.

Except, of course, they do. The Attorney General is appointed by the President.

He then goes on to ask why the relationship between Brown and Barack Obama had deteriorated (if it even has...). The response:

Because President Brown released the terrorist who murdered 270 U.S. citizens in the Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie.

Really? Maybe Littlejohn hadn't noticed the SNP are in charge in Scotland now. He can just make it up!

Incidentally, if any of this 'dumb American Chad talking to British journo Brit about unelected President Norman Brown from Scotlandland on the eve of his visit to America' sounds familiar, it is. He used the exact same ruse (and jokes) back in April 2008.

Back to today, and Littlejohn drags out several of his favourite cliches including 'Mind how you go' and 'com-pen-say-shun'. The Transgendered Police Association get another mention. Of course, they're actually called the National Trans Police Association, but you can't expect Littlejohn to get anything everything right.

He also writes about the 'news' that Marks and Spencer have withdrawn their 90 day returns policy in favour of a 35 day one. The fact that this changed back in April but has only made headlines in the last few days says plenty about how 'controversial' (as Littlejohn refers to it) this really is.

He says:

I doubt whether many people wait the best part of three months before taking something back

but thinks it should remain a three month limit anyway. Brilliant.

And then he comes out with a classic bit of Littlejohn (non-)thinking which just leaves you baffled:

My mum swore by Marks & Sparks, largely because she could buy a frock on Friday, wear it to a dinner-dance on Saturday and take it back on Monday morning, no questions asked.

Does it really not occur to him that people abusing the returns policy, like his mum apparently did, may well be responsible for the change?

And because it was his mum doing that, it's totally legitimate:

The money she spent elsewhere in the store more than made up for her free dress hire.

Really? Well that's OK then. One of the comments people put it best:

Brilliant. Your old mum defrauds M&S and she's a plucky old gel, no harm guv, strike a light, it's just the blitz spirit! But a dog with five puppies is automatically on benefits...

What would your attitude be if it was an asylum seeker doing the M&S dodge?

Do you actually THINK about this 'journalism'?

- Paco, Madrid, 29/9/2009 8:44

I think we all know the answer to that.

More breaking news from the Express

Currently the fifth story in the UK News section of the Express website:
This is the second time in a week the Express has run an advertising feature in the 'news' section.

Clearly, Richard Desmond hasn't learnt anything about mixing advertising and editorial.

Europe spies! Well, it may spy! At some point! Exclusive!

Here is today's Express front page:
The meaning couldn't be more clear: Europe has spied on your pay and savings. It is spying on your pay and savings.

Then the first line of the story:

EU snoopers are pressing for sinister new powers to spy on every taxpayer in Britain, the Daily Express can reveal today.

Oh. They haven't got the powers yet? They aren't currently spying? So that headline is totally misleading?

No. No. Yes.

It also represents another interesting use of the term:

the Daily Express can reveal today.

Last time they tried to claim that they were exclusively revealing something, it turned out the same documents had been on a government website for over two months.

So a quick Google of the world Eurofisc - the name of this scheme - shows that there were several news stories about it in the business media around 18 August, when the scheme was actually announced.

So just one month old - rather than two - this time. Still, one month old front page news is still an improvement on all the twelve year old Diana stories.

Eurofisc - which the Express calls 'sinister' - has been proposed as a measure to cut VAT fraud, which is claimed to run to 200 billion Euros across Europe per year. Sinister indeed.

But when the Express relies on quotes from the TaxPayers' Alliance, a famously anti-Europe Tory MP, a Tory MEP and a UKIP MEP, you can be sure the proposal is not going to get a fair hearing.

Emotive - and incredibly cliched - terms such as 'snoopers', 'bureaucrats' and 'faceless officials' (is that literally officials with no faces?) are all thrown into the mix too.

In any case, the scheme needs a unanimous vote of approval from all 27 EU members. The EuObserver and EurActiv both say national governments may well be unwilling to agree to the scheme as a whole. So not only is that headline not currently true, it may never be true.

For the Express, that's no longer surprising.

Sunday 27 September 2009

Some questions for the Mail on Sunday

Firstly - why is it that in your eyes, every illegal immigrant is a lying, deceptive, criminal or would-be terrorist, except this one? Is it just because this one might bring down a member of the government?

Second - why don't all illegal immigrants in your paper get photographed in nice gardens and backlit with sunshine, like this one?

Third - why don't other illegal immigrants get referrred to as 'pretty' and 'clearly bright'?

Four - what exactly is the financial arrangement between you, Max Clifford and Loloahi Tapui? Surely the Mail on Sunday hasn't been giving money to an illegal immigrant?

Five - Is the Mail on Sunday worried that other would-be illegal immigrants might see British newspapers as a soft-touch in the wake of this arrangement brokered by Clifford, and this will in fact attract more illegal immigrants who imagine an easy life living off the over generous system of British tabloid chequebook journalism?

Richard Desmond and the far-right

Many thanks to Claude at Hagley Road to Ladywood for highlighting a recent Daily Star article which seemed little more than a recruiting ad for the English Defence League (EDL).

Or make that 'ads' because this began a day earlier than first noted.

On Wednesday 23 September the Star ran this:
(Pic found online, the original article has been removed but a cached version is here)

The headline stands out immediately. Could it be any more sympathetic? It's as if the Star thinks this band of suspiciously balaclava-clad men are simply misunderstood innocents.

Of course, if a Muslim woman went around with her face covered the Star would be the first to say they're up to no good. Like the 96% of Star readers who demanded the burkha be banned back in June. And when Star reporter Richard Peppiatt dressed in a burkha for a day, he came to the conclusion:

if you can’t share a smile with a stranger, then what chance do we have of living together in harmony?

