Political Correctness Gone Mad in the Telegraph

I'm used to seeing stories with a little kernel of truth getting exaggerated almost beyond recognition in the Mail, with a less clear and more exaggerated version in the Express. I wasn't really surprised today when I decided to take apart a Mail story, but found a less honest version in the Express. It's what the Express has been for since it started trying to out hate the Mail and became Der Sturmer. It's more unusual to see a less honest version of a story than the Mail in the Telegraph. It's usually the Telegraph that covers those details the other two papers leave out when they want to mislead their readers. Maybe it's because the Mail's version didn't appear online until after 11 this morning, and probably didn't make the print version. Who knows.

Whatever the reason, the story is 'Schools to "ban" pupils wearing crosses' in the Mail, 'Outrage over new ban on the cross' in Der Sturmer and 'School ban for crosses but not Muslim lockets' in the Telegraph.

As usual, nothing's been banned. Private Eye says that any question in a tabloid headline usually has the answer 'no'. A new rule I've learned since starting this blog is that when a paper says something has been banned, it's a good bet nothing has. We can find that out by looking in the local paper (which happns a lot) and the article 'Council cross over claims of a crucifix ban'. It says:
However, the council claims the reports were inaccurate and said headteachers had not been told to ban religious symbols.
Surprise, surprise.

According to the local paper article, this is what happened. The Council released a draft set of guidelines to school governing bodies. So nothing was published, and nothing was sent to school headteachers. The document didn't mention Christian symbols because, according to Councillor Maria Gatland:
we are living in a Christian country and on the whole headteachers know about Christian traditions, not least because school holidays are built around them.

"The draft guidelines are intended to help them with their knowledge of other faiths and in particular how they should relate to sports and PE.

"There is absolutely nothing prescriptive in the guidelines, which have been drawn up in the manner of questions and answers.
And just to reiterate:
Croydon Council would not entertain banning the wearing of religious symbols.
So, on to the dodgy papers.

The Mail's version is an outstanding example of the 'Withdrawn!' tactic, withdrawing the headline's claim in the first two sentences:
Schools could be forced to ban their pupils from wearing crosses - while allowing them to display symbols of non-Christian religions.

The rules being considered by one education authority would see jewellery forbidden from PE lessons, apart from in "exceptional circumstances".
Check out the 'could' and 'being considered', and in the next sentence, there's an 'apparently'. It's still a misleading article though. If you didn't aleady know nothing had been banned, you wouldn't be any the wiser from reading this, but all the tentative language shows that whoever wrote the article knew nothing had been banned. Didn't stop them from going with the word in the headline though, even if they did use scare quotes. One thing this article has in common with the other two is that it leaves the most important piece of information - that the document is only a draft - until right at the end.

The Express is also sort of an example of the 'Withdrawn!' tactic, but doesn't withdraw its claim of a ban completely, and doesn't even try until way, way late in the article. Unlike the Mail version, it just bloody lies in its opening. Not a surprise, eh? It says:
The officials have told headteachers to ban jewellery [...]
But we know nobody's told headteachers aything. There are some lame quotes that illustrate what I said in '"This is outrageous!" says Tarquin FitzTory'. Someone with a vested interest, a Tory MP and someone from the Campaign for Gullible Marks Against Political Correctness.

The Telegraph version, which seems to be the one the other two were based on, opens with a big fat fib:
Schools have been told that they should ban crosses and crucifixes, but allow Muslim children to wear symbols, even though they are not compulsory.
Schools haven't been told anything. A draft set of guidelines sent to governors said something about other religious symbols, but nothing about crosses. We get the same person with a vested ineterst and the same Tory MP quoted. It saves it's withdrawal until right at the end, when it decides to make it look as though the Council's claim about the document being a draft is a lie.

It's so easy to see what's really happened here. Someone left out Christian symbols from the list because they assumed the headteachers would already be familiar with them, they got picked up and that's it. Someone cocked up, that's all. It wasn't even the final draft of the document and it hadn't been published. And catching this kind of mistake is exactly the reason why a draft was sent out in the first place.

What else to the 'it's Political Correctness Gone Mad' brigade actually think? That evil lefties are so unsure of their own position that whenever they're challenged they change their mind and pretend their reasoning was different all along? Do they imagine donkey jacketed Council officials shuffling shiftily in front of a whiteboard saying, 'Oh, of course we didn't ban chocolate fingers for being racist. We just think it would be dangerous to jam them down children's throats with a plunger,' as they try to cover the words 'CHOCOLATE FINGERS=RACIST'?

*UPDATE* Since this story appeared, the PCC made one of its rare decent decisions and found that the Express version, at least, is misleading. The paper had to publish a lame correction, apparently. Hurrah!

No comments: