THE MAIL ON SUNDAY AND THE LIES ABOUT NHS GUIDELINES: LESSONS IN TABLOID SPIN

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(Picture: PA – Press)

The Mail on Sunday published a front page article this week consisting of cynical and calculated lies which reveals a lot about how the tabloid press works in this country.

On a weekend when there was rather a lot going on globally that might have merited front page coverage, the paper opted to lead with a suspicious-sounding and rather flimsy story about NHS doctors apparently being ordered to use gender-neutral terms when dealing with pregnant patients in the hospital.

The headline screamed DON’T CALL PREGNANT PATIENTS ‘MOTHERS’. The sub-header called it a ‘ludicrously politically correct directive to placate the transgender lobby’ while the Mail Online edition asserted that ‘doctors are banned from using the word’.

The article ran as an exclusive about an apparent British Medical Association (BMA) directive and featured an array of angry commentators calling the decision ‘anti-science’ and ‘Orwellian’.

The story was also picked up by The Sun, the Sunday Mirror and the Daily Telegraph, all of whom ran it with a similar tone.

It may all sound like something from a comedy sketch about political correctness and staff being ordered by management to toe an extreme equality and diversity line. But there are two big problems with the Mail on Sunday piece. It’s not true and it’s not news.

First, no doctors – NHS or otherwise – have been told anything about how to address pregnant patients. The information the paper is referring to comes from an internal BMA publication called A guide to effective communication: inclusive language in the workplace (available here – file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/BMA-guide-to-effective-communication-2016.pdf).

As a BMA spokesperson makes clear: ‘It is not a workplace guidance for doctors, which is clear from the fact it does not refer to patients’.

So whatever your views on such guidance, it is aimed purely at BMA internal staff and representatives and not doctors. Yet all of the papers mentioned above apart from the Telegraph stated in their headline that doctors had been ‘banned’ or ‘warned’ or ‘told’ how to deal with patients.

Second, as can be seen in the document title, it’s not an order or an instruction. It’s just guidelines, a suggestion on what language could be used to avoid any upset or confusion.

The sentence which has caused such outrage in the papers is this: ‘We can include intersex men and transmen who may get pregnant by saying ‘pregnant people’ instead of ‘expectant mothers”.

That’s it. Just a one line suggestion in a document about how the BMA might refer to pregnancy in general, not an order to doctors to refuse to address pregnant women as mothers. Yet the Mail on Sunday saw fit to run with this as a front page story.

Finally, it’s not news. The BMA guidance is a year old. It seems a tad suspicious that it’s surfaced on the very weekend that the president of the most powerful nation on earth announces a ban on refugees and citizens from various Muslim-majority countries. But whether the timing was deliberate or not, the fact that the second biggest newspaper in the UK thinks that an inoffensive sentence in a year-old internal medical document is the weekend’s biggest story is pretty shameful really.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

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MIRROR GUILTY OF TRYING TO SCORE POLITICAL POINTS IN SOCIAL CARE ARTICLE

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(Photo: Getty)

There have been plenty of occasions over the past few years where the Tories have been justly taken to task over their programme of cuts to social services in this country. The Daily Mirror has been the tabloid paper that has most consistently held the government up to scrutiny in this area.

However, an article on social care fees in the paper this week was a bit manipulative with the facts. In fact, it verged on Labour Party anti-Tory propaganda.

The article was titled ‘SICK AND DISABLED FORCED ‘TO PAY FOR OWN CARE ASSESSMENTS’ BY SHAMELESS TORY COUNCIL’ and raged at ‘plans by Tory-run Northamptonshire County Council to force people in need of social services to pay £50 for a needs assessment before they can access care’.

The paper quoted Labour MPs and campaigners from charities such as the Alzheimer’s Society on the issue.

However, the fee is means-tested and only applies to those with savings or assets above £23,250. Those with savings and assets below this amount won’t be charged.

This is consistent with the general social care fee structure across the whole country, under Labour-run councils as well as Tory ones. Unlike NHS healthcare, adult social care services are not universally free. Under the 2014 Care Act, those with savings and assets above £23,250 have to pay full care costs. Those with between £14,250 and £23,250 have to make some payment towards costs. Those with less than £14,250 are entitled to free care.

