DID THE SUN REALLY JUST BLAME THE EU FOR MURDERS AND VOODOO?

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In the run up to the EU referendum this June, we are undoubtedly going to be hit with a lot of spin from both sides. But it’s gonna be hard for anyone to top The Sun who last week suggested we could put an end to such heinous crimes as murder and voodoo if we vote ‘out‘.

In one of those tabloid articles that blurs the line between actual news and satire, the best-selling paper ran an article with the headline JIHADIS, VOODOO, MURDER, SEX TRAFFICKING… WE CAN STOP THEM ALL IF WE QUIT THE EU, SAYS CRIME EXPERT.

The article is written by criminologist and author Richard Hoskins (pictured) who goes on to claim that the EU poses ‘the greatest threat since the rise of Hitler’s Nazis.’

Mr Hoskins is by all accounts a respected criminologist and he informs readers that he is ‘Britain’s only multicultural expert on the National Crime Agency database.’ He goes on to explain that he has investigated ritual killings – including the Torso in the Thames case – and global sex trafficking crimes.

He seems to think this makes him an authority on international politics and he has a simple solution to stop the country becoming ‘riddled with dangerous criminals intent on destroying everything Britain stands for.’ Quit the EU.

According to Mr Hoskins, free movement across Europe means one thing – more dangerous criminals coming into the continent from overseas and thus into Britain and it’s ‘utterly naive‘ to think otherwise.

The most naive people I ever met were EU luvvies‘, he says.

This is despite the fact that statistically there has been no great rise in crime in the last 15-20 years, the percentage of foreigners in prison is reflective of the percentage of foreigners in the country as a whole, and research has found no evidence of a link between immigration and crime.

The article is full of baseless claims that are steeped in the current xenophobic rhetoric – popular in numerous tabloids – that links migration from outside Europe with criminal behaviour and believes that the freedom of movement across EU countries will ultimately lead to Britain being ‘flooded‘ with criminals.

Although he says he is an internationalist who loves other cultures and wants to help refugees, Mr Hoskins talks of migrants and criminals in the same breath as if they are interchangeable. He describes how he has watched them ‘seep into Europe‘ over the years.

He also claims that there are 50,000 jihadists ‘on Britain’s doorstep‘ – ten times the amount given by Europol – and asserts that there will be more terrorist atrocities carried out in the UK. Without anything resembling evidence to support these claims, it’s worrying that a mainstream newspaper is printing this sort of scaremongering misinformation from someone who is presented to the readers as an authority source.

Essentially this is no expert in the fields of politics or migration speaking. It’s a specialist criminologist who has been given a platform to air his personal viewpoint which just so happens to chime with The Sun‘s anti-EU stance. He uses no facts to back up any of what he says. The only factual parts of the article are when he details criminal cases he has worked on, but these are incidental to the points he is making.

It’s tempting to dismiss this ridiculous article as a joke. The sub-editor may well have been having a laugh to themselves as they passed it fit to print. But ultimately there will be many people who read it and take it as truth, and that’s no laughing matter.

The original Sun article available here.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

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SIX LIES TOLD BY NIGEL FARAGE IN EXPRESS ARTICLE

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(Photo: Gage Skidmore)

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has been in The Daily Express again attempting to persuade its readership to vote OUT in the forthcoming European referendum (not that they take much convincing if the recent poll by the paper can be believed).

Mr Farage was up to his old tricks peddling misinformation to the masses. Here are six porky pies from the article.

1. IT COSTS £55 MILLION A DAY TO BE AN EU MEMBER

This was the headline of Farage’s piece – something he’s been fond of asserting for a while now. It sounds a lot but actually works out at £20billion a year, approximately 2.5% of the annual budget.

But this is the gross figure i.e the amount paid in without accounting for any rebates, subsidiaries, etc. The fact-checking organisation Full Fact has analysed these figures and found that the net amount works out closer to £12billion a year (or £33million a day). In 2013, this figure was down even further to £8.6billion a year (or £24million a day).

But of course, these figures need to be put in context and calculated against economic benefits of EU membership. The Confederation of British Industry, the UK’s premier business lobbying organisation, reported that the net benefit of EU membership to the UK is at least £62billion per year. This is due to access to the EU single market, stronger trade terms with global markets, increased investment flows and free movement of labour.

So to complain about the costs while ignoring the benefits doesn’t make much sense. If Farage wants to report that it costs £55million a day for EU membership, he ought to at least mention the £170million or so a day we’re getting back from that payment.

