Thursday 30 December 2010

Apology for 'Al-Qaeda Corrie threat' lie

On 9 December, the Sun claimed that a live episode of Coronation Street to be broadcast later that day was subject to a threat from Al-Qaeda:

The paper said:

Cops are throwing a ring of steel around tonight's live episode of Coronation Street over fears it has been targeted by AL-QAEDA.

They were tipped off that the ITV1 soap's historic 50th anniversary broadcast from Manchester could be hit by a terror strike.

The article (an 'exclusive') went on to include several suspiciously vague quotes from suspiciously anonymous sources. It just didn't sound right. Nothing in the story convincingly backed up the 'Al-Qaeda threat' claim.

And within hours of the paper hitting the shelves, Supt. Jim Liggett of Greater Manchester Police confirmed the story was complete rubbish:

"I want to clarify that we have categorically not been made aware of any threat from Al-Qaeda or any other proscribed organisation.

"Quite simply, Granada approached GMP to inform us they were employing a private security firm to help ensure tonight's live programme went ahead without outside interference.

"As part of their operation they asked for police assistance and we agreed to deploy a very small number of officers and PCSOs to help patrol the set's perimeter fence.

"This small police operation will be paid for by Granada and will not cost taxpayers a extra penny.

"To reiterate there is no specific intelligence threat to Coronation Street or any such event. However, the UK threat level remains at severe and people are encouraged to be vigilant."

Inevitably, the episode went by without being disrupted by Al-Qaeda or anyone else, as many hours of live television do every day.

So it was unsurprising to see the Sun publish an apology for the story on 28 December:

Further to our article about increased security at Coronation Street's studios for their live 50th anniversary episode (December 9), we would like to make clear that while cast and crew were subject to full body searches, there was no specific threat from Al-Qaeda as we reported. We apologise for the misunderstanding and are happy to set the record straight.

Those two sentences appeared on page two. Given the prominence of the original, surely they should have appeared on the front page?

(The above combines two posts from Tabloid Watch)

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Do Sun journalists tell lies?

Does the left hand know what the right hand's doing at the Sun? You have to ask based on today's incredibly familiar editorial attacking the same old "Leftie union dinosaurs" it's been fulminating against for over 20 years:

UNION brothers nibble mince pies at No10 with David Cameron.

But some union barons are hell bent on trouble. Rabid Leftie Len McCluskey, new boss of Unite, calls for war against the Government.

He orders union members to "prepare for battle" and praises "magnificent" student demonstrators who brought mayhem to London.

The Sun does not believe sensible Unite members want sickening violence and vandalism of the sort we have recently seen.

Will Labour's Red Ed Miliband personally slap down Unite's Red Len McCluskey?

Do turkeys vote for Christmas?

If the leader writer had bothered to read the paper's own article on the meeting, they would have already known the answer:

Labour leader Ed Miliband has already distanced himself from Mr McCluskey's "battle" remarks.

And if that doesn't count as "personally slapping down" McCluskey, then the actual statement from Miliband's spokesman should make clear that was exactly what he intends to do:

Ed warned about using overblown rhetoric about strikes in his conference speech and this is a case in point. The language and tone of Len McCluskey’s comments are wrong and unhelpful and Ed Miliband will be making that clear when he meets him in the near future.

Still, why bother with small things like accurately representing the leader of the Labour party when portraying him as a cartoon character is so much more amusing?

Tuesday 30 November 2010

The Sun misleads over BBC, Panorama, and the World Cup.

There's something almost wearingly inevitable about the Sun criticising the BBC for daring to broadcast last night's Panorama on corruption within Fifa, coming as it did only 3 days before the body decides on the host of the 2018 World Cup. After all, this is the same paper that back in March claimed Basil Brush was biased against the Conservatives, in one of its most insane outbursts since the days of the attacks on the "loony left" in the 80s.

As only a paper owned by an Australian-American can be, the Sun is nothing if not cynically patriotic. It doesn't then matter much if our bid never had much of a chance in the first place, the idea that even the possibility of "bringing football home" could be put in jeopardy by an outbreak of investigative journalism is wholly repugnant. At least, this would be the position the paper would take if it could; unfortunately, the Sun's sister the Sunday Times only 6 weeks ago exposed two members of the committee that will decide on which country hosts the tournament as either agreeing to take money in return for a vote or asking for a payment which would influence it.

Not even the Sun could be brazen enough to ignore entirely the actions of their fellow prisoners in Wapping, and so this puts the paper in a rather difficult position. How to criticise the BBC without coming across as completely and utterly hypocritical? Well, it's easy as it happens. Just misrepresent the programme broadcast entirely, as the Sun's article does. Both in the main body of the text and the "explainer" panel it claims that Panorama's accusations were either "re-hashed" or contained "few fresh allegations". While the programme did deal with previously aired claims of corruption within Fifa, Issa Hayatou's name had not been raised before in connection with what is known as the International Sports and Leisure affair. Likewise, while Jack Warner previously donated $1 million to charity after Panorama showed he had sold 2006 World Cup tickets to touts, the claim that he tried to do exactly the same thing again this year, only for the deal to fall through, was new. Both Hayatou and Warner will be among the 23-strong committee voting on the various bids. Worth noting is that through portraying Panorama in such a way, the paper is taking exactly the same line on the programme as Fifa themselves.

The paper's leader doesn't even bother to suggest that Panorama's allegations were a unnecessary dredging up of the past, or even that as the claims don't involve specific accusations of vote buying that they're irrelevant to the bidding process. Instead it just concentrates on the timing (temporary link, leader is quoted in full below):

WELL, that should do our chances of hosting the 2018 World Cup a power of good.

The BBC chose last night of all nights to accuse FIFA members of corruption - as they gathered in Zurich for Thursday's vote.

Don't the Beeb want England to win?

The timing of last night's Panorama TV investigation, targeting the very officials deciding England's fate, seemed calculated to inflict maximum damage on our bid.

Legitimate inquiries earlier by The Sunday Times, a sister paper of The Sun, have already revealed dodgy dealings involving FIFA members, for which two were suspended.

The BBC could have shown its film any time. Why pick the worst possible moment for English football?

Dismayed England bid chiefs fear our prospects could be wrecked.

Is this what we pay our licence fee for?

The reason for the timing is simple, as Tom Giles explains over on the BBC Editors blog. The key information behind the new allegations was only obtained in the last month. As for the argument the Sun appears to be making without actually setting it out, that the BBC should have delayed it until after the vote, if we ignore the risible claim that the corporation has deliberately set out to sabotage the English bid, isn't this exactly the time that such revelations should be made? It might not be exactly earth-shattering to learn that individuals within Fifa may well be corrupt, yet the very fact that those on the body which decides whom to award the tournament to have been alleged to have either taken back-handers or tried to sell tickets on the black market should cast into doubt their ability to make a decision based on the merits of the respective bids. Also of note is how the host country has to enact special legislation for the duration of the tournament, protecting the chosen sponsors, who also have to be given tax exempt status along with Fifa. Then again, seeing as Rupert Murdoch has in the past tried to avoid paying his fair share of tax in this country it's not surprising that his papers make nary a peep about such demands. The public, as the likes of the Sun would normally doubtless protest, have a right to know such details ahead of the decision being made, rather than after it.

