Manufactured outrage

Spot the difference between these two stories, but don't click on the links until I tell you to, you cheaters.

'A fifth of crimes committed by immigrants':
Foreign nationals are now responsible for more than one in five crimes committed in London, police figures revealed yesterday. [...]

The biggest offenders are Poles, who have flooded into Britain in record numbers since the expansion of the EU.

They were responsible for 2,310 crimes in the first six months of this year [...]
'Foreigners commit 20 per cent of crime in London, say police':
More than one in five crimes committed in London in the first six months of this year were carried out by a foreign citizen, new police figures have revealed. [...]

The highest number of offences were carried out by Poles, charged with 2,310 crimes between the start of January and the end of June.
Aside from the wording, of course, the big difference is that one appeared this weekend (updated on the 23 September), and one appeared in the 14 August Daily Mail. No clicking the links yet - guess which one is from yesterday, and which one is from six weeks ago? Doesn't take a genius to work that one out, right? The oldest one's got to be the one that says 'police figures revealed yesterday'. It would be stupid if a story in a newspaper said figures were revealed yesterday when the exact same paper revealed those figures six weeks earlier, wouldn't it?

Except the newer one is the one that says 'police revealed yesterday'. Click on the links now if you don't believe me. Go on.

I've been on the phone to another press officer, this time at the Met Police. If the police had revealed figures yesterday, they must be able to point me towards where, right? Well, not really. The figures hadn't been published anywhere, but were released in an FOI request. Since the original story said the figures there came from an FOI request, I asked if this meant that the paper had submitted two requests, and was told that its quite common for hacks to check to see if the figures they have for something are up to date.

So what seems to have happened here is that the Mail put in another request for figures it already had, and then said that the figures it knew about weeks ago had just been revealed. This is pretty misleading. If I got in touch with, I don't know, the House of Commons Library and asked what was said on this day in Parliament fifty years ago, I could technically claim that Parliament had just revealed what had been said when I got an answer, but since Parliament revealed that information fifty years ago in Hansard, it'd be a bit rich. Ditto here.

So, the Mail has just repeated an older story and stuck a new lick of paint on it. And this isn't the first time its done it. With the same story.

This is something I missed in my post about the article 'Romanians living in UK carry out 1,000 crimes in six months', but have a look at 'Foreigners commit 20 per cent of crime in London, say police', which was published over a month earlier. It has a nice big graphic breaking down the number of crimes committed by non-aryans foreigners, and just look at what's in at number five:

When yesterday's Mail on Sunday article says:
It [the figures about Romanians, mainly] follows a warning from Julie Spence, the Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire, that the influx of migrants from Eastern European with 'different standards' to British citizens from was placing a huge strain on resources.
It isn't telling the truth. Because the figures precede Chief Constable Spence's comments by a number of weeks. It seems the Mail is using the Chief Constable's comments to recycle some old information, but pretend it's new. This would be a useful thing to do if you wanted to, say, create the impression that the police were too afraid because of Political Correctness to say anything until one brave Chief Constable spoke out. Or if you wanted to create the impression of a critical mass of new information that demands immediate action. But the Mail wouldn't do anything like that, surely?

Separating out the crimes of Eastern Europeans at the same time would also help if you wanted to exaggerate the problems created by Eastern European migration, and were using them as your current folk devil. Can't imagine that from the Mail.

'Hang on,' you might say, 'the article about Romanians was prompted by a More4 report. Surely the separating out of Eastern Europeans isn't necessarily the Mail's doing.' And, I might have some sympathy with that view if I didn't know that the headline of the most recent article 'A fifth of crimes committed by immigrants' was originally quite different. Here's a clue to the original headline:

It seems to have been changed from 'A fifth of London crimes committed by Poles' - probably following this comment:

Nice job with the numbers there... 1/5 of crimes are committed by foreign nationals... out of those, 10 percent could be Poles. But don't let the facts get in the way of a sensational headline.

- Statistician, Upper Uncton
Of course, what the new headline loses in scaremongering terms by dropping the mention of Poles is gained in the dropping of the mention of London. Hooray!

I mean, the paper could have told the truth about the number of crimes committed by Poles in London and said 'A forty-sixth of London crimes committed by Poles', but it wouldn't have the same scary ring to it, would it?

The headline gains something else from the use of the word 'immigrants'. That would be the impression that it creates that suggests that all these crimes are committed by, well, immigrants. See, the wording of the body of the text in both versions of the story says that the crimes were committed by 'non-British citizens'. But that's okay, because we know that every non-British citizen in London is an immigrant. Tourists never come to London. All those people with cameras taking pictures of Big Ben - immigrants. The Japanese people asking for directions in halting English - immigrants. Sightseeing tours on buses offered in loads of different languages - they're for immigrants, they are. No drug trafficker ever travelled to London to import or export drugs without trying to settle permanently in the UK. No fraudster ever temporarily visited London to set up a mark. No foreign football fan ever came to London to see a match and got into a fight or smashed anything up. You see my problem.

Strawman buster before I go. I'm not saying all these crimes were committed by tourists. I'm saying that some almost definitely were, and some were committed by people travelling temporarily to London to commit the crimes. We have no way of knowing how many were trying to settle here permanently, or how long those committing the crimes had been in the country. They offer little to the debate over how easy or difficult it should be for foreign nationals to settle in the UK.

But these figures are nothing new. They're weeks old, and have been recycled to add to an increasing influx of anti-immigration stories the Mail editorial staff have allowed to pour into the paper. And there are more. I'll try to post about the others soon. Lucky you, eh?


Anonymous said...

Impressive post. Keep up the good work!

Mellomeh said...

And it fails to mention that something like a quarter of London consists of 'non-British citizens', which makes the evil immigrants somewhat better behaved than us indigenous folk.

eric the fish said...

Another excellent in-depth analysis. my thouhts were on the same lines. I also noted the change from Polish to Immigrants in the headline when I was linking it to a post.
Some good comments allowed for once including my friend from Poland, Mr Weems!
The only saving grace I suppose is that playing the race/immigration card did no favours to Messrs Hague and Howard. Labour appears to have countered their position in any case (sad as that may be)