Thursday, 26 February 2009

The Sun - Tabloid Lies

Readers with a long memory may remember this story in the Sun from last March, which was repeated via numerous websites:
A MUSLIM bus driver told stunned passengers to get off so he could PRAY.

The white Islamic convert rolled out his prayer mat in the aisle and knelt on the floor facing Mecca.

Passengers watched in amazement as he held out his palms towards the sky, bowed his head and began to chant.

One, who filmed the man on his mobile phone, said: “He was clearly praying and chanting in Arabic.
Well, the Sun subsequently retracted it and has now had to pay out £30,000 on a libel claim, not to mention whatever they'll have to pay out in legal costs:
A London bus driver today accepted £30,000 in damages from the Sun over a claim that he ordered passengers off his vehicle so that he could pray.

The story in March last year caused Arunas Raulynaitis considerable distress and embarrassment, his solicitor, Stephen Loughrey, told Mr Justice Eady at the high court in London.

Loughrey said the newspaper now accepted that the allegations were entirely false and that Raulynaitis did not order any passengers off, there was no rucksack and no one refused to reboard because they feared he was a fanatic.
So now you know where our name comes from!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Glen Jenvey fallout widens.

The fallout from the Sun's publishing of the claims of Glen Jenvey on its front page continues to grow - now Alan Sugar himself is starting legal action against the paper, claiming that its publication of the story put his security at risk, rather, it seems, than and its marauding Islamic fanatics with their letters of hate. It remains unclear exactly what Sugar is claiming, although it seems more than likely that he'll be after some sort of settlement, which when libelled in the past he has donated to charity. In any event, the Sun must be deeply regretting its incredibly poor journalism and how much it might potentially cost it, with both a PCC investigation and now a legal battle on its hands.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Wilby on the Alfie Patten saga.

There's an outstanding piece in the Graun today by Peter Wilby on the Sun's coverage of the Aflie Patten saga. Not only does he disclose that the reports came to an abrupt end last Wednesday after the High Court stepped in, something that doesn't seem to have been reported elsewhere unless I missed it, but he completely nails the Sun on one point especially, one which I missed in my own post on the affair (which I didn't really think was appropriate for here, as it didn't directly concern hypocrisy or lies):

In truth, the story was about the media - not schools, the NHS or welfare. Several columnists nostalgically recalled the days when a teenage pregnancy was hushed up. They didn't mention how the media-created stardom of Alfie and Chantelle suggests premature parenthood has become a route to instant riches and fame. Once, when a girl got pregnant, every teenage boy in the neighbourhood would deny he ever laid a finger on her. Last week, they fell over themselves to claim fatherhood of Chantelle's baby - two candidates were named - presumably in the belief they might get a small slice of the rewards on offer.

If Alfie is indeed the father, he and Chantelle and their child might recover from their premature parenthood to lead successful and fulfilling lives. The media, however, have greatly reduced their chances of doing so. I fear this affair brings statutory press regulation a step closer. The Sun's editor, Rebekah Wade, claims to care deeply about children and has campaigned tirelessly for the names and addresses of convicted abusers to be available to parents. I suggest she looks into Alfie's eyes in that picture on her own front page and asks herself what she sees there.

Perhaps she will join another campaign, to make the addresses of Sun reporters also available to parents. You never know: there might be one near you and your children.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Pure Propaganda

The Sun:
HARRY REDKNAPP believes Sky TV’s new £2billion deal with the Premier League “secures the game’s future”.

Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand joined the Tottenham boss and a host of top football names in hailing the three-year contract.
SunSport columnist Harry said: “It’s a great relief to the game to get this deal in the bag.”

England defender Rio added: “It’s great Sky will show all the drama of the Premier League for another three years.”

Richard Bevan, chief exec of the League Managers’ Association, said: “Sky’s investment has revolutionised viewing.

Who owns the Sun? Who owns Sky? Here's a pencil, join the dots.


Thursday, 19 February 2009

Can the Sun get a simple thing right? (No.)

