Posts Tagged ‘News of the World’

My Cartoon Against Rupert Murdoch and Rebecca Wade

June 18, 2017

This week I’ve been putting up some of the cartoons I’ve drawn which express me feelings of disgust and revulsion at the Tories and their vile supporters in the press. This time it’s the turn of Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the Scum and the Times, as well as Faux News in America, and his equally revolting protégé, Rebecca Wade. This was the woman responsible for whipping up a witch hunt against paedophiles in the Scum, which resulted in a mob attacking a paediatrician in Wales. I think she may also have been partly responsible for the phone hacking scandal over at the News of the World.

Murdoch himself I’ve portrayed as a decaying, cyborg mutant, the mass of monstrous, mutated flesh on the right sided of his face and body reflecting his own vile, corrupt soul. I also tried to put the biohazard sign on his forehead, but it hasn’t really come out terribly clearly. It just looks like a nasty wrinkle.

And at their side is a skull, representing death. The symbolises all the people the Tories have killed and are killing with their murderous austerity policies.

Rupert Murdoch and the Privatisation of the BBC

June 9, 2016

One of the major forces behind the Tory’s demands for the privatisation of the BBC is Rupert Murdoch. It is well-known that Murdoch owns the Sky satellite TV network, and so bitterly resents the state broadcaster as an obstacle preventing his own continuing expansion into broadcasting. Murdoch isn’t the only media mogul to demand the break-up of the Beeb in favour of their own interests as private broadcasters. Until recent, Richard ‘Dirty’ Desmond, the proprietor of Express newspapers and various grubby mags found on the top shelves on newsagents also owned Channel 5, along with his Fantasy X porn channel. The situation was much the same in the 1980s, when one of the other newspaper magnates, the late, unlamented Robert Maxwell, owned Rediffusion, which was also looking to expand, and so attacked the Beeb. But because of his domination of the market, Murdoch is perhaps the leading voice demanding the Beeb’s privatisation.

Mark Hollingworth discusses Murdoch’s self-interested attacks on the BBC in his book, The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship. While this section isn’t particularly surprising in itself, as the Dirty Digger has been doing it for decades, what is shocking is how viciously and single-mindedly the old brute prosecuted his attacks on the Beeb in the 1980s. He writes:

The attacks on the BBC began in January 1985, during the corporation’s negotiations for an increased licence fee, and were sustained through the year. On 14 January 1985, the Times published the first of three successive leading articles extolling the virtues of advertising the need for deregulation of the BBC: ‘The BBC is today accused of inefficiency, unaccountability, self-aggrandisement and feather-bedding its employees…Are the critics justified? In their main principles, yes.’ The next day Labour MP Joe Ashton launched his private member’s bill calling for advertising on the BBC. That morning the Times’ editorial was headlined-‘Wither the BBC’- and called for the break-up of the corporation: ‘Advertisers can clearly pay some part in generating the revenue to pay for many programmes…We need a more open, less monolithic system of broadcasting in which customers can choose what qualities they want from their TV screens.’ The next day the Times thundered again at its 1,300,000 readers: ‘Lord Annan’s Committee recommended a break-up of the BBC into its radio, TV and local radio components. The government should now prepare to go further than this. It should consider quickly the establishment of a new broadcasting commission to auction franchises that are currently operated by the BBC.

Now, what the Times fails to tell its readers is who will directly benefit if these franchises are auctioned. At the front of the queue will be a certain R. Murdoch, proprietor of the Times, who will benefit commercially if the BBC is broken up. Murdoch’s company, News International, owns Sky Channel-a cable and satellite operation which transmits 73 hours a week of alternative television and has three million subscribers in 11 countries. In 1983 Murdoch also took control of Satellite TV, Sky’s parent company, at a cost of £5 million and has a 75.5 per cent shareholding. Satellite began transmitting in 1982, beaming English language programmes to Norway and Finland for two hours a night. In 1985 the Times’ owner acquired the biggest stake in 20th Century Fox to provide films for his satellite Sky Channel to beam across Europe. Clearly, if even parts of the BBC are privatised, these Murdoch-owned companies will make a lot of money.

Murdoch’s views on the BBC are quite clear. ‘I would like to see it privatized,’ he said in November 1985. But this was not just his private opinion. According to the Mirror’s Paul Foot, Murdoch ‘has personally ordered a sustained attack on the BBC and all its people.’ Alastair Hetherington, former editor of the Guardian, added weight to this assertion when he accused the Times of conducting ‘a vendetta against the BBC in its leaders, news stories and features’. This is certainly borne out by the evidence. The Times published at least eight anti-BBC editorials throughout 1985. The paper also published a series of news reports, often based on the thinnest material, which suggested extravagance and incompetence among BBC management. ‘BBC Condemned As Licence Fee Monster’ was the headline for one story which was merely a report of an article by an obscure ex-BBC employee in a trade journal.

Moreover, when angry readers have written to complain about the coverage or offer and alternative point of view, the Times has refused to publish their letters. this was revealed by Paul Fox, Managing Director of Yorkshire Television. On 2 November 1985, the Times published another leader attacking the BBC, the IBA and ITV companies and misquoted comments that Fox had made about public service broadcasting. Fox wrote to the paper to set the record straight about his misrepresented remarks, but his letter was not published. Three days later, on 5 November 1985, David Plowright, the Managing Director of Granada TV and Chairman of the ITV Companies Association, also wrote to the Times to complain about front-page news report of a MORI opinion poll on advertising on the BBC. In his letter, Plowright pointed out that the Times opinion poll showed that more people were either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied with the quality of TV in Britain than those who took the opposite view. How curious, wrote Plowright, that the paper’s news story had failed to include these facts. The letter was not published and the issue was not corrected.

The Times was not the only Murdoch paper to attack the BBC. His tabloids have joined in the fun. Here’s the Sun on 23 January 1985: ‘Oh, what superior people they are at the BBC. Here is the Director-General, Alastair Milne, raising his hands in horror at the idea of accepting adverts…Just where is the BBC superior to the commercial channels… There is only one area where the Beeb shines. No-one could possibly match its overbearing, totally unjustified smugness. And again on 2 September 1985: ‘The BBC should compete in the market so it ceases to be such a burden on the public.’ The Sun’s sister paper, the News of the World, began its campaign a trifle later than most but soon made up for lost ground. Every week throughout April 1985 there was a news story about the expenses of BBC staff which were reaching ‘scandal’ proportions. The next month News of the World journalists were instructed to file detailed reports of the eating and drinking habits of fellow reporters on the BBC during a royal tour. One brave woman journalist refused, because she said this was not her job. A News of the World executive then telephoned from London to accuse her of being disloyal. However, halfway through his lecture, the editorial executive was much dismayed to find that he had been put through by mistake to Kate Adey-a BBC television news reporter. (pp.12-14).

The News of the World executive probably left the phone with his ears ringing. ‘Kats Adie’ is the formidable woman, who was thrown out of Libya after she put the fear of the Almighty into Colonel Gaddafy. She is most certainly not afraid to ask awkward questions of the powerful.

The Beeb does have its faults. Its biased news coverage enrages me, and has been criticised many times for its bias against Labour and to the Conservatives. On the other hand, at its best it does provide good, solid public service broadcasting that few of its commercial rivals are able or even willing to provide. And advertising increasingly cannot provide the needed funding for some TV programmes today. A few years ago there were plans to bring back Spitting Image, the much-loved satirical puppet show screened on Channel 4 on Sunday evenings. This was eventually dropped because it was simply too expensive.

And no matter how biased the Beeb is, Murdoch’s worse. The more he goes on, the more he resembles the Bond villain, a media-mogul, who planned to start a war between America and China simply for its news value. That particular piece of Bondage ended with Commander Bond and his mates killing the villain, who was then reported as sinking in the South China Sea along with his stealth yacht. An end very similar to the drowning of Robert Maxwell. After something like five decades of lowering media standards across the globe, you feel it’s about time someone from the world’s covert intelligence agencies made him put a sock in it.

In the meantime, here’s Spitting Image on the Dirty Digger and his nearly subterranean journalistic standards.

Nationalisation: The Reason the Tory Press Feared and Hated Tony Benn

June 8, 2016

In 1970s and 1980s, Tony Benn personified everything the Conservatives and the right-wing press hated and feared about the Labour party. In the early 1970s the party had adopted an increasingly radical platform, advocating the nationalisation of 25 companies, including BP, and introducing a form of industrial democracy, which would have seen up to 50 per cent of management boards composed of workers’ representatives. Benn, who had won press approval in the 50’s and 60s for his efficient management of industry, had moved leftward, and fully supported these proposals. Instead of arguing against these ideas, which were the policy of the wider Labour party, the Tory press held Benn almost solely accountable for them. He was therefore reviled as a fanatic, compared to Adolf Hitler, and derided as a ‘loony’. None of this was even remotely close to the truth. Those, who had personal dealings with him, such as the head of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, where Benn was the local MP, stated that he was calm, reasonable, and always gave a clear answer. Other industrialists spoke about how Benn always listened intelligently to what others had to say, and sought out all opinions on an issue before he made his mind up. But this was very firmly ignored and denied in the press’ caricature.

Mark Hollingworth discusses the press’ demonization of Benn, and how it sharply differed from the reality, in his book, The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship. In the chapter on Benn, he makes the case that what the press feared most about Benn was his advocacy of increasing nationalisation and state control. They were afraid that after he’d nationalised the initial 25 firms, he’d extend it even further, until the press itself was nationalised. Hollingworth writes:

During a meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee on 28 February 1975, a prominent member suggested that if Tony Benn were to save a child from drowning, the headlines the next day would read ‘Benn’s Latest Grab’. He was exaggerating, of course, but not by much. for between May 1973 and June 1975 Labour’s industrial policies were consistently portrayed as the pipedream of one politician.

The press campaign began with the advent of ‘Labour’s Programme for 1973’ – a radical nationalization document. Benn fully backed its proposals

What we have in mind goes far beyond the window dressing of some European schemes. We are thinking of say 50 per cent of workers, elected through their trade union membership onto supervisory boards with real power. And we mean to carry through this sort of reform in the public sector as well as in the private sector. We shall carry through a real redistribution of income and wealth by radical changes in the tax system.

Fleet Street was horrified. Suddenly Benn was part of ‘the wild Left’, ‘trying to attract the support of the extreme left militants.’ The Sun, at that time loosely pro-Labour, stated: ‘If Mr Benn is to be believed, Britain may shortly become a Marxist state,’ while the Sunday Telegraph preferred ‘Bolshevik Benn’.

In September 1973, Labour’s National Executive proposed that 25 leading companies be taken into public ownership. The Daily Express interpreted this plan as Benn toeing the Moscow line: ‘Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin – those four grim, grey spectres from the past who started it all – might not have been displeased with the former Lord Stansgate.’

But the press’ hostility to nationalisation was for reasons much closer to home, according to Charles Wintour, then editor of the London Evening Standard and now a member of the SDP: ‘They’re planning this socialisation of the 25 firms,’ said Wintour at the time

Well, in the long run, if this process continues indefinitely, they will start brooding on state control of the newspapers. I mean, nationalization means a production – the newspapers are produced. In the long run, this must be part of their policy. that’s logical. They believe in it. And consequently I think that the newspapers have a right to be particularly suspicious of the Labour Party in its extension of nationalisation and state control.

Wintour’s analysis turned out to be correct. The press was deeply hostile to nationalisation. But this political opposition was concealed in the form of linking the policy with Benn’s political ambition. This is how Noyes Thomas reported the issue for the News of the World: ‘In his thirst for power he has seemed recently to be prepared to see even his party out of office for a further term provided it brings Wilson and his moderate colleagues to the end of the political road. It was Benn who bludgeoned through the party’s policy document – the threat to nationalise Britain’s top 25 companies.’ (pp. 39-40).

The British press claims to be a democratic check, holding the government to account through questioning and reporting. In fact, as the authors of several of the chapters in Jacky Davis’ and Raymond Tallis’ book on the privatisation of the NHS, NHS SOS, show, the press, with some notable exceptions, along with so many of the other British institutions which should have been defending it, signally failed to do so. They have been quiet as this most precious of British institutions has been and is being privatised. Elsewhere in the book, Hollingworth states that at the 1979 election, Thatcher only got 44 per cent of the vote, but she had 84 per cent of press support. And the press’ bias against Labour has continued. It only abated under Tony Bliar, because the wretched warmonger caved in, and gave the Thatcherite privatisers, and particularly Murdoch, everything they wanted. It’s high time that relationship changed, and we had a truly free press.

Dennis Skinner on Cameron and Osborne

May 30, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has published pieces on the number of Tories now demanding a no-confidence vote in David Cameron. These include ‘Mad’ Nad Nadine Dorries and Bill Cash, while other opponents and Tory MPs questioning his ability include Andrew Bridgen, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and Priti Patel. Which is somewhat ironic, considering that all of them are either incompetent or frankly dangerous, and should be kept well away from political office themselves.

