22 April 2013

Mr. Kavanagh's bovvered...again!

The Sun today carries the latest in a series of grenades lobbed by its political columnist Trevor Kavanagh.

Kavanagh begins by explaining the apology given by someone on Twitter who had accused the Sun of falsifying a photo taken at the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. Kavanagh then writes:
It reflects an incessantly watchful Twitter world of grievance-seeking vigilantes eager to take offence. But there are signs that it is now seeping into mainstream British culture, especially those with something to hide.
There then follows a short list of examples Mr. Kavanagh uses to illustrate his point, interspersed with such comments as:
At other times these incidents might be shrugged off as amusing examples of human error. But they point to an increasingly suspicious and judgmental atmosphere (#nb - my emphasis) in which people with no axe to grind are encouraged to take offence on other people’s behalf.
The public? 'Suspicious and judgemental'? Surely not! That's the Sun's and Mr. Kavanagh's job! 
You might think this information was in the public interest. No, they risk prison for misconduct in a public office in two cases and “perverting the course of justice” in one.
This is the Leveson Effect. It has begun to suffocate the crucial flow of information that distinguishes a free country from a police state.
Which came first, Mr. Kavanagh, the questioning, arrest and sometimes charging of News International journalists for 'perverting the course of justice', 'causing misconduct in a public office' or the incidents you itemise? If the police are ultra-strict now about officers' contacts with journalists, who must bear the blame for that?
Britain set an example to the world by establishing a force which polices by consent. By definition, a wall of secrecy removes that consent.
There now follows a petulant Mr. Kavanagh's railing at the fact that the police no longer tip off his journalists when an arrest is made:
It is now common for suspects — innocent and guilty — to be held in absolute secrecy while their personal lives and careers are in limbo indefinitely.
Dozens of decent journalists who have been left to swing in the wind, uncharged for more than a year, know exactly how this feels.
How frustrating that must be! Trial by tabloid denied an unarrested, presumed innocent suspect! Dreadful....
Chief constables have shut down normal channels and begun reacting with hostility to legitimate inquiries.
The ugly assumption is that journalists with impeccable sources must have obtained information by skulduggery. It is the perfect cop-out.
But completely understandable? 
The Press deserves criticism and has taken it by the bucketload. But this sinister new culture of suspicion benefits those with something to hide — not those with the right to know.
Just as, for many years, the silence of editors, journalists and newspaper owners over the phone-hacking scandal benefitted those with something to hide, Mr. Kavanagh?
Lord Justice Leveson barely concealed his contempt for journalists but naively swallowed Hacked Off’s half-truths and exaggerations and accepted evidence from left-wing mischief-maker Full Fact as gospel.
Lord Justice Leveson showed no contempt for most journalists, just coolness towards those few who had been proven to have lied, cheated and shown contempt towards the Inquiry.
Lord Justice Leveson barely concealed his contempt for journalists but naively swallowed Hacked Off’s half-truths and exaggerations and accepted evidence from left-wing mischief-maker Full Fact as gospel.
His adviser throughout was Sir David Bell, intimately linked with the Media Standards Trust which spawned Hacked Off — and the discredited Bureau of Investigative Journalism which smeared Alistair McAlpine.
These oft-repeated accusatory comments against Full Fact, Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off really are wearing thin indeed and need to be left at the bottom of your ammo box, Mr. Kavanagh!
What a shabby basis for new Press laws, stitched up at 2am in a Hacked Off ambush, which is snuffing out Press freedom and the right of the British public to hold authorities to account.
Even an inventive tabloid hack could not make this one up. (#nb - My emphasis)
Oh, I'm sure any of your 'inventive tabloid hacks' could make this one up, Mr Kavanagh.....

Along similar lines is this article from Melanie Phillips in Mail Online:
The Leveson Lovers and a Compromised Inquiry That's Begun a Chilling Assault on Free Speech - Melanie Phillips - Mail Online

10 April 2013

A Death and a Funeral Become Handy Hooks for Mail's prejudices..

When a political leader dies, it's not unusual for the media to feature eulogies, critical examinations of successes or failures and intimate, interesting tales of the life of the figure in question.

Below is a compilation of most of the front pages which appeared on Monday night (with thanks to Nick Sutton at the BBC):

With our mainly right-leaning press, the reporting of Baroness Thatcher's death and impending funeral was never going to be confined to a few dignified articles towards the back of any of our newspapers.

Most have predictably given over front-pages, inside pages and whole pull-out sections to facts and comment with a definite political slant, to be sure, and occasional evidence of a partial rewriting of history, perhaps understandably.

Today's Mirror, (a left-leaning paper), front page questions the cost of Baroness Thatcher's funeral:
But the Daily Mail....

....the Daily Mail has eagerly, nay greedily, seized upon this opportunity to grind what must be the best-honed political axes known in journalistic history!

It has set its attack-troops onto the 'Lefties' and the BBC in equal measure and with real campaigning zeal.