The Sun's leader today again "confuses" the European Court of Human Rights with the European Union (url subject to change):

Yet he’s still here, costing us hundreds of thousands, because defending our own nation must take second place to EU human rights laws.

I say confuses because I can't be completely certain that the Sun isn't deliberately confusing the ECHR, which is connected with the Council of Europe, with the European Union, mainly because of the Sun's visceral loathing for the latter. It is however, as Nosemonkey notes, a reasonably common mistake, despite the fact that the ECHR was a product of the 1950s, while we didn't join the European Economic Community, the forebear to the EU, until the 1970s. We also had a major role in the set-up and drafting of the ECHR, which is another reason why the persistent claims that we're surrendering to Brussels over human rights is such abject nonsense.

In any case, the Sun's conflation will doubtless further cause resentment towards the European Union when it has nothing to do with it. On that point alone it registers as a mistake bordering on a lie.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Alfie, the Sun and the PCC

From the PCC...

The Press Complaints Commission has announced an inquiry into alleged payments by The Sun and the People to the parents of Alfie Patten.

Apparently, no-one has complained, the Commission has decided to look into this itself with reference to Clause 6 of the code...

"Minors must not be paid for material involving children's welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interests".

Which it is allowed to do, and fair enough really, considering the subject matter and the age of the boy.


Sunday, 15 February 2009

The Sun defends its Baby P reporting

On 29th January a blogger on the Community Care site sent this open letter to the editor of The Sun, Rebekah Wade. Excerpted below:

You said that the campaign was a fight for justice and that it sought to expose the lack of accountability and responsibility for his death. You went on to emphasise the importance of expressing public opinion.

This being the case, you will no doubt be interested to hear about some important omissions and biases in The Sun's reporting of this case.

The most important omission, given your crusade for accountability and responsibility, is The Sun's failure to mention the involvement of the General Social Care Council - social care's equivalent of the General Medical Council.

The GSCC regulates the social care workforce in England. It has a duty to investigate concerns about social workers and can remove or suspend them from the register or place an admonishment on their registration. The GSCC has barred 28 social workers from practising in England since its conduct system was launched in 2006. Six social workers have been struck off in Scotland and seven in Wales.

The practitioners involved in the Baby P case are subject to the same scrutiny: the GSCC is currently investigating several of them. Your coverage has on numerous occasions referred to the General Medical Council but unfortunately made no mention of the General Social Care Council, giving the impression that there was no system for regulating the social care workforce.

Instead of telling your readers about the fair, balanced and evidence-based system in place to judge the social care practitioners involved, your coverage implied that The Sun's campaign was filling a void by demanding justice and accountability.

Meanwhile, you treated the other professions involved in the Baby P case quite differently. You almost entirely overlooked the police officers who twice arrested Baby P's mother on suspicion of child cruelty and released her without charge. You were content for the GMC to pass judgement on the medical professionals.

Your efforts were focused squarely on social workers to the exclusion of others: your petition asserts that "Baby P was allowed to die despite 60 visits from Haringey social services", when in fact he was seen 60 times by health and social work professionals.

Informed public opinion is undoubtedly important. Unfortunately, your coverage misinformed your readers. And in considering their views ahead of the facts and the informed opinions of the social workers who struggle with the realities at the frontline everyday, you have risked more children's safety and maybe their lives.

In 27 consecutive editions following the conclusion of the trial of Baby P's killers, you singled out Maria Ward, the social worker allocated to Baby P's case, over and above the other professionals involved. She was named 55 times, in 31 articles, editorials, opinion columns and readers' letters. Your editorials labelled her "lazy" and "useless", while one story speculated on her mental health.

This pursuit was unnecessary - Ward will be investigated in the usual way - and it marred the whole profession. It alienated talented social workers nationwide. Since your campaign, evidence has already begun to emerge from our readers and elsewhere that some social workers have decided to stop practising and vacancy rates in London are approaching crisis levels. It is also likely to discourage bright students from entering the profession, undermining efforts to recruit much-needed social workers into children's services.

