Monday, 29 September 2008

Snuggle buddies

Being the MediaWatch editor has been like standing at a bus stop recently. Nothing for ages then two come along together.

Anyway, today's mention is from Matthew Norman's Media Diary:
If the political historians of tomorrow ever need a hint (and where would they look if not here?) as to how Gordon Brown survived so long in office, they might consider the touching friendship between Sarah Brown and Sun editor Rebekah Wade. The Sun's continuing support for Gordon is, on the face of it, against the form book and interests of a paper whose political raison d'être is to wait until Rupert Murdoch decides who will win the next general election and become the future PM's most zealous cheerleader, allowing itself to claim credit for the victory and add to the leverage with which Mr Murdoch bullied Mr Tony Blair into promising a referendum on the Euro. Currently, there is little doubt as to who that next PM will be, and less as to who it won't be.

For this insight we can thank Mr Murdoch's own imperial proconsul Irwin Stelzer, who describes Gordon as "finished". Yet still The Sun backs a certain loser. I've had a think about this curiosity, factoring in Mr Murdoch's fabled inverted snobbery about Old Etonians and other potential influences, but the only explanation that makes any sense is that Rebekah, champion ingratiator of a cloyingly incestuous journo-political age, goes to Sarah's "slumber parties" at Chequers.

Touching as it is to imagine the ladies huddled up under the duvet eating Häagen-Dazs, watching Sex And The City DVDs and giggling about the awfulness of men* (see Ross Kemp, below), and delightful as her personal loyalty might be, you wonder how she will respond when the order comes, as come it surely will, to swing behind David Cameron. Presumably, by palling up with Samantha Cameron, and swapping pyjama parties at Chequers for "Come To the Opening Of An Envelope!" soirées at Smythson's in New Bond Street.

*Thank you Matthew, for that truly awful vision.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

It's Bizarre!

The site No Rock And Roll Fun has just appeared on my radar, and you could say, they don't hold Gordon Smart in very high esteem.

Their first post about him, when he took over in November 2007, was a good one:
And so the Sun rises on a new era, with Gordon Smart taking over the controls at the paper's Bizarre column.

Hey... he's called Gordon, and you know who else is called Gordon?

Yes, yes, the "moron" in Jilted John's hit, but you know who else?

Yes, the Prime Minister. But it's not a thought they'd push, is it?

Prime Minister of showbiz ... new man Gordon

Oh. They are.

Read Gordon's manifesto

And push it, and push it.

WE are both Scottish and called Gordon – but that’s where the similarities between the Prime Minister and me end.

Well, yes. Gordon Brown doesn't look like he's one of the guys who turn up at the end of Homes Under The Hammer saying "I would value this property at £137,000...", for a start.

But they came up with the goods, that we here at The Sun - Tabloid Lies are interested in when they dissected Gordon's 'manifesto' - the hypocrisy...
HEALTH: The Caners League continues. All celebrities, nonebrities and musicians are actively encouraged to get tanked up and cause high jinks.

We wonder if - while Gordon was chuckling over the thought of encouraging people to drink too much, did he bother to read his own paper? Only Rebekah's editorials seem to send out the opposite message:
It hit a nerve with decent families who worry when their children go out that they might not return alive.

They worry about round-the-clock access to strong, ever-cheaper booze and the pressure on youngsters to drink themselves stupid.

...again and again:
Cheap alcohol fuels the violence. Yet as a society we accept alcopops, booze marketed specifically at kids, and we regard binge-drinking as a bit of a joke.

Can the front of the paper really complain that young people are encouraged to drink themselves stupid and binge-drinking is seen as a joke when its showbiz editor is, erm, encouraging people to drink themselves stupid and regards binge-drinking as a bit of a joke?

...and lies
EDUCATION: Hear about new bands, comedians, actors and characters on Bizarre first. The next OASIS, PETER KAY and JAMES McAVOY will be unveiled by this new regime.

That's a major break with the past, as those three would have been unveiled by the NME, The Sunday Show and Stephen Fry, of course.

...and then took the piss. Rather a lot.

Anyway, back to the present. It's one of Gordon's underlings that gets mentioned about an Amy Winehouse story:

AMY WINEHOUSE faces arrest after allegedly whacking a woman dancer in the face.

Sherene Flash, 30, said junkie Amy punched her in the eye after she asked to take the star’s picture.

Amy then ran off, crying out: “Life can’t go on. I can’t do this any more.”

And the diagnosis from our new friends:
A woman claims that Winehouse hit her. Which might be terrible, if true, but given that Winehouse has hit people before, it's hard to see how this could count as a "new low" - bumping along the bottom, perhaps.

And the claim that she's "facing arrest"? This seems to be simply bollocks:
Cops were called to the £700-a-ticket End Of Summer Ball in central London, where Amy performed, and took a statement from Sherene.

They are expected to quiz Back To Black and Rehab singer Amy, 25, later.

So Smart, French and The Sun aren't even sure if the police are going to proceed with the matter - "expected" to - and have absolutely no reason to claim at this stage that she's "facing arrest". In the broader sense, perhaps, of "if it's true, and if they feel there's a point in pursuing the case, she would face arrest" - but that's not quite the same thing, is it?

Indeed, the only mention of arrest in the actual story is in the padding flam at the bottom:
Outside the ball, five cops had to restrain a well-dressed woman after a row with her boyfriend.

See Amy on stage and the woman being arrested by clicking on the link below.

Yes, some random woman was arrested, so they've shoved a photo of her on the Sun site for no apparent reason.

So, Amy faces arrest when she hasn't even been questioned yet? Way to go The Sun

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Gaunty: Comedy Genius

A couple of months ago when I agreed to write for The Sun - Tabloid Lies, I chose columnist Jon Gaunt as my "beat", because I thought the rightwing blowhard would be a rich view of material.

I suppose I was right and wrong.

Jon Gaunt certainly makes the informed reader bristle, but then his material is so heavily recycled it's hard for me to find anything new to say about it.

For one, he constantly uses lazy hyperbole with little regard to the sophistication of an issue. This is annoying as it's just plain populism - but then in The Sun, what isn't?

Another trick is his propensity to re-use the same anecdote time and time again.

Take his most recent column where he brings up abandoned Gurkhas and Abu Hamza - both of which starred in last week's column. (For the record I applaud Gaunt for standing with the Gurkhas and raising their profile, but I do question his motives, as he constantly uses the issue to bash less-worthy immigrants).

