Faith: The “get out of bigotry free” card.

December 20, 2013

The backlash over Phil Robertson’s homophobic comments and subsequent suspension from ‘Duck Dynasty’ on A&E over in the US this week, has revealed three things. Firstly, the Christian Right seem to be under the impression that bigotry – when it is faith based- is acceptable and should come with no consequences. Secondly, they appear to be more offended at a suspension for bigotry, than they are by bigotry itself (is this what it means to be Christian?); And thirdly, they wish all private business owners to share their bigotry, and if those business owners wish the freedom to suspend someone for comments disagreeable to the business or the owners, this can only mean persecution of Christians, the end of free expression, and something about Stalin and Hitler.

For what it’s worth, I am a big free speech advocate. As an Atheist, I have argued that Muslim speaker – Mehdi Hasan – should be allowed to say of non-believers, that we’re headed for eternal torture, and that we live like animals. As disgusting as I find his views, I recognise that he will equally find my views on his faith to be ugly. The same Muslim speaker – Mehdi Hasan – then demanded we all say nice things about his religion, in essence, promotion of blasphemy laws; this, I cannot abide. They exist to protect faith. Faith has no inherent right to be protected.

It is worth noting that in Phil Robertson’s case, the state is not threatening to punish him. This is not a free expression issue. His freedom to be a bigot, is not under threat. Robertson expressed his view, he wont be punished by the state for it. However, a private business can still suspend him, if they are unhappy at what he expresses. This is true of every other business across the World. If I were to go on TV and express a thoroughly racist opinion, I’d expect to be disciplined by the network for it. If private companies wish to suspend someone for an ill-conceived and hateful racist, or homophobic rant, it is their right to do so.

Here is what Phil Robertson said:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus, that’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

- Leaving aside the obvious irony in a man believing in book of magical fairy sky man, dust Adam, rib Eve, and talking snake, having the nerve to call anyone else “not logical”; Phil Robertson here compares beastiality to homosexuality. At this point, the Christian-right expected no one to take issue with this grotesque rant. It is true that if you hold such appalling and uneducated views, you’re likely to face strong opposition with equally strongly held views (though again, you should not be punished by the state). It is the nature of holding extreme views.

For example, we could all point out that whilst Leviticus calls homosexuality an abomination, 1 Corinthians 11:14 refers to Phil Robertson as a ‘disgrace’:

“Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him”

- But I don’t use this to build a system of bigoted privilege for those of us who aren’t a ‘disgrace’ For having long hair, Phil Robertson “won’t inherit the Kingdom of heaven. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right”.

Indeed, the free expression narrative is an interesting one. For the Christian-right, it appears to mean freedom-to-say-right-winged-things, and to threaten action against those who don’t. In 2011, The American Family Association issued a sort of fatwa against The Gap and Banana Republic, calling for a boycott of the business. Effectively hurting business, thus hurting people who work for those businesses, around Christmas time, because:

“The boycott is part of our ongoing campaign to encourage businesses, communities and individuals to put Christ back in Christmas. The boycott runs from November 1 through Christmas Day.
For years, Gap has refused to use the word Christmas in its television commercials, newspaper ads and in-store promotions, despite tens of thousands of consumer requests to recognize Christmas and in spite of repeated requests from AFA to do the same.”

- The AFA are quite the serial offenders for demanding private companies bow to their wishes. They demanded a boycott of Ford over its support for gay pride events. The AFA then announced that Ford’s drop in sales, was caused in large part by the AFA’s boycott. Congrats! Your free expression – according to you – hurt a business, thus hurting employees, all because the business didn’t come to you to draft it’s “What we’re allowed to support” memo.

Similarly, The First Baptist Church of Dallas, in 2010 launched a website designed to allow users to ‘name and shame’ companies who take ‘Christ’ away from the holiday period, in their ads and products. The Christian-right are naturally very talented at forcing their views on others, and silencing dissent, so to harm businesses – small and large – to harm the employees who work at these businesses by shaming them simply for not re-affirming the Christian aspect of Christmas every single second of every day.

In 2010, the late Helen Thomas made disparaging remarks toward Jews in Israel, when she suggested Jews should leave Israel and “go home” to Germany and Poland. Ari Fleischer – Press Secretary under George W Bush – said:

“She should lose her job over this.”

- Nine Speakers, Inc, the agency that represented Thomas then fired her, after the media backlash and ex-Bush staff calling for her to be fired. Sarah Palin expressed her anger at Thomas, and added to the media storm that eventually led to her firing. Palin today is standing by Phil Robertson for his equally disparaging remarks.

Indeed, conservatives were overjoyed that “they” managed to get Helen Thomas fired:
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Three years later, the same conservatives expressing joy at getting someone fired for expressing their view, seem to have had a sudden change of heart:
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And again:
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And again:
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- When it’s speech that doesn’t adhere to their Theocratic standards, they get angry and demand action. When the speech absolutely adheres to their Theocratic standards, they get angry at those who demand action. It’s beautifully hypocritical.

In December 2012, Alex Jones over at infowars started a petition that eventually gained over 100,000 signatures on the White House website, earning an official response from the President…. to deport Piers Morgan for advocating gun control. Apparently you’re free to say what you wish, as long as it’s Tea Party-esque, and you’re not foreign:
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And again:
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Hell, it’s not just Piers Morgan they want to deport either:
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- Essentially; give a voice to those who agree with us, and silence those who don’t.

As noted in yesterday’s article on the Christian-right in Oklahoma – they are not happy unless their faith dictates the operation of the state, the media, private businesses, the womb of every woman on the planet, and whom individuals are allowed to marry. The arrogance is astounding, and the religious supremacy that promotes and perpetuates homophobia is cancerous.

The use of the phrase “free expression” – which to the Christian-right means; freedom from any sort of repercussion or challenge – is only ever invoked when the views expressed confirm Christian prejudices. The same people then demand repercussions for anyone, or any business whose expression doesn’t confirm Christian-right prejudices. It’s a terribly hypocritical state of affairs, all in the hope of retaining the get out of bigotry free card for that which they call “faith”.


#MyDadHatedBritain

October 1, 2013

When the Tories unleashed the racist van a few months back, social media sprung to life in parodying it, thus rendering the miserable venture an episode in ridicule, taking the sharpness out of its nasty sting. Today, Twitter sprung back to life with similar humour, intending to render the Daily Mail’s vicious piece on Ralph Miliband, a piece worth nothing but ridicule. And they succeeded beautifully.

The Daily Mail accused Labour Leader Ed Miliband’s late father Ralph Miliband, of “hating Britain”. So twitter users took to the social media site to confess their own worries that their father might also hate Britain. Here are a selection of my favourites:

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Wonderful. And it’s still continuing on Twitter as we speak. Ridiculing irrational slur stories, is a fine way to discredit and disempower the original piece.