Social work is one of the most high-pressure jobs and when there are not enough staff, team members are left to struggle with unreasonable workloads, leaving less time for each case. Ultimately, it is the children who will suffer.

I could summarise the reply very neatly with the use of this image* but we're a bit more grown up than that here at Tabloid Lies, so here is the Suns' full reply from Graham Dudman, the Suns' Managing Editor:

Dear Daniel,

Thank you for your letter to Rebekah Wade which has been passed to my office.

I am sorry you believe The Sun’s campaign for justice for Baby P is irresponsible and biased .

You are, of course, entitled to that view. Although The Sun plus the 1,500,000 people who signed our petition disagree with you.

We are proud to have campaigned successfully to have those responsible held accountable, especially as they continue to refuse to apologise.

I agree social work is a difficult job at the best of times but make no apologies for the way we highlighted the appalling catalogue of mistakes that led to Baby P’s death.

Yours sincerely

Graham Dudman

Managing Editor

The Sun

No explanation as to why the reporting wasn't biased, or indeed irresponsible, when the other services involved were barely criticised and of course, subtley calling for a lynch mob is the height of responsibility.

The use of the 1.5 million people and the patronising affirmation of the letter writers', Daniel Lombard, entitlement to a different view means that it is not a valid view as oh so many people disagree with him and they're all so much better qualified to judge the case and decide whether the appropriate regulating bodies are going to adequately punish those responsible.

As for the apology. Why should the social workers make an apology to anyone other than, in my view, their bosses and Baby Ps' remaining family. Why should they have to make a public apology? Why should they apologise to the Sun? The social workers involved may very well have apologised already.

And finally the Sun makes no apology for the way it reported something.

No change there then.

*image from here
h/t Jon Slattery

Friday, 13 February 2009

A reverse ferret to rival Diana.

At times it's worth casting your mind back and taking stock of just how much difference a couple of years can make. The Sun's editorial from the 19th of January 2007:

TONIGHT is a moment of truth for Britain.

Out of nowhere, a Channel 4 show watched by a few million has erupted from being a bit of a laugh to a defining moment in the way Britain is seen by the rest of the world.

Make no mistake. Much more hangs on tonight’s Celebrity Big Brother eviction vote than the issue of whether Jade Goody or Shilpa Shetty stays in the house.

At stake is whether we are happy to be seen as a nation willing to tolerate vile bullying and foul-mouthed yobbishness.

That is why The Sun urges every reader who loves Britain to pick up a phone and make sure the ghastly Jade Goody is kicked out tonight.

The argument will continue to rage over whether Jade and her moronic mates are guilty of racism.

But no one can dispute that we are witnessing some of the most degrading and repugnant scenes ever broadcast on British television ? and last night’s unconvincing peace-making between Goody and Shilpa did nothing to change that.

And the following day's:

SANITY has prevailed. Thank Heaven for that. Jade Goody went into the Big Brother house appearing to be simply a fun-loving working-class girl canny enough to have made millions from her 15 minutes of fame. It was all a meticulously manufactured lie. She has left the house with her true personality laid bare: A vile, pig-ignorant, racist bully consumed by envy of a woman of superior intelligence, beauty and class. Incredible as it may seem, last night’s vote was the most important in Britain since the last General Election. OK, it’s just a reality TV show. But it became a referendum on whether our nation, with the eyes of the world on us, was prepared to back a home-grown yob over a dignified Indian actress. We weren’t and the result has restored faith in the British public. Hopefully Jade will now slither back under the rock from where she crawled before her debut on Big Brother in 2002. As for her two spineless, sniggering sidekicks ... let’s hope they join her.

Back then to today:

From slithering back under the rock to the tragedy we all feared in just more than 24 months. Even by tabloid standards of attention span, this must be a reverse ferret that's close to rivalling the one following the death of Diana.

Now with added emotion!

The Sun:

HEARTBROKEN TV star Lorraine Kelly has told of her agony over the murder of her local Big Issue seller.

Tragic Paddy McDade was found in his flat last month in what police described as a “particularly brutal” scene.

Now GMTV favourite Lorraine has paid tribute to the 37-year-old who worked outside Dundee’s Marks and Spencer store.

The Scottish Sun columnist said: “I used to buy my Big Issue from Paddy whenever I was in Markies.”

Speaking to the mag, she added: “He was always so cheery. He’ll be sadly missed.”

Heartbroken? Agony? Lorraine must've known Paddy very well to be in such grief, otherwise Lorraine would just be 'shocked' or 'saddened'.

Could the Sun be exaggerating their columnist's feelings?
The Sun's piece says 'Speaking to the mag' so nobody at the Sun's office has spoken to Lorraine and the piece has been lifted wholesale from The Big Issue...

Lorraine spoke of her sadness when she heard of the death of Paddy McDade, who used to sell the magazine outside Marks and Spencer in Seagate.
“I used to buy my Big Issue from Paddy whenever I was shopping in Markies,” she said. “He was always so chatty, optimistic and cheery even when the rain was hammering down. He will be sadly missed.”

Ah, 'sadness'. Ms Kelly's' heart is still in tact, spared of agony for someone she barely knew. The words she spoke in the Big Issue are pretty stock for a celeb that had a passing acquaintance with someone.

Thanks to the Sun, though, she has a couple of extra emotions added and viola, Lorraine seems more sensitive and caring and so, when she writes her column, you know she's not a hard nosed woman, but is writing from the heart and has our best interests in mind.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

The reality of a hate campaign.

Today's extensive interview with Sharon Shoesmith in the Guardian gives us a truly valuable insight into what it's like to be at the head of a media storm, a storm that the Sun was at the forefront of fomenting. It makes for truly appalling reading:

On November 13 the Sun demanded sackings, and vowed not to rest until it got them. If Shoesmith wouldn't go, it said, the government had to put in a new boss. "A price must be paid for his little life, and we will not rest until that price has been paid by those responsible."

It ran pictures of Shoesmith and four others, with phone numbers underneath, urging readers acquainted with them to call in. Ed Balls, the children's secretary, ordered an independent review, and Haringey council made a formal apology. Sixty-one headteachers wrote to the papers in support a couple of days later, but they were swept away by a campaign notable for the ugliness it permitted in some of its readers. The first time Shoesmith realised the size and nature of what was being unleashed against her was a call from her 89-year-old mother in Belfast, who had been told by a reporter that Shoesmith was responsible for the death of a child, and was immensely distressed. In order to avoid photographers outside her flat she had to leave for work at 6:30am and wait, at night, until neighbours told her the coast was clear. Both she and her youngest daughter received death threats, and her daughter had to be moved out of London. Her email inbox and voice messages filled with support but also with people calling her a child killer.

She began to suffer periods of uncontrollable shaking. One man called her at 5am every morning with a different suggestion for how to kill herself. Police advised her to stay away from tube platforms, because it would be so easy to push her off. She did, she admits, think of doing it herself anyway. "You do consider how to stop it all, you know. You can just walk off the end of the tube platform and stop it all and I certainly did think about that on occasion, and there was certainly another occasion in the middle of the night when I gathered up all the paracetamol that existed in the house and there was nothing like enough." Her daughters moved in to be with her day and night.

The one time she does cry is when she thinks of Maria Ward, the social worker, being the subject of a similar campaign, and becoming unable to operate; she was eventually moved away for her own safety. Even uninvolved Haringey social workers were reporting that they were finding it suddenly more difficult and frightening to do their jobs, because clients were refusing to co-operate, or being abusive. On 18 November the Sun quoted an anonymous Shoesmith family member saying they wanted her to go; she says this was completely untrue, but she knew it was a turning point. "Whatever that report said, there was only one route for me."

We already knew that Maria Ward, the social worker assigned to Baby P, had been so traumatised by his death and then the press campaign against her that she had become suicidal; that Shoesmith also contemplated in detail and even went as far as gathering together paracetamol for an attempt on her own life is even more disturbing. Despite knowing full well what its hysterical coverage of the case was doing, with the comments below the story about Ward's suicidal mindset being full of readers encouraging her to do it, the Sun only later closed down the comments and did nothing whatsoever to tone down its coverage.

