26 January 2011

Incitement to Hatred?

Once gain we note the blatant misreporting and manipulation of statistics in very similar articles to be found in yesterday's Daily Mail and Daily Express.

In a previous
blogpost, I showed how some of the tabloids use exaggeration and distortion of facts in an attempt to influence public opinion.

Here, below the headline:


is The Daily Express
piece. Its opening paragraph states in bold print:

'THE welfare mess left by Labour was exposed last night after figures suggested three-quarters of sickness benefit claimants are fit to work.'

The article, quoting from a report carried out by the Department of Work and Pensions, states that out of all of those claiming incapacity benefit of whatever type, 39% were deemed fit for work, another 36% :

'abandoned their claims as soon as they were told to undergo new work capability assessments introduced to weed out scroungers.

The total figure of 75 per cent was released by the Department for Work and Pensions yesterday following a review of almost half the 2.1 million people on incapacity benefit.'

So from 1.05 million people already tested, we are led to believe 75% are 'scroungers'. By my calculations, the reality is that following an assessment, only 39% of a total of the 1.05m people could be considered as claiming a benefit they were not entitled to.

Even this assertion would be challenged by many of those who have undergone one of the tests and found them unfairly conducted and dubious in their validity.

But the article in the Daily Express is mild in its condemnation of disability benefit claimants compared to what is to be found in the Mail Online!

400,000 'were trying it on' to get sickness benefits: 94% of incapacity claimants CAN work

This time, we are given a figure of 94% of benefit 'scroungers'!

Both articles are full of contemptuous language and thoroughly judgemental. Both articles misuse data in an effort to confuse and hoodwink the reader.

To what end? Well, scandals and shocking facts sell newspapers! Words which denigrate the subjects of such articles may incite hatred, or at the very least, dislike. Could it also be that by whipping up a storm of indignant feeling against a certain group in society, support for potentially unpopular policies being put forward by the government of the day might be increased?

As Nick Angel wrote of the Daily Mail in an article in the Guardian on 20th August 2007 :

'A month spent reading the nation's leading mid-market newspaper took me into a terrifying, depressing world, filled with suspicion.'

You can find the rest of that piece here : For me, it says it all!

Someone else who speaks with more honesty than could be found in either of the two articles I've highlighted today can be seen and heard in this clip posted by 'peekaypurr' "Shame on you Prime Minister. I know you know better." , @BendyGirl on Twitter.

Factcheck have just posted a link to their site, where they've been working on the veracity of the data given by Mail.

Rosie Robertson