The Deafening Silence of The Taxpayers’ Alliance.

April 17, 2013

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The Tax Payers’ Alliance are an interesting group of right wingers. Any sort of social program is deemed a waste of tax payers’ money, by those moral guardians over at the Alliance. Any increase in public spending, is criticised instantly as a waste of money, ineffective, and courtesy of the big bad government. They only want what’s best, apparently, for the mysterious “tax payer” God of which they pray at the alter. (Except, obviously, for Alexander Heath, the non-executive Director of the group; a man who hasn’t paid taxes in the UK for years).

I mean, they really hate anything funded by the tax payer. One of the members of the West Midlands brance of the TPA, Peter Roberts, wrote on his blog:

“And finally I hate buses because they are the symbol of a socialist society where people rely on the state to provide transport.”

- Yes. They even take their time to rant about how buses are a “symbol” of socialism, silently replacing the Hammer & Sickle and the face of Che Guevara. Remember that, every time you get on a bus. You’re basically announcing your support for Stalin.

So, given their vocal interest in any slight government funding for any project, ever…. we would expect them to remain consistent, and at least have a say over the £10m tax payer funded funeral for Margaret Thatcher. A funeral, which, according to a ComRes Poll 60% of the public do not believe the tax payer should have paid for. Great time to show that the Tax Payer’s Alliance isn’t just a Tory Party mouthpiece masked as a ‘grass roots, non-partisan’ Alliance of those concerned about misspent public funds.

Here then, is a comprehensive guide to the work of the Tax Payers’ Alliance over the course of the past month.

This a list of the items that the TPA has had an opinion on, over that month:

Business rates on empty buildings
Prison gymnasiums
Prison therapy programmes
Prisoner rehabilitation programmes
Prisoners’ access to legal aid
Prisoners’ access to air freshener
The Bedroom Tax
Rise in the tax threshold
The Health and Social Care Act
The Welfare Reform Bill
GLA staff internet browsing history
MPs expenses tribunals
Cosmetic surgery on the NHS
Working trips by the Science and Technology Facilities Council
International Development spending
Housing benefit for prisoners on remand
Sentences for benefit fraud
Compensation payments for injured children
Scrapping the development of a police computer
A grant to KPMG to set up a Glasgow office
The Cyprus bailout
Welsh councils’ spending on gifts for guests
Refreshments at meetings with Mayor Rahman
Demolition of derelict homes in Stoke
University Vice Chancellors’ pay
Medical negligence law suits
Accident at work compensation
Fitting council vehicles with GPS
The appropriate number of children for people on benefits
Gagging clauses for BBC executives
A subsidised bar in Whitehall
Charges for green waste collection
Windfarms in the South Pacific
Decisions of the Financial Services Authority
Councillors’ pensions
Advice offered by NHS Online
Headteachers attending conferences
Trainee doctors’ wages
Health support for obese children
The BBC iPlayer
The BBC’s disciplinary procedures
The Youth Police and Crime Commissioner Paris Brown
Gender realignment surgery
and…
The stuffing of William Hague’s snake

Here is a list of items the TPA has not had an opinion on, and has in fact, remained completely silent on, over the past month:

Margaret Thatcher’s £10m tax payer funded funeral.

- There must be some sort of mistake. Perhaps they’re just taking their time to write a well reasoned and eloquently presented response to the entire debacle. That must be it. Or perhaps every member of the TPA is currently on holiday without access to news. Or maybe too busy collectively weeping and mourning, their thoughts too occupied with grief to comment on the expense itself. That has to be it. I’m sure when the grief subsides, they will be vocal in their opposition to such an elaborate and overly extravagant day-long tax payer/socialist funded Tory Party Political Broadcast, of which 60% of the public they claim to represent, didn’t want to fund.

That being said, if they were in fact, too grief stricken to comment at all, we would expect their website to be bereft of any update since April 8th. And yet, oddly, we see five stories on their site since that day. A story about how shit and wasteful Owen Jones is. A story about how shit and wasteful Cardiff Council are. A story about how shit and wasteful Police and Crime Commissioners are. A story about how shit and wasteful Wales is. No story whatsoever, about the funeral expense.

So the one lesson we can all take from the TPA, and their ongoing campaign, is quite simple. Tax payers’ funding this…

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…. is acceptable, and represents good value for money. Not Socialism. But tax payers’ funding this….

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….. clearly a symbol of the Soviet Union of Great Britain, taking away your freedoms. It even has the nerve to be red.

The TPA are that excitable about every form of tax and spending in the UK (except extravagant socialist funerals for leading proponents of right winged, small-government dogma), that a spoof generator exists in which you too can come up with a generic ‘outraged’ TPA quote!
I typed in “England” and got this rather apt response.

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Re-Righting History.

April 10, 2013

Roars of disapproval echoed through the Tory filled chambers of the House of Commons today, as Glenda Jackson spoke out in beautifully crafted language against the social evils of Thatcherism. The Tory benches were not happy. And yet, they are the ones who insisted on firing up the debate upon her legacy, by referring to her as the “Saviour of Britain”. If you are going to bring politics into a eulogy, and present it in such a positive, and clearly manipulated way, then you must accept that not everyone is going to be happy with your summation, and their right to provide a dissenting voice. Thatcherism is now the point of debate.

This has already been covered by Liberal Conspiracy but it’s certainly worth pointing out in as many places as possible, because as predicted, any sort of mention of negativity toward Margaret Thatcher is being used to suggest some sort of vitriolic left wing hate campaign toward a recently deceased, frail woman. Her death is being intensely politicised by the right wing, who are insisting on using it to lecture us all on how she ‘saved‘ a broken country. One sided comments on how awful the unions were, how Thatcher rode to the rescue, how she was a hero of freedom, seem to be blocking out all negative opinions and the voices of the suffering Thatcherism caused, which are simply written off as lunatic left wing hate. The BBC is being painted as a Left Wing anti-Thatcher beacon of hate, simply for even suggesting she might have been a bit divisive, or, for simply not starting every broadcast with the phrase: “Our beloved Goddess, whom ascended to heaven on a carriage made out of the concept of the love of ALL the people….“. Any suggestion contradicting the policies and the outcome of the policies of the Thatcher era, is deemed ‘disrespectful’ to the woman, rather than the policies and her mindset, from the right. Maggie’s death is being used, quite transparently, by the Right to promote an agenda.

And so naturally, they’re consistent with this demands of ‘respect’, right? Well no.

