Friday 30 July 2010

'Legitimising name calling'

On Wednesday, the Daily Star reported on research from Staffordshire University that '93 per cent of fans believe homophobia has no place in football.'

The editorial that accompanied the story said gay footballers should come out:

Yes, there are still isolated incidents of hate. But the vast majority of modern supporters would not bat an eyelid. There is nothing to fear.

Yet this is the same paper that, in an editorial a few weeks ago, said:

Yes, it was a reaction to a story about gay asylum seekers but the stark wording of the headline suggested the Star was giving a wider view.

And this is the same paper that, in December 2009, was reporting the views of Max Clifford that gay footballers should not come out:

He said: “It’s a very sad state of affairs. But it’s a fact that homophobia in football is as strong now as it was 10 years ago...

Max now believes any star would be unwise to follow the example of Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas who has come out as gay.
He warned: “If he did, it would effectively be his career over.”

Of course, one reason why gay footballers might not wish to tell everyone about their sexuality is so they can avoid childish 'jokes' such as this one. From the Daily Star:

That article claims homophobic supporters sang a 'sick song' which the Star then goes to the trouble of repeating, just so any other bigot who might want to sing it will know all the words.

And several years ago, when Steven Gerrard had topped a 'sexiest footballer' poll of gay fans, the Star ran a picture of him with a handbag photoshopped onto his arm.

On Tuesday, the Star's right-wing, red-top rival proved calling homosexuals crude names is hardly a thing of the past. The Sun's Gordon Smart wrote a (fascinating) article about Louie Spence being at a party hosted by the Beckhams.

The headline:

Clause 12 of the Editor's Code of Practice says:

The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

As No Rock and Roll Fun points out:

You can't throw a word like 'bender' into a headline about a gay man. Not in a newspaper that still pretends it has any sort of standards. Homophobic name-calling isn't the same as a witty headline.

Moreover, Smart also said:

Pineapple Dance Studios star Louie, or Louise as I like to call him.

No Rock and Roll Fun again:

Do you see? Because he's gay, Gordon has given him a woman's name.

And it's not the first time - Smart said the same thing on 9 June:

Now Pineapple Dance Studios hero LOUIE SPENCE - Louise as I call him.

A couple of weeks ago, when Spence had done a dance routine with Vernon Kay, Smart renamed him Vernon Gay:

On other occasions, the Sun has called Spence 'flamboyant', 'master mincer' and a 'fruit'.

This isn't confined to Spence either. When Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe said he wasn't gay in an interview in early March, the Sun decided to go with the headline:

The story said Radcliffe had:

been plagued by speculation he is more Botter than Potter.

And the Sun isn't the only Murdoch paper using such unacceptable language. Carrie Dunn at The F Word reports that in last week's Sunday Times, tiresome controversy-seeker AA Gill said:

Some time ago, I made a cheap and frankly unnecessary joke about Clare Balding looking like a big lesbian. And afterwards somebody tugged my sleeve to point out that she is a big lesbian, and I felt foolish and guilty. So I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise. Sorry.

Now back to the dyke on a bike, puffing up the nooks and crannies at the bottom end of the nation.

Balding, unsurprisingly, was offended and wrote to editor John Witherow. His response was as ignorant and arrogant as it could have been:

In my view some members of the gay community need to stop regarding themselves as having a special victim status and behave like any other sensible group that is accepted by society. Not having a privileged status means, of course, one must accept occasionally being the butt of jokes.

A person’s sexuality should not give them a protected status. Jeremy Clarkson, perhaps the epitome of the heterosexual male, is constantly jeered at for his dress sense (lack of), adolescent mind-set and hair style.

He puts up with it as a presenter’s lot and in this context I hardly think that AA Gill’s remarks were particularly 'cruel', especially as he ended by so warmly endorsing you as a presenter.

So he doesn't think there's anything wrong with calling someone a 'dyke'. Balding, rightly, wasn't impressed:

When the day comes that people stop resigning from high office, being disowned by their families, getting beaten up and in some instances committing suicide because of their sexuality, you may have a point.

This is not about me putting up with having the piss taken out of me, something I have been quite able to withstand, it is about you legitimising name calling. ‘Dyke’ is not shouted out in school playgrounds (or as I’ve had it at an airport) as a compliment, believe me.

It may be your job to defend your writer and your editorial team but if you really think that homophobia does not exist and was not demonstrated beyond being ‘the butt of a joke’ then we have a problem.

Balding has now made a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission under Clause 12.

To repeat what No Rock and Roll Fun said: 'Homophobic name-calling isn't the same as a witty headline.'

So isn't it time the PCC made it clear that using derogatory terms such as 'bender', 'fruit' and 'dyke' does indeed 'legitimise name calling' and simply is not acceptable?

(Hat-tip The Sun - Tabloid Lies)

Thursday 29 July 2010

Mail: two libel payouts in two days

On 16 July, the Mail apologised to Marlon King for a false story it published about him, which it had copied from the Sun.

On 21 July, the Mail apologised to Cheryl Cole for a false story it published about her, which it had copied from the Sun.

