Category Archives: Popular Themes

Brainwashing

It looks like the UK European Commission Rep is getting a little tired of the Express

Letter sent to the Editor of The Daily Express on 18th January 2012

The idea that giving teachers pencil cases and brochures, at their own request, is “brainwashing” by the EU (Express, 18 January) is nonsense. The notion that a video published on our website for two years is part of some secret conspiracy is absurd. Sadly, there is a great deal of misinformation about the EU in the UK, though we tend to avoid hyperbolic terms like “brainwashing”. But it does not come from the European Commission. Our Euromyths website, where the Express features frequently, provides hundreds of examples.

Mark English
Head of Media, European Commission Representation in the UK

This is in response to an Express article (complete with obligatory quote from the Taxpayers Alliance and UKIP) and an editorial.

Express confuses ‘fact finding’ with ‘new regulation’

BARMY EU ‘COLDER FRIDGES’ ORDER WILL COST US £100M

BRITAIN faces a £100million bill because a bizarre new EU regulation will order supermarkets to turn down the temperature on their refrigerators.

Eurocrats are demanding that stores’ cold storage areas are chilled by a further three degrees to “improve” food safety.

But the order to reset thermostats in stock rooms, warehouses, and delivery vans to 2C (36F) has angered retailers and MPs.

They say it will cost up to £100million to implement and increase energy consumption without making food any safer.

As usual, there are no new regulations, only a fact finding exercise which, according to the EU Commission was prompted by some member states and not bored beaurocrats looking for something to meddle with…

Letter to the Editor of the Daily Express, sent on 12th December 2011

Dear Sirs,

Contrary to claims in your article, “Barmy EU ‘colder fridges’ order will cost us £100m”, 12 December 2011, there are no new EU regulations ordering supermarkets to turn down fridge temperatures. The facts are less chilling.

EU member states have asked the Commission to look into the fact that supermarkets’ own meat cutting plants are not covered by the same hygiene regulations as independent plants, even though they often process more meat.

So the Commission is carrying out a fact finding exercise, to make sure consumers are properly protected.

No changes have been proposed and none could enter into force without full scrutiny by MEPs and national ministers.

Yours faithfully

Mark English
Head of Media
European Commission Representation in the UK

A tabloid-friendly guide to the EU and ECHR

While media watching, one thing you notice is a repeated confusion between the European Union (EU) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) (run by the Council of Europe, CoE).

This may be completely inadvertent, but the Sun, Daily Mail and Express do make this mistake on a regular basis, amongst other “errors”.

I thought I would help them out.

Wikipedia has the following diagram showing how the jurisdiction of various European bodies overlaps*, as well as a few extra bits**:

As you can see there is a clear overlap between the EU and CoE/ECtHR – in fact to join the EU you must be a member of the CoE/ECtHR – but it is clear that there is a significant difference between the two, even when simply looking at the members of each.

The main difference is that one is more trade-related; one more co-operation related.

The EU was set up in 1958 by various western European countries, but not the UK (which created the European Free Trade Association in response), to help them trade with each other.  In fact, the basic idea of the EU is to create an economic bloc between various countries via a single internal market.

The CoE was set up in 1949 – by the UK among others – is more of an inter-governmental co-operation organisation, kind of like a Europe-only UN, with a specific focus on civil rights by the European Convention on Human Rights, which the UK drafted, and a less obvious focus on pharmacology standards.

So while it can be seen that there are similarities between the two, there are obvious differences.

Hopefully, the tabloids will read this and take note, especially as the EU has already attempted to point this out, albeit without success.

* There are a few bodies which aren’t shown on the diagram, including the Central European Free Trade Agreement (which will probably be swallowed up by the EU in the future given the EU’s Candidates and Potential Candidates), and the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia which is rarely mentioned in the UK.