The Guido Fawkes blog in 2010 announced the death of Michael Foot, with just a few words. The comments that followed, are telling:

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And of course, the guardians of all morality and respect over at the Mail wouldn’t dare be hypocrites, right? Today, commenting on the public celebrations in Brixton (is anyone surprised they celebrated in Brixton?) The Mail ran with this rather ironic sentiment, given the nature of their paper as a whole:

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Funny then, that they lead with this when ex-Labour leader Michael Foot died, three years ago:

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And Littlejohn continued with this:

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Charles Moore over at the Telegraph is just as vitriolic on the death of Michael Foot as the Mail:

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Moore starts his article with this:

“We have a habit in this country of turning certain people into “national treasures”. If they go on long enough, and have enough charm, we tend to forget what we once disliked about them.”

- Clearly he has a dislike of turning those who were once hated (even by their own party?) into some sort of ‘National Treasure’. Seems reasonable enough. Strange then, that yesterday’s article from Moore is this:

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Spot the rhetorical false framework the Daily Mail is attempting to create. If you mention her politics in a positive light, you are “leading the tributes”:

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- But if you note something negative about her politics, you are “crude”.

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- They dislike crude! They don’t want you to speak ill of the right-winged dead. No one must mention Thatcher’s undying support for Pinochet, whilst insisting that Mandela was a terrorist. Crude!

And yet, when the Marxist Historian Eric Hobsbawm died on October 1st at the age of 95, the Daily Mail, that beacon of respecting those recently deceased, ran with this on October 2nd:

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Glenda Jackson, the Oscar winning actress, turned Labour MP today told the Commons:

“But by far the most dramatic and heinous demonstration of Thatcherism was certainly not only in London, but across the whole country in metropolitan areas, where every single shop doorway, every single night, became the bedroom, the living room, the bathroom for the homeless.

They grew in their thousands. And many of those homeless people had been thrown out onto the streets from the closure of the long-term mental hospitals.”

- It is absolutely right to be pointing out the suffering that was caused by Thatcherism. This is not some sort of lunatic left wing vitriolic attack. This is pointing out the causes of the celebrations, the reasons she was despised across the Country. It is providing a balance, to the horrendously disrespectful right winged line, which ignores all of the social consequences of her ideology, and focuses on how rich a few of them became because of her. If we are going to be forced to hear the right winged “tributes” (which are nothing but tributes to Thatcherism, not Thatcher) we must hear the opposite side.

Let’s not fall for the right winged game (and it is a game), that any criticism of Margaret Thatcher must be due to some crazed leftie hateful bitter pill still not swallowed since the 1980s. Her death is being used to promote her agenda. Her funeral will be another chance to promote an agenda.

All sides of the political spectrum are guilty of projecting vitriol onto public figures and especially politicians. The right is no better. She quite obviously, judging by both the outpouring of love and the outpouring of hate, divided the country. In Brixton, she closed her eyes to the problems, and blamed the people in Brixton. Despite all reports to the contrary. She ignored it all, she ignored mass youth unemployment, institutional metropolitan police racism that still exists, refused to invest in poorer cities like Brixton, and she told them all it was their own fault. She let Liverpool slide into a “managed decline”. She destroyed lives in such a cruel way and promoting that cruelty as not only acceptable, but preferable.

There is a narrative being woven by the Right that is empty of substance. We hear the words “Saved Britain”, “put the great back into Great Britain”, “made us all believe in Britain again!”; all a mask to hide the social consequences of her policies; policies that are failing again today, and if we mention them at all, there is a tendency to dismiss it as left wing lunacy. As if those who suffered, as if the thousands thrown onto the streets, just aren’t relevant. By dismissing the voices that suffered heavily, and pumping the media full of “she saved Britain” lines of sycophantic nonsense, we are allowing history to be completely rewritten by the winners, for the sake of promoting an agenda that is being repeated today. Except for her socialist funeral, obviously.


The Philpott Case, and the Media.

April 4, 2013

There is a theme running through the right winged commentators on the horrendous Mick Philpott case. There has been a tendency to attach a political element to the case. It is a rather curious deviation for the Right. A section of the population that likes to insist on personal responsibility for our actions, now insists on linking the entire collectivity of those on any sort of state assistance, with the Philpott murders. We are all aware that Welfare is under relentless attacks from the Right, mainly based on invented statistics, silly little “strivers and shirkers” slogans, and constant demonisation of anyone claiming anything. But the Philpott case marked a new low for the Right Winged media. Notoriously, The Mail ran with:

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The children are mentioned simply as “being bred“, as if comparable to animals. Perhaps the Mail’s most disgusting headline to date. Though great exposure for their advertisers, which I suspect was their motive.

They subtly hinted that the Philpott case could also lead to thousands more just like him:

“Michael Philpott is a perfect parable for our age: His story shows the pervasiveness of evil born of welfare dependency. The trial spoke volumes about the sheer nastiness of the individuals involved. But it also lifted the lid on the bleak and often grotesque world of the welfare benefit scroungers — of whom there are not dozens, not hundreds, but tens of thousands in our country.“

Apparently Tory Councillors concur entirely with the Daily Mail.

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As does the Chancellor:

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- Interesting, from a Party that agreed to let Sir Philip Green of ‘my-wealth-is-in-Monaco-for-Tax-avoidance-purposes‘ fame have a government position working on ‘efficiency savings‘ within Whitehall departments. When the mega wealthy do not wish to pay back into a system that has afforded them the opportunity to rise to a privileged position, when they cost the taxpayer billions, when they actively seek to pay nothing back into our schools, our hospitals, our fire departments, offering no help on the current crises from their end; the Chancellor rewards them, with government positions and lovely big tax breaks. His buddies. When one or two (0.8% of the Welfare budget is lost to fraud, according to the Government’s own figures; less than a penny in every pound) Welfare claimants do something similar, the entire system is presented as broken and linked to child murders. This is right winged Britain. The people who think the taxpayer owes them something, are the ones who use a public system to work their way up, and then kick away the ladder when they reach the top by claiming their wealth is theirs only, to be locked away in a tax haven. These are the “society owes me something” scroungers.

As Left Foot Forward pointed out, the same treatment is not afforded to those who murder their families, when they come from wealthier backgrounds. When the Shropshire millionaire Hugh McFall murdered his wife and daughter, the Mail said:

“Detectives believe the mild-mannered family man snapped as he struggled to cope with spiralling debts…..Last night his sister Claire Rheade said: ‘It’s unbelievable – he doted on his family, he would never harm them. ‘He was a gentle man who wouldn’t hurt a fly.’ ”

- Note the rhetorical differences. “evil“, “sheer nastiness“, “grotesque“, “scroungers“, “bleak” ……. in the Philpott case, contrasted with…….. “mild-mannered“, “family man“, “doted on his family“, “never harm them“, “gentle man“, “wouldn’t hurt a fly“. They mention his “personal spiralling debts” as a catalyst. Here, they limit responsibility to he alone. They could call the McFall murders a “vile product of Capitalism“. They don’t.

Similarly, when Stephen Seddon murdered his parents for his £230,000 inheritance, the Mail did not suggest this was the ‘vile product‘ of the concept of inheritance. When the Mail editors got hold of the Philpott story, their main objective was to further the demonisation of Welfare. Nothing more. Any tenuous link was going to be drawn.

Mick Philpott himself was himself a man who, by all accounts, treated women like sex objects. He stabbed his ex-partner numerous times when she threatened to leave him. Each of his ex-partners describe his need to control women, and to use women for his sex games. He beat an ex-girlfriend for not giving him a baby boy. He told he that she “wasn’t a real woman“. To Mick Philpott, women were a sex object, to be used, and abused by men. This fact didn’t escape Judge Thirwall, who, at the sentencing, said:

“”Before I turn to what you did next, it is necessary to look at the history of your relationships with other women.
“The first with which I am concerned was a relationship with a girl in her teens. You were in your 20s. The relationship was characterised by violence – there were repeated beatings.
“On one occasion you broke her arm, on another you dislocated her knee with a sledgehammer. You were sure that she was having affairs and would come back from your posting in the army to check on her, repeatedly. Eventually she summoned the courage to bring your relationship to an end. You did not accept her decision.
….it is clear from the evidence that I excluded from the trial that you have used that conviction as a means of controlling women, terrifying them in what you might do.”

- Mick Philpotts attitude and treatment of women, therefore, is an important aspect to the story.
And so, using the logic thrown out by right winged commentators like The Daily Mail, what social ‘institution’, other than Welfare, can be linked to Mick Philpott’s way of thinking when it comes to women? The Sun, and the Mail make up a huge section of the readership of news in this country, so their influence cannot be overlooked when it comes to social issues, including the representation of women.

Here is the Daily Mail website home page this morning:

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- Under the stories of Philpott, is a story about kim kardashian’s breasts. This is one of many stories in today’s Mail focusing on half naked women. In fact, in any edition of the Mail. In 2009, the Mail revealed a poll of the World’s most beautiful female politicians. Their male political counterparts, are covered with stories relating to politics, ideas, statements, World affairs; men, are getting on with trying to fix the World. Female politicians; how attractive they are. Daily Mail commentator Quentin Letts speaks of the “youthful” look of some of the female politicians who made the pointless list. Harriet Harman, Letts refers to as “very butch” simply for wearing a suit. He also goes to great lengths to hide the obvious misogyny and his delusions of patriarchy behind more creative language, but the effect is still the same.

“Miss Harman, while undoubtedly feminine, goes to great lengths to appear non-sexy. She would regard it as fatal to play up that side of things – it would undermine her credibility. That is true of many of our Westminster women. They have drunk deep at the feminist well. Most of them used to read Spare Rib long before they looked at Hansard.
Theresa May, Tory pensions spokesman, does have her kittenish moments. She has made something of a name for herself not only as a bright parliamentarian but also as a buyer of leopard-print shoes. They are not necessarily the most practical of footwear, but they helped to create a public persona for Mrs May. ”

- The whole piece is accompanied by half naked women. But it isn’t just misogyny that Letts propagates so flippantly, it is a sense of the “masculine” as a whole. He says of gay MP Alan Duncan:

“easily the poutiest, most fragrant figure on the Tory benches”

Today’s Mail online also contains the following stories:
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As noted in a previous article on a similar subject, a couple of days back:
The overtly misogynistic approach to tabloid journalism cannot possibly be spun to suggest a positive outcome. Go to the Sun’s website and count the amount of times it refers to female body image, or presents candid and intrusive photos of a female celebrity. Here, i’ll help:

  • “Spanks a lot wind!” – A story showing an upskirt shot of Khloe Kardashian. The story also includes a close up shot, zoomed into her crotch. The story is about how she tried to pull her dress back down. News!
  • “There’s no-thin flabby about fabby Abbey Clancy” – Apart from crimes against headlines, this is a story about how Abbey Clancy isn’t fat. News!
  • “Jessie J has a body to match The Voice” – A story about how Jessie J looks relaxed in a bikini, leaning against a tree. News!
  • “Pussycat Ashley’s got the cream” – A story about a woman’s tanned legs. News!
    And here’s some more. (Remember, there are all from the Sun website’s first page):
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    In 2011, the Daily Mail asked:

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    - They could have answered it with simply “editorial policies of papers like this”:

  • Here is an article about how great Britney looks.
  • Here is an article about how fat Britney looks.
  • Here is an article about how great Megan Fox looks.
  • Here is an article about how ‘unkempt’ and ‘skeletel’ Megan Fox looks.

    Why not take a break, by looking up Venus Williams skirt?

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    Or maybe an upskirt frontpage shot of Kate?

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    Interestingly, the Star recently ran with this:

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    - Man kills his children (for new house? really?). But mainly, look at these breasts. Advertising a Channel 5 show. A channel, coincidentally, owned by the same man who owns the Star.

    Or maybe you wish to salivate at the posing, half naked body, of a dead woman:

    The Sun: Oscar Pistorius front page

    Or looking at the ‘womanly curves’ of a 14 year old girl:

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    Or let’s just look on in disgust at Leona Lewis’s ‘chubby’ arms:

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    - The Right Winged tabloid media creates that culture, sometimes subtly, sometimes quite obviously. It is a part of the model of the tabloid media, it is in its fabric. Women are to be viewed primarily as sexual objects. Feminists are to be made out to be prudes, unattractive, too manly. Gay people are to be made out to be too feminine. It creates this atmosphere, and then it blames everything and everyone else for the resulting product.
    Leveson noted that the representation of women in the tabloid press raised:

    “important and sensitive issues which merit further consideration by any new regulator.”

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think Mick Philpott is the result of Welfare dependency (do we really believe ripping apart the foundation of the Welfare State, underfunding mental health services, and stripping child services to their minimum, is going to help anyone at all?), nor the horrifically misogynistic tabloid press. His crimes show a clear lack of compassion, lack of empathy, lack of every trait of common human decency, especially toward children and women. Whether he was on Welfare, or a successful businessman, I cannot imagine it would make much difference. It is too simple to claim one aspect of the social, economic or media culture in the UK is wholly responsible for the psychology of one man willing to set fire to the home of his children. His case is completely non-representative of those who are on Welfare, as well as those who read the Mail.

    The point is, if the Right Winged media is going to attempt to divert all eyes toward the Welfare State, by making a terribly weak link between those who commit horrendous crimes like the crimes committed by Mick Philpott, and the Welfare system; then by using a similar formula, we can also link Philpott’s apparent use of women as sex objects to be owned, and controlled by men; to the inherently misogynistic right winged media constantly bombarding the country with its regressive machine of female denigration, patriarchal view of the World.