The Sun of course knew that this was almost certainly what would happen when it demanded the sacking of all those involved, that readers would inevitably escalate things further, and that the use of language such as "a price to be paid for his little life" was the equivalent of a red rag to a bull. This shocking disregard for the well-being of those involved who were already scarred by their failure to save the life of a child in their care is however typical of the tabloid attitude towards those they chose to target; the irony is that while protesting about the death of a baby which could have been prevented they were potentially putting the lives of the others involved in jeopardy. The impact on the victims is always an alien concept, something which is neither their fault or anything to do with them. All that matters to them is their sales and their pandering to the lowest common denominator.

When Dr David Kelly committed suicide after being exposed as the source for Andrew Gilligan's infamous "sexing up" story on the Today programme, newspapers quite rightly accused the government of potentially having blood on their hands. The press however has a far worse record when it comes to instigating hate, as campaigns on paedophiles and other controversial subjects down the year have shown. Most notoriously, Stephen Ward killed himself after he became embroiled in the Profumo affair, prosecuted for living off immoral earnings when he had done no such thing, described by Roy Greenslade in his history of the British press post-1945 as the biggest non-story of all time. It is only by luck rather than judgement that the press did in this instance not take further lives after their demands for reparations for the one those targeted failed to protect.

Clarkson backs down

Jeremy Clarkson - Sun columnist has described Gordon Brown as a "one eyed Scottish idiot"

He has since apologised in this manner

"In the heat of the moment I made a remark about the prime minister's personal appearance for which, upon reflection, I apologise."

This apology leaves a gap - does he believe that Gordon Brown is an idiot, and the fact that he is Scottish is of relevance?

Does the Sun condone his racist tome?

It would seem so - link - the comments are *interesting*

Friday, 6 February 2009

Heartless obfuscation.

The Sun has major form in repeatedly playing down the abuses conducted in the name of the "war on terror". In probably the most despicable instance, it called the beating to death of Baha Mousa in Iraq a "so-called crime", even after one soldier had been sentenced to prison for admitting his role in his death. It almost completely ignored the Abu Ghraib scandal, and has printed hardly anything whatsoever about extraordinary rendition. Only a couple of weeks ago it denounced David Miliband for daring to suggest that the use of the phrase "war on terror" had been unhelpful and even counter-productive. It's therefore not much of a surprise to know that it doesn't want Binyam Mohamed, the last British resident at Guantanamo Bay, to return to this country. It's the obfuscation involved in its argument that really rankles:

LET’S concentrate on the undisputed facts about Binyam Mohamed, the Guantanamo terror suspect who claims he was tortured.

FACT: Mohamed, an Ethiopian, sought asylum here in 1994 and was allowed to stay till 2000.

FACT: In 2001, after converting to Islam, he disappeared to the Taliban badlands of Afghanistan, saying it was to kick a drug habit.

FACT: In 2002 he tried TWICE to fly to Britain from Pakistan on a false passport bearing the picture of another man.

To begin with, Mohamed naturally only "claims" that he was tortured. Presumably whoever wrote this leader then assumes that Mohamed, who had his penis repeatedly slashed with a razor while he was in Moroccan custody and has the scars to prove it, something that MI6 has admitted they might have helped with due to their providing information about him to the Americans, did so himself as an alternative to masturbation. Likewise, it's a fact that Mohamed was a resident here, even though he was not an actual citizen. On these grounds David Miliband has already requested his release. Also a fact is that while Mohamed did travel to Afghanistan, although what exactly the "Taliban badlands" are is anyone's guess, he went to Pakistan after 9/11. The last "fact" seems to be completely irrelevant: as long as Mohamed was a resident here and his presence was perfectly legal, that he was travelling on a false passport is neither here nor there.

Now, it is thought, the Government is preparing to let Mohamed return.

Arguments continue about whether his alleged confessions were made under duress by security agents trying to stop terrorist atrocities.

