I've been away from blogging for a while. A couple of holidays and a rubbish neck injury (that I got by stretching when I woke up one morning - that's macho) have kept me away from the blog and away from the tabloids. So, sorry for the light posting.
Still, being away from thing has given me a little bit of time to think about what the tabloids do and the way I blog about it, without having to quickly knock out a quick first draft response to the latest nonsense and scaremongering from the papers before I even have a chance to think.
Because that's all I do, you know. I just look in the tabloids for stories that seem fishy, follow them to their source and type up comparisons. It's not rocket science. It's easy to know which are the fishy stories. If they're about about immigration, feral youth or Political Correctness Gone Mad - they're probably bollocks. My posts really write themselves. I mean, find and article with the headline 'Migrant surge 'led to disorder and crime'' and then find that the closest thing to the headline's quote in the report it's supposed to be covering is, "Police report isolated examples of hate crimes, but there is no regular or widespread disorder," and there's not a whole heck of a lot you need to do.
One of the things I've realised for a while but, haven't really had a chance to talk about, is that my approach here would seem incredibly naive and condescending to an ideal tabloid reader. I mean, to somebody who believes that immigration is a Bad, Bad Thing and that there's a PC Conspiracy trying to keep this fact a secret, reading my post on the above wouldn't really do very much. There are a whole host of preconceptions these ideal readers have about all sorts of issues, and to read that the Mail has distorted a report's findings isn't likely to do much to them. Rather than be annoyed that they've been lied to, certain of these ideal tabloid readers would think I was incredibly naive to take the reports findings at face value.
I want to talk a bit more about that, but for now here's a quick outline of some of the ideas that an ideal Mail or Express or Sun reader might bring to the table with them when they read about immigration, that make what they see in the papers seem reasonable.
That immigration is uncontrolled and has an overwhelmingly negative effect are the main ones that all other ideas about immigration stem from. Some of the reasons the tabloids and their ideal readers think the government are pro-immigration despite the overwhelming evidence that it's a Bad Bad Thing follow. Some are more hat-stand than others:
The government's far left politically correct ideology blinds them to the fact that immigration is a Bad Bad Thing, and leads to incredible incompetence in everything the government has to do with it. Every set of figures or report about immigration will be spun to make it look as though there's no disaster when there is.
The government is actively encouraging immigration for one reason or another. The reason favoured by Richard Littlejohn is that this is because the government need to import voters. So every set of figures or report about immigration will be spun, etc.
There are all sorts of reasons why tabloid readers might think immigration is a Bad Bad Thing - some based on blatant xenophobia, and others not that unreasonable on their own.
But if a reader starts by thinking all this negative stuff about immigration, it's not going to matter that much to them if they find out that their paper has distorted a report that shows something else, since they'll think the original report is lying spin in the first place. When I got preoccupied with posting on the Express 'Have Your Say' section, I was surprised that the reaction from some readers was just to say that the Guardian and other left wing papers lie too. There wasn't any attempt to explain away the lies - just an idea that nobody tells the truth.
So, if you start by thinking that anything that isn't anti-immigration must be a lying bunch of spin, you're not going to care much if you find out that a paper has manipulated it to make it sound as though it's made the opposite findings to the ones it actually has, since you'll believe the original study or figures or whatever must have found what the papers say they did in the first place and then been spun. Then, if you come across someone telling you that something has been distorted by the tabloids, you're going to think they're pretty naive. Or blinded by the same PC ideology as the government. Take my post 'We did know how many stay after all'. Boy did they see you coming, the ideal tabloid reader will think, didn't you know that those figures are distorted in the first place?
Here's the thing. I don't believe that the government figures are going to be the exact correct gospel truth, although that post might make it look like I do. I'm prepared to accept that they're an underestimate. I'm even prepared to accept that the International Passenger Survey is not the best way to measure immigration. The thing I'm not prepared to accept is that the best way to measure the number of migrants from Eastern Europe is to count every single one who ever applied to come here, including the ones who never turned up and the ones who had their applications rejected. The real total is likely to be far closer to the government figures than the Mail's, and since the paper constantly bangs on about how the government have no idea of how many eastern Europeans want to settle here, I found it a bit of a surprise that they actually did - even if the Mail isn't prepared to accept it.
And here's where me and the ideal tabloid reader would reach an impasse. The tabloid reader would think there was no difference between my conclusion and theirs. I choose to believe the government's figures while they choose not to. It's all a matter of preference.
But here's the big difference. I check what I read, and if I disagree with something a tabloid has said, I don't pretend it's said something different. I point out tabloid distortions by showing why, with quotes - and not with lies and distortions. I have reason to distrust what people like MigrationWatch say - I even managed to get them to amend their 4p a day claims because they were rubbish. I don't start with my conclusion.
At least, I hope I don't.
More, hopefully better stuff, when I get the chance.