Today, both the Mail and Sun have apologised and paid (around £80,000) libel damages to Parameswaran Subramanyam for false stories they published about him. This time, however, the Sun copied it from the Mail.

Subramanyam went on a 23-day hunger strike in Parliament Square in April 2009 during protests against the Sri Lankan government's offensive against the Tamil Tigers.

But on 9 October, the Mail ran a story headlined 'Hunger striker's £7m Big Mac' which claimed - on the basis of an anonymous police source - that Subramanyam had been secretly eating hamburgers and wasn't actually on hunger strike at all. The following day, the Sun ran the same story, with the headline 'Hunger Striker was Lovin’ It: Bogus…striker was 'eating burgers''.

Unsurprisingly, the story quickly spread around anti-Tamil websites.

But today:

Victoria Jolliffe, counsel for Associated Newspapers and News Group newspapers, told the court that both organisations had withdrawn the allegations and apologised 'sincerely and unreservedly' to Subramanyam for the distress that had been caused.

The Mail ran this, linked from their homepage, although positioned very near the bottom:

An article (9 October 2009), 'Hunger striker's £7m Big Mac', reported claims that Mr Subramanyam was caught secretly eating burgers while on hunger strike during the Tamil protest in London, wasting significant police costs. We now accept that there was no truth in these allegations and we and other media have agreed to pay him damages and have apologised to Mr Subramanyam for the distress and embarrassment caused.

The Sun published this:

Our article of 9 October 2009 falsely alleged that throughout a 23 day hunger strike, Mr Parameswaran Subramanyam secretly ate takeaway burgers when dishonestly claiming he was on hunger strike in support of Sri Lankan Tamils, in a campaign which was policed at considerable expense and caused the police to waste public money.

We now accept that these allegations are totally untrue. Mr Subramanyam, whose sole aim has always been to promote the Tamil cause, did not eat any food at all during his hunger strike.

We apologise to Mr Subramanyam and his family for any upset and embarrassment caused and are paying him a substantial sum in damages.

Subramanyam's lawyer, Magnus Boyd, said:

“The allegations are entirely false which both defendants now accept. The claimant did not consume any food at all throughout his hunger strike. The Metropolitan Police Superintendent who was in charge of the operation in Parliament Square confirmed that there was no police surveillance team using 'specialist monitoring equipment' and that no video evidence existed.”

Subramanyam added:

"I am relieved that this matter is now resolved and I can start to rebuild my life again The past eight months have been an unbearable strain on my life, to the extent that at times I have even contemplated taking my own life.

"As a result of the lies that the Newspapers published about me, and through no fault of my own, I have lost friends, been shunned by family members and completely ostracised from the Tamil community."

For the Mail, it's two humiliations in two days.

Because yesterday, Associated Newspapers paid undisclosed libel damages to Reza Pankhurst over false claims he had groomed a suicide bomber. The Mail published an apology for this on 21 April. Inexplicably, it took the Evening Standard, which made the same claims, until 13 May to do the same.

Pankhurst's lawyer Lucy Moorman told the court:

the allegations in the articles were false and that both papers had now agreed to pay him costs and damages for the “injury to his reputation and the distress caused to him” by the articles.

(In other Mail libel news, Nathaniel Rothschild has today launched a libel action against the paper over a front-page story from 22 May.)

(Hat-tip to exclarotive)

14-year-old does 'bikini photo shoot'...

...and the Daily Mail calls the pictures 'stunning':

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Mail thinks one third more is the same as three times more

Recent research from the University of Cambridge revealed babies born at night were very slightly more at risk of death than babies born during the day (9am-5pm).

As NHS Behind the Headlines says:

However, these results must be interpreted in the correct context, as the risk of newborn death was very low in both groups: 4.2 out of 10,000 births in normal working hours, and 5.6 out of 10,000 births out-of-hours.

That is one third more. It is not:

'Three times more' would be 12.6 out of 10,000 - a vast difference to 5.6.

Journalist Sophie Borland gets this right in her article, but the headline writer couldn't tell the difference - either because they didn't understand it's not the same, or because 'three times more likely' sounded more sensationalist.

However, Borland doesn't get everything totally correct. Her first sentence says:

Women who give birth at night or weekends face a higher risk of their baby dying due to hospital staffing shortages, research suggests.

However, as Behind the Headlines points out:

It is misleading to report that the associations may be ‘due to hospital staffing shortages’, as the causes of different death rates have not been examined in this research and any such claims are based on speculation.

(Hat-tip to Alex P)

'All the garbage that is coming into your country'

The Daily Mail reports that two Chilean Rose tarantulas have been found in Bolton, and a vulture and a corn snake have been spotted in Devon.

One person leaving a comment decides this is the perfect story for an anti-immigration rant.

And this comment was approved in advance by the moderators:

(Hat-tip to Guy Kelly)

Monday 26 July 2010

Mail apologises after copying untrue story from the Sun (part two)

On 16 July, the Sun apologised for a 4 March article about Cheryl Cole.

On 21 July, the Daily Mail apologised for a 5 March article about Cheryl Cole, which was based on the false one written in the Sun:

An article on March 5 followed up a Sun report that Cheryl Cole was preparing to fly to France to enter into talks with her estranged husband Ashley following a series of text messages.

We would like to make clear that she did not fly to France and that there were no texts.

An article on March 3, 'Is Cheryl about to take Ashley back?', reported that Cheryl Cole had agreed to attend counselling sessions following a series of phone calls and texts.

We accept that this was inaccurate and that she did not make the statements attributed to her.

We apologise to Ms Cole for the misunderstanding and are happy to set the record straight.

It's not explicitly saying, as the Star did, 'we made no attempt to check the accuracy of the story' but it does appear to be saying 'we made no attempt to check the accuracy of the story, we just copied what we read in the Sun.'

As they did with the Marlon King article they apologised for on 16 July.

The Mail and upskirts

Today, the Daily Mail was tut-tutting at allegations Jon Venables had been involved in taking 'upskirt' pictures on his mobile phone:

Yet for most of today, one of the Mail's leading 'showbiz' stories has been this:

The Mail says in the Venables piece:

The case was dropped due to insufficient evidence, but officers found a folder called 'Up Skirts' on his computer - containing 1,200 images.

How many pictures are in the Mail's 'Up Skirts' folder?

Saturday 24 July 2010

'We made no attempt to check the accuracy of the story before publication'

It seems the lawyers at Rockstar Games did get in touch with the Daily Star over their obviously untrue story (by Jerry Lawton) about a 'Grand Theft Auto: Rothbury' video game, based on the case of Raoul Moat.

Here's the very swift, and unusually long, apology, published today:


On 21 July we published an article claiming that the video games company Rockstar Games were planning to release a version of their popular Grand Theft Auto video games series titled “Grand Theft Auto Rothbury”.

We also published what we claimed would be the cover of this game, solicited comments from a family member impacted by the recent tragedy and criticised Rockstar Games for their alleged plans.

We made no attempt to check the accuracy of the story before publication and did not contact Rockstar Games prior to publishing the story. We also did not question why a best selling and critically acclaimed fictional games series would choose to base one of their most popular games on this horrifying real crime event.

It is now accepted that there were never any plans by Rockstar Games to publish such a game and that the story was false. We apologise for publishing the story using a mock-up of the game cover, our own comments on the matter and soliciting critical comments from a grieving family member.

We unreservedly apologise to Rockstar Games and we have undertaken not to repeat the claims again. We have also agreed to pay them a substantial amount in damages which they are donating to charity.

The admission that they 'made no attempt to check the accuracy of the story before publication' is a damning one.

But is anyone surprised?

(Hat-tip to the anonymous comment person here)

Friday 23 July 2010

Spot the front page apology

On 21 April 2010, the Daily Star ran this front page.

It came just as UK airspace was reopening after the shutdown cause by the volcanic ash cloud.

But the 'terror' and 'dramatic pictures' as 'plane hits ash cloud' were, it was only revealed deep into the story, from a television documentary about an incident from 1982.

To pretend this was some dramatic new event was desperate scaremongering and deliberately dishonest.

It led to this edition of the paper being removed from newsagent shelves at Gatwick and Manchester airports, on the grounds it was 'inappropriate'.

And several people complained to the Press Complaints Commission.

Originally, the Star offered to publish this clarification:

On April 21 2010, on our front page, we published a photograph about a British Airways jumbo jet flying into a cloud of volcanic ash. Our story which followed on page 6 made it clear that the image was part of a dramatic reconstruction of a near disaster when BA flight 009 flew into volcanic dust in 1982, due to be shown that night on Five, and not an image of any event that had taken place in the preceding days following the eruption of the volcano in Iceland.

However, this was deemed unacceptable by the complainants - and rightly so - and so on 17 July, the Star published this instead:

Our article of April 21 2010 headlined “Terror as plane hits ash cloud” – published on the day all UK airports opened their airspace following the volcanic ash disruption – featured a photograph said to show the “moment a British Airways jumbo jet hit a cloud of volcanic ash at 37,000ft”.

This may have wrongly suggested to readers that the photograph depicted a recent event.

As the story subsequently indicated, the image was part of a reconstruction of a near disaster when BA flight 009 flew into volcanic dust in 1982, due to be shown that night on Five.

We apologise to readers for any misunderstanding which may have been caused by the use of the image.

This clearly goes further than the Star initially wanted to go, but the 'apology to readers' is good. And the Star did actually give it a fairly prominent position on page two:

It's certainly an improvement on the very small page two apology mentioned here, although the nature of the story means it is easier to reprint the original.

But is it good enough given the original was the front page lead? Not really.

The Star seemed to recognise this, and so, for once, mentioned the apology on the front page as well:

Did you see it? Probably not because, as Media Monkey points out, it is in the:

bottom what must surely be the tiniest font ever used in a print publication.


So the size of the page two apology is fine. Although the Star should have been more upfront in their initial wording of the clarification, the final apology is reasonable.

And a mention of that apology on the front page is progress of a sort.