These arguments are only occurring in the Sun's mind: no one else disputes that Mohamed was tortured. Why else was he flown from Pakistan to Morocco, then Afghanistan and finally to Guantanamo if it wasn't for the purpose of extracting information from him through mistreatment? Were these in fact just holiday trips disguised as torture sessions? Similarly, the idea that these were by security agents desperate to stop "terrorist atrocities" is both a joke and a disgraceful semi-justification for what is both a crime and completely counter-productive.

But one fact is certain: We DON’T want him back.

Err, except that isn't a fact: that's a statement. It's also one that shows the true heartlessness of the Sun: this is a man that has been viciously tortured, not convicted of any crime and whose detention and abuse we have connived with, and yet the Sun would still have him turned away from the country which he called home, presumably to waste away as he is currently doing in Guantanamo. The paper, as always, only believes in justice for those it deems acceptable.

Intelligence and lazy smears.

Another article I missed but which is now causing controversy was the Sun's exclusive on Wednesday concerning the arrest of an army colonel on suspicion of leaking casualty figures to Human Rights Watch. To call the story a lazy smear would be perhaps putting it too politely:

A BRITISH Colonel is alleged to have leaked highly sensitive civilian casualty figures after being befriended by a woman from a human rights group.

A senior source told The Sun that Lt Col Owen McNally started passing details to her when the pair became “close” in Afghanistan.

In case you don't get the incredibly subtle allusion being made here, the allegation appears to be that McNally handed over the true civilian casualty figures after conducting an affair with Rachel Reid, a former BBC journalist. Problem is, Reid herself completely denies it:

According to news reports, Colonel Owen McNally has been flown back to Britain, where he will reportedly be interviewed by military police. The Ministry of Defence has told media that I was the recipient of these secrets as a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Whatever the MoD has whispered into the ear of the Sun, Col McNally and I met only twice, both times in a purely professional capacity, both times at the Nato military HQ in Kabul. Both times we met to talk about civilian casualties from US and Nato air strikes.

What has happened in the last couple of days has been bewildering. I do not understand how these two meetings might have led the British government to accuse McNally of a serious crime that could lead to a hefty jail sentence, and why my government might want to see my reputation dragged through the mud, when I live in a country where a woman's reputation can mean her life. The meetings seemed unexceptional. A QC retained by Human Rights Watch has confirmed that the kind of information I received is not covered by the Official Secrets Act.

If the ministry had been seriously concerned that one of their officers was leaking information, why leak it to the media? Why was my name released to the media by the MoD, with a (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) libel that our relationship was "close"? They would know exactly what impression they were creating, and presumably decided that my reputation was expendable in order to ensure coverage of their "story".

Conor Foley provides some further background information:

A similar cloud of surrealism shrouds the charges against McNally. He was the UN mission's (Unama) focal point with ISAF and just last week made a presentation on how to improve civil-military liaison and bring greater transparency to Nato's operations. His job was to liaise with the civilian parts of the Afghan mission and he was highly respected within the international community in Kabul for his professionalism.

McNally is thought to be one of the army's most senior former non-commissioned officers. He joined the army as a private in 1977 and worked his way up through the ranks before being commissioned in 1995. The idea that he would throw away his career for a passionate fling seems extremely implausible, but his arrest does highlight a broader problem about the levels of secrecy surrounding many aspects of Nato's military strategy in Afghanistan.

In essence, McNally seems to have been doing his job. For his trouble, and for being honest and helping a true picture of the number of civilian casualties enter into the public domain, he gets arrested on trumped up charges, and the woman also only doing her job gets accused of exchanging sex for information. The newspaper chosen for this news to be leaked to is one that is completely behind the campaign in Afghanistan, and one which has no compunction in such sleazy smears being thrown around. Whether it's claiming that al-Qaida fighters caught plague, that they're raping fighters into becoming suicide bombers, or that a colonel broke the OSA in return for sex, it's just further evidence that you cannot take a single word written in the Sun seriously.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

More Algerian anti al-Qaida psy-ops.

