Tag Archives: Tabloids

Cameron is a consonant, vowel, consonant, consonant

There must be a word for people who turn other people’s tragedies to their own benefit. That is, a word that wouldn’t set publicity-hungry Daily Mail readers into a full-blown “Fury”, if it appeared in an Nintendo version of Scrabble. I stole the phrase above from a TV comedian. (Sorry, I forget who it was. I’ll credit him or her if I remember.) It has the advantage that you can fit quite a few cusswords into the template and still be sure that you’ve made an accurate judgment.

In this case, Cameron is speaking to the Daily Mail readers. (consonant, vowel, consonant, consonants to the power of 1 million or so) The topical prop for his speech is the case of Shannon Matthews. Shannon became Maddie-level famous when she was “abducted.” Her mother made tearful TV pleas for her return, sobbing to camera, while clutching a cuddly toy. Oh, and tried to get the sort of millionaires who stumped up for the Madeleine McCann appeal to give her loads of money. Her use of the people around her and the media was as masterly as you’d expect from a Jeremy Kyle devotee. (Sobs, props, appeals to class and community loyalty, going straight for the emotional jugular every time.)

Only it turned out that the mother had planned the whole scheme. The child was being hidden, drugged, in the mother’s boyfriend’s flat a few streets away from her home. Mother and boyfriend were arrested. The child was reportedly much happier being looked after by the kidnapper than her mother or current father-substitute.

Hell seems to have no fury like a tabloid tricked. Shannon’s mother has now become the archetypal underclass hate figure. And if the right-wing tabloids and their ideological chums in the Conservative Party (and New Labour, sadly) have been made to look like gullible consonant, vowel, consonant, consonants by one poor person, the poor are surely going to have to pay.

Hence Cameron’s bizarre column in the Daily Mail
DAVID CAMERON: There are 5 million people on benefits in Britain. How do we stop them turning into Karen Matthews?

As if that is an ever-present danger…. One in 5 million. That seems like a very very low ratio of “Karen Matthews” to “people on benefits.” Unless she has some strange epidemic condition and isn’t so much going to jail as getting put into quarantine.

As far as I can see that makes 4,999,999 people on benefits who haven’t kidnapped anyone. Who somehow manage to survive almost on air alone and still don’t feel the need to drug their own children to keep them quiet in their kidnap-den.

Why stop at people in benefits? Karen Matthews was female. How do we stop x million women turning into Karen Matthews. Well, they’d have to have children. How do you stop a lower-value-of-x people turning into Karen Matthews? Or Northerners? Or people whose first names start with K?

It turns out that Cameron has strung together a few isolated and horrible incidents involving children, (spread over a couple of years) to say that Britain is b0rked. And the solution is – guess what – not expanding the life opportunities or providing better support for kids on the edge- but

And, yes, we do need tougher punishment, longer sentences and more prison places. But it’s not enough just to treat the symptoms of social breakdown – we need to treat its causes.
The Conservative plan starts with supporting families. ….. ”

By cutting benefits, if you read past the rest of the waffle.

If that’s being supportive, I’d hate to see what constitutes undermining.

The Guardian/Observer website has a report on the Tory benefits plans.

Tories to probe long-term jobless
Out-of-work families face close scrutiny of their children and home life under new opposition proposals

Blimey, it’s almost worth celebrating the massive recession we are apparently entering, if only because lots of Mail-reading people might suddenly find themselves forced to experience what it is really like to survive on benefits. To become “scroungers”, even :-)

No smugness here

Jonathon Freedland wrote about the hate email he’s been getting from Americans who tell him, in picturesque terms, that non-Yanks shouldn’t have opinions on the US election.

The counterblasts featured all the usual themes ….America had saved Europe’s “ass” twice before — and we would doubtless come bleating for help again when we inevitably sought rescue from the Muslim hordes imposing sharia law on London, Paris and Berlin. We can’t defend ourselves, of course, because we are limp-wristed “Euroweenies”, effeminate socialists whose own decline robs us of the right to say anything about the United States, which remains the greatest nation on earth. …….
One Bill07407 managed to capture the flavour of this virtual avalanche — including the curiously homoerotic undercurrent that runs through much rightwing American invective — with this effort: “If you want Comrade Obama we will gladly ship him over after he loses in a landslide. Meanwhile you can kiss my ass. I bet you would enjoy it faggot.” Equally reflective, this from bioguy777: “I love it! A pansy-ass limey Brit begs the US to do his bidding while his own country slips further towards total Islamic rule. We’re electing McCain, and the rest of the world can piss up a rope if they don’t like it. 1776, BITCH!(from the Guardian).

