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Monday, October 29, 2007 

Tabloid-watch: Star idiocy, Scum's support for the troops, and the Mail gets caught out.

You'd think, writing a blog such as this that often dwells upon the very worst behaviour of this country's tabloid press, that you'd quickly become inured, desensitised to the casual lies, hypocrisies, set-ups, smear jobs and entrapments that are part and parcel of the street of shame, and have been for decades. I sometimes wonder if things have improved in recent years, especially with the set-up of the supine but occasionally condemnatory Press Complaints Commission, and while the overt racism and homophobia that was often present in years gone by has either vanished or become layered and shadowed (the Scum refers to "Gypsies" as "Gipsies" so as not to be accused of fall foul of protests, for example), my conclusion is that there has been no real fundamental change. If they can get away with it, they'll do it.

Before we get to today's most egregious example of abuse, it would be amiss not to take a look at today's Daily Star. While the Daily Star is a newspaper in the same sense that Spinal Tap are a band, it's difficult to know where to apportion blame for today's ridiculous front page, either to the McCanns and their employment of a bunch of idiots describing themselves as private detectives, or to the Star for making up nonsense which a child could see through. According to the Star, private detectives believe that she is being held in Morocco by a "rich Arab family." Apart from it fitting the pattern of everyone being involved in the saga being a nationality other than our own, and therefore inimitably condemnable, why on earth would a "rich" family pay for a child to be kidnapped when it's so easy to adopt, or failing that, even paying to adopt? Such a scenario is about as likely as Madeleine being found tomorrow along with Lord Lucan and Shergar, all drinking in a bar in Haiti. Still, doesn't it fill you with joy that the money donated to the McCanns is being spent so wisely by such competent investigators, if things are indeed as the article describes?

Meanwhile, things are little less desperate over in the Scum. Despite their constant support for "Our Boys", it's deeply concerned that the British public doesn't feel the same about them, or at least in their view doesn't feel proud enough, hence its launching of a campaign to "Help our Heroes". There's nothing wrong with that of course, although whether starting up a separate charity to the British Legion, which already does an admirable job, is going to help is questionable. It's also true that this government has failed the soldiers immeasurably, both in terms of kit and in providing adequate compensation for those seriously wounded, as the desultory pay-outs have proved.

It's quite another thing however to suggest that the apathy showed to returning troops is due to opposition to the war, and not being able to differentiate between the politics involved in the Iraq war and their role in fighting it. I'd venture that while that does have a role, the lack of support at homecomings apart from family members and relatives is more down to the fact that there has no been tangible victory to celebrate. Just what have we achieved, for example, in Iraq? The Scum was about the only newspaper which tried to play up the withdraw to Basra airport as a victory, laughably claiming that the army had fought Shia militants into a ceasefire, while every other source reported that it was down to a deal which had involved the release of a number of prisoners. On a broader scale, we've replaced a murderous dictatorship with a democracy that attempted to run before it could walk, resulting in a murderous, sectarian anarchy that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, resulted in 2 million Iraqis fleeing the country and 2 million more becoming refugees in their own land. Is it much of a surprise that many don't feel like turning up and cheering our soldiers' return? It shouldn't be viewed as a snub to them; this is after all the season where everyone who appears on television has to wear a poppy lest they be accused of not remembering the sacrifices made in the past.

The Sun itself has misjudged the mood of the public at every turn. Its gung-ho support for the war, attacks on those who opposed it, from Robin Cook to George Galloway and disgraceful coverage of the Hutton inquiry went against the grain. It campaigned for a victory parade shortly after "official" combat ended and has opposed every attempt to further investigate how we came to enter the conflict. It mentions vandals allegedly targeting the homes of soldiers while they were fighting in Afghanistan, without bringing up the tissue of lies it cooked up late last year about "Muslim yobs" attacking a house that soldiers had looked into moving into. It weeps crocodile tears for those who have been injured without admitting that without its own propaganda for the invasion and support of Blair those scarred for life might not have been called into action. You have to wonder whether Murdoch will be dipping a hand into his own vast pockets to contribute something, especially considering every single one of his papers supported the war, and that he did so mainly because he was convinced that it would lead to oil at $20 a barrel. Oil has just touched its highest ever unadjusted for inflation level, $92.