Always accompanying his favourite anecdotes are Gaunty's favourite generalisations - his memes. This week we're treated to a gluten of rightwing memes, which leave a seasoned Gaunty reader like me feeling overwhelmed by the seething vitriol.

He had the government's "support" for the "feckless", the foreigners (of course), and the "long-term useless" (I wondered what the difference was between the feckless and the long-term useless, but my head began to hurt).

Then we read Gaunty bashing the government for rising crime (it's not rising), immigration, taxes, fuel and energy costs (errr, we have an unregulated market for energy - Thatcher's legacy, I seem to recall), and unemployment.

It's a constant and relentless stream of rightwing talking points. It's exactly what keeps highly paid columnists like Gaunty busy. He knows he can rehash the same tired memes every week, and he knows that the salivating editors at The Sun will lap it up. I just wish I had thought of it first (I guess being a principled liberal blogger is what I have to do to get some sleep at night).

But this week it wasn't the tired old anecdotes or the barrage of memes that made me bristle, it was Gaunty's utterly appalling attempt to insert humour into his piece. The guy just isn't the comedy genius he thinks he is.

First we have Jon accusing Brown of lying to the people during his speech at the Labour Conference, claiming "Del Boy has been more honest down Peckham market". Oh hilarious. And if that didn't have you giggling like a schoolgirl, he compares David Miliband to Rodney Trotter.

Oh please, Jon. Stop it. You're killing me.

Next, reflecting on a Jackie Wilson song used by Labour, he joked that we'd be better off with darts player Jocky Wilson running the country. Did you see what he did there? He swapped Jackie with Jocky! This is comedy gold people. *sighs*

Oh, but wait. Jon's not finished with you yet.

Jon now claims that hook-handed, benefit loving terror-monger Abu Hamza (him again), would be "sticking two fingers up at all of us if he still had a hand". Hahahahaha*breath*hahahahaha! Bill Hicks eat your heart out.

Observant readers may have noticed a hint of sarcasm in my commentary. Well, as said, Jon Gaunt isn't the comedy genius he thinks he is. This is crap Sun humour. It isn't funny and Gaunt does it all the time. His stand-up routine must be crucifying.

Oh, and if you think I'm being unfair - check out Bill Saporito's latest column in Time to see how piss-taking is really done.

Until next time, folks. Cheers.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Promoting bullshit.

Not much occurring at the moment over at the Sun, unless you count their failed attempt to get Cherie Blair to say something disparaging about Gordon at a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference. Despite arranging for the families of murder victims to travel and stress their case that ours is a broken society, including the wonderful Helen Newlove, only Michael Gove agreed, which is hardly a surprise considering he's a Tory front-bencher and is therefore pushing the same nonsense as the newspaper.

Why bother to go in for detailed political analysis though when you can instead print fluff which not only insults your readers' intelligence but also potentially promotes bullshit artists such as fortune tellers and tarot card readers? It's certainly cheap:

"THE Sun was yesterday given a grim prediction of Gordon Brown's political future – from a tarot reader.

We consulted a mystic to forecast the future of the embattled PM before he gave his key speech – billed as make-or-break – at the Labour party's annual conference.

In an eerily accurate moment, Manchester magician Andrew Normansell, 39, laid out the tarot cards and turned over depictions of the Ace of Swords and The Empress – a female figure coming to the rescue.

Just hours later Mr Brown's wife Sarah was heaped in praise after giving an impassioned speech before introducing her husband on to the stage to a thunderous round of applause."

Ah yes, that well-known empress, Sarah Brown, riding to the rescue of her husband! Eerily accurate only in the sense that whichever old bollocks the tarot reader came up with would nonetheless be adapted by the hapless Sun hack tasked with writing up this nonsense.

"Andrew concluded: "Overall, the future for the Labour Party isn't looking good. Come the next general election it will be very much touch and go."

Good grief, really? That falls directly in line with the opinion polls over the last year; there must be something in the tarot after all!

It's worth continuing with this only to highlight something of an inconsistency:

"Our alternative political prediction follows on from last year when we asked a psychic to give her prophesy for Britain's future as Gordon Brown dithered over whether to call a general election.

Gypsy Petulengro made a set of claims at the Tory party conference in Blackpool which spookily appear to be coming true."

Gypsy Petulengro? Doesn't the Sun mean Gipsy Petulengro, as it always usually refers to those who have Roma heritage, like this other Gipsy which predicted a lottery win, because they seem to imagine it excludes them from being potentially prosecuted for inciting racial hate as Gypsies are protected under the various applicable legislation? Still, Gypsy Petulengro is doubtless a nice gypsy, and not the kind that turns up unannounced on land that they just happen to own, and which also happens just happens to be in the vicinity of a cabinet minister's ex-husband's residence, as the Sun reported on back on a slow news day in March. Now if Andrew Normansell had predicted that it might well have been worth writing about...

Friday, 19 September 2008

Another invented benefits scandal.

On occasion, even I get blown away by the sheer sophistry of tabloid stories. Today's front page Sun splash is one of those:

"KILLERS and rapists can pick up as much state money as a victim’s grieving mum, The Sun can reveal.

Nearly 150 patients detained under the Mental Health Act receive up to £95-a-week incapacity benefit."

The clue here to this story being a concocted outrage is in "detained under the Mental Health Act". (Also worth noting is that despite the intro claiming that killers and rapists can receive incapacity benefit, the Sun doesn't deign to mention any that do, for the simple reason that none of those actually convicted of doing so can.)

As the article goes on, after long quotations from "sources" from high security hospitals:

"The patients claiming cash include some of Britain’s most violent people — but have NOT been convicted of a crime and are entitled to long-term sickness benefit."

Yep, that's right, none of these individuals which the Sun is claiming receive incapacity benefit have been actually convicted of a crime and sent to either Broadmoor, Rampton or Ashworth as a result - instead they're being detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act because they're either a danger to themselves or to others. They are therefore considered to be ordinary hospital in-patients, and can apply and receive normal benefits as everyone else can. You can argue that since they're being in effect cared for by the state that they should be paying for their board and food, but since the individual has little to no responsibility whatsoever for being unfortunate enough to develop either a mental illness or a personality disorder, it's hardly an open and shut case.

The actual real point of this invented so-called scandal though is to flag up another case that would genuinely be one:

"But a High Court case brought yesterday on legal aid by a convicted murderer and a rapist could allow handouts to virtually ALL 1,000 patients in top security hospitals.

The pair, now in Broadmoor after being jailed for life in the 1980s, are taking on the Department for Work and Pensions — and say they should be entitled to a “full range” of benefits.

That can include £60-a-week income support and £54-a-week pension — bringing a patient’s haul to £120."

Suddenly it all makes sense. In order to justify splashing this situation which might develop on the front page, the Sun's had to throw together information already in the public domain, call it "MAKING A KILLING" and in the process attempt to build its readers up into a familiar state of apoplexy. With this now done, the paper can defend itself if any complaints are made regarding its use of some familiar monsters:

"Broadmoor houses Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe. Rampton is home to baby killer Beverley Allitt.

Another secure hospital, Ashworth on Merseyside, is where Moors child murderer Ian Brady is held. None of those currently gets benefit."

All three of course have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, hence why they cannot apply for benefit. All three though are pictured as though they're just waiting to fill their boots; after all, why not kill someone, pretend you're insane and get incapacity benefit? The streets will shortly be littered with corpses!

The cynicism behind this really is quite breathtaking. After a week in which the neoliberal economic orthodoxy which the Sun has long espoused has been shown to be rotten to its very core, the paper's still more concerned with demonising individuals not convicted of any crime for daring to claim £95 a week. Take the Sun's claims at face value, with 150 in-patients receiving that all year-round, and it means it costs the taxpayer a whopping £741,000 a year, or the tiniest drop in an immense ocean. This is considered to be more important than anything else today, and in effect, it is. The paper knows full well this was going to go down a storm, and the comments on the story, many getting the impression that Sutcliffe and others are already getting incapacity benefit show it.

Even worse is the Sun's leader:

"BENEFIT handouts to psychopaths responsible for horrific crimes are an outrage.

It may be legal, through a loophole in welfare laws. But it is morally repugnant."

Except that no one actually convicted of a crime is receiving benefit, as the story makes clear. But why even bother telling the truth? The article itself barely bothers.

"A Sun investigation reveals how some of our most dangerous murderers and rapists are claiming £85 weekly incapacity benefit."

Only it can't name a single one which is. Whoever wrote this is too lazy to even get the actual sum in question right.

"Now two Broadmoor patients are claiming even more benefits, taking their weekly income to around £120."

Another bare-faced lie as the article makes clear. They are bringing a case; they are not claiming it yet, nor is it likely they will win.

"Under the law, secure hospital patients qualify for handouts as “long-term sick”.

We are sick, too, if we allow this to continue."

Some might suggest that individuals that repeatedly lie and distort for their own short-term gain are also suffering from personality disorders; they though it seems will continue be remunerated on a far greater scale than anyone currently residing in a hospital.

And some other bloggers wonder whether sites such as this are necessary and think it rare that the tabloids "flat-out" lie.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Ebeneezer Goode

There's a nice scare-mongering report in the Sun today.

You may not be aware of it, but the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has got around to reviewing the status of Ecstasy (see the various reports on the Transform blog for background information).

The Sun claims that the government is planning to downgrade E from a Class A to a Class B drug. This is a complete lie! All the Council is doing is having a look at the evidence regarding the old Disco Biccies to see whether it is appropriate for it to fall within the Class A guidelines. It will then prepare a report on this which will be submitted to Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary.

The Sun's report quotes the Tory spokesperson Ann Widdecome who makes the moronic claim that the government should have learned its lesson regarding the cannabis debacle, stating that they had to reverse their decision to downgrade it. She is completely wrong. Until last May, the government had not overruled the Council, but after it prepared another report on Cannabis - again stating that it should have remained a Class C drug, due to it being low risk and there being a significant drop in its usage since it was downgraded - the government decided to appease the tabloids and put it back to a Class B, completely ignoring its own expert's report. The Sun doesn't challenge her at all, instead repeating her claims as fact. Widdecome also maintains that we have to "Send a message" about its use. Again the Sun doesn't challenge her, seemingly supporting the "Nanny State"...

The Sun had already nailed its colours to the mast back in May is it slated the head of the Council (Prof. David Nutt, who the Sun calls the UK's "Drugs Czar") for daring to even suggest that they should look at the evidence regarding E's status and whether the current status can be justified by any empirical evidence.

One trick the Sun misses in its coverage this time around is not to bring up the name of Leah Betts who died back in 1995 after taking a contaminated tablet. Back in May the Sun infers that she died due to the tablet itself. However, at an inquest it was determined that she actually died due to drinking too much water: the extraordinary volume of 7 litres in 90 minutes.

The Council is due to publish its report sometime next year. I can already guess how the Sun will cover it...

On the plus side, the majority of the Sun's readers are opposed to its take on the matter, for the reasons given above.

Worth every penny!

Stumped for something to write about in your Sun column? Why not recycle emails that have been going around the internet now for almost a year? Here's Kelvin MacKenzie, showing the sure touch which has been his calling card since the sinking of the Belgrano:

"ONE of the curious aspects of modern life is how the police are no longer revered by those who used to be their staunchest supporters.

This brilliantly-written email to Devon and Cornwall police starkly illustrates the frustrations felt by people who, 20 years ago, would have backed the police without question.

You must read it all the way through. Next week I’ll bring you the reply the writer got from the community beat officer, and what he then said to the bobby.

Dear Sir/Madam/Automated Telephone Answering Service,

Having spent the past 20 minutes waiting for someone at Bodmin Police Station to pick up a telephone, I have decided to abandon the idea and try emailing you instead."

We'll snip it there. Just the one problem with this: like with Chinese whispers, when such emails get shared online, some of the details often end up getting changed. A quick search confirms that the version that MacKenzie's picked up has been similarly altered, in this instance with the location changing to Bodmin from Leith. As the Daily Record reported back in November of last year when the email first emerged on the worries of the person responsible:

"THE EMAIL was never meant to be seen in public.

But its outpouring of frustration to police has struck a chord with thousands after it fell into the hands of someone who posted it on the internet.

The letter, which refers to local youths in Leith, Edinburgh, as "walking abortions" and "failed medical experiments", has proved a sensation."

So said youths in Bodmin didn't exist, unless someone with the exact same problem used the email as their own, which seems unlikely. But hey, little things like that don't matter when you're writing for the Sun and are also Kelvin MacKenzie.

Recently when Polly Toynbee shared a panel with MacKenzie someone asked how much they all earned. Toynbee, who had previously refused to say how much she took home for her Grauniad column, admitted that she earned over six figures a year. MacKenzie however didn't deign to answer, probably out of embarrassment. If David Blunkett earns in the region of £150,000 for his piss-poor Sun column, you can guarantee that MacKenzie is paid far in advance of that. Not bad work for copy and pasting year-old chain-mails.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Sharia - it's here!