But when people ask that front page mistakes are clarified by front page apologies, this feeble effort isn't what they have in mind.

Churnalism: that's the way to do it

In Richard Littlejohn's latest book, which was serialised in the Mail in March, he says in his rant about political correctness:

Already some seaside councils have scrapped donkey rides on the grounds of animal cruelty and Punch and Judy because it glorifies domestic violence.

Neither claim was accurate and as the Punch and Judy website says:

the myth that Mr. Punch had been 'banned' by the authorities for not being politically correct duly entered contemporary folklore.

Yet a new version of this tale has emerged in both the Mail:

and Telegraph:

'PC officials'. 'Warnings'. 'Ordered'. Really?

The Mail says:

officials at a coastal resort have deemed a traditional Punch and Judy show too shocking for modern tastes, and ordered any violence to be removed from the script.

But who are the 'officials'? What 'warnings' did they give? Who 'ordered' the changes?

It's not very surprising to find that neither the Mail or Telegraph answer any of those questions - because those officials don't actually exist. It's just the usual lashing out at a generic 'PC brigade'.

Will people watching the show spot that 'any violence' has been 'removed from the script'? Probably not, as the Mail's article makes clear when it quotes the puppeteer:

"Mr Punch is still a rascal and still has a variety of weapons in his arsenal but they are more socially appropriate."

He also reveals Punch's usual stick has been replaced by a mop. Do these newspapers have nothing more important to write about than that?

Puppeteer Daniel Liversidge, who entertains kids under the name Mr Marvel, advertises his services like this:

Punch and Judy
Traditional and modern at the same time, the Punch and Judy show takes the original story of the timeless old rascal, Mr Punch, and brings him bang up to date in a politically correct 21st Century! The show includes the ever-present Judy, the long suffering baby and a surprise appearance from a very snappy crocodile, all kept under control by PC Plod, the policeman.

Therefore, it appears this 'up to date' version is, in fact, Liversidge's usual act. Thus the claim he's been 'ordered' to change it by 'officials' in Portsmouth looks even more hollow.

Indeed, in the Belfast Telegraph:

Nick Fletcher, spokesman for the venue, said the tower's management had not called for the changes to the show but said such alterations were inevitable...

"We have put no restraints on him but he has taken on board constructive comments from elsewhere and decided to make his Punch and Judy show more modern."

So how did the Mail and Telegraph write almost exactly the same story, with exactly the same slant and exactly the same quotes?

Step forward Blue Zebra PR. On Wednesday, they sent out a press release with the title 'Punch and Judy politics affect portsmouth performance: Puppet show toned down to meet PC standards' knowing that would get them - and their clients - some column inches from the usual suspects. The accuracy of it is, to them, secondary.

And the churnalism duly followed. For example, look at this paragraph from the Telegraph, repeating Littlejohn's lie about Colchester Borough Council:

However the three-hundred -year old show is increasingly falling victim to political correctness. Wiltshire council once discussed taking Punch and Judy books off their library shelves while Colchester council even planned to ban the puppet shows altogether.

And then this, from the original press release:

After Wiltshire County Council considered taking Punch and Judy books off its library shelves, and Colchester Borough Council threatened to ban the puppet shows, professors of the puppetry performance have felt under pressure to improve its reputation and bring a good name back to the nostalgic show.

All the quotes from Liversidge, and the event's commercial manager Paul Mahy, and all the bits in between, have been copied-and-pasted by the Mail and Telegraph straight from the press release.

Just to check the story, I emailed the Blue Zebra PR contact and asked for clarification on who the officials were. I got a reply, but didn't get an answer. But I was told:

Sadly we are unable to approve journalist’s stories before they go out, however we still think that the coverage for our great!

Which says it all.

For comparison, screenshots of the press release and the two articles follow (click to enlarge):

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Mock Star Game

Another day, another tabloid reporting on some fictional 'fury'.

This time it was the Daily Star and a claim that a video game based on Raoul Moat was being planned, called 'Grand Theft Auto: Rothbury'.

Having seen the mocked-up cover somewhere, the Star seems to have believed it was actually going to be made.

The Star even appears to have a quote from the sister of Moat's ex-girlfriend, who says the game is 'beyond belief'.

Of course it is. So how did 'journalist' Jerry Lawton and the people at the Star even begin to think this was real?

By this afternoon, the Star had hastily removed the story but the folk at MCV had taken this screenshot of it.

Tim Ingham from CVG wonders if the removal of the article was because they realised (finally) it was nonsense, or whether Grand Theft Auto publisher Rockstar Games had had a word.

The 'death knock'

Freelance journalist and trainer Chris Wheal has written a moving article on his blog about the behaviour of the media following the death of his nine-year-old nephew.

An experienced journalist, Chris said the experience was an 'eye-opener'.

He says that while the nationals were 'lazy' and just relied on churnalism, most of the local media was 'good'. However, there was one exception:

After getting my statement issued though the police and having seen rival papers out-scoop and take a more news-focused attitude...the News in Portsmouth sent a reporter to doorstep my sister. He was met with a torrent of abuse...

