Thursday 24 December 2009

Off to enjoy Winterval (because, apparently, you can't call it Christmas any more...)

Hello everyone.

Tabloid Watch is taking a short break for Christmas and New Year.

This blog has been going almost exactly ten months and has grown beyond expectation in that time. I would like to thank everyone who has read a post, left a comment, emailed a tip, offered support and praise, passed on a link, or re-tweeted my thoughts. It really is very much appreciated.

Comment moderation has been switched on while I am away.

The most popular post of the year has been the one about Richard Littlejohn thinking dogs were humans. It seems people enjoy reading about Littlejohn making a fool of himself...

On the subject of Littlejohn, here's an article from Rob Sharp in the Independent about Health and Safety/'PC gone mad' myths. It seems so (sadly) appropriate after the last few days.

Have a good one.

More chaos at the Express (just not in the way they think)

On Sunday, this blog noted how the Express seems to think every problem is 'chaos' and every bit of criticism is 'fury'.

And, true to form, two days later, this:

And since Sunday, those hacks at the Express have been utterly, bewilderingly obsessed by weather 'chaos'.

Wintry weather brings travel chaos, Eurostar: more chaos could be ahead, Eurostar orders review after chaos, More travel chaos as snow freezes, Weather: Christmas getaway chaos, Travel chaos and accidents on icy roads, Man dies in fall at station as Arctic weather causes chaos and 14 killed in Britain snow chaos.

That's two weather chaos stories per day this week.

And to top it all off, a stunning exclusive on today's front page:

Of course, snowbound generally means shut in or blockaded by snow. Can anyone go on a shopping spree when they are literally snowbound?

But the real 'story' the Express thinks is front page news is that people go shopping on Christmas Eve.


The Daily Star continues to lie and lie

The Daily Star. More reality TV. More Jordan. More front page headlines that don't resemble the truth.

First, Tuesday. Front-page headline Jordan's Alex and Peter in TV punch-up clearly suggests that Jordan's ex-husband Peter Andre and current boyfriend Alex Reid have been in a fight. On TV.

They haven't.

What might happen is that they might join another Jordan ex (Dane Bowers) in being contestants in the final series of Celebrity Big Brother which starts early next year.

Or, of course, they might not.

The Star's probably-invented insider says:

'It would kick off big time. There would be big trouble as soon as they set eyes on each other.'

But if they aren't in there, then it wouldn't, right? The almost-certainly non-existant source added:

'Who wouldn’t tune in to see those three go toe-to-toe?'

Err, me?

Yesterday, the same basic story, the same front page layout, the same lack of accuracy but different protagonists.

Macca versus Mucca on ice clearly suggests that Paul McCartney and his ex-wife Heather Mills are both going to be taking part in the next series of Dancing On Ice.

And, no, these reality TV shows never, ever end.

'Couple go to war on telly dance show', the sub-head boldly states.

Paul McCartney? On an ice-skating show? Surely not?

No. Of course not.

Yes, Heather Mills has been confirmed a contestant by ITV. But by 'Macca' the Star actually means, err, Emily Atack.


Blonde Emily, who has starred in Channel 4 sitcom The Inbetweeners, is the daughter of actress and impressionist Kate Robbins, 49, who is Paul’s cousin.

Well, make that Paul's 'first cousin once removed' according to Robbins' Wikipedia entry.

In other words: Mucca versus Macca's distant relative - on ice.

Can't wait.

Mail gets over-excited as Kim Kardashian eats salad and does some 'writing'

After a bit of a quiet period, the Mail website is back in full Kim Kardashian mode.

First she was dragged into a fascinating 'story' about her sister's marriage. Then they covered the pic she posted on her Twitter when she was at the dentist, which led Mail columnist Lauren Booth to complain about seeing her at the dentist.

Her other sister then gave birth so she was mentioned again, and they followed that with the less-than-impressed reviews of her acting appearance in 'CSI: New York'. But an evident lack of talent isn't going to stop them.

So on Tuesday - her sixth appearance so far this month - they decided to go into quite excessive detail about an advert she has done for a fast food outlet. In which she eats chicken salad. There are five screenshots, an embedded video of the whole ad to (ahem) enjoy and lots of breathless description:

in another scene she is seen in the bath, naked, covered only by bubbles as she pops a slice of apple into her mouth.

Phwoar, eh? They say the ad is a:

reenactment of her sex tape

although a sex-tape where the woman is clothed and eating chicken must be a strange one.

And then, in an amusing typo:

That's 'writing'. Not 'writhing'.

That's what happens when you type one-handed...

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Hark! The Mail invents another 'PC gone mad' story

Another day, another pathetic Mail 'PC gone mad' tale.

Now the PC brigade wants to re-write our Christmas carols it screams. Do they? Do they really (whoever they are)?

Well, no.

The story is about Nic Robinson, who went to his 13-year-old daughter's school carol service and was singing 'Hark! The Hearld Angels Sing' when, shock:

he noticed that in verse two the line 'Pleased as man with man to dwell' was changed to 'Pleased with us in flesh to dwell' on the printed sheet.

Disgraceful. You can't even say 'man' any more.

The man (oh, you can say it) added:

'It's such a shame that things which are so well established are being changed for no reason at all. It makes me angry because I love the traditions around Christmas and the church.'
A weird over-reaction to a slight lyric change in a 270-year-old song. But is it right?

This is, after all, a PC gone mad story in the Mail and they haven't worked out too well recently.

They haven't done much research on this one either. A quick Google search reveals that the 'Hark!' lyrics on Hymnsite, Christmas Carol Music and many, many, many other sites contain the very same evil PC words.

Joyful Heart suggests that references to 'in flesh to dwell' appear in the Bible in:

John 1:14; Romans 1:3; 8:3; Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:7-8; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:3; 2:9-11; 1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 1:7; Revelation 22:16

Yes, those PC fiends have gone and replaced the lyrics with phrases and references from the Bible. How dare they!

The man who complained is, says the Mail, a music teacher. He should, perhaps, have known that the original version was written by Charles Wesley in 1739 and then:

rewritten by George Whitefield (1714-1770) in 1753 (changing the first two lines), and by Reverend Martin Madan (1726-1790) in 1760 (changing lines seven and eight). Other changes occurred in 1782, 1810, and 1861.

In fact, Wesley's original first line - changed by Whitefield - was:

Hark how all the Welkin rings

So why isn't he complaining about that? In fact, the Mail adds:

Mr Robinson said he did not know who changed the words

Yes. Clearly.

But it certainly wasn't that 'PC brigade.'

You can't upset a 14yo girl with leukaemia any more - it's political correctness gone mad!

The Mail on Sunday's front page about the 'sacking' (which wasn't) of a Christian teacher has a new development.

The parents who complained about the behaviour of teacher Olive Jones have now given their version of events to the media. Needless to say, it's quite different to that outlined by Jones, sycophant 'journalist' Jonathan Petre and the Mail on Sunday.

But here's what should make people exceptionally angry.

The parents have a fourteen-year-old daughter who is seriously ill with leukaemia. As if that wasn't stressful enough, the selfish actions of Jones and the pathetic way the Mail on Sunday wanted to push their 'political correctness gone mad' agenda no matter what the truth means they are now thrust into the media spotlight through no fault of their own (except for trying to protect their daughter).

Jones and the Mail on Sunday left them little choice but to speak out given the dismal, one-sided nature of the coverage that spread around almost every media outlet going, and several political blogs too.

Yes, they could have kept quiet, but as they were being smeared all over the media (and abused in reader comments) as almost everyone bought into the line Jones was spinning, why should they?

But frankly, haven't they got enough to deal with without all this?

The Mail on Sunday should be treated with utter contempt for forcing the family into this position, which was sadly inevitable once Petre's story spread. Perhaps Editor Peter Wright would like to explain how he thinks putting the family in the spotlight in this way is in any way justified?

Petre should consider why he thought it was right to file this story despite not getting any proper account from the other side about what really happened and producing something that was so obviously incomplete and half-baked.

And then there's Jones, who seems to want to play the martyr. Her friends at the Christian Legal Centre (whose involvement should also be questioned) have put out a statement on her behalf saying she:

stands by her account.

So not content with causing distress to the family by running off to the media in the first place, she's now calling them liars as well.

Not sure which bit of the Bible that is in...

Here's what the girl's mother said:

'Mrs Jones was employed to teach maths but used every opportunity to discuss religion, despite the fact I made it clear we were a non-religious family and didn't want to talk about these issues in this way.

'On one occasion she asked my daughter to pray with her, my daughter was distressed by this behaviour.

'On another, after the death of my daughter's close friend, Miss Jones told my 14-year-old daughter that when young people die they go to heaven. These conversations upset my daughter deeply.

'The sessions with Mrs Jones became increasingly traumatic and we decided it was not appropriate for this woman to come to my home.'

The father added:

'Mrs Jones' actions caused our family much distress at what is a difficult time. We no longer wanted Mrs Jones to come to our home at any time in the future and we asked the tuition service to deal with the matter.'

The first point is very valid. Jones was meant to be teaching maths, not RE, so she really doesn't have much right to start talking about religion anyway. That's not an issue of 'political correctness', just a question of professionalism.

But, if she did start to talk about her faith and was told to stop, why did she continue to discuss it?

Secondly, in the original Mail on Sunday article, Jones made out she was 'unaware' of the parents' objections. Their statement clearly contradicts that.

Thirdly, Jones claimed after the last visit:

She left on what she thought were good terms.

Yet the parents say the sessions were 'increasingly traumatic' and their daughter was 'distressed' and 'upset'.

Fourth, she said she never pushed her 'beliefs down other people's throats'. Given the number of times both the original article and now the parents' statement claim otherwise, that looks false.

On top of that Jones admitted in the original that a similar complaint about her inappropriately discussing her religious beliefs with a pupil had been made three years earlier.

It should also be remembered - because so many journalists forgot it - that Jones remains under investigation. She has not been sacked, but is not being used until the complaint is resolved. Whether she thought getting the media on her side would help her remains to be seen - it may just have backfired on her.

Jones also said:

'It's a sad situation that in today's society our freedom of speech has been suppressed.'

Nonsense. She was asked not to talk about certain things when she was in another person's house because it was upsetting their cancer-stricken daughter and yet she carried on. That's not a question of free speech.

Jones told the Mail on Sunday of her belief that her life was saved by a direct intervention from God when, as a teenager, she thought she was going to die in a tractor accident before the 'sound of a rushing wind' spared her. More likely: she was never going to die in a tractor accident. But to be telling this story of a life-saving miracle to a teenager with leukaemia is not only spectacularly ill-judged, it is in exceptionally poor taste.

She also said, with a mind-boggling lack of tact:

'I've been left so devastated by the whole situation.'

Yes, she's devastated. That was the line she and the Mail on Sunday wanted to put out to make her the victim rather than the parents struggling to deal with a very sick daughter or, more importantly, the girl herself.

Sadly the Jones/Mail version has already spread - that she was sacked for offering to pray for a sick child. The less-catchy but more-truthful version which says her services are not being used until after a complaint about her upsetting a sick child is fully investigated, hasn't.

Eventhough the Mail published the parents' comments last night, only the Telegraph and Bristol Evening Post has (so far) followed suit. Why the difference?

And, why the difference in the way the Mail has treated these events? The original was on the front page and the main editorial in Sunday's paper and the lead on their website for most of that day.

The story containing the parents' views is not on the Mail's homepage at all at time of writing. Over one hundred stories are - including ones about a pop star without make-up and whether Simon Cowell has put on weight.

But the article which suggests their main story from two days before wasn't entirely true? Less important than that, apparently.

Moreover, they published over 200 comments on the original article. They have so far (in 19 hours) allowed no comments through on the follow-up.

