Tuesday 12 March 2013

'We do not normally find it worthwhile challenging Daily Express euromyths but...'

An article in today's Express claims:

Journalist Alison Little writes:
Euro MPs want to brainwash children with “sinister” Soviet-style propaganda on a new website, it was claimed yesterday.

European Parliament chiefs are considering setting up a site to target young children with a “playful” presentation of their working methods and democratic principles.

There are two sentences from the European Parliament’s 2011-14 communication strategy included in the story:

“Research has shown the social and political perception of young people starts at a very early age. In a playful manner which is tailored to the needs of young internet users, a special Europarl website could bring democratic principles and the working of the methods of the European Parliament closer to children.”

The only other quotes in the article come from UKIP MEP Paul Nuttall, who says:

"Political propaganda on vulnerable kids is a form of child abuse."

The Express's stance is reinforced by an editorial comment.

The response from the European Parliament's Information Office in the UK is worth repeating in full:

Welcome to the brave new world of EU reporting at the Daily Express, where information is bad, transparency is dictatorship, civic rights are forms of oppression and checking facts makes you blind.

We do not normally find it worthwhile challenging Daily Express euromyths. It would be like trying to engage UFO Magazine in scientific debate: a waste of time and dangerous for one's mental health. Moreover, we are used and resigned to the peculiar phenomenon of its journalists switching off all critical faculties when it comes to taking politically motivated anti-EU tirades as fact, then working backwards to try to fit the circumstances to the 'crime'

But today's 'story' really does deserves a short comment.  The paper, prompted by a complaint by a eurosceptic politician, published a piece arguing, entirely un-ironically, that creating a website informing young citizens and future voters of their rights is now to be considered propaganda.

You heard right. The modern, Express-sanctioned meaning of propaganda - made worse by that one-size-fits-all criticism of "paid for by tax payers' money" - is not raging against a minority, say, or distorting the truth about which side is winning in a war, or inciting the populace to violence. Modern day propaganda is for a democratically elected Parliament to make people (including young people) aware of its existence and their rights within it. And to have the audacity to do so with the aid of that sinister, new-fangled technological wizardry: a website!!!!

In fairness, an Express reporter had contacted this office and asked for a quote about how 'The Parliament' would justify its deeds.

Never mind that an eloquent explanation of the purpose of the initiative (which is still only just that, a proposal being looked at) already appears in the document she herself had raised as 'proof' of this conspiracy to inform.

Never mind that it had been written by a body of senior MEPs including a British vice president of the Parliament, whom she was at liberty to interview were she able to spare the time. (She could not, or did not see fit to publish their comments).

We also happened to mention that, with one simple Google search, we had been able to come up with the UK Parliament's equivalent of this outrageous practice. Shocking, I know. Is there to be no end to the horror?

The reporter, to be perfectly fair, displayed immense fortitude at this juncture. She absorbed the ground-shifting discovery that propaganda was indeed alive and well at the heart of the Mother of Parliaments - never mind the barbarous EU - and then delivered this killer line: we should feel free to use this example in our own comment to her.

Let me write this again. It was to be somehow our job to put the 'propaganda' slur in context by mentioning the existence of similar initiatives in most national parliaments including Britain's own. Providing context and balance in a story is no longer the job of the Daily Express reporter, you see. If you want balance and context you have to knit it yourself.

You'd be searching in vain for this context in today's story, reader. You will not find it. What's worse, your ignorance of the existence of sinister educational websites set up by the Houses of Parliament leaves your children vulnerable to the horror of 'Soviet-style' British propaganda right here right now, under your very nose and, needless to say, with your taxes.

The Express did not include any response from the European Parliament in its article.


  1. Based on the comments below the line on that article, Express readers are seriously scary people. Bloody hell.

  2. There are times when to take things seriously requires you to take the piss. This is one of those times.

    Good on the EU for not taking it lying down. No doubt the Express will fight back (it can afford to) but let's stop giving it an easy ride.

  3. I was onboard until the response used multiple exclamation marks!!! It's one step away from saying 'simples' and it's not on.

  4. The European Parliament is funny! Nice response.

    Oh God or was I brainwashed to think that AS A CHILD??

  5. When I read this paragraph:

    'European Parliament chiefs are considering setting up a site to target young children with a “playful” presentation of their working methods and democratic principles.'

    I genuinely laughed out loud. A factual, educational website, made in a fun way that would be accessible to children and so aid learning. Sounds bloody sinister to me!

    I suggest sending the Express a list of the top 100 factual children's websites in the UK and challenge them to find one that did not meet their apparent definition of 'sinister'.

  6. Lets see- the article was 100% factual.
    The newspaper had the documents from the EP showing what it wanted to do.
    The newspaper asked the European Parliament for a comment but the EP Press office refused to give a comment.
    The EP was caught with its pants down and had a huff.
    Great stuff.

    1. Try reading it again - the EP did comment, they told the reporter the UK already has a similar website. It was the Express that opted not to then mention this in the story. As for "100% factual" - yes, the Express cleverly presented the story as reportage of what one nutter UKIP MEP said, with very selective use of quotation marks in the headline. The word "brainwash" not being quoted even though it was part of the MEP's rant.

      Balanced reporting? By the standards of the Express, definitely.

    2. Was the UKIP MEP even awake? They are notorious for snoring during debates...

    3. 100% accurate?

      "And knowing the mindset of the European Union, with its passion for control, for expanding its remit, for trampling on national sensibilities in pursuance of its dream of a superstate, one can guess which way a proposed website for children will lean."

      At least they admit they are guessing.

      Of course, the irony is that the Daily Express is itself propaganda.

  7. And yet the propaganda continues, you say you're defending the stance, but isn't that what the people in Stalingrad did when.attacked by the nazis!

    1. 1. Godwin's law. Your opinion is invalid.

      2. ...So... are you saying you're a nazi?

  8. I did a C&P of the letter and posted it in the comments section. Let's see how long it lasts...

  9. I thought Mail readers were unhinged loonies, blimey, Express readers are so far passed unhinged they could not see it with the Hubble telescope.


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