I am impressed by the sheer energy of this rhetoric. But a bit stung, on a patriotic basis. Surely, our own home-grown right wing nutters can’t achieve this level of ranting? This is a hard act to folllow. These comments manage to combine communism; homo-eroticism; islam and the bottom word. all . They are slightly lacking in the random-capitalisation and generous-use-of-exclamation-marks that normally distinguish such comments, but nobody’s perfect.

Bah, can the British product compete in this growing international market?

I was irresistibly drawn to the Daily Express by a front page I saw today which claimed that muslim fanatics were planning an attack on EastEnders (a British soap) I fought back the thought “Finally, a use for Al Qaeda.”

The Daily Express. Surely, if there’s a serious national challenge to foreign rabid-ranting supremacy, it must be in the Daily Express? The Express has a website. Imagine my delight to find it even has a Have Your Say page.

I would have to say the Express may be guilty of trying to juke the stats though. It may be trying to win an award from the twat-a-tron. It provides a list of questions that its readers might want to Have their Say about. These topics have obviously been cynically calculated to get comments by the shit-bucketload, applying a simple “Bull and red rag” principle.

More Have Your Say
•Should it be illegal to break manifesto promises?
•Is it time for Labour to stop bankrupting Britain?
•Is Brown to blame for credit crunch?
•Should ALL police forces get back to basics?
•Have you had enough of high taxes and poor services?
•Is Gordon Brown a laughing stock?
•Should Labour halt the war on motorists?
•Are we living in a Big Brother state?
•Should doomed Brown take the hint and quit?
•Is ‘nanny’ Brown just full of hot air?
•Are rubbish fines just a way of ripping us off?
•Have you been badly affected by the dismal property market?
• Will ex-soldiers bring discipline to our schools?
CLASSROOM yobs will be brought to heel by former soldiers trained as teachers, the Conservatives pledged last night.
• Should Ecstasy be downgraded from a Class A drug?
ECSTASY could be downgraded from a Class A drug despite a three-fold rise in the number of deaths.
• Does our benefits system reward scroungers?
TODAY The Daily Express reported that Brits are better off on benefits.
• Are you sick of the EU meddling in British affairs?
TODAY the Daily Express reported that British motorists will soon be forced into driving with their lights on in the daytime under a new EU edict.

Hah. I don’t even need to read the comments. The Express reporters might as well have written them at the same time they picked the topics. They know exactly what buttons to press to get that fear-filled little-England worldview spewed out to fill their empty webpages.

I spent a fair bit of time scanning the 99 “benefits scroungers” comments but you could tell their hearts weren’t in it (maybe with some secretly fearing they might end up in that category themselves, in a world recession, and are possibly suddenly realising that £60 a week would barely heat and light their homes, let alone feed them.)

Better entertainment from the “ex-soldiers” in schools thread. I become uncomfortably aware that not only do these people hate and fear children (no surprise) but they believe that Britain’s armed forces are staffed by the human equivalent of pitbull terriers, who, if ever let loose on schoolkids would terrorise and bully them into behaving. And they think this is a good thing.

Well, except for those who fear that gaining actual teaching skills would draw their psychopathic teeth.

The answer is no, how will they instill discipline,
they would not be alowed to punish the kids, they could not yell at them the same as a squadie, and off coarse they will need to go through collage or university to get thier teaching degrees or deplomas, by the time they have been through the system they will be just as PC as the present teachers, or will they go striaght into schools with out any degrees or deplomas, and we will have teaching on the cheap.

(How beautifully ironic that this educational expert has managed to come out of school without grasping the rudiments of spelling and punctuation.)

Or there are still some who feel that the troublesome rule of law will still hamstring the psychopaths.

IT WONT WORK
unless Cameron is going to get rid of the softly softly approach and the human rights loony lot , then this is a waste of time,

It’s probably too much to hope that these people can’t breed. In which case, no wonder that the UK has been told off again by the united nations for making its kids miserable.