A statement from the North Somerset Council Press office explains:

Teachers like Olive do not have to set aside their faith, but personal beliefs and practices should be secondary to the needs and beliefs of the student and their family and the requirements of professional practice.

That perfectly reasonable view is now what is described as 'political correctness' and 'persecution'. That view, according to the Mail on Sunday, is the view of 'zealots'.

On Sunday, blogger Iain Dale (who should know not to believe everything that is printed in the Mail on Sunday) dismissed the parents' complaint as 'vexatious' without waiting to hear their side of the story. Vexatious means annoying, irritating to the subject, without sufficient grounds. Yes, how annoying and groundless for the parents to try and protect their seriously ill daughter from distress.

Like most others, he hasn't bothered reporting the parents' comments. His post was headlined 'One rule for Christians...' and he suggested:

Does anyone seriously imagine the teacher would have been sacked if she had been a muslim, and offered prayers for the child? Of course not. And rightly so.

Does anyone seriously imagine the Mail on Sunday would have splashed a fawning, unquestioning interview on the front page if a Muslim teacher had been talking to a pupil about his or her religion? Of course not.

Meanwhile, the Christian Legal Centre - who have helped peddle the lies - said in support of Jones:

It is time for a common sense approach to be restored in all these matters.

So to the CLC, a family wishing to save their sick child from upset by complaining to the employers of the intransigent woman causing the distress is not 'common sense.'

But spreading lies and misinformation in the papers and causing further upset to the family is 'common sense.'

Who are the zealots?

Monday 21 December 2009

Gaunt toes the party line

The latest entry in the (not quite) daily blog from Sun loudmouth Jon Gaunt is an attack on the BBC. Starting off on Jonathan Ross' salary, it expands into a wider rant about the Corporation and how he thinks it could save money. He says that the first things to be cut should be management salaries and then, with no hint of irony:

the excess in the digital channels that no listens to or watches.

Yes, he still has problems with his grammar. But as Matthew Norman pointed out recently, listener figures for SunTalk, where Gaunt has a show, have never been made public. That must be a measure of how large the numbers are...

He goes on:

The axe then should fall swiftly on the ridiculous Asian network and he should immediately privatise Radio 1 and 2.

It's not hard to guess why he's picked on the Asian Network, is it?

Finally, he adds:

Clearly the BBC's domination of the Internet has to be curtailed as they have no right to effectively, with our money, suppress entrepreneurial enterprise with their almost monopoly position.

Hmm. Complaining about a BBC monopoly suppressing 'entrepreneurial enterprise'? Who could he mean?

Surely not Sky News which, like The Sun, is owned by Rupert Murdoch?

And his views are clearly nothing at all like the sentiments expressed by James Murdoch in Edinburgh in August:

In this all-media marketplace, the expansion of state-sponsored journalism is a threat to the plurality and independence of news provision, which are so important for our democracy.

Dumping free, state-sponsored news on the market makes it incredibly difficult for journalism to flourish on the internet.

Yet it is essential for the future of independent digital journalism that a fair price can be charged for news to people who value it.

We seem to have decided as a society to let independence and plurality wither. To let the BBC throttle the news market and then get bigger to compensate.

In other words: clip the BBC's wings so the Murdoch empire can earn more money.

Towards the end, Murdoch said:

People value honest, fearless, and above all independent news coverage that challenges the consensus.

Honest like Fox News, presumably. The 'consensus' Fox challenges is known as reality.

(Read Charlie Brooker's excellent take on the Murdoch speech)

Sunday 20 December 2009

Who are the zealots?

Yesterday, this blog argued that the Mail often seems more obsessed with political correctness than the so-called 'PC Brigade' (whatever that is).

This followed their claim that the Warwickshire Justice Centre had banned Christmas decorations, when their own story clearly showed that wasn't the case.

And the Mail on Sunday has taken the baton and stuck a 'PC gone mad story' on the front page today.

There is a slight problem in blogging about this article because it is such a shockingly one-sided, half-baked account of what has happened you know this isn't the whole story.

Unless you are the Mail and journalist Jonathan Petre, who seems to have made a career out of stories about how Christians are oh-so-persecuted. In which case, the devout Christian must be right.

The difference in the level of research is stark. In yesterday's story, it was clear the journalist hadn't been to the Centre in question to check out the decorations for himself. For this story, Petre has gone to Weston-Super-Mare to interview the subject, Olive Jones, in her home:

Mrs Jones shares her comfortable four-bedroom house with her husband Peter...The house provides few clues about her strong beliefs. There is a small wooden cross on one wall, a few plaques carrying religious texts, and some Bibles in the sitting room.

'Few clues'? Surely that should be 'quite a few clues'?

And it's clear he is on her side. He litters the story with attempts at grabbing sympathy for Jones. She's a

softly spoken teacher


youngest son is a Royal Marine who has served in Afghanistan


only later realised her words had caused distress, for which she is apologetic.


Here's the version of the story that the Mail wants you to believe: Mrs Jones went to teach a sick girl in the student's home, offered to pray for her and was then sacked.

So let's look at that front page headline again: Praying for sick girl 'was bullying'.

This is a lie, as no praying actually took place. And the key quote from the story reveals:

Mrs Jones said that during the meeting Ms Robinson [Jones' boss] told her that talking about faith issues in the house of a pupil could be regarded as bullying.

So it 'could be' regarded as bullying. Not 'was bullying'. And that's her account, not her employers'.

Despite the fact that almost every other media outlet is now repeating the claim that offering a prayer was what she was 'sacked' for, it doesn't appear that it was actually the main problem.

Here's what you can unpick from the article: Jones taught maths to children too ill to attend school. On the fourth time she went to this particular child's house, the girl was too unwell to do the lesson so Jones:

chatted to her mother and raised the subject of her faith, saying she believed God had saved her life.

The teacher said when she was a teenager she had been driving a tractor on the family farm near Carmarthen in Wales when it slid down a slope but came to a halt just before tipping over.