On occasion, you fail to see the wood for the trees. Doing my daily pathetic trawl of the Sun's website, I came across Tom Newton Dunn's exclusive "Al-Qaeda in gay rape horror" and just dismissed it as the typical Sun nonsense which isn't worth bothering with or challenging. The excellent jihadica though has joined together the dots:

I would not normally bother with this kind of nonsense were it not for the fact that it sheds light on the recent reports about AQIM’s alleged plague experiments, covered previously on Jihadica. Both stories were broken in the West by The Sun, and both stories relied on Algerian security sources. We are most likely dealing here with an anti-al-Qaida psy-op, and a very poor one at that.

Which I also had covered and dismissed as most likely being complete and utter nonsense. I didn't however note that the story had been officially denied by the Algerians and also the WHO, despite a separate report appearing in the equally authoritative Washington Times claiming that it had been the result of a failed weaponising attempt.

It is indeed, as jihadica suggests, a very poor psy-op. The idea that al-Qaida and its connected franchises have to rape their recruits in order to shame them into becoming suicide bombers is completely absurd; there are, as Iraq and Afghanistan have sadly made all too clear, more than enough willing "martyrdom seekers" without them having to descend to such tactics. This isn't to discount the idea that, like with many other organisations, especially ones where young men spend plenty of time together and are encouraged to become fraternal brothers, even those who thelogically consider homosexuality to be abhorrent, that such relationships might develop, but it doesn't seem very likely. There have been cases where young teenage boys have been suicide bombers, but they still seem likely to be the products of madrasas and careful personal radicalisation rather than sexual abuse.

The Algeria connection does however seem to be the key. Perhaps borne out of the fear that al-Qaida in the Islamic Mahgreb is growing in strength, these stories seem to be meant to further demonise them and nip in the bud any support both within Algeria and the outside world for them. Likewise, the idea that al-Qaida is running out of recruits, as "experts believe", is nonsense. In Iraq maybe, where the jihad has fallen on hard times, mainly as result of the other insurgent groups joining the Awakening councils having became tired of the Islamic State of Iraq's brutality, and where the routes which the foreign fighters came in on have been closed, but elsewhere the Taliban is growing in strength, as is the insurgency in Somalia, both now more favoured among jihadists than Iraq.

Again, we have to question why these stories are being passed to the Sun if indeed they are anything approaching accurate. It seems simply that the Sun's being given them both because they'll print them and because no one else with any sense or with an authority they want to keep will. As we saw with the plague story, none of that bothers the rabid jihadist watchers, or the Muslim-bashers who are inclined to take such accounts at face value, and that may be all that matters.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Facebook-bashing rears its ugly head.

One of the things we look out for on this blog is not just articles that are obvious bullshit or propaganda, but signs that the Sun is cleaning up its act. It was therefore in a fit of good vibes that the above banner suggested that the Sun was dropping its animus towards News International's main rival in the social networking game, Facebook, and coming clean about its own shortcomings. After all, the last time there was a purge of "pervs" from MySpace, the Sun strangely didn't so much as print a single word about it.

It soon becomes obvious why the Sun has decided to trumpet the fact that so many "sex offenders" have been removed from MySpace - because, obviously, they're all now on Facebook instead!

MYSPACE has banned 90,000 sex offenders from its site — but the pervs may be turning to rival Facebook.

New measures to make online social networking safer resulted in the MySpace purge.

But technology experts claimed last night to have found 8,000-plus sex fiends on Facebook.

John Cardillo, a former New York City cop who runs internet security firm Sentinel, said: “We’ve identified and removed 90,000 sex offenders from MySpace.

“But Facebook could still be a haven for such people. We found 8,487 registered sex offenders on Facebook in just a few days by doing a basic search that any user can access.

“So that’s a small percentage of what is there.

“If you look at the size of its community, there could be as many as 100,000 sex offenders or paedophiles on Facebook.”

