Very silly season indeed II

There were two articles that caught my eye in yesterday's Mail. As I said in yesterday's post, one of the articles was the sort of thing that usually gets my knickers in a twist, and it was this 'Migrants sending more than £1m of child benefits home EVERY month'.

Obsolete looked at the Sun's coverage of this yesterday and pretty much everything I'd like to say about the Mail's version is covered there, but it's interesting to note the difference in approach between the two papers. While the Sun seems to be outraged that 'there is NO requirement for them to send the money home to their families', the Mail is pretending that they all are, proving that the people involved are in a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situation. It's worth noting at this point that the 'come over here, nick our benefits' argument against immigration stretches back far enough to have been used before state benefits even existed. Back in the nineteenth century, the Irish were criticised for taking church charity that usually went to the English poor.

One thing I do want to do with this article is point out something I've been looking recently, which is how each tabloid story comes with a ton of baggage from other stories and is part of a wider narrative, setting up a whole ideology of sorts.

Back in 'More on moronic use of stats in the Mail', I looked at how three separate (and dodgy) stories about immigration had been mashed together on a two page spread to create connections between them in the paper version. I happen to have a copy of yesterday's paper version here too. Hurrah for the unnamed gym chain who gives away free copies! (Unless any of my membership goes on buying them).

This article appears on the same page as yesterday's Desperate Dan nonsense, directly underneath in fact. As I kind of rambled about while I was hyped up on goofballs and painkillers and anti-inflammatories, the overblown Political Correctness Gone Mad myth overlaps the Open Borders and Uncontrolled Immigration one, often being used as an explanation for why the Government are apparently hell bent on encouraging immigration in the face of the obvious fact of the country being ruined by it. So here we have PC Gone Mad right next to immigration scare story. Mention two things close together often enough and its not long before people start making connections.

It's not really possible to capture the full effect of the constant deluge of nonsense from the tabloids by looking in detail at the occasional obviously nonsense article. I might cover one story about immigration that amusingly farts about with statistics, while having to ignore others that appear alongside it that maybe aren't as blatantly false, but nonetheless bolster the impression the paper's trying to create. It's also sometimes impossible to know when the paper is alluding to an earlier article that appeared in the same paper rather than an external source, leading to a whole bunch of articles that reference only themselves for corroboration.

Take the article I'm talking about now. It appears alongside a 'Political Correctness Gone Mad' piece of fluff, and within it references other Mail articles. For instance, it says:
The Home Office also gave assurances that Eastern European migrants would be unable to exploit the benefits system, by drawing up rules which meant they could not claim unemployment and out-of-work benefits until they had been working here for a year.

But benefit claims by Eastern Europeans now swallow £ 125 million a year.
Without mentioning three very important things; firstly that the £125m is not a Home Office figure, but an 'estimate' by a Daily Mail journalist (covered in more depth by Unity); secondly that the overwhelming bulk of the £125m the Mail hack came up with (over £100m of it) is taken up by things other than out-of-work benefits; and lastly that the hack had no idea of how many of the migrants who claimed benefits are still claiming them.

There are other sections of the Mail Eastern European Invasion myth that also pop up here, again without being explained:
Around 700,000 Eastern Europeans are thought to have come to Britain since their countries - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia - joined the EU three years ago.
Yeah, thought by the Daily Mail - which include every single Eastern European who ever applied to the Worker Registration Scheme, including those whose applications were rejected and some who may never have come to the UK at all. And:
The Home Office expected 13,000 a year to come.
With no mention that, spectacularly out of whack as it is, the Home Office's estimate was based on what it thought would happen if other EU countries didn't implement restrictions. They did.

When looking at stories in the Mail and other scaremongering tabloids, it's important to remember that they each come with baggage from thousands of other articles, and it's impossible to catalogue everything each one alludes to. This story isn't just about how many Eastern Europeans claim benefits for children who are not living in the UK. It's tied up with a whole lot of other nonsense. Even rubbish about how PC Gone Mad has ruined Desperate Dan.


septicisle said...

You know, both of these articles mention that the government has admitted, but neither has any sort of quote from any spokesman, let alone a minister, which made me wonder yesterday whether this is actually happening. In any case, I've emailed the Child Benefit office and asked them whether this is indeed the case. Let's see if they deign to reply.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

There is evidence this time that doesn't look like it's been tampered with in a Written Answer by Jane Kennedy which is on the Parliament site