Daily Express headlines worth the paper they're written on?

The Express are a dab-hand at producing headlines that bear a very limited relation to reality. They famously ran the headline 'Bombers are all spongeing Asylum Seekers' after the failed bombings of July 21 last year - even though the identity of only two of the four bombers were known, and neither were asylum seekers. They got away with that, too. Today's headline (left) is a fine example.

The important word in that headline is the word 'costs', especially as it follows the word 'loses'. It gives the impression tha the case has been lost and has cost £250,000. But this impression is entirely false, as the article itself reveals:
Earlier this year, her lawyers battled with counsel for her
employer, Kirklees Council, in a five-day hearing. The total costs for legal bills so far could top £50,000. [...]

The lengthy hearings and appeals that would follow could easily cost £50,000, a bill that would be matched if she were to be granted permission to go to the House of Lords. [...]

"If she goes all the way to the European Court then the total costs in this case could be very large, it would not be unreasonable to say £250,000," said employment lawyer Clive Howard. [Emphases all mine]

So, the case hasn't cost £250,000 - it just might. Perhaps. Maybe. In the future. If she does something else, and it costs as much as possible. And you'd only find that out if you read past the headline and on to the next page of the report, which you wouldn't do if you were just walking past the newspaper rack. More people do that than actually buy the paper or read it - so the Express has managed to create a false impression in the minds of the majority of people who read this headline. Hurrah for honesty!

There's also no way to see how Clive Howard came up with his figure, as the numbers the paper mentions only add up to £150,000. Interestingly, in the Guardian's coverage of this case, the figure for legal aid so far is estimated as £10,000 - so the Express' figure 'could' be five times as high as the actual figure.

To go with the false impression created by the dishonest reporting of figures, we get to see some nice Express prejudice. 'Veil case teacher [sic] costs us £250,000'. The veil case teaching assistant is British, was born in Britain and pays her taxes. So why not just say 'costs £250,000'? (Adise from it being a dishonest way to use figures?) Because without that 'us' qualifier, you can't imply that she's one of them and not one of us.

The treatment of this case, both in the press and by politicians, has been nothing short of appaling. I'd need to know far more about the actual specifics of the case before I made up my mind about whether or not Mrs Azmi would be able to do her job while wearing a veil from a practical perspective, but I do know that it's dead wrong for Government Ministers to comment on ongoing cases, and for papers to whip those comments up into a frenzy of criticism and attack against a group of people - and to carry on doing the same after the woman has lost the case by, say, exaggerating figures on their front page headlines. More on this at Bartlett's Bizarre Bazaar - which mentions me! Which is nice - but you should read it because it's good.

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