But that doesn't apply to the EDL, apparently.

The main pic shows them burning a swastika flag to 'prove' they aren't fascists or Nazis.

Quite how putting on a balaclava and setting fire to something is meant to improve their image is a mystery, but the Star is doing its best to help them.

The article includes a series of quotes from an anonymous EDL spokesman, which begins with a 'some of our best friends...'-type statement:

'We are not racist. We’ve made this film with our black members, and we also welcome any moderate Muslims.'

There isn't much in the way of a counter-argument, save for two sentences, at the end, by a spokesman from the Department of Communities and Local Government.

And then there's the Star poll, which asks 'Has the English Defence League got it right?' eventhough it's not immediately obvious what 'it' is.

The EDL say they are merely 'peacefully protesting against militant Islam' and highlighting 'unrestrained extremist Islam in the UK.'

But watch this video from the recent EDL march in Birmingham, which begins with a deliberately offensive and provocative chant about Allah, and later one man repeatedly shouts 'I hate Pakis more than you'. Another skinhead is seen doing a Nazi salute and elsewhere a placard reading 'No more mosques' was wielded.

Claims from the EDL that they are not anti-Islam, or racist, are clearly not to be believed.

(See also Unite Against Fascism, Jason Parkinson, and Richard Bartholomew's post on one of the EDL's videos, a video which 5CC also wrote about in terms of their use of tabloid headlines.)

On their website homepage they have a short film about an upcoming march and you can tell how extremist they are because Melanie Phillips pops up in it.

Anyway, back to the Star and on Thursday, the results of their poll were announced - 99% of readers agreed that the EDL has 'got it right'.

So the Star and its readers are totally supporting this vile behaviour.

This was accompanied by another full page feature on the group:
(Again, pic found online)

This second article - like the first - was made up of little more than unedited, uninterrupted EDL spokesman quotes, with a token line at the end from Unite Against Fascism.

This was accompanied by yet another poll asking 'Should the EDL become a recognised political party?' Why would the Star be asking that? I don't know what the results were but it was probably an overwhelming 'yes'.

The headline takes the EDL's claim that 'All colours and creeds are backing crusade' as unquestionably accurate, although narrows it down to 'Muslims' support' online. The story states:

The English Defence League last night claimed it had been swamped with messages of support from all races... The EDL, which claims it is defending British values against Muslim extremism, received hundreds of new registrations and postings on its website.

The anonymous EDL spokesman says:

We’ve had Sikhs, Hindus, black people, Jews and even Muslims contacting us.

Of course, 'contacting' them doesn't mean supporting them. They might have been telling the EDL where to shove their Nazi salutes.

But that claim about 'hundreds of new registrations' raises an eyebrow - why would the EDL have this sudden surge of interest?

The EDL spokesman explains:

The article about our activities has produced an amazing response.

Really? So the EDL claims to have boosted its support thanks to sympathetic coverage in the Daily Star.

They must be so proud.

This nasty, racist national 'newspaper' has long flirted with the far-right and taken the line that England is under siege from foreigners. It has a completely anti-minority agenda. There have been front pages which have taken an 'us and them' line more blatantly than any other paper.

And its sister paper the Express is sticking BNP slogans on its cover the same day as the first EDL article appeared in the Star.

Is Richard Desmond now just running recruiting rags for the far-right?

Mail on Sunday interviews Muslim woman, eventhough they have already decided she's lying

Today, the Mail on Sunday has given the 'other side of the story' in the case of Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang - the couple being prosecuted under public order laws following an exchange with a Muslim guest at their hotel.

Last week the Mail on Sunday - in its story and editorial - very firmly sided with the Vogelenzangs, and Littlejohn followed suit in his Tuesday column, despite all of them admitting they didn't know what was said.

But obviously the Muslim, being a Muslim, wasn't to be believed.

Now they have reported some statements by sixty-year old Ericka Tazi:

'I am no fanatic, as people have tried to make me out to be...

I am a Warrington girl through and through. I loved The Beatles and all the things an ordinary English girl enjoys. I used to go to the Cavern Club. I was brought up a staunch Catholic and only turned to Islam about a year ago'.

Which is weird because the impression given last week was that this was some extremist immigrant. And then a little more on the incident itself:

'I have embraced the religion and always try to wear the hijab. It gives me peace and satisfies me spiritually.'

Mrs Tazi said when she first went to the Bounty House Hotel she decided not to wear the hijab because she did not want to stand out. But during her treatment for the debilitating illness fibromyalgia she decided to follow her beliefs.

She said: 'It was the last morning, and I decided to wear what I was comfortable in. I went downstairs and was utterly shocked by the reaction of the hotel owners. They became nasty and all but called me a terrorist.'

Of course, we still don't know exactly what was said. The couple's spokesman reject Tazi's version, claiming they:

deny saying or implying that Mrs Tazi was a terrorist.

The problem with the reaction of the Mail and Littlejohn is that it gives the impression it doesn't really matter what happened - they took against the Muslim, because she was a Muslim. And that implies you can say whatever you want about Muslims, and they'll defend your right to free speech.

But if you are a Muslim exercising your right to free speech - as in Luton - you're not to be defended in the same way.

Then there is a more revealing quote still from Tazi:

'Since it hit the newspapers, I have been too afraid to go out. All sorts of Right-wing groups are commenting on their websites.

'I am really afraid. I just can't understand it. There seems to be so much hatred out there.'

If you Google the name 'Vogelenzang' you can see for yourself this is true. The EDL have it as the main news story on their homepage under the headline:

It is official, you will now be arrested for debating or questioning Islam!