This was on Sunday. I tried to contact the News, with no luck. I called the police media officer, who called the crime reporter, who said it was unlikely to have been the News behaving like that. Later that night I did get confirmation from the News that it was them – and an apology.

Chris also highlights the vultures offering the family cash for 'their story':

Someone claiming to be from Love It magazine had phoned to offer cash...

Agency SWNS also called my sister yesterday offering money for the story – there is just no way they would accept money and you have to admit it is sick of the agency to even offer.

He ends:

My sister is not me. She is an inherently private person, as is her husband. They have never courted publicity. They have never sought to be in the press. They are not celebrities. I ask the press of consider that and leave them alone.

Sorry we said you idolised Abu Hamza, and other apologies

Back on 13 April, this blog highlighted the Sun's claim that footballer Marlon King had converted to Islam in prison and was idolising tabloid hate-figure Abu Hamza. The second bit, in particular, sounded very suspicious. Nonetheless, the Mail mindlessly churned out its own version of the Sun's story.

The Sun removed the story within a day. And now the Mail has written:

An article on 12 April referred to reports which suggested Marlon King had converted to Islam in prison, his hero was hate preacher Abu Hamza and cocaine had been found in his cell.

In fact, these reports were untrue and we apologise for any contrary impression that may have been given.

Firstly, it appears from a search of the Sun's website that they haven't apologised yet.

Secondly, it also appears to be another good example of the lies newspapers try to get away when the subject is in prison - there have been recent examples about Peter Sutcliffe and Boy George.

Finally, it's well known that newspapers use weasel words in apologies and clarifications, but 'contrary impression'? Really?

Given that all the Mail had done is 'suggest' all this was true under the headline:

Marlon King: Shamed Wigan star converts to Islam and names himself after hero Abu Hamza

it's hard to imagine how people got that 'contrary impression', isn't it?

And that's not the only football-related 'contrary impression' the Mail newspapers have been apologising for recently, this one from the Mail on Sunday:

Our story of February 21 ‘Chelsea helped Cole to silence claims of affair’, may have suggested that Chelsea FC and Steve Atkins, Head of Communications, encouraged a woman to lie by denying, falsely, that she had slept with a player.

In fact, there was no encouragement to lie and any advice was given to the woman in good faith on the understanding that the allegations were untrue. We apologise to Mr Atkins and Chelsea for any contrary impression given.

The Sun has also been issuing apologies about coverage of Ashley Cole's private life - this one to wife Cheryl:

As part of our coverage of the break-up of Cheryl and Ashley Cole's marriage we reported on March 4 that the singer would fly to France to meet her estranged husband who was texting her lines from her songs.

We accept Cheryl did not fly to France, no such texts were sent and she denies saying she was scared of life as a single girl as we reported on March 1.
We are happy to set the record straight and apologise to Cheryl.

And back to the Mail for one more apology, this one to Vanessa Perroncel:

On January 31, we published some personal information about Vanessa Perroncel concerning an alleged affair with the footballer John Terry. We have since been informed she would have preferred this to remain private and it was untrue in any case. We apologise to Miss Perroncel for any distress caused.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Recommended reading - 5CC on Muslim bus drivers 'banning' guide dogs

Yesterday, the Mail ran the headline 'Muslim bus drivers refuse to let guide dogs on board'.

The article that followed was notable for providing no hard evidence at all that that headline was accurate.

Five Chinese Crackers has taken apart the Mail's article and followed it up with a look at the Star's coverage of the same story.

Recommended reading - 'Muslim-only' toilets

This Daily Star front page headline from last week was inspired by the Daily Mail story that was inspired by a Manchester Evening News story from the previous day.

So it is with modern-day tabloid 'journalism'.

New blog exclarotive has looked into the Star's coverage and found the front page splash falls down in two key respects: they aren't 'Muslim-only' toilets and the council didn't spend any money on them.

He has fired off a letter to the PCC about the Star's misleading headline and he's promised to keep us updated as to what happens next.

Sunday 18 July 2010

Express story goes down the drain

When the media writes myths about the EU, they either claim that something innocuous is being banned (milk jugs, a dozen eggs) or that there's some devilish, intrusive plan to force the EU's will on us (European income tax, Sharia law).

An eye-catching headline in the Express on 8 July fell into the latter category:

EU’s plan to liquify corpses and pour them down the drain.

The following day, the paper printed a letter from Ann Masters, one of the Express' regular correspondents, who reacted exactly as they hoped:

I felt sick to my stomach when reading the article "EU's plan to liquefy corpses and pour them down the drain" (July 8).

If this abhorrent act is to become law under EU ruling I hope David Cameron will be strong enough to say this would never be allowed in our country.

The thought of a loved one's body being poured down the drain fills me with horror. Having my mother cremated when I was just 15 was bad enough and very hard to bear but this is too repugnant to contemplate.

Where would be the dignity in such an awful way of saying goodbye to someone you love? This of course is all about reducing the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere.

It really does beggar belief.

Ann Masters, Barton-on-Sea, Hants

Indeed it does.