** The other items are the European Free Trade Association; the European Economic Area; the EU Customs Zone; and the Schengen Area; as well as showing non-EU countries countries which have agreements to mint €s, but not those which decided to use it, without reaching a formal agreement, due to historic reasons.

Hiding the truth where nobody will see it.

A bit hat tip goes to FullFact.org for spotting this one (istyosty.com link).

FRENCH MUSLIMS USE OUR CASH TO FIGHT BURKHA BAN

A FRENCH Muslim couple sparked fury yesterday by using a free legal service paid for by British taxpayers to challenge their country’s controversial burkha ban.

The unnamed husband and wife claim they were forced to move to Britain from France by the new law which prevents women wearing the veil in public.

They want £10,000 damages because the “unnecessary, disproportionate and unlawful” ban breaches their right to free movement across the European Union.

Now based in the West Midlands, they are trying to overturn the law at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The couple are represented by lawyers from Britain’s Immigration Advisory Service which gets an annual £15million in taxpayers’ cash.

And what should be hidden in the bottom of the article?

[teh Immigration Advisory Service] receives approximately £15million – a hefty chunk of its funding – in taxpayers’ cash, through the Legal Services Commission which hands out legal aid.

But a Legal Services spokesman said that even if taxpayer-funded IAS lawyers were representing the couple, that service would not be paid for by legal aid.

He added that they only gave legal aid to cases involving British law and concerned with immigration.

A whole article wrongly ranting about foreign muslims coming over here and spending our money fighting foreign law with a lil’ bit contradictory truth at the end.

Time for a letter to the PCC. Oh, hang on

Scary vaccines and the Sunday Express… again

This post first appeared on the blog Minority Thought. It is reproduced here by kind permission.

In the week that Dr Andrew Wakefield’s claim linking the MMR jab with autism was dismissed by the British Medial Journal as a “deliberate fraud” and a “hoax”, the Sunday Express is on the look-out for another vaccine scare (click to enlarge):

The article, written by Lucy Johnston, the Sunday Express’ Health Editor, states that:

UP to a million under-fives have been inoculated against the flu virus with a controversial vaccine containing poisonous mercury.

Inquiries by the Sunday Express reveal it contains a preservative made with a form of mercury that was phased out of childhood vaccines in 2004 after fears about its safety.

The preservative, called thimerosal, has been linked with autism and developmental disorders in children and was withdrawn from childhood vaccines in the United States and parts of Europe 10 years ago.

The story seems to be based around comments made by Dr Richard Halvorsen:

Dr Richard Halvorsen, author of the book, The Truth About Vaccines, said: “Thimerosal is an extremely toxic substance and known poison to the brain.

“There is enough convincing evidence linking thimerosal with developmental disorders and learning problems in individual children to warrant its removal from any childhood vaccine.

“It is irresponsible to administer a jab with little proven benefit which contains potentially harmful toxic substances.”

For a bit of context, it’s worth pointing out that Dr Halvorsen describes himself on his website as being “trained in acupuncture and homeopathy”.

And for a bit more context, it’s worth mentioning that Lucy Johnston, the author of today’s article, was also responsible for the following stories: “Jab ‘As Deadly As The Cancer'”, “Doctor’s MMR fears”, “Exclusive: Experts Cast Doubt On Claim For ‘Wonder’ Cancer Jabs”, “Children ‘Used As Guinea Pigs For Vaccines’”, “Dangers Of MMR Jab ‘Covered Up’”, “Teenage Girls Sue Over Cancer Jab”, “Jab Makers Linked To Vaccine Programme”, “Suicides ‘Linked To Phone Masts” and many more besides.

Vaccine scare stories are clearly her “thing”.

Although the article includes several statements dismissing the claim that thimerosal poses a danger to children, the article is clearly weighted in the opposite direction.

No mention is made of the lack of evidence for a health risk until the fifth paragraph, by which time we’ve already been told that the vaccine contains “poisonous mercury” and that it’s “linked with autism and developmental disorders in children”. Concerned parents who only want to do right by their children will most likely have already made up their minds about the vaccine.

