Friday 29 August 2008

Setting up "investigations" with only one possible outcome.

Occasionally, the Sun likes to take a break from attacking the "work shy" and on benefits just in print and decides to set-up a fallacious test to prove just what a bunch of layabouts those on benefits are. Previously it sent a hack to Rochdale, who quickly discovered that, surprise surprise, a tabloid newspaper journalist in his 40s and in a suit could get a job reasonably quickly. Throughout it didn't bother to outline what benefits those in Falinge in Rochdale were actually on; whether it was jobseeker's allowance, income support or incapacity benefit, but what do little things like that matter when you're attacking some of the most vulnerable, sorry I mean most bone idle in society?

This time the paper has been completely caught out by its own readers, which happily saves me the bother. Taking out advertisements in a local newspaper in Merthyr Tydfil, another "benefits blackspot", the paper offered an imaginary position for a cleaner in a new office development. The job required no experience (you don't say), paid the minimum wage and was for a minimum of 10 hours a week. Unsurprisingly, just one person bothered to apply for the job, a 22-year-old who wanted to combine it with going back to college, and whom most of the rest of the article is dedicated to.

The flaw in the Sun's plan to expose the population of Merthyr Tydfil as scroungers is quite apparent: only jobseeker's allowance for those under 24 pays less than the Sun's 10-hour minimum wage job would, at £46.85 a week. Considering that the rent on the most dingy bed-sit around is often in the region of £70 a week or more, it's hardly surprising that just one person took the Sun up on their remarkably generous offer. The only way in which the job might have been worth the while of someone on the dole taking it would be if they could combine it with another part time job, but unless they had another which they'd found at the same time, they'd still be out of pocket. The other two jobs which the Sun advertised were also minimum wage, but were for 20 hours and 35 hours respectively, and received 60 applications, as the paper freely admits. Hardly the sign of an area more willing to live on benefits than to work.

As I said, I didn't need to do any of the work here as the commenters on the story had already done it for me:

"Come on, get real,,,, what use is a 10-hour a week job to anybody?? Hardly gets you off the dole does it?? I like to work my living, but if I was unemployed I wouldn't apply for a job offering 10 hours a week, especially on minimum wage. You can't pay your rent/mortgage and live on that money, so the 'test' was totally unrealistic. Put an ad in for a good job, on good money and I think you'll find there's plenty of genuine job seekers."

Which they of course did.

"This was a 10 hour job on £5.56 an hour. That works out at £55.60 a week, yet you get £60 a week on JSA, plus benefits, are they surprised no-one applied, I wouldn't have either!"


"Clean toilets for £5 an hour?! I'm not surprised no one wanted the job, I wouldn't do it."


Of course, this is all well and good when reading the paper online, but just how many of the Sun's 3 million readers check up on the reports they read in the paper on the site later is likely to be in the hundreds, if that. They've been given a completely false picture of a town on the basis of an "investigation" which doesn't stand up to the slightest scrutiny. That, I'm pretty sure, counts as a particularly egregious lie and a slur on those unfortunate enough to be on benefit through no fault of their own.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Knife crime and cooking the figures.

Apart from the Sun's inexorable hypocrisy, one of its other main exports is its shockingly bad journalism. Sometimes it's just downright laziness; on other occasions it's abundantly clear that it's both laziness and someone not having the first clue what they're talking about.

A perfect example is today's "Just one in 5,000 knife kids jailed":

"JUST one in 5,000 kids who carry knives are locked up for the crime.

Shocking figures obtained by The Sun show that of the 1,164 ten to 15-year-olds caught with blades last year, just 30 ended up behind bars.

That is a fraction of the 150,000 of that age who admitted in a Government survey to carrying a knife over the past year. Victims’ charities branded it “deeply disturbing”.

The Sun’s figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, show three kids a day were caught carrying a knife in England and Wales in the year up to April.


Around half escaped with a caution.

The other 600 were prosecuted, but of those just 30 — a mere five per cent — were locked up."

Of all the figures presented here, the only ones which aren't nonsensical are the ones from the Sun's freedom of information request. That's the 1,164 10-15 year-olds that were caught carrying a knife, the "around half" which "escaped" with a caution, the 600 which were prosecuted, and the 30 which were imprisoned.