  • The Sun: Inspiring vitriol, for your entertainment.

    March 30, 2013

    London, UK. Saturday 17th November 2012. Demonatrators outside the News International offices protest for No More Page Three, against nudity in the national press. Page three of The Sun still has a naked topless model every week day.  © Michael Kemp / Ala

    It was late on the evening of the 9th December 2012, that the Tory Party changed their website to reflect the broken pledge that the NHS would be protected from cuts. Since changes to the NHS were made, the number of patients having to wait more than half an hour in an ambulance outside A&E has risen from 11,000 in 2010, to 14,000 in 2011, to 20,000 in 2012. The BMA among other medical unions have expressed anger at the Government’s NHS policy. 7,000 nursing jobs have been lost. 16% of Hospitals now claim to be woefully understaffed. Every day, we hear new stories of the problems within the NHS.
    The chair of the UK Statistics Authority said:

    “expenditure on the NHS in real terms was lower in 2011-12 than it was in 2009-10″.

    NHS staff are having to be forced to find £20bn in NHS ‘efficiency savings’ as part of the rules set out by Sir David Nicholson (collectively known as the Nicholson challenge) whilst at the same time dealing with such a huge reform of the health service. A draft version of the NHS risk register suggested that patient care would suffer as a result of the mass of changes, would lead to waiting time increases, and a less well managed system. The Mental Health Charity “MIND” published a report in which it said mental health services were severely overstretched and underfunded.
    So, thousands of jobs lost, an NHS in management crises mode, people having to wait more than half an hour to leave an ambulance, pretty much non-existent mental health services, and real terms cuts to health funding. All of this is largely ignored, whilst a girl having a boob job causes apparent outrage. Well done Britain.

    We are told never to fully believe or just accept what we read in a paper like The Sun. We should rightfully investigate for ourselves and challenge the piece, taking into account commercial interest and agenda, understanding class biases, its approach to female issues in general, and taking in multiple sources based on multi pieces of evidence, before passing judgement on a story. But, if the story in The Sun plays on our prejudice already, people tend to take it at face value. Or look to another equally as disreputable source (The Mail? A few angry comments on a forum?) for back up.
    Maybe your prejudices saw this Headline back in April ’89 four days after Hillsborough, and took it at face value:

    91ce109848ed4772a753cdee_the-sun-the-truth
    - After all, it took two decades, inquiries, whilst a silent public carried on buying this publication, without question, before the Sun were forced to apologise for such an horrific mistake.

    Perhaps you saw this article, and felt a sense of “he did it!” down your spine as you saw a man who looks a little different, paraded on the front of a national newspaper, alluding to the notion that he was guilty of a murder, simply for not looking how the The Sun and it’s readers deem to be acceptable (usually, blonde, big breasts, and naked):

    jefferies the sun
    - Perhaps you’re sat thinking “no, I definitely didn’t believe those stories, but I believe this one, no questions asked!

    Perhaps you burned with outrage at the state of ‘Broken Britain’ that would allow a celebrity to take drugs live on TV, after seeing this:

    davidbaddieldrugs
    - And you’d have been right to be horrified. What a terrible idea, a horrific and illegal idea, and clearly something about Broken Britain blah blah. I mean, it must be true, right? Well….

    davidbaddieldrugstweet

    Perhaps you saw this, and was horrified that a bird had flew away with a baby!!

    sun (1)
    - Perhaps this saddened you enough to research for yourself and realise the footage is a digital fake. Which the Sun knew, by printing that a ‘fierce debate’ raged whether the footage was real or not, somewhere in an obscure paragraph on the story. This is not reflected in the headline of terror.

    But no, whilst all of those stories are clearly manipulative, invented, and lazy in journalistic quality…… we must all take the Josie Cunningham story on face value.

    The Sun are an interesting bunch. “Look at boobs, look at these boobs, no don’t look at her, look at her boobs, aren’t they great *vote conservative* boobs? Keep looking at *immigrants are taking your money* her boobs, don’t take your eyes off the boobs, look at *scroungers, scroungers everywhere* her boobs. Keep looking…“, but this week, they are angry. They are angry that a woman has had breast enlargement surgery, despite their constant attempts to let the Country know what sort of female body is acceptable, whenever possible. Apparently then, morality, in Sun land does not include blatant misogyny, or constant promotion of a culture of policing how people should look. When Harriet Harman attempted to get The Sun to remove it’s topless models from Page 3, the Sun responded by calling her a “feminist fanatic“. Completely degrading her arguments, and resorting to weak ad-hom attacks. So, misogyny…fine. Misogyny that they apparently feel the need to defend, with gems like this….

    page3brainy

    I do of course find it a little ironic for right winged papers, and their readers to be complaining of poor NHS services, given the Party that they support wilfully undermine and underfund the NHS at every possible opportunity. They should surely be directing their anger, if their worry was adequate funding for patient care, toward those who have worked to make 7000 nurse jobs redundant…. surely this is far more significant, than one girl having a breast enlargement procedure?

    Josie Cunningham, is of course, an easy target – a symbol, if you like – for people who see an NHS failing miserably, aren’t interested in wider context, and need someone to blame. This is especially true if the girl can be presented as a bit of a ‘chav’, somehow and as vaguely as possible they manage to compare her case to an unrelated case, in a separate region of the country, with separate budgets that in no way relate to each other, that includes a child, some awful disease, or a war hero. The usual manipulations.

    I do not wish to get into the details of the story itself, I admit to not knowing enough about it, because I have not followed her story for the past 8 years, nor am I her doctor, nor have I sat in on her psych evaluations, nor do I know anything about the case beyond what is presented by the right winged media. There is a lot of guess work being presented as fact all across Twitter and The Sun’s website. A lot of exhausting the object, and a lot of fallacy employing: “She clearly conned the doctors“, “She is taking money away from kids with cancer“, “I have small boobs and I don’t care!!! Why is she not EXACTLY like me?” “She had two slight bumps, so couldn’t possibly have had 0% breast tissue“, “Something terrible about tax payers money and immigrants and scroungers…..or something like that“. We then get told that we shouldn’t blame her. It’s the NHS’s fault, and the doctors. But then, we are told that we should blame her because she in fact, not at all worried about her self image, and just wants to be a model, and so managed to pull off a sophisticated con trick in which she deceived medical professionals with the cunning use of…. crying, probably, maybe, they’re not sure, but they guess that must be the case. Maybe.

    But, perhaps they are right. I accept that is a possibility, that the Sun may have done the unthinkable, and printed a story based on fact. It’s a possibility. I don’t deny that. The story itself, I don’t think any of us have the facts on, and so it would be equally as absurd for me to claim it to be based on manipulations, or completely wrong. However, if the story is correct in every aspect, that still does not permit the backlash that unfolded.

