Category Archives: Daily Mail

Are there any boundaries the Daily Mail will not cross?

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Doomed! We’re all doomed! – Or are we?

If you were to glance at the front pages of some of the newspapers this morning, you’d be forgiven for feeling at best a slight frisson of fear, at worst convinced the country was doomed to an epidemic worse than Swine ‘Flu, more deadly than MRSA! 

E.coli is not about to strike us all down!

Here we’re treated to another series of vivid, raucous headlines full of hyperbole and little or no substance.

The Express, perhaps is the least frightening, but only because its readers have surely become immune to the sensational headlines, behind which lies not a lot of truth?

The Daily Mail, too, is only slightly less guilty than the Express of composing misleading headlines above often much more innocuous pieces.

“Mutant E.coli is in Britain: Seven victims in UK have new contagious strain that’s killed 18”

But the Telegraph? Surely the Telegraph is more accurate and serious in its reporting?


As seven cases of the food poisoning bacteria were diagnosed in Britain, the agency said that the mutant strain was so virulent that sufferers risked spreading the infection to friends and relations through close contact.” 

These three examples are some of the worst displays of sensationalism and scaremongering found on a very quick trawl through the available headlines today.

Nowhere in those frightening headlines do those papers mention that the people with the E. coli infection in Britain were infected on very recent visits to Germany, not here. We are misled; encouraged to believe that the seven people in Britain with the disease contracted it here. 


This deliberate inaccuracy is dangerous. As well as encouraging irrational fear in the population, it will possibly badly affect the sales of fresh vegetables grown or imported by already beleaguered food producers and increase the number of time-consuming calls on doctors and health workers for advice.


This dishonesty may sell papers, but what does it do for the readers? Don’t readers and the general public deserve the truth?

Media influence in the ‘Baby P’ case: positive or negative?

Sharon Shoesmith and team following Appeal Court ruling.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal handed down the ruling that Sharon Shoesmith, former Director of Children’s Services of Haringey Council, had been unlawfully dismissed following the death of ‘Baby P’ (Peter Connolly) at the hands of his Mother and her partner. 


A timeline of the events surrounding and subsequent to Peter Connolly’s death can be found here

Sharon Shoesmith, since the verdict was announced yesterday, has given an interview on BBC Radio 4, during which she clearly feels that she was not given sufficient opportunity to answer accusations against her. A recording of that interview can be found here.

How much did the media affect the way Parliament and the public dealt with a difficult, emotional issue?

This little boy’s murder affected many people and became the focus of displays of anger and frustration throughout the country. 

The public were quite naturally appalled by the murder of Peter Connolly and wanted answers as to how it had happened under the watchful eyes of social workers and medical practitioners.

 The media took up the cry for justice and retribution. There were increasingly shrill calls in print and from television screens for the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and his Children’s Minister, Ed Balls, to deliver ‘someone’ to blame and to punish.. 



The Government was subjected to enormous pressure to bring about a speedy end to what was by then considered by the public and politicians in Opposition, the Tories and Libdems, inordinate delay in investigating the obvious problems within the relevant department at Haringey Council.

At Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons Chamber on November 12th 2008, matters soon reached a vitriolic pitch: Video of exchanges between Gordon Brown and David Cameron.

The press began to call for heads to roll and, although both Brown and Balls insisted they would take more time to make a judgement after two recently completed official reports on the conduct of Haringey Social Services officials, in a press conference on Monday December 1st 2008, Balls removed Sharon Shoesmith from her post.

Some examples of newspaper articles from that time:
 
Daily Mail

Telegraph 

The Sun, in particular campaigned for sackings at Haringey Social Services and a petition signed by 1.2m people was delivered by the sack load to Downing Street.

Excerpt from article in the Sun on 26th November 2008, (the words in bold print are as they appeared in the original article):
 

 “And as the biggest ever newspaper petition was delivered Children’s Secretary Ed Balls gave The Sun a clear hint that heads MAY roll following an emergency probe into the scandal in Haringey, North London.