Because when the Express said 'EU's plan' what they actually meant was 'Belgium's Flemish Association of Undertakers' plan'. It's easy to confuse the two.

The EU Representative to the UK pointed out:

Whatever Belgian undertakers decide regarding funeral arrangements is a matter for the Belgian authorities. Just like it’s a matter for the UK authorities in this country.

The EU has no competence in this matter and to suggest otherwise is wide of the mark.

The Express has since removed the article from its website.

Thursday 15 July 2010

Express contradicts itself on burkha bans

Yesterday, it was slightly surprising to see the Express reporting this:

After all, on 24 June they claimed:

It's almost as if that totally misleading headline was designed to create a new 'EU bans...' myth irrespective of the facts.

Who would have thought the Express would do that?

'Now' Red Arrows are (not) banned by health and safety

On 13 July, Angry Mob highlighted the latest thing 'banned' by health and safety: the Red Arrows.

The Mail reported, under a headline which began with the word 'now...':

The Red Arrows have been banned from putting on a flying display over a seaside town – over health and safety fears.

The world famous RAF team were scheduled to top the bill at the annual regatta in Dartmouth, Devon.

But organisers decided to cancel the display – which has taken place every year since 1980 – amid fears that vibrations from the low-flying jets might damage buildings.

The story went on to reveal the thoughts of angry locals who said it was:

'just health and safety nonsense'.

In fact, it was just nonsense. Why?

Because one day after the Mail's story, the Red Arrows issued a press release with the headline 'Spurious show story':

There have been reports in the national news today that the Red Arrows will not be displaying at Dartmouth.

This is not true and the Team is still planning to display at the Town’s Royal Regatta event.

Squadron Leader Ben Murphy, Officer Commanding and Team Leader of the Red Arrows said:

“We are still planning to display at Dartmouth on August 27. We have not been contacted by the event organisers with any concerns about damage to buildings. In fact the Mayor of Dartmouth contacted the Team this morning to say that the town is still very much looking forward to the display and that reports in the national press about the town cancelling are simply not true.”

(Hat-tip IC Oliver)

Wednesday 14 July 2010

'I'm not racist, but...'

From the letters page of Monday's Daily Mail, in response to the 'swimming pool cover-up' story:

What is this country coming to when the windows of a public swimming pool in Walsall are blacked out to protect the modesty of Muslim women?

We seem to be letting Muslims take over this country. We appear to be afraid to upset them.

If they don't like the way we lead our lives, let them go and live in a country that panders to their religion.

We are a Christian country, our laws and way of life are built on our religion.

I'm not racist, but I'm getting fed up with opening the newspaper every day to read that we're bowing and scraping to the Muslim community.

Would they get so much freedom of speech in Afghanistan? I doubt it.

Edd Butler, Shoeburyness, Essex

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Those editorials in full

The front pages of today's Daily Express and Daily Star were covered in an earlier post.

As if those headlines weren't bad enough, here are the editorials that accompanied them.

The Express:


There is no point in hankering after a return to the ethnically homogeneous Britain of the Forties. It is never coming back.

Nor is there much point in complaining that some of those who were pilloried as racists for claiming that immigrants were “taking over” their neighbourhoods in the Sixties and Seventies were telling the truth – though they were.

A new study predicts that the ethnic minority share of the population will soar to 20 per cent over the next four decades. Much of the increase will be down to very high birth rates among some ethnic communities already established here.

The transition to a multi-racial society has happened remarkably quickly and without the permission of the public being sought by the political elite.

Yet things are not all bad. Many immigrant communities and families are making a big contribution to society and are now over-represented in the professions.

Others, alas, have high rates of welfare dependency and criminality. Some have fully integrated into mainstream British culture, others are almost fully insulated from it.

At its best, modern Britain is more culturally stimulating and free than was the case 70 years ago. But at its worst it is a country of resentful strangers living in close proximity to each other but with little in common.

What Britain needs now is a long pause in immigration to allow a core common culture that all ethnic groups observe to become established. Britons old and new need time to get to know each other.

Last week, the Star said there was 'no room for gays'. Today, there's no room for anyone new:


In just two generations the very face of Britain will change beyond recognition.

Research reveals that one in five of us will be from an ethnic minority, more than double the current levels.

The groups growing fastest are white, from Europe and America.

Britain has a long and proud tradition of being multi-cultural.

But in recent years the vast numbers of newcomers from Eastern Europe has put our services under intolerable pressure.

Our entire support system, including housing, schools and hospitals, has been pushed to the very limit.

We need a total halt to immigration - now.

Richard Desmond attacks 'ethnics' and 'asylum scroungers'

Today's Daily Star:

Today's Daily Express:

Do you think Richard Desmond, the owner of these two rags, is trying to telling us something?

Anton at Enemies of Reason has blogged about the Express' front page. He says:

Leave aside that we're all 'ethnics' of one mongrel sort or another; this makes it quite clear what's going on. There are whites and there are 'ethnics'. How much more explicit does it have to be before we start calling it what it is?