The "government survey" which the Sun alludes to is the "young people and crime: findings from the 2006 Offending, Crime and Justice Survey", available as a PDF here. This is a survey based on a sample of 4,591 interviews, after the responses from those over 25 were discarded, which has been weighted to the population at large. The survey found that 3% of 10-25-year-olds had carried a knife in the past year; of this 3%, 46% had carried a pen knife, 20% a flick knife and 12% a kitchen knife, while 54% of that 3% had only carried the knife once or twice during the year, with 18% carrying it three or four times and 17% 10 times or more. Only 4% of this 3% had used the knife to threaten someone, and just 1% of this 3% had actually used it to injure someone.

The Mail, helpfully, extrapolated this 3% to be equivalent to 353,000 young people carrying a knife at least once a year when it reported the survey's findings, although without providing the ultimate figure from which they've worked this out. The Sun is only interested in the 10 to 15-year-olds who have carried a knife, further lowering the 353,000 extrapolation to 150,000, again without providing a base figure for its working. The 5,000 in the headline is then arrived at by simply dividing 150,000 by 30 - the number of those given a custodial sentence.

Any insight that might have been provided by the survey is then completely lost in both the extrapolating and in the complete lack of any explanation. The way the article is written makes it seem as if the 150,000 had directly admitted to carrying a knife - when that itself is a figure that has been arrived at first from a weighted survey, and then by re-calculating the 3% to just include the 10-15 year-olds rather than those up to 25 who were also covered in the survey. Nowhere in the article is there space for it to be pointed out that of the original 3%, over half only carried the knife once or twice over the year, and even then it was a pen knife, which many carry without so much as a thought on a key-ring. Nowhere does the hack responsible, Rhodri Phillips provide the extended quote which the "victims' charities" gave, nor does it explain which victims' charities they were. Nowhere is it questioned whether prison, or a young offenders' institution is the best place for someone between the ages of 10 to 15 to be sent for being caught once carrying a bladed item. Being the liberal lunatic I am, I think such a penalty is only likely exacerbate the problem in the long-term. Finally, just to add insult to injury, the Sun asks for comments for how readers would punish "yobs", which anyone carrying any sort of blade at any time anywhere must instantly be:

"and i wish the other 4,999 got knifed themselves."

In this age of churnalism, the Sun's lazy and dishonest journalism has already spread, with this Telegraph (yep, the Telegraph) article almost certainly being knocked out almost in its entirety from the Sun's original, with some additional figures from the Met's Operation Blunt 2 being tacked on to the end. Here, aspiring journalists, is your lesson in the ways of the industry.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Da-dumb, Da-dumb...

Saturday, 23 August 2008, a shark is photographed in the North Sea and The Sun says:

"Last summer, The Sun published a series of pictures showing what is believed to have been a Great White off the Cornish coast."

Today, 26 August 2008, a shark's tooth is found on a beach in Anglesey, North Wales and The Sun says:

"Last summer The Sun published pictures of what is believed to have been a Great White off the Cornish coast."

Does Rebekah Wade seriously expect her readers to ignore/forget that the only clear and visible evidence of a great white shark off the coast of Cornwall turned out to be a hoax?

Independent on Sunday- Shark!
Guardian - 'Cornish' shark photo was taken in South Africa
Daily Mail - Photograph of Cornwall's great white shark was a hoax
Telegraph - Cornwall Great White Shark photo 'a hoax'

In all the years that people have been fishing, swimming, surfing and searching in that area, no-one has submitted a crebible sighting of a great white shark off the southern coast of England. Or Wales. Ever.

That The Sun would gloss over their humiliation of last summer and suggest otherwise is typical of their arrogance.

And (dare one say it?) they should be thoroughly ashamed of playing on readers' fears.


UPDATE (27 Aug) - Prepare yourselves for an earth-shattering shock:

Practical Fishkeeping - North Wales Great White tooth came from necklace: However, Practical Fishkeeping contacted Douglas Herdson, Information Officer from the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth who was skeptical about the discovery. Herdson told Practical Fishkeeping: "I have only seen a photograph of the tooth in question. It is either a lower jaw tooth of a white shark Carcharodon carcharias, or a very good replica of one. "However, there is a clear hole drilled exactly in the centre of the base, so it would appear to have been lost from a necklace. "It is of course now illegal to import these teeth under the CITES agreement." Shark teeth and shark tooth necklaces are readily available on online auction sites and large examples, like this one, can change hands for £100 or more.