‘I shut my eyes and thought I was going to die,’ said Mrs Jones. ‘Then there was a sound of a rushing wind, like that described in the Bible, and then total stillness.

‘I was convinced it was a miracle. I shared my testimony to encourage the mother to believe that there is a God who answers prayer. I believe I have a personal relationship with God, who is a constant source of strength.’

The non-believing mother must have been thrilled about that. Indeed, the article says the mother complained to Jones' employers about this, but claims these concerns were not passed to the teacher.

Two lessons after that one, the girl was once again too ill to study:

Mrs Jones once again referred to the incident involving the tractor and spoke about her belief in Heaven. ‘I told them there were people praying for them, and I asked the child if I could pray for her,’ said Mrs Jones.

Later in the article Jones is quoted saying:

'I don’t push my beliefs down other people’s throats'.

Going to someone's house and telling people your life has been saved by a direct intervention from God twice in three meetings would strike most people as pushing your beliefs down their throats.

It turns out that Jones had been warned about her conduct three years before when another girl complained about similar behaviour, so it's not as if this was a one-off. But it's also clearly not just about a prayer.

Imagine that this teacher was a Muslim. Imagine this Muslim claiming she'd been sacked for talking about religion in front of a sick child. Which side would the Mail take in that instance?

But then it gets more curious, because Petre explains:

She said that although she was clear that she had been sacked, she had recently been approached by a senior education official who had said the complaint was still being investigated and had suggested a meeting.

It's not quite clear what that means, as it suggests the sacking might not be as clear-cut as the Mail on Sunday has led us to believe. Indeed, the BBC are currently saying she has only been 'suspended'.

The inevitable quote for the defence implies as much too, so, as usual, it's tucked right at the end:

Nick Yates, a spokesman for North Somerset Council, said: ‘Olive Jones has worked as a supply teacher, working with the North Somerset Tuition service. A complaint has been made by a parent regarding Olive. This complaint is being investigated.

‘To complete the investigation we need to speak to Olive and we have offered her a number of dates so this can happen. At the moment we are waiting for her to let us know which date is convenient for her.’

So rather than organise a date with her employers to resolve the situation, Jones instead organises an interview with a journo from the Mail. If she's been as badly affected by this as she claims shouldn't she be trying to resolve the situation?

In fact, she says she has been so upset:

'I haven’t even got around to putting up a Christmas tree or decorations.'

Five days before Christmas and no decorations up? The zealot! It's political correctness gone mad! Etc...

Her lack of contact with the Council just adds to the feeling this is a very biased tale being told here. That quote from Yates is the only one from the other side of the story. Nothing from the mother involved (although she would probably be best advised to avoid the media attention), nothing from her immediate boss, nothing from the Council about the actual events.

Yet Jones gets to speak, as does one of her (Christian) friends and the director of the Christian Legal Centre.

The full story will emerge, at some point. By which time, everyone will believe a Christian was sacked just for being a Christian and the PC myth grows and grows, whether it is true or not.

The Mail on Sunday editorial is adamant:

The new state religion of this country is 'equality and diversity'. Unlike Christianity, this belief system is actually compulsory. Neutrality or indifference are, increasingly, forbidden. All must at least pay lip service to the church of Human Rights.

Really? So perhaps the Mail newspapers would like to reveal how many people it employs from ethnic minorites (excluding cleaners) so we can see just how much they have been 'compelled' to bow down to 'equality and diversity'.

Among the Editors and main writers there is Paul Dacre, Peter Wright, Robin Esser, Tom Utley, Quentin Letts, Richard Littlejohn, Melanie Philips, Amanda Platell, Liz Jones, Jan Moir, Peter Hitchens, Max Hastings, Allison Pearson, Piers Morgan, Stephen Glover, Janet Street-Porter, William Rees-Mogg, Des Kelly, Richard Kay, Peter McKay, Dan Atkinson, Mary Ellen Synon, Kate Nicholl, A.N. Wilson, Chris Tookey...

In fact, looking through their columnists it appears Baz Bamigboye and Monty Panesar are the only ethnic minority faces in a very, very long list. That's an interesting definition of 'compulsory'.

But back to the editorial, which announces without any doubt whatsoever:

Mrs Jones was accused by her local authority of 'bullying' a pupil.

Despite the fact the story doesn't say this.

And it's all part of a wider plot:

the fundamental problem, the slow takeover of this country by politically correct zealots, continues to grow.

Ah, the 'politically correct zealots'. Those same zealots who don't make kids wear goggles for conkers, don't ban tinsel, don't ban piggy banks, don't ban carol singers, don't ban the word 'Christmas', don't want to downgrade Christmas, don't ban certain jokes from crackers, don't ban the word 'nativity', don't ban the word 'blacklisting', and don't do lots of other things they are accused of doing.

That is a slow takeover. Where will those dastardly zealots not strike next?

The Express has anger and truth issues

Here's yet another stunning front page from a Richard Desmond paper.

Free stuff, Strictly Come Dancing and a news story with no evident news value.

Christmas TV Chaos: Fury as the freezing weather knocks out favourite channels is billed as an 'exclusive' and reveals:

Millions of digital viewers are having to retune their televisions, some of them daily, as the Arctic weather causes channels to break up or disappear. Angry viewers have deluged the BBC and Freeview with complaints as they suffer interference caused by high pressure accompanying the cold snap and snow.

Even if that were true, it's a pathetic thing to stick on the front page. But is it true?

The story continues:

As the icy conditions challenged digital providers, it emerged some homes 90 miles from Wales have been receiving Welsh language shows.

The second bit of that is true. It was reported a few days ago that there had been a problem of overlapping signals - but this was to do with the switchover process in general and was not related to the weather at all.

And, as usual, deep in the story, there's something which explains as much:

Digital UK, which is charged with rolling out the switchover, denied there was a problem: “We are not aware of any unusual issues regarding bad weather affecting digital signals.” However, the company has acknowledged a problem with “overlapping signals” following the switchover in the North-west and South-west after it received 6,000 complaints.