Elsewhere today, the Scum is again resorting to talking up the various desperate women who are getting their breasts out on the MySun network:

MY Sun users are once again proving they are simply the breast.

As competition hots up in the search for this year’s Page 3 Idol, several girls have been uploading sexy pictures to their MY Sun blogs.

MY Sun has seen loads of girls show off their breast bits since it launched last year, and now girls are using it to drum up support as they bid to become Page 3 Idol 2007.


Interestingly, on MySpace, on which MyScum is based, nudity is against the terms of services and results in getting your profile removed. On MyScum, a supposed newspaper website, it's actively encouraged.

Finally, we come to the tale of the Daily Mail and the potential paying of Poles to break the law. Via FCC, the beatroot relates how a researcher from the Daily Mail had phoned up a friend in Warsaw and asked him to drive his car around law, breaking the speed limit in front of speed cameras and not paying the congestion charge:

Apparently, he had got a call from the Daily Mail (I can’t remember how they found him – but I am sure he will be telling us) asking him if he would like to drive a car with Polish number plates from Warsaw to England and deliberately park illegally. They also asked him to drive purposely over the speed limit in sight of speed cameras.

There had recently been a report by the BBC claiming that Poles had been parking all over the place and disregarding the highway code, as they knew that because their cars were not registered in the UK there was no chance of them ever receiving a summons to pay the speeding/parking fines.


...

A couple of hours later a 'researcher', Sue Reid (author of
this story), at the Daily Mail offices telephoned me. I told her that though I was British my girlfriend was Polish and that she has a car registered in Poland. We were interested. We were not interested – but we were interested in getting the details of how low journalism has sunk in the UK.

Ms Reid said that she would offer me 800 pounds to come over and park illegally and speed, “Just ten miles an hour over the speed limit, no more…”. We would then go back to Poland and wait for the demands for payment of the fines.
“We know this is going on but we want to prove it by having a foreign car here with a foreign driver for five days and driving and parking in London, Kent, East Anglia and Portsmouth,” said the Daily Mail researcher.

A photographer would follow us around, showing how we were breaking the law. And then, back in Warsaw, when we later failed to receive any demands for payment - as the British authorities would have no record of our vehicle – the Mail would publish the whole thing as an ‘exclusive’ on how Poles and others are breaking the law in the UK and GETTING AWAY WITH IT.

She even offered to put the girlfriend and myself up at her house in Fulham in London, if we had nowhere else to stay.

EU Referendum, which can't resist putting in a reference to its own distortions of what happened in Qana in Lebanon last year, also has the email from Sue Reid.

How is this any different to the fakery scandals at the BBC and ITV? If anything, this is far more serious than anything that the BBC did, especially as it involves paying people to break the law to prove a point. Just how does this sit with the Mail's uncompromising stance on law and order? As beatroot points out, this was the work of the Mail, not the Scum or the Star, designed to raise anger against minorities that may or may not have been exploiting a loophole. Are then the tabloids just as bad as ever? I find it hard to think otherwise.

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Hmm incitement to commit a criminal offence? Shame she specifically mentions paying the fine or it could well be the more specific incitement to defraud.

Here's the CPS definition anyway

Classic piece from The Star. Makes you wonder how the paper would cope without Madelaine, or Big Brother. No summer is complete without this shameless rag trying to be 'down with the kids' as it covers Big Bro. Do Star hacks realise how embarrassingly bad their "newspaper" is? Do they care?

No, I don't think they do. If anything, the Star is more honest with itself and what is than the Express is, which really is a disgusting "newspaper".

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