There goes any hope of their shifting the cartons of shark-related merchandise left over from last year's disappointment... and here comes a can that may or may not contain fat, juicy worms.

Almost makes one want to go strolling through recent auction listings, doesn't it?


UPDATE (02 Sep) - Even after this most recent humiliation, they're at it again!

"And in summer 2007 we published photos thought to show one of the maneaters near Cornwall."

Editor: scotch (Beat: Music)

Who are you?

I'm scotch. I've been reading and commenting on blogs for a while now and I reckon it's about time to write some more.

What will you be writing about?

I'll be covering the wonderful world of music and musicians.

Why have you chosen your specific beat?

I've been a musician all my life, mostly in the grubby business of Rock'n'Roll.
Even through my jaded cynicism it still manages to give me hope now and then.

Why are you doing this?

Because The Sun doesn't give a flying plectrum about music or the people who make it. Its only interest is the pornography of scandal and it wouldn't understand hope if hope smacked it on the arse with a cheeseboard.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Bunch of Twits...

There's a story in today's Sun about how the book publisher Random House has caved in to complaints over wording in a novel aimed at teenagers. The complaints have been brought by ASDA/WalMart over a book which has been written by Dame Jacqueline Wilson.

The book question - My Sister Jodie - uses the word "twat" which has now been replaced with the word "twit".

In theory, this isn't that an unreasonable act - after all if a book is aimed at a younger age group then there should be certain levels that should be adhered to. However, from reading the BBC's report, it seems that the use of "twat" is appropriate from the context of the book and her previously published novels: she writes about social issues including "teenage pregnancy, domestic violence and failed suicides".

However, from the Sun's reporting, you would never know this.

It should also be pointed out that this act will create a collector's market for the earlier - pre-censorship - editions. Anyone want to sell me a copy?

More history

All sorts of stuff is being dragged out of The Suns' history books at the moment. First up is from our very own septicisle who, on his own blog compares The Sun's attitude to Jade Goody 18 months apart:

20 January 2007:
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.

19 August 2008:
Get well Jade: Your messages

PLEASE post your messages of support and goodwill for BB legend Jade Goody

More here.

And for seconds, a little nugget from the Eye regarding one of The Suns' columnists and ex-editor, Kelvin MacKenzie:

Private Eye 20/08/08
Some people just can't help but twist the knife.

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Comedy hypocrisy option.

Today's example of comedy hypocrisy via the Sun's leader page:

"WELL-MEANING parents are wasting good money on so-called multi-vitamins.

It turns out they are little more than sweets with tiny levels of nutrients — and the only healthy thing is the manufacturers’ profits.

They should be thoroughly ashamed of playing on parents’ fears."

Today's front page:

Monday 18 August 2008

Paedophile hysteria, the Sun and the Press Complaints Commission.

Outside of the realms of hypocrisy for once and instead onto the Sun's journalistic ethics, or lack thereof. Posted today on their site is a Press Complaints Commission adjudication of a story it ran back in February (the adjudication is yet to appear on the PCC's own website):

"A woman complained to the Press Complaints Commission on behalf of her son that audio visual footage published on The Sun’s website on February 21 had been obtained in breach of Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Code.

The complaint was upheld.

The complainant said that her son had been convicted in 2007 for possession of internet pornography. Although her son had been put on the Sex Offenders Register, the judge did not restrict his movements.

However, a journalist had secretly filmed him working in a supermarket, and had obtained a photograph of him making a delivery to a nursery school kitchen, which her son had done under instruction without breaking any rules.

The newspaper published an article on the subject, and placed the video footage on its website.

The newspaper said that there was a clear public interest. The use of subterfuge in obtaining the audiovisual footage was acceptable, as it was the only way of showing readers the complainant’s son at work in the store.

That said, the newspaper removed the footage from its website and undertook not to reuse it, unless there was a clear public interest to do so.


The Commission concluded that there was a considerable public interest justification for the story as a whole, given that the complainant’s son had made a delivery – as part of his job – to a children’s nursery following his conviction for distributing, making and possessing pornographic images of children.

The newspaper was entitled to highlight, and comment robustly on, this situation.