The BNP reported on the story too, writing:

Britain’s plunge into a fully fledged Islamic state has been underlined again...The heavy-handed police action has once again highlighted the state’s subservience to the Islamification process.

Whatever happens in the case hardly matters. The Mail newspapers have let this story run for a week before giving the other side of the story and it has taken root as another mythical 'Muslim take-over of Britain' story.

But the personal angle is the even more damning. If Mrs Tazi is 'really afraid' and 'too scared to go out' because of the coverage then the Mail on Sunday, the Mail and Littlejohn should be ashamed.

If only they knew how to be.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Six apologies in three days

From yesterday's Sun, an apology - and £10,000 damages - to Lily Allen:

In May we reported in Bizarre that Lily Allen had made various offensive remarks about David and Victoria Beckham and Ashley and Cheryl Cole in an interview with a magazine.

We now accept that Lily didn't say these things to the magazine and we apologise to Lily for the upset and embarrassment caused by repeating them.

The day before, on Thursday 24 September, the Evening Standard and Mail dished out an apology and 'substantial' payout to Metropolitan police commander Ali Dizaei after they claimed he was a bigamist in June 2008:

In an article published on 21 June 2008, we reported the results of a search from the Principal Registry of the Family Division that there was no record of a divorce between Ali Dizaei and Natalie Downing. In fact, Decree Absolute had been obtained in July 2005, two years before his marriage to Shahameh Dizaei, but due to an error of the court the divorce was not registered centrally. We are happy to clarify the position and apologise to all concerned.

That came a day after the Sun apologised over the hit list story and both the Mail (and News of the World) had apologised and paid out to England's football coach Fabio Capello over an invasion of privacy.

The Mail's role in the Capello story is particularly interesting, as explained in the Independent. The Capellos were on holiday and had noticed lots of photographers sniffing around. He contacted the Football Association (FA) which in turn spoke to the PCC, who issued a statement to all editors that publication of any pictures of the Capellos would be considered a breach of privacy.

The News of the World decided to ignore that and publish seven photos a few days later. The FA weren't impressed, and got onto the PCC. The pics were soon removed from the paper's website.

On Sunday afternoon, the FA sent a further letter, as the Indy explains:

The FA then wrote to newspapers and broadcasters to "formally request all other media do not use these photographs and respect the Capellos' right to privacy set out by the PCC". It pointed out that: "Fabio Capello and the FA could not have been clearer from the moment he commenced his role in January 2008 that he wants to enjoy a professional working relationship with the media, but he considers his private life and his family private."

But the Mail decided to ignore all that and printed some of the pictures on page three of its Monday edition. Why did it think pictures of Mrs Capello taking a mudbath of any interest to its readers at all? But more importantly, why did the Mail think it was above a warning from the PCC? Does the Mail really treat the PCC with such disdain?

Thursday 24 September 2009

Martin hearts the Sugababes too

MailOnline Editor Martin 'news is far more important to us than showbiz' Clarke is at it again.

In the past week he has published two more pictures of Kim Kardashian (here and here) and included another entirely pointless mention of her in this story which is actually about someone else, but manages to drag her in anyway. Luckily, the fascinating article where she met Mel B included one of Kim's groundbreaking tweets, just so we know why the Mail is so obsessed with her:

'Just touched down in Vegas! Going to Pink’s Hot Dogs! YUM! Wow Cupcake's & Hot Dog's in one day!'

OK, maybe we don't.

But Kim better look out because it seems Martin has his eyes on some other half-dressed young ladies. You would imagine that any article which includes 20 photos, and a video report, would be something of significance.

After all, the story on the razing of the Calais Jungle - a subject so close to the Mail's heart - had 17 pics and a video.

What could possibly be more important to the Mail than that? What piece of earth-shattering news is this?

Errr, well, it's that one woman has left a pop group and another woman has taken her place.

Of course, it's especially handy that the new line-up of the Sugababes are doing a very photo-friendly video shoot dressed in leather. Look - you can see their cleavage! Look! You can see their bums! In leather! This pic even has the 'enlarge' option so you can blow it up and, ahem, enjoy it in more detail. Why pick that particularly photo, one of only two which can be enlarged?

Yesterday, Anton posted on the Mail's pervy story about the dresses of Countdown's Rachel Riley, which included the immortal line:

Sometimes it seems like the Mail writes like a sex-crazed old codger having a lazy wank under a tartan blanket.

Too right.

These two leering articles on the Sugababes and Riley appear on the very same day as Terence Kealey, from Buckingham University, said that female students who 'flaunt their curves' should be enjoyed on a 'look but don't touch basis' as a 'perk' of the job.

The Mail reported on the 'outrage' his comments caused and note he has:

been attacked by student groups for showing an 'astounding lack of respect for women'. Others have accused Dr Kealey, who is married, of appearing to satirise harassment...his brand of 'humour' was met with disgust.

So the Mail and its website - both run by middle aged men - can include many, many photos of women bending over in leather and it isn't a 'perk', it is 'news'. Another middle-aged man comments on looking at girls who are 'flaunting their curves' and he's a pervert who doesn't respect women.

That might sound a bit like hypocrisy.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Boy accused of racism wasn't actually accused of racism shock

Here's another 'political correctness gone mad' story that the Mail just loves. And loves to present in a way that doesn't appear to reflect the situation at all.

So the headline screams:

Boy, 9, told to apologise for 'racist' taunt to Polish classmate while playing soldiers in lesson

And the first line repeats:

A nine-year-old schoolboy was branded racist by teachers after playing a game of soldiers with a Polish friend, his parents have claimed.

Got it? Good.