Run for the hills - the Muslims are here and they're going to subject us all to Sharia law! It's true - it's in the Sun:

"ISLAMIC law has been ushered into Britain by the back door.

Ministers have quietly given Sharia courts power to rule on Muslim civil cases.

These range from divorce and financial disputes to domestic violence. But furious Tories said the step “pandered to Islamic extremists”. MP Philip Davies said: “There can be only one legal system — British law. This will lead to a segregated society.”"

Ministers have done no such thing - as anyone with a longer memory than 5 seconds will note once the Sun gets onto detailing how this has apparently happened:

Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi, whose Muslim Arbitration Tribunal runs the courts, used a clause in the Arbitration Act 1996. It allows Sharia hearings to be classed as ‘arbitration tribunals’.

Uh, so it's nothing whatsoever to do with this government at all then? I'm fairly sure that we were still under the yoke of a certain John Major in 1996. This government hasn't given Sharia courts the power to do anything.

As you might have expected, this article appears to be based on one in yesterday's Sunset Times, which also includes another crucial fact:

"Jewish Beth Din courts operate under the same provision in the Arbitration Act and resolve civil cases, ranging from divorce to business disputes. They have existed in Britain for more than 100 years, and previously operated under a precursor to the act."

Now some, such as Melanie Phillips, who is unsurprisingly sympathetic towards Beth Din courts, claim that they are nothing like Sharia courts, and also that they aren't recognised under English law. Someone's wrong, but who it is I'm not sure. The United Synagogue website, which encompasses the London Beth Din, isn't terribly clear, but the closest it gets to suggesting that the Times is right is this passage regarding litigation:

"In Jewish Law, Jewish parties are forbidden to take their civil disputes to a secular court and are required to have those disputes adjudicated by a Beth Din. The London Beth Din sits as an arbitral tribunal in respect of civil disputes and the parties to any such dispute are required to sign an Arbitration Agreement prior to a hearing taking place. The effect of this is that the award given by the Beth Din has the full force of an Arbitration Award and may be enforced (with prior permission of the Beth Din) by the civil courts. At a hearing before the Dayanim, the parties do not require legal representation although they are allowed to have legal or other representation."

The reason why this is important is because of the Sun's leader:

"BRITAIN can have only one legal system. We thought the Government understood that.

In February, Gordon Brown said: “Religious law should be subservient to British criminal and civil law.”

Yet seven months later we learn that Islamic sharia law has been sneakily adopted into British law."

Err, but again, this is nothing to do with this government, and it hasn't been sneakily adopted into British law, unless it was without debate 12 years ago. If we're going to blame anyone, let's blame the Conservatives.

"A clause in the 1996 Arbitration Act allows Muslim tribunals to make rulings in civil cases using sharia law, enforceable by British courts, if both sides agree.

It means prejudice against women and leniency for violent husbands.

We must not allow this parallel justice system.

It is a major step down the dangerous path which sees Muslim communities living in isolation from the rest of Britain.

Just the kind of segregation under which extremism thrives."

Fair enough as it goes; no one is suggesting that Sharia law isn't completely unacceptable, not least that court which the Sun loathes so much, the European Court of Human Rights, which has ruled Sharia law is incompatible with democracy.

If we're not going to allow civil Sharia courts to rule on divorce etc though, when both parties are agreed, are we also going to allow the Beth Din to continue, considering that's also a parallel justice system, and which must also therefore encourage segregation and isolation? True, it might not be Jews that are strapping explosives to themselves and blowing other people up, or plotting to explode bottles of sugary liquid on airplanes, but it's religious law also. Isn't it that at the moment almost anything goes when it comes to criticising Muslims because of what they supposedly want (which the Sun also has a role in promoting considering the coverage it continues to give to completely unrepresentative morons like Anjem Choudary) while if similar comment was made on Jews and their similar legal system, the accusations of anti-semitism would be flying?

"The Government must plug this loophole."

Perhaps it might be more inclined to do so if the Sun and other individuals weren't blaming it for introducing the problem in the first place.

Money for old rope

Jon Gaunt really is a lazy so-and-so.

A couple of weeks ago I covered a Gaunty column where he filled his entire page with a reader's letter. This week he's responded to developments in the debate on immigration, with a lengthy rant about how Britain is full™, which is an almost word-for-word copy of a column he published back in February.

In both articles he uses the usual watery language so beloved by migration obsessed columnists: referring to immigrants "swamping Britain", how they're "pouring into the country", and how government strategies do "nothing to stem the flow of migrants". Water is a useful analogy in reference to migration, as it conveys an unstoppable force and the lethal reality of drowning.

Such loaded language is potent, but it's also incredibly lazy as it's usually used in lieu of reasoned argument. An interesting drinking game (no pun intended), might be to listen to an anti-migration rant and then down a shot every time a watery verb is employed. I guarantee you'll be pissed before long.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Page 3: Keeley Hazell comments on the Large Hadron Collider

In the latest issue of the Sun, we are told that Keeley (21, from Bromley) "can't wait for boffins to turn on the Large Hadron Collider today," and we are assured that she said the following (no doubt unprompted, while an assistant was busy powdering her nose and tweaking her nipples);

"It's so exciting. The machine's main purpose is to explore the validity and limitations of the current theoretical picture of particle physics."

Perhaps this is someone's idea of a harmless little joke, but for that joke to be funny, one would need to live in a reality where Keeley is but a simple girl who does not bother her head with such things.

If this were the case, surely it would undermine Keeley's previously-stated positions on subjects as serious and as complex as immigration statistics and their impact on social order...

... the budget and its political implications...

... and the impact of recent scientific breakthroughs on the abortion rate:

Or it could simply be the case of Rebekah Wade putting words into the mouths of women she claims to empower, which would be an entirely different kettle of fish and bicycles.

If they were truly empowered, it would be the Page 3 girl's opinion that appears on Page 3, and not the editor's, and that does not appear to be the case most days.

But let's say for argument's sake that it went down like this:


KEELEY: Hello?

WADE: Hello, dahling. We're running photos from your most recent shoot as tomorrow's Page 3, and I wanted to know if you had anything you would like to say for 'News in Briefs'.

KEELEY: Oh, I'd like to comment on the Large Hadron Collider, please. I can't wait for the boffins to turn it on. It's so exciting.