    So, following on from the above, this article will loosely be based on Josie’s case (though not on the specifics), by using her case as an example to show the intense vitriol that is borne out of feigned right winged media outrage, misplaced, uninformed, and aimed at the wrong person or institution, and the witch hunt it provokes. When, last week, we learnt of the tragic and entirely preventable death of Lucy Meadows, we all knew that it was in part, caused by the fire storm brewed up by a sensationalist right winged media that aims its dirty rhetoric at one insecure, and vulnerable person, and then sits back as the fire spreads, bullying commences, and it doesn’t stop until someone’s head is on a spike. This story is no different. It is a result of weak and horrifying journalism that is wrong on so many levels. The person is of course a different person, with a different mental outlook, different circumstances, and different experiences, but the fundamental reason for The Sun to take such a keen interest in the story, is the same. It is purposely inflammatory sensationalism, with a hint of misogyny, aimed at one vulnerable person, to create an atmosphere of anger for its readership.

    So, I will reserve judgement on the actual strength of the case against her or the NHS. I will neither say she did or did not deceive her doctors, nor will I say the doctors were simply bad at their jobs by not sticking to NHS guidelines on cosmetic procedures, I am not going to comment on the philosophy of the NHS, nor what it should and shouldn’t be providing, I am happy to say that perhaps further investigation into the case may prove the Sun to have been absolutely correct, that’s a possibility, I am also not going to claim to understand Josie’s motives or her mental state, she may well be a devious con artist, but she may well also have had serious confidence issues personal to her, surrounding her 0% breast tissue and the psychological effect that will obviously have. I couldn’t claim to know. I am not going to comment on the validity of the specifics of the case, because I, like everyone else commenting on this, have no real clue. It is the result of the reporting of sensationalism and its culture, that I wish to explore.

    When I search “Josie Cunningham” on twitter, this is what I get:

    cunningham
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    suns
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    - You may be tricked into thinking she’d committed some horrendous crime to deserve such detestable abuse. But no. She has new breasts. This is tabloid Britain. This is what national ‘news’ outlets, with an agenda, and with a very one sided slant on stories, create. A disproportionate sense of outrage. People do not question. They believe it must be true, and the damage that attitude leads to is irreparable.
    Chase her!!! With a pitchfork!! Get the Witch!!!! Why? …. erm…. because she now feels better about herself, using YOUR hard earned money that could have been spent on covering the cost of the massive corporate tax break? The slut!

    The underlying issues are barely discussed. More people will have read this story, than have even glanced at the Health and Social Care Act. And that’s a massive problem.

    Most irritatingly of all, is Katie Price’s piece in the Sun today. A woman who perpetuated a culture that reveres people with the ‘ideal body’, who made a career simply out of being topless every so often, and selling intimite details of her sex life, in a paper that speaks of “boobs of the year“, and splashes candid photos of young celebrities from revealing angles all over its “news” website, apparently doesn’t see the irony in their outrage, that it might lead to impressionable young people having body image issues in the future. Their argument tends to be “Well, other people don’t have issues, why should you? Be quiet and look at this half naked girl with the perfect body… and then turn over the page to see how fat Britney looks on the beach“. Contrast this with studies into body image, and mental health alongside underfunded mental health services, and you quickly see where the misplaced outrage should be aimed.
    And ….. Katie Price; a woman who sold as many stories about her split with Peter Andre as possible. A woman who cashes in on every marriage she’s had, during it, and once it’s over, selling a humiliating ‘statement’ after her break up with Alex Reid, in which she needlessly went on a character assassination rant against him. And also, quite ironically said: “Our difficulties were also not helped by Alex becoming more fascinated by life in the media eye“. A woman who goes public, to announce she thinks Kelly brook is a “heffer” and sparks as many feuds as possible with other “celebrities“. What a wonderful representation of “hard working” celebrities. There you go Josie, if you want to be like Jordan; marry a few times, sell needless sex stories, humiliate your ex, publicly call other women fat, and the Sun will then give you a job in which you write on the morality of NHS boob jobs. Are you fucking kidding me?

    Like everything The Sun says and does, hypocrisy is at the apex of any story it presents upon the emotions of “the taxpayer“. News International owns The Sun. When its CEO Rupert Murdoch is not defending allegations of hacking the voicemail of a dead school girl, or bribing police for stories, or showing uninvited paparazzi shots of a celebrity with a bit of breast showing, it used to spend its time losing legal battles over unpaid taxes. In 2009 the Australian capital territory won its battle to reclaim $77 million in taxes and penalties owed by News Corporation. When News Corp moved its headquarters to the US, through tax loopholes, it deprived Australia of millions of $ in unpaid capital gains taxes. Praying to the alter of the “Taxpayer” God when it suits their commercial interests; squeezing the life out of the “the taxpayer” otherwise.

    The boob job apparently cost ‘the taxpayer’ £4800. So that’s about £5,999,995,200 less than Vodaphone were allowed to write off their tax bill… no outrage? No? Okay then. That’s also only a couple hundred pounds more of taxpayers money than former Conservative deputy leader Michael Ancram spent on cleaning and gardening for his £1.5m, five-bedroom house. Or a couple of grand less than Conservative Schools Minister Michael Gove spent furnishing his luxury London pad, before switching his second home. Or about a grand less than Tory MP and former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis spent on a lovely new £5,700 portico for his Yorkshire home. But those people are Tories. And they wear suits. So it’s fine. Keep voting Tory, and keep aiming your anger at one young girl with new boobs. Because you hate misspent public funds.

    So “infuriated” were the Sun with Josie, they invited her to a topless shoot, and splashed it inside their papers, along with all over their website. This is a way to sell papers, by appealing to a very ill-thought out sense of outrage. Photos enhance the story. But remember! They’re outraged! Their photographers must have been crying with disgust and a sense of moral indignation as they were taking the photos. I can imagine the editor was weeping with anguish as the paper went to print. They didn’t want to do this. But they felt the duty *at this point, put the National Anthem on as you read this*… they had to, for the sake of the Great British Public and the hard working tax payers of this here great nation. Of course that must be it.

    The Sun absolutely played both Josie and its readership, by appealing to her dream of modelling and offering a job shooting with a national paper after so many years of (alleged) insecurity – and remember, she doesn’t have a PR team, or a media guru to tell her it might be the wrong move, and The Sun played the readership, not affording them a full, comprehensive narrative from many different perspectives, that is necessary for decisions to be made, and judgements reached. It is under that framework, that it was of course inevitably accompanied by manipulative rhetoric, and nasty public comments:

    “Single mum-of-two Josie, 22 — a £9,000-a-year telesales girl — hopes to be the next Jordan. Critics have nicknamed her Katie Cut-Price.”

