Thursday, 19 December 2013

WARNING – READING THE DAILY MAIL WILL SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOU

Recently I visited my mother. She reads the Daily Mail
 Now I know that the Daily Mail is a dreadful newspaper, so I shouldn’t have been surprised, but there was something that leapt out at me from that Saturday’s edition that made me bring it back home with me, and to write this diatribe against it. 

 I just hate the Daily Mail. It makes my skin crawl and, if it doesn’t make your skin crawl too, you perhaps need to be asking yourself some questions.  


Friday 13 December 2013
Friday 13 December had not been a major news day, but:
•  In Syria, al-Qaida-linked rebels kidnapped 120 Kurds.
•  There were riots in Bangladesh following the execution of an Islamist leader.
•  The Belgian Senate voted to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children.
•  A French government report recommended allowing Muslims to wear headscarves in schools.
•  News broke that a Chinese naval vessel had tried to force US warship to stop in the South China Sea.

•  The Iran nuclear talks stalled amid rows over US sanctions.
•  John Kerry reported that Israeli-Palestinian talks were going well and that a deal was possible by the end of April.
•  In the USA, a student opened fire at Colorado high school.
•  In London, 59 rare Beatles songs were released for sale, and
•  The Geminid meteor showers peaked.
… so it had not been a day when there was NO newsworthy news to report in Saturday’s paper.

Did the Daily Mail report ANY of these arguably important world news stories?
No. Instead we were treated, yet again, to a manipulation of ‘stories’ designed to indoctrinate us, to brainwash us into a Daily Mail state-of-mind.


Directed bile
Take the front page.
The main headline – fully a quarter-page in its own right – screamed:

NIGELLA ‘LET THE CHILDREN SMOKE CANNABIS’
The headline, of course, referred to allegations made in the trial of the Grillo sisters, who were accused of defrauding Ms Lawson and her former husband, but the article (which also filled most of page 4) was much more interested in lurid accusations about Ms Lawson’s private life. ‘While the trial is about the alleged defrauding, it has often appeared to be more about Miss Lawson’s marriage to Mr Saatchi’, confided the Mail reporter gleefully (and disingenuously, given that it was he who had made it so).
What angered me most about this headline were the inverted commas - an acknowledgment that the Mail knew this was an unproven allegation ... but they were headlining it nonetheless.  Outrageous.

The other headline on the front page, under a picture of Labour front-benchers Harriet Harman and Jack Dromey, ran:

HARMAN, HER HUSBAND AND THE PAEDOPHILE LOBBY GROUP
Readers were directed to a two-page spread (pp.12-13) which implicated Harman and Dromey, through their involvement in the 1970s with the National Council for Civil Liberties (later ‘Liberty’) with a group (Paedophile Information Exchange) which had sought at that time to liberalise public attitudes towards paedophilia.
Despite a large sub-head which asserted that Harman and Dromey were ‘linked to group lobbying for the right to have sex with children’, the article was exclusively smear-by-association, and most of the article focused rather upon lurid narratives about the fate of various PIE activists.

It is worthwhile remembering this Mail journalist’s technique – invoking moral outrage whilst revelling in the prurient details … we will meet it again.
However, what struck me most at the time about these front-page stories was that they were both so aggressive, directing accusation at individuals whom we seemed to be being recruited to hate.

In fact, much of the newspaper seemed determined to get us to hate and despise other people in some way or other. Worst of all was the double-page spread: ‘Platell’s People’, which simply spewed bile indiscriminately on a range of prominent and successful people. Words like ‘oaf’, ‘deluded’, ‘misguided’ and ‘demean’ peppered the page. Basically, everybody was a worthless fool, except Ms Platell.
•  On page 47, Heffer did the same, attacking such as civil servants, MPs and teachers.
•  On page 24, the police were criticised for publishing a (well-meaning) poem about arresting a sex-attacker – apparently it trivialised sex attacks.
•  Jack Dromey appeared again on page 33 – this time for describing his postman as a ‘Pikey’.
•  Damien Hirst came in for it on page 42.
•  On page 45, Susan Boyle falling ill on the Jonathan Ross Show, apparently, had sparked fresh SuBo mental health fears.
•  Page 50 was about Lord Edward Somerset beating his wife, and
•  Page 51 attacked the ‘irritating’ Gwyneth Paltrow ‘where mystical New Age crackpotism meets rampant capitalism’. 


It was all negative, and it was all nasty. I came away with a bad taste in my mouth. What is the effect, I wondered, on people who read this hate-filled bile day after hate-filled day?


Moral outrage 

Much of the Mail’s bile against humanity is wrapped in the cloak of moral outrage – a journalistic technique which allows the reader to feel justified as they hate … and at the same time to self-indulge also in mild voyeurism.

The most blatant example was on page 21, where an article claimed that parents are angry at Beyonce’s X-rated new album and video (‘which even include her one-year-old daughter’) … whilst including pictures of the pop-star nearly-nude, and phrases such as ‘writhing around on the floor in her underwear’.

The spread on pages 30-31 was even worse, detailing the story of a woman who was:

RAPED BY A POLICEMAN AT 14
… but was now waiving her anonymity to demand justice. This story included explicit descriptions of the rape.

Similarly, page 48 detailed the activities of a boy of 14 who was admitting to 12 sex attacks; and a double-spread on pages 54-55 described a visit to the outback camp of an incestuous family cult in New South Wales, Australia … along with (as you would by now expect) explicit details of their ‘mind-numbing, wicked sex-games’.
Why is this 'news'?  What relevance does it possibly have for people in Britain ... except to mildly tittilate?  Disgraceful.