It’s also something of a pretty serious insult to the British forces. These nutters somehow assume that any serving soldier is basically a thug, who has has been brutalised through training.:

Only if we get rid of the PC mongers and allow them to use the same discipline that army recruits face.

I don’t know anything about army training that I haven’t learned from watching Vietnam war films (Full Metal Jacket, etc) but I suspect they don’t either. It’s just that they misread the message about what happens when you brutalise young men into becoming disposable killers. They assumed it was a template, rather than a warning.

Quite by coincidence, I just saw the British National Party’s manifesto (I am buggered if I’m putting a link to that) and its central concerns seem to be the exact same “issues” that feature as topics on the Daily Express’s Have your Say. The BNP apparently plans to go after the Tories’ more rabid voters.

(Well, at least it would split the Tories’ vote, so I can see an upside. But generally, this shit just frames political debate in terms that are ever more rightwing. So, we see the Labour party fallling over itself to be tough on immigrants and scroungers.)

So, in your face, right-wing Yanks. Britain still has much more than its fair share of people after your own twisted hearts. (OK, the Brit ones don’t care about abortion and wouldn’t recognise a creationist theory if it bit them on the nose, and the American ones don’t seem to hate teenagers much, but they certainly seem to be brothers and sisters under the skin.)

Tory Leader spins tabloid appeal

Well, time for a departure from American politics and a look closer to home.

At the moment the Conservative party are spewing out vast tracts of nonsense, under the guise of a party conference. It does, however, give an insight into how willing to manipulate the voters they are, and how easily manipulated we actually are.

This is a headline news item which has been in papers and on radio bulletins quite a bit under the headline “Tories ‘to help have-a-go heroes’“:

Measures to help the public and police tackle criminals and end the “walk on by society” have been outlined by shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve.
He told the Conservative Party conference that too many people making “genuine attempts to prevent crime” had been arrested or prosecuted.

Erm, no. Not really true. It is, however, the poster child of the tabloid news papers. For decades we have been hearing urban myths about how a “have a go hero” stepped in to save someone and then got prosecuted. Most of the time, these are just that – urban myths. If you investigate the cited examples, the truth is often very different.

The law of the land is not biased against “have a go heroes” but, quite rightly, punishes vigilante gangs and disproportionate use of force.

Sadly, British journalists are shamefully bad at investigating. The BBC even have an example in their article:

Mr Grieve’s comments came after banker Frank McGarahan died following an attack in Norwich. The 45-year-old intervened when he saw two other people being assaulted in the early hours of Sunday morning, but was himself set upon, suffering fatal head injuries. Police have launched a murder inquiry.

Now, is that relevant? No. Mr McGarahan was not prosecuted by the police. The government did not kill him. Unless this is an example of the BBC showing why it is a bad idea to encourage untrained, unskilled people to pile in, there was no reason to bring it up.

If, however, the BBC are similar to the tabloids, the conflation of statements like this is often done to generate misdirection – the public hear the two, and decide that the government shouldn’t have prosecuted people like Mr McGarahan….

Madness. I am saying this a lot lately. We are a society of lunatics. Worryingly, when you think everyone else in the world is insane it normally means……..

Anyway, pushing that to one side. We get more ludicrous waffle from the tories:

Mr Grieve pledged to “take on the health and safety culture” and the legislation which “is holding officers back and making them more risk averse”.

This defies belief.

Health and safety measures are there to protect people. They are there to stop your employer forcing you to risk your life and limb for your job. They are there to make sure that you can function as a working member of society for as long as possible. It has nothing to do with stopping people from being “risk averse” (and here I suspect the Tories demonstrate a lack of understanding as to what “risk” means).

The Conservatives point to examples like the case of 10-year-old Jordan Lyon, who drowned in May 2007 saving his younger sister.
Two community support officers were at the scene but did not get into the water because they had not received the appropriate training.

What should they have done? Should they have died trying to save the 10-year old? (In which case the 10-year old would have died anyway). Do the tories plan to force everyone to risk their lives on a daily basis?

Note, the 10 year old was not risk averse. He took a risk and died. Should two other lives have been added to the tally? If you are family of Jordan Lyon, the likely answer is yes, but if you were a loved one of the community support officer would you have wanted them dead? Whose life is more important?

It gets funnier though:

The Conservatives want to amend Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure that protecting the public from risk is given priority over the risk to officers.

Interesting. Police officers will no longer be able to risk the life of the public to protect themselves… There go the tasers, armed police, batons, riot shields etc. When someone tries to jump off a balcony, will police have to throw themselves underneath to break the fall?

Still it is a sad day that the lives of our Police officers is now deemed to be less important the lives of our public. This is doubly sad in the case of the Police Community Support Officers(*) who have no powers, are paid appallingly bad wages but still have to sacrifice their lives.

Going back to the tragic Jordan Lyon case, the officers were untrained in how to save someone. If they had been compelled to dive in without knowing what to do, what are the chances they would have saved him? Why is lifesaving a taught skill that comes with a qualification if everyone can do it automatically?

The sad fact is, the manipulative tories have jumped on this bandwagon to stir up an apathetic public. They have made meaningless gestures but grabbed headlines. The tabloids love them and to uncritical thought it sounds great.

Dont you just hate politicians?

It isnt just the tories who are prone to such underhand statements:

But the government said its was already working on the issues the Conservatives had raised, including changes to the law, so people using “reasonable force” to protect themselves could have “greater confidence” they would not be prosecuted.

Political vapourware at its best. This basically says: they are not currently going to be prosecuted but the tabloids and tories make them think they are so we will change a meaningless part of the law so everyone feels better. Argh.

Given the lies of the tories, the emptiness of the Labour party and the pointlessness of the Liberal Democrats is it any wonder voters are apathetic?

(*) I detest the very concept of PCSOs. It strikes me as a nasty way of getting policing on the cheap, while allowing under-trained, under-educated thugs out on to the street with a false idea of their own authority. Spend more money on getting real police out. That would save 99% of the problems with PCSOs. IMHO of course…. :-D

Blind Faith

The tragedy of missing Madeleine McCann seems no closer to ending than it did three months ago. During this time the media personification of the parents has alternated between saint and sinner – sometimes seemingly at random. For the most of it, in Portugal, the McCann parents have been looked at as (at best) negligent parents while (again, for most of the time) in the UK the middle class, white, professional, religious status of the parents has ensured they have been seen as saints who are undergoing a terrible ordeal. This changed recently, when for a short period the tabloids smelt more blood and in the wonderful manner of the press changed allegiances, barely stopping short of calling for their execution (mentioned previously). Given the natural order of the universe, the “truth” probably lies somewhere between the two extremes and I certainly have my own personal opinion. I should stress at this stage that my opinion is based on nothing other than gut feeling and the information made available by the press, so I have no intention of going into detail about it.

Before I go on, I would also like to point out that one of the main search terms which is driving traffic here recently is a variation on the words “Kate McCann Guilty Violent Murderer.” Given that this is generating a LOT of traffic, I can only guess at public opinion on the matter.

I digress. Risking eternal disfavour by the Great Antero Vipunen, I actually read the Sun newspaper today. I know. I am sorry. I will try not to do it again. In it, good old Archbishop John Sentamu writes a piece titled: We Must Have Faith For Maddie

Despite the overt religious tones in which the the piece is written, this is a largely secular humanist bit of writing with the basic theme being that the presumption of innocence is the bedrock of the legal system. For example, he relates this parable:

In 359AD a trial took place where a local governor, Numerius of Narbonne, was accused of raiding his own coffers. There was little proof but that didn’t stop the whispers and accusations. Still, the prosecutor was convinced the governor was guilty and said as much to the judge, the Roman Emperor Julian. At his trial, the governor denied the charges and the case was due to be dismissed.

The prosecutor was furious: “Oh, illustrious Caesar,” he raged, “If it is sufficient to deny, what hereafter will become of the guilty?” Emperor Julian’s response has been repeated in countless trials for the past 1600 years: “If it suffices to accuse, what then will become of the innocent?”

And, for once, I find my self in total agreement with the Archbishop of York. Scary.

Sadly, despite the valid comments the Archbish makes and the fact the Sun newspaper of all papers prints it, there are a few things which still make me uncomfortable about it. I agree whole heartedly that as a society we should reinforce the automatic presumption of innocence.