    - For what purpose does including she’s a single mum, and on a meagre salary have? There is no reason to include that whatsoever. It plays simply on an ‘undeserving’ underclass that The Sun is famed for inventing.

    “The wannabe model excitedly flaunted her 36DD bust, which was boosted after she wept to her GP about being a 32A.”

    - The “wannabe” model. Negative connotations of someone not quite cut out for it. Someone to laugh at. And the comments about the GP; This suggests she shed one tear, and a doctor said “oh okay, have new boobs, we won’t evaluate you any more“. This line of reasoning is reflected in the comments from people all over social media, who seem to be parroting whatever the Sun says.

    And then we see the comments underneath the piece:

    sun
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    Then there is the Youtube clip of her on Daybreak discussing her personal issues with having 0% breast tissue (which, I know, the Sun readers don’t believe to be true). The commentators on there display an equal amount of vitriol and outright bullying:

    youtube
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    youtube3
    - This is the desired affect the Sun was after. It presents one side of a story, in a very demeaning manner, exploits the insecurities and ambitions of the girl (the photographers would have made her feel like a model), and then presents the negative article to the readership as fact, having spent the previous two days building up the story to appeal to outrage, because it is now a story that has potential follow up stories.

    But it also has a deeper affect on the culture of not only what is acceptable within the realm of tabloid journalism, but wider society as a whole. The culture that promotes Katie Price as some sort of hero of modern morality, a culture that leads to people having such intense body image issues, is most certainly a culture that surrounds The Sun. Whether the girl in question had serious body image issues or not, is irrelevant. The overtly misogynistic approach to tabloid journalism cannot possibly be spun to suggest a positive outcome. Go to the Sun’s website and count the amount of times it refers to female body image, or presents candid and intrusive photos of a female celebrity. Here, i’ll help:

  • “Spanks a lot wind!” – A story showing an upskirt shot of Khloe Kardashian. The story also includes a close up shot, zoomed into her crotch. The story is about how she tried to pull her dress back down. News!
  • “There’s no-thin flabby about fabby Abbey Clancy” – Apart from crimes against headlines, this is a story about how Abbey Clancy isn’t fat. News!
  • “Jessie J has a body to match The Voice” – A story about how Jessie J looks relaxed in a bikini, leaning against a tree. News!
  • “Pussycat Ashley’s got the cream” – A story about a woman’s tanned legs. News!
    And here’s some more. (Remember, there are all from the Sun website’s first page):
    sunn

    Here is a piece from The Daily Mail website a couple of months back, highlighting my point, that the tabloid media is inherently misogynistic, polices what is “right” with the female body image, and thus creates an atmosphere for people “wanting to be like Jordan” to flourish:
    65087_10151096442940904_126354826_n
    - The Right Winged tabloid media creates that culture, sometimes subtly, sometimes quite obviously. It is a part of the model of the tabloid media, it is in its fabric. The media is responsible for it, and then The Sun shakes its head in disgust when the product of that culture emerges among people who aren’t celebrities.
    The feminist activist and journalist, Laurie Penny at the Guardian writes:

    “It is vital that we understand that sexism is not just one more naughty thing that the tabloids do. Sexism is the dirty oil in the engine, the juice that makes the whole shuddering sleaze-machine run smoothly. The eyes that are drawn to the topless teenager on page three skim lightly over page two, where propagandists on the Murdoch dollar peddle torrid justifications for the waging of wars and the slashing of public sector jobs and call it news.”

    The “End Violence Against Women Coalition” argued in front of Leveson, that Page 3 was part of a tabloid culture rooted in the 1970s that objectified women, sexualised women, and helped to promote a body conscious society. Leveson noted that the representation of women in the tabloid press raised:

    “important and sensitive issues which merit further consideration by any new regulator.”

    - Misogyny in the press, and the culture of the policing of the bodies of female celebrities whether they welcome it or not, creates wider issues. Especially when mixed with sensationalism, and outrage. That is obvious. It is therefore hugely hypocritical of the Sun to have fanned the flames of a body-conscious culture for decades, and then to so viciously attack the inevitable product of it. They set the fire, and then they run to the rescue with a bucket of petrol, and everyone stands around cheering them as saviours.


  • The Age of Hysteria

    March 20, 2013

    ….the identification of Muslims, migrants, asylum seekers and gypsies/travellers as the targets of press hostility and/or xenophobia in the press, was supported by the evidence seen by the Inquiry.
    - The Leveson Report.

    It is quite true that misinformation, and outright lying has been used as a political tool for centuries. Today, we have a paradox. The hysterically inaccurate information that we are sometimes presented with so quickly and so easily due entirely to the speed of communication via the internet; can just as quickly and easily be discredited and dismissed, and yet it often isn’t. It’s often accepted and spread faster than ever before. We are a generation with access to information on a scale never seen before, and yet we tend to rely on how others interpret that information, rather than investigating for ourselves. Often the misinformation is presented in such a dramatic and sinister manner, so as to appeal to our preconceived prejudices (of which we all have) about the given topic, and so don’t tend to then spend time proving the claims wrong. I have wrote previously on The Sun’s manipulations, misinformation, and potently devious, divisive rhetoric, when it comes to perpetuating the myth of ‘benefit scrounging’. And so with this article, I thought i’d attempt to point out the inaccuracy that exists in a particular piece of complete fabrication that appears to be doing the rounds on twitter and on facebook. The misinformation in question is this:

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    Sometimes it is accompanied by a picture of a poor old white lady counting 1p coins with a melancholy look strewn across her impoverished face. Impoverished, due apparently, to the rich benefit cheating brown skinned family seeking asylum, pictured next to her. The pictures are added manipulations, but the key to the nonsense are the claims themselves. So let’s examine the claims. I’m going to take the asylum/illegal claim first, because it flows nicely into the pensioner claim.

    Part One:
    Illegal immigrants and Asylum Seekers pocket £29,900 a year in benefits. This suggests one of two things. Firstly, that illegal immigrants and asylum seekers are the same thing, and given the same benefits. And secondly, and I cannot stress the stupidity of this point enough… that illegal immigrants are actually entitled to benefits anyway. If you are illegally in the country, by definition, you cannot call up the Home Office and say: “Hi, erm, so i’m here illegally, snook in through Calais, my documents are fake, totally here illegally…..so do I get my twenty-nine grand in a lump sum, or every month? How does my illegal immigrant benefit work?” They have no legal status, including within the Welfare system.
    Asylum seekers are different. To qualify for asylum, the guideline is quite clear:

    Asylum is protection given by a country to someone who is fleeing persecution in their own country. It is given under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. To be recognised as a refugee, you must have left your country and be unable to go back because you have a well-founded fear of persecution.

    The UK also adheres to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prevents us sending someone to a country where there is a real risk that they will be exposed to torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

    - I am proud to live in a country that provides a safe haven for people who are persecuted, tortured, or threatened with degrading treatment in their home country. This is the mark of a civilised nation.