Assets include the property that you live in, if it is owned and nobody else lives there, which means that owner-occupiers living alone are currently eligible to pay full costs. The means-test threshold is due to rise to £118,000 in 2020.

Northamptonshire Council hasn’t brought in the £50 charge yet. The plans are undergoing a public consultation before a final decision is made next month.

So a council has asked the public whether it should include a £50 charge among its fees to those not eligible for local authority-provided social care. It’s up for debate whether or not this is a fair idea but it hardly qualifies them as ‘shameless’. Especially when compared to some of the other things the Tories have done since coming to power.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

THREE LOVE LETTERS TO TRUMP AND AN ATTEMPTED SMEAR OF OBAMA: HOW THE DAILY MAIL COVERED US POLITICS AT THE WEEKEND

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(Photo: Michael Vadon)

Never let it be said that the Daily Mail is a paper afraid to pick sides when it comes to politics.

The famously right-wing tabloid was more than a little bit partisan in its coverage of events surrounding the US presidential inauguration at the weekend.

The paper has been cagey up to now in its coverage of Donald Trump’s election victory last November, perhaps aware that The Donald is a bit too much for some of the populist right-wingers in the UK.

But it nailed its colours to the mast over the weekend with not one, not two, but three opinion columns gushing about how great Mr Trump’s entry into the White House is for the US and the world in general.

First up was rent-a-gob Katie Hopkins, still on the payroll at the Mail despite costing them £150,000 last month for libelling a Muslim family, who rejoiced that the American people had ‘finally found someone who will put their country first’ (as if the US has never had a president who has pursued national interests).

Then Trumpophile and self-confessed personal friend to the president Piers Morgan penned a personal letter praising Mr Trump for ‘one of the most astonishing speeches I have ever heard’ and referring to his presidency as ‘power to the people!’.

Both of these essays, however, were dry and emotionless pieces compared to the column from Richard Littlejohn who gleefully proclaimed that Trump’s victory ‘may be the best thing to happen to Britain since America joined World War Two’.

There was no evidence anywhere in the paper of any critical analysis of Mr Trump, no voices to counterbalance the pro-Trump fanfare.

Compare this to the coverage given to outgoing president Barack Obama. On Monday, the Mail published an article claiming that Mr Obama’s last act as president had been to ‘defy Congress’ and ‘quietly release’ $220 million of funding to the Palestinian Authority.

The paper stated that Congress had voted to block the payment – intended for humanitarian aid in the West Bank and Gaza as well as support for political reforms in Palestine – and portrayed the decision to release the money as a shady back-door deal.

But this is untrue as Congress had approved the funds from both the 2015 and 2016 national budgets. The money had just been held up due to two Republican Congressmen voting to place a hold on the money.

Such congressional holds are usually respected but are not legally binding if funding has already been approved, as it had been in this case.

As the fact-checking website Snopes states in its analysis of the decision: ‘the monies had already been set aside for the purpose for which they were ultimately distributed’.

If the Trump administration is looking for an ally among the British press, looks like the Daily Mail already has the welcome mat out. It makes sense – the paper has been producing ‘alternative facts’ for years.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

TABLOIDS LIE ABOUT BANK REPORT ON THE POUND

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The Sun and the Daily Mail have written about a report published on fluctuations in the value of the pound last autumn. But they’ve lied in order to have a dig at so-called ‘Brexit doomsters‘.

The report, titled ‘Sterling ‘Flash Event’ of 7 October 2016′, is an analysis by the Bank for International Settlements of why the pound sterling dropped around 9% against the dollar on this particular date.

Both papers, writing about the report, make the claim that the plummet was caused by so-called Brexit doom-mongering in a Financial Times article about Brexit negotiations that had subsequently been picked up by other news outlets.

The Daily Mail’s headline on the story was ‘POUND’S ‘FLASH CRASH’ THAT SUNK STERLING TO A 31 YEAR LOW WAS DRIVEN BY INEXPERIENCED TRADERS AND BREXIT DOOMSTERS, REPORT FINDS’.

Meanwhile The Sun ran with ‘FLASH CRASH: BREXIT MOANERS AND SPOOKED TRADERS ‘SENT POUND TUMBLING TO 31 YEAR LOW IN WAKE OF HISTORIC VOTE”.