WADE: Good choice. We'll happily feature that. They say it will create a black hole and destroy all life as we know it. What's your take on that?

KEELEY: Well, the machine's main purpose is to explore the validity and limitations of the current theoretical picture of particle physics, an*....


WADE: Perfect! We'll run it! Toodles!


Damn and blast it, did you see what I did there?

I only went and closed the scene without an unexpected dramatic twist!


OK, here it is now:

(We apologise for any disruption to the above image. There appears to be something fundamentally wrong with the universe today.)

Monday, 8 September 2008

Failing to extract the rafter from their own eye.

When there's not a lot of news about, journalists with pages to fill and editors to appease can fall back on one of those hardy perennials: revisiting an old story or banging out a highly similar successor.

The Sun has today done just that. Back at the beginning of July the Sun "exposed" a bunch of teens brandishing weapons in photographs they had posted on the social networking site Bebo. The problems with the article were obvious: we had to take the Sun's word that these images had indeed been on Bebo, as the site admins had removed them after being alerted by the Sun; and that they featured teens in this country.

Today's collection is much the same, albeit with less photographs than the effort in July. It features the same idiotic immature little children pretending to be men by posing with weapons about three times their size of their penises, and with the same lack of proof that such images were on Bebo, with no screen grabs and little chance of finding the profiles with much of the information provided. Thankfully however, the name of one of those featured is "Ironiik Starr", which is somewhat unique and gives us something to go on. His profile seems to still exist, although there is no picture corresponding with one presented by the Sun. He does however have two other images featuring baseball bats and guns, but trades that off by featuring an anti-gun crime song on his profile.

More interesting though is the other results which a quick Google of Ironik Starr gives us. Mr Starr has a profile on another social networking site, MySpace, owned by none other than the same parent company of the Sun. Like with his Bebo profile, there's no images of guns here. We do however have a link to another member of the group of which he's a member, a certain Hektiiq Starr. His profile is far more interesting: his background is an image of the character from the Hitman games, his add me box features two handguns, and lo and behold, his gallery contains this self-portrait:

Could this possibly be the image which the Sun describes in its piece as:

"The profile of a wannabe gangster called Ironiik Starr, from Luton, Beds, included a snap of a boy of no more than 12 with a sub-machine gun."

It just might be, mightn't it? Only it's on MySpace as well (Hektiqq Starr's profile on Bebo with the picture as his main photograph is here). The Sun probably hasn't featured this photograph because it's pretty apparent, even to someone like me with no knowledge of guns whatsoever, that this "sub-machine gun" is either a toy or an Airsoft rifle.

It does however prove the wider point: that focusing on one social-networking site, in this case Bebo, is wholly unfair when all of them contain much the same content from the self-same absorbed little gangs that will most likely grow out of waving weapons at cameras. To do a proper expose of this sort of posturing, if it would be worth the effort, would cover all the networks with examples from all of them, which are fairly easy to find. The Sun however can't do this, because criticising MySpace is something it simply can't do. It instead picks on a rival while at the same time continuing to perpetuate the nonsense of "Broken Britain". Considering that Bebo has been doing much more than MySpace to try to understand and combat knife and gun crime, the site might well want to consider whether it wants to make clear both the Sun's hypocrisy and its conflict of interest. And indeed, they might want to ask Patrick Mercer whether he think the Sun's sister company's hosting of the same material he was asked to condemn is also "deeply irresponsible".

Musa Ahmet's 'sick' YouTube video

Today the Sun runs an article about a 'sick joke' perpetrated on YouTube by Musa Ahmet, the brother of Atilla Ahmet (background):

"The brother of an al-Qaeda terrorist has posted a sick joke video on YouTube — boasting about making a bomb... Last night families of 7/7 London terror attack victims called for the clip to be taken off the website."

1. This just in: evil is real and it runs in the blood!

2. Also, pay no attention to the fact that Musa's brother Atilla Ahmet started speaking out against hate after he got away from his extremist gang and began studying the Qur'an for himself in his cell. Seriously, put it out of your mind. It's not information that you need if your goal is to demonise his relatives in order to scare and anger people for the sake of political gain and profit.

I've asked the writer who penned this how exactly these family members first discovered this video and I await an answer with interest, but the smart money is on these already-traumatised people seeing this only because some 'journalist' confronted them with it, just to get a reaction.

Now, humour is reliant on delivery. Some context would be nice, too.

So it's a pity that the Sun (who started this) and the Telegraph (who copied it) didn't respect their readers enough to link to the video or feature it on their site as they have done so many times in the past when they were shocked (shocked, do you hear me?) about this footage or that and everybody exploiting it (bar themselves, obviously).

I present the video below, along with a link to Musa Ahmet's YouTube channel, so OUR readers may see the video and determine for themselves how much truth there is to the Sun's account:

I also invite you to be shocked and outraged by a very similar 'sick joke' perpetrated by yours truly;

Bloggerheads - Instructions for creating your very own Ricin Conspiracy


Friday, 5 September 2008

Which is it then?

The Sun's report on the already notorious "gang brawl" on the streets of Shoreditch:

"THIS was the shocking scene as rival gangs fought in the street — and no one called (sic) cops."

Really? The Daily Mail (which afaik first reported the fight) seems to have a completely different story:

"A spokesman for Scotland Yard said it had received numerous calls about the battle."

Not that the police seemed to have turned up in any case - although that's a different story.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Sun Confusion over Phallic Jesus Artworks

The Sun reports on a legal case:

A GALLERY which exhibited a statue of Jesus Christ with an erection is facing court today charged with outraging public decency.

The artwork was part of an exhibition at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, which featured dozens of plaster figures including Mickey Mouse, ET, and Jesus - all with erections.

The prosecution, as has been widely reported, is being brought by a certain Emily Mapfuwa of Brentwood, who claims that the image causes "harassment, alarm and distress to the public", and that therefore its display should be banned as a matter of public order. The police have declined to proceed, so Mapfuwa is undertaking a private prosecution with the backing of the Christian Legal Centre. The Sun gives no details about what exactly the CLC is: it is of course an off-shoot of the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship, and it is run by Andrea Williams, a close associate of Nadine Dorries MP. As I blogged here, Williams has previously represented Andrew McClintock, a magistrate who says he was forced to resign due to his opposition to gay adoption, and Lydia Playford, the schoolgirl who fought for the right to wear a “Silver Ring Thing” “purity” ring at school.