See Mike’s articles http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/29/will-the-eu-referendum-be-camerons-waterloo/

Conservative civil war: Clarke bashes Boris, Cash lays into Cameron

Mike in the last piece reports that 72 per cent of voters in Telegraph poll, as of 4 O’clock today, May 30th, wanted Cameron out of office.

So let’s add a bit more fuel to the flames, shall we?

Dennis Skinner in his book, Sailing Close to the Wind: Reminiscences has a few things to say about Cameron and Osborne – about their vacuity, short-tempers and marked lack of intelligence, and his personal tussles with them in the House. Here’s his description of them, and one of his stories about how he engaged them in a struggle of wits.

David Cameron and George Osborne are a couple of posh boys who get angry when you don’t show them the deference they think they are entitled to by birth. You could see Cameron was ambitious the moment you clapped eyes on him. the friendly smile is deceptive. Everything about how he dresses, carries himself and opens his mouth speaks of ambition. Dodgy Dave was a new MP and had only been in the Commons a couple of years when Iain Duncan Smith, enduring a torrid time as leader of the Tories after 2001, appointed Cameron as shadow deputy leader of the House.

On Cameron’s second week in the post Eric Forth, his line manager as shadow leader of the House, was away, so the new boy was pun charge at Business Questions. the beauty of Business Questions is we may ask for a statement or debate on any topic under the sun. I uttered a few words of mock greeting as Cameron stood there terrified, his hands gripping the despatch box, looking for all the world a lost young gentleman. Cameron tried to explain the Shadow Leader of the House was away but mixed up his words and said the Shadow Deputy Leader was absent. You’ve a split second to heckle. ‘he wants the top job already,’ I shouted and we laughed to take him down a notch. Cameron appeared embarrassed. You always remember a debut, it’s a big moment no matter what you do. He won’t forget he stumbled.

I described Cameron as a media creation on Radio 4’s Week in Westminster in late 2005 when he was running for the top job, and nothing I’ve seen or heard since has made me change my mind. He was elevated on the back of a puff of wind and lacked the substance of David Davis, the Tory he beat. The figure the Conservative Party could’ve picked and overlooked in successive contests was ken Clarke, who was easily the best candidate.

I’d watched Cameron as shadow deputy leader of the House and at local government and education, and he never sparkled. When it suited him, he posed as the heir to Blair. He’s dropped the act now and come out as the child of Thatcher he always was. Cameron never had Blair’s ability or temperament, let alone the Labour politics. Blair never lost his temper at the despatch box. Unlike Cameron, who struggles to his under control.

The Cameron mask slipped when he called me a dinosaur. I’m no shrinking violet and if you dish it out some will come back your way. We used to sing as kids that sticks and stones may break our bones but names will never hurt us. the trigger was relatively innocuous. I’d asked if Cameron would appear before Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into media standards, given he’d once employed former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as press adviser. Cameron replied he’d be delighted, then Flashman lost control of his short fuse and added:

‘It’s good to see the honourable gentleman on such good form. I often say to my children “No need to go to the Natural History Museum to see a dinosaur, come to the House of Commons at about half past twelve”.

I held up my hands and shrugged my shoulders, trying to look bemused rather than triumphant. Our side protested angrily. I could see most of the Tories were horrified, although there were a few laughing. Blair knew how to appear prime ministerial. Cameron is petulant. Paul Flynn, a Labour MP only a few years younger than me, raised a point of order immediately after Prime Minister’s Questions to ask if it was appropriate to criticise each other on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, disability or vintage. Another Labour MP, Brian Donohoe, proposed that the PM ‘should come back to this place and apologise to Dennis Skinner.’

I wasn’t the first MP to be looked at down Cameron’s nose. Dave the Sexist displayed a misogynist side in telling Angela Eagle, a member of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet, to ‘Calm down, dear’ and later played the innocent when the Michael Winner slogan was wrapped around his neck. I must be the only dinosaur to ride a bike 12 miles on a Sunday. Once again the postbag ballooned with letters and emails flowed into the inbox on my computer. there must have been 150 of them. Cameron’s rudeness had gone down poorly. One of the notes was from a vicar in Cornwall who accused the PM of lying to God!

I was evidently under Cameron’s skin because, a few months after the dinosaur jibe in January 2012, he snapped once more in the Commons. In answer to a question about whether Jeremy Hunt should keep his job as culture secretary over close links to Rupert Murdoch, the PM jumped off the deep end. He stupidly whined I had a right to take my pension and added: ‘I advise him to do so.’ History was repeating itself. The remark was widely condemned as graceless, the insult boomeranging on a haple4ss Cameron. It was more water off a duck’s back and Cameron could carry on undermining himself for all I cared. In fact it was best that he did. The penny must have dropped with him, however, and at the next Prime Minister’s Questions he apologised.

‘I deeply regret my last intervention, it was a bit sharper than it should have been. I hope he will accept my apology for that,’ Cameron said, before smirking a smarmy ‘He is a tremendous ornament of this House and always remains the case.’

It’s not an apology for calling me a dinosaur or giving me pension advice that I seek, but a resignation letter apologising for the pain and damage he has caused to millions of people with the austerity imposed by the ConDem coalition. The Tories imitate the extreme Tea Party in the US. What the Conservatives are doing to the disabled, unemployed, working poor and homeless is unforgivable. the destruction of the NHS, carved into bite-sized pieces ready for privatisation, is criminal.

George Osborne is Cameron’s partner in crime. Another of the Bullingdon snobs, Osborne is educated beyond his intelligence. I applied the description to Paul Channon, a millionaire minister in Thatcher’s time. it is even more apt for a chancellor of the exchequer clueless of life outside his gilded circle. His skin is as thin as Cameron’s, as I saw when he resented the reminder that he’d appeared in a newspaper photograph with a line of white powder and the dominatrix who sold sex and pain. These posh boys don’t like it up ’em, as Corporal Jones would shout. (Pp. 276-8).

Let’s hope it isn’t too long before we get that resignation letter from Cameron.

Private Eye on Parliamentary Committee Scrutinizing Arms Trade

March 11, 2016

I found this piece in Private Eye for the 15th-28th November 2013 reporting the questioning of representatives of the arms trade by a parliamentary committee in that issue’s ‘Called to Ordure’ column. It’s still relevant now, after nearly three years, because of the way we are still selling arms to brutal, anti-democratic regimes like Saudi Arabia.