    Here’s the cash sums that the Home Office says asylum seekers are entitled to:

  • Qualifying couple (married or in a civil partnership): £72.52
  • Lone parent aged 18 or over: £43.94
  • Single person aged 18 or over, excluding lone parent: £36.62
  • Person aged at least 16, but under 18 (except a member of a qualifying couple): £39.80
  • Person aged under 16: £52.96.

    The top point by the way, the mention of “civil partnerships”, so outraged the right winged press that the Express printed this little gem the next day:
    100708exp
    - Apparently gay asylum seekers (perhaps fleeing persecution from the horrifying Ugandan anti-gay laws, which is slowly leading to a genocide of gay people in the country) is a step TOO far for a Daily Express audience who dislike not only asylum seekers, but gay people too. Imagine if they were gay, asylum seekers, that didn’t like Princess Diana. The Express would implode with rage.

    Back to the entitlements set out above. If we are to compare, as the original email does, a single pensioner, with a single asylum seeker, we see that the asylum seeker is entitled to £36.62 a week. That is £1904.24 a year. That amounts to £5.22 a day. Asylum seekers, are entitled to a cash benefit of a little over £5 a day. That’s less than minimum wage for one hour’s work. So let’s have a bit of perspective.
    A Parliamentary briefing paper states:

    “People who require leave to enter or remain in the UK, but who do not have it, are ‘persons subject to immigration control’ within the meaning of section 115 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and as such are not eligible for social security benefits, except those which depend on National Insurance contributions, such as contribution-based JSA. However, it is highly unlikely that a person in the UK without legal status will have a sufficient NI contribution record to gain entitlement to contributory benefits.”

    “Asylum seekers – i.e. persons waiting for a decision on an asylum application – are not entitled to mainstream non-contributory social security benefits including income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support and Housing Benefit. Instead, they may be eligible for accommodation and/or financial support from the UK Border Agency. Cash support for asylum seekers is less generous than social security benefits; for example, a single person.”

    - I am therefore, unable to find anything close to the £29,900 that the above print claims those seeking asylum in the UK are entitled to. It is simply a fabrication. Much like the idea that illegal immigrants are entitled to benefits. The daily allowance for asylum seekers is pittance, that most of us would be outraged if we even had it per hour. It is also worth point out that the number of people claiming asylum in the UK has dropped hugely since 2003. In 2003, the numbers were 80,123. At the end of 2012, the number was 20,182. A huge drop.

    Point Two:
    British old age pensioners yearly entitlement comes to just £6000. This is completely untrue. The minimum state pension credit guarantee, will top up your weekly income £145.40 for a single pensioner. This is £7560.80 a year. We should all agree, that this is far too low. However, it is £5656.56 more than an asylum seeker. But, the statement made speaks not simply of pension, but all benefits. So, we must also include the Fuel Allowance.
    If you are over 80, and you live alone, you also qualify for the Winter Fuel Allowance, worth £300 between November and December. Asylum seekers are not entitled to this. So that brings pensioner total to £7860.80 a year. This is now £5956.36 more than asylum seeker. We could also add council tax benefit and housing benefit to that list of benefits afforded to pensioners too. The point being, asylum seekers are entitled to next to nothing. They must have reason to be entitled to anything in the first place; meaning their lives are filled with fear, and they’ve fled their home to get away from the prospect of torture, degradation, or murder. £5 a day, does not qualify as ‘milking the system’.

    I am disheartened by the amount of people willing to simply accept such intensely misleading and so glaringly wrong claims, and to further perpetuate it. Inaccuracies over asylum and immigration are more subtly presented in the press because they seem to come with deeper information. Though, two seconds of research will note, just as misleading. Take this January headline from The Daily Mail: 130103mail
    - Instant attention grabbing headline for those who need this sort of hysteria to confirm their prejudices, regardless of whether or not its based on any fact. There’s also the by-line to throw in a bit of anti-EU rhetoric. The problem is, practically every word of this headline is wholly misleading.
    It is a written answer to a Parliamentary Question posed by Priti Patel MP and answered by Mark Harper at the Home Office. The Home Office say:

    “3,980 foreign nationals in the UK subject to deportation action living in the community.
    We continue to pursue removal in all these cases. The principal barriers to removal are non-compliance on the part of individuals which means we have insufficient evidence of nationality and identity to obtain a travel document, ongoing legal challenges and the situations in countries of return.””

    - What this means is, firstly, the suggestion that we “can’t throw out” is completely misleading, as these foreign nationals are currently under deportation action, and may very well be ‘thrown out’, they are just under investigation. It is true that the Daily Mail can’t, right this second, throw them into the English Channel with cannons levelled at them if they attempt to swim back. And secondly, nowhere in the Home Office answer does it mention the crimes that these foreign nationals have committed. There is no break down of their crimes, anywhere. Therefore, The Daily Mail added “murderers and rapists” to affect. When presented with the fact that they’d blatantly just invented a non-story, for shock value, the Mail issued this apology:

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    - You might just be able to see it, underneath the other completely misleading anti-immigrant story, and the enticing Asda ad. Or maybe not. Because instead of being an apology on the front page, where the original misleading story was, it is instead printed, in small at the very bottom of the fourth page. The correction reads:

    “The headline of an article on 3 January suggested that there are 4,000 foreign murderers and rapists in the UK who cannot be deported.
    We are happy to clarify that, as the article stated, the figure in fact refers to 3,980 foreign criminals, including murderers and rapists, who are currently subject to deportation orders.”

    I am unsure who is to blame for this age of hysteria. Is it the people, for providing a market place for publications like the Mail to flourish? There is obviously a market for hysteria. Sensationalism sells. Weak conjecture, presented in a couple of hundred words, that require no real thought on the part of the reader, sells. People must surely shoulder some of the blame, if they are to read statements like the pensioner/asylum statements without actually questioning it. Perhaps the education system is failing to cultivate curious minds, and instead works to produce minds that accept. Curiosity must be valued and promoted. That is how we progress.

    Maybe the people rely too heavily on the press for information within a democratic framework; perhaps we put our trust in the news media; perhaps we delegate our responsibility to understand and to question, to those we feel are qualified to do so, without actually knowing who those people are. We trust them in their capacity to shape and indeed, create the prevailing discourse of the time. Perhaps it is a mixture of both. The papers promote, and the readers perpetuate hostility based on distortions and nonsense. Either way, it is then no surprise to me, that the UK currently has such a vicious right winged government that relies on such a manipulative right winged press to push its message and its goals.

    —–
    If you appreciate my articles, and have a spare moment, feel free to nominate me for a Shorty Award. Simply click here and nominate! Thank you!
    —–


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