In any case, the idea that the Sunday Times investigation, denounced by Fifa's "ethics committee" for sensationalism and twisting the facts has been forgotten because it happened more than 3 days before the bid is made is nonsense. Also worth remembering is the Mail on Sunday's truly unnecessary publication of an indiscreet conversation the then FA chairman had, which involved unprovable claims that the Russians had been bribing referees for the Spanish, who in return would vote for their bid for the 2018 cup. The Mail, strangely, came in for very little actual criticism from its rivals who instead focused on "rescuing" the bid. Dog doesn't always not eat dog in what used to be known as Fleet Street, but what is clear is that the right-wing press always bites the BBC, regardless of how it would never allow such concerns expressed in the Sun's editorial, even patriotic ones, to influence when and what they decide to publish.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Re: The release of Learco Chindamo.

I was, in hindsight, rather setting myself up for this:

All the signs are however that Chindamo is that rare thing - a truly reformed character. Giving a convicted killer the benefit of the doubt is always going to be difficult, even when Frances Lawrence has herself apparently now forgiven him and magnanimously hopes for the best. Chindamo has to live up to what is expected of him, but to do that others have to take him into their confidence as well. The Sun, the rest of the media, and the public should now give him the opportunity and the space to do just that.

Oh. Obviously, we aren't aware of the full facts, it could turn out that it's been a case of mistaken identity, a malicious complaint or otherwise and so we should reserve proper judgement. Nonetheless, if he is subsequently convicted of an offence, the people he has let down most are not that those that saw the best in him and believed in his sincerity, but those who find themselves in a similar position, having committed a heinous crime and now desperately trying to convince the authorities that they are safe to be released back into the community. It's they that may well feel the chilling effects the return of such a notorious criminal to prison will almost certainly have on parole boards.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

"Lying Labour rat Phil Woolas".

Today's Sun editorial couldn't be much clearer in its views on the now ex-MP Phil Woolas (temporary link):

SO voters in Oldham East and Saddleworth must wait to find a decent MP to replace lying Labour rat Phil Woolas.

Speaker John Bercow rules a by-election must be delayed to let Woolas have a judicial hearing.

At least Mr Bercow's Labour-supporting wife Sally will be pleased. That was what she asked him to do.

It's good that judges have seen off Woolas.

Could the paper possibly be covering for something? Like being quoted approvingly by Woolas in his now notorious 8 page newspaper-esque missive? Surely not. Here in full is just how impressed the paper was by "lying Labour rat Phil Woolas" less than two short years ago:

IN one interview, Phil Woolas speaks more sense on immigration than every minister combined in 11 years of this Government.

Such good common sense, in fact, that he'll need to watch his back.

Not just because it'll rile so many left-wingers. But because it so harshly exposes the abysmal failure of previous Labour immigration policies.

Woolas leaves no stone unturned.

He'll wipe away the scandal of immigrants handed a golden life of benefits and council homes.

He'll make them spend five years earning a passport and up to five more earning the right to welfare.

He'll ensure they don't take vacant jobs from Brits in the recession.

He'll prevent our population from topping 70 million - and attacks his own Government for failing to check numbers in and out and making it too easy for illegals to stay.

He even savages Labour's beloved multiculturalism that allowed insular immigrant communities to fester dangerously on our soil.

We can only hope the Woolas revolution, in a Bill next month, gives us the fairer society he wants.

Meanwhile we can applaud both his vision and his bottle.

Silenced already once by the Home Secretary, he knows he is walking a tightrope, but it doesn't faze him: "If I lose my job, I lose my job."

Let's hope not.

Maybe we should give the Sun the benefit of the doubt: it might just be subtly hinting he should have kept to his previous promise.

Thursday 28 October 2010

How to take advantage of a parliamentary misunderstanding.

We all know how dearly the Sun loves "Our Boys", even if the feeling is not necessarily mutual. It's therefore hardly surprising that it's instantly leapt to their defence, having apparently been accused by Labour MP Paul Flynn of committing "atrocities in the name of the British people". The problem is that almost every single thing about the report by Tom Newton Dunn in which the claim is made, and the leader comment which accompanies it, is wrong.

WIKILEAKS and a Labour MP were accused of giving the Taliban "a propaganda gift" yesterday by spreading wild smears about Our Boys.

Foreign Secretary William Hague mounted a passionate defence of troops in southern Afghanistan after reports were leaked to the website saying British soldiers had shot at civilians 21 times in four years.

Despite what the Sun says, there has been no new leak to Wikileaks concerning British troops and their presence in Afghanistan. The reports it refers to have in fact been released by, err, the Ministry of Defence themselves, after a Guardian Freedom of Information request based on the incidents first detailed in the US war logs leaked to Wikileaks. Far from being wild smears, these are the MoD's version of what happened; surely the army's own account is more believable and reliable than the second hand one which the US recorded?

The MoD said on each occasion the troops were under grave threat of suicide attack or vehicles being driven at them had failed to stop.

Despite this, anti-war Labour MP Paul Flynn jumped on the statistic to brand the incidents "atrocities".

Mr Hague hit back: "I condemn the unauthorised release of information which can endanger our forces and give one-sided propaganda - a propaganda gift, for insurgents."

He also hailed British troops, saying: "They are the finest any nation could hope to have."

Flynn, as you might have guessed, has done nothing of the sort. The Sun has taken only a half quote and turned on its head, as the Guardian didn't provide a full one in the first place. Here's how it reported his remarks:

The Labour MP Paul Flynn called for an inquiry into the conduct of the units in what he said could be "atrocities in the name of the British people". "Truth has a cleansing function," he added.

Not perhaps the most cautious of statements to make, but also clearly not one where he was directly accusing troops of committing atrocities.

It's pretty apparent then that the statement the Sun has William Hague as making had nothing whatsoever to do with the information released by the MoD. Here's where the misunderstanding seems to have originated from. Hague's comments were made in response to a question from Tory MP Stephen Mosley after his quarterly statement to parliament on the "progress" in Afghanistan, who seems to have confused the Iraq war log release at the weekend with the FoI release reported in yesterday's Guardian:

What is the Foreign Secretary's assessment of last weekend's WikiLeaks reports, which made reference to 21 incidents in Afghanistan involving British troops?

Hague's answer was then a general condemnation and a just as inaccurate one, as he talks of the treatment of detainees, none of which applies to the 21 incidents in Afghanistan. He doesn't correct Stephen Mosley, but his stock condemnation of the release of unauthorised information suggests that he realised his mistake, even if he didn't mention Iraq. Hague's praise for British troops which the Sun quotes comes from the statement, and so has been taken entirely out of context.