Because it's not until the very last line of the story that the headteacher of the school is quoted saying:

' no point was the pupil accused of being racist.'


Here's what the Mail says happened:

Steven Cheek was reprimanded for pointing a finger at the Eastern European classmate and said: 'We've got to shoot the German army'.

Hard to find a racist element in that, although a school might be worried about kids pretending to shoot each other. Then there's a classic quote from the boy's mum, who says:

'I think the school has over-reacted and been very heavy-handed. They could have quietly told him off instead of turning it into a big issue.'

Yeh, wouldn't want it being turned into a big issue, would you? Taking the story to the press is the perfect way to quieten the situation down and turn attention away from your son.

There are other differences in the two accounts. The Mum claims:

he loved learning about the war in class

whereas the Head says:

The class had not been learning about the war.

Then the Mum claims the boy was:

forced him to stand in front of the class and make a humiliating apology.

The Head says:

The incident in question involved a short conversation with a pupil to explain the inappropriateness of his comments and then a meeting with the parent to explain the context.

Amazing that once again the Mail seems to know exactly who is right.

The vast majority of the comments on the story have taken the predictable 'can't be racist in your own country any more' type line, having clearly taken the view that the school is lying. Not surprising when the Mail has fed them the story that way, and most probably haven't read to the end before bashing out their knee-jerk reactions.


Corrections round up

The Sun has issued a second clarification for the 'hit list' story - and it includes an actual apology:

Our story on January 7 about a 'hit list' of top British Jews on the website was based on claims by Glen Jenvey who last week confessed to duping several newspapers and Tory MP Patrick Mercer by fabricating stories about Islamic fundamentalism.

Following Mr Jenvey's confession, we apologise to for the article which we now accept was inaccurate.

And the Sun's stablemate the News of the World has apologised and paid money to charity over pictures of Fabio Capello on holiday. The Mail has done the same after re-printing the photos a day later. MediaGuardian reports that it:

understands that it would have been difficult to mount any defence against a privacy action brought by Laura Capello, who has never sought publicity.

Giving the far-right a platform

Today's Express front page:

'Britain is full up'? Now where have we heard that before? Oh yes, in a BNP report from Calais entitled 'BNP Tells Calais Asylum Invaders to Go Home':
And at a BNP 'British jobs for British workers' demo:

The Express front page: home of BNP slogans.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Breaking news from the Express

This is currently the seventh highest story in the 'UK News' section of the Express website, above, among others, two stories about Afghanistan:

It's nothing more than an ad for a dating site, with no news content whatsoever.

Hasn't Richard Desmond learned his lesson about advertising 'features' yet?

Can Littlejohn stop making it up?

Two days ago, 'Christians under attack' round-up showed how the Mail had picked up a couple of stories that made it look as if Christianity was being threatened again.

In an entirely predictable move, Littlejohn has linked the two stories in his column today. Needless to say, he adds absolutely nothing to either, but just comments on the Mail articles. Again.

On the hotel couple who offended a Muslim guest, Littlejohn has also decided, like the Mail on Sunday, that what these two said was not a problem. He admits:

We weren't party to the conversation, so we can't be sure what was said.

But he is sure it was all OK anyway. And then he adds:

But they're entitled to their opinion. Arresting them for 'hate crime' is a monstrous abuse of police powers.

Which is weird, because back when a small group of attention-seeking Muslim protestors were haranguing returning soldiers in Luton, he didn't think they were 'entitled to their opinion'. Oh no. He was livid that:

None of the young Muslim men inciting hatred were arrested.

So in his rant claiming it is one rule for Christians and one rule for everyone else, he proves the same. Just not in the way he thinks.

He moves onto to the Exeter nurse case and begins with a completely - and deliberately - false comparison:

Elsewhere, a nurse from Exeter has been ordered to remove her crucifix - on the weasel excuse of elf'n'safety - even though Muslim staff are allowed to wear headscarves.

As mentioned last time, the nurse was asked to remove her necklace because all necklaces are banned. The fact that hers has a crucifix on it is neither here nor there and the hospital have made it clear she can still wear her crucifix in other ways. So she hasn't, as Littlejohn knowingly, wrongly claims been 'ordered to remove her crucifix'. That is a blatant lie and not 'reporting the facts'. So once again, we find Littlejohn can make it up.

Littlejohn also has an entirely expected comment on the Calais 'Jungle' and the includes another throwaway exaggeration/lie:

There may already be as many as two million foreign nationals living here illegally. No one seems sure.

Of course, beginning the sentence 'there may' equally means 'there may not'. It's a get-out. But the two million figure seems hugely inflated.

Back in March the Mail itself reported on an LSE report saying there were likely:

between 524,000 and 947,000, with a 'central estimate' of 725,000.

These are figures that have also been used by the IPPR and by the Mail's old friends at Migrationwatch. So where does two million come from when the latest figures suggest that even the highest estimate is less than one million?

Surely he hasn't just plucked his 'fact' out of the air? Because we know he 'merely sticks to the facts'.

So he's done elf'n'safety, political correctness, evil intolerant Muslims, immigration and asylum - what's left? An attack on a council for what he deems a worthless job? Oh yes.

This time it's Lancashire County Council who are advertising for a 'Myth busting project worker'. Littlejohn calls it 'Manager', not 'worker' so he can't even cut-and-paste that correctly. He writes:

The successful applicant will be responsible for 'researching Lancashire communities' attitudes and responses to migrants and formulate and deliver a positive campaign to dispel negative myths and perceptions...'

After that, I lost the will to live.