So a story about problems of overlapping signals which was reported by the BBC and Mail on Thursday and Friday last week, is turned into a front page Sunday Express article and padded out with a bit of irrelevant weather news to add a topical angle, just so we don't think the paper has cribbed it from other sources and reheated it several days later...

But quite apart from the fact the 'story' is crap, there is something so wearying about the language the Express uses, particularly 'fury' and 'chaos' which both appear on the front page. This is a story about some people not having all the television channels they want - 'annoyed' about an 'inconvenience' might be more appropriate than 'fury' about 'chaos'.

(A similar ridiculous over-reaction was reported in the Independent over the CBS adverts starring Frosty the Snowman, over-dubbed with dialogue from How I Met Your Mother. A Fox News commentator, John Tantillo, said after seeing the ads that he had 'never been as appalled, outraged and saddened.' Yes, apparently, 9/11 'appalled, outraged and saddened' him less than an animated snowman saying rude things.)

But what else has the Express newspapers said people are in a 'fury' about recently?

Union fury at cabin crew militants, Fury over Guy Ritchie's 'noisy' A-list pub, Investor fury over punch bonuses, Ministers faced fury last night after it was revealed Labour’s welfare benefits bonanza costs the average working household almost £1,000 a year, Hughes vents Clattenburg fury and Tiger Woods' wife's fury over sex in marital bed.

Goldman Sachs has scrapped cash bonuses for its top 30 executives this year amid public fury on both sides of the Atlantic..., Jack Straw sparked fury yesterday..., Northern Rock shareholders reacted with fury..., Licence fee payers reacted with fury last night after it was revealed this year’s Christmas television schedule will feature almost 600 hours of repeats...

Fury over 'secret' auction of Queen Mother's letters, Hell hath no fury like a woman transgressed, and Mitchells and Butlers shareholder 'takeover' fury.

And that's just since the start of December. That's a lot of 'fury' dreamed up by the Express.

In fact:

And what about 'chaos'? With the snow of the last few days there has been plenty. Apparently.

Snow causes Christmas TV chaos, Eurostar cancels service amid chaos, Martin O'Neill criticises Aston Villa fixture chaos, Chaos in snow and more on the way, Warning over travel chaos following heavy snowfall, Commuters were facing chaos travelling to and from work today..., Road chaos for holiday drivers, Passengers using the rail service, which connects London to Paris and Brussels, face travel chaos, Heavy snow sparks transport chaos as icy blast grips Britain, Britain braces itself for winter weather chaos.

And, before the snow:

Travel chaos ahead as 8in of snow to sweep Britain, Midwife chaos led to death, Crunch climate talks in Copenhagen were in chaos last night..., South Africa: World Cup chaos, America blamed for chaos post-war (surely 'post-war chaos'?), and Homes and businesses face telephone chaos when new dialling codes are introduced.

Also, all since the start of December.

In fact, there's even more 'chaos' on the Express website than 'fury':

Don't they realise that constantly over-stating these things makes them entirely ineffective, like the boy who cried wolf? Can't someone buy them a thesaurus for Christmas?

It's just poor and lazy journalism and it makes them look hysterical. But that's hardly surprising for the Express.

Saturday 19 December 2009

Jan Moir thrills us with her tales of cooking at Christmazzzzzzz

Stephen Gately's partner Andrew Cowles has complained to the PCC over Jan Moir's hate-filled, homophobic article about the singer's death. The Guardian reports:

Cowles complained through his solitictors, Mishcon de Reya, citing breaches of accuracy, intrusion into grief or shock and discrimination.

Given that in Moir's follow-up article (where she whined about the response to her article but said she wasn't complaining) she said:

I would like to say sorry if I have caused distress by the insensitive timing of the column

then she seems to have admitted she did intrude into grief and shock.

But it still seems highly unlikely the PCC will act againt Moir or the Mail.

In the meantime, Moir is still churning out her dreadful columns, including two in the last two days. Is there no end to the torture?

Yesterday's effort was particularly painful. Offensive for her inanity rather than her intolerance, she begins:

First, a confession. I have never, ever cooked Christmas lunch. Not once.

Yeh, we guessed 'not once' from the 'never, ever'.

And then:

yours truly has not so much as sliced a cross into a Brussels' bottom and said arise, Sir Sprout, and prepare to meet thy chestnutty doom.


She then runs through a series of conflicting recipe ideas from Delia, Gordon and Nigella about cooking shallots and de-boning a goose. And painting ham with marmalade. She mentions Waitrose and Fortnum's. That's a Mail writer who knows her audience.

And it really is that fascinating. She goes, tediously, on:

For this year, for the first time, I am cooking the lunch. Yes. Me. In charge of Christmas. At last. Holy bacon-wrapped chipolatas, I have been itching to do it for years. Dying to do it!

Like her first sentence, she seems so utterly bereft of anything to say she has to repeat everything. Everything! Yes. Her.

She then refers to 'bacon-wrapped chipolatas' as:

wind[ing] bits of flat pig around bits of round pig.

Cringe. Does she think her readers have a mental age of three? Or is that just her?

Her blathering on and on about her tedious domestic life continues:

no Brussels sprouts because Mr Jan Moir hates them.

Thanks for that. She's married? Some poor sod has to put up with this drivel everyday?


Now my niece has just made a special request for her favourite blinis instead of brown bread with the salmon.

Could it be that Moir is deliberately trying to be as bland and uninteresting as possible to curry favour with the PCC?

Or is that just her default setting when she's not being intolerant and two-faced.

Philip Davies and the Mail: the real PC obsessives

The latest 'PC brigade ban Christmas' nonsense comes in today's Mail. The article comes with the headline: Tinsel Taliban strikes as Court Service ban staff from decorations to avoid offence because, obviously, people who allegedly want to 'ban' coloured lengths of cheap shiny plastic are just like the Taliban.