Paul Flynn is not referred to anywhere in Hague's statement to the House or the debate that followed. It's clear then that Newton Dunn or someone else, despite obviously reading the report in the Guardian still failed to realise that Stephen Mosley had got the wrong end of the stick. Or did they? After all, the story's nowhere near as good if the information, rather than being leaked, came from the Ministry of Defence themselves. Why not then go along with what was said in parliament, while disingenuously attacking Flynn? This seems to be what the paper's done.

Here's the paper's leader:

AS if facing death from the Taliban wasn't enough, our Forces have to face snipers back home.

Labour MP Paul Flynn accuses Our Boys of committing "atrocities in the name of the British people".

His basis for this slur? Irresponsible and unsubstantiated internet leaks claiming British troops fired on Afghan civilians.

The Defence Ministry insists this would only ever have happened in self-defence when our soldiers came under threat of suicide attack.

Our troops have spent nine years doing their best for Afghan civilians, laying down their lives for them.

As Foreign Secretary William Hague says, these smears are a Taliban propaganda gift.

Ed Miliband should order Flynn to apologise.

The leader then simply takes the same (deliberate) inaccuracies and magnifies them again, further misquoting and taking out of context Flynn's quote, gets the source of the new information completely wrong for good measure, and then finally uses Hague's own mistake to attack the hapless Labour MP further. The only people apologising should be the Sun for conniving in a misunderstanding in parliament in order to attack an MP for quite rightly wanting a proper inquiry into what happened.

P.S. The Sun also does its usual bang up job of promoting the witterings of the friends of Anjem Choudary, this time reporting in depth Abu Izzadeen's remarks on being released from prison. It's this sentence and claim though that catches the eye:

His every word was cheered by a flock including sidekick Anjem Choudary and jailed hate cleric Abu Hamza.

Would the Sun care to explain how Abu Hamza was there cheering him on when he's currently being held at Belmarsh prison awaiting deportation to the United States, or was he allowed out for the day in able to attend? This extra detail is missing from the Daily Mail's report of Izzadeen's release, unsurprisingly.

Whoops! Our bad!

Today's Sun has the following apology:
An article on 15 September reported RMT General Secretary Bob Crow had a union-subsidised home and luxury car.

In fact, Mr Crow's home has never been subsidised by the union and he does not own a car, union or otherwise, and champions public transport.

We are happy to set the record straight and apologise to Mr Crow.
The article in question no longer seems to be on the Sun's website.  However, there still is an article of the same date referring to Crow, but it makes no mention of what the Sun originally claimed.

Monday 18 October 2010

Chocolate liqueurs

I mentioned this on Twitter earlier today, but felt it needed more coverage.

The Sun has an article in which is says that young people can get drunk for half he price of a chocolate bar.

According to the Press Association, the report comes from a group known as "Core Cities". Unfortunately, the report itself doesn't appear to be on their website.*

Leaving this aside, the Sun's article - and, to be fair, those in other newspapers - is misleading for one simple reason: it completely ignores the fact that there is an age limit on buying alcohol.

When it comes to children, you can't just compare chocolate and alcohol on a simple unit price as it does - one is freely available for children to buy, one isn't.

If the Sun is going to complain about underage drinking, it needs to have a go at how they get access to booze.

* If anyone does have a copy of the report, I'd be grateful if you could leave a comment.

Saturday 16 October 2010

How to Respond to Media Myths

This is a cross-post on The Sun - Tabloid Lies, Express Watch and Mail Watch.

When you read the Sun, Daily Mail and the Express over a long-enough period of time, you start to notice a few things.

One thing that crops up regularly are hysterical ranting posts over a few small topics, including the following:
We've noticed that a lot of these scare stories could be stopped by a little research, which we accept that pressed-for-time tabloid journalists, for whatever reason, are unable to do.

Therefore, in the spirit of co-operation, we've decided to help them out by listing great sources of information, thereby saving them valuable time:
There are also a variety of websites which can be used for any "Bloody Foreigners! Coming over 'ere! Takin' our jobs! Takin' our wimmin!" stories*:
There are also more general fact-checking sites**:
Of course, any and all of these lists could also be used by anyone else who wants to know more about the articles which the Sun, Daily Mail and/or the Express publish.

If anyone has any other suggestions as what other sources our tabloid journalists could use, just leave them in the comments.

* Thanks to Tabloid Watch for these particular links
** Thanks to Bloggerheads for these suggestions

Thursday 14 October 2010

The Sun ignores its own successful campaign?

Today the Sun has an article about how someone who died from taking mephedrone AKA meow meow.

To the Sun's credit, it mentions that she took it after it was criminalised.

What it fails to mention is the Sun's role in the criminalisation of mephedrone.

I mentioned this on Twitter and at about 8.25 tried to post the same comment on their article. It - how should I put it - "got lost in moderation":

and at the time of writing hasn't yet been published.

Oddly, one from "Bob24" (date-stamped at 2:06PM, Oct 14, 2010), making a similar point, did get through albeit less explicitly, i.e. the Sun isn't mentioned, just the media generally...

It appears that the Sun is trying to whitewash the effects of it own campaigns. Why though? The Sun demanded an action and it was done. Surely the Sun would want people to know how much it influences government policy?

Friday 1 October 2010

The Wheels On The Bus Don't Go Round And Round

This is a guest post by Tom of BorisWatch and Stable and Principled.


The news that Transport Secretary Phil 'Petrolhead' Hammond announced joyously to the Sun (and the Telegraph), but let's concentrate on the Sun here, his spin team didn't pick that paper out of a hat, after all) is both confirmation that the worst tendencies of tabloid-pleasing populism survive and indeed flourish post New Labour. More pertinently to myself, it screws up my commute. Here's an explanaion of why the insanity exists purely between the eras of Phil Hammond and Tom Newton Dunn.

I live basically at Junction 1 on the M4, and work basically at office parks in the Thames Valley corridor, where an awful lot of tech firms set up in recent years due to the proximity of Heathrow and the availability of the kind of big shed architecture you need for open plan offices, warehousing, call centres etc. I thus get to know the M4 rather too well, and in one direction it's actually not too bad, since I'm going out of town in the morning against the flow. Coming back in, it's a different story.

First, a history lesson: the M4 into London has always been three lanes until you get to the Piccadilly Line bridge between Boston Manor and Osterley stations, where it shrinks down to two lanes along the notorious 'M4 elevated section' that occurs with awesome regularity on radio traffic reports. There's a reason for this: the viaduct has no hard shoulders, sharp bends and is rather narrow, which is why it is subject to a 40mph speed limit. Great to pretend you're in the USA for a bit, but as a piece of 21st century road engineering, not so good. Also, it's under constant repair underneath to stop the concrete falling off, which interferes with traffic on the A4. This has been the case since 1973 when all prospects of widening the M4 into London vanished due, ironically, to the activities of grassroots 'Big Society'-style groups in Chiswick and Barnes.

In traffic engineering terms, the capacity of the road is governed not by the 'insane' bus lane but by the capacity of the narrow, twisting elevated section with its two lanes dating from the early 1960. The genius of the M4 bus lane (and it is genius, not insanity, although the Sun is always going to have trouble working this out) is that someone realised that the third lane is therefore essentially redundant tarmac. Here's why:

At peak times the capacity of the elevated section is never going to be enough, so you'll always have jams (and forget widening it, which would cost an genuinely insane amount of money, not least because Thames Valley University and GlaxoSmithKline's expensive new buildings now bracket the viaduct at Boston Manor). Therefore all the third lane ever did was provide people with somewhere to park and emit fumes across Osterley Park, while the merge from three lanes to two actually ate road capacity because the process is inefficient due to being run by the autonomous decisions of people in imperfect communication with each other.

At offpeak times the capacity of the elevated section is enough for the traffic, but crucially this means you don't need the third lane anyway (which is why the bus lane is 24 hours rather than peak hours only).

What the bus lane does is combine the merge from three to two lanes with the lane drop at the previous junction, which has the effect of not eating road capacity at the pinch point*. There was also a reduction in the speed limit from 70mph to 50, increased in 2002 to 60, along with allowing taxis to use the lane.

What was the result of the bus lane's introduction? Well, the TRL report on the scheme (PDF) showed precisely what you'd expect - offpeak journey times (uncontrained by the capacity problems of the elevated section) increased as a result of the speed limit, while peak journey times decreased by an average three minutes due to the removal of the merge - at peak times the traffic rarely gets near 60mph, so the reduced speed limit has no effect. At weekends the lower traffic volumes result in the speed limit becoming the limiting factor again, resulting in slower journey times. Overall, the peak hour reliability improvement more than cancels this out, however.

What, then, is the effect of removal? Well, unless they change the speed limit too the weekends and offpeak journeys will be the same as at present, while with the merge restored to the Piccadilly Line bridge, the peak journey times will extend and become less reliable as the road won't be able to cope as well with perturbations due to the loss of capacity at this point. This, in fact, is precisely what you'd do if you wanted to declare war on the motorist and make my life more miserable.

If you actually wanted to improve matters for motorists you could increase the speed limit and remove the third lane completely. This would result in a dangerous drop in speed limit at the bridge from 70mph to 40mph where the Porsche set (travelling at 90) would be perenially rear-ending people, however, so a graduated change in the limit from 70 to 60 to 40 would be required. Alternatively, the best thing to do for motorists, as with anywhere else in the South East of England, is to encourage them to stop driving. Coaches would be good. You could even give them their own lane.

* Actually, this isn't quite true - you still lose capacity due, ironically, to buses and taxis in the bus lane - this was painfully evident the other day when a row of posh Addison Lee limos using the bus lane, I suspect illegally, forced the two normal lanes including myself to a halt at the merge. The bus lane works best the fewer vehicles there are in it, an insight that you really need to grasp, along with the primary importance of the elevated section, before I'll take you seriously on this. It's therefore also crucial that it's enforced properly, which certainly hasn't been the case recently.

Let's play "Spot the Sun's Apology"

I published this on the Twitter feed last night, but feel that it should get more attention.

The Sun has published an apology for an article it published earlier this year. However, it isn't very obvious where it is.

Try and find it if you can.

Friday 24 September 2010

The Sun's investigations into suicide chat groups.

There's a couple of posts over on my place concerning the Sun's coverage of the suicide pact between Joanne Lee and Steve Lumb. We thought it best not to reproduce them here due to the potentially distressing and sensitive nature of the material covered.

Monday 6 September 2010

Clubhouse rules

Greetings! The post you are reading at this moment is appearing simultaneously on four websites:

Bloggerheads (post permalink) - my personal site
The Sun: Tabloid Lies (post permalink) - a media watch site targeting The Sun
Daily Mail Watch (post permalink) - a media watch site targeting the Daily Mail
Express Watch (post permalink) - a brand new media watch site targeting Express newspapers

I'm not the gaffer for all of these sites, but I have had a word with the relevant writers and webmasters about what I'm about to share with you, the reader, so you know what to expect from these media watch sites targeting The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express:

All three sites will now operate as open clubhouses for the following writers and bloggers, all of whom have a solid track record* and ongoing interest in blogging and media watchery:

- 5cc :: @
- bigdaddymerk :: @
- Adam Bienkov :: @
- Chris Coltrane :: @
- D-Notice :: @
- Daily Quail :: @
- Dave Cross :: @
- Kate Griffin :: @
- Daniel Hoffmann-Gill :: @
- Tim Ireland :: @
- MacGuffin :: @
- Hannah Mudge :: @
- Carl P :: @
- Nadia Saint :: @
- septicisle ::
- Sim-O :: @
- Uponnothing :: @
- Anton Vowl :: @

(*I could be more effusive if I weren't in the list myself. Damn my modesty.)

From today, these writers will be free to submit original content and/or reference or mirror articles from their own sites about The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express newspapers.

Don't expect everyone to come rushing in at once; the whole idea is that we can all drop in as and when we please; i.e. whenever we have time to report/share clear examples/evidence of these newspapers deceiving their readers.

(I've started by popping a couple of backdated mirrors about the Dunblane incident and a recent dash of homophobia and hypocrisy in Express Watch, BTW, and you will probably see more like these appearing over the coming days/weeks as we go about the process of populating the newer site with a little historical data on a writer-by-writer basis.)

There are bound to be varying degrees of tolerance between writers and over time, but we will continue to avoid 'hating' on tabloid readers generally (this being existing policy on the two older media watch sites), as we recognise that even the worst elements are victims to a degree if they base their fears/prejudices on misleading information fed to them by these newspapers - and we are ultimately out to bring some of them on board with the whole 'honesty in media' policy (at least to the extent that they cease reading, funding and otherwise enabling these media outlets that play so wilfully on the fears of others).

To put it bluntly, we as a group (a) seek to remind the readers of these tabloids that they are being lied to on a regular basis, (b) will attempt to call their owners and editors to account where possible/appropriate, and (c) aim to chip away at their circulation in the process by the devilish means of repeatedly exposing their fraud... when we each have a few minutes.

This 'clubhouse' approach should be enough, one hopes, to keep all three media watch interests ticking over a steady rate, and keep the documentation of the worst of these tabloids' deceits relatively central and readily accessible.

With that newly-centralised relevance in mind, from an SEO (search engine optimisation) perspective, I also have designs on all three sites eventually earning very high placement for the name of each newspaper title; Daily Mail Watch is at present 7th for 'daily mail' in Google UK and prone to go higher, and The Sun: Tabloid Lies has just recently entered the top ten for 'the sun' (i.e. it is now 9th in Google UK).

Keep an eye out for our clubhouse members as they begin to appear over the coming week. Oh, and do add the following to your sidebars, readers and bookmarks, because these sites are about to become your first stop for any news involving any of the following tabloid newspapers:

The Sun: Tabloid Lies
Daily Mail Watch
Express Watch

Cheers all.

Friday 3 September 2010

The usual wholly dishonest fashion.

BBC Director-General Mark Thompson gives an interview in which he says there was a massive left-wing bias at the corporation when he joined it 30 years ago. How do you think the Sun responded to his revelation?

If you read its article, it makes clear that Thompson was speaking about how the corporation was over a quarter of a century ago. If you just read its leader, well, here's what you'd read:

CONFIRMING what everyone knows, BBC chief Mark Thompson admits the Beeb has been guilty of "massive" Left-wing bias.

He insists impartiality is improving, claiming regular invitations to Coalition leaders prove his point

Here then is a wonderful example of omitting a vital piece of information to paint a picture of an organisation the Sun's parent company is in direct competition with.

Yes, the BBC invites Tory and Lib Dem chiefs on air.

But it is the contemptuous way they are treated - and above all the failure to report fairly the reasons for the Government's cuts policy - that shows the BBC is as Leftie as ever.

Perhaps there's a hint there to the fact Thompson was referring to the past, if we're being completely fair. Why should we bother to be though when the Sun itself never is? "Failure to report fairly the reasons?" Can that really be anything like an accurate description of this blog by the deputy director-general and head of BBC journalism's Mark Byford detailing the BBC's season of programmes on exactly those cuts?

Why this sudden hand-wringing from Mr Thompson as he is carpeted by No10?

Could it be because the Coalition is looking at the BBC's bills - including his own salary last year of £834,000?

Two can play this game. Why this sudden reporting of Thompson's comments? Could it possibly be because these can be misconstrued, unlike his MacTaggart lecture last Friday, which attacked News International directly and accused Sky of not investing in original British programming? After all, not even the Times last week felt the need to make clear to its readers how Thompson had responded to the rant last year by James Murdoch. Indeed, here's the first possible opportunity for the Murdoch press to strike back at Thompson's impertinence, and it's been taken with both hands, in the usual wholly dishonest fashion.

Thursday 26 August 2010

When white is in fact black.

A very short one this. From today's Sun editorial:

CHANCELLOR George Osborne's emergency Budget was a genuine attempt to spread the economic pain fairly.

A think tank claims the result is turning out worse for the poor than for the rich. But that's not true.

The wealthy are clobbered with huge tax rises and are set to lose child allowance and heating benefit.

Firstly, nothing has been decided on the score of means testing child benefit (it was frozen in the emergency budget) or the winter fuel allowance. Second, it's always fascinating when a newspaper overwhelmingly read by what used to be known as the working class tries to tell them that white is in fact black. To be fair to the Sun when perhaps I shouldn't be, it goes on:

The Government has pledged to keep the welfare safety net at the bottom while stopping abuse.

Most importantly, the coalition is serious about moving the jobless off welfare into work - the best long-term way of lifting families out of poverty.

It will take time. But the result will be a more prosperous Britain. For everyone.

Try reading that without either laughing or crying.

Thursday 29 July 2010

The hunger striker and the imaginary burgers.

(Hat-tip to MacGuffin.)

There is, very occasionally, a price for churnalism, albeit one that won't make much (if any) material difference to the Sun. Without bothering to check whether the Daily Mail's original article claiming that Parameswaran Subramanyam had eaten burgers while conducting a public hunger strike in Parliament Square was accurate, something the Metropolitan police had apparently picked up on "specialist monitoring equipment" which they had trained on him, a "Staff Reporter" merely repeated the allegations.

It was strange in the first place that it was almost six months later before the police suddenly decided it was time to inform the press of what Subramanyam had been doing, supposedly having decided not to confront him at the time for fear of starting a riot, and at the same time as the cost emerged of policing the Tamil protest outside parliament. Surely it would have made a much better story much nearer the time of the demonstration? Indeed, why would the police decide to provide someone else to focus the blame on for the "excess" cost? It couldn't have been something to do with what the Mail described in the article as an "overtime bonanza", could it?

However the fantasy came to be implanted in the mind of Mail journalist Stephen Wright, it's one that's cost the paper £47,500 in damages, while the Sun has agreed to stump up £30,000, with both also having to pay Subramanyam's legal costs. As he was represented by Carter-Fuck (sorry, Carter-Ruck) that definitely won't have come cheap. Was copying and pasting and slightly altering the text really worth the wages of a junior hack for a whole year?

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Homophobia? It's only a joke...

This post is reproduced with kind permission from No Rock and Roll

This is tiresome:

Pineapple Dance Studios star Louie, or Louise as I like to call him

Do you see? Because he's gay, Gordon has given him a woman's name.

Yes, that's tiresome. But this is unacceptable:

Bender it like Beckham

You can't throw a word like "bender" into a headline about a gay man. Not in a newspaper that still pretends it has any sort of standards. Homophobic name-calling isn't the same as a witty headline.

(XRRF has lots more about the quality reporting of Gordon Smart)

Tuesday 20 July 2010

The release of Learco Chindamo.

[by Septicisle]

Back in 2006, the Sun was tipped off that the killer of headteacher Philip (see comments for the cock-up previously here) Lawrence, Learco Chindamo, was being allowed out for a day unsupervised from his open prison, part of the usual program of preparing prisoners for their eventual release, of which Lawrence's widow had been informed, if not told of the exact nature of his day out. Their article, headed "OUTRAGE", was under the by-line of John Kay, the Sun journalist convicted of killing his wifein a failed murder-suicide pact. Despite describing him as "not having a care in the world" and "swaggering" he was in fact pursued at length by the paper's team, even though they got the shots which would be used as he had first emerged from Ford open prison.

Today the paper splashes on his release from prison, having served two years more than the minimum which was recommended for his offence. The article, in many ways, is remarkably similar. Probably realising that they couldn't have gotten away with one killer calling another "evil", it this time fell to Anthony France to write the article, headlined "HEAD'S EVIL KILLER FREED". The pattern is exactly the same: his every move over the weekend was monitored, right down to the truly thrilling detail that he found himself on the wrong train platform and had to sprint to the right one. This time, rather than "swaggering" he was instead "strutting", although a "source" declared he was "strolling along enjoying the sunshine as if he didn't have a care in the world".

All of which is, it should be noted, with the exception of the description of him as "evil", is fair enough. The release of a notorious killer into the community is undoubtedly a matter of public interest. Far less fair are the same inaccuracies which almost always feature in any report on Chindamo. Firstly, that his appeal against deportation to Italy was granted on human rights grounds when it was not. The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal's decision was in fact based on the 2004 EU citizenship directive, and the government's appeal was rejected on the grounds of a subsequent 2006 EU immigration regulations, where the judge decided that Chindamo did not pose a "genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat" to society. It was in any case perverse that Chindamo could have been deported back to Italy - he arrived in London when he was 6, could speak no Italian and had no actual family connections in that country. He was a product, of this country and while he was responsible for his actions he should also be considered our responsibility, not that of a country he left as a small child.