Yep, that's right, this entire piece is only appearing for two reasons: to crow about MySpace's great success in deleting the scourge of modern life from their site, while at the same time acting as PR for John Cardillo's company, employed by MySpace; and to bash Facebook for not being so cautious. Also, incredibly coincidentally no doubt, today just happens to be Facebook's 5th birthday; its rival wouldn't be trying to spoil the party, would it? Surely not.

If Facebook is telling the full story, than Cardillo's programme seems to be incredibly crude in any case: it seems to search for the names of registered sex offenders and little else, which MySpace then removes. Either that, or Cardillo, when applying his software to Facebook, just searched for the names and didn't remove the false positives for propaganda reasons.

The Sun had actually seemed to be letting the rivalry with Facebook go, perhaps because Murdoch himself is wondering whether his purchase of the company was worth it when Facebook is both far more popular and objectively a better site. That might still be the case, and the Scum was just determined to pop Facebook's own publicity bubble. Regardless, any real newspaper when dealing with such a story would have pointed out the obvious huge conflicts of interest: the Sun instead just treats its own readers as fools and ciphers in their own propaganda war.

Gordon Smart: Travel Advisor

Two words: Gordon. Smart.

No Rock and Roll Fun:
If nobody turns up to do anything interesting in the UK, there's always Amy Winehouse to fall back on:

Amy's off to isle of druggies


.RECOVERING junkie AMY WINEHOUSE is planning a change of scenery — by moving to druggie paradise Jamaica.

No, I'm sure The Sun checked that that is the official tourism slogan the country is using right now.

God, Jamaica sounds terrible:

The Rehab singer, 25, wants to record her hugely-delayed third album on the Caribbean island where illegal drugs are known to be widely available.
The label is “fully aware” Jamaica is awash with drugs like crack cocaine and cannabis.

What a horrible sounding place - awash with drugs, you say. It's slightly odd, then, that last summer the Sun's travel column was recommending the island as a place for a jolly holiday, isn't it?

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

The Poor old Beeb

I'm sorry, but I'm gonna call out Jon Gaunt right now. He's a bully and a bit of a shit.

The BBC has had a torrid 12-months or so. The 'Wossy/Brand' affair (Sachsgate™), which has to be the most overblown media hissy fit since the last one, still rumbles on like some colossal gelatinous space blob - consuming column inches and careers with unrelenting appetite.

Then, as if flogging dead horses were a national sport, the lefties and proggies have taken the Beeb to task over its refusal to show an appeal for Palestinians caught in the Israeli siege of Gaza.

Now exhausted and emasculated, having been poked, beaten and punched by both the left and right, the BBC has to contend with the flabby frame of Jon Gaunt piling on like an over-excitable school-yard bully.

On the pages of last Friday's Sun - which lets remember is part of the very same family of outlets that includes the BBC's main rival: Sky TV - Gaunty welcomes the Beeb's gutless decision not to air the Gazan appeal, before spending the rest of his column in a bitchy tirade against auntie that had all the fairness and plurality of a Klan lynching.

When Sun readers follow these diatribes, do they actually understand The Sun's (or rather News Corporation's) commercial interest in attacking The BBC? I'm all for free speech, but I've never seen a disclaimer printed below these bitch-pieces, explaining the paper's interest in the network's fortunes.

Is it right that Murdoch uses The Sun as his own salivating attack dog? And what do we think of Gaunt, a man apparently willing and eager to whore himself out as Rupe's lieutenant?

Well I think 'Jon Gaunt: rent-a-shit' has a nice ring to it.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Yes, but no, but...

'Sun' editor Rebekah Wade said at Monday's Hugh Cudlipp lecture she's sick of defending Kelvin MacKenzie, her predecessor. But does she also have to apologise for Trevor Kavanagh, her paper's associate editor? In his column that day he decried the BBC for failing to broadcast the Gaza appeal, calling the uproar "as loud as it is justified". The only other broadcaster not to show the appeal was, er, Sky, News Corp stable-mate of 'The Sun'. Luckily, the paper was back on message the next day when Fergus Shanahan pronounced the Beeb was right after all. Phew!