This is the kind of journalism that causes real harm. Certain vaccines or medications, like thimerosal or the MMR jab, may well be “controversial”, but such articles are almost always unwilling to trust the science over the fears of a few “experts”.

As the Express say at the end of their article:

[B]oth the Medicines Healthcare Regulatory Agency and the Department of Health insist there is no evidence of harm from vaccines containing thimerosal.

Furthermore, a quick trip to Wikipedia shows that the link between thimerosal and autism has been rejected by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Medical Toxicology, the Canadian Paediatric Society, the National Academy of Sciences, the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the European Medicines Agency.

Faced with overwhelming rejection of the thimerosal-autism link by the scientific community, the Express’ article should have been far more careful not to scare parents. They should have mentioned straight away that the science simply doesn’t back-up Dr Halvorsen’s claim.

They clearly value selling papers more highly than fair and reasonable journalism.

Tabloid bullshit of the month award – November 2010

This post originally appeared over at Five Chinese Crackers.  I’m reproducing it here because the Express is this month’s proud winner!

Yes!  It’s here!  BE excited, B E excited!  It’s…

November’s 5cc tabloid bullshit of the month award.

Start the marching band and tickertape parade!

It’s been quite a tough competition this month.  I actually thought I might have found a winner on October 31st, so there was a lot of catching up to do from all the papers in the following weeks.  The British tabloid press were well up for it though.

Contenders were:

Plus, it’s not exactly tabloid bullshit, but one of my favourite tabloid moments this month was Nadia Saint pointing out this Daily Mail online poll:

Lovely.  Anyway – onto the actual award winner.  Fanfare please…

And the winner is Macer Hall at the Express for ‘99% of you say: get us out of Europe (and the surrounding ‘crusade’) for the reasons in the email below:

Dear Mr Hall,

I am proud to announce that your story ‘99% of you say: get us out of Europe‘ is the latest recipient of journalism’s (probably) newest prize.

Your story, and the campaign built around it, has beaten off competition from all the low-rent tabloids to win the second ever 5cc tabloid bullshit of the month award, presented by me (5cc) over at Five Chinese Crackers.

Put on the pointy party hat and get blowing on the curly noisemakers!

Here’s why your story made you the proud owner of a crap drawing of a trophy:

  • You sound surprised that 99% of a group made up chiefly of readers of a rabidly anti-EU tabloid that provides a constant drip of stories about things like:
    • The EU banning the sale of a dozen eggs (which was rubbish)
    • The EU banning the sale of milk jugs (which was rubbish)
    • The EU wanting to liquify corpses and pour them down the drain (which was – hey, I’ve spotted a pattern here!)

    would want to get out of the EU.

    • I mean, they would only have had stories like these and front-page headlines like ‘EU is on another planet’ (which was – you guessed it!), ‘EU hammers our pensions’ and ‘Get Britain Out Of Europe’  to lead them to the desired conclusion.
    • The only other clues as to the result would have been:
      • 90% and above of Express readers regularly agree with the paper’s editorial line in phone polls
      • An identical phone poll back in 2008 showed that 95% wanted to leave the EU

    You must have been biting your fingernails, waiting for the results to come in.

    • Although the headline is a little ambigious with its use of the word ‘you’, the story itself says:

      …99 per cent of people agree we should quit the European Union.

      Really?  99% of people? Or 99% of people prepared to call a premium rate phone number in a self-selecting poll carried out by an anti-EU tabloid?  A less biased ipsos mori poll earlier in the year showed that only 47% of people wanted to withdraw.  But of course, you already know that, since you reported on it yourself.

    • You actually said:

      As the shockwaves reverberated around Westminster, Brussels and Strasbourg, voters all over the UK backed our crusade to regain Britain’s national independence

      That’s classy, that.  Shockwaves reverberated!  I’m sure they’d only just died down after the results came in from the poll about where bears do their poos.