Please don’t call them “missiles” or “landmines”, and certainly not “tools of military repression”. They are, according to the arms trade, “goods”, and the foreign regimes that buy them are “the ultimate end users of the goods”.

So heard MPs more than once when Westminster’s arms export controls select committee took evidence from four “defence exporters” (to use another euphemism). Unofficial leader of this genteel quartet was middle-aged Brummie called David Hayes from the Export Group for Aerospace and Defence, a trade lobbying group which uses the acronym Egad. Egad, indeed.

Alongside Hayes: arms-trade consultant Michael Bell; Susan Griffiths from weapons manufacturer MBDA; and Bernadette Peers, from the Strategic Shipping Company, a company name so bland you might believe it was exporting nothing more dangerous than cauliflowers to the Canaries.

MPs noted that government reporting on arms dealers has been reduced, Whitehall’s Export Control Organisation (ECO) now doing only an annual report of statistics instead of the quarterly updates it used to offer. The people from Egad were breezily unconcerned by this, insisting it made no difference. Hayes said there was a “very, very low risk” that less frequent reporting of special arms-sale licences wold be detrimental to transparency.

Three critics of the arms trade also gave evidence. Roy Isbister, from conflict-reduction group Saferworld, said that the reduction in ECO’s reports had come as “a bombshell”. You can say that again, Roy. Several bombshells, really, packed and ready for shipping. Oxfam had sent along one Martin Butcher. With that surname, shouldn’t he have been on the other side of the argument?

Committee chairman Sir John Stanley (Con, Tonbridge & Malling) wondered if the arms dealers were concerned about “extra-territorial” prosecutions, under which a British arms trader may be guilty of wrongdoing if he or she breaks British law while abroad. Bell was most aggrieved by this. “We have reservations of principle!” he declared, this peddler of munitions with a highly-tuned sense of ethics.

Extra-territorial prosecutions meant that a business executive would be “subject to two jurisdictions for the same actions” and that offended Bell’s strong sense of morality. Bell also had “reservations of practice” because “the only people who suffer are the compliant”.

Richard Burden (Lab, Birmingham Northfield) noted that the United States had recently relaxed its arms-trade licence requirements, meaning US weapons manufacturers can now export pretty much willy-nilly to 36 countries where they would previously have faced greater government checks. Hayes argued that with one of these countries being Turkey, “American exporters are at a clear advantage over UK exporters”. Western government might want to beware, because it was hard to know who would be “the ultimate end user of the goods” in an arms deal. Interesting to hear an arms trader make this argument; it is usually heard from the peaceniks.

Bell pointed out that one of the countries covered by the US’s new, looser rules is Argentina. Uh oh. The MPs went a rather greeny-grey tinge. The tension was relieved only when Ann Clwyd’s mobile trilled into life at high volume with a Gangnam-style ringtone. Clwyd (Lab, Cynon Valley) didn’t know how to turn the device off and had to leave the room to take the call. Good to see the arms trade being scrutinised by such tech-savvy legislators.

The meeting was not just about multi-million pound weapon systems. The committee heard about the enthusiastic exporting of machetes, police whips, handcuffs and sjambok-style truncheons to troubled countries, where, presumably, democracy-hungry protestors can draw comfort from being gored, whacked and manacled by “goods” made in Blighty.

Surprise, surprise, the kingdom of GCHQ (and, er, the late News of the World) is also a world-leader in producing “anti-privacy equipment” as Stanley put it. Isbister flourished statistics about how arms licences to the Middle East recently have, er, rocketed and now form half our arms exports. Perhaps it is no wonder the government was so keen to life the arms embargo on Syria and why it has given “priority market” status to Libya, despite that country’s alarming political instability.

Mike Gapes (Lab, Ilford South) had unearthed statistics on gun exports. These included 24,000 assault rifles, 9,000 rifles, 1,000 “super rifles” and 3,000 “sporting guns” to places such as Sri Lanka, the Seychelles and the Maldives. I say, Jeeves: how is the grouse shooting in the Maldives this season?

These guns were exported without much paperwork because they were listed as being required for “anti-piracy” purposes. Gapes suggested that “some of these weapons might be diverted to othe5r purposes than anti-piracy”. Surely not! Sir Malcolm Bruce (Lib Dem, Gordon) said that some 40,000 firearms had been shipped from Britain under the anti-piracy label and wondered if “there is a danger a perfectly genuine concern about piracy could be a cover for getting more weapons” sold to foreign governments.

Oliver Sprague from Amnesty International was worried that such weapons were often sold to countries where there was not much “human rights training”. Human rights training? Perhaps that can become the next growth area for British exports.

With the Middle East now forming over half the market for British arms exports, this explains why David Cameron was so keen to boast about having sold ‘wonderful things’ to Saudi Arabia and places like it in his visit to the BAE plant in Wharton, Lancashire.

Cameron’s Idea of Fun

October 3, 2015

Generation Swine Cover

Hunter S. Thompson’s book, Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the 1980s

The one of the biggest stories over these last two weeks has been the allegation in Lord Ashcroft’s book on the current Prime Minister, Call Me Dave, that Cameron performed a sexual act with a severed pig’s head while he was at Oxford. This was in order to get into the elite Piers Gaveston Society, named after the favourite and gay lover of King Edward II. The story has gone around the world. Simply looking for it on Youtube, you can see that it’s not just been discussed in Britain, but been covered in America and the Antipodes. Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, pointed out that this was despite the fact that the story was supported by extremely little evidence. The ‘Street of Shame’ column in this fortnight’s edition of the magazine has two articles on the matter, one on the author of the allegation, the former Sunday Times’ columnist Isabel Oakeshott, and her apparently cavalier attitude to backing up her stories with supporting evidence. The piece, entitled ‘Heart of Oakeshott’, begins

Even the most hardened tabloid hacks are wondering how Isabel Oakeshott thought she could get away with claiming that the young David Cameron pointed his percy at a porker. None of Cameron’s contemporaries believed that he played hunt-the-sausage with a pig’s head or any other piece of charcuterie., Nor could Oakeshott produce a scrap of evidence.

With sublime insouciance, she explained on Newsnight that she didn’t do anything so laborious as check her facts. Rather she and the obsessively grudgeful Lord Ashcroft preferred to put it out there and let people “decide for themselves whether it’s true” – relying on the non-dom peer’s under-taxed fortune to deter libel writs.