The second inaccuracy is the continued assertion that Chindamo was still considered a threat back in 2007, not just repeated in the Sun's article and its leader comment, but also in the Telegraph. It's true that in the Home Office's submission to the immigration tribunal it says that "the appellant’s crime is of such severity that he will always continue to be a threat to the community such that his release on licence would be on the basis that he might be recalled to prison at any moment for any breach of his conditions". This however is the regime which all those sentenced to life in prison find themselves under when they are released on parole; they are on licence for the rest of their lives and any breach of their conditions, if considered serious enough, results in their instant return to prison. The other parts of the paragraph which are less willingly recalled directly contradict the claim that he still poses a threat:
In the revised reasons for deportation letter it is noted that it is unlikely that the appellant will re-offend, and that he accepts his responsibility for his offences and has undertaken courses for anger management


In this regard though we must bear in mind the point to which we were referred by Mr Scannell that that assessment was not made on account of the appellant being a threat to the public but because of the likelihood of media scrutiny and/or public interest. The letter does note that risk factors might increase because of media and public scrutiny that the appellant might receive. It also comments that the OAsys report notes that there are occasions where the appellant has overacted to situations and there are severe concerns with finding him appropriate accommodation on release if allowed to remain in the United Kingdom. He would need to be excluded from certain parts of the country, community integration would be a problem on release and he might suffer a backlash. The letter states that the appellant’s notoriety might make him feel excluded from society as he had been before and there was a significant risk that his previous disregard for authority and the law might resurface and result in him coming to adverse attention. As a consequence it was considered that he posed a continuing risk to the public and that his offences were so serious that he represents a genuine and present and sufficiently serious threat to the public in principle such as to justify his deportation.
In other words, the Home Office was not justifying his deportation on the grounds that he himself was a threat, but rather of what might increase the risk should he be released, which unsurprisingly is the media following his every move as it has so far done. If anything, it seems to be suggesting that the problem might be if he is forced to defend himself; far easier to dispose of him to Italy where no one would recognise him then have to draw up effective and also expensive plans to potentially protect him. It also has to be remembered that this was part of a letter putting forward the case for his deportation, where the argument was always likely to put as forcefully as possible. In any case, the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal at the time rejected it, and the parole board would have heard exactly the same arguments before making its decision, again obviously rejected, with any threat or risk decided to be manageable.

The Sun does at least at the end of their story give space to the statement issued by Chindamo's solicitor, which outlines his remorse and gives an indication as to how he intends to continue to atone for his crime. It doesn't however make mention of the how the deputy prison governor at Ford considered Chindamo to be one of the very few prisoners he had encountered who had genuinely made a change for the better, who if given a chance "would prove himself worthy of trust", probably for the reason that he tried to get the hearing held behind closed doors because of the press coverage of his day release.

The paper's editorial tone has also somewhat changed from back in 2007 when it declared he should not be released, although not by enough, and which again repeats the inaccuracies dealt with above. It also mentions another comment made, dealt with myself again at the time:
One fellow con said he showed not one ounce of remorse - quite the opposite, in fact.
The fellow con was Mark Brunger, and his comments were based on how Chindamo supposedly was while at a young offender's institution. Back in 2007 at best he had not had any association with Chindamo for 3 years - and at worst anything up to 7, and that's if we believe him.
That was just three years ago.

We can only pray that letting him loose is not a gamble with someone else's life.
And the Sun, as the Home Office set out, is doing its part perfectly.

All the signs are however that Chindamo is that rare thing - a truly reformed character. Giving a convicted killer the benefit of the doubt is always going to be difficult, even when Frances Lawrence has herself apparently now forgiven him and magnanimously hopes for the best. Chindamo has to live up to what is expected of him, but to do that others have to take him into their confidence as well. The Sun, the rest of the media, and the public should now give him the opportunity and the space to do just that.

Friday 16 July 2010

Cheryl Cole - An apology

No, Cheryl isn't apologising for crimes against music, the Sun is for, contain your surprise now, making things up.

Cheryl Cole - An Apology...

AS part of our coverage of the break-up of Cheryl and Ashley Cole's marriage we reported on March 4 that the singer would fly to France to meet her estranged husband who was texting her lines from her songs.
We accept Cheryl did not fly to France, no such texts were sent and she denies saying she was scared of life as a single girl as we reported on March 1.

We are happy to set the record straight and apologise to Cheryl.

No flight, no texts, not scared. No truth.

The sun seemed so happy to set the record straight that the apology had to be negotiated through the PCC.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Jon "Nazi" Gaunt Invokes Arch-Enemy in Failed Effort to Save His Own Ass

You couldn't make it up.

It's hypocrisy gone mad don't you know.

Jon Gaunt, if you don't no, is a monstrous tit and an awful bore of a man, a vile mouth on a stick perpetuating myths and faux man-in-the-street bigoted ideologies and passing them off as entertainment. He also works for the Sun, on their Sun Talk radio station, which is billed as, I fucking kid you not: "The home of free speech."

What kind of home I wonder? A care home? A mental home? Anyway, I digress...

Back in 2008 he called a Redbridge councillor a Nazi and was sacked, something that surprised and upset him a great deal, indeed he was so vexed he came over all bemused by it all. The daft racist, being a sore loser and no doubt believing his listeners fevered sycophancy awarded him some kind of special status, decided to challenge the ruling and failed.

Not one to be deterred, Gaunty (as the rabid bigot is jauntily titled) went to the High Court in order to challenge the OFCOM ruling, perhaps rightly sniffing some sort of martyrdom status amongst the particularly thick and myopic individuals that make up his fan base.

Jon Gaunt was crying freedom of speech and here is where the hypocrisy comes in.

His defence of his ridiculous outburst was centred on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, a piece of legislation created by the Council of Europe, a precursor to the very European Union that Gaunty despises and a body that strives for similar goals with regards to European unity and integration. Goals that Jon Gaunt spends a great deal of time frothing at the mouth at and hectoring.

So let me get this straight Mr. Gaunt. You hate Europe with every inch of your corpulent frame but when it suits your own aims, you thrash about in its legislation like an oil stricken whale?

You'll be glad to know that he lost the case but no doubt, hiding behind yelps about freedom of speech, he will keep appealing.

Thursday 8 July 2010

"Gay illegals" to stay.

Compared to the Express and Star, as covered so amply elsewhere, the Sun's coverage of yesterday's ruling by the supreme court that gay asylum seekers cannot be sent back to their home countries on the basis that they won't be persecuted if they're "discreet" about their sexuality was mild.

The headline to their article however is dead wrong. Not only were the two appellants not illegal immigrants, having applied for asylum when they entered the country, but they are most certainly not going to be "illegal" in any shape or form as the ruling almost certainly means they will be given asylum. They were never illegal immigrants; if your asylum application is rejected then you're a failed asylum seeker, not a "bogus" asylum seeker, as they were often previously referred to or an illegal immigrant.

While I'm here, let's also clear up the much quoted paragraph about gay people having the right to enjoy Kylie and multi-coloured cocktails. The judge was in fact being deliberately stereotypical to make his point, probably not a good idea when you can be so wilfully misquoted:

In short, what is protected is the applicant's right to live freely and openly as a gay man. That involves a wide spectrum of conduct, going well beyond conduct designed to attract sexual partners and maintain relationships with them. To illustrate the point with trivial stereotypical examples from British society: just as male heterosexuals are free to enjoy themselves playing rugby, drinking beer and talking about girls with their mates, so male homosexuals are to be free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts, drinking exotically coloured cocktails and talking about boys with their straight female mates. Mutatis mutandis – and in many cases the adaptations would obviously be great – the same must apply to other societies. In other words, gay men are to be as free as their straight equivalents in the society concerned to live their lives in the way that is natural to them as gay men, without the fear of persecution.

Which is actually a brilliantly argued and concise summary of the entire ruling.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

The (grown up) family newspaper

Back in May, Apple wouldn't let The Sun appear on an iPhone app because it reckoned the paper's Page 3 was obscene.

The Sun responded by claiming, as it always does, that it is a family paper and page 3 is just fun. Which is a little odd as not many families I know enjoy ogling young ladies' breasts together.

But now, with the arrival of the Sun's iPad app, there has been some sort of a climb down.

The Sun is allowed on to Steve Jobs newest platform and get by his 'no porn' policy by having customers confirm they are 17 years of age or over.

(As an aside, I find Apple's choice of 17 as a restricted content age a little odd as the law for this kind of thing is 18 years.)

If The Sun is admitting that its paper is for adults, shouldn't it be moved up a shelf or two at the newsagents and if it's got content that itself is admitting is age restricted, it might be fun, but is it really for the family?

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Are there no depths to which these people will stoop?

Some stories just subliminally scream "bollocks" from the opening word. Today's Sun "exclusive", claiming that the Taliban have now sank to the depths of making "HIV bombs", by putting needles used for injecting heroin into their improvised explosive devices already seems unlikely. Then it reveals the source for this literal bombshell:

The tactic, used in the Afghan badlands of Helmand, was exposed by Tory MP and ex-Army officer Patrick Mercer.

Senior backbencher Mr Mercer said yesterday: "Are there no depths to which these people will stoop? This is the definition of a dirty war."

Speaking of stooping to depths, this would be the same Patrick Mercer that continued to work with the discredited Glen Jenvey for 2 months after he had sold the "TERROR TARGET SUGAR" story to the paper, a report which he had entirely concocted himself after posting on the web forum. Mercer gave credibility to Jenvey's "investigations" by helping him make contact with various tabloid newspapers, many of which it should be doubted were anything approaching accurate. When Mercer has been involved in such dubious actions in the past, that on its own should put newspapers on alert as to how reliable such completely unverifiable claims are. That it also involves much the same tall tales that Jenvey pushed ought to be another red line, but after all, it is the Sun we're talking about here.

Regardless of its veracity, the story has now been churned all over the globe and is the paper's second most read page, a position usually held by either sport or something involving sex. Perhaps those paywalls aren't the best idea after all? Shame you have to print such fabulous nonsense to get any such attention.

Update: Those more diligent, less dismissive and with more time than myself looked rather further into this, including this parish's own Richard Bartholomew, Tabloid Watch, but most crucially Jeff Schogol, who asked Patrick Mercer, the ISAF in Afghanistan and the Joint IED Defeat Organization for more details.

As could have been expected, Mercer's words, however the Sun got hold of the story, had been rather sexed up. Talking to Stars and Stripes he said it wasn't even a weapon as such, with the needles and razor blades most likely put in position around "dummy" devices. This was naturally translated by Tom Newton Dunn into "if the bomb goes off, the needles become deadly flying shrapnel". Mercer learned about these "HIV bombs" from bomb disposal technicians training to go to Afghanistan, not from those actually in the field, and while he didn't ask whether the Taliban had actually used such devices, he "got the impression" they were.

Predictably, the ISAF themselves had heard absolutely nothing about any such bombs, not even the dummy devices Mercer had thought were being used. "No reports, no intel, nothing" is a fairly good summary. Likewise, the Joint IED Defeat Organisation had no confirmed reports, but said it wasn't unusual for the Taliban to use "anti-tamper" devices, which are most likely not even closely related to used hypodermic needles.

Worth noting is that the quote from Deborah Jack at the end of the Sun's piece, making clear that catching HIV from a disposed needle is about as likely as the Sun not embellishing a story, was added after I first made this post, presumably for the print edition and most likely by a sub-editor who felt it needed a little balance. As the Rumor Doctor has it, "more like an enemy propaganda campaign than a widespread new tactic", and if there's one thing the Sun has always been good at, it's running propaganda campaigns.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

The Sun Delusion

You may or may not be aware of the weekly science Podcast "The Pod Delusion". It's best thought of as a UK version of "The Skeptics Guide to the Universe", which I've previously mentioned.

Their latest episode (#36) includes a report by Marsh which is entitled "Football Crazy?".

It relates to an article in the Sun about a claim that men - playing to a stereotype - do think of football more than sex.

I don't want to give it away - other than saying that there's less than meets the eye to the Sun's claim - and so you just listen to it (starting at 28:25) as well as the rest of the podcast. I would also recommend subscribing to the cast as part of your regular listening.

Thursday 20 May 2010

Drinking booze "aids body"

Today's Sun has an article which gives the impression that drinking alcohol makes you healthier.

It appears to be referring to an article in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition called "Relationship between alcohol intake, health and social status and cardiovascular risk factors in the urban Paris-Ile-De-France Cohort: is the cardioprotective action of alcohol a myth?"

From the Abstract of the paper it appears that it isn't quite as clear-cut as the Sun makes out. The Results part states
Alcohol intake was strongly associated with plasma high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol in both sexes ... moderate and low drinkers displayed better health status than did never drinkers. Importantly, few factors were causally related to alcohol intake.
The Conclusion goes on to state
[M]oderate alcohol consumption may represent a marker of higher social level, superior health status and lower [cardiovascular] risk.
As you can see, the paper does not make a causal link as the article suggests.

Unfortunately the main body of the article is behind a pay-wall and so I do not have access to it. If anyone has access to it, and is willing to provide a copy, I would be very grateful if you could leave a comment.

Thursday 29 April 2010

You gotta fight.... for your right... for booooobies. Allegedly.

Today's Page 3 is quite something (and we can probably expect further examples to rival this and Monday's absurdity as we get closer to election day)

This is such a startling array of shameless deception and doublethink it's hard to know where to begin, but let's start with what should be obvious to anyone reading this with both hands:

- These two MPs would not need to call for a coalition against Page 3 if one already existed, and the Sun clearly implies that it does on Page 3.

- Even if we're to accept the fallacy that the opinions of these two MPs are now the policy of their respective parties, the Sun is turning a blind eye to Tory MP Nadine Dorries, for example, and her recent calls for a more modesty in print. (For the record: Nadine's abortion nonsense has formal backing that goes right to the top; her typically shouty outburst about women's bits does not.)

- Of course, the Sun have confirmed that the Tories won't be backing this policy that doesn't really exist, but you'll note there's no response from the other parties... it's almost as if the Sun didn't bother to ask (or didn't bother to report the answer). Let me guess; they called Cameron's head of communications, Andy Coulson, former editor Sun Sunday sister title News of the World, who shockingly confirmed to the paper blatantly siding with his party that they with would not be backing a ban on the jiggling jewel in their crown. (This assumes, of course, that Coulson didn't engineer this little masterpiece in the first place.)

- Human Rights Act? Would this be the same Human Rights Act that the Sun has vowed to scrap? [1, 2]

- If these models want to guarantee that they are free to speak their mind without hindrance on Page 3, they will probably want to start with their editor. Assuming, of course, that this is their opinion and not another example of young women being exploited as mouthpieces for Rupert Murdoch. They may not have these concerns at all, though they'd be right to.

- As for this 'plan' being "barely credible", well, I have to agree with them there. It's barely even a plan.

This tabloid is plumbing the depths in their panic. It will be worth seeing how much they're willing to bank on Page 3 in coming days (while simultaneously maintaining that it's a 'harmless little joke').

Page 3 :: Girls + Words from Tim Ireland on Vimeo.

PS - Dick Mandrake rocks. That is all.

Monday 26 April 2010

Porn at 16? We used to support it, now we don't...

First off, apologies for the relative lack of posts here. It's not because there's been a dearth of material, as the paper's coverage of the election can be crudely categorised as falling into two camps, firstly smearing Labour and the Liberal Democrats while indulging in some truly stomach-churning sycophancy towards David Cameron, but more because the election itself is detaining me more than I thought it would.

Here though is the latest attack on the Liberal Democrats, which is not just only slightly less ancient than the Daily Mail's splash last Thursday, but also somewhat hypocritical:

FURIOUS mums have slammed Liberal Democrat plans to let 16-year-olds watch and star in PORN films.

The controversial policy has faced blistering criticism in the chatrooms of Mumsnet, a popular website for mothers.

Under the Lib Dems, the legal age for viewing or appearing in adult movies will be cut from 18 to 16.

But the policy - overwhelmingly passed at the party's conference in 2004 - has now been savaged on the internet by women who claim it is "essentially legalisation of child porn".

We'll ignore the "FURIOUS MUMS" part and just focus on the policy itself, which is perfectly true, if not really mentioned or discussed since 2004. The BBC's news report from the time puts across the party's justification, which is more than adequate in pointing out the disconnect between the age of consent and the age at which you can watch other people engaging in sex:

Mr Foster made the case for allowing 16-year-olds to view pornography during a censorship and freedom of expression debate.

While he had worried the proposals would encourage pornography into schools, "the reality is sexually explicit material is already readily available to 16 and 17-year-olds on the internet", he said.

"Our current policy on censorship and freedom of expression is not only out-of-date, it's inconsistent and it's confusing," Mr Foster said.

"We still do not allow 16-year-olds to watch sex, despite the fact they can currently have sex, lawfully marry and indeed, a woman may choose to have a baby at 16.

"This certainly seems out of date given that as Liberal Democrats, we would extend to 16-year-olds full political and social rights ...

"The proposals are intellectually sound - 16 and 17-year-olds in this country are living in a twilight zone between childhood and adulthood, having lost their children's rights, yet only gaining adult rights in a piecemeal fashion, some at 16, some at 17, some at 18.

"This motion merely proposes consistency on the suitable age for obtaining adult rights in line with the well-established Liberal Democrat policy on 16 as the common age of majority.

There is no mention of allowing 16-year-olds to "star" in pornography incidentally, but then that's where the Sun's hypocrisy enters into it. After all, if we're going back 6 years here, why don't we go back slightly further and remember the fact that the Sun, along with the likes of the Star and Sport, were more than happy not so long ago to err, allow 16-year-old girls to pose topless on their third pages, as Samantha Fox, Maria Whittaker and Debee Ashby to name but three did? Why shouldn't "intelligent, vibrant young women who appear ... out of choice and because they enjoy the job", as former Sun editor Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade) described page 3 models, be allowed to do the same today? Or has the Sun changed its mind in these paedophile-plagued times? The law itself certainly has been, as the 2003 Sexual Offences Act regardless of permission now outlaws 16-year-old topless models, and you somehow doubt that it would be a Liberal Democrat priority should they enter into government with either a Commons majority or as part of a coalition to change it.

Still, another Liberal Democrat policy unearthed and exposed as mad, and if the quote floating around from the paper's political editor Tom Newton-Dunn is accurate, hopefully another step towards ensuring that his job is well and truly done.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Fizz Royal Highness falls flat.

(Major hat-tip to Tabloid Watch on this.)

It's always amusing when such a banal front page falls apart within the space of an entire day, as happened to yesterday's super splash claiming that Prince Harry had spent £10,000 on champagne in just 4 hours. There really isn't any excuse for it, either: St James' Palace is always fairly open with the press, but they balance this with being very quick to correct inaccuracies, as they have in this case:

"Prince Harry spent approximately an hour and-a-half at the nightclub, where he enjoyed a bottle of beer and a glass of champagne. Prince Harry did not buy anyone else any drinks.

"A friend of Prince Harry hosted the entire evening. It is not true to suggest that Prince Harry spent large sums of money at the club. The £10,000 figure is nonsense."

In other words, if Harry did provide others in the nightclub with drinks, or were at least under the impression that he had, they were most likely being paid for by his friend and not by him.

The Sun has attempted to cover this in the usual fashion: by making up quotes from "friends":

But one chum close to the Prince said: "Harry is very much the the (sic) life and soul of the party so it's easy for people to think that he's getting the drinks in - especially after they have had a few themselves.

"Harry had a good time - but clearly it wasn't as lively as that of the group he met. He's saving the partying for once he passes his training."

Still, not a bad way to follow-up a completely inaccurate front page story - by dumping the "clarification" back on page 19.

Wednesday 7 April 2010

The Sun and endless false dichotomies.

No other comment really needed on this especially vile leader. The line on welfare is remarkably tasteless, even for the Sun:

SOME people are saying they can't see the point of voting on May 6.

They could not be more wrong.

Next month's General Election will be a defining moment for Britain.

However sick you may be of Westminster's antics - and The Sun shares your disgust - this is not the moment to look the other way.

The decision Britain makes will chart our course for a generation.

On the ECONOMY we must decide between reckless Labour spending or sensible Tory savings to cut debt.

On EMPLOYMENT we must decide between Labour's tax on jobs or Tory growth.

On STRIKES we must decide if we want unions running our country.

On DEFENCE we must decide who will best look after Our Boys.

On IMMIGRATION we must decide how to find the right balance.

On CRIME we must decide between yob rule or tough justice.

On HEALTH we must decide whether endless public money will stop filthy hospitals killing patients.

On WELFARE we must decide how to bring thousands of benefit skivers back into the mainstream of society.

On EDUCATION we must decide whether State or parents know best.

On the ENVIRONMENT we must take far-reaching decisions that will shape our children's world. Likewise with ENERGY.

On EUROPE we must decide how far Brussels can push us around.

It does though keep the best line until near the end:

But the choice is entirely yours. We will keep you informed so you can make up your own mind.

Informed along the lines of this completely free of bias and lucidly argued editorial, one presumes.