2. BRITAIN CAN STRIKE THE SAME KIND OF TRADE DEALS WITHOUT EU MEMBERSHIP

Farage mentions that non-EU countries such as Switzerland and Iceland have struck trade deals with countries such as China and it’s true, there would be nothing stopping Britain entering into trade agreements with countries around the world.

But as it has already been mentioned, one of the key benefits of EU membership is the leverage the EU has in terms of securing agreements, so it would be difficult to strike out alone and expect to be treated on the same terms. US trade representative Michael Froman has already stated that Britain will be disadvantaged in terms of a deal with the US if it leaves the EU.

Regarding trade with EU member states, we would instantly be hit with tariffs if we left the EU. According to an analysis by the Centre for Economic Performance (CEP) on the likely effects of a Brexit, trade costs with EU countries would be likely to increase due to both tariff and non-tariff barriers being raised and Britain not being involved in any EU integration to reduce non-tariff barriers. The CEP estimates that trade losses caused by Britain leaving the EU could be anywhere between 2% and 10% of GDP.

3. THE MAJORITY OF OUR LAWS ARE MADE BY THE EU

UKIP frequently claim that over 70% of our laws are made by the EU and that we have lost our sovereignty. The 70% figure appears to be one plucked out of thin air. A Full Fact analysis highlights the complications over ‘what exactly we can measure to determine the proportion of UK law and regulation originating in Europe, which immediately complicates any straightforward answer‘ before going on to conclude that, depending on exactly how this is measured, the total percentage of laws coming from the EU is anywhere between 15 and 50%. Some way off the 70% figure quoted by UKIP and short of the majority stated by Farage.

4. OUR SUPREME COURT CAN BE OVERRULED BY A COURT IN LUXEMBOURG NOT STAFFED BY PROPER JUDGES

Another spurious claim. The European Court of Justice (ECJ), based in Luxembourg, is the highest court in the EU on matters of EU law but not on matters of national law (and as mentioned above, the percentage of laws generated by the EU is smaller than UKIP would have you believe).

But even on matters of EU law, the ECJ cannot overrule the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court must give effect to EU law and the rights contained within the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in its decision-making.

In instances where the Supreme Court cannot interpret national legislation so it’s compatible with the ECHR, it will issue a ‘declaration of incompatability‘. Legislators will then look at reviewing the laws to see if they can be made compatible with the rights laid out in the Convention. However, the Supreme Court ultimately has the power to decline to follow a decision from the European Court if it can justify its reasoning.

5. EU LEGISLATION MAKES THINGS DIFFICULT FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

If we vote to remain in this Union we will be helpless to stop the spread of EU legislation that holds back our economic potential and makes life hard for those who run small businesses‘ says Farage.

It’s the assertion of Farage that the EU has a negative effect on every single aspect of British life and that everyone would be better off if we pulled out. However, small businesses are generally in favour of remaining in the EU. Research published by the Federation of Small Businesses in 2015 found that 47% of its members were planning to vote ‘yes‘ in the referendum, compared to 40.9% voting ‘no‘. It also found that over twice as many members felt that leaving the EU would negatively affect their business compared to those who felt that remaining in the EU would have a negative impact.

In a 2013 YouGov poll of small to medium business owners, 71% said that EU membership had a positive effect on their business, while only 13% reported a negative impact. While these studies did find some discontent over certain aspects of EU membership among owners of small businesses, the case Farage makes for Brexit being to their benefit looks decidedly weak.

6. STAYING IN THE EU MAKES US VULNERABLE TO TERRORISM

Farage inevitably throws up the events in Cologne on New Year’s Eve and suggests that voting to stay in the EU puts us at risk of a similar occurrence. But this is just daft and irresponsible scaremongering designed to influence those floating voters who might not be paying attention to the stuff on economics or legislation.

One could just as easily make an argument that leaving the EU would make us vulnerable to terrorism but that would be equally stupid. Those sorts of statements should have no place in these debates. The fact that Farage has used this as an influencing tactic only serves to further weaken his hole-ridden claims in this article.

More info on the pros and cons on staying in or leaving the EU here.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

PLAYING WITH THE NUMBERS: SPIN FROM ALL SIDES ON THE COLOGNE ATTACKS

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(Picture of police at Cologne central station. Photo: DPA)

It’s funny how one statement from a public prosecutor can generate two different narratives in the press.

This is what happened when Ulrich Bremer, prosecutor in the cases related to the New Year’s Eve attacks in Cologne, spoke to the media about the nationality of those arrested.