The story claims this: Tory Baroness Warsi has received an email from an admin worker at Warwickshire Justice Centre in Nuneaton who claims tinsel has been banned under the company diversity and equality police because it offends people of other religions. Namely Muslims.

Banning Christmas things because of Mulims, diversity and equality - it's a Mail wet dream.

Except, once you read the quote from the Ministry of Justice spokesman, you strongly suspect it's not actually true. The Mail begins the quote with this:

Last night a source at the Ministry of Justice admitted that tinsel had been banned at the front-office counter at the Nuneaton office.

Which suggests all the above is true. But then:

'Over the counter, yes, where sensitive business like fine payments takes place,' he said. 'For that reason. Otherwise there is tinsel and stuff elsewhere.

'Nothing was removed for religious or diversity reasons.

'One piece of tinsel was removed from a counter where it was getting in the way. The rest of the tinsel remains there as festive as ever.'

So decorations have not been 'outlawed' as the Mail claimed. They've not been placed where people paying fines might not want them in their face, and one piece of tinsel was moved because it was in the way.

That's all the Mail is actually reporting on here.

A piece of tinsel has been moved in an office block because it was in the way.

Of course, it's clear that the Mail journalist Daniel Martin hasn't actually been to the building in question to see for himself.

But then the Mail has never much cared whether these stories are true or not. All they care about is that they fit the agenda and view of Britain the Mail wants to make people believe is true.

The Mail aren't alone - Tory MP Philip Davies is also obsessed with this fictional 'PC gone mad' idea. A rent-a-quote idiot who has never knowingly said anything meaningful or interesting, Davies is the 'parliamentary spokesman' for the Campaign Against Political Correctness. The CAPC, ironically, is run by two idiots who have never knowingly said anything meaningful or interesting.

The Guardian has revealed that rather than spending his time worrying about the serious political issues of the day, Davies has been bombarding the Equality and Human Rights Commission with letters asking questions such as:

Is it offensive to black up or not, particularly if you are impersonating a black person? PS I would be grateful if you could explain to me why it is so offensive to black up your face as I have never understood this.

It's just the type of comment that you would expect to read from a Mail reader.

Davies has said on several occasions that measures to tackle homophobic bullying are:

barmy, politically correct nonsense.

He said that Muslims should 'fuck off' in a made-up Sun story about an attack on a soldier's home in Windsor, which he then had to retract.

And now he claims he has 'never understood' why 'blacking up' is offensive.

Is it offensive to be a cretin or not, particularly if you are impersonating a Member of Parliament?

In the Guardian, Davies is quotes saying in response to these letters:

"Anybody who follows my career in parliament knows I'm concerned with the issue of political correctness. I'm merely pursuing a subject I raise more regularly than anyone else in parliament. It's one of my bugbears. Lots of people are castigated for being racist when that's not their intention."

Yes, but what about all those people castigated for being obsessed with political correctness based on half-truths and outright lies?

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Barry George, Lotfi Raissi and the lies in the archives

The libel damages paid to Barry George by the News Group Newspapers over articles suggesting he was a murderer and a stalker are only the beginning in trying to get the public record corrected. There are still dozens of stories repeating those lies easily available on the internet, including on the websites of other UK newspapers.

Shouldn't steps be taken to remove them, without George having to go through another legal process?

It is another example of what happens when a lie gets published, then repeated and then it just enters urban myth. Recently we have seen this with the kids playing conkers must wear goggles nonsense, and that rubbish about the Bolivian saved from deportation by his cat.

Another example is that of Lotfi Raissi.

One of the most shameful cases of recent history, Raissi was the first man arrested for the attacks on 11 September 2001.

In an excellent report in the Guardian last month, Paul Lewis explained:

After a raid on his home, he would be described as the "lead instructor" of the hijackers, responsible for training four pilots to fly planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and spend the next five months in Belmarsh high-security prison in south-east London awaiting extradition to the United States.

Raissi was innocent. The court of appeal ruled that law enforcement officials 'circumvented' the law to keep Raissi locked up, and has since waged a long, hard battle with the Government to receive both an official apology and compensation.

If you search for Raissi's name on the Sun website, you will still find several articles containing the lies spread about Raissi.

Yes, it has the quote marks and 'alleged' in place, but there's no doubting the impression Pilot 'trained hijackers' gives. The following day saw Crew 'were taught in UK':

The story says:

A pilot living in Britain was accused in court yesterday of training four of the suicide hijackers who carried out the terror attacks on America. One of those instructed by Algerian-born Lotfi Raissi was the maniac who crashed American Airlines’ Flight 77 into the Pentagon, it was said... London’s Bow Street court was told investigators had video footage, phone records and correspondence linking him directly to the hijackers... Prosecutor Arvinda Sambir said: “What we say is that Mr Raissi was in fact an instructor. He was a lead instructor for four of the pilots that were responsible for the hijackings.

And the picture is of Raissi in a cockpit, just to hammer the point home.

In February 2002, when Raissi was released, The Sun still implied guilt with misleading headlines such as:


Even when Raissi - and his brother Mohammed - were exonerated, the Sun focused on the compensation they were going to get, rather than any campaign on the gross miscarriage of justice:

And despite everything he'd been through, the MySun people weren't happy:

Five months in prison, stabbed twice, accused of involvement in the biggest terrorist atrocity ever and he's a 'spongeing get' (sic).

The following day, another version of the same story went with this headline:

Not 'Innocent man' but still the nudge-wink '9/11 suspect'. And the 'millions' is designed to cause outrage. It worked:

The archives on the Mail site are limited to six stories, the most recent from 2002, and none which really make clear his innocence, or his recent court victories. The article 'Detained pilot threatens legal action' begins:

A pilot held in a high-security jail for five months on suspicion of training the September 11 suicide hijackers today threatened legal action against the British and American authorities

thus conveniently failing to state he's innocent. They add he had:

demanded an apology

with the use of 'demanded' clearly suggesting something that's somehow unreasonable.