Today's front page cynically depicts one small group of people in demonstrating their disapproval of the former Prime Minister and her policies:
This, with its accompanying article ('penned' by 5 journalists!) is just a sample of the articles which are appearing in the Mail and in Mail Online like bullets out of an automatic rifle.
Another is headed:

Left's chorus of hatred: Champagne in the streets, students union cheers and vile internet taunts

  • Glasgow: More than 300 people attended impromptu street party
  • London: Over 100 people gathered in Brixton to 'celebrate'
  • Facebook campaign to take 'Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead' to number one
  • Durham Miners' Association: Her death was a 'great day' for coal miners
  • Second most trending topic on Twitter: #nostatefuneral
  • NUS National conference reported to have cheered at news of her death
Many of the photographs and articles are designed to point an accusatory finger at those on the left of British politics (or of no particular political persuasion) who, unlike Editor Paul Dacre and the owners of the Mail, do not remember Margaret Thatcher with affection.

Birmingham Council refuses to lower flag to half mast and councillors flounce out of minute's silence as Tony Blair urges Thatcher critics to 'show some respect'

  • Union Jack flag still flies high outside Birmingham's Council House
  • Tories brand Labour leaders 'petty, mean and vindictive'
  • Blair: Urged critics of Thatcherite policies to ‘show some respect’.
The Mail looks forward to the funeral with not a little trepidation (salivation?):

Will the haters try to wreck Maggie's send-off? Police plan massive security operation 'True Blue' for Baroness Thatcher's funeral

One message?
(Full article Here)
As for the oft-battered-by-Dacre BBC, the Mail gleefully shrieks:

Public anger at BBC bias: Viewers hit out at lengthy coverage of poll tax and miners' strike after Baroness Thatcher's death

  • Viewers complain bulletins gave too great an emphasis to critics
  • Twitter users accuse BBC of 'shameless' bias against the former PM
  • One viewer said: 'You name the socialist, they've interviewed them'
  • Another said the coverage was 'an absolute Left-wing biased disgrace'
But as David Cridland, writing for the blog Media UK, points out all is not as it seems in the original Daily Mail article.

Further evidence of the Mail's fabrication of evidence against the BBC's coverage of the death of Margaret Thatcher appears in the Media Blog.

With still a week to go before the funeral takes place, one wonders what heights these paroxysms of outrage and indignation from those at the Mail will eventually reach! Spontaneous combustion, perhaps....

Image from the Naked Scientist website

9 April 2013

Speech, dear reader? - What speech?

Today, some of our tabloids' political journalists and bloggers found a speech by Ed Miliband in Ipswich great fun. Nothing wrong with that at all; except that, especially in Tim Shipman's case, the joke included the ridiculing of several young members of the audience.

Tomorrow, there would probably have been a vitriolic article from Mr Shipman attacking the policies announced in the Labour leader's speech today but for the sudden death of Baroness Thatcher earlier.

If we're really lucky, he may combine a eulogy for Baroness Thatcher with a thorough lambasting of Miliband! Either way, his readers will understand no more of Labour's proposals than they did yesterday.... And you thought newspapers were there to inform!

Tim Shipman, Daily Mail:
(Note the inclusion of the link to an image of the three young people he was ridiculing.)

Tim Gatt ITV:

The 'Harry' in that tweet is Harry 'Height of Sartorial Elegance' Cole, @GuidoFawkes blog, The Sun and Spectator.

Update: An article in tomorrow's Mail by Shipman and John Stevens gives a cursory appraisal of Miliband's speech, preferring to accentuate the idea of a split amongst Labour MPs - a theme being pushed by most of the media.

Never mind - Mail readers may never know the details of the opposition leader's speech but will be grateful that Shipman gleaned so much amusement from the physical appearance of a few young people in the audience.

Further update, 9th April: At least someone was listening..!  From Rafael Behr in the New Statesman.

6 April 2013

A Sun Reader's Lament

With abject apologies to the poet John Betjeman, I felt compelled to adapt his poem, 'A Subaltern's Love Song', after reading a tweet from The Sun's political editor yesterday:
A Sun Reader's Lament
Mr T. Newton Dunn, Mr T. Newton Dunn,
Furnish'd and burnish'd by R. Murdoch's Sun,
What strenuous efforts you make in a plea
To deny any influence - you with me!

Words dirty, words haughty, oh! weakness of ploy,
To bid us all swallow the murder of joy,
With carefullest carelessness, daily you won,
We are weak from your onslaught, Tom Newton Dunn.

Mr Tom Newton Dunn, Mr Tom Newton Dunn,
How mad I am, sad I am, ashamed that you won,
Despite warm-hearted public, we read in the press,
The 'fury' we feel against those who have less.

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,
The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,
Struggles with the vision and fine-wrought lie
Of a world observed through Murdoch's Sun's eye.

From the desks of your newsroom there is power to distort,
The reader drawn in by bare breasts and the sport,
While reason lies somnolent, does not question The Sun,
Nor those who dupe wilfully, Mr Tom Newton Dunn.