The Eye also points out that as well as not really having anything in the way of evidence, she has arguably failed to protect her sources. While there’re no witnesses to the supposed act, there is supposed to be a picture. Oakeshott and Ashcroft haven’t been able to track down that, but it was apparently seen by the source of the story, whom they describe as ‘a distinguished MP, who was a contemporary of Cameron at Oxford’. As the Eyesays, that gives a rather narrow list of suspects.

The Eye also goes on to state that she has previous when it comes to not protecting her sources, and for retailing bogus stories. The Lib Dem MP, Chris Huhne, was jailed for a driving offence and perverting the course of justice after his wife, Vicky Pryce, told Oakeshott in confidence that she had swapped penalty points with the MP. Oakeshott then handed this piece of information, and all the other confidential email conversations that she’d had with Pryce, over to the rozzers, thus breaking the Omerta that journalists should always protect their sources.

She also wrote a similar bogus story about the decadent antics of the upper classes at Uni at the beginning of her career. According to the Eye, in 1999 she published a piece in the Edinburgh Evening News ‘Student Princes and the Upper Class of ’99’, which claimed that the members of the university’s wine-tasting society were guzzling champagne and oysters, and renting helicopters so they could fly down to London for hunt balls. This article too was spurious.

On last night’s Have I Got News For You, Ian Hislop argued that the real story behind the allegations was Ashford’s own attempt to bribe his way into government by funding the Tories to the tune of £8 million. He did so in the hope that he would get a plum job as defence secretary. When he was finally offered a place in government, after being passed over several times, Ashcroft decided that it was below his station, and was a derisory gesture given the money he’d paid. So he wrote the book about Cameron, including the unsubstantiated allegation about sexual antics with a pig.

The Eye notes that while the bribery act only became effective in 2011, too late to mount a prosecution for Ashcroft’s attempts to buy himself a cabinet job, it could meet ‘the threshold test for the miscond7uct to be sufficiently serious to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder’. this was the charge against the News of the World journalists Lucy Panton and Ryan Sabey, who got their info from paying public officials. The prosecution failed, and they walked, just as the Eye expects Cameron to walk if he’s charged with the same offence. Nevertheless, the Eye takes the line that the prosecution would still be worth making.

The American progressive news programme, The Young Turks, also covered this case. They point out that, even if the story was true, it’s nothing more than what a lot of drunken frat boys get up to at Uni. It’s a fair point. The story is believable because it does sound very much like some of the bizarre antics that characterise the ‘Lad’ culture of drunkenness and crude and offensive sexual behaviour at universities. The sports societies and particular the rugby clubs have a reputation for similar antics. The Turks make the point that what’s really offensive is the fact that Cameron allegedly did so in order to join a society of rich snobs, who had absolute contempt for the poor. Here’s The Young Turks on Cameron’s supposed porcine antics.

Considering the antics of the Bullingdon club and their snobbish contempt for the poor, that part of the story is also highly credible, even if the episode with the pig isn’t. On the other hand, as Hislop pointed out last night, Cameron’s whole career in government has been full of despicable acts, such as the bedroom tax, cuts to welfare benefits and so on, which haven’t generated nearly so much outrage and interest as this story, weak and trivial though it is.

He’s right, though one reason why this story has received so much coverage, and has been believed by so many, despite its extremely slender basis in reality, is because it apparently epitomises the absolute corruption and depravity of Cameron himself. It presents him a snob, who’s prepared to perform any act, no matter how vile, shocking or degrading, in order to ingratiate himself with other over-privileged, spoilt upper class snobs. The sex act with the pig becomes a metaphor for the way his government has royally screwed the poor, the unemployed and the disabled.

And if these allegations seem trivial in a British context, you consider just how dynamite this would be if they had been made about an American president. A few decades ago Jon Ronson made a series, Secret Rulers of the World, on the strange milieu of conspiracy theorists and their belief that the world is being run by a secret cabal. In modern American Conspiracy culture, this is the Illuminati, who are aiming at a one world government to overthrow democracy, Christianity and capitalism in order to create a totalitarian global state. This secret conspiracy, often identified with the Freemasons, Communists, Jewish bankers, the Bilderburg group and the Trilaterial Commission, amongst other bête noirs of the American Right, is literally in league with Satan. The group performs vile orgies and ceremonies, involving human sacrifice. On one edition of the programme, Ronson filmed the ‘Sacrifice of Dull Care’, a ceremony performed at the Bohemian Grove meetings of America’s super-rich. It’s a kind of play, in which an effigy of ‘Dull Care’, is ritualistically killed and burned. It looks to me like it’s simply intended to show that the world’s elite plutocrats have put the cares of the world behind them in the few days they’re at the Grove networking.

The footage of the pretend ‘sacrifice’, shot by Alex Jones, one of the major leaders in contemporary American Right-wing conspiracy culture, had a truly explosive effect. Ronson showed it’s progress across successive news channels and programmes. The effigy was initially described as ‘about the size of a baby’. This then changed so that it was a real baby, which was being sacrificed by the global elite running America to Satan. For many Right-wing Americans, alienated from their government, this was further proof of the utter Satanic corruption of their government. Such allegations are part of the reason behind the formation of the Militia and Survivalist groups, and why so many Americans view Obama with suspicion as a Commie Satanist, quite apart from the similarly false beliefs that he’s also a Nazi and a Muslim. If the same amount of paranoia existed in Britain, or if the allegations had been made about Obama, then it would be seized on as evidence that Cameron or Obama was also a Satanist, and had performed the act as part of some depraved ceremony through which the elite showed their allegiance to the Devil, and their absolute contempt and complete lack of morality for everyone else. And there’d be even more people running around with guns urging you to stock up food, water and gold, and be prepared to kill the federal officials, who are coming to take your freedoms and your life away.

And the action’s of Cameron’s own party and government would make this twisted view all too credible. It was, after all, Leon Brittan, an alleged paedophile, who suppressed a dossier given to him about the activities of high-ranking paedophiles in the government and parliament. Jimmy Savile, a true monster, was a friend of Maggie Thatcher. Under Cameron the gap between rich and poor has widened immensely. The welfare state is being dismantled to the point where hundreds of thousands are only prevented from starving through the existence of food banks and the generosity of friends, neighbours and strangers, and the NHS is being sold off piecemeal. Corporate profits are booming, while the unemployed are virtually enslaved through workfare.