Well what a surprise. This is a job to:

deliver a positive campaign to dispel negative myths and perceptions

That would be the very same 'negative myths and perceptions' that Littlejohn spews out twice a week. No wonder he thinks the post is a:

pointless non-job

In fact, refugee groups and many councils have similar guidelines (see Mobiles, Money & Mayhem: The Facts and Fibs About Asylum or countless others). He asks:

However did they manage without one?

This is a game he played before when he said Gypsy and Traveller groups don't need media training and then called them all dirty, gun-toting criminals.

But instead of asking 'However did they manage without one?', he should ask 'how has the situation got so bad that they feel one is now necessary?' But that would take some real thought and maybe even an admission his columns, his paper are part of the problem.

Don't expect that any time soon.

Monday 21 September 2009

How the Mail misleads with a headline

Here's the Mail's latest eye-catching anti-immigration headline:

And here's the first line of the story:

Two Afghan boys who were groomed by the Taliban to become suicide bombers revealed their determination to reach Britain today as they faced eviction from a notorious refugee camp in Calais.

Have you got the impression two young Afghan boys are on their way to Britain to be suicide bombers yet? Good.

Because a couple of sentences later the story changes:

And today the extraordinary story emerged of how two young Afghans who were targeted by the Taliban to become weapons against British troops are hoping to try to sneak into the UK to start a better life after their temporary home is demolished.

And then:

Najib, who has two sisters and a brother, said: 'It was not safe in my country because the Taliban were always trying to kidnap me and give me training for suicide attacks.

'They tried so many times to kidnap me. Luckily I escaped." His cousin, who has a sister and three brothers - one of them living in London - said they were desperate to get to Britain.'

He said: "My father wants me to reach the UK so I can get a good education and a better life. "In Afghanistan I cannot go out of my home because I am afraid of being kidnapped.

'If I get to the UK everything will be OK. I will be safe - and I will be alive.'

So not quite the budding suicide bombers the headline suggests. Still, the Mail have linked Afghans, immigrants and terrorists in one handy story. For them, job done.

It's just a TV show

Given the extraordinary fuss created when the BBC replaced Arlene Phillips with former winner Alesha Dixon on Strictly Come Dancing, it was inevitable that the knives were going to be out for Dixon after her first appearances.

And boy, aren't they?

Dixon has been attacked in the most vicious way - called 'vacuous' and 'clueless' on the Sunday Mirror front page, 'rubbish' in the Mail - as if people are thinking she's some murderer rather than just a JUDGE ON A DANCING PROGRAMME.

There seems to be a new sport of character-assassinating Dixon and it's not a nice one to watch. If you don't like her, don't watch the show. Otherwise, leave her alone.

Unsurprisingly, Amanda Platell uses her column to stick the knife in too, although when she criticises someone else for making

asinine comments


even starting to rival the legendary ignorance of Jade Goody

you can't help but see the irony.

But then Platell comes up with a very curious phrase:

we want a critical, intelligent, well-informed assessment of the performances, not the judging equivalent of being licked by a chocolate labrador.

Sunday 20 September 2009

'Christians under attack' round-up

Two stories in the Mail on Sunday, one which first appeared in the Telegraph, implying that Christians are under siege.

The first is a slightly curious report about Aintree hotel couple Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang. The Mail claims they have been hauled before court after defending their beliefs in discussion with Muslim guest.

Note the use of the emotive 'hauled' to suggest something heavy handed and unnecessary. The first line also makes it clear whose side the Mail is on:

A Christian couple have been charged with a criminal offence after taking part in what they regarded as a reasonable discussion about religion with guests at their hotel.

The view of the Muslim guest is not given, and the Mail admits the facts are 'disputed'.

It goes further in the editorial, saying:

It is hard to comment on the detail of the case...since both prosecution and defence seem reluctant to speak about it.

But if it is so hard to comment and the facts are disputed, how does the Mail feel able to write a very a slanted article and biased editorial on the case?

The other story is - and stop me if you have heard it before - a Christian woman banned from wearing a necklace by workplace rules. The Mail (and indeed the Telegraph, twice, and the Times) have sniffed a Christian-being-persecuted-for-health-and-safety-and-political-correctness reasons and gone to town.

But here's how the Mail headline reads:

Christian nurse removed from frontline duty for wearing cross necklace

If it read 'Nurse removed from frontline duty for wearing necklace' would anyone be interested? No. But that is the story.

Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital have said all necklaces are banned:

our uniform and dress code policy does not allow our staff to wear necklaces, with or without anything attached to it...If a member of staff asked if they could wear a crucifix pinned on their uniform lapel this would not comply with the same policy for the same reasons but it would be acceptable to wear it if pinned inside their uniform lapel or pocket.

So nurse Shirley Chaplin can still wear her cross if she wants. They make that quite clear. There is no attempt to stop her wearing a symbol of her faith. Just not on a necklace.

But she throws out a few Mail-arousing quotes about 'discriminating against Christians' and a 'blatant piece of political correctness' and they rise to the bait exactly as expected.

But the Hospital have their rules, asked her to remove the necklace and have taken off frontline duty until she complies. In other circumstances you could see the Mail saying 'why can't she just abide by the rules?'

But because she's a Christian (middle aged, white, two children, married, from Devon) they see it as a sign of something bigger.

Back in the Telegraph, 'journalist and social commentator' Ed West misinterprets the story for his own agenda. He doesn't see a Muslim plot but an atheist one. But he engages in a very convenient bit of misunderstanding.

The Trust says about religious symbols:

Exceptions are made for requirements of faith, but a crucifix is not considered to fall under this category, they added.

West misleadingly retorts:

How can a crucifix, the most recognisable religious symbol and, dare I say it, brand logo of all time, not be recognised as a religious symbol?