    The stunt – sorry, crusade – is sure to be a game changer.  It sets you apart from the other tabloids, which are uniformly pro…oh, hang on!  Still, at least now when readers see Express stories you’ve churned from the Telegraph about the EU ruling that all our firstborns should be fed to the reanimated corpse of Hitler, there’ll be a little logo next to them.

    My fellow bloggers Enemies of ReasonMinority Thought and Atomic Spin also all covered your poll and campaign. It didn’t go completely unnoticed!

    Finally, I would like to set all sarcasm aside and thank you for choosing a crusade that aligns you with the least objectionable of our fringe far-right parties.  The BNP have already said:

    Today the Daily Express has published an article vindicating all that the BNP has ever said about the strain being put upon the infrastructure of Britain by continuing to permit unfettered mass immigration. Thank you, Daily Express – it’s good to see that you have finally caught up with us.

    Plus, they’re currently not your friends because they say you’ve stolen their idea about halting foreign aid.  Given your paper’s approach to the issues the BNP hold dear, I dread to think what other crusades you could have chosen.  [I’d written a funny here about Muslims and work camps, but I deleted it for fear of giving you ideas].

    In fact, Hope Not Hate has sent a letter to colleagues at your sister paper, asking them to ‘tone down the shrill’ when reporting about Muslims.  It’d be great if you could read it too and bear it in mind when your own paper pretends three people with bits of A4 count as an angry mob or something.

    So, congratulations!  You’ve won November’s 5cc tabloid bullshit of the month award and the chance to win the 2011 5cc tabloid bullshitter of the year award, which I will present to the winner of most monthly awards between October 2010 and December 2011.

    I’ll be posting the text of this email over at Five Chinese Crackers.  If you’d like to make an acceptance comment or anything, please reply to this email and I’ll publish it there.

    Cheers then!

    5cc

So, there it is then.  That’s November’s winner.  Check back on the last Saturday of December for next month’s winner.  Will it involve Winterval?

If you come across any contenders, feel free to email me at fivechinesecrackers [at] gmail [dot] com, or DM me on twitter at @5ChinCrack and they’ll be mashed into the mix!

How to Respond to Media Myths

This is a cross-post on The Sun – Tabloid Lies, Express Watch and Mail Watch.

When you read the Sun, Daily Mail and the Express over a long-enough period of time, you start to notice a few things.

One thing that crops up regularly are hysterical ranting posts over a few small topics, including the following:

We’ve noticed that a lot of these scare stories could be stopped by a little research, which we accept that pressed-for-time tabloid journalists, for whatever reason, are unable to do.

Therefore, in the spirit of co-operation, we’ve decided to help them out by listing great sources of information, thereby saving them valuable time:

There are also a variety of websites which can be used for any “Bloody Foreigners! Coming over ‘ere! Takin’ our jobs! Takin’ our wimmin!” stories*:

There are also more general fact-checking sites**:

Of course, any and all of these lists could also be used by anyone else who wants to know more about the articles which the Sun, Daily Mail and/or the Express publish.

If anyone has any other suggestions as what other sources our tabloid journalists could use, just leave them in the comments.

* Thanks to Tabloid Watch for these particular links
** Thanks to Bloggerheads for these suggestions

What they trying to say?

I was researching the Express’s coverage of various health issues and stumbled upon this post.

The post itself isn’t of that much interest, but check out the URL.

Before anyone asks, no, I’ve not amended the address in any way.

How migrants snatched our homes

This story in the Express could’ve been a proper piece of journalism. Instead it’s just an excuse for demonising some immigrants, that from the sounds of it, are just as much the victims of a scam as some home owners.

Some home owners have left their properties, one to renovate it and another to walk his dog (and became ill and didn’t return for two days) only to find immigrants, Lithuanians no less, have moved in.

