'Tis surely the season!

Hurrah for the Graun's 'Comment is Free' section. Hurrah and praise be!

Since my post from yesterday, CiF has published a post from one of the authors of the IPPR study denying claims that his forthcoming report will say that Christmas should be downgraded, scrapped or banned. It's headlined 'Christmas is here to stay'. Thank you, the liberal elite, you're my hero!

The posting isn't as good as Mr Garapich's letter to James Slack from the Daily Mail, but it's enough for me to be saved from eating crow for dinner this evening. Key quotes:
Nowhere in the report do we argue that Christmas should be "downgraded" nor do we describe it as a cultural barrier for minority groups. It would of course be completely absurd to do so.
Let's be clear: this does not mean equivalent public holidays for all faiths - no one is asking for that.
I would say that that's a relief, but it's not enough of a surprise to be a relief.

It's also not surprising that this little urban legend spread like wildfire. That's what urban legends do. It's no surprise that some people who read the press coverage believed it and regurgitated it. It's easy to underestimate the ability of the tabloids to just make shit up.

The only papers (or bloggers) guilty of actually making shit up here that I've seen are, either or both of the Daily Mail and Daily Express (depending on whether either or both had access to the report) for inserting the word 'downgrade'. The Sun for increasing the nonsense by adding the words 'ban' and 'scrap' and Carol Malone for introducing the idea that the government called for the downgrading. Everyone else just fell for stories that are designed to be convincing in the first place. It really is easy to underestimate the tabloids' capacity for making shit up.

One thing that depresses me, and I have to disagree with, is a comment by Ally Fogg on the Cif article that says:
My argument was basically that by raising this issue in this context, there was only ever going to be one reaction from the right wing press. We all know how they work. The details of the report don't matter, the accuracy of their reporting doesn't matter. The point is you handed a gift-wrapped political-correctness-gone-mad scandal to the tabloids. I fully accept that your intentions are benign, but the effects are incredibly damaging. Either the IPPR did not realise what the press would do with your suggestions, in which case you are foolish, or else you did not care what the press would do with them, in which case you are highly irresponsible. Which is it?
Have we really got to the point where the right wing press has so much power that we have to be careful about saying certain things because we know they'll lie about them?

It probably has, sadly. And that's partly due to the genius of shouting 'PC Gone Mad' at every turn, and partly due to the fact that the PCC really is the press watchdog - meaning it belongs to the press and protects it from the public, rather than the other way around.

But saying left wing think tanks like the IPPR should not say things in a certain way because the tabloids will lie about them is surely blaming the victim. The right wing tabloids should change the way they do things and stop bloody lying, since lying is actually wrong and making an argument isn't. Blaming the IPPR here is like telling off a victim for not staying away from their bully.

It's also a bit premature to blame the IPPR for being irresponsible or stupid for producing this report since it hasn't even been published yet.

Blame the right wing press. They're at fault.


Ally said...

You called?

Sorry to depress you.

Have we really got to the point where the right wing press has so much power that we have to be careful about saying certain things because we know they'll lie about them?

It probably has, sadly

Yes, I'm afraid it probably has.

As I said on the CiF thread, it would be a tragedy if people were constrained from voicing useful, worthwhile, intelligent suggestions for fear of what the tabloids will make of them.

It is not a tragedy if people are constrained from making bloody silly, impractical and unworkable suggestions because the way they will be interpreted causes real damage to the (important) causes they claim to represent.

I'd also urge caution as to how much faith you attach to Rick Muir's rebuttal. Note that while he was quite clear about what the new IPPR report will NOT say, he was less forthcoming - if not downright evasive - about what it will say. Let's come back to this in a couple of weeks, shall we?

I'd also love to know why someone (presumably) at the IPPR saw fit to leak the report to the press several weeks before it came out. Could it possibly be that the IPPR knew exactly what the response would be and fancied a little bit of advanced publicity?

Cynical, Moi?

Anyway, still love your blog. Keep on keepin' on.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Hi Ally,

I don't want you to think I'm having a pop at you here. Your comments on CiF are often the only oases of sanity there.

If the IPPR really leaked the report to get this sort of publicity, then I agree they're a bunch of numpties who deserve at least some of whatever they get - and it would help if their report were a bit more comprehensible.

But we are talking about a newspaper here that can take a report on stats that show 55 people from Romania and Bulgaria came to the UK to be circus artistes in the first three months of this year, and report them as saying 126 people a day came to do that.

Maybe the Mail journalist really did come to the conclusion that what the IPPR said amounted to calling for a downgrade for Christmas. But even if the IPPR report is even less clear than their clarification it doesn't excuse sticking the word 'downgrade' in quotes in the headline (unless the report actually states that Christmas should be downgraded), or farting around with the quotes in the second paragraph the way it did.

We should definitely wait for the report to see the context though. If that doesn't help, maybe we should spread the blame aroud a bit.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

And thanks for the compliment over at CiF. Forgot to stick thhat at the bottom of my comment there.

Ally said...

Didn't think for a minute you were having a pop, 5cc. I know a like-minded soul when I come upon one.

And when people pick my arguments apart as well as you have, I always like it when they call me by the wrong name - doesn't show up on Google that way ;-)

(I'm Ally Fogg. Ally Frost is my cold, frigid climactic cousin!)


Five Chinese Crackers said...

Cheers Ally!

"I'm Ally Fogg. Ally Frost is my cold, frigid climactic cousin!"

Aaargh! What an eejit! How can I slag off tabloids for misrepresenting things when I can't even get names right?

All fixed now. Won't happen again.