Tabloid bullshit of the month award - February 2011

It's here! The past month has been a montage of headlines spinning towards the camera, hacks furiously typing, frowning at Muslims, waking up before dawn and chugging a nasty glassful of booze, chucking a book called 'Journalistic Ethics' in the bin and 'CRTL+V'ing press releases into articles while 'Gonna Fly Now' plays in the background. They can do it! They can win February's 5cc tabloid bullshit of the month award.

It's been an odd month. Steve Doughty, winner of January's award, has shown no sign of changing his ways, or even reading the email I sent. His list of published articles still reads like a list of parodies with 'Anger as word 'marriage' vanishes from birth statistics', 'The 'glass ceiling' is all in the mind: Women lack confidence and ambition at work says new survey' and 'Swamped by our bins: How the average family now has FOUR recycling boxes ... and some have NINE'. Yay! Bins! Also, his 'Gah! The Muslims are coming!' story from last month still says 0.8% of the US population is American. Crack journalist Steve Doughty. Like a current affairs ninja, except shit.

We've also had some more naked racism from the Express, in 'NOW A MERE 37% OF NHS DOCTORS ARE WHITE BRITISH', covered excellently by the brilliant Full Fact and Minority Thought. The Express didn't tell us that about a quarter of doctors in the survey didn't specify their ethnicity - and the article included lots of quotes from people about immigrant doctors, not ethnic minorities. Still, it's a scandal. Imagine a black doctor. He'd be rubbish, right?*

The papers also quoted some stats about the number of illegal immigrants on benefits, which appeared to have been based on figures taken from journalists arses, and everyone's favourite bumbling oaf managed to recycle a myth from 1995 about there being a job teaching Asian women to play hopscotch in London. This is odd, since the rest of the time he tries to make us believe hopscotch has been banned because of health & safety.

Other worthy recipients include the Sun for 'Tran or woman?'and 'Horse-faced stars go from WAG to nag?'(nominated by @press_not_sorry on twitter) and "How many more victims of Facebook sex gang?" (nominated by @NatalieDzerins), which has prompted Facebook to threaten legal action. Again.

@pbulkers also nominated the Mail for its treatment of Juliet Shaw, but as that didn't happen this month, I can't consider it. Head over to No Sleep Til Brooklands for the full story on that (which you should be reading anyway because it's good and that).

I should also mention the launch of churnalism.com, which is a godsend for sad acts like me.

This month though - fanfare please (the one from Rocky for preference) - there are four winners, all from the same paper and for the same incident. The winner is...the Daily Star for throwing support behind the EDL and then getting smacked down for it.

Here's the letter:
Dear Dawn Neesom, Gary Nicks, Steve Hughes and Emily Hall,

I'm writing to inform the four of you that you're joint winners of a new(ish) award for journalism. You've won the 5cc tabloid bullshit of the month award for February 2011.

Usually, I open these emails by saying 'I'm happy to announce...' and all that polite stuff, but even though it's tongue in cheek and I'm talking the piss, I can't bring myself to do that this month.

The stunt you pulled could have caused even more serious damage to community relations in this country than the tabloids are usually guilty of.

Obviously, I'm talking about your apparently short-lived support for the EDL in 'EDL TO GO POLITICAL', 'EDL BOSS TOMMY ROBINSON SAYS HE HAS 24-HOUR GUARD', the editorial 'Don't dare ignore EDL' and 'ENGLISH DEFENCE LEAGUE: WE'LL STAND UP AND FIGHT FOR BRITAIN'S BRAVE HERO'S' [sic], corrected to 'ENGLISH DEFENCE LEAGUE: WE'LL STAND UP AND FIGHT FOR BRITAIN'S BRAVE HEROS' [sic].

Here's why you won:
  • Mainstream support of street thugs claiming to defend the majority while going around victimising religious minorities, making stiff armed salutes and wearing black tops traditionally doesn't end well. You know that film, the black & white one with Liam Neeson where he helps Jewish people escape Germany in the 1940s? Liam Neeson is not meant to be the bad guy.
  • The EDL weren't 'to go political' at all, until you said they were on your front page. As you will know, since it's in your story, all that had happened is that the chief hoolie had said he hadn't ruled that out. It looked suspiciously like you were trying to encourage the building of a political party from a group born from football hooligans and former BNP members.
  • You crowed about how 98% of your readers supported the EDL. Firstly, no they didn't. 98% of a self-selecting group who could be bothered to call a premium rate phone line said they did. This is not the same. Three things:
  1. Small groups often swarm online and phone polls to create the false impression of mass support. It happens all the time. You're all working in a national newspaper. You should know this.
  2. If you truly believe 98% of your readers support a bunch of shouty, delusional, pissed up thugs, then you should wonder why, look at what you might be doing to attract them and then stop doing it. You're not supposed to be attracting people like that. You know that film, the one where Patrick Swayze cleans up a bar by ejecting all the rowdy, drunk lowlifes who go there and smash the place up? Patrick Swayze is not meant to be the bad guy.
  3. If you're not sure what might be attracting these people, look no further than stories like 'MUSLIM-ONLY PUBLIC LOOS', 'MUSLIM SICKO'S MADDIE KIDNAP SHOCK' and, well, pretty much any Daily Star story with 'Muslim' in the headline since they're pretty much all negative and quite often exaggerated, bullshit or just plain wrong. 
  • If a large number of your readers really do sympathise with the EDL, it's less because you have somehow hit on being the authentic voice of the disaffected working class than because numpties who don't like Muslims like reading stories about how horrible Muslims are. Plus, people who might not think about Muslims either way might be persuaded to change their mind by a constant drip-drip-drip of stories about how Muslims are bastards. Hope Not Hate didn't choose your paper to kick off its Campaign for Responsible Reporting by focusing on your paper by accident, you know.
  • You ran 'ENGLISH DEFENCE LEAGUE: WE'LL STAND UP AND FIGHT FOR BRITAIN'S BRAVE HERO'S' [sic], or 'ENGLISH DEFENCE LEAGUE: WE'LL STAND UP AND FIGHT FOR BRITAIN'S BRAVE HEROS' [sic] (hint: 'heroes' has an 'e'in it) without checking to see whether the main hero featured in the story supported the EDL. It was left to your sister paper, Daily Star Sunday, to report that like most people in the country, he doesn't.
And what luck it was that your sister paper stepped in. At least someone at Northern & Shell has more sense than you. For all I know, that person is Richard Desmond. Imagine that. Richard Desmond is the guy who has more sense than you. Must be pretty embarassing.

I'd love to have seen what made you suddenly stop the support. Maybe there was a PowerPoint presentation with a picture of a smashed in window on Krystallnacht with 'BAD' stamped across it, one of Anne Frank above the words 'YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO CHEER WHEN SHE GETS CAUGHT' and one with Darth Vader beneath the words 'JUST NO'.

That's it. I was going to ask what the hell you were thinking of, but I think I already know. There's an audience of numpties who want to get pissed up and travel around starting fights who can't do that at football matches any more and you mistook them for authentic, salt of the earth, ordinary people instead of dangerous, delusional rottweilers on two legs.  In case you didn't realise by now, this is a very dangerous thing to do.

I don't normally do this, but here's some further reading for you. Have a read of 'The Nazi Conscience' by Claudia Koonz. This Wikipedia article on the Sturmabteilung (especially for Steve Hughes that one, since he's still knocking out stories for people with a hatred of a religious minority and a lob-on for the military), this one on the Völkischer Beobachter and this one on Kristallnacht might help too. Here's a hint though - they were all bad things.

I'll be reproducing this letter, as always, over at Five Chinese Crackers. If any of you want to make an acceptance comment or any other response, reply to this email and I'll publish it (that way I'll know its really you). So far, a sum total of zero hacks have chosen to do this. Why not be the first? You could tell us how it's okay to support violent thugs because they say they're not violent, and hey! They're popular with your readers.

Cheers then,


P.S. The 'Contact US' section of your site still says you abide by the Press Complaints Commission Code and tells readers to conatct the PCC with complaints.  You should probably remove that, since I'm sure you're keen that Daily Star readers are not misled.  *Snort!*
That's it for this month, people! We've got a whole month to go for the next award, so I'll be preparing like this**:

*Note to idiots and foolish people. I don't believe this. I'm parodying what the article in the Express said, obviously. Like, duh.

**But with less excercising in Soviet Russia and more sitting on the sofa, eating biscuits and watching kung fu films.  Incidentally, I have a boring theory about the training montages in the Rocky films that I'll tell you about if you ask and/or I'm drunk.  You might not want to do that.


Anonymous said...

That was an absolute joy to read. Bullseye on every paragraph!

Neil Willcox said...

I look forward to the day when reporting in the tabloids reaches the heights that the appropriate response is you taking the piss. Until then, please feel free to be serious about it.

By the way, when I click through to the Rocky theme, when it gets through to the end Youtube suggests a tutorial for make up for Magenta from Rocky Horror. I don't know if this is genius, or maybe just an artifact of being logged in to Youtube as myself.

Scottie said...

These people are directly responsible for the stories in today's papers (like this one http://tiny.cc/804h1 ) regarding the apparent 50% of people who would support the imaginary "Nice" right wing party.

If my blog had a tiny portion of their readership and I constantly drip fed stories about those nasty sea dog-like creatures the seals - how they try to starve us by eating all the fish, laze around on beaches all day and the ones that do work only seem to want to put our sporting heroes to shame with their show-off ball control skills - how long before we had crowds cheering the crazy Canadian attacks on the cute little baby seals?

Paul said...

I've found next months winner, it's the response from the Daily Star in reaction to Richard Peppiatt's letter of resignation (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/mar/04/daily-star-reporter-letter-full), specifically;

"For the record, the Daily Star editorial policy does not hold any negativity towards Islam and the paper has never, and does not endorse, the EDL."

Robbert said...

Your previous award e-mail were excellent, but this one trumps them all. Very impressive stuff indeed.

I do wish someone would finally send a response, though.