I gave this article its title as a reference to one of Will Self’s grim works, My Idea of Fun. This featured a cast of characters, who committed a number of vile and depraved acts, including having sex with the severed head of a pitbull terrier. Private Eye reviewed the book when it came out, and declared that the book’s preference for drugs, nude teens and so on was no-one’s idea of fun. Having sex with the head of a dead pig probably isn’t Dave Cameron’s either. But he does, apparently, take a sick delight in destroying the lives and wellbeing of the poor, the sick and the old through his misnamed ‘welfare reforms’. This is Dave Cameron’s idea of fun, and it’s truly disgusting.

In This Fortnight’s Private Eye: Daily Mail Journalists Lurking Outside Hospital

December 10, 2014

The ‘Street of Shame’ column in this week’s Private Eye for 12th-19th December 2014 reports that staff at St. George’s Hospital, Tooting, discovered a photographer with a long lens camera hiding in the bushes near Accident and Emergency. When he was asked what on Earth he was doing by hospital security, he replied that he was working for the Daily Mail. Janet Tomlinson, the Mail’s associate picture editor, confirmed this, when the hospital contacted her. She explained that the Mail had sent out photographers all over the country to snap ‘party people’. This means drunks about whom the Mail could publish long rant about how they were wasting NHS time and resources. According to the Eye, the hospital was spectacularly unimpressed by this and the Mail’s attitude, and threw the snapper off the premises on the grounds that the hospital was non-public regarding patient confidentiality.

Fleet Street as a very long and dishonourable history of violating the privacy and sanctity of hospitals. Either the Sun or the News of the World, as I recall, sent two of their journalists to burst into the hospital room where Gorden Kaye, the star of the WW II sitcom, ‘Allo, ‘Allo, was recovering following being struck down in the gales of 1989. As ‘Allo, ‘Allo featured the sort of bawdy innuendo common to a lot of the series written by Perry Croft, like Are You Being Served, one of the journos involved thought it would be a jolly lark to wave a cucumber around.

The press also burst into the hospital room of Russell Harty, when the BBC chat show host was dying of an AIDS-related illness. Even after they were thrown out and physically barred from the premises, they still continued to invade the privacy of the dying man by renting a room in the house opposite and snapping him through the window.

Recently I’ve posted a few pieces from Pride’s Purge, in which Tom Pride has described his own harassment by Mail journalists, who have tried to disclose his secret identity and threatened his friends. Just this week the good satirist has posted pieces about his complaint to the Daily Mail about their failure to protect adequately the identity of two children the Mail featured in a story about a family of ‘benefit scroungers’, who nevertheless still managed to spend £1,500 on Christmas. This was, of course, another hate piece on the unemployed and desperate. Given the tenor of the article, it was no surprise to read the remarks of another commenter on Tom Pride’s article that it had originally been written by the Sun, and the interview with the family had been obtained by deception. The family had been persuaded to give the interview, believing it would be a more neutral story about people on benefits and low incomes nevertheless finding ways to celebrate Christmas with style.

Tom Pride’s complaint about the newspaper was in part provoked by the outrageous news that Paul Dacre, the foul-mouthed editor of the Mail, is now chairman of IPSO, the government body regulating press conduct. This reminds me of the joke in the Walter Matthau/ Jack Lemon comedy, The Front Page, about a journalist trying to track down and interview an escaped prisoner in the Chicago in the 1930s. Lemon plays the journalist hero, with Matthau as his sleazy, amoral editor. One of the final jokes in that movie is that Matthau’s character then goes on to become a lecturer in journalistic ethics at Harvard.

We’re in pretty much the same situation here, with Dacre as head of IPSO. Only unlike the great comedies made by the Hollywood duo, that ain’t no laughing matter.

Mussolini, Press Censorship and Contempt for Newspaper Readers

April 16, 2014

Mussolini Pic

Mussolini before becoming the Duce, Italy’s Fascist dictator, had been a newspaper editor. Denis Mack Smith in his biography, Mussolini (London: Paladin 1983) describes both his style of journalism and his contempt for newspaper readers, which he used to justify stifling the freedom of the press.

The new premier was exceptional in having made his name as a newspaper editor and journalism continued to be one of his great passions. He was probably the best popular journalist of his day, and his ability to simply and vulgarize issues, to disregard consistency where necessary – in his own words, to over-dramatize or even invent facts – all these early lessons greatly helped to him effective in the kind of populist politics he was drawn to instinctively. They made him a successful politician, if a bad statesman.

He now decided to change the rules of journalism so that no one else could succeed as he had done. While in opposition, he had condemned censorship of newspapers as shameful and dangerous, and his pledge to maintain freedom of the press received unanimous support in the first fascist party congress; but as a dictator he seized on the fact that anyone who could manipulate the press might be able to change public opinion overnight, and even before the march on Rome he had prepared measures to control the newspapers. Here was the main novelty of Mussolini’s revolution and one of the principal reasons for his success. His sort of fascism could never have appeared before the days of popular journalism; nor in all probably could it have happened later, once Italy became a more literate and politically more sophisticated society. (pp. 78-9).

Censorship was something Mussolini had once condemned outright and some of his associates still disliked it. But once he was in power he meant to control journalism. Newspaper readers were gullible and impotent; he owed them no respect but claimed he had a duty to protect them from irresponsible editors whose lies were discrediting Italy abroad. Suddenly on 20th June 1925, late in the evening, he caught parliament unawares and proposed new press laws. All was over in half an hour with no debate and only five dissentient votes; parliament was then closed until the end of the year. (p. 105).

Mike once quoted Lord Beaverbrook to me as an illustration of the conscious bias of the press: ‘I print nothing but propaganda, propaganda and propaganda’. Members of Blair’s cabinet have said that during his administration he always trying to formulate policies that would gain the support of the press barons, such as Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail; and that Rupert Murdoch was a constant, silent presence over the cabinet meetings. And Murdoch’s attitude to his newspapers – the Sun, News of the World and the Times indicates to me that he had a similar contempt for his readers, cynically manipulating the news to sale papers and push through his right-wing policies. And the Tories were perfectly willing to violate the press monopoly laws in order to give him the papers and journalistic influence he wanted. He operates in a democratic system, but there’s still much of Mussolini’s attitude to politics, the press and its readers in his style of journalism and management.

Government Cuts: The BBC Defends their Bias

January 11, 2014

Who Needs Cuts

I’ve just started reading Who Needs the Cuts, by Barry and Saville Kushner, published last year by Hesperus Press. It’s a fascinating book, written in straightforward, uncomplicated language by two professionals in the political sphere. According to the blurb, Barry Kushner is a regeneration consultant supporting organisations working in the third sector, and now a city councillor in his home town of Liverpool. Saville Kushner is professor of Public Evaluation at the University of Auckland, who has written widely on democracy and public knowledge and worked for a short while for UNICEF in Latin America.