Err, well who said it wasn't? Certainly not the Hospital Trust. The point they made was not whether a crucifix is a 'symbol' of faith but whether wearing one is a 'requirement of faith'. And they say it isn't.

Incidentally, West is features editor of the Catholic Herald and likes the new book by Christopher Caldwell (discussed here). He refers to Caldwell as:

a mild-mannered Financial Times journalist

instead of calling him:

a journalist and senior editor at The Weekly Standard

The Weekly Standard being a right-wing rag edited and founded by Sarah Palin's biggest supporter, Bill Kristol.

In the wake of Patrick Swayze's death, West also wrote about Red Dawn as

one of the best action movies of all time.

Rather than a ludicrous right-wing wank-fant. And he can't have seen many action movies either.

This is about Muslims - you can tell because 'Muslim' is in the headline

Here are two recent headlines from the Mail on Sunday:

Did this wife know she was being divorced - and husband was to wed top Tory Muslim?

Wife in Muslim Tory marriage row hit by arson

The question: why is the word Muslim in any way relevant to either?

Would you see 'Christian' or 'Jew' in similar headlines? Almost certainly not. So why are they included here?

Although the circumstances are different, other than being about Conservative politicians and their marriages, there certainly isn't any mention of religion in the headlines to stories about Boris Johnson and James Gray, both of whom had affairs that were written about extensively by the Mail.

So what is going on here? Why was 'Did this wife know she was being divorced - and husband was to wed top Tory?' not good enough?

The top Tory in question is Baroness Warsi. She's a Muslim. Her new husband Iftikhar Azam is also a Muslim. His ex-wife, Massarat Bi is (shock!) a Muslim.

The Mail doesn't want anyone to think this is about anyone other than those Muslims.

The first article, on 13 September, claimed that although the ex-wife had lived in Dewsbury for 18 years, she didn't speak much English and didn't understand the divorce papers when they arrived in the post and thought instead they were bills. Even for someone who doesn't speak much English, that seems a curious mistake to make.

But the story makes this argument over and over, despite the fact the ex-husband, Iftikhar Azam, is quoted saying:

‘My ex-wife Massarat was represented by solicitors in matrimonial proceedings. At no stage have either Massarat or her solicitors raised this issue before these comments to the Press. Massarat speaks and understands English.'

Which seems fairly definitive. But what the Mail 'forgot' to include was this rather crucial line from Azam's statement, found in the Telegraph:

This allegation is completely untrue.

Hmm. Why would the Mail on Sunday omit that? Surely not because it might ruin their whole article?

What is included is a curious - and not entirely comprehensible - story about how the reporters got to speak to Massarat. The Mail claims they went and were asked by Massarat to pretend to be doctors if anyone asked because she didn't want any recrimination. Massarat's son asked the journalists later why they posed as doctors and hid that they were journalists.

The article also contains the following statements, made by Iftikhar's brother:

Ghafar claims that before Iftikhar’s divorce was finalised, he had travelled to Pakistan with Baroness Warsi and Mr Cameron in September 2008. Mr Cameron was holding talks with political leaders to boost the party’s foreign policy credentials.

Ghafar says Iftikhar and Warsi stayed together in the opulent Pearl Continental hotel in Islamabad, the only deluxe hotel in the capital, which boasts of its ‘sensuality, temptation and serenity’. He claims they also visited cricketer and politician Imran Khan at his farmhouse.

This week we find the Mail on Sunday retracting those claims:

In last week’s article we said Baroness Warsi and Iftikhar Azam may have travelled to Pakistan together in September 2008, before Mr Azam’s divorce was finalised.

In fact, Mr Azam did not go on the trip - which was organised by the Conservative Party - and Baroness Warsi has never stayed at the Pearl Continental hotel in Islamabad or visited Imran Khan’s farmhouse as suggested. We are happy to set the record straight.

However, they have not removed the original article or amended it at all.

So the statements about her not understanding English have been categorically denied (and if their reporter spoke to her surely they don't need a third-party to judge?), and claims made by the brother have been 'clarified'? How much else are we meant to believe?

This seems to be a particularly feeble attempt at a hatchet job, based on very little. But why? Is it because she's a Muslim? Or a woman with a career? Or is that purely coincidental?

The story was picked up by the Telegraph - where Melanie McDonagh repeated the now retracted claims - but was unsurprisingly ignored but most other news outlets. It does get some outings on anti-Islam websites, however.

Today's update is about how Massarat's car had been attacked in a suspected arson attempt. Could last week's article have contributed to that in any way?

Let's hope not.

Friday 18 September 2009

Recommended read

5CC has an excellent post entitled The tabloids and right wing extremism which provides further evidence of said extremists using misleading, scaremongering tabloid headlines for their own ends.

Various posts on the same theme here.

Exclusive: Express 'exclusive' is rubbish

Having criticised the Express before for a complete lack of anything even remotely related to an interesting or important exclusive, today's page four story looked promising. The headline even began with the word 'exclusive':

Exclusive: Another rubbish idea, lessons for immigrants on how to empty bins

This headline seems to highlight the problem of Express staff shortages and their sacking of subs. Because surely if these 'lessons' do exist (they don't), they're about filling bins, not emptying them.

But is it a real exclusive? The Express say:

The astonishing lessons were revealed in a confidential Whitehall document obtained by the Daily Express.

Perhaps they are on to something. Or perhaps not. Because that 'confidential Whitehall document' appears to have been on the Communities and Local Government Department website since early July.

'Exclusive' indeed.

Macer Hall's story begins:

Immigrants are to be taught how to recycle their rubbish in lessons paid for by the public.

