Posts Tagged ‘daily mail’

Following up from yesterday’s thing, the Daily Mail also joined in with visiting the sins of 18th century slave owners upon Richard Dawkins.

They included a charming picture of a white guy whipping some black slaves, as if this were a concept that required illustrating, so that you can understand the full impact this revelation has on the argument for non-theistic evolution.

Their caption for the picture of Dawkins himself read:

Richard Dawkins has condemned slavery despite his ancestors making their money through forced labour.

I had some fun on Twitter thinking of some other breaking news stories the paper might uncover:

“Many modern Germans decry Nazism, even though their grandparents let Hitler run the entire country for years.” #dailymailhotscoop

“Many black Americans nowadays expect equality with whites, despite their ancestors’ status as owned property.” #dailymailhotscoop

“Pope Benedict sticking with Christianity even though the founder of his church was a Jew.” #dailymailhotscoop

That sort of thing. Feel free to come up with some of your own in the comments below.

And apparently the Times also had a feature on Dawkins yesterday, though “feature” in this case appears to translate to “several paragraphs of personal insults”.

Bravo, Camilla Long. You really caught the indignancy of Richard Dawkins’s hair and the nibbliness of his voice, and in so doing made a valuable contribution to the noble field of journalism.

Read Full Post »

About fourteen years ago, a Birmingham councillor was trying to find a way to market the various Christmas events going on in the city centre over the holiday period, and came up with the word “Winterval”.

Since then, certain tabloids haven’t shut up about the idea that Winterval was an attempt by the politically correct lefty brigade to ban Christmas.

By “certain tabloids”, I mean above all the Daily Mail, which has averaged more than three repetitions of this falsehood every single year since 1998 – but many other papers, including respectable broadsheets, have racked up comparable frequencies of reprinting the same rubbish.

Now, though, the Mail has printed three sentences in their Clarifications and corrections section, so everything’s been sorted out.

Except, even if the subject of Winterval is now as unambiguously settled and resolved as anyone could hope it to be, this still isn’t the most satisfying way to draw the saga to a close. Dozens of misleading and hyperbolic articles, over the course of more than a decade, have been offset by a couple of column inches. I find it unlikely that the cumulative effect they’ve had will be significantly reversed by this latest development.

Of course, I don’t want to be too harsh on the Mail for acknowledging and correcting a mistake, even if it was overdue and under-emphasised. But it’s evident how little the problem has been solved when you look at the bulk of their side of the general media conversation.

A couple of months ago, blogger Kevin Arscott pointed out to Melanie Phillips that she was repeating a long-debunked myth in her Daily Mail column. She wrote back, describing his message as being “as arrogant and ignorant as it is offensive”, and reasserted her baseless claim that the use of the seasonal marketing term Winterval was part of an effort to avoid referring to Christmas at all (even though the official descriptions of Winterval always directly referred to Christmas several times).

“Winterval buried ‘Christmas’ and replaced it in the public mind”, she wrote, which of course explains why you’ve barely heard mention of Christmas this century, outside the columns of a few intrepid tabloid journalists fighting to bring you the truth, amidst all the politically right-on Winterval talk going around.

In Melanie’s next email to Kevin, she made vague and entirely inane threats of suing him for libel.

Previous attempts to complain to the PCC about the repeated untruths being printed in this popular national paper had been unsuccessful. But the Mail’s recent decision to clarify and correct their position implies that they’re now siding with Kevin, at least on his basic point – the claim that Christmas was “renamed in various places” was, in fact, misleading and incorrect, despite Melanie’s initial objections. He’s waiting for an apology.

Oh, and the headline of the Melanie Phillips article from September, which now carries a correction as to the nature of Winterval, was: Our language is being hijacked by the Left to muzzle rational debate.

This is how successfully the tabloid media’s ability to self-regulate is currently working.

So yeah, it still kinda sticks in my craw.

Read Full Post »

It’s not easy taking apart and analysing the kind of predictably abhorrent trolling from a major columnist in a newspaper like the Daily Mail sometimes.