Speaking to German newspaper Die Welt earlier this month, Mr Bremer revealed that the majority of the suspects are North African (25 Algerian, 21 Moroccan, 3 Tunisian, 1 Libyan). Three are refugees from war-torn Syria and Iraq, with a further three German nationals and two other migrants.

This was subsequently reported in the British press by the likes of The Independent and the Huffington Post with an emphasis that only 3 suspects were refugees from Syria or Iraq. Reporting last Monday, The Independent ran with the headline ONLY THREE OUT OF 58 MEN ARRESTED FOR COLOGNE ATTACKS WERE REFUGEES. The Huff went with COLOGNE SEX ATTACKS: ONLY THREE OUT OF 58 MEN ARRESTED ARE REFUGEES, PROSECUTOR REVEALS.

These reports were seemingly to counter earlier articles in other papers that suggested the majority of attackers were Syrian refugees. But both were misleading because nothing had been said in the original Die Welt article about whether or not the North African suspects were refugees.

Mr Bremer was quick to clarify that his information had been misreported. Speaking to German paper The Local on Monday, he said that those claiming that only 3 refugees were involved in the attacks were ‘wrong‘. By this point, 73 individuals were being investigated (12 of them for sex-related offences). This included 30 Moroccans, 27 Algerians and 4 from Iraq.

Mr Bremer was unable to clarify how many of the 73 were asylum-seekers, although he said ‘The vast majority of suspects do not have permission to stay in Germany, but this is for different reasons, encompassing people whose asylum applications haven’t been accepted and illegal immigrants.

Speaking to the Associated Press, he said ‘The overwhelming majority of persons fall into the general category of refugees.

Although The Independent quickly updated their headline to say REFUGEES FROM SYRIA AND IRAQ, the right-wing press were quick to leap upon the errors that had been made.

The Daily Express ran an article titled COLOGNE RAPISTS WERE REFUGEES: PROSECUTOR SLAMS REPORTS EXONERATING MIGRANTS AS ‘NONSENSE’, claiming that ‘supporters of mass migration‘ had twisted the figures. Whereas UKIP mouthpiece Breitbart entitled their piece LEFT MEDIA MIGRANT RAPE COVER UP. Far-right group Britain First also covered the story on their website with the headline COLOGNE RAPISTS WERE REFUGEES.

But these stories were also misleading. To simply state that the attackers were refugees when there seems to be such a lack of clarity surrounding the status of many of them (refused asylum-seekers and illegal immigrants are not refugees) and to refer to them as ‘rapists’ when at present only 12 out of 73 are being charged with sex-related crimes is to draw your own conclusions from incomplete facts.

So it appears that on one side we have those keen to maintain a link between refugees and sexual assault and are doing their best to run with that narrative (although perpetrators of sexual assault come from all ethnic groups and all walks of life, the likes of The Daily Mail, The Daily Express and Breitbart seem to be almost exclusively covering cases that are involving migrants these days).

On the other side we have those who are going out of their way to avoid confronting the uncomfortable fact that on New Year’s Eve in Germany, a large number of migrants including some refugees carried out a series of violent assaults on young women. Finding accurate, unspun reporting on this is likely to take a bit of work. You have been warned.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

THE SUN PRINTS MADE UP STORY ABOUT UNION JACK COAT

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Daily celebrity gossip pamphlet The Sun has published a highly dubious story about a pub landlord in Barnsley who claims he was told by council officials to remove his Union Jack jacket in case it offended someone.

Jason Mawer (pictured above) was bought the jacket, which is in the style of those worn by one of his favourite bands The Who, for his 40th birthday by his girlfriend. But he says he was told to take it off twice in public by unidentified people he refers to as ‘council enforcement officers‘.

Despite there being no evidence of who these people might be other than Mr Mawer’s hunch that they were enforcement officers, and no attempts whatsoever to actually make him remove the coat, The Sun ran the story with the headline JOBSWORTHS BAN WHO FAN’S ‘OFFENSIVE’ UNION JACK JACKET.

The paper mentions that Barnsley Council have no record of this incident occurring, although this is put in the last line of the article.

Mr Mawer seems to have the impression that these two mysterious people were council employees on account of one of them wearing a hi-viz jacket, despite no ID being shown at any point. On both occasions he says he was asked to remove the jacket in case it offended somebody. On both occasions he refused and no action was taken.

Mr Mawer mentions in the article that he is proudly patriotic and that his pub is decorated with St George flags, which is perfectly acceptable. What is slightly more concerning is that one of the groups he is linked to on his Facebook profile is Knights Templar International, a religious offshoot of the far-right group Britain First.

So a pub landlord with some questionable nationalist tendencies contacts Britain’s biggest selling daily newspaper with a flimsy story about being asked to take his jacket off. Not only does it get printed but the headline exaggerates the request into a ‘ban‘.

As pathetic as it all sounds, it’s a story that fits the right-wing tabloid narrative – decent law-abiding Brits being told they can’t do something British (usually related to a flag or Christmas) by some interfering PC busy-body (usually related to the EU, left-wingers or Muslims) – and appears with depressing regularity, despite seldom having any basis in fact.

But these papers know that if you repeat this misinformation and outright lies enough times, people will come to accept it as the truth. So you end up with thousands of Sun, Mail and Express readers who genuinely believe that you can’t so much as say you like anything British without the Big Brother state coming down on you like a ton of bricks.

Original Sun article available here.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

LESSONS IN TABLOID SPIN: HOW THE DAILY MAIL LIED ABOUT AN EU STUDY

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The anti-migrant tabloid The Daily Mail has been up to its old tricks once again, this time going out of its way to try and negatively interpret statistics from a European study and put the blame on refugees.

In a report titled CITIES WITH LARGEST INFLUX OF MIGRANTS SAY THEY’VE SUFFERED A HUGE DROP IN LIVING STANDARDS, EUROPEAN COMMISSION STUDY FINDS, the paper goes on to say that ‘European cities in countries hardest hit by the migrant crisis say the arrival of foreigners has had a negative impact on their communities.

The article is based on a 2015 European Commission study entitled The Quality Of Life In European Cities, where a total of over 40,000 residents of 83 cities were surveyed on a range of issues including happiness, health, employment, housing, migration and neighbourhood safety.

The trouble is that the study report says no such thing. No cities reported a huge drop in living standards and nobody said that the arrival of foreigners had negatively impacted their communities.

The findings from the report were overall positive, with the majority of residents reporting high levels of satisfaction similar to those from a previous study carried out in 2012. Views on migration were also generally positive. But The Daily Mail has chosen to cherry-pick a handful of figures and try and twist them to fit yet another anti-migrant article.

Respondents were asked two questions about migrants in the survey – whether the presence of foreigners is positive, and whether foreigners are well integrated. In all bar 5 of the 83 cities, the majority said that foreigners were a positive addition to their city. With those who disagreed, it was only a slender majority (Istanbul being the largest at 55%).

On integration, the responses were positive overall, although not as overwhelmingly so. 40% of the cities (33 of the 83) had fewer than half of respondents agreeing that foreigners have been well integrated, although only 13% (11 of the 83) had over half of respondents actually disagreeing with the question.

With general living standards, the majority in every city were satisfied with where they live and their quality of life. Apart from Athens, every city had at least 75% happy with where they live. Only 7 cities had a majority feeling unsafe in their city centres (although no cities had a majority feeling unsafe in their home neighbourhoods). On other issues such as healthcare, employment and housing, there was no correlation between low scores and recent migration.

Yet somehow The Daily Mail has interpreted the study as a damning indictment of the effects of recent migration to Europe, despite there being no mention of any such thing anywhere in the report. This appears to be based on low and declining scores in a couple of Turkish cities (‘one of the countries experiencing a huge influx of migrants fleeing conflict in the Middle East‘, it reports), dissatisfaction in Italian and a couple of Greek cities, and a couple of statistics cherry-picked to fit their argument.

But the arguments are desperate and poorly put together. They’ve matched a few low scores with areas with higher levels of migration but haven’t put any of it in context or fully checked the statistics to see if there is any overall correlation or pattern (I have and there isn’t). So their conclusions are meaningless.

They’ve also assumed that general lower satisfaction scores in terms of living standards are due to migration levels. Yet the scores in Turkey are more likely to be due to dissatisfaction with the government which has become more authoritarian over the past five years. Scores in Greece and Italy are likely to be affected by overall economic problems in those countries. This would help explain why scores in Greek cities, while relatively low, have generally improved slightly since 2012.

It’s a pity that The Daily Mail couldn’t produce an article that more accurately reflected the positive findings of the study, which is essentially a reminder that citizens in countries on the most economically prosperous continent on the planet are in general quite happy with their lives. But then that doesn’t really fit in with the paper’s negative, mean-spirited, fear-peddling narrative, does it?

Check the European Commission report out in full for yourself here.

The Daily Mail article on the report can be found here.