In the first chapter, Barry Kushner describes what moved him to begin researching the issue of the government cuts, and led to the two brother actively campaigning against them. It came from him attending a meeting of a ‘Children with Disabilities’ planning group in a town in the north-west of England, which he had been brought in to support. The group had been set up to bring together the parents of disabled children, and government officials and care providers as part of Labour’s Aiming High for Disabled Children. The group had hoped to build a respite centre to allow parents and carers a break from the strains of looking after their children. At the last minute, Kushner was informed that the project had been cancelled thanks to Gideon George Osborne’s cuts, and Kushner was given the unenviable job of telling the parents this. Not only was Kushner upset by the sudden cancellation of this much-needed facility, he was profoundly dismayed by the way the parents themselves, who had put so much into getting the project going in the first place, where left crushed and defenceless against the politicians’ story that there was simply no alternative to the cuts. He remarks on how easy it was for all the hard work that had been put in giving parents the confidence to come together to work for improving things for disabled children and their carers to be destroyed in a matter of moments.

Also driving Kushner in his campaign was his experiences at Croxteth Comprehensive school in Liverpool, where he had been a teacher during Maggie Thatcher’s infamous reign in the 1980s. Croxteth had been one of the most deprived areas in the country, and the school was scheduled for closure. The parents and teachers responded to the news by occupying the school and taking it over. Three years later they won their campaign, and the school was saved. In 2009 Kushner attended a reunion of everyone, who had been involved in the occupation. One of those he met was ‘Sean’, who had been ‘a cute, mischievous’ boy of 11 when it all happened. Sean was now forty, and had just come of the drugs he’d been on for the past 22 years. He went through one of the photographs showing the other kids, who were at school during the occupation. At least seven of these children were now dead.

The Kushner’s state that the story that the cuts are necessary is extremely flimsy indeed, and compare it to Joe McCarthy’s tactics during the Communist witch-hunts in the US. McCarthy’s evidence of Communist infiltration was just as a extremely flimsy. At meetings he claimed to have a list of Communists, waving a bunch of papers that were supposed to have their names. In fact, he had no such list and in many cases those papers were completely blank. This tactic nevertheless cowed the press and much of officialdom into blandly accepting his specious claims. The Coalition, and Labour politicians like Alistair Darling, who also took on board the supposed necessity for the cuts, similarly have little real evidence to back up their claims, and are resorting instead to scare tactics. This, unfortunately, has been remarkably effective, with the even the victims of the cuts, like the parents in the above meeting, unable to rebut the arguments. It has left the nation defenceless against an austerity programme several times more severe than previous retrenchment programmes. The book is their response to these specious claims, and has arisen from their own campaign against it, which has led them to speak up and down the country, including in my own home town of Bristol.

It’s an excellent book, and I hope to post a full review, giving some of their arguments against the cuts in due course.

What strikes me now, having posted about the BBC’s right-wing bias, is the Kushner’s description of the way the BBC has promoted the line that the cuts are necessary. They note that there are numerous economists, who have stated that the cuts are not necessary, and that growth, when it occurs, will wipe out the debt. These other voices are either totally ignored by the mainstream media, or else relegated to a footnote. The Kushner’s wrote to some of the journalists and programme managers pushing this line, like the BBC’s economics editor, Stephanie Flanders, and Evan Davies. In her report for 9th of September 2011, Flanders claimed that the poor economic growth from which the country was suffering was due to good weather, the Japanese tsunami and the royal wedding. When she was asked why she didn’t mention that the slump in retail sales and manufacturing along with the redundancies caused by the cuts were also having an effect, and that consumer confidence was at an all-time low, Flanders gave the following reply:

‘We were providing the explanation provided by the ONS, the independent statistical body. If this was not emphasised yesterday, that was simply because there were other things to focus on in a 2.5 minute package, and the broad political and economic arguments about austerity are now so well understood by our viewers’. As Private Eye responds, when given similar brush-offs, ‘So that’s alright, then’. The Kushners note that her role in the BBC was news analysis, not reporting. Her actions in simply regurgitating the ONS’ view was more in line with her previous job as advisor and speechwriter to Larry Summers. They also note that she had also worked with the US treasury secretary as he led the deregulation of the banks, that ‘unleashed the whirlwind of mortgage-backed securities, credit default swaps, sub-prime mortgages and over-leveraged banks that sit behind the whole debt issue’.

Barry Kushner also states that they attempted to make their points known by writing into the BBC and the Guardian, sending a series of emails and taking part on phone-ins on the radio. They stated repeatedly in their correspondence and telephone calls that ‘although the BBC’s coverage reflected the political consensus it did not reflect the broader economic analysis represented by numerous economists and people on both sides of the political spectrum… We begged the question, doesn’t the BBC have duty to do this?’ They received the following reply from a senior executive at BBC News:

‘The Editorial Guidelines state that we strive to reflect a wide range of opinion and explore a range and conflict of views so that no significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under-represented. However, reflecting a broad range of views is not the same as giving equal weight to all shades of opinion and nor are we required to give totally comprehensive coverage.’

They state that this attitude appears to be shared by journalists, even when they know that their analysis is incomplete. They wrote a letter to Evan Davies after he interviewed Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey. This, they state, was far more severe than anything he had dished out to Danny Alexander, George Osborne or the other government ministers. They wanted to know why this was so, and why Davies had prevented McCluskey from elaborating on his argument and why he had not subjected government ministers to a similarly intensive grilling. As an example, the Kushners state they wanted to know why ministers were not required to explain the significance of the low level of national debt and borrowing on their planning for the cuts? The Kushners have already made the point that despite the hysterical claims of the politicos, the national debt is at its lowest for 200 out of 250 years. The argument that somehow these cuts are necessary to pay of this massive national debt is nonsensical.

Davies replied: ‘I personally think there are arguments to be made for not dealing with the deficit at the moment. Indeed there are arguments for monetising it too. But these need to be set out by those who assert them, not by me.’

To which they comment: ‘So Evan knows the answers, but won’t tell us what they are? Aren’t journalists supposed to use their knowledge and experience to ask more intelligent, searching questions?’ From the book’s description about the way Davies prevented McCluskey from developing his arguments further, it’s actually worse than that. Davies clearly knows the opposing arguments, but not only does he not feel it is his job to present them, he is actively obstructing those who do.