That article also says:

Mr Raissi claims he was threatened by both inmates and guards after his picture was published on the front page of a newspaper under the caption "the terror instructor".

The Independent adds:

Beneath banner headlines proclaiming him as "The Terror Instructor", Mr Raissi was described as the "mastermind" who had taught four of the 11 September terrorists to fly. He was, for many, evidence of an "alarming" British connection.

Not sure which paper that front page headline belonged to - Google and the newspaper websites are not coming up with anything - but in any case it would have been seen by millions of people. And it appears the PCC has not (publicly) dealt with any complaint from Lotfi Raissi either.

Given what that story accused him off, it seems only right that the same paper should print a front-page retraction. As should The Sun and News of the World about all the very serious claims made about Barry George. Indeed, front page corrections should be automatic for front page lies, and hopefully the PCC will move towards that after the current Code review.

Online stories such as those at The Sun on Raissi and the Express on George, which are still pushing false claims, should also be removed.

As for Raissi, one can only hope he gets the apology he deserves, and can then get on with his life.

Another front page fib from the Star

Yesterday's Daily Star front page:

Ignoring the sub-head, which must be one of the least appealing teasers ever, the main headline clearly implies Peter Andre has a new girlfriend and he's going to spend Christmas with her. The story begins:

Peter Andre can't wait to spend Christmas with an 'elegant and classy' sexy new love.

Hmm...odd choice of 'an' instead of 'his'.

Is that because of this:

'I’m a hot-blooded guy and I’d love to be coming home to someone,' he said. 'I am definitely ready for it. A new girlfriend for Christmas would be lovely.'

In other words: he hasn't got a 'new love'.

In other words: that front page is bullshit. Again.

How does the Star continue to get away with this? They even have the cheek to call this an 'exclusive'.

This is what the Star believes not only counts as an 'exclusive', but is a front page lead for a newspaper: Single man would like to have a girlfriend.

That really is a marmalade dropper, isn't it?

Sorry we called you a murderer and stalker

The Sun and the News of the World have apologised and paid 'substantial' libel damages to Barry George - the man convicted, and then acquitted, of killing Jill Dando - over several articles suggesting he was guilty and was also a stalker.

Here's one of the key excerpts from the MediaGuardian story:

In his interview with the News of the World, the paper stated that George had told them: "I didn't kill Jill Dando – I was stalking someone else at the time."

News Group now accepts that George never made that statement to them. News Group also admitted that any suggestion George stalked Kay Burley was incorrect.


the Sun and News of the World, further apologised for a series of articles in the two tabloids in which various allegations were made that he had become obsessed with the Sky News presenter Kay Burley, had pestered a woman after answering an advertisement she placed about a dog and had become obsessed with Pam Wright, the fiancee of the Ipswich strangler Steve Wright.

George's lawyer said that:

News Group has now admitted that the articles "would have been understood to mean that there were grounds to suspect Mr George of the murder despite his acquittal. (They) accept that the verdict of the second jury in acquitting Mr George was correct and it apologises to Mr George for any suggestion otherwise."
"The defendant now accepts that, although on one occasion Mr George did cycle to Sky TV studios to try to collect a tape of his interview with Kay Burley, Mr George did not pose a threat and was not obsessed with her nor did he pester any woman who had a dog for sale nor did he become obsessed with Pam Wright," said Bishop.

And from News Group's solicitor Benjamin Beabey:

"The defendant takes this opportunity to correct matters and to apologise to Mr George for any hurt and distress he has felt."

So a series of despicable articles have been retracted, and not before time. But is this really enough?

After all, the George stalking Burley story ran and ran (Google it and see how many articles are found). There was, for example, this Express article and a now removed Mail story headlined: 'Kay Burley offered extra security after Barry George is stopped at Sky News studios'.

There was also a memorable Leo McKinstry column in the Express which said George was guilty (still looking for reference...).

Of course it is surely a coincidence that George did his post-acquittal interview with Kay Burley on Sky - owned by Murdoch. The Sun and News of the World, owned by Murdoch, then run a series of disparaging, nudge-wink hatchet-jobs about George. These included one about him stalking Burley, who happened to be in a relationship with the Sun's political editor George Pascoe-Watson at the time.

It's all very cosy isn't it? It may also be described as a stitch up.

EDIT: The Sun apology reads:

In August, 2008, some of the articles we published on the acquittal of Barry George for the murder of Jill Dando could have been understood to mean there were grounds to suspect him of the murder despite his acquittal.

We are happy to make it clear we accept that the jury's verdict in acquitting Mr George was correct.

Following allegations made in other articles published last October, we accept that Mr George did not pose a threat to Kay Burley nor was he obsessed with her.

We apologise to Mr George for the upset and distress caused by these allegations.

Funny that they are 'happy' to make that clear, but took sixteen months to do it...

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Littlejohn: unfunny, repetitive, wrong

Richard Littlejohn's column today is awful.

OK, so that's not exactly surprising. But even by his dreadfully low standards, this is pitiful. His main rant is about the BBC, so obviously no one at the Mail is likely to complain.

He has decided that since Alan Yentob appeared near the top of a BBC 'top talent' list, he would re-write the schedules as if Alan Yentob starred in every programme. Geddit?

Littlejohn is in the Mail more often each and every week than Yentob is on TV, but hey, why spoil a great idea.

And by great, I mean rubbish.

So with an staggering lack of hilarity, he's produced twenty-seven programme descriptions hosted by, and about, Yentob.


They all revolve around the same, single idea - Yentob is paid a lot.

Laugh? I nearly did.

It contains Yentob's name repeated 40 times, as if it is a side-spliter all by itself.

Here's some of the - ahem - highlights:

11.00am. Cash In The Attic. Alan Yentob opens his safe and shows us all the money he has been paid over the years by BBC licence-payers.