Baby P died of horrific injuries last year following months of abuse after social services allowed him to stay with his twisted mother and stepdad.

The Sun petition demands the SACKING of social workers Sharon Shoesmith, Maria Ward, Sylvia Henry and Gillie Christou. And it calls for the doctor in the case, Sabah Al Zayyat, to be DISCIPLINED for failing to spot the 17-month-old’s broken spine. 

Mr Balls made it clear he will wait until he receives the report into the failings on Monday before acting. He refused to single out individuals. And he insisted he would not act out of anger – but after a full study of the report.”

Today, May 28th 2011, the media are running with the Court of Appeal’s decision and in several newspapers are articles with a definite bias against Ms. Shoesmith. Those same papers who whipped up all of the fury and hatred in 2008. Ms Shoesmith, should she win the next round of appeals on behalf of the Government, stands to be awarded a large amount of compensation.

Judging by the tone of some of the most resent press, she should perhaps prepare for some very negative publicity:

Mirror 

Daily Mail  1

Daily Mail  2
Telegraph 
Mail on Sunday Comment 

Is the battle to sell newspapers and raise ratings making it impossible for legislators and politicians to come to rational decisions in a calm and thoughtful way? How much does the media in this country dictate the agenda and tempo of our lives?

Lost in translation – or another Daily Mail ‘wind-up’?

Press Conference Lancaster House, London. State Visit 25.05.2011

Yesterday, Barack Obama and David Cameron held a joint press conference at Lancaster House in London following official bi-lateral talks at Downing Street that morning.

Barack Obama was asked by a journalist for his thoughts on the progress of the on – going Gary McKinnon case, accounts of which can be found here  and here.

Gary McKinnon and his mother, Janis Sharp

This Morning, the Daily Mail has an article, written by James Slack and Michael Seamark, giving an account of what Barack Obama’s answer was and what it means for Gary McKinnon.

The headline

“Fresh blow for Gary McKinnon as President Obama refuses to halt extradition”

implies a flat refusal by the President to support the moves to allow Gary McKinnon to remain in Britain for any ensuing trial. They go on to assert:

“Gary McKinnon’s hopes of avoiding extradition to the U.S. suffered a severe setback yesterday when Barack Obama declined to allow him to be tried in Britain.
Campaigners had hoped the President would halt the legal proceedings because of the Asperger’s sufferer’s precarious mental state.
But Mr Obama – despite previously saying he wanted to find an ‘appropriate solution’ to end the computer hacker’s ordeal – effectively endorsed the extradition process.”
The rest of the article can be found  here.

Also this morning, the BBC News online page carries an article describing the same question Barack Obama was asked and his answer, together with a video clip.

The BBC‘s version of events are completely different in tone and interpretation from those of the Daily Mail. In fact, the BBC also carry reaction from Janis Sharp, Gary McKinnon’s mother, whose optimism and lifted spirits are evident.


So why the wildly conflicting accounts and interpretation of exactly the same event?


Is it an attempt by the newspaper to ‘chivvy’ up the slowly-grinding wheels of the law? 

Is the Daily Mail using hyperbole and inaccuracy to push Obama and Cameron into a decision which would please campaigners and Gary McKinnon’s family?


Public pressure has largely died down in this case as the years have rolled by and perhaps there is a case for a re ignition of public awareness to bring things to a head. But is this the way to do it? By misreporting and attempting to whip up anger instead of reasoned argument? 


Is this not just yet another example of the use of misreporting and misrepresentation in order to manipulate public opinion?

The Daily Mail describes the ‘fury’, ‘horror’ and ‘anger’ of the nation on almost every issue it gives page space to – strange how very quickly it is able to canvass millions to gauge our mood….!

Nudge, nudge, wink wink…

Headlines from 18th April 2011

The article  (istyosty link), by James Chapman, which accompanies these headlines appears authoritative, concerned and, superficially at least, convincing. 

It tells of work done on behalf of Ian Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions by the think tank The Centre for Social Justice, set up at the behest of Mr. Duncan by Mark Forman, the ex Senior Deputy Treasurer of the Conservative Party. The press release for this ‘study’ is here.

The press release describes The Centre for Social Justice as ‘independent’. One might suggest that Mr. Forman is in no way an independent Chairman!
A closer look at the background and political persuasion of personnel who make up this think tank is fascinating. It’s website is here.

The full report was published in April 2011 and is entitled :

History and Family: Setting the Records Straight.

                 A Rebuttal To the British Academy Pamphlet Happy Families?

It is attributed to Professor Rebecca Probert of the University of Warwick about whom we learn:

Professor Rebecca Probert
Rebecca Probert is a Professor at the University ofWarwick, teaching family law
and child law. She has published widely on both modern family law and the
historical development of the law, her most recent books include The Rights and
Wrongs of Royal Marriage: how the law has led to heartbreak, farce and confusion
and why it must be changed (Takeaway, 2011), Cretney and Probert’s Family Law
(Sweet & Maxwell, 7th ed, 2009) and Marriage Law and Practice in the Long
Eighteenth Century: A Reassessment (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

and Dr. Samantha Callan of the Centre for Social Justice, whose brief resume reads:

Dr Samantha Callan
Samantha Callan is recognised as a research and policy expert in the field of family
relationships and work-life integration. She is an honorary research fellow at
Edinburgh University and formerly a research consultant to major UK and
international non-governmental organisations aiming to strengthen family life. In
this capacity she chaired the Family Breakdown Working Group of the Social
Justice Policy Commission and the Family Law Review and Early Years
Commission for the Centre for Social Justice. Prior to joining the CSJ full-time she
was the Family and Society Policy adviser in the Conservative Policy Unit.

One obvious purpose of this report is to show categorically that children brought up by married couples are far more likely to succeed at school and in their lives in general and that children whose parents divorce or who never tie the knot fall at every obstacle. 

However, reading the report, one is struck by the determined effort on the part of its authors to refute and disprove the tenets of the rival report, Happy Families?, published in November 2010 by Professor Pat Thane, mentioned in its title.

In other words, this report from The Centre for Social Justice resembles not so much an erudite, in-depth study of the causes and effects of childhood poverty and disadvantage as the continuation of an argument between two opposing points of view. This report is not convincing in its rigour or conclusions. Much of their evidence is drawn from polls or studies which could be described as ‘obscure’.

Ian Duncan Smith’s avowed intent is to promote marriage by means of incentives and tax breaks. 

The Daily Mail‘s journalist, James Chapman,  has based his article almost wholly on the press release and a set of prejudices the newspaper he writes for is well-known to favour. 

His piece uses the data included in the report from The Centre for Social Justice with the addition of the usual emotive and sensationalised expressions one expects when reading such an article in this particular right – leaning tabloid.

Unable to resist nefarious criticism of the record of the Labour Party in this area of Government James Chapman adds a crafty barb:

In its 13 years in power, Labour was accused of undermining the institution of marriage and the UK stands almost alone among European countries in failing to recognise traditional family structures in the tax system.
France, Germany, Denmark and Norway all recognise the role of stay-at-home spouses.

It’s when the final paragraph is reached that one is able to discern perhaps the ulterior motive behind the CIJ’s report and the apparent endorsement of it by this newspaper:


Today’s report will increase pressure on David Cameron to make good on his commitment to restore the transferable tax allowance for married couples to send a clear signal of support for an important institution.The Prime Minister has pledged to introduce a marriage tax incentive before the end of this Parliament in 2015.

A ‘nudge’, then, to David Cameron?

Why allow the truth to get in the way of vicious calumny?

This is the front page of today’s Mail on Sunday. Just above the main headline, in itself quite a clever if hyperbolic pun, is a lie. 

Next to an image of Gordon Brown is a headline suggesting that yet another piece of evidence, trumpeted as ‘EXCLUSIVE’, has been been uncovered by the paper and will merely add to a long list of reasons to hate this man.

Anyone catching sight of the cover would immediately be given the impression that this selfish, heartless and despicable ex-Prime Minister had turfed a heavily pregnant woman out of her seat on a plane so that he could enjoy sumptuous luxury!

Were you to read the accompanying article (Istyosty link)  inside the paper, however, you would find a completely different, and more truthful, account of what actually happened.

The story in the Mail on Sunday journalist Glen Owen’s words unfolds thus:

Gordon Brown sparked a mutiny on a British Airways flight after he was blamed for an attempt to downgrade a heavily pregnant woman and Red Cross doctor into more cramped seats.
The extraordinary scenes – dubbed Mutiny On The Brown-ty – unfolded on a flight from Abu Dhabi to London, when passengers lost their seats before the former Prime Minister’s six-strong entourage got on board.
It prompted an angry war of words with an ‘aggressive’ Brown aide, and led to a formal complaint to BA and an offer of compensation described as ‘derisory’ by those involved.

During the first, hour-long leg from Oman to Abu Dhabi, the displaced passengers stared resentfully at the six empty seats in business class, known as Club World by BA.
At Abu Dhabi they were livid to see Mr Brown board the plane with his team and take up the £3,000-a-head places.
The passengers immediately concluded that they had been ‘bumped’ to make way for Mr Brown, a suggestion the airline strongly denies.

According to the Mail on Sunday, an argument ensued. We’re left in no doubt as to who were the more aggressive passengers and who were the innocent.

Then comes perhaps the humorous aspect of the piece. Apparently, Gordon Brown’s people and BA have conspired to try to limit the embarassment:

A spokeswoman for the airline said Mr Brown’s arrival on the flight was a coincidence, and he had been unfairly blamed by the mutinous passengers.

‘The situation had absolutely nothing to do with Gordon Brown,’ she said. ‘We have apologised to [the complainant] and we have offered to pay compensation.

‘It is very rare for a customer not to be able to travel in the cabin that they have booked and we are extremely sorry that this happened on this flight. Gordon Brown and his party were booked in advance and were not involved in any way.’

 And from Gordon Brown’s office:
  

Mr Brown’s office was contacted on Friday. Yesterday afternoon, his spokeswoman sent a text message saying ‘I assume you have read the BA statement and are now not ­running the story’, making it clear that BA and the former PM’s office had been in discussions.

She released a statement that said: ‘As BA has made clear, the arrangements were nothing to do with Mr Brown, who had booked his flight and seats well in advance and made no requests for – nor received – any special treatment.
‘As BA will confirm, all questions about bookings, overbookings and allocations of seats are not – and could not be – a matter for Mr Brown but for British Airways.’

  
They try so hard to pin the rap on their victim, that although the whole episode turns out to have been a malicious piece of fiction from a discontented traveller, they place the hook to a potentially harmful piece on the front page so that an impression is given even if not warranted.

The Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday have ‘previous’ where this particular victim is concerned:

Note use of words: ‘SQUALID’, ‘cynically’, ‘bids’.

This was one of many front pages which graced the newsstands just after the General Election in May 2010. The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats were negotiating a deal which would pave the way for a coalition of the two parties. 

The deposed Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was obliged to remain temporarily at No 10 Downing Street until the Queen had formally invited David Cameron to take over as Prime Minister. Despite many explanations as to why he had not left after five days, all of the Right – leaning press and Sky News simply ‘neglected’ to publicise the reason for his remaining in place.

 ‘SQUATTER’, HOLED UP’,

The Sun was relentless in its assertion that Gordon Brown was behaving in an unreasonable manner.

The examples here are just a snapshot of the lengths to which certain papers will go in order to blacken and discredit a subject. 

Perhaps Gordon Brown is fair game? Perhaps any celebrity written about in sneering or untruthful articles, or pictured in unflattering poses is fair game? Shouldn’t they perhaps expect such treatment as part of being in the public eye?

That aside, what about the reader? Do we not deserve truth and balance? How many of us read an article in one of the papers renowned for its propensity for fiction and bias and think twice before swallowing the bait hook line and sinker?

There are times when it is crucial that the public have the truth laid before them, when the media have an absolute duty to be honest and balanced.

How many of us vote at an election after having been fed by the British media a pack of lies or manipulated facts and statistics deliberately concocted to sway our opinion? I fear the number would be far greater than we think….


Rosie Robertson

Incitement to Hatred?

Once gain we note the blatant misreporting and manipulation of statistics in very similar articles to be found in yesterday’s Daily Mail and Daily Express.

In a previous blogpost, I showed how some of the tabloids use exaggeration and distortion of facts in an attempt to influence public opinion.

Here, below the headline:

75% ON SICK ARE SKIVING

is The Daily Express piece. Its opening paragraph states in bold print:

THE welfare mess left by Labour was exposed last night after figures suggested three-quarters of sickness benefit claimants are fit to work.’


The article, quoting from a report carried out by the Department of Work and Pensions, states that out of all of those claiming incapacity benefit of whatever type, 39% were deemed fit for work, another 36% :

abandoned their claims as soon as they were told to undergo new work capability assessments introduced to weed out scroungers.

The total figure of 75 per cent was released by the Department for Work and Pensions yesterday following a review of almost half the 2.1 million people on incapacity benefit.’

So from 1.05 million people already tested, we are led to believe 75% are ‘scroungers’. By my calculations, the reality is that following an assessment, only 39% of a total of the 1.05m people could be considered as claiming a benefit they were not entitled to.

Even this assertion would be challenged by many of those who have undergone one of the tests and found them unfairly conducted and dubious in their validity.

But the article in the Daily Express is mild in its condemnation of disability benefit claimants compared to what is to be found in the Mail Online!

400,000 ‘were trying it on’ to get sickness benefits: 94% of incapacity claimants CAN work

This time, we are given a figure of 94% of benefit ‘scroungers’!

Both articles are full of contemptuous language and thoroughly judgemental. Both articles misuse data in an effort to confuse and hoodwink the reader.

To what end? Well, scandals and shocking facts sell newspapers! Words which denigrate the subjects of such articles may incite hatred, or at the very least, dislike. Could it also be that by whipping up a storm of indignant feeling against a certain group in society, support for potentially unpopular policies being put forward by the government of the day might be increased?

As Nick Angel wrote of the Daily Mail in an article in the Guardian on 20th August 2007 :

‘A month spent reading the nation’s leading mid-market newspaper took me into a terrifying, depressing world, filled with suspicion.’

You can find the rest of that piece here : For me, it says it all!

Someone else who speaks with more honesty than could be found in either of the two articles I’ve highlighted today can be seen and heard in this clip posted by ‘peekaypurr Shame on you Prime Minister. I know you know better.” , @BendyGirl on Twitter.

Update: Factcheck have just posted a link to their site, where they’ve been working on the veracity of the data given by Mail.

Rosie Robertson

Double – checking! It works….


For once, I managed to catch the front page of the papers review last night on Sky News and almost spluttered cocoa over the laptop at the sight of what I have reproduced to the left of this post. Large headlines on the Daily Express suggested that the employment figures:- http://tinyurl.com/6yxckoy hid a worrying trend I had previously allowed to slip by me.

The article itself can be found here : http://tinyurl.com/625dmvh and appears to be a breathless and alarming analysis of the statistics released, though slightly less alarming than the headline suggests.

In the Daily Mail, there was a piece which also related to the newly emerged employment figures but which erred more , though not quite wholly, on the side of accuracy:- http://tinyurl.com/66eq6kz. I was able to check the statements in the two articles in an extremely cursory way using the official data from the Office for National Statistics. I came to an initial conclusion that a certain amount of poetic licence, for whatever purpose, had been used by the journalists when working up their articles.

Both of these articles appeared to be suggesting that a disproportionate number of vacancies in a dwindling jobs market are being filled by those not born in Britain.

My suspicions were supported somewhat when I found, on the Full Fact website this morning, an analysis of what The Express and the Daily Mail had reported. http://fullfact.org/blog.

It is very worrying when facts and statistics can be manipulated or misreported in what seems to be an attempt to suit a political agenda or feed an appetite for a certain kind of story, so leading to enhanced sales of a paper.

Rosie Robertson