Commenting on my last post about BBC right-wing bias, Anna listed a number of BBC journalists with right-wing connections, like Nick Robinson, who used to be part of the Union of Conservative Students. It’s clear from reading Who Needs the Cuts that the BBC, like much of the rest of the media, is actively promoting the Coalition’s flimsy message that the cuts are somehow necessary almost unquestioned. The book notes that both Andrew Marr and John Humphries have started interviews with politicians stating that the cuts are necessary, ‘but..’, and that this political message is so prevalent that it has turned Question Time into a ‘cutsfest’. The executives at the BBC and their Tory allies won’t suffer from the cuts, however, although the Tories are dangling the prospect of freezing the license fee and privatisation in front of the Beeb to make it come to heel whenever it appears to get a bit uppity. The people who really suffer are us, including disabled children and their families, and the deprived kids being denied a proper education, and left to die of drugs and squalor like those Barry Kushner taught in Croxteth. They’re the real casualties. And the Beeb won’t be reporting on them any time soon.

The Kushners lament that we are going back to Maggie Thatcher and her policy of cuts in the 1980s, though without the massive opposition she faced – they were also active on marching against her – or even Spitting Image. It was in the 1980s that I remember the issue of the Conservative bias of the news media was raised with a vengeance. One of the best comments on it was ‘News of the World’, by the Clash, now used as the theme music for the Beeb’s satirical news quiz, Mock the Week. If we’re going back to the ’80s, we may as well enjoy some classic rock. Enjoy!

The @PodDelusion: Why the Daily Mail is Evil

October 7, 2013

After all the satire, rather more serious is this analysis of the Daily Mail and its stories by the @PodDelusion. The video begins with a disturbing description of the Mail’s paparazzi photos of the young children of celebrities, such as Tom Cruise’s six year old daughter, the paper’s attitude towards these tots as glamour figures, and the highly sexualised language used of older, but still young teenage girls. The video then goes on to discuss the Daily Mail’s hatred of atheists and secularists, Muslims, health and safety officer, criminals, the unemployed on welfare benefits and, indeed, the disabled.

It refutes some of the bogus stories and statistics run by the Mail. The Mail printed a story from the material released by Wikileaks allegedly showing that a third of all Muslims supported killing for Islam. In fact, the American diplomatic material the Mail used referred to a story ran by the Daily Mail. Clearly, this is very much a case of circular reportage. In fact, the survey the Mail used to make this claim actually reported that only 3 per cent of Muslim students supported killing to promote or defend Islam. A much larger proportion of Muslims, 28 per cent, said that they agreed only if Islam is under attack. This could, of course, refer to satirical attacks or real physical assaults by people with pitchforks.

He also attacks the Daily Mail’s regular victimisation of the disabled. Another of the bogus statistics the Mail reproduced was that a quarter of people claiming sickness benefit had criminal records, and that three-quarters of people on disability benefit were fit to work. Well, none of these statistics quite show what the Mail claims. The statistics showing the proportion of sick people with criminal records actually doesn’t show any greater criminality than the rest of the population. The proportion of all people in Britain with a criminal record, which may include quite minor offences such as having a few points taken off your licence, is 25 per cent. As for the statistic that 75 per cent of the disabled were fit to work, this included people, who were so ill they did not complete the form. It also included the fifty per cent, who won their case against Atos on appeal.

It also attacks the misogyny of the Daily Mail in running a story claiming that women, who don’t do the housework are at a higher risk of cancer. The speaker says it reads like an Onion parody, but unfortunately, the Mail really did run it.

Finally the speaker reveals why he personally hates the Daily Mail. Shortly before one of his uncle’s died, the poor fellow became morbidly afraid of foxes through the scare stories about them in the Mail. Warning: the video ends with the speaker leading the audience in a series of shouts of ‘F*ck You, Daily Mail’. This is, of course, obscene, but given the content of the rag, not entirely undeserved.

Here’s the video.
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It’s at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9dqNTTdYKY.

On the subject of religion, although the Daily Mail does attack atheists and secularists, there are a number of atheists and secularists, who also regularly express their contempt for people of faith. Richard Dawkins, who is frequently on TV both as an evolutionary biologist and an atheist polemicist, has described religious people as ‘faith-heads’. Charlie Brooker, on his the edition on lifecycle on his TV Ruined Your Life, described the congregations on Songs of Praise as sycophants trying to curry favour with a notional deity by singing insipid pop songs. And Stewart Lee and Ricky Gervaise also include anti-religious material and attacks in their shows. Now I actually like Brooker, and I’m certainly not arguing for the censorship of any of the above comedians. I’m only pointing out that media sneers and hatred on the subject of religion don’t only go one way.

Apart from this minor criticism, I agree pretty much with everything the speaker has said about the Daily Mail. The analysis of the sexualised language used of the young daughters of actors and celebrities is particular unsettling. It very much makes the case Chris Morris made in the ‘Paedogeddon’ special edition of Brass Eye. This was a sustained attack on the hysteria whipped up the News of the World and other tabloids about paedophiles, which saw a mob attack a paediatrician in Cardiff. Morris’ satire mixed fictional material, such as a sequence in which a map of the British Isles morphed into a mass of grotesque, leering faces, and real documentary footage from American child beauty pageants. The real material was deeply disturbing, and raised the issues of why such contests were legal while at the same time the media over here was frightening everyone with the spectre of a pervert on every street corner. The video’s critique of the Mail’s treatment of teenage and pre-teenage girls also raises questions of the morality of such articles, quite apart from the fact that the children of celebs should also have the right to a childhood away from the public eye. They actually prove Carrie Fisher right in her determination not to have the press anywhere near her daughter until she was old enough to decide for herself.

As for the Mail’s attitude to the disabled, as shown here, it’s truly nothing short of scandalous. A friend of mine, who cares for his disabled wife, told me a little while ago that he and she had experienced growing prejudice and intolerance from the public. He believed that there really was an attitude that his wife was somehow just faking her condition. He put it down to the effect of the disabled character in Little Britain. He believed it had created a climate of opinion that somehow expected those in wheelchairs to be secretly fit, well and leaping about when nobody else was watching. Reading the comment from the Mail’s columnist stating that disabled charities have only themselves to blame for public opinion turning against the disabled left me absolutely certain where some part of the responsibility for it also lay: the Daily Mail. And that really is low.

In short, the video’s an excellent summary and demonstration of just about everything wrong with Daily Mail and its editor, Paul Dacre.