Or perhaps the problem is that, in a way, it’s too easy. I think sufficient evidence is in by now to conclude that Liz Jones is an objectively terrible person. Clearly no sensible person should need to have it explained to them why her latest column, about the lengths she’s gone to deceive her partner so that she can become pregnant with his child, is just completely awful.

And yet its proud publication on such a prominent news site implies that at least one person doesn’t see this as a fantastically depressing outlook to have on life. If this is really how a non-negligible number of people think, there must still be value to explaining why it makes the rest of us bash our heads against walls and sob exhaustedly into pillows.

But even reading something like this just makes me so tired.

I don’t despair for humanity – if Liz Jones had the power to make me that cynical, I really would be depressed. I just despair for her.

Look at the state of her relationship to begin with, as she describes it.

I wanted a career, freedom, a nice house and to keep my figure. As a feminist, I looked down on mumsy types.

But when I was in my late 30s, I decided that if I didn’t get pregnant soon then it might never happen. I had also reached a point in my life where I wanted to settle down with a man, and though my boyfriend at that time was wildly unsuitable, I thought that I could change him.

The abrupt realisation that she might miss the chance to have her own child was clearly something that came as an unpleasant shock to her, even after all those years she’d spent scorning “mumsy” types. You have to wonder how much self-loathing she’d been covering up all that time, if the desire for children was actually this important to her.

In fact it was so important to her – and, evidently, she thinks so little of herself – that she felt compelled to stay with someone who was “wildly unsuitable”, and presumably wasn’t making her that happy, just because she was desperate for some stability.

But given what appears to matter to her in a relationship, it doesn’t sound like she’s doing herself any favours.

He lived with his parents before he moved in with me, and earned very little money. I was working on a newspaper and was fiercely ambitious. He was laid-back, I am not. I was ready for a baby, he wasn’t.

I recently moved into my girlfriend‘s house. She’s got a full-time job and is paying the mortgage; I’m unemployed. But despite this and other differences, we’re finding ourselves extremely well suited to each other, because… well, we like each other. We’re not formally collaborating on some business proposition. We care about each other and want to continue spending time together, because we enjoy it. And whenever there’s something important to one of us, which the other isn’t picking up on or might not be fully on board with, we have a conversation about it.

But this isn’t the sort of thing that goes on in relationships for Liz Jones. She complains that her boyfriend “wouldn’t” have sex with her, but doesn’t elaborate on what his reservations were, or whether she was ever curious as to the cause of his reticence. His decision to move in with her was, she thinks, “probably more out of a desire to be able to walk to work than any real love for me”, implying that she never actually asked whether that was the reason. The most succinct explanation she gives for why she would never want to share a child with this man is that he “didn’t earn any money”.

And a marriage, as we later find out, means to Liz Jones that a woman should have “every right to want to start a family”. Wanting to start a family is surely no crime, even for someone unmarried, but deceiving someone so as to force their involvement in your efforts? Does any woman ever have a right to ignore their partner’s wishes and trap them like this, even if they’re married? Even if – and this is a genuine justification she uses for her actions – she’s “bought him many, many M&S ready meals”?

It’s easy to see it as loathsome and despicable when Liz Jones attempted to covertly impregnate herself using sperm from a used condom. When she describes this as a plan which “many will doubtless find shocking”, it sounds like she’s making a neat attempt to shift the guilt onto us for being too square and unhip to handle her maverick originality, rather than on her for being awful, so very awful.

But this is just what a relationship is to her. Women want children and men don’t, so that’s just what you do. Men “should be much more wary”, because women aren’t to be trusted. One of her female friends was more successful than she was, and her former partner is now “in a new relationship having to pay support for a child he never sees”. Liz doesn’t even seem to condemn this particularly, or even bemoan the state of society’s priorities that such behaviour is so normalised; it’s just a somewhat unfortunate but natural consequence of the only way people could ever possibly behave in Liz Jones’s world. So it goes.

I really feel sad for her.