But while inexperienced traders were cited as one of a number of factors influencing the ‘flash crash’, the ‘Brexit moaners’ weren’t one of them. According to the report, the FT article and subsequent ‘sterling-negative’ articles were deemed to have had no real impact as the timings did not correlate and the articles ‘did not contain new information’.

So rather than report accurately on the findings, the Sun and the Mail have twisted them in a sly attempt to try and close down debate on Brexit. The message being, any negative talk about Brexit will weaken our currency so better shut up and accept it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

DAILY EXPRESS CALLS OPEN LETTER ASKING FOR FAIR TREATMENT OF MIGRANTS A ‘DEMAND FOR UNCONTROLLED EU MIGRATION’

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(Picture: Reuters)

The Daily Express has been up to its old tricks of twisting people’s words.

The paper, which in recent months has been trying to halt declining sales and a steady slide into UK tabloid irrelevance by penning a number of articles aimed at attracting the conspiracy theory market, reverted to type in its Wednesday edition this week by writing rubbish on the subject of immigration.

The article in question is titled ‘LAMMY AND LEFT-WING ACTIVIST CHUMS PEN BONKERS LETTER DEMANDING UNCONTROLLED EU MIGRATION’.

But the only bonkers thing is the Express article which is riddled with inaccuracies. For a start the letter – which was published in the Guardian and had over 20 signatories including Labour MP David Lammy (pictured), Green Party leader Caroline Lucas and NUT General Secretary Kevin Courtney – makes no demand for uncontrolled migration at all, from the EU or elsewhere.

It is a letter titled ‘Migrants are not to blame for Britain’s problems’ and merely states the dangers of pandering to anti-immigrant sentiment at a time when racism is on the increase. It mentions valuing the contribution made by migrants and looking after the most vulnerable in society.

There is absolutely no mention of the EU anywhere in the letter. The Express has presumably become so caught up in its Europhobia that it has become delirious and is now seeing the letters EU everywhere it looks.

Other errors included stating that the letter said migrants were being blamed for overcrowding in schools and the state of the NHS (not mentioned in the letter) and that it expressed disappointment with mainstream Labour MPs for being concerned with levels of immigration (it simply voiced a concern that more MPs in general are ‘turning their firepower on immigration’).

It’s a sad state of affairs when a plea not to pander to racism is dismissed as loony left radicalism. But then the Daily Express is a sad state of affairs from front page to back on a daily basis.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

IN THE SEASON OF GOODWILL, THE DAILY MAIL LAUNCHES VICIOUS ATTACK ON WOMEN’S SUPPORT GROUP

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(Photo: Andrew Parsons/i-Images)

In his Christmas hit ‘Mistletoe and Wine’, Cliff Richard famously sang that Christmas is a ‘time for hating and fighting to cease’, implying that hating and fighting are perfectly acceptable during the rest of the year.

However, Britain’s favourite hate-promoting paper the Daily Mail cannot even give up on the mean-spirited bile and animosity for the festive season it seems. On 31st December, it published a vicious and seemingly unprovoked attack on Odara (pictured with Theresa May), a Muslim-led women’s support group that has been working to combat extremism in the Midlands.

The article claimed that members of the group are anti-Semitic and homophobic, despite the group’s image and mission statement as inclusive and against all forms of discrimination.

The article went on to highlight a Facebook post from 2013 made by the group’s founder Aysha Iqbal concerning a conspiracy that Israel was involved in the Sandy Hook mass shooting in the US, along with old Facebook posts by a former Odara volunteer that expressed homophobic views and that 9/11 was an ‘inside job’.

But it turns out that Ms Iqbal’s post on the US shooting was a satirical post mocking the many conspiracy theories doing the rounds among more extremist anti-Jewish Muslims. Odara does a lot of work to prevent the radicalisation of young Muslim women and ridiculing the extremism you’re challenging is one tool that can be used.

A statement issued on the group’s website says: ‘we do not believe that Israel was involved in the despicable Sandy Hook Massacre, the video in the post was shocking and a huge distortion of the reality of the terrorism we face and we apologise if that post had inadventently given an impression to the contrary.’

Regarding the posts by the volunteer, it appears that she has since left Odara but the posts were made before she started doing development work with the group, when she was a young person that could have drifted down a path towards extremism.

She told the Mail: ‘Since then I have developed personally and professionally and reject any of the views in question’.

In its statement, Odara says the volunteer is ‘an example of someone we have engaged with to reflect on her views’, adding that ‘in her youthful activism (she) fell for such conspiracy theories but our work with this individual has helped her to consider why these views are wrong’.

But despite these sentiments being made clear to the Daily Mail, the paper persisted with its hatchet job, misleading readers with an inflammatory headline and slipping in the true details down near the end of the article.

The irony is that the Daily Mail loves to smear the reputation of individuals by digging up any information from their past, no matter how tenuous, yet this paper has the most shameful past of its own.

The paper’s founder and former owner Lord Rothermere was a good friend of Adolf Hitler throughout the 1930s and wrote to him regularly, including a letter at the start of 1939 wishing the Nazi leader ‘another successful year’ (see pictures below). This was the year that Hitler’s troops invaded Poland, killing hundreds and thousands of Poles in western Poland.

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Former Daily Mail owner Lord Rothermere with friend Adolf Hitler and, below, letter sent from Rothermere to Hitler in 1939. 

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The Daily Mail under Lord Rothermere also supported Fascism both in Britain and abroad in the 1930s, as can be seen with this article below.

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As for the paper’s own past associations with ‘anti-Semitism’, it was dismissing Jewish immigrants fleeing east European pogroms as ‘so-called refugees’ as early as 1900, writing in February about a boat bringing 600 refugees to Southampton ‘There were scarcely a hundred of them that had, by right, deserved such help and these were the Englishmen of the party. The rest were Jews’.

This attitude continued right up until 1938 when the paper complained of ‘German Jews pouring into the country’.

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The only difference is that, whereas many of the targets of the Daily Mail are either innocent of the charges or have turned over a new leaf, the paper itself is just as despicable, small-minded and prejudiced as it was all those years ago.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

SUN, MAIL AND EXPRESS LIED NEARLY 50 TIMES IN 2016

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(Photo: LSE)

What more evidence do we need that current press regulations are not working? A look at the data shows that The Sun, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express were sanctioned a total of 43 times between them in 2016 for publishing inaccurate content.

The information is available on the IPSO press regulator website and shows that these three right-wing Eurosceptic tabloids are by far the worst offenders when it comes to accuracy.

The Daily Mail was the worst of the lot in 2016, clocking up a total of 17 IPSO sanctions for inaccuracy. The Sun closely followed with 14 sanctions and the Daily Express with 12 sanctions.

Of the rest of the national dailies, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Telegraph were sanctioned 6 times each, the Daily Star 4 times and The Times on 3 occasions.

So between them, these seven publications have clocked up 62 offences in a single year.

Certain subjects were noticeably prominent among the offending articles. The Express was sanctioned 4 times for inaccurate articles about the EU and 4 times for articles on immigration. The Mail printed 5 inaccurate articles about celebrities and 4 on immigration. The Sun breached guidelines 6 times with articles on Muslims, immigration or the EU.

IPSO was established in 2014 as an independent regulator of the press but has been criticised for not imposing sufficient penalties when guidelines are breached. Offenders generally get away with printing a small correction notice months after the original offending article was published.

There has been very little evidence of serious or repeat offences receiving tougher punishment, meaning that papers can effectively get away with lying repeatedly at hardly any cost. The evidence shows this is exactly what some of them are doing.

We know full well that, if a criminal were to repeatedly offend 15 or so times within a single year, the first ones to proclaim loudly that the justice system was flawed would be the likes of The Sun and the Daily Mail.

So why do we tolerate such a flawed system of regulation for our national press?

Surely it’s time to make papers pay for lying to their readers rather than handing out token ineffective punishments. Some have suggested forcing papers to publish corrections in bold print on the front page. Others have suggested imposing fines to hit publications where it hurts.

Another idea could be to impose a ban on papers covering certain subjects for different periods of time if they can’t report truthfully and accurately on them. After all, if a paper has repeatedly demonstrated that it can’t handle a topic responsibly, why should it be allowed into a position where it can influence millions of people?

IPSO does have the power to impose tougher sanctions such as increased prominence of corrections notices or even fines for serious or repeat offences. It can be contacted here.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.