A typical opening gambit to make Express readers choke on their cornflakes. But it's an interesting use of the phrase 'the public'. Why? Because much later in the story Hall makes clear the money for these projects is from a:

£70million fund – paid for by a £50 levy on migrant workers arriving in the UK.

So it is services for immigrants paid for by migrants. Why should anyone else care?

Hall then goes through the document and picks out some of the projects in an entirely selective - and dishonest - way. For example:

Sheffield has been awarded £400,000 to increase “awareness of waste disposal” among its immigrants.

And here is what that money is actually for:

Housing and Waste by increasing landlord accreditation and increased awareness of waste disposal and storage. Health by increasing immunisation and benefiting child wellbeing.

Which is slightly different, and Hall forgets to mention the latter half entirely. He also highlights:

Thamesmead, Greenwich and Bexley councils in London have together been handed £145,000 for the “training of community members to liaise with new arrivals on rights and responsibilities regarding recycling/waste disposal”.

But the full description is:

Police (reducing ASB), LA environmental services (refuse and recycling), LA Housing services through the training of community members to liaise with new arrivals on rights and responsibilities regarding recycling/waste disposal, legal responsibilities regarding anti-social behaviour and how to develop a sense of citizenship through participating in community life.

So the claim that:

£1.3million from the Government’s Migration Impact Fund is being spent on the lessons

is wrong because there are clearly other aspects to each project - such as health and anti-social behaviour.

And the idea that migrants are going to be sent to 'lessons' doesn't stand up either. Take another project which Hall highlights, where:

Cambridgeshire County Council is to get £75,000 target landlords to reduce complaints concerning noise and rubbish.

This isn't inaccurate as a description of the project, but it doesn't even remotely sound like 'lessons in emptying bins'. Or filling them. Or whatever.

There are the obligatory comments from the Opposition, the Taxpayer's Alliance ('it is absurd...' etc) and someone called Doretta Cocks from the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collection, whoever they are (apparently, some tinpot Campaign Against Political Correctness-type obsessives who do little but give out quotes at the drop of a hat, and have an equally ugly website).

So it's not an exclusive, because it's two months old; it's not a confidential document, because it's been on a government website for two months; there aren't any 'lessons'; the figures are bogus and the descriptions half-truths. And the headline is nonsense.

In other words: total rubbish.

If it's Friday, it must be Littlejohn

Today's Richard Littlejohn column is posted in full on the Mail website for the first time in several weeks. Shame that. But it does allow us to look at it and see if there are any more errors lurking in there. And guess what?

First, it is worth noting his main rant is about how the CPS and Police were absolutely correct in bringing the case against Ross McKnight and Matthew Swift, accused of plotting a Columbine style massacre at their Manchester school.

The jury took 45 minutes to find them not guilty after a three week trial. With all the wisdom of someone who wasn't in the courtroom for any, let alone all, of the trial (and indeed, probably wasn't even in the country) he decides:

That probably says more about the members of the jury than the evidence laid before them.

Errr, well no. If a jury can dismiss a case of that (apparent) seriousness in less than an hour, that says everything about the evidence before them.

McKnight's lawyer said it was all fantasies caused by the 'frivolty of youth'. Littlejohn snorts with derision.

But then a comment from Jon in Camberley catches the eye. He wrote:

I remember when you said, in print, "Kill all the lawyers." Fantasies of mass murder, huh? Hardly the frivolity of middle age. I hope you're going to hand yourself in at your local police station at the first opportunity.

Really? Yes, indeed. During a webchat in 2007, Littlejohn was asked:

Do you agree that lawyers are overpowerful in their influence in British politics?

To which he replied:

YES - as Hal said to Dick in Shakespeare: First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

Later he is asked:

Will we ever get rid of this elf 'n' safety/PC mentality?

To which he said:

See previous answer about killing all the lawyers!

Dangerous fantasies of murder indeed.

Littlejohn moves on to the story of Sultan Kosen, recently crowned World's Tallest Man. He begins:

The world's tallest man is in London looking for a bride.

Well, not quite. He is London, promoting the launch of the 2010 Guinness Book of Records before flying off the Germany and the US. He said he'd had a tough time finding a girlfriend, so it's not quite the 'imposing foreigner stealing our women'-type situation Littlejohn first implies.

But then he comes up with a 'hilarious' solution:

A Pakistani woman was recently granted asylum in Britain on the grounds that, at 7ft 2in, she would be subject to persecution if returned home.

She was last seen living on benefits in a council house in Stockport.

This is a match made in heaven. I'm sure she'll be very happy in Turkey.

Oh, where does he come up with this stuff? Recycling his column of three years ago? But we thought Littlejohn didn't 'do' recycling?

Now, here's the first problem - the Pakistani woman in question (Zainab Bibi) appears not have been granted asylum in Britain.

On 6 January 2009, the Mail confidently stated Pakistani woman given asylum because she's 7ft 2in tall. But the decision had not been made and the Mail was pre-empting it for no reason other than to stir up anti-asylum feeling.

Four days later, it admitted her asylum claim was in fact rejected. This was echoed by a report in the Asian News.

Although both stories claimed she was looking to appeal against the decision, I can find no other news stories related to her case since then, so it appears that Littlejohn has, umm, got that wrong. Again.

What about his claim she was:

last seen living on benefits in a council house in Stockport.

Well, not quite. Again, going by the 10 January Mail report she was living:

in a council house in Stockport, Cheshire, until recently

The Asian News story confirms:

A spokeswoman from Stockport Homes confirmed that Miss Bibi was moved out of the borough by the Home Office and they are no longer supporting her.

It's perfectly possible that there have been some developments on her case that have escaped the Mail, Google, Yahoo and the BBC. But given Littlejohn's record at doing any proper research that seems highly unlikely.