But still, it’s important to remember that she is awful.

I still have days now when I wished the sperm-theft had worked; that I had a daughter or son my husband felt compelled to visit.

Not, I’m ashamed to say, because I think I’d be a particularly good mum, but because our relationship would not have been a complete waste of time, with nothing to show for it but bad memories and a shared cat.

That’s her main regret resulting from the whole thing. Not that the relationship didn’t survive, or that she and her partner had found their differences less irresolvable and had made some decisions together which suited them both. Not even that she had a child with whom she could share unconditional mutual love, in a way she’d never been able to with her boyfriend or husband. She just wants something to show for all the work she put in. If that something happens to be a new helpless life which is entirely dependent on her and which she’s not very good at caring for – well, that’s just the way Liz Jones’s world works.

What a depressing place. If you’ve read this far, I’m sorry I’ve made you spend so much time there.

Read Full Post »

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has won the tabloid bullshit of the month award over at Five Chinese Crackers. It could not possibly be more deserved.

Read Full Post »

I told you yesterday I was having trouble keeping up the earnestness.

It all seems barely less terrible in that part of the world than it was yesterday, but there are other petty things worth getting annoyed about, in between just feeling sad.

Ben Goldacre has pointed to an article in the Daily Mail which is dripping with even more bullshit than you’d expect.

It suggests that a “supermoon” – basically the moon being closer to us than it usually is – could have caused the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. And by describing this as “the latest natural disaster” of its kind, it seems to take it as read that the moon has already been wreaking havoc in numerous other ways.

“Astrologers” are credited with predicting that, in just over a week, the moon will be closer to Earth than it has been in years, and so its gravitational impact will be increased, causing “chaos”.

The first problem with this is fuck astrologers. Astronomers – the ones who actually do science instead of just making shit up – have kinda been on top of the moon’s perigees and apogees – that is, the times when it’s closest or farthest from Earth – for quite a while now. And yes, at the upcoming perigee it will be a smidge closer than it has been for a few years, but not by much. It’s less than half a percent closer than it was in the February perigee, and it’ll be a while before it’s that close again.

The second problem is that this upcoming perigee is due on March 19th. Saying the extra gravity could have caused disasters on Earth in the past few days is like saying “Hey, better watch out for werewolves, it’s only a week and a half till the full moon!” It was at its apogee – the furthest point – less than a week ago. That means the moon was further away from us than usual when the earthquake hit.

All credit to Phil Plait for explaining all this to me so that I can re-explain it all to you. As well as for putting up some repetitive and monumental stupid in his comments thread.

But what’s even more hilarious and/or murderously infuriating is that the Daily Mail posted another article, TWO DAYS previously, which describes “bizarre rumours” about a supermoon triggering “tidal waves, volcanic eruptions and even earthquakes” being put about by “conspiracy theorists” and “lunar-tics” (which, by the way, isn’t even a pun, because that’s where the word ‘lunatic’ fucking comes from).

They actually apply some moderately competent skepticism further down that article, quoting actual scientists who do much to debunk the exact same bullshit that the same newspaper is quite happy to regurgitate barely 48 hours later once something scary happened.

Never mind that the moon isn’t at the perigee for more than a week, meaning it’s currently further away than usual, and so the earthquake in the pacific isn’t what the astrologers predicted at all. Come yesterday’s scare-mongering, all the science gets relegated to way down the page, below the picture, where they know most people probably won’t look. And the last word goes to the “small and vocal minority” who are daring to defy the stodgy old scientists by believing whatever fantasies they want.

Donations are still needed and appreciated at the Red Cross and Save The Children.

Read Full Post »

Nick Davies’s book Flat Earth News is currently in the process of rendering me more cynical and disillusioned about the global business of news reporting and journalism than I’d thought possible. It’s incredibly depressing and utterly brilliant.

Of course, I’ve been following sites like the Angry Mob and Enemies Of Reason and Five Chinese Crackers and Tabloid Watch long enough to find the whole subject fairly depressing anyway. But don’t worry. It gets worse.