Now, with this in mind, have a flick through the Sun news paper (or any media output over the last, say, day) and see how many examples there are where a person accused of a crime is assumed to be guilty. It is a regular occurrence. Take poor Robert Murat for example – due to his past he was largely assumed to be guilty of anything people wanted to accuse him of. He had no support from the various churches, he had no support from rich idiots. He had to defend himself against the court of public opinion.

Not so for the McCann parents. The cynic in me is screaming this is entirely down to their perceived image as “successful” white professionals – anything which implies this part of our society can harbour evil seems to damage the national psyche. In the same edition of the Sun which calls for the return of innocent until proven guilty, OJ Simpson is pretty much called a murderer several times. Is this hypocrisy?

Anyway, enough ranting about this obvious state of the world. Dr Sentamu concludes his article with something that produced mixed emotions:

Our focus must again be upon the love of the parents for their lost daughter, for their hope that they may one day be reunited with her and for their faith that she is still alive.

These must be our watchwords — faith, hope and love. For as St Paul once wrote, in the end it is these three which remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Wonderful words, and I too hope she is alive and unharmed. The adult in me is aware that this hope is pretty much doomed to be dashed against the rocks of reality, but I would like it to be so.

Sadly, and again this is cynic in me now, the plight of poor Maddie has shown that despite all the prayer in the world (and the wishes of his representative on Earth, the Pope), the Christian deity will not intervene to save even one life, nor will s/he take action to return a lost child to an apparently grieving family. From this I can only draw one of three conclusions:

  1. God exists but is evil or totally uninterested in the human race, with no intention to get involved in any of our affairs.
  2. God hates Christians.
  3. There is no God.

It is up to you which option you go for, but I know which one I think is true…

[tags]McCann, Madeleine, Kate, Kate McCann, Maddie McCann, Sentamu, Archbishop of York, Society, Law, Rights, Liberties, Philosophy, Robert Murat, Gerry McCann, The Sun, Tabloids, Media, UK, Culture, Civil Rights, Trial, Crime, Murder, Dr John Sentamu, Church of England, Catholics, CofE, Roman Catholic, Pope, Portugal, Police, Atheism, Humanism, Faith, Hope[/tags]

The Law According to the Tabloids

Now my enforced hiatus is over, it is time for me to rant a bit about some of the borderline insane things the UK media has been getting up to during the traditionally quiet months at the end of summer. (What summer?)

Unusually, I think I am going to try and be a bit tactful about this and I really don’t want people to get the wrong impression here. Before I go on, I can not imagine the trauma and heartache that the McCann family are going through right now but I am going to use them as an example of the amazing double standards that the tabloid press can hold themselves to. This is in no way meant to imply that I think the McCanns are guilty of any crime.

Over the summer, the tabloid press (especially the Daily Express and the Sun newspapers) have been clamouring about how our (UK) society is going down the pan and coming up with such “common sense” solutions as harsher sentences, more police powers etc. Generally speaking anyone even suspected of a crime which makes it to the press is assumed to be guilty, and if a court finds differently there is outrage about how we need stronger laws etc. (For an example, see the nonsense that a terminally bad singer has been spewing out in the Sun (and alun’s excellent comment))

Almost daily we hear from a distraught relative about how the accused is actually guilty and anything which seems to say otherwise is just flawed. Opinion pages and talking heads on the TV go on about how our “human rights act” means the suspects are treated too lightly and this is preventing the police getting convictions. The trial by media is almost total and almost totally ignores the actual progress of the case or the final verdict. It goes as far as the farcical comment that if they are doing things which aren’t crimes it just means we don’t have strong enough laws… It is, in short, madness.

Stepping into this world of chaos, vitriol and bile we have the poor oppressed McCann family. After months of tabloid coverage showing the distraught family on their world tour to raise awareness of their lost daughter, and months of UK tabloid coverage saying how bad the Portuguese police are (largely because they don’t tell the press every single thing they do, but that is a rant for another day), recently there has been a slight change of events. Slowly the Portuguese press started to consider that the parents may have been involved in the death of the child.