Just put it down to yet another example where his 'merely reporting the facts' has let him down.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Paul and Martin heart Kim


Paul Dacre, Mail editor, and Martin Clarke, from MailOnline: a question.

Which one of you has the biggest crush on Kim Kardashian?

I only ask because yesterday the Mail website had a story - quite high up on the right hand side - about how Kim's ass is shrinking (apparently).

I would have guessed you were doing your usual 'look how much weight this sleb has lost/gained', but you covered her weight loss two days before when Kim unveiled her 'bikini body' with pics on her Twitter page.

And you published three pics of her in various bikinis, just to be sure.

Four days before that, you had a picture of her at a film premiere. That was a day after you thought it imperative to tell the world she had changed her hair colour from blonde to dark. And that was a day after you carried some pics from her latest photoshoot.

You didn't write about Kim the day before that one, because you were too busy writing about her sister Kourtney instead.

And I guess you might have thought your readers could be getting bored of her after you wrote about Kim's car seats the day previous.

Which was three days after the Twitter pic of Kim in her underwear which you were very excited about. You put an exclamation mark in the headline and everything.

Was that just reassurance she was still hot after you ran pap pics of her 'bleary eyed' and without make up four days before?

In fact, were you both on your summer holidays in August? Because there was only one other picture of her, yet two of sister Kourtney.

July was much more like it. She couldn't go shopping, split from her boyfriend, 'flaunt her curves' at a film premiere, or wear a skintight jumpsuit without you rushing to tell your fascinated readers.

You also thought it necessary to talk about the milkshake named after her and the shoes she wears.

In June there were film premieres, award shows, and more insightful exclusives about her sisters.

May saw you carry two lots of pics of her in bikinis within three days, plus Kim in 'killer heels' and being voted the 53rd Hottest Woman in the World.

All those votes, eh guys, but not enough to get her in the top ten. Still, you are trying hard to get her higher next year.

There were four articles about her between 21 and 27 April, revealing such vital info as her being on holiday, getting sunburn, dying her hair and going to another film premiere.

Everytime she appears in public or opens her mouth or someone talks about her you can't wait to write about her and what she's up to and - more importantly - print lots of pictures of her.

Especially if she has her legs, cleavage or bum on show. Or is in a bikini. Or has her bum on show. Or her cleavage. But even if not you just can't get enough.

You even publish a pic of her on all fours in her underwear to accompany a film review of a movie she's hardly in.

I bet you were overjoyed when you had to write about her denying she had had a boob job. I mean, phwoar, then it's, like, your job to look at her boobs. And you got to see her as a teenager in her bikini. I bet that was a memorable day, huh?

And then there's another question - why are you so obsessed with this woman? A look at her Wikipedia shows she made a sex tape, appeared in Playboy, has done a little acting, came eleventh on Dancing With The Stars and her family has a reality TV show.

Is this really a life so fascinating that you have to inform us of every little detail, such as when she goes on holiday or dyes her hair?

Or is just, you know, she has big boobs and a big bum and you two like your women curvy?

Anyway, if you don't have some weird creepy crush on this woman (Paul, you know you are 33 years older than her?), then it can only be that you are using all those photos because you know people (men) are interested in seeing pics of her.

Given that her public profile in the UK is practically none, it is useful for pulling in the hits from across the pond. And for keeping that title of most hits to a newspaper website per month.

And Martin, one final thing. Is there anything you would like to say about your Press Gazette interview when you:

dismissed suggestion[s] that success of the website was down simply to the volume of show business and celebrity stories it carries....

'It does annoy me that people say its all driven by search and showbiz stories because it’s actually not driven by either'...

'News is far more important to us that showbiz.'

Because people might start to get the impression you weren't being entirely honest.

Express has exclusive on two women who have been dead for years

Diana is back on the front page of the Express, exactly two weeks after her last appearance there. No conspiracy theories this time, just the thoroughly outrageous 'news' that she has been 'axed from Royal history'.

Does that headline make sense? Well no, not really.

Is it true? Well no, not really.

What we have is a new official biography of the Queen Mum written by William Shawcross, which is covered in every paper today. It's 1,096 pages long and, spits the Express, only two pages are devoted to death of St Diana.

Given the Queen Mother lived to 101 that would equate to around ten pages for every year of her life. In that context, two pages on Diana's death doesn't seem that strange - especially when it has been written about so much that everyone is completely and utterly bored of it.

Everyone except the Express, that is.

And just because there are two pages on Diana's death, that does not mean she is not written about anywhere else in the book, which is what the headline states. Indeed, the article goes on to discuss other areas where St Diana is mentioned.

So how is that being 'axed'?

And why one person's biography should be about someone else is hard to fathom, but this is the Express and Diana so all common sense goes out the window.

Inevitably there is the outraged 'critic' on hand. The Express says the book was:

condemned as a whitewash yesterday

Who condemned it? A so-called 'Royal author' called Margaret Holder. It appears she was once involved with Royalty Magazine and, perhaps more tellingly, the editor of a book called Diana, the Caring Princess: In Her Own Words, which was rushed out a couple of months after Diana's death. So hardly an unbiased critic.

In fact, the Express uses the word 'critics' but fails to produce anyone other than Holder to be outraged.

Is this really front-page news or just another pitiful excuse to stick Diana on the front page?

And just because no Diana story would be complete without a nasty dig at Camilla, Express journalist Richard Palmer comes up with this:

In one letter she describes ­Wallis Simpson, the woman Edward VIII gave up his throne for, as “the lowest of the low” but there is no written record of her thoughts on her favourite grandson Charles’s on-off affair with Camilla.

See what he did there? Charming.