As Anton points out, the Express illustrate this 'vile story' with this image of Muslim women:

Yet the article, based on population forecasts from the University of Leeds about what might happen in 2051, clearly says:

The White British and Irish ethnic groupings are expected to grow very slowly, while the Other White category is projected to grow the fastest, driven by immigration from Europe, the US and Australasia.

Funny how the don't use pictures of French, American or Australian women, isn't it?

In the last week we've had 'Muslims force pool cover-up', 'Now asylum if you're gay' and now this.

Maybe they should change their claim to the World's Nastiest Newspaper.

As for the Star, the story of Abdi and Sayrug Nur, who are unemployed and have seven children, has been doing the rounds for a few days, since the family moved into a house Kensington which the papers claim is worth £2m. The Sun, Mail and Mirror have all written about it.

Yet the Star is claiming sole responsibility for having the family 'booted out':

Ministers last night vowed to kick out a family on benefits from a £2million home after a hard-hitting Daily Star campaign.

Your favourite newspaper intervened to stop Somali spongers Abdi and Sayrug Nur continuing to milk the system.

Alas, a few sentences later:

We demanded answers from the Department for Work and Pensions and they have agreed to evict the family.

Officials said they would remove the Nurs when the new rules come into force next April.

So the Nurs will apparently be moved when the rules change next April. Funny the Star did say that it would be in nine months time when it probably would have happened without the Star's 'hard-hitting campaign' anyway.

And look again at the headline '£2m asylum scrounger'. £2m represents the value of the house they live in, so he hasn't 'scrounged' £2m. The papers are up-in-arms about the £2,000 a week the local council is paying for the house - but that goes straight to the owners, so he doesn't get that either. (The Mail claims the rent had been £1,050 per week, but this was raised to £2,000, the maximum available under housing benefit rules, but there's little anger directed at the owners of the house.)

Also 'asylum'. Nur sought asylum in the UK in 1999 after working for the Red Cross in Somalia. It was granted and so now he is a refugee. But the Star and its ilk want to associate 'asylum' with 'scrounging' and so continue to label him as that.

And clearly the Desmond papers want to continue to demonise Muslims, foreigners, immigrants, 'ethnics' for their own miserable ends.

(Jonathan has also written about the Express front page here)

Monday 12 July 2010

Council doesn't 'force' schools to do anything about Ramadan

So soon after the 'Muslims force pool cover-up' story that wasn't quite true, a similar story surfaces in the Mail:




and on the BBC:

The wording of some of these headlines, as in the swimming pool cover-up one, suggests this is something being 'forced' on people to 'appease' the whims of Muslims.

Here's how the Star reports it:

Headteachers have been told to stop sex education lessons during Ramadan to avoid offending Muslims.

Council bosses are also set to enforce strict rules to ban swimming lessons and even exams during the Muslim holy month.

Now it is worth skipping straight to the end of the Express' article to show how accurate all this is:

Labour councillor Ruth Rosenau, said: “It is just asking schools to be more aware. We are not trying to impose any rules.

A council spokesman yesterday stressed it was up to individual headteachers whether or not to implement the guidance.

Ah. And this comes just a few paragraphs after the Express calls it a 'diktat'.

So Stoke-on-Trent Council issue some guidance which schools can implement or completely ignore, and this is turned into headlines about what schools are being 'forced' to do because of them Muslims.

(It is reminiscent of the 'England shirts banned from pubs' headlines which sprung up before the World Cup, a deliberate misreporting of some police guidance which landlords could listen to, or not.)

But once it's clear that schools do not have to abide by this guidance, the outrage inherent in these articles looks as hollow as usual.

The council document is actually made up of extracts from a 2007 Muslim Council of Britain report Towards Greater Understanding: Meeting the needs of Muslim pupils in state schools.

The elements of the guidance the media has picked up on - about exams, swimming and sex education - are all listed in the MCB's booklet as 'features of good practice'.

But neither they nor the council in Stoke-on-Trent are demanding they all be adopted. Phrases such as 'appropriate consideration' and 'try to avoid being scheduled' are evident; phrases such as 'we demand' are not.

For example, on swimming:

In general, participation in swimming is an acceptable activity whilst fasting.

However, for many pupils this activity may prove to be an issue, as the potential for swallowing water is very high. Some pupils or parents consider the risk too great and may wish to avoid swimming whilst fasting. Others may take the view that as swallowing water is unintentional it does not break the fast.

Schools with a significant number of Muslim pupils should try to avoid scheduling swimming lessons during Ramadan to remove unnecessary barriers to full participation.

And on exams:

It is inevitable that certain statutory and internal school examinations may fall during Ramadan. Schools should give appropriate consideration when scheduling internal examinations, since the combination of preparing for exams and fasting may prove challenging for some pupils.

Several of the headlines refer to 'avoiding insulting/offending Muslims'. It is a nasty little phrase that's become all too popular with stories such as this.

But are these suggestions about 'avoiding offending Muslims', or about schools being sensitive to the religious beliefs and wellbeing of their pupils? As 5CC says, why is it the latter is so often reported as the former by the tabloids, and blown out of all proportion?