Both home owners are quoted as saying when they confronted their new tenants, the new occupiers have been paying rent and local residents “fear a ring of bogus estate agents may be watching their houses, waiting for them to leave before moving illegal tenants in.”

So as a responsible journalist what would you have done? This is just ripe for a good bit of investigative journalism. You have some shady chaps renting out other peoples houses they have no right to rent out. You have some innocent families being duped into thinking they’re legitimately renting a home and some shocked and horrified home owners. Bad guys and not one, but two different sets of victims.

Surely a quick knock on the door, ask who they’re paying rent to and then go and visit the shady estate agents. Job done. You got a story and possible helped towards sorting out the mess to boot.

But no. The tack the Express tacks is oh, so predictable…

A GANG of Lithuanian squatters is behind a terrifying scam in which people’s homes are seized and locks changed while they are out, it has emerged.

The illegal tenants have been holed up in one property for at least five months and the authorities are powerless to evict them without a court order.

In another case, an elderly man took his dogs for a walk and returned home to find the Lithuanian gang had moved in and were throwing all his possessions out of the window and into his front garden.

The gang is in fact a family and the Lithuanians are not the ones behind the scam, ‘snatching our homes’, the dodgy estate agents are. The phrase ‘holed up’ implies that the new occupiers are barracaded in.

The Lithuanians are also labelled violent when, by the proper home owners accounts, there was only shouting, which can be intimidating but is hardly violent.

It’s all there already in the story, but framed in such a way that the immigrants are the ones at fault.

The houses were probably chosen by the dodgy estate agents because of ease of entry to the properties and the immigrants were chosen as easy targets because of being unfamiliar with the laws and ways of the land and may not have a good grasp of English.

The people the Express should be railing against isn’t the Lithuanians being taken for a ride but the didgy estate agents. But that would mean taking to dirty foreigners and the estate agents are more than likely British, so we won’t mention them too much, shall we?

Even accurate stories are made to be misleading

The Express has a rather scary story for people with diabetes today with this: ‘HEART ATTACK FEARS OVER DIABETES PILL TAKEN BY MILLIONS‘. The Express claims in the first line of the article that:

A DIABETES pill taken by millions of people is still being prescribed despite experts knowing that it triggers potentially fatal heart attacks.

A safety body recommended that the top-selling drug Avandia be withdrawn two months ago as it “no longer has a place on the UK market”.

Firstly, it must be said that this is a genuine story about a drug that the British Medical Journal and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have suggested causes an increased risk of heart attacks and that the risks outweigh the benefits.

However, the case is more complex than the Express is suggesting, given that less than two months ago the American Food and Drug Administration panel voted to keep the drug on the market and that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has yet to make a decision on the drug and is only at the stage of considering the evidence put forward by the MHRA. The Express does not mention either of these things, which sensationalises things in two ways: firstly, by ignoring the FDA verdict they can imply that experts are unanimous in ‘knowing’ that the drugs cause heart attacks – which makes it more shocking that it is still on the market; and, secondly, they ignore the fact the MHRA have made a case to the EMA because in doing so it suggests that nothing is being done to take this drug off the market – perfect for creating outraged readers.

Whilst the tone of the Express article is not subtle – including the clearly misleading claim that the drug is ‘TAKEN BY MILLIONS’ when they clearly state in the article only around 100,000 people in the UK take the drug – the details that are left out are subtle, and designed to create unnecessary panic. In truth this drug is under intense pressure and as the Guardian points out the company’s stock fell as shareholders worried that the drug would be taken off the market in the near future. It is also what seems like a rarity in tabloid reporting: a genuine health-scare story about a drug that warrants public attention and scrutiny. Yet the Express still feel the need to ‘sex it up’ by inflating 100,000 to ‘millions’ whilst giving the impression that nothing is being is or can be done to remove the drug from the market; which is far from the truth and unnecessarily misleading.