9.00pm. The Y Factor. This year's plucky winner Alan Yentob performs his barnstorming version of Money, Money, Money!

See the wit and imagination? The skill of the wordplay?

No, me neither.

He mentions 'expenses' four times:

6.00am. Breakfast With Yentob. Join Alan on the sofa as he interviews his celebrity friends and fills in his expenses. Weatherman: Alan Yentob.

12.00pm. Working Lunch. Alan Yentob entertains his celebrity pals at The Ivy, on expenses. Also features an interview with his chauffeur as he clocks up three hours' waiting time.

10.00pm. Come Dine With Me. Alan Yentob takes over the Michelin-starred private dining room at the Connaught to entertain his celebrity pals on expenses.

10.00am. The BBC At Glastonbury. Live coverage from the marquee on the back lawn of Alan Yentob's Tudor mansion in Somerset, where the BBC's popular creative director is hosting a gala bash for his celebrity pals, on expenses.

And 'pension' five times:

3.00pm. Bargain Hunt. Alan Yentob commissions a series of low-rent makeover shows to fill the daytime schedules, after discovering the entire BBC programme budget has been blown on his two salaries and index-linked pension.

8.00pm. Panorama. A special investigation by Alan Yentob into whether the BBC licence fee is frittered away on fat salaries and index-linked pensions for executives. Alan concludes that it isn't.

11.00am. Who Do You Think You Are? Alan Yentob goes on a voyage of discovery in an attempt to solve the mystery of why the BBC pays him £183,000 a year to present an arts programme no one actually watches, and how he manages to draw a pension even though he hasn't retired.

2.00pm. Film: Yentob. Barbra Streisand stars as a boy with no discernible talent who rose from poverty to become award-winning creative director of the world's biggest broadcasting organisation, on two salaries and an index-linked pension.

6.00pm. The Money Programme. Alan Yentob visits a number of tax havens to investigate how to shield his two salaries and pension from Labour's new 50p top rate.

There really is no beginning to Littlejohn's talent.

If ever the word padding applied (twenty-seven!) this was it. And it's not as if he's using television metaphors for the first time. He's done it over and over again. The Labour Government as Big Brother and Dad's Army (twice); the leader's debate as reality TV.

And now, Sarah Brown as Sybill Fawlty.


Yes, with a couple of sentences still needed to finish this week's column, he scrapes around the bottom of the barrel and comes up with this gem:

Sarah Brown has been running up a big phone bill, calling a friend in Canterbury late into the night. One call lasted an hour and three-quarters.

I have visions of Sarah glued to the phone, like Sybil Fawlty, while Gordon crashes around the house, Basil-style, muttering to himself, tripping over the furniture and banging his head against the wall.

'Oooooh, I know ...'

Is this the best political satire he can come up with? Is this what the Mail expects for the amount it pays him?

Elsewhere, he's waded in to the Tiger Woods story with this:

Tiger Woods has announced that he's giving up golf for the time being to try to repair his marriage. It isn't golf that's brought him to the brink of divorce. He'd be better off giving up sleeping with slappers.

'Slappers' because obviously the fact that Tiger has cheated on his wife with numerous women is solely the fault of the women.

Because at the Mail, it is always the fault of them pesky women. It's what happens when they are let off their chores.

Littlejohn has also - rather arbitrarily - decided that:

A Government's principal duties include protecting the currency and defending our borders.

And before you can say: 'he's just made that up so he can attack the Government on those two issues', he writes:

With the economy teetering on insolvency and yesterday's news that several of the most wanted criminals in Europe are hiding out in this country after being allowed to enter Britain without any proper checks, I'd say Labour had failed on both counts.

Well, obviously the economy and the currency aren't the same thing, so that doesn't even make the point.

The rest is the inevitable immigration bit. And - surprise - he hasn't got it quite right.

The list released by the Metropolitan Police, as explained in yesterday's Mail, is about the most wanted people in Britain (not 'in Europe', which Littlejohn uses deliberately to imply they all flee here) who happen to come from Europe and America.

Obviously, because he lives there, Littlejohn doesn't mention the American.

It's almost as if he wants you to think criminality is solely the preserve of Eastern Europeans.

Oh wait.

Secondly, the Police have very clearly stated these men are:

alleged to have offended abroad

'Alleged'? Pff. Littlejohn has no truck with such legal niceties and refers to them all as 'criminals'. Maybe they all did what they are accused of, but perhaps we should reserve judgement until they have actually, you know, been convicted.

Thirdly, Littlejohn says they were:

allowed to enter Britain without any proper checks.

Yet the Mail's own story says from the day before states:

Most of them will have entered the country legally, leaving Poland, Lithuania and Romania before European arrest warrants were issued.

So what does Littlejohn expect the Border Agency to do? Be psychic? Or just be suspicious because they're all dodgy foreigners and so obviously up to something?

Of course, no Littlejohn column would be complete without a dig at Guardianistas and diversity. So he writes:

The Government is recruiting a new standing army of Guardianistas to encourage members of ethnic minorities to explore the countryside.

Plans for 200 'community champions' have just been unveiled. They have been instructed to increase the number of people from minority backgrounds using National Parks.

It appears the 'community champion' idea is actually from the Campaign for National Parks, a voluntary organisation, so it's not immediately clear what the evidence is for his claim this is a Government initiative.

And this campaign, called Mosaic, was launched in January 2009, so it's not 'just been unveiled'. There were press releases in April and July. But we know Littlejohn can't do a bit of research to check anything.

Moreover, the idea that is somehow a 'bad thing' to get ethnic minorities to fully explore the wonderful countryside of Britain makes no sense. Wouldn't Littlejohn and the Mail be the first to complain if minority groups didn't learn about Britain?

He continues:

One of the first 'community champions' in the West Country, Zainab Abubakar, said 'Islamophobia' was discouraging Muslims from walking the moors.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more fatuous statement made by anyone all year.

Yes, you read that right.

Littlejohn did just accuse someone else of being 'fatuous'.