And they're blown out of proportion for a reason. The tabloids know this 'special treatment for minorities' narrative goes down very well with their readers - never mind that most of it is highly exaggerated if not outright lies.

Yet believe it or not, some of this reporting is actually a very slight improvement on media coverage three years ago when the MCB report first came out. The Express claimed the MCB wanted to:

Ban un-Islamic schools

and had drawn up proposals that were disgracefully labelled as:

calls for all children to be taught in Taliban-style conditions

If this blog had existed then, that article would almost certainly have been mentioned...

UPDATE: 5CC did exist in 2007 and did blog about the Express' article. He called it 'bullshit'.

(Hat-tips to 5CC, Liberal Conspiracy and readers Chris and Midge)

Sunday 11 July 2010

Express publishes three apologies - for one story

On Friday 9 July, the Express published the following apology:

In an article published on this website on 27 December 2009 until 15 January 2010, entitled “Jet bomb ordered by 9/11 spiritual leader”, we incorrectly described the charity Interpal as “Hamas-supporting”.

As such the article would have wrongly been understood to mean that Interpal and its trustees provided support for Hamas notwithstanding that Hamas is deemed a terrorist organisation and thereby were aiding terrorism.

We accept that this is wrong and neither Interpal nor its Trustees support Hamas.

We wish to apologise to Interpal and its Trustees and are happy to set the record straight.

If the 27 December 2009 article 'Jet bomb ordered by 9/11 spiritual leader' sounds familiar, that's because the Express has already apologised for it twice before.

They apologised to the East London Mosque on 15 March and they apologised and paid 'substantial' libel damages to four Trustees of the the Ummah Welfare Trust on 15 April. And now this.

To say sorry for getting a story so completely wrong is one thing. To do it three times for one article is something else. The journalist responsible, Ted Jeory, must be so proud.

And the Express still claims it's the World's Greatest Newspaper.

(Hat-tip to exclarotive)

They're still not covering Snowdon in tarmac

Last Wednesday, the Mail reported that three sections of one of the paths on Snowdon, totalling 100m, had been covered in tarmac (and then topped with crushed stone to make it look like the rest of the path).

The paper tried to pretend this had caused 'fury' and that the amount of tarmac laid was rather more than was actually the case.

The next day, in the paper's main op-ed piece, Janet Street-Porter repeated these half-truths. She clearly hadn't read the original article properly and so sounded even more silly than she usually manages by basing her rant on something other than the facts:

...sadly — and unstoppably — Snowdon is being tamed and turned into a Welsh version of Disney Land.

Now, a long section of the ancient Miners’ Track has just been covered with Tarmac.

'A long section'? Even if the 100m of new tarmac was in one place, it wouldn't be a long section - it makes up about 4% of the total length of the Miner's Track. That it's actually in three sections proves she's another Mail columnist who doesn't do her research and bases her reactionary columns on Mail headlines.

She continued:

Laying a Tarmac path will just encourage more silly people to think they can conquer nature when they can’t.


Tarmac and peaks don’t belong together. At this rate, the UK will soon be concreted over from St Ives to Ullswater.


Park officials claim they want to make the route more suitable for those with physical disabilities. I’m outraged — they’ll be putting in platforms for the train and piped music next.

So Street-Porter sounds like she might actually be in a 'fury'.

Shame all her outrage - and all those words - are wasted on something that hasn't happened.

And she wasn't the only one to give this non-story more coverage. In his Friday column, Richard Littlejohn made light of an initiative from Kent Police's Gipsy and Traveller Action Group (GTAG) to provide 'safe caravans' to Gypsy women who suffer domestic abuse:

That's a lot of safe caravans. Quite apart from the cost, they've all got to be parked somewhere. It might explain why they're Tarmacking over Snowdonia.


Saturday 10 July 2010

What a difference a day makes

Daily Mail, 9 July 2010:

Pressure mounts on 'cavalier' Gove as Cabinet colleague criticises school blunders

Pressure on Education Secretary Michael Gove intensified today after he was criticised by a Cabinet colleague over his mishandling of the classroom-building programme.

Mr Gove will embark on a tour of the country to say sorry in person after giving schools false hope that their projects would be spared the axe...

Mr Gove, who was branded a 'miserable pipsqueak' in parliament over a series of blunders he made with the axed £55bn scheme, will go to nine schools in Sandwell, West Midlands and one in Doncaster, South Yorkshire to say sorry.

Daily Mail, 9 July 2010:

Councils caught up in school building cuts fiasco prepare to sue after Gove gaffe (... and the builders could be next)

Beleaguered education secretary Michael Gove faces being sued by dozens of councils facing cuts to their school building programmes.

His department could also face legal action from builders who had signed contracts for new schools which have now been suspended half way through.

It is the latest fiasco to hit Mr Gove, who earlier this week was forced to apologise after giving 30 schools false hope that they would not be axed.

Daily Mail editorial, 8 July 2010:

A promising start

At last! After 13 years in which Labour placed social engineering and pupil-power above education, common sense is breaking out in Britain’s classrooms...

The Mail applauds Education Secretary Michael Gove on a promising start.