Under normal circumstances this would have been the first line of investigation and, sadly, most child killers are family members (feel free to Google the UK Home Office statistics if you don’t believe me). In most serious crime cases, police officers being police officers, family members are the first to be suspected — especially in cases where there is no obvious signs of forced entry or violent struggle.

Now, slight sideline, there have been lots and lots of murders and abductions in the time since Madeleine McCann went missing. Can any one name any of them? If you search through the news footnotes (mostly local news items), the family are invariably picked as suspects and hammered by the investigators. Although not 100% relevant this is a snapshot from recent news here, here, here and here – all examples of relatives being found guilty of the torture and death of a child. If anything, it is pretty amazing to me that the McCann’s were not brought in by the police and interrogated for hour after hour to find out what happened. Part of me feels that the media circus which sprung up around the case almost from the onset caused this…

Anyway, eventually the Portuguese police have followed on from the media claims and begun to investigate the possibility that one or both of Madeleine’s parents may have been involved. It strikes me that if this was any other case this would be normal and perfectly acceptable. However this is not any old case, it is the McCann case… This means that the papers which print speculation that the McCann’s may be guilty get taken to court for libel (this must be making more than a few UK paper editors worry) and the UK news is now filled with tearful footage about how cruel the police are to even begin to suspect either parent. Even the BBC (which is now pretty much a tabloid as far as “news” goes) seems to be falling in step with the common idea that the McCann’s are saints who would never hurt a fly. Call me cynical but comments like this don’t make me feel the person must be innocent :

“They made a series of ridiculous allegations. Kate is a loving and caring mother who sincerely believes her daughter is still alive. She was absolutely horrified. Kate is a lovely mother to her children, she’d never hurt them. Anyone who knows Kate would say that to make an allegation of this kind about her is absolutely ridiculous.” (Family spokesperson Justine McGuiness)

Leaving aside the “Family Spokesperson” aspect, what criminal (this does not imply I think Kate McCann is a criminal) wouldn’t have a statement like this? Can you imagine the prelims to a murder trial where the defence spokesperson says “my client is a murderous scumbag who hates everyone and loves to kill people”? Does the family spokesperson really think this will sway the police? Obviously, yes is the answer to that – or there is a sinister undercurrent and the spokesperson is actually getting ready for a criminal trial but that is a route I wont go down for now, I will hold to good faith and assume Kate McCann is innocent.

The important part is the media reaction to all this. The local news and radio stations (sadly, I cant find any links at the moment) have been hammering on today about how cruel it is to interview Kate McCann, how ELEVEN hours in questioning is a monstrously long time and so on. On breakfast TV, I watched a reporter go on about what an ordeal Mrs McCann had undergone and the comparisons with the much fairer, reasonable English justice system.

This is mind boggling. Compare the compassion and feeling being poured out towards Mrs McCann with the vitriol and hatred thrown against people like the early suspect (Robert Murat) who was pretty much found guilty during the Trial by Media. Compare this with the demands for harsher laws, tougher police powers to question suspects and the like – all being touted by the same tabloids who are now saying how 11 hours is a long time to be questioned. Imagine how “tired and distraught” a terrorist suspect must feel after 28 days of police questioning. Ironically newspapers cry out how cruel it is to suspect Kate McCann, ignoring the speed with which they demanded the conviction of Mr Murat — not to mention the furore around any other suspect unfortunate enough to make the news pages. As always, the Sun Newspaper (in the loosest sense of the word) is truly blind to the irony and has the following “sun says” editorial comment:

PLODDING Portuguese police have not covered themselves in glory over their probe into the disappearance of four-year-old Madeleine McCann.

For over four months her devoted parents Kate and Gerry have done everything in their power to help detectives find the missing girl.

But while cops have refused to give any public details about their investigation, the Portuguese media is now awash with rumours and innuendo leaked by police sources.

Yesterday, bungling police called Maddie’s tragic mum, Kate, in for yet another agonising grilling.

If this is just another fishing expedition, they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Hasn’t she suffered enough?

It is almost enough to make you want to vomit.

[tags]Madeleine McCann, Kate McCann, McCann, Police, Portugal, Portuguese, Media, Tabloids, Society, Culture, Philosophy, Rant, Law, Justice, Murder, Crime[/tags]

Experiment in fear

This sounds brilliant. A tv show based on exposing the mental influence of the tabloids Not just tabloids in general, with their z-list celebs and soap opera stars, but the most mind-sapping terror-inducing tabloid – the Daily Mail.

