Tabloid bullshit of the month award - July 2011. The MailOnline edition

It's been a mad month for trying to pick an appropriate article to win the 5cc tabloid bullshit of the month award.

The News of the World phone hacking scandal is still claiming scalps on a scale I never began to imagine might happen. An entire tabloid newspaper - the bestselling one in the country - no longer exists. The appearances before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee were probably worth several monthly bullshit awards to themselves.

Johann Hari has ensured that controversy about poor journalistic practice isn't restricted to the tabloids. His weird plagiarism and alleged sockpuppetry have led to him being suspended and having his Orwell Prize reconsidered. It's a nice reminder to try to read around and check whatever we read in the papers, even in 'respectable' papers.

Most disturbingly, Anders Breivik, the nobody who killed several people whose politics he despised in Norway, had released a manifesto covering his politics that not only could have been cut and pasted from our right wing press, but some of it was.

But here's the deal. Sending an award to anyone who appeared before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee would probably get me sued - and sending a jokey email with swears and gags about bums in because some hack might have contributed to the possible inspiration for mass murder would just not be right. Joking about buggering about with the price of bread doesn't seem right either.

So, who to pick?

I figure that pointing the finger at people who were included in Anders Breivik's manifesto is out, but focusing on the papers' reaction to the murders is fair game. Unfortunately, it's impossible to send an award to the the entire bloody media for assuming that he must be Muslim, so I'm settling for a couple of stories from the Mail that perfectly illustrate the paper struggling to deal with a killer whose views wouldn't all look entirely out of place in its pages.

I'm talking about two stories included in one handy link: 'Burning with hatred... The right-wing extremist who hated immigrants and multi-culturalism' and 'The changes he saw all around him fed his warped sense of injustice'.

This month though, the winner is not any of the hacks that wrote the peices, but MailOnline editor Martin 'Nosferatu' Clarke for the genius decision of squishing these together. Oh, and there's an extra bonus reference to something that happened earlier in the month you might have forgotten about.

Enough rambling. On with the email!
Dear Mr Nosferatu,

It is with a combination of pride and a heavy heart that I can announce that you are the winner of journalism's newestish prize - the 5cc tabloid bullshit of the month award for July 2011! Well done, you!

Now, you haven't won for the genius that is the 'Sidebar of Shame', which manages to:

  • Put stories about how terrible anorexia is next to ones calling perfectly slim women 'fat'
  • Put stories about how terrible the sexualisation of young children is next to creepy long-lens pap shots of children illustrating stories going into great detail about what they're wearing and how grown up they look
  • Include stories built around saucy pictures of celebrities while pretending to be disgusted
  • Attracting those all important clicks from Americans with stories about minor US celebs few in the UK have heard of
  • Target the equally important female audience by telling us constantly how crap women are and they're better off just shutting up and getting on with the cleaning
Laudable as all those things are, they're not why you win. You win for 'The right-wing extremist who hated immigrants and multi-culturalism' and 'The changes he saw all around him fed his warped sense of injustice'.

Here's why:
  • It must have been difficult, waking up and finding that the guy responsible for the latest terrorist atrocity was not a Muslim, but a blonde, blue eyed right winger with views that wouldn't look out of place in your own paper. Do you go for the 'we're shocked that he hated multiculturalism' or the 'it's all multiculturalism's fault' angle? It's a conundrum. A conundrum you managed to solve like a cackling, morally bereft Sherlock Holmes.
  • 'Burning with hatred... The right-wing extremist who hated immigrants and multi-culturalism' goes with the first option. It appears to express shock that Breivik posted comments on the internet about Somalian immigrants with Norweigan passports sending money home and expressing hatred of multiculturalism. He's an extremist because of these things.
  • Here are the Google search results for 'Daily Mail passports', 'Daily Mail Polish sending money home', 'Daily Mail multiculturalism' and 'Daily Mail Somalian'. See, you guys hate immigrants and multiculturalism and moan about what Somalians get too! Had you forgotten?
  • Beautifully, the bit that talks about the horrid things Breivik wrote is immediately followed by:

    "Little is known about his early life, however, and there is no clue so far as to why he should have resorted to such terrible acts of violence."

    No. There's no clue so far. What could it possibly be?
  • Of course, you knew what you thought it could possibly be, which is what gave you the ingenious idea of using your internet stapler to attach 'The changes he saw all around him fed his warped sense of injustice' to the bottom. That's what won you this award.
  • So, it was the changes this ordinary, white middle-class man saw about him that made him shoot people and blow them up. Not his ridiculous view of those changes. You stay classy, Mister N.
Must've come as a bit of a shock to see his manifesto quoting your paper several times in support of what he thought was going on in the world.

Extra special bonus mention

Okay, you won for those two stories, but I can't go without mentioning how the strategy to attract links with flamebait is working for you.

'Girl, 13, crushed to death by a falling branch as she sat on a bench because her teachers were out on strike' was a stroke of evil genius. So obviously wrong was it that not even a Daily Mail hack was willing to put their name to it, and even your commenters - who can usually be relied on to act gleeful when things happen like immigrants drowning - gave you a kicking for it. The crowning glory must have been managing to get a statement from the girl's grieving parents out of it.

Was it worth it? Did the few hours it spent as top story with that headline get you many clicks from people rightly appalled by it?

Okay, that's it. I'm done. I'll be reproducing this email over at www.fivechinesecrackers.com. You can be the first person ever to respond with an acceptance or rebuttal by emailing me back at this address, and I promise to publish. I'll email you the crap picture of a trophy that is the official prize if you do. None of you guys seem very happy to defend yourselves though.

Cheers then!


All finished for this month everybody! Sorry for another long 'un, but you know. Tune in next month for August's edition that may or may not be on time. I have to say, there's already been a very, very strong contender for the award and I'll be very surprised if it gets topped, but as this month has shown, there doesn't seem to be a depth to which our press is unhappy to sink.

Now get out of my house!


Yakoub said...

"It's a nice reminder to try to read around and check whatever we read in the papers, even in 'respectable' papers."

I would have thought Flat Earth News was reason to keep a fairly close eye on the broadsheets.

Keir said...

Look, fair enough people immediately assumed Muslims were to blame. Were you expecting 7/7 to be forgotten already? And I remember reading a Islamic jihad group claiming responsibility as soon as the news broke. That would make me jump to conclusions. But then I assumed Oklahoma had to be by Muslims and look who the culprit turned out to be; mea culpa.

Kaspar said...

@Keir - try reading this week's 'Private Eye' for a more plausible story behind "an Islamic jihad group claiming responsibility". Once again, it appears the tabloid press pushed the narrative in the face of inconvenient facts, and it lodged in your mind as something you "remember reading" and thus an indisputable fact :-)

Anonymous said...

@Keir - good point there by Kaspar, I read that issue too and it looks like the 'group who claimed responsibility' was really just someone on a forum posting something which got picked up and pounced on by the press. And everyone knows things people say on forums are lies, in fact everything I just said is completely untrue. Don't tell the Daily Mail!