I had a quick look at the Mail's dishonest article '120 immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria arrive in Britain every day to be circus stars' yesterday, focusing on how the headline claim was in fact a lie. The real overall total spread across three months was 55.
What I'd like to do now though, is have a closer look at the structure of the article and touch upon the language it uses to show how a newspaper can mislead and misinform while keeping the out and out lying to a minimum. This sort of thing doesn't lend itself to being covered in a few quicky dashed out first draft blog posts, so I will revisit these to tidy up. I'd like to do this with every article I cover here, but don't often have the space and time. This will be spread across a series of posts over the next couple of days. Links to further parts are at the bottom of this post. Sorry if it gets wordy. Skip it if you like.
First of all, the context that this article appears in is important. Without wanting to sound all wanky, the context of this article is an example of the 'Withdrawn!' tactic on a macro level. The Mail has led into this one with two other misleading articles that I covered in 'They go together like Batman and Robin' and 'How to lie about immigration with the Mail'. Anybody who regularly reads the Mail, and I pity those who do, will have already read two grossly inflated sets of figures before they come to this one. They will already have the idea that the number of people coming here from Romania and Bulgaria is between 60 and 150 thousand. This article is the equivalent of the last (or very near last) paragraphs in an article that uses the 'Withdrawn!' tactic, which is the paper's effective withdrawal of what it has already said.
However, there is an important thing about the 'Withdrawn!' tactic I didn't mention explicitly in my original posting about it. In setting up an article with a certain set of statements and then withdrawing them by including the truth later on, a newspaper is giving the impression that the withdrawal - the section of the article that is actually true - is a lie, or at the very least, wrong.
Take the articles I covered in 'Political Correctness Gone Mad in the Telegraph'. They start with definite statements about schools banning crosses (except, bizarrely, the Mail, which uses scare quotes) and then follow these with more definite statements about banning crosses before including quotes from a Councillor that show what had really happened at the end of the article.
This gives the impression that the Councillor is lying. Saying, 'this happened, but someone said something else did,' is sending a very clear message to the reader that the person they've quoted is lying or wrong, because the paper has already told its reader what's happened. I've said it before and I'll say it again. If a newspaper publishes an article with the headline 'Bombers are all spongeing asylum seekers', it wants its readers to believe that the bombers are all spongeing asylum seekers, not that none are. It doesn't take Stephen effing Hawking to work that one out.
Now, back to the context of the Mail article, which operates in the same way. The Mail's readers are unlikely to think that these figures are the correct ones rather than the older ones the paper has reported, because they've already been primed to think that way. (The article itself strains very hard to give the impression that they're wrong too, but more on that later). Not just by the two articles about the same figures, which function in a similar way to the misleading headline and opening statements in the cross ban articles, but by virtually every article the paper ever publishes about immigration. I can't remember seeing an article in the Mail about immigration that doesn't mention government underestimates and the unreliability of official statistics. I've covered loads here now, and I'm bloody tired of them.
So, even before they've read a single word of the Mail article, a regular Mail reader is set up look at the new figures in disbelief. Whether they'd seen the earlier claims about 300,000 people coming from Romania and Bulgaria in the first 20 months of accession, the claims about 60,000 so far this year, the claims about 150,000 this year, all the articles that mention how badly the government figures underestimate true figure or all of the above, a figure of around 10,000 will seem shockingly low.
This is part of a series of posts. Click below for the further thrilling instalments in 'How the Daily Mail lies about immigration'!
How the Daily Mail lies about immigration. Part II: "The Bait"
How the Daily Mail lies about immigration. Part III: "The Switch"
How the Daily Mail lies about immigration. Part IV: "The Big Little Lie"
How the Daily Mail lies about immigration. Part V: "The Quotes"
How the Daily Mail lies about immigration. Part VI: "The Final Chapter"
And the prequel:
The Daily Mail tells lies about immigration. Again.