The film Supersize Me showed you are what you eat, but is it true that you are what you read?
New documentary The Daily Mail Diet aims to find out as it follows film maker Nick Angel giving up all TV, radio, print and online news sources for 28 days – except for the Daily Mail.

Mr Angel said: “It’s important to know what the Mail thinks, because it’s a lightning rod (or so it claims) to ‘Middle England’ – that ill-defined and slightly scary mass of people whose various incarnations include the ‘Moral Majority’ and ‘All Right Thinking People’.
“And in a sense, there’s a little bit of Daily Mail in all of us – who hasn’t felt their cheeks flush and blood boil when snapped by a speed camera or confronted with some maddening example of NHS bureaucracy?
“That’s what makes the Mail such a potent force – because while it’s loathsome, it’s also weirdly attuned to the dark heart of the British psyche.”

If you can get to see this programme, it sounds really worth watching.

By coincidence, it’s particularly relevant today. Following on from yesterday’s post here and Xanderg’s (of badnewsbible’s) excellent comments, the Daily Mail seems intent on lowering the bar below its even its own usual ant-limboing level.

The Tory leader is calling for the repeal of the Human Rights Act and the government is doing its best to pull the despotism rug from under the Tories by itself challenging the operation of the courts. Scenting success for its worldview, the Daily Mail has redoubled its attack, over the Chindamo case.

Here are three headlines from pages linking to today’s main Stephen Lawrence storyMail’s pages which carries the title ‘He’s no risk’: why jail boss backed Lawrence killer (I’m selflessly ploughing through this rubbish so you don’t have to. You can get the flavour of it from the headlines. But if you want to try an experimental diet of the Daily Mail, the link will take you to enough pages to undermine your will to live):
The quangocrats who let Chindamo stay (They are referring to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal, not previously known as liberal trailblazers.)
Chindamo’s Mafia gangster father awaiting trial for murder in Spain (Guilt by association, even though it seems the boy has barely seen his father since he was three.)
COMMENTARY: Has the law deprived Frances Lawrence of justice?

The Commentary refers to an editorial piece which tugs at the reader’s sympathy and emotions but signally fails to make any logical connection between sympathy for Frances Lawrence and their case for overriding EC law to deport Chindamo.

Why does justice for Frances Lawrence require that her husband’s killer doesn’t live in Britain? I know that Great Britain is a small island (compared to the land mass of Canada, say) but there are still about 65 million of us living here. The chance of accidentally bumping into him in Tesco’s is statistically pretty slim.

Just in case you think we are all certifiably mad in the UK, there’s a reasoned piece by Katie Ghose in the Guardian. This human rights hysteria threatens every one of us.

Once again we are in the grip of human rights hysteria. Variously blamed for allowing prisoners access to porn and preventing police forces from publishing photographs of suspects, the latest attack on the Human Rights Act relates to the decision not to deport Learco Chindamo, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of head-teacher Philip Lawrence in 1995.
Human rights have never been a passport to porn – nor were they an obstacle to the conviction or sentence of Chindamo, who is serving a minimum of 12 years for his brutal attack. But the truth takes a back seat when there are juicy headlines to be made out of human rights “lunacy”.

Why it is important…

Over the last few months, I have ranted a few times about how I think that civil liberties in the UK (and to an extent the world over, but I don’t have first hand experience of that) are being eroded as a result of general fear and the media’s incessant pressure to convince people we live in dangerous times.

I also rant about this quite a bit in the real world where, the same as online, I am often faced with arguments which basically say there is nothing to worry about, the security forces are trustworthy and only guilty people need to have anything to hide. These arguments are basically false but it can be difficult to refute them, examples like the Guildford Four or Birmingham Six are distant memories now.

Recently, the latest spate of inept terrorists appear to have provided the impetus for the Home Secretary to be looking at reforms to the UK’s anti-terrorist related laws. As well as on this blog, even sites such as the Register have demonstrated some concern in both the driving force, and the results of this new fear-based-law society.