This hard-copy-through-your-letter-box edition of the Mail did not have the semi-pornographic obsession with girls-in-bikinis of the Mail Online, but even so there was enough sexual detail to leave me with a very negative image of your average Daily Mail reader, tut-tutting judgementally, whilst gobbling up the dirty details. Hopefully it’s not true, but that’s the mindset the Mail clearly believes it has to pander to.


Xenophobia
I knew the Mail hates foreigners, but I had not appreciated the full extent of their propaganda until I started to count the xenophobic articles:
•  The EU are bad-uns, of course, and there was a story about Brussels warning the government against using English language tests to refuse entry to migrants. Those meddling eurocrats, insisting we follow the law!
•  There was a story about European countries banning unlicensed villa rentals, which will damage the finances of Brits who have bought holiday villas abroad and want to rent them out over the internet. Again, those pesky foreigners, wanting emigrant Brits to obey their laws!
•  Apparently an Iraqi is suing the MoD to stop British soldiers shouting(!)
•  A fake bride who had a baby ‘just so she could stay in Britain’ warranted an article (remember, this is bad, not sad).
•  And a double-page spread described how foreign students are ‘fleecing Britain’ by taking out a student loan and then not paying it back when they return home.

A double-page spread on Kim Jong Un in Korea followed a familiar angle. Again, we were encouraged to fear and despise the dictator who has moved from PlayStation to murder … but the text treated the reader to tittillations such as ‘arms and legs scooped up by the bulldozer’, ‘one prisoner blown apart by mortar rounds’ and his Moranbong girl-band ‘who wear spangly mini-skirts and heels’.

Of course, foreigners who are morally questionable are even more hateful, and we were treated to a half page (p.33) with photographs of a father in China flogging his semi-naked son for truanting, and a long article on page 40: ‘This is how we do it in India, said doctor as he groped a patient’s breasts’.

Page 14 was an ideologically confusing page, with half of it devoted to an attack on the BBC for its ‘excess’ of reporting on the death of Nelson Mandela (an issue repeated in the leader), whilst the other half was an article on … the death of Mandela.


Right-wing trash
Women 'who choose to look after their children full-time’ are, of course, right up the Mail's anti-feminist, traditionalist street, so I could have expected an article bewailing the financial pressures they face – the Mail would have all women out of the workplace and into the kitchen.

But I was surprised by how few ‘bash-the-benefit-scroungers’ articles there were.
One headline complained that ‘three in four benefit cheats avoid prosecution’ – as it turns out, the DWP often choose to give fraudsters a ‘civil penalty’ (a fine of up to £2000) rather than take them to court

Page 10 had a full-page article headlined:

ROMANIANS TAUGHT HOW TO CLAIM UK BENEFITS IN RETURN FOR JOINING UNION
… a dream article for the Mail, because it allowed them to be enraged about immigrants AND the union Unite at the same time. These bloody unions, thinking that people should know their legal rights!

Page 12 offered the Mail another double-whammy – a witch who had won an unfair dismissal case against her Sikh employers, who she accused of mocking her religion. A textbox headed ‘Naked Ritual and Plenty of Spells’ offered the vital information: ‘some Wiccans perform rituals in the nude’.


Be afraid, be very afraid
By contrast, however, I was alarmed at just how many articles encouraged readers to be afraid, and depressed at the ‘terrible’ state of the world today.

According to this Saturday’s Daily Mail:
•  A ‘Bank Chief’ had warned that the housing market was ‘at risk of boiling over’ (he hadn’t at all, by the way - on the contrary, he had welcomed the upturn in housing, and simply assured people that the Bank would watch the market to make sure that it didn’t overheat as it had done in the past).
•  Pages 16-17 carried a double-page spread by Dominic Sandbrook entitled ‘Spend, Spend, Spend’ – it was about how ‘our modern obsession with materialism is destroying communities, friendship and self-discipline'.
•  One woman had been mauled by her ‘maniac moggie’ (you’re not safe even in your own home).
•  Police were hunting yobs who had beaten a pony and left it in a canal to drown (p37).
•  A PSCI had brought a claim after she fell over a fence on a 999 call – a classic ‘what-is-the-world-coming-to’ Mail article.
•  An arguably ‘feel-good’ article about how a young wife had chased away a raider who had attacked her husband was a two-edged sword, because it held out the image of a world where you can answer your door … and find a knife-wielding robber there.

Yesterday, by sheer chance, I listened to someone else criticising the Mail on YouTube, and he told the story of his Mail-reading grandfather, who – when asked whether he would like to be young again – had said not, because the world today was just such a more awful place than it was in his youth. This man had lived through the Depression, the Second World War and three decades in fear of nuclear annihilation, but he still genuinely thought things were worse today.
The speaker openly blamed Mail’s ‘modern-life-is-shit’ propaganda for ruining his grandfather’s dotage; the Mail, he claimed, had helped to transform his grandfather into a frightened old man, who locked his doors and windows to keep out a world he was convinced was evil in every way.


What kind of person reads the Daily Mail?
Are all Daily Mail readers right-wing, prurient misanthropes, leching over the sexual details as they condemn the world from their armchairs?
I fear some of them are, but I fear much more that that is what the Daily Mail is turning its readers into.

What must be the long-term effect on these people’s state-of-mind, I wonder, when they are bombarded, every day, with a world-view which tells them that the world is full of evil, crime and failure?
The Mail is a daily dose of the most negative, harmful bile, and I am horrified to think of the damage it must be doing to its readers’ attitudes.

We get worried when youths watch too many ‘video-nasties’, or spend too long playing violent computer games. We fear that it will warp their minds, and we make them come downstairs and do something wholesome.

But do we not need to ration how much of the Daily Mail our pensioners are allowed to read?
Do we not need a ‘health warning’ on the Daily Mail:

WARNING – READING THE DAILY MAIL WILL SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOU

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