One thing that drove home the dismal state of journalism today in particular was this guest post on No Sleep ‘Til Brooklands, by someone to whom and about whom the Daily Mail (it had to be the Mail (actually, it really didn’t have to be the Mail, but it’s not surprising that it was)) told repeated, deliberate, unkind lies. They knew the story they wanted to tell, and completely made up a series of alleged direct quotes from someone who never said any such thing.

It’s a dishearteningly gripping read, even if you tend to support a “bollocks to the lot of it” opinion to begin with. Nobody involved is obliged to give much of a fuck if they completely misrepresent reality, and when that reality is “a person they’ve lied about” there’s little recourse for anything to be done to redress it.

It’s been too quiet here lately. I’ll have something happier to talk about soon, with luck. Tweet me a link to anything else going on that you think I should be talking about.

Read Full Post »

Some things in brief, easing myself back into this slowly after a few more days of uselessness:

– Bill Donohue believes that the Catholic Church has “less of a problem with the issue of sexual abuse” than any other institution in existence. Can we please stop acting as if the Catholic League isn’t just this one loon in his basement?

This is a link to a news website article about a scientific finding. This is a pithy remark summarising my feelings about it. This is a weary sigh about how it will be inevitably misunderstood and widely misrepresented.

– If you trust in watchdogs of honesty to keep tabloid newspapers in check – to enforce some kind of repercussions when, say, the Daily Mail spreads misinformation about dangerous substances, potentially putting people in harm’s way by giving them reassurances of safety, which are explicitly contradicted by the science and have been directly rebutted by experts – then apparently your optimism is foolish and must be crushed. The facts were always there in plain view, but it was months before the Mail were obliged to print a retraction acknowledging that asbestos is in fact quite nasty stuff.

– It’s not all bad, though. Sometimes the quacks go down.

– Two out of three political party leaders in the UK don’t believe in a god. Which I guess is nice. The Deputy Prime Minster has been an open non-believer for a while, and now the new Labour leader has followed suit. The way he qualifies it seems entirely reasonable to me, too; it’s a shame that some people probably do still need to be dissuaded from making the link between “atheist” and “baby-eating monster”, but it sounds like he’s doing a bare minimum of pandering on the subject. And hey, I’m with him on the thing about respecting people with different views. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about a backlash if I want to be more vocal about the active disrespect I have for some things those people believe.

More tomorrow.

Read Full Post »

Back to the Mail so soon? Yeah, sorry, but it’s one of those things really worth countering, because Richard Littlejohn really is an utter cloaca.

Just this one article has a lot to talk about. But I’m not going to focus on the Cambridgeshire Police purchasing “Shewees”, and Littlejohn’s insistence that there’s nothing wrong with “a bucket, or squatting down in the bushes”. I’ll refrain from noting that the comment one reader left, saying that the Police themselves are denying the story, has been voted down by other readers, who presumably don’t want their indignation marred by inconvenient facts. I won’t dwell on the hysteria over the “byzantine rules” issued by binmen, who are apparently now outrageously demanding that we put our rubbish in bins and close the lids.

I’m mainly interested in the cursory few paragraphs at the end, given to the suicides at a factory in China which manufactures iPhones.

An alarmingly high number of people, working monotonous 10-hour days, not allowed to converse with their workmates, and essentially being forced into tougher working conditions every day to support their families than someone like Littlejohn could ever possibly imagine facing, are being driven to hurling themselves to their deaths from the top of their own building.

This should raise some seriously worrying questions about the manufacturer’s business practices, the general culture of the work ethic in China, and perhaps any number of factors in between which may be contributing to such widespread desperation and despair in this complex and tragic scenario.

For Richard Littlejohn, it just provides another chance for a weak joke and a cheap jibe at British health and safety standards.

Because that really would have been so terrible, wouldn’t it, if something like this had happened in the UK, and the “elf ‘n’ safety” brigade had got all over it. They’d probably have stepped in to address the problem of people killing themselves over the stress of their job by, say, giving workers counselling to help them cope with whatever pressure they’re facing. The nanny state would have shoved its nose in to see if these people are alright, or whether they’re suffering from any psychological troubles they might need help dealing with. Tsk. Yoocoodernmaykidapp!