It was more difficult, however, to justify the taking and use of the audiovisual footage of the complainant’s son at work in the supermarket, given that the public interest element of the story related only to the delivery to the nursery.

The Commission has always said that there must be a powerful public interest justification for the use of undercover filming. On this occasion, there was no dispute that he worked for the supermarket, and the footage was not necessary to prove it.

There was therefore insufficient justification for the subterfuge, and the result was a breach of Clause 10 of the Code on this one specific point.

The Commission rejected other points of complaint about the article itself, which also appeared in the newspaper."

The original report is still on the Sun's website here (isn't it wonderful what putting paedophile+supermarket+nursery into Google brings up?) while the Salisbury Journal has a similar article, based on the Sun's, here.

It's immediately clear from the Sun article that the PCC adjudication is completely correct and that it could hardly have come to a different conclusion; Spencer is quite clearly wearing Sainsbury's uniform in the photograph. Why it felt the need to trail him around the supermarket itself is a mystery: is it being too cynical to wonder whether the Sun was hoping to catch him leering at a child or otherwise while he went about his work, or did so to identify the specific Sainsbury's where he was employed? It perhaps based its story around this one from just under a week earlier, where it "exposed" another paedophile working for a supermarket, this time Tesco, and in this case the video, again apparently taken through subterfuge, is still available.

Where I differ from the PCC is on whether this genuinely was in the public interest. Perhaps it could be justified if it was an article in the local paper, but this is in a national. What do the good burghers of almost anywhere other than Wiltshire care that a man with a conviction for possession of child pornography made a delivery to a nursery along with another worker? The other worker is perhaps key to the whole public interest question. If Spencer had made the delivery on his own, then perhaps it could be justified. As it is, any possibility that Spencer would have had any opportunity to abduct or abuse a child is rendered far more unlikely.

The publishing of the article raises a lot more ethical questions also. I'm sure everyone's aware of Sun editor Rebekah Wade's history, having started the notorious "name and shame" campaign whilst editor of the News of the World, resulting in anti-paedophile protests in Portsmouth and in a paediatrician having her house vandalised, so this sort of "expose" is par for the course. But what purpose exactly is it meant to achieve? While we don't know how severe the abuse (if any physical was depicted) in the 283 images he had in his possession were, the relatively light sentence he received, without any restrictions on his movements suggest that it was regarded at the less serious end of the scale. Certainly the fact that Sainsbury's kept him on, where you would expect he would come into contact with children, suggests that they also didn't regard him as any great threat. Indeed, why is the fact that he visited a nursery at all regarded as some sort of big no-no which shouldn't be crossed? If we're supposed to fear that he might have abducted or abused a child while there, why are we also not afraid that he might do the same when he's not working, or just out on the street, where he's far more likely to come across children alone or without supervision whom would be far easier to kidnap or take advantage of?

Fundamentally, what I'm attempting to address is how we deal with paedophiles as a whole. The Sun's take is pretty transparent: that they should be dealt with as harshly as possible, kept away from all children in much the same fashion, and only work in jobs where they are unlikely to come in contact with them. The question ought to be how do we rehabilitate them or help them rejoin society after such a conviction. The problem is that some, including it seems the Sun, seem to think that such a conviction means that they can be dismissed as sub-human, shunned, and in some cases denied work all together because of their past. The other approach, rather than forcing them underground, seems to be the one which Spencer and Sainsbury's in this case seem to have followed. Which is it that is likely to be more dangerous?

To be clear, I'm by no means in favour of the kind of censorship that would mean the Sun couldn't publish the story again tomorrow if it wanted to. What I do favour is examining the ethics involved in such a story and, when they seem, like in this case, to be lacking, to be heavily critical. To get a taste for the kind of thought which the Sun's story fomented, you only have to look at the comments:

"This is where supervision fails. All those convicted of child related offences should be tagged and monitored via a satelite tracking system. If they enter a forbidden zone (eg. School, nursery etc) they could be picked up immediately by police."

"They reckon for every 1 convicted there are 10 unknown perverts.
when ever i am out with my 3 youngsters i am constantly watching every bloke who glances at my kids, but what can you do? You cant lock em up cause there are no prison spaces. So you have to let them get on with a normal life, and in that normal life they are going to come into contact with kids, so what's the answer? CASTRATE them, thats what they should do"

"Paedo's should not be given a job where they come into contact or go near any children. Tesco deliver my shopping and my children help the man unload the shopping from the van. I would be up in arms if I found out he was a paedo.