The offending piece of art is by Terence Koh (the self-proclaimed "Naomi Campbell of the Art World"), and it is part of an installation entitled Gone, Yet Still. The installation was displayed in Austria in 2005, and there were no reports then of "harassment, alarm and distress". Here is the "Jesus" element of the series:

This is not, though, the image that appears on the Sun's website. Instead - and as Unity of Ministry of Truth has pointed out - a previous Sun article on the subject carries this image, which has been reproduced elsewhere:

With some help from MediaWatchWatch, Unity tells us that this photo actually shows part of Medusa, another piece by the rather phallus-obsessed Koh (see his website), and which was withdrawn from the Saatchi Gallery in 2006. Unity notes that "several news sources suggest...that [Mapfuwa] complained after reading about the statue in a newspaper". But what if her complaint was based on the wrong picture? Unity suggests that

Pretty much the first thing that the Baltic Exchange’s lawyers need to be doing when this case gets to court is sorting out whether or not Mapfuwa is trying to prosecute them over the actual statute they had on display or The Sun’s fake photo...

The prosecution is, of course, an attempt to ban alleged "blasphemy" by other means, following the recent repeal of blasphemy laws in the UK. According to ArtInfo:

Mapfuwa reportedly intends to cite a 1990 case in which an artist and shop owner were convicted of offending public decency for showing a sculpture made of fetuses.

An informative blogger named Matthew Hunt adds some historical context in a 2006 posting:

Tumescent Christs have caused artistic controversies before, including a Belgian sculptor's prosecution for blasphemy in 1988. Also, Danish artist Jens Jorgen Thorsen painted a tumescent Christ on the wall of a railway station in 1984. A series of three paintings (Man Of Sorrows, circa 1530) by Maaten VanHeemskerck depict Christ in a similar state, as discussed in Leo Steinberg's book The Sexuality Of Christ In Renaissance Art & In Modern Oblivion.

The lies surrounding the reporting

Virginia Wheeler was sent by the Sun to report Gary Glitters return home.

Virginia Wheeler of The Sun:
I SHUDDERED as creepy Gary Glitter stroked my arm and called me “sweetie” yesterday.

The pop pervert sat by me on a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok after being released from a Vietnamese jail.

Paedophile Glitter, who insisted he was heading back to Britain, ran a hand along my arm and said: “Tell me, sweetie, what is the weather like in England? I’m not used to the cold any more. I’ve got so used to the heat in Asia.”

Oh. Did he, now? Paul Gadd said that to you, Virginia?

I copied the following from the scan below because it needs to appear in searches. I can be vindictive like that sometimes.

Private Eye, Issue 1218:
A SENSATIONAL scoop for Sun hack Virginia Wheeler on August 20: "WORLD EXCLUSIVE. Perv Glitter is free and tells the Sun:I'm Coming Home."
Wheeler described how she "shuddered as creepy Gary Glitter stroked my arm and called me 'sweetie' yesterday" but nobly endured his attentions in the interests of a world exclusive. And it was well worth it: the peripatetic paedo revealed his plans to resume a music career and his fears that the English weather might seem a little chilly after three years in a Vietnamese jail.
Where did this encounter between beauty and the beast occur? "The pop pervert sat beside me on a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok," Wheeler claimed. Strange, then, that in the accompanying photos of Glitter on the plain from Vietnam to Thailand there was no sign of Wheeler in the next seat.
She was, in fact, sitting in the front row of business class while Glitter was much further back. About 10 minutes before landing, the crew moved him forward to a vacant t seat so he could make a quick getaway from the press posse. He was put three rows behind Wheeler - still quite a distance from which to fondle her arm. None of the hacks on the plane saw him touch her or speak to her at all.
Even so, Wheeler filed her "world exclusive" to Wapping. After reading what Glitter himself had allegedly told her - "I'm so glad to be going back to England...It's where my heart is and where my family are. I can't wait to see them" - the newsdesk ordered her to get on the Bangkok-to-London flight without delay as he was sure to be on it. While other hacks waited to see what happened, Wheeler duly checked in and boarded. Alas! Glitter stayed in Bangkok, feigning illness and trying desperately trying to avoid going anywhere near England.
The Sun hastily recruited a freelance to cover the ensuing shenanigans while Wheeler commenced her 12-hour flight back to Blighty.

Virginia Wheeler tells porkies

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Millie Tant.

On Friday we noted that the Sun's own readers didn't take too kindly to the idea that the population of Merthyr Tydfil were scroungers, based on the fact that just one person applied for a cleaning job advertised by the Sun which was offering a wage below that of the money a person on the dole would receive.

Yesterday there was a similar response to the sudden emergence of the Sun-sponsored military awards, which the paper has already taken to calling the "Millies". The majority of the comments on the article which accompanied the launch, one by none other than Prince Charles, were far from complimentary:

"looks tacky.. it's like some sort of MTV award"

"Our Forces are wonderful and I'm proud of them. This award thing is far too tacky for them, and reeks of self-promotion.I award it a golden raspberry."

"A trashy tacky idea that lacks any taste what so ever!"

"Terrible idea. And highly cheesy. Thanks but no thanks, a pay rise would be a better award"

"Words fail me.............Is this another project so that the Sun get more readers, a really tacky idea and one which Senior Officers in the MOD should never have agreed to. God help us."

"Bloody Awful

As a serving member of Her Majesty's Forces I think this is is utter tat - the name and the design of the award for starters.

All we want is not to be treated like something the cat coughed up when we come home and the resources to do our job. We're proud enough already because of who we serve and the uniform we wear. The real respect in our job is gained via acceptance by our mates and a job well done."

Indeed, the awards have not only gone down badly with the Sun's own readers, but with the military themselves. Over on the British Army Rumour Service forums, the response has been so vociferous that a petition has already been set-up over on the 10 Downing Street site calling for the prime minister to prevent the awards from taking place. While most of the posters have objected to the Sun sponsoring the awards on the basis that it is both tasteless and trivialises the entire concept, others have been more forthright due to their own view of the Sun's real agenda behind their backing of the armed forces:

"If it wasn't being done by the Scum, I might be in favour of it. However, the Scum is so two faced, I see it as a way for them simply to gain dirt more easily."

"Of course the Scum would win the 'two faced coverage of our boys' award. do you think Newton-Dunn would turn up to accept the award?"

"It's our own fault. While the Sun has for years made play of supporting 'our boys' when it suits them and then turning on us with any whiff of a scandal or punch up within 15 miles of a barracks - still the most common rag to find lying round the NAAFI or brew room is the good old Currant Bun.

At the risk of being banned from Liverpool like Boris Johnson and others I must say that the unequivocal response of the Scouse nation to the Scum's reporting of the Hillsborough disaster - reducing the circulation in that city from over 200,000 to less than 10,000 overnight and maintaining the boycott today - is one of the few things that endear me to the current Capital of Culture.

If you buy it, let your mates buy it, read it/look at the tits in it then you only have yourself to blame. Only a complete military boycott of the Scum would send the message and make them fuck off and stop bothering us."

In fact, the only people who seem to be supporting the idea publicly are the aforementioned Prince Charles, the Sun's own Jeremy Clarkson and the MoD themselves.

This further exposes two myths - firstly that the Sun is beloved by its own readers and that it is such an effective weathervane that it always reflects and fights for their rights; and secondly that the forces themselves regard it as their paper, as the Sun itself so often claims. Nothing in fact could be further from the truth. They too see the support the paper gives as deeply self-centred, as nothing more than something to be used for profit, whilst they jump on the army as much as anyone else when a scandal erupts.

Whether the newspaper and the MoD take such concerns on board before the "Millies" ceremony takes place remains to be seen - but everything so far suggests that it will not be the money-spinner and PR building exercise that the two sides are hoping for.

A tale of a working family

Anecdotes are a favourite tool of the columnist. They attempt to wrap an entire national narrative around a single tear-sodden story.

And readers? Well they just lap it up.

On Friday Jon Gaunt, the self-appointed crusader against all things politically correct and the willing mouth-piece of 'White-Van Man', published a reader's letter as his weekly column. It's a story of a working family trying to ends meet after the birth of their first child. A story that The Sun headlines: "This is where you've gone wrong, Gordon"

Now I have no idea if the letter is genuine (indeed I’ve no reason to doubt its authenticity), but what surprised me was the letter's consistency with the current crop of rightwing memes. I'll pull a few paragraphs and maybe you’ll see what I mean.

"My name is Kelly. I know you must get a hundred letters like this every week but I need to rant, and what's the point in writing to a politician – they are too busy with the environment to care.

The first point Kelly makes is that writing to a politician would be pointless. As if somehow Gaunty's more representative than her elected member of parliament. This is a theme Gaunt uses regularly on his TalkSport radio show. He claims he has decades of experience in consumer radio, however my experience of Gaunt's style is to run with instances of misunderstanding and bureaucratic bungling and then use his position in the media to abuse whatever PR or communications representative is unlucky enough to pick up the phone. The actual issue is usually just an honest mistake, but that doesn't stop Gaunty from ranting for several minutes about how useless the said company is, and how it takes a hero like Gaunty to put things right.

Of course it makes for great talk radio, but the reality is that most MPs - of all parties - take their constituency casework very seriously, and that had Kelly contacted her MP, chances are he or she would have provided Kelly with information about any further support that may be available. The MP would have certainly agreed to meet with Kelly and listen to her plight.

This opening paragraph also contains the first insertion of a right-wing meme, one that suggests that politicians are more concerned with the environment than families like Kelly’s. Of course if this were the case we might actually hit some of our carbon targets. What this meme alludes to is that touchstone rightwing issue - tax. Congestion charges and fuel duty are regular themes for right-wing commentators to bash Westminster. In the current economy this is especially potent.

Kelly goes on to explain how she's on the minimum wage and her husband brings in a tad more. She complains that her work forced her to take maternity leave at 8-months. Of course this isn't a Westminster stipulation, and as we don't know in what environment Kelly works, we can't really comment. No doubt, however, it's got something to do with a Health & Safety fascist somewhere along the line.

Kelly goes on...

" nine weeks and we are £1,400 into our overdraft with no way out and my son dresses head to toe in George.

Firstly, as a father of two young kids (a three-year old and a one-year old), debts of £1,400 seem modest - especially in 9-weeks. Also, I don't really see dressing in "George" as being a problem. The stuff is well-made and fashionable. I know my kids have some George clothes. This seems awfully sneery, as if the government has an obligation to give Kelly Baby Gap vouchers. This is the reality of having a family - you have to make sacrifices. T'was always so.

"I get £113 maternity pay. My partner had to take two weeks' holiday because we couldn't afford paternity pay. I get £20 child tax credit and am not entitled to working tax credit because I am under 25!!

Statutory maternity pay is provided by your employer. It is a cost that must be incurred by businesses often struggling in an increasingly competitive economy. The cost to the business also includes replacing Kelly. Should we really put increased pressure on businesses? Also, I had to wrangle time for paternity leave, including using some holidays because I couldn't afford to lose money. So what should the government do, Kelly? Force these businesses to fork out for full-pay for that fortnight or should Brown send you a cheque himself?

Now I'm sorry if I come across as being a bit harsh. I want more couples to have babies and I want society to do what it can. But why is a right-wing rag giving time to a tale of working class woe? What's in for them? Surely they don't want greater benefits for Kelly, and as a result bigger taxes for us all?

Kelly now explains how she's not entitled to certain benefits because she's in full-employment, under-25 (she'll get Working Tax Credit at 25 - she's 24), and because the baby's father lives with her :

"...I'm in this position because I have a partner. Because my baby has a daddy. Because I have a job.

If I was single or on benefits, my rent would be paid, ditto my council tax. I would have been given £500 to buy the baby a pram and cot, etc.

I would still receive £113 maternity pay, but I would also get an extra £100 each week in child and tax credits, regardless of my age. My son, instead of receiving the £250 child trust fund from the Government, would get £500.

And to top it all off, I would be paid to be with my son and would not be expected to go back to work until he is seven!!

So this is why this is red meat to Gaunty and his like. This letter hasn't been published because it's a clarion call to society to do more for working families. Quite the opposite, the reason this letter was published is because it's an open attack on that most loathsome of creatures - the single parent.

Kelly is not so much desperate for help, as desperate to crow about what other people are getting. Society, it seems, has some cheek to try and create a decent situation for a one-parent child to be born into. Not only must the child not have the benefit of two-parents, it must also be born into poverty as the mother had the carelessness to get herself knocked up (it's single mums the right hate, single fathers are invariably depicted as martyrs).

"Why is it suddenly better to be single? Or a layabout content to live off benefits? Why is the Government ONLY helping single parent families and rewarding the idiots of the land who refuse to work and contribute like everybody else?