I have spoken in the past about the problems of detaining an innocent person for two months without even having enough evidence to charge them, and this remains (in my mind at least) still the critical issue over the whole deal. Taking someones life away from them, putting them in a cell and controlling their life is a punishment. Despite what the tabloids may try to make people think, it is not an easy time nor is it a “holiday” camp. Given that most UK prisoners are Christians (interesting considering…) someone detained as a suspected Islamic terrorist is at much greater risk of mistreatment by fellows inmates if they are detained with the general population, or they end up being put in solitary confinement for their own protection. Either way it amounts to a serious punishment that would normally require you were convicted of a criminal offence first (and a reasonably serious one to amount to two months detention).

It would be nice if we could be sure that the police forces across the UK would only enact this legislation on the most solid intelligence possible, and this is certainly what is claimed by the ministers and officials pushing for it. The problem is, this really is not the case. The police have no public accountability (for reasons I agree with) over their intelligence and neither the police nor the security forces are subject to any form of censure should they get it wrong. There is no real incentive for the police to adhere to this high standard — in fact, given the way figures are presented with the totals being more important then the amounts presented for trial, it seems the opposite is true.

A recent example of this has been bouncing through the news since the London/Glasgow terrorist event. One of the key suspects was an Indian born Doctor who was arrested in Australia based on UK police information. Dr Haneef has been identified repeatedly in the tabloids as a terrorist (suspect with lesser emphasis) over the past few weeks and the police were doing their utmost to have him sent back over here (in an ironic reverse deportation) so he could be detained under anti-terror legislation — this would have meant the police could detain him for 28 days under current laws, before having to bring charges.

So that the Australians would co-operate and deport Dr Haneef, the police shared a fair bit of their intelligence with them and this is a good thing. I am not pro-terrorist. As a result of this, the Australians detained Dr Haneef for several weeks and tried to bring a case against him.

Sadly, it appears the intelligence indicating he was linked to the terrorists is heavily flawed. The BBC reports:

Prosecutors had claimed that the doctor’s mobile phone SIM card had been found in the burning car that crashed into Glasgow international airport on 30 June.

But it later emerged the card had actually been found in a flat in Liverpool, some 300km (185 miles) from Glasgow, where his second cousin lived.

Blimey. Call me old fashioned but that is a serious mistake to make and, as the prosecutors were willing to present it as evidence when it was so wildly incorrect, it is worrying — it means they didn’t know their “evidence” was faulty. This is not a problem with intelligence, it is evidence. It seems that the police were unable to establish if they had gathered a vital piece of evidence at the crime scene or in a different country. That worries me. A lot. The BBC continues:

Australia’s most senior police officer, Commissioner Mick Keelty, said UK police had provided the inaccurate information.

“Haneef attempted to leave the country. If we had let him go, we would have been accused of letting a terrorist escape our shores,” he said.

The charges against Dr Haneef were dropped after Australia’s chief prosecutor said there had been mistakes made in the investigation, and because of a lack of evidence.

(read more on the BBCs article titled “Why the Haneef case disintegrated“) Sadly, it is probable that we only know of this because the case was handled by a foreign police force. If Dr Haneef had been detained in the UK, he could have been held for 28 days before any case was even made and if it collapsed in that time, there would be no public information as to what went wrong. Basically, Dr Haneef would have spent a month in jail because the police thought his SIM card was somewhere it wasn’t. Most of the current vitriol against the police over this case is aimed at the Australian police, but does anyone think the UK (or pretty much any other western nation) police are all that different?

I have said before that the main reason there is so much apathy over this is that it seems to target minorities, and that alone is a sign that we should all be concerned about the steady erosion of basic civil liberties. While, for now, it may seem like only the brown skinned ones with beards, funny accents and unpronounceable names are being singled out, once the right has been legally removed it is gone for everyone — Hindu, Atheist, Moslem, Jain or Christian alike (and it brings to mind Pastor Martin Niemöller‘s famous poem).

That is why I think it is really, really, important. [tags]Civil Liberties, Hindu, Atheist, Moslem, Jain, Australia, Christian, Dr Haneef, Anti-Terror Legislation, Laws, Civil Rights, Human Rights, Jail, Intelligence, Detention,Pastor Martin Niemöller, SIM Cards, Evidence, Trial,Terrorist,Terror,The Register, Society, Culture, Fear, Terrorism, Tabloids, Media[/tags]