Children's safety and wellbeing must come first."

"Once a perv, always a perv! very dangerous sitation to be placed in. How would the conversation go, hey little girl come to the nice sainsbury man!"

"But yes, I think they should all be tagged, they should all have a marking on there head, so everyone knows what they have done, and they are easy to identify."

Although it must be noted there were a couple of dissenters.

Actually perhaps there is hypocrisy here after all: here's Lorraine Kelly from a few weeks back complaining about how we can't comfort a needy child:

"In the 14 years since my child was born, a sinister and almost hysterical mind-set has come into force. It is one that rigidly adheres to the belief that all adults are predatory beasts and there is a paedophile on every street in Britain."

I wonder which newspaper and editor helped to foster this "sinister and almost hysterical mind-set"?

And seeing as we're here, here's La Kelly in the aftermath of the Josef Fritzl case:

"The Austrian police should have a massive recruitment drive and set up a special unit to search every single cellar in their entire country. Who knows what more vile horrors would be revealed." The cops should "start arming themselves with pickaxes, torches and strong stomachs and start searching those cellars".

Oh, and the very same commentator on the dangers to your kids while away from home:

"Without becoming paranoid and wrapping your children in cotton wool, you have to be aware they can be in MORE danger on holiday than at home. Child molesters haunt holiday camps, theme parks and family resorts. You need to be on your guard."

David Thatch-eron

I'm not sure if this quite falls within my remit, but I thought I'd mention it in any event.

Davey-boy Cameron has said in the current issue of GQ that he plans to do for society what Maggie Thatcher did for the UK's economy. Leaving aside any jibes on whether this means he'll turn millions of people against him, there's also the fact that Thatcher did do some work on reforming society, see for example section 28. I'm not sure if this is quite what Cameron means, but it's worth reminding people of what to expect and the Sun seems to have a favourable view of him.

I'm mainly linking to this post for the horrific Photoshop job the Sun has done:

It'll be in my nightmares!

Saturday 16 August 2008

Apologising to the praying bus driver.

A bad weekend for the Sun newspaper (see previous post) is rounded off by a truly humiliating apology:

"AN article on March 29, “Everyone off my bus, I need to pray”, stated that Arunas Raulynaitis, a London bus driver and a Muslim, asked passengers to leave his bus so he could pray and that passengers later refused to re-board the bus because they saw a ruck-sack which made them think he might be a fanatic.

The article included pictures of Mr Raulynaitis praying.

We now accept that these allegations were completely untrue.

Mr Raulynaitis is not a fanatic and he did not ask passengers to leave his bus to allow him to pray.

In fact, he was praying during his statutory rest break.

We apologise to Mr Raulynaitis for the embarrassment and distress caused."

This is after Peter Oborne and his Dispatches documentary on Islamophobia exposed the Sun's original story, featured on my blog in these two posts, as completely untrue. The Sun chose to believe the story of a 21-year-old plumber who had arrived on the scene late rather than wait for the bus company's own investigation, which showed that his account was nonsense. The damage then though had already been done: the story had flung around the moral internet arbiters waiting for any sign of Muslims daring to step out of line, and had been presented as yet another example of "Dhimmitude".

Trevor Kavanagh, the Sun's ex-political editor responded to Oborne's documentary with... Islamophobia. Perhaps he already knew that the paper was going to have to apologise to Arunas Raulynaitis and so was giving it a kicking before the paper had to accept its own. Perhaps he's just ignorant.

Either way, it's far from the first time the Sun's had to apologise for printing stories which have shamelessly assaulted a religion and a community as a whole on hardly any evidence whatsoever. It previously had to admit that its article on "Muslim yobs" attacking a house which soldiers had looked at with a view to moving in was inaccurate after the most likely explanation it turned out was that it was in fact the local residents who had vandalised the house, fearing the soldiers would lower both the tone and house prices. It goes without saying that such unsubstantiated journalism threatens community relations and is often used by extremists, even after such reports have been proved false, to stir up hate. Reporting such topics requires great care, care which the Sun has neither the time nor the inclination to use.

The ghost of Hillsborough

Hillsborough still haunts The Sun.

The Morning Advertiser:
Carlsberg has teamed up with The Sun newspaper to offer readers a free pint of Carlsberg on the August bank holiday weekend.

The promotion will run in The Sun on 23 August, offering 3.2 million readers a voucher that can be redeemed for a free pint of Carlsberg on Sunday, 24 August in more than 13,000 UK pubs.

Erm. Not anymore:
Carlsberg's Sun promotion: Probably worst idea in the world

RED-FACED Carlsberg bosses have apologised to outraged Liverpool fans for their aborted beer promotion with The Sun.

The Danish brewer yesterday axed a deal with the tabloid newspaper to give readers a free pint over the August bank holiday weekend.
Mr Strudahl, part of the [Carlsberg] team which sealed the Anfield sponsorship deal in 1992, confirmed hundreds of strongly-worded letters and emails were sent to their Scandinavian headquarters from all corners of the world.

Probably for the best

Thursday 14 August 2008

Editor: Aaron Heath (Beat: Jon Gaunt)

1. Who are you?

I’m Aaron Murin-Heath. I’m a writer and I live in Tallinn, Estonia (at least at the moment I do). When in the UK I reside in Newark-on-Trent. I blog at and I’m one of the writers at Liberal Conspiracy.

2. What will you be writing about?

Jon “Gaunty” Gaunt. A man who has made a living taking piss-easy populist positions, spouting grade-A faux-outrage, and fuelling the bigotry that is as fundamental to The Sun as the paper it’s printed on. Gaunty, by “profession” a radio presenter, is also the mid-morning host on the controversial radio station talkSPORT.

3. Why are you doing this?

It’s obvious, isn’t it? I utterly loathe the paper with every ounce of my being. The Sun isn’t the only media tool used by the regressive right to mislead the masses, but it is one of the most powerful and vulgar. The Sun trades on the pretence that it’s the rag of the common man, when in fact, it’s a mouthpiece of an intolerant and hateful elite. The Sun treats its readers with the utmost contempt by insulting its collective intelligence and feeding its prejudice. The paper has a fundamental opposition to reason, and as such, should be challenged.

4. Why have you chosen your specific beat and/or what skills and expertise can you bring to it?

Gaunt’s position are usually reactionary and rarely informed. It’s cheap and lazy, and it’s astonishing that this sort of work pays so well. My burden is to call Gaunty on his bullshit.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

EDITOR: Justin McKeating (Beat: David Blunkett)

1. Who are you?
I'm Justin McKeating. I live in Brighton and blog at Chicken Yoghurt, Liberal Conspiracy, and Greenpeace's Nuclear Reaction.

2. What will you be writing about?
I'll be following the blue-sky thinking, kite-flying, and 'please give me a job' brain-dumping from the country's favourite lachrymose blind socialite-impregnator David Blunkett, who writes a weekly column for The Sun.

3. Why are you doing this?
The mutual frottage between the Murdoch Empire and New Labour has been one of the major features of recent political history. Never more was it more blatant or stomach-churning than in the paying of a twice-disgraced minister a six-figure sum to scrawl illiberal fag-packet populism and self-serving sentimentalism on a weekly basis. Does Blunkett speak for anyone but himself? Can he serve two masters? Let's find out. (Just don't get me started on the pieces he ghost-writes for his dog.)

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Brutal hypocrisy.

The Sun, after its complete unwavering support for the Iraq war, has no credibility whatsoever when commenting on other countries' "wars of aggression", but that certainly doesn't stop it from doing so:

"This brutal military invasion of an independent sovereign state is a blatant breach of international law."

Indeed, it probably is. While we'll gloss over the fact that the Sun doesn't deign to mention that it was the Georgians that broke a ceasefire they had just arranged to launch an all-out assault on the capital of South Ossetia, the Sun ought to know about wars in blatant breach of international law: it supported one, in the words of Rupert Murdoch, not because of the suffering of the Iraqi people, but because of the benefits that a $20 barrel of oil would bring.

"Even if Mr Putin could claim provocation, the vicious reprisals which have left thousands of civilians dead, wounded and homeless are grotesquely disproportionate."

A word which the Sun certainly didn't use to describe Israel's similar assault on Lebanon two years previous.

Here though is the Sun's real thoughts on what should have happened:

"America might have stopped Russia by swiftly flying troops into Georgia and calling Mr Putin’s bluff."

Ah yes, troops that America doesn't have to spare, fighting two wars which the Sun backs to the hilt, in order to start quite possibly World War 3. Less talks, more missiles and more deaths please!

"But why should they, when Europe has been so unwilling to help itself — or its greatest ally?"

And so we're back to Europe-bashing, when Europe has undoubtedly been right to refuse Georgia entry to NATO which would be the equivalent of a red rag to a bull, or in this case, a bear.

Editor : poons (Beat: Jeremy Clarkson)

Who am I?
My nick is poons living in Worcester. Started blogging after a call by Tim back in June 2004. Read more than I write these days, but now I have a new focus.

A new focus you say?
Jeremy Charles Robert Clarkson. Petrol head and hater of all things green. Clarkson writes a weekly column in The Sun which is lightweight and frivolous at best. I'm here to keep an eye on his claims.

Clarkson is a Murdoch babe (He also has a regular column in The Times). He uses his fame and notoriety to further a right wing agenda without any thought for the contradictory views. I suspect that my input to this blog will be occasional - weekly at best, but I will be scrutinising his claims with regards to Global Warming and Traffic legislation and highlighting where Jezza is not being totally honest.

Why this beat?
Difficult one this. If the truth be known I actually find Clarkson to be a witty and entertaining writer. I abhor his political standpoint, but there is something likeable about him and for that reason alone, because I suspect that other left leaning readers probably think the same, I feel his claims need further investigation. As to my expertise, I am well aware that Google is my friend.

EDITOR: Richard Bartholomew (Beat: Religion, Law, and Libel)

1. Who are you?

I am Richard Bartholomew, and for the past few years I have been blogging at Bartholomew's Notes on Religion.

2. What will you be writing about?

I have a particular interest in the relations between religion and politics, and between religion and the media; however, during my blogging career I have also become very aware of the need to monitor and critique developments in British libel law. Bizarrely, this last point may mean that from time I may find my myself on the same side as Murdoch.

3. Why are you doing this?

Right-wing distortion and disinformation has been a regular theme on my blog, and on occasion I have assisted American sites such as ConWebWatch (e.g. here) in exposing the likes of Joseph Farah and WorldNetDaily. I also monitor some of the activities of the Washington Times' notorious owner, Rev Sun Myung Moon, at a second blog, called Ambassadors for Moon, and I help to put the US Christian Right into global context as a contributor to Talk to Action.

Rupert Murdoch has appeared a few times on my blog in the past: I've had some fun with the fact that he's a Knight Commander of St Gregory, which is a Papal honour, and with his forays into religious publishing (e.g. here and here) via HarperCollins and Zondervan.

4. Why have you chosen your specific beat and/or what skills and expertise can you bring to it?

I have an academic background in the Study of Religion. My interest in UK libel law and other restrictions on free speech is in part grounded in principle, but as a blogger it is also a strategy for self-preservation.

Monday 11 August 2008

EDITOR: D-Notice (Beat: Politics and Civil Liberties)

Who am I?

I'm D-Notice and I live in London.

What will you be writing about?

If my blog is anything to go on, politics and civil liberties, which despite the Sun's faux-patriotic nationalistic tendencies seems to be virulently opposed to.

When Tim announced the site, I expressed an interest in the task as the Sun's coverage of pretty much everything needs to be commented on and for it to be compiled into one place seems the best way of doing it.

It also stems from a general antipathy towards what passes as “journalism” and “journalistic integrity” in the UK's best-selling tabloid newspaper.

Why have you chosen your specific beat and/or what skills and expertise can you bring to it?

My opposition to the Sun's position on civil liberties mainly stems from how it covered Blair's plans to have 90 days detention in a police cell before they would have to get around to charging people with something like shoplifting... In the run-up to the Parliamentary vote, the Sun's front page coverage consisted of using pictures of the survivors in a propaganda ploy to get the public's support (the picture was of someone who was opposed and of whom the Sun didn't seek his permission to use his image); then it went to personal attacks on David Cameron and David Davies then on the morning after the vote – which Blair lost – the Sun's front cover consisted of the word “Traitors” in big letters with a picture of Abu Hamza.

The Sun had a similar way of covering the recent debate into the extension of detention without charge to 42 days. Again the Sun supported it whole-heartedly and resorted to name calling the people who were opposed it and was very happy when it passed the House of Commons.

There's also the fact that in David Davies' recent by-election at first the Sun slated him for resigning, and had articles ridiculing him only to withdraw the planned candidacy of their columnist (and ex-editor) Kelvin MacKenzie when they realised he had a lot of public support (first apparent here), despite the obvious denial that they could possibly have misread the situation.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to covering these areas and judging by what is usually covered by it, I'm expecting to be overloaded with potential posts (rod for my own back...)

Sunday 10 August 2008

Psst! Wanna buy some medals?

Well. When I accepted the invite to become an Editor, I didn't expect my first proper post to involve the BNP (I do not want to link to them, but I'm sure you can find them without my help).

The Sun:
BNP flog fake Victoria Cross

THE British National Party is selling replica Victoria Crosses to fund extremism, The Sun can reveal.

In a breach of strict protocol, the far-right outfit is hawking life-size replicas of the nation’s highest award for bravery along with its famous scarlet ribbon for £12.

The BNP:
The Sun Newspaper Betrays Britain’s War Dead by Selling Nazi Propaganda and Memorabilia

Only a day after the Sun tried to smear the BNP for selling replica Victoria Crosses, we can today show how the Sun sells the most extreme anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda movie, “The Eternal Jew” and assorted Nazi medals and memorabilia, exposing that paper’s supposed “pro-British” stance as a hoax. advertising Victoria Crosses, amongst other things.

EDITOR: Sim-O (Beat: Media-Watch)

Who am I?

My name is Sim-O, although I may appear in some cases as therealsim_o due to username character restrictions on some sites, I try to use openID when I can.

I live near Oxford and I write at my self-titled blog. I have been blogging since the beginning of 2006.

What will I be writing about?

I will be keeping an eye out for mentions of The Sun in the media, highlighting instances of deception, dishonesty or other cases 'wrong-doing' of the paper itself rather than in the stories they write.

Why am I doing this?

Thanx to reading the words of people like Bloggerheads, Obsolete, 5 Chinese Crackers and The Enemies of Reason, to name a few, I realise that there is more to the papers than just 'a view'. They are insidious things if they get too powerful. And the fact that The Sun, and its' foreign owner, was going to put up a candidate for parliament (who was going to do as The Sun wanted) so blatantly shows how much Rupert Murdoch thinks he can and wants to influence British politics.
Rupert Murdochs' influence is not a good one from where I stand.

As a very minor league blogger I am honoured to have been invited to contribute to this effort.

Thursday 7 August 2008

Those loony European judges.

The Sun is typically outraged that European judges are once again daring to interfere with our judicial system, this time over their decision to defer Abu Hamza's extradition until they have considered his appeal.

The paper though does its best to make this as clear as mud, only making clear that this is temporary until five paragraphs into its article, while describing the judges as "clowns" and as being unlikely to be a target in the "war on terror" due to their nationality. This is ignorant and misleading because while most are from European countries that have not been targeted by Islamic extremism, the judges are of just one section of the European Court of Human Rights, while the president of the court is French, a nation which has dealt with Islamic terrorism for decades, and one of the vice-presidents is a Brit. Additionally, Bosnia has definitely suffered from Islamic extremism, and Poland is also a potential target due to its involvement in the Iraq war.

It's the Sun's complete lack of context though which most rankles and misleads its readers:

"This is just the latest example of how Europe rides roughshod over the UK. It’s time we stood up and said enough and no more."

If this is meant to give the impression that this decision is something to do with the European Union, then it works judging by the response of commentators. In fact, the European Court of Human Rights has got nothing to do with the EU or its forebear, the European Economic Community. Rather, the ECHR and its base, the European Convention on Human Rights are connected with the set-up of the Council of Europe, one of the main suggestions of a certain Winston Churchill. The drafting of the Convention was done under the supervision of Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, with it being ratified by the Council in 1953, with the Court itself set-up in 1959. The ECHR serves as the last potential point of appeal for someone who has exhausted all the other options in Britain, and has done since that date. This is neither new nor Europe riding roughshod over the UK: if anything, it's our creation riding over our other own creations.

The reality is that Hamza's appeal is hardly likely to succeed, but the Sun cannot possibly miss an opportunity to attack both Europe and the human rights brigade, all while not informing its readers of even the slightest of contexts.

A longer version of this post is available on my own blog.