You see? Single parents and "layabouts". It's all about drawing attention to the benefits that the country's worse-off receive. Why do layabouts and single-parents get all the help (Kelly is forgetting about the benefits she actually does get), rather than wholesome hard-working families like Kelly's?

"I feel cheated by so-called Great Britain. From where I'm sitting, it's not so great."

Oh look! It's nother right-wing meme. "So-Called Great Britain" is often used on Gaunty's radio show. I even think there is a promotional audio with just than line. Another meme Gaunty loves to quote is "Broken Britain" - something I'm sure I'll touch on in future posts.

This is exactly the sort of story The Sun, and the wider rightwing commentariat, adore. It's a bloody steak to working readers who are told to resent the "freeloaders" who enjoy handouts from the government. It also, by way of the partisan headline, gives the paper the chance to pour more scorn on Gordon Brown - the man they blame for all things related to the "culture of benefits". Oh, and less I forget, it's great copy for Gaunty.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Hounding Chindamo.

On Saturday the Sun was quivering with outrage at the thought that Learco Chindamo, the teenager convicted at 15 of murdering headteacher Philip Lawrence, had been released from prison and provided with a new identity:

"He has been moved to a secret address away from London where he grew up — and where his mother, stepfather and brothers lived during his 12 years inside.

He has also been given a living allowance and a car, and has been provided with 24-hour police protection via a panic button."

That perhaps Chindamo might not have needed such protection had the tabloids not whipped up such hate towards him after he won his battle not to be deported back to Italy, a ruling which they incidentally initially (and still are, as both article and leader claim he was not deported due to his right to a family life, when it was in fact a result of a 2006 EU immigration directive) misreported as being a result of the Human Rights Act, is of course not worth mentioning.

The Sun's editorial was even more forthright:

"FANCY a free car? How about somewhere new to live? And while we are at it, a living allowance courtesy of the taxpayer?

All you need to do in Broken Britain is murder a headmaster as he tries to protect one of his pupils.

It is reckoned that it will cost us all MILLIONS to make sure that scumbag Learco Chindamo can live free from any worries that his crime will come back to haunt him.


No-one wants vigilante “justice”. But it’s a pity our laws were unable to protect the family life of Mr Lawrence, his widow Frances and their four children."

Tonight the Sun reports the following:

"THE killer of headmaster Philip Lawrence is back behind bars after being let out of prison for a week, it was revealed yesterday.

Learco Chindamo, 27 — who was jailed for life for the murder in Maida Vale, North West London, in 1995 — was given seven days’ home leave to help him to prepare for his eventual release."

Does this mean that the Sun's story was completely and utterly wrong, or does it mean that Chindamo was moved back to prison because the Sun had broke the story, or is it that the story was right but that he was only on seven days' leave? I don't know; my sources are obviously not on the level of the Sun's which confidently informed the newspaper that he had been released with such "perks". What is known is that Chindamo ought to be a model for prison rehabilitation, which is so often an oxymoron. Instead the same newspapers which allow comments calling for Chindamo to be hounded to his own death and which fall far short of condemning vigilantism complain that public money will spent on his protection. That my friends is the most disgusting hypocrisy.

Giving air to the "pervs"

Although, not specifically about The Sun, The Sun is mentioned heavily in an article by Peter Wilby in the Guardian on the hypocrisy of the tabloids in the treatment of Gary Glitter/Paul Gadd.

Sparked by a comment by the Daily Mails' columnist Amanda Platell
"Who gave this reptilian exhibitionist the oxygen of publicity? Who propelled him to world notoriety and made his claims for state protection legitimate?"
Strangely (or not) blaming Jaqui Smith.

The paragraph that is of most interest to us, is the following:
[the] "pervs" play an important role in defining the boundary between the respectable folk who read and produce redtop papers and what sociologists call "the other". The Sun may publish revealing pictures of women just above the age of consent, as well as of flat-chested models, sometimes dressed as young schoolgirls. Anybody who objects is roundly denounced as "politically correct". But to assure us they are not encouraging paedophilia, the redtops must denounce, even more vehemently, anybody who lays a finger on anyone aged 15 years 364 days or less. This explains why Glitter's name can never appear without being shepherded by such words as brute, evil, foul, depraved, monster, scum and, specially brought out by the Sun's Lorraine Kelly for the occasion,"toxic effluent".

Also a slightly shorter quote from Matthew Norman in his diary, specifically about the Sun, that is just as scathing:
We've all witnessed some horrendous abuses of power by that newspaper down the decades, but nothing, I think, as viscerally repulsive as this.

Page 3: are these her words about Our Boys?

Sam (22, from Manchester) is reportedly delighted that our armed forces are to be honoured with The Sun Military Awards and says:

"We should all remember the sacrifices they make for us every day."

Some efficient wordage from Sam there; her statement could be taken to apply to sacrifices that are made every day and/or that we must remember those sacrifices every day (be they daily or otherwise).

Assuming, of course, that these words came directly from Sam.

Now, I want to make clear here that we are not saying that having a pretty face and a nice set of tits means that you have no brain. I am instead saying that it seems rather fortuitous that the girl selected as today's Page 3 model has decided to express a positive view on one of the matters that editor Rebekah Wade has uppermost in her mind today:

"We are proudly launching The Sun Military Awards — to be known as The Millies — in honour of our brave boys and girls. Charles spoke of his own concerns as a parent after seeing Prince Harry go to war. And he called on the nation to show gratitude for the courage shown and sacrifices made on its behalf."

"Our annual awards ceremony — the first exclusively for the Armed Forces — will highlight the awe-inspiring bravery of these amazing men and women... It is vital to our troops fighting abroad that the public back home are rooting for them. Our annual Millies will, we hope, send them that message loud and clear."

I'll leave to one side how pleased Prince Charles must with the support shown on Page 3 and that this campaign is certainly about 'Our Boys' and not 'Our Circulation' and , because I wish to return to my central point:

Gosh, isn't Rebekah wade *lucky* that the girl scheduled to appear on Page 3 today was so on board with the idea, so comfortable about speaking about it, and so damn eloquent in her delivery?

One can only wonder what happens when the girl scheduled to appear on any given day holds an opinion contrary to the editorial line on the lead story (assuming that this has ever happened, because I've never seen it).

Does she get to choose another story to comment on (in the hope that her opinion on that is more in keeping with the editorial line), or does she lose her chance to appear that day?

In other words, how much say do the Page 3 girls have in what they say on Page 3?

I think readers deserve to know.