After as many suicides as this, you might expect someone who cared about people to consider whether the conditions in such a factory really are unbearably inhumane.

But apparently just needing help is enough to earn the contempt of this cloacal void of compassion.

“Back of the net!” he chuckles, in a closing line which isn’t even a joke, or a pun, or a callback, or a clever reference to something else. It’s a meaningless, joyous, triumphant exclamation to close off a story about seriously psychologically troubled people taking their own lives.

Read Full Post »

A slight follow-up to my post from yesterday, where I rationalised how much I whine about people being wrong on the internet in a newspaper.

The Heresiarch is one of the most insightful and thought-provoking bloggers on my RSS feed, but something else he said about the Daily Mail business is still sticking in my craw.

RT @Heresy_Corner:

For so-called skeptics, the mere fact a story appears in DM is proof it must be untrue.

RT @Heresy_Corner:

I’ve had conversations with people here who’ve said, in effect, it’s in the Mail, so it’s rot. Many times.

If people are really taking the approach described here, then it sounds like their rationality is being blinded by their rage, and they’re getting carried away. Obviously the Daily Mail is not a tissue of utter lies from start to finish, and it’s not a fair assumption that absolutely everything printed in it is unquestionably false.

I’ve seen them be right about some things. Verifiable events they report as occurring often have genuinely occurred. Their main page currently has a bunch of links to stories the veracity of which I neither know nor care. Is this kid a millionaire at 16? Probably. Are there lots of sunflowers? Pictorial evidence would suggest so. Does LeAnn Rimes have legs? I have no reason to doubt it.

And I imagine they cover sport, too. They’d better get the results right on those pages, or there really would be hell to pay.

The thing is, while this extremist anti-Mail position is definitely unjust and irrational, it’s also not fair to characterise tabloid critics in general in this way, which is what it kinda seemed like the Heresiarch was doing. I’m not at all convinced that the extremist position he describes is a majority one, or even a significant one, and so declaring that this is how “skeptics” think is a disingenuous dismissal of any real points the skeptics might have. (Even with his later clarification of “some” skeptics, this isn’t much of a concession.)

And anyway, I have to wonder how likely it is that the people from whom he’s drawn this conclusion actually take the stance that bothers him.

Perhaps they were a little sweeping in the way they stated their position, as I have a tendency to be sometimes. Consider the measured care and reasonableness of “There seems to exist insufficient evidence supporting the hypothesis of any kind of creator being, and ample counter-examples such that any such hypothesis is untenable,” against the provocative, approximate, and far more succinct “There is no God”.

So, these people the Heresiarch finds so irrational. Did they really say – and would they stand by the claim – “It’s in the Daily Mail, therefore that proves it’s untrue”? Or did they say something more along the lines of: “I don’t trust anything I read in the Daily Mail”?

Because that latter point, allowing for the nuance lost to brevity, is an entirely reasonable position. I’m not sure I trust the Mail to get a single damn thing right without bringing some kind of bias or distortion into their reporting of it, and I’d want to check their facts with at least one other source before I took anything they say seriously.

Arguably, yes, this should be the approach with all news sources, but it’s not trivial to suggest that some media have been more egregious than others in promoting untruth and prejudice, and deserve to be granted even less credibility as a reliable voice.

I’ve seen tabloids grossly distort facts, so I often distrust them. It’s not impossible that they could accurately report a factual story, but the Express has lost all credibility when it comes to reporting on, say, immigration issues with compassion or respect for the truth.

Is this ideological of me? It seems just sensible to take many tabloid stories with several large handfuls of salt, given their track record. And I’ve not seen anyone suggest anything further.

Read Full Post »

This got me a bit worked up recently. (As I’m sure you’ll be astonished to hear, in a post about the tabloids.)

A number of the things I blog about here are to do with journalism, and I think that number’s been increasing lately. The only mainstream news stuff that caught my eye used to be mainly bad science reporting, but recently I’ve also been getting exercised about the various kinds of furious, misleading, front-page sensationalism that’s almost never hard to find, perhaps most commonly in the Daily Mail and the Daily Express.

So, every so often I’ll visit the Daily Mail website, read something that makes me angry, and rant angrily about it, usually while swearing quite a lot about what complete bastards they all are.

Blogs like Tabloid Watch exist for this very purpose, but with reasoned analysis and eloquent criticism in place of therapeutic swearing. (Well, in place of some of the swearing.)

Of course, one commonly proposed solution to all the bitching and swearing that ensues tends to run along the lines of: “Just stop reading their shitty newspapers then, you prick”.

And this is certainly well worth considering.

It’s not usually phrased quite so bluntly, but it’s an argument I hear a lot. Some people on Twitter are really fed up with how much some other people bang on about the latest drivel from the Mail, and wish they’d stop giving the vile rag even more attention.

Sometimes they say that opposing them like this even helps them, by adding to their hit count and contributing to their ad revenue, but they’re getting nearly a million hits a day – or were this time last year – and most of that’s not from visitors being ironic or outraged. They don’t need our help; a whole lot of people read this stuff and take it seriously.

Millions of people read newspapers like the Mail and the Express, and have their opinions shaped by untruths and cruelty as a result. Day in, day out, a sizeable chunk of the population sees front-page ravings about how immigrants and gays and Muslims are stealing the country away from proper decent British people, and consider this to be The News. The narrative is repeated constantly over time, and the effect is often visible in the comments appearing below the latest callous, racist tirade. The papers seem trustworthy, stick to a narrative, and confirm in people the prejudices that they themselves have worked to instil. It’s no surprise that their readers are so often lacking in any visible compassion or perspective.

And when this sort of unkindness is so big a part of the political mindset of millions of people, it’s not just a matter of taste any more. There is actual harm occurring. Sometimes “if you don’t like it, don’t read it” isn’t enough, if the conversation is becoming dominated by prejudice and hate. It’s not just petty and cynical sniping to point out that what they’re saying is prejudiced and hateful, and to offer an alternative.

That last point is important, I’ll admit. The people who set me off on this tirade with their complaints seemed mostly to be annoyed by people who simply keep linking straight to Daily Mail articles, with no purpose beyond self-indulgent outrage. And yes, I can see how link after link of “GRRRR TABLOID SCUM” might get tiresome, and I’m sure some people have been very boring in this manner.

But based solely on my own experiences, this seems like almost a complete straw man. Yes, some people spend time reading the papers deliberately to get angry. But the ones I follow do this so that they can provide a positive, constructive counterpoint. Or at the very least a vocal and articulate voice of opposition.

And without an active and determined voice in opposition to the constant barrage of loud and well-funded lies, there’s only one way for the overall cultural mindset to slide.

There’s a comparison here with the Atheist Bus Campaign. Sure, we could have just ignored all the posters containing Bible quotes and calling for all non-Christians to burn in Hell. We could have chosen not to concern ourselves with things that just aren’t to our taste, but which other people are perfectly entitled to promote, after all. We could have let religious people be the only ones anywhere with any billboards or banners or posters or adverts or evidence that they exist.

But I’m glad we didn’t.

There are certainly plenty of tedious people on Twitter. If I’m honest, I know I’m not immune from banging on about some pet peeve of mine beyond the extent of anybody’s interest. (Oh god, I just glanced back at the length of this very post as I typed that.) And yes, the amount of bilge that turns up on the Daily Mail website can be agonising to have to be told about every few minutes, and it can be unproductive to drone on and on about how the right-wing fearmongers are still, unsurprisingly, spewing new right-wing fear.

But that’s not all we’re doing. Some of these tabloids really seem eager to disparage, demean, or hate a lot of people. And those people deserve some voices standing up for them.

See also Anton Vowl’s thoughts.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: