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More poppies, this time with The Daily Mail

October 14, 2011

UPDATE:  Like The Sun in my earlier post, The Daily Mail have chosen to report on a consultation about giving police greater powers from the “poppy burning” perspective with their story, Law that put poppy burning fanatics in the dock faces the axe.  This one is slightly more insidious than The Sun’s, because it hints at judgements on which people should and shouldn’t be allowed to voice offensive opinions.  The consultation exercise is described as follows:

The proposal is part of Home Office changes to public order laws in the wake of the summer riots, which will also see police given new powers to impose blanket curfews and to force rioters to remove face masks.

Is it?  Oh.  I thought is was a consultation, not actual Home Office changes or, at least, that’s what the Home Office website says on its Consultation on police powers to promote and maintain public order page.  ***Please note, anyone who would like to add their voice to the consultation can do so here.  There are proposals in there which should concern everybody, such as giving the police “new powers to impose curfew to prevent and control outbreaks of disorder”.***

So, since the Daily Mail has focused on the one aspect of these proposals that may, or may not, allow future “poppy burners” to walk free, who should and shouldn’t be prosecuted for “threatening, abusive or insulting’ words in public”?

A member of Muslims Against Crusades, Emdadur Choudhury, was successfully prosecuted under the Act after burning two huge poppies during the two-minute silence marking the country’s war dead last November.

Choudhury, from Bethnal Green, East London, outraged war veterans by yelling ‘British soldiers burn in hell’. He was fined £50.

Daily Mail:  [paraphrased] “Yes!  He should, definitely, and he should probably be left in prison for the rest of his natural life, too!”

What about these people?

Religious groups have also criticised the law because the police have used it to arrest harmless Christian protesters.  [Note: no attribution provided]

an Oxford University student on a night out asked a mounted police officer if he realised his horse was gay. [Note: charges dropped]

The law was also used to arrest two Christian hoteliers accused of asking a Muslim guest if she was a murderer and a terrorist because she was wearing a hijab.  [Note: Case dismissed due to unreliable witnesses]

In May 2008 City of London police charged a teenager under section 5 for demonstrating outside the Church of Scientology in central London with a placard which said: ‘Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult.’ Charges were dropped when prosecutors accepted the word cult was not insulting.

Daily Mail: [paraphrased]  “No!  It’s wrong to prosecute these people, especially those poor hoteliers.  Honestly, you can’t even ask someone if they’re a murderer and a terrorist because of the clothes they wear any more.  It’s disgusting!”

I’m not going to pass comment on any of the cases above, because that’s not within the scope of this blog, but let’s have a look at a small paragraph from the Mail article which is included towards the end:

Home Office proposals published yesterday argue serious and distressing conduct would still be prosecuted because it would be considered either abusive or threatening.

Serious and distressing conduct?  It’s not too far-fetched, then, to imagine that Emdadur Choudhury, the man who burned a couple of large paper poppies and chanted throughout the two minute silence, would still face prosecution for his actions, especially when the words of the judge who sentenced him are considered:

Sentencing him in March, District Judge Howard Riddle said: ‘The two-minute chanting, when others were observing a silence, followed by a burning of the symbol of remembrance, was a calculated and deliberate insult to the dead and those who mourn or remember them.

‘If the memory of dead soldiers is publicly insulted at a time and place where there is likely to be gathered people who have expressly attended to honour those soldiers, then the threat to public order is obvious.’

It’s evident that both The Sun and The Mail have forced a story that wasn’t about abusing soldiers, or burning poppies, into an EDL-shaped hole.  What do they make of this one, I wonder?

EDL supporters were already making posts like the one below on the main Facebook page, even before the Sun and Mail decided to bait them:

As you can see, their respect for Remembrance Day and what it represents is absolutely genuine…  Oh, wait…

Well, anyway, what better way to ensure the dignity of the occasion than by inciting some more hate, with the chance of possible violence?  Bravo, Daily Mail.  Not transparent at all.

*Please note, I do not support the disruption of Remembrance Day by any group of fanatics, be they MAC or EDL.  However, I don’t believe that misleading and sensational reporting by national ‘news’papers should be ignored as a contributing factor in any trouble that may occur.

With thanks to the lovely people on the EDL News team.

Poppies and The Sun’s contempt for accuracy

October 14, 2011

With Remembrance Day approaching, The Sun knows a few poppy stories will get them some extra hits on their site, possibly shift a few paper copies too.  That would seem to be the reason for this headline (with accompanying emotive picture of poppy in flames):

It seems clear, judging by the headline, that government ministers are looking at legalising “the burning of poppies” and “the abuse of soldiers”.  I don’t know if either of these acts are specifically illegal at the moment, but obviously The Sun thinks they are.  If you dare to venture below the line, you’ll see comments such as:

I have just contacted the Conservative Party to show my discust and how Anit-English they are. I suggest everyone else to contact them too. Let them know that you are offended and discusted you all are.

or:

What is wrong with the idiot’s who run this Country . What a Mockery they made out of the Wars All those People who died for our Freedom .we have no Freedom Britains Second Class in their Own Country . if we did anything to those who burnt the poppy’s and our flag we would have been jailed , in their Country would hav e been shot or mutilated . God forgive the Powers that be for sullying the names of all those Brave men and Women who died for us . Amen .

and:

So what would happen if we burned anything to do with their religion?* I bet there would be a public outcry from their community to say we have slandered them and they must have justice.

Justice in this country is one sided, and it certainly isn’t on every true blue born and bred English person side. If they want to live here then they should respect us and everything that is British.

We respect their religious views and their cultures they should do the same.

*Editor’s note:  I’m not sure when a poppy became anything to do with religion.

As you might expect, however, the Sun piece is rather misleading.  What Graeme Wilson (who has the byline on this one) has reported on is a Home Office conference on gangs.  The BBC report on the same conference says:

Launching the consultation on greater police powers, the Home Office Minister James Brokenshire said: “We must ensure officers on the ground have all the necessary legal measures available to them to protect our streets and keep the public safe.

“But we must also make sure any new powers do not trample upon traditional British freedoms – that is why we are seeking public views on the powers the police really need to keep our communities safe.”

The consultation will consider whether the use of insulting words should remain an offence amid concerns that the law is being used by activist groups and over-zealous police officers to undermine free speech.

Oh, so it’s not a proposal to legalise the abuse of troops or the burning of poppies.  It’s a consultation on ‘greater police powers’ and whether using insulting words should remain a criminal offence.  In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of troops or poppies at all.  The example given by the BBC is the case of an Oxford University student who was arrested after asking a mounted police officer if he realised his horse was gay.  It’s almost as if the piece in The Sun, whilst containing elements of truth, has been created to fit a certain editorial stance, and possibly to generate a bit of foam ready for Remembrance Day itself.  One way to test this theory is to have a quick look at the EDL Facebook page to see what reaction the story provoked (with thanks to @everythingedl and the good people of EDL News).

It’s like reading an extreme version of The Sun comments.  Of course, it’s not the first time The Sun has incited such a strong reaction from EDL members regarding poppies, but I had hoped the Leveson Inquiry and the possible beefing up of the PCC might have at least caused a pause for thought before publishing such a misleading and sensationalist version of this story.  Unfortunately, it seems not, and you can be sure that, if there is any violence related to this reporting, The Sun won’t accept any responsibility.

Further reading: Dishonest journalism has dangerous consequences from Angry Mob (@uponnothing)

UPDATE:  More poppies, this time with The Daily Mail

FURTHER UPDATE: The British Patriots Society, who are, apparently, “taking back our flag” from wherever it’s been, have plagiarised The Sun’s story and credited it to their own writer.  The only thing they changed is the headline:  Legal to burn Poppies!

The tabloid where a good Ofsted report is a bad and scary thing

August 6, 2011

***Please be aware, the last paragraph of this blog includes a tenuous link***

Forrins!  In our schools!  They can’t even speak English!  So says the Daily Mail, in this story:

You see that?  English is not their ‘mother tongue’!  Perhaps it’s their ‘father tongue’ – who knows.  The article itself includes such scary language as:

only four for whom English is their mother tongue.

In one of Britain’s most extreme cases

and:

Many arrive at the school unable to speak a word  of English.

One of the photo captions includes the legend, ‘Outnumbered’, in a subtext so sneaky, yet so obvious, that the writer saw no need to clarify who, in the Mail’s opinion, is outnumbered.  This is such standard fare for this ‘news’paper that I can’t bear to go through it in detail.  However, I would like to throw some positives out there for consideration alongside the article, in the hope that some balance and perspective can be applied.

The school singled out for attention by the Daily Mail is Bradford Moor Community Primary, whose website is available here.  It has been rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted, so it must be doing something right.  Putting the rating in context requires a closer look at the report itself, because, as anyone who works in education knows, it’s not that easy to get a ‘good’ from Ofsted.

Here are the challenges faced by the pupils and staff at this school, as stated in the Ofsted report:

Most pupils enter school with either little or no English and are weak in home language development. The school serves an area of high deprivation and dramatic urban decline and ranks in the bottom 10% of socially disadvantaged areas of the country. Income and living environment indices show that 97.1% of the pupils are in the lowest 3% nationally.

So, the pupils at Bradford Moor are among the most deprived in the country.  These children start out at a huge disadvantage, whether English is their second language or not.  A table included in the report shows that the ‘good’ rating was shared by 50% of primaries nationwide between September 2007 and July 2008.  37% of primaries were below this standard.

Surely, given the deprivation experienced by the majority of children at Bradford Moor, the ‘good’ rating achieved by the school is something to be celebrated.

Reading the report reveals that pupils are now attaining at levels “around the national average from being well below.”  This indicates significant improvement has taken place, and the report highlights discipline policy, good behaviour, a good attitude to learning,  good relationships within the school and mutual respect between staff and pupils as important contributors to this.

Other strengths of Bradford Moor include strong support from parents, strong contributions to the local community, good achievement of pupils with special educational needs, good relationships with outside agencies, strong leadership and an inclusive atmosphere.  What does a ‘good’ rating mean?  Ofsted says it is “a school that is serving its pupils well.”  That screechy, negative headline doesn’t seem so scary now, does it.  In fact, for a school facing so many challenges, this seems to be a triumph of both education and ‘integration’, that popular buzzword so beloved of the government and nationalist groups.

I will leave the final word on this to Kath Tunstall, Bradford Council’s Strategic Director for Children’s Services.  Quoting from the very end of the Daily Mail article, she says:

‘The fact that the children speak English as an additional language does not mean they do not speak English, and we know that young children learn languages very quickly.

‘Bradford Moor Primary School has a strong record of performance, having been judged ‘good’ in its Ofsted report following inspection in 2009 and this year’s provisional figures at Key Stage 2 show a 10 percentage point increase in English and maths since the school was last formally assessed two years ago.

I shall now make a tenuous link (finding the positive in the Mail’s negative) in order to publicise the rather wonderful master of satire, @DMReporter (Tumblr and Twitter), who has found the positive from Liz Jones negative and has raised an astonishing £21,194.41 (not including Gift Aid, and rising all the time) in aid of the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Somalia.  @LizJonesSomalia is a recommended follow if you have a Twitter account, and you can read about how @DMReporter used cutting edge satire as a force for good  here.    I did say it would be a tenuous link!

Misleading Muslim Mail headlines, with Daily Mail Reporter

July 13, 2011

Generic Daily Mail Reporter has struck again, this time with a headline that reads:

In case you were in any doubt, the first line of that article goes like this:

A breast-feeding mother has been ordered out of council offices after staff said it would ’cause an uproar’ among Muslim visitors, it has been claimed.

That seems very clear.  Let’s have a look through the article and see if we can find the bit where Muslims have either complained, or are credited with being likely to complain.

‘She said “Oh no, we don’t allow that in here. We’ve had that many complaints that we don’t allow it.”

No, not there.

According to Ms Mitchell a manager then said ‘You absolutely can’t do that here’

Not there either.  Hmm, I’m finding it difficult to pin down the offended Muslims here.  Let’s see what one of the local councillors had to say.

Labour Councillor Shoab Akhtar said Oldham Council supports the right of mothers to breastfeed their children and actively supports it due to the long-term health benefits it provides.

But he added: ‘Unfortunately there are no breast-feeding facilities available at Access Oldham based at the Civic Centre nor are there any public toilets or baby changing facilities.

‘There is no requirement to provide such facilities at Access Oldham and we are committed to make the best use of the limited space that is available to provide facilities and meeting rooms where we can deal with issues that affect local residents quickly and effectively.

‘Not every building is suitable for breast-feeding and that is the case with the very busy, open-plan layout of Access Oldham.’

Ok, so still no mention of these mythical offended Muslims.  The only hint I can get of this claim is in some of the things the lady who complained said, but even she didn’t specifically say anything about Muslims.  Ms Mitchell said;

‘If someone from another culture started praying in the waiting room, I wouldn’t say, “Excuse me, you’re offending me” I would respect it because it’s their culture.

And;

‘It’s political correctness gone mad when they’re worried about offending people of other cultures over something so natural.’

Whatever the arguments about this lady being able to breastfeed in the Civic Centre, why is the headline screaming about offended Muslims?  The only mention of Muslims has come from generic Daily Mail Reporter, nobody else.  The original story, written by Helen Korn of the Oldham Chronicle, also makes no mention of Muslims, nor is Ms Mitchell credited with any quotes about political correctness gone mad, or people praying in waiting rooms.  You can see it here: Breast is best, but not in here!

I’m wondering if generic Daily Mail Reporter might be guilty of a little embellishment to make this story more attractive to groups such as the EDL and BNP, but surely that wouldn’t be wise, what with the spotlight shining firmly on the nation’s press right now.  Giving the anonymous reporter the benefit of the doubt, perhaps Ms Mitchell was contacted for a quote after the local news had been trawled for promising leads, resulting in some glaring inconsistencies between the original story and the one published by the Mail.  Whatever the circumstances, the headline on the Mail article is dishonest and misleading, with nothing to back it up at all.  I know this is what we’ve come to expect from the Mail, but I’d hoped that the focus on press practices, and the mistrust with which readers regard papers now, may lead to more honest headlines at the very least.  Sadly not, it seems.

*I would like to make it clear that I support the right of women to breastfeed their children in public places.*

***UPDATE***

It has been brought to my attention that the Metro also ran this story with the headline, Breastfeeding mother ‘told to leave centre to prevent offending Muslims’.  The sub-heading for this one is, “A mother who wanted to breastfeed her baby in a civic centre claims she was ordered to leave because doing so might offend Muslims.”

This time, Ms Mitchell is quoted as saying;

‘A member of the complaints department said, “You’ve caused an uproar in there.’ She must have been talking about the Asian people who were in a room.

The bold is my emphasis.  Notice there is still no mention of Muslims, just an assumption made by the complainant with no solid evidence to support it.  The Metro have been as dishonest and misleading as the Daily Mail.

With thanks to Adam Clarke, Clare Hayward and Brett Smithers for the Metro tip.

Paul Dacre (Mail/PCC) bullies blogger – Bloggers respond

June 25, 2011

Paul Dacre demonstrated the strength of his own hypocrisy this week, when he ordered his legal team to threaten Kevin Arscott, of the excellent Angry Mob blog, and Kevin’s webhost with legal action over a two-year-old post that had an opinion Dacre didn’t like in it.  There have been a number of excellent ripostes from a number of bloggers, which I shall link below:

Firstly, Kevin’s own response:  Paul Dacre, Abuse and Defamation

***UPDATE*** Abuse and defamation, part 2

***UPDATE*** Corporal Jones

Next, in no particular order;

Ministry of TruthDaily Mail threatens media blogger with libel action over 2 year old article

Zelo Street:   Paul Dacre Must … Stop Being A Bully

Grim Reaper BlogPaul Dacre: aww, look at the delicate widdle flower! and An open letter to Paul Dacre

Minority ThoughtThe thin-skinned editor of the Daily Mail

Septic IslePaul Dacre must die!

Sceptical BanterPaul Dacre is a Bully (In my opinion)

Neither Angry or Scared: Moral Support

Five Chinese CrackersTabloid bullshit of the month award – June 2011: the Paul Dacre edition

(via Dick Mandrake) Roy GreensladeDaily Mail threatens ‘abusive’ blogger with libel action

In short, it seems Dacre has failed at damage limitation, instead revealing himself as, in my opinion, a rather hypocritical bully.  Instead of ordering a take down, it would probably have been a better idea to avail himself of the right to reply that is the comments section of Kevin’s blog, as Mail columnist Peter Hitchens did.  It would almost certainly have led to far fewer people seeing the cached copy of the post he found so offensive.

***This post was prompted by uksceptic‘s suggestion for bloggers to link to the Abuse and Defamation post in order to help it rise up the Google page rankings.***

Mail provides material for EDL (again)

June 19, 2011

The Mail seems to have a love/hate relationship with the EDL.  For example, use the search function on the Mail website and it throws up results like this:

Then it will publish a story such as Banners advertising Armed Forces Day removed after complaints they ‘glorify the war in Afghanistan’, containing the claim from David Mills, chairman of Andover’s Royal British Legion, that;

‘It is a fix. Our boys deserve better than this – they are our heroes. I am outraged with Test Valley Borough Council.

‘The council removed five banners after five people complained they glorified the war in Afghanistan. Other signs have not been removed.’

Predictably, a link to this story has been posted on the EDL’s fanpage:

The problem is, further on in the Mail story, Test Valley Councillor Ian Carr is quoted as saying;

‘They are dangerous on roundabouts because they distract drivers and that is why we removed them,’ he said.

‘Their display was unlawful because they contravened the advertising regulations.

‘We apply the law consistently and have to be seen to be doing so.’

So, which is it, Daily Mail?  Were the banners removed due to complaints that they glorify war, or was it because they were unlawful?  I’ll be contacting both Test Valley Borough Council and the Andover British Legion to see what they say, and will publish any reply I get in full.

*Posted with thanks to the Exposing racism and intolerance member who sent me this*

***UPDATE*** No reply so far from either party named in this story.

Mail compensation claims II – sour grapes

April 16, 2011

Here’s a story from the Mail that could well be receiving the Littlejohn com-pen-say-shun treatment soon:

Massive payouts!  For slipping on grapes, and having rulers waved at them!  Those teachers’ll do anything for easy money, won’t they?  I mean, they already get really long holidays, finish work at 3:30 every day, and get paid LOADS of money for their cushy job (***DISCLAIMER*** Paraphrasing one of the commenters, who said, “Teachers are all on the the ‘money for nothing’ bandwagon that’s why they are teachers, wouldn’t survive in the private sector, all them holidays finishing at 3:30 still complaining, more pay? For what marking an essay, wake up!” [sic]).  Damn that ‘money for nothing’ bandwagon.  I’ll bet those children could teach themselves.  Why do they need degree-qualified teachers anyway?  All that subject knowledge, lesson planning, taking marking home at evenings and weekends, after school activity organising, paperwork completing, data tracking, pastoral care giving, etc, etc – it’s just money for nothing.

Moving away from the sarcasm and onto the rhetorical question, does the headline stand up to scrutiny?  Let’s start with the, “£200k for slipping on a grape!”  The Mail says;

A teacher won £200,000 in compensation last year after slipping on a grape which was left on a stairwell.

He was awarded the six-figure sum after aggravated an existing hernia problem as he fell. He was eventually unable to work because of chronic pain.

£200,000 for being unable to work following an accident, then, rather than for actually slipping on a grape.

How about the teacher given £459k for being, “confronted by a pupil wielding a RULER”?

In the biggest claim, a teacher confronted by a pupil wielding a one metre ruler was awarded £459,000.

The youngster spun round and pushed the teacher on to a filing cabinet, which had handles sticking out, as she tried to restrain him after he had been threatening classmates.

The worker severely injured her back and, despite an operation, her condition deteriorated and she became wheelchair-bound.

Her union revealed she was only able to return to work part-time following the incident in 2002 which was only settled last year.

Ah, I see.  The ruler was a metre rule, not a thirty centimetre long shatterproof plastic one as implied, and the pupil physically assaulted the teacher as she tried to protect her other students.  Waiting nine years to be awarded £459,000 for being physically attacked and ending up in a wheelchair doesn’t seem quite so ridiculous as the headline suggests.

Further examples are given, throughout the article, of teachers who have suffered other significant, serious injuries caused by accidents or assaults, and also a teacher who was unfairly dismissed following what the Mail calls, “gender reassignment steps.”  Towards the end of the article, Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT is quoted as saying;

Behind each of these cases is a person whose life has been changed through serious injury or unfair dismissal from their chosen career.

Compensation is important but it is cold comfort if your health is irreparably damaged or your professional career has ended.

It’s a shame her point is buried towards the end of the piece, where it’s likely to be overlooked by anyone who didn’t read the whole thing.  Still, we know the Mail isn’t fond of compensation claims or teachers ( or any public sector worker, really), so shouldn’t be too surprised when it uses the tried and trusted formula of printing a huge, misleading headline, which doesn’t stand up to the most cursory of glances at the text.  It’s a depressingly commonplace tabloid tactic, one that is allowed by the PCC because headlines are viewed as ‘editorial space.’  I doubt this is something that will change any time soon.

However, it’s always a comfort when some of the commenters see through the bullshit, so, to close this post, here’s a selection of the ones that cheered me up: