The Federation of Poles in Great Britain has "reluctantly" filed a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission accusing the Daily Mail of defaming Polish residents in the UK.Good on them. They'll have plenty of material to send in a complaint.
In its letter of complaint to the PCC the federation accused the Daily Mail of printing articles that gave rise to "negative emotions and tensions between the new EU immigrants and local communities".
Unfortunately though, I can't help but think that any PCC investigation will be a cynical whitewash. Last January, representatives of the Daily Mail, Daily Express and Press Complaints Commission gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The JCHR said:
We are concerned about the negative impact of hostile reporting and in particular the effects that it can have on individual asylum seekers and the potential it has to influence the decision making of officials and Government policy. We are also concerned about the possibility of a link between hostile reporting by the media and physical attacks on asylum seekersThe PCC had defended the tabloids' coverage of asylum seekers in its eveidence. The JCHR's reaction to the PCC's evidence:
The evidence we received from the PCC was not reassuring. Its existing system is not sufficiently robust to protect asylum seekers and other vulnerable minorities from the adverse effects of unfair and inflammatory media stories.The PCC's reaction to the current complaint is less than encouraging. According to Brand Republic:
The Press Complaints Commission will not be able to launch an investigation into the matter unless it receives complaints about a specific story and how it is in breach of the code.So the fact that the Federation of Poles in Great Britain are able to supply 80 inflammatory headlines isn't enough, the PCC won't investigate unless they complain one by one. Plus, as we know, some of these inflammatory headlines will be placed atop articles with a bit of dissenting opinion buried somewhere inside, so the paper can spuriously claim balance.
The Daily Mail's reaction would be funny if the paper wasn't using such nonsense to excuse such hateful behaviour:
"We do reserve the right to criticise bogus asylum claims, benefit cheats, tax dodgers and militant fanatics no matter where they were born," he added.Here we have the first resort of the dishonest - the strawman argument. Nobody said the paper shouldn't be allowed to report about those things. People complained about the paper demonising the Polish, which they do rather a lot.
"The Mail is entitled to run stories about immigration, the more so as the last ten years have witnessed immigration on a scale at a vastly increased rate than at any time in this country's history since and including the Norman invasion of the 11th century."
The paper's spokesman talks about how many positive stories it runs about immigration. I nearly got a hernia laughing at that one. One if its examples is this 'The new Britons', which says all this in the writer's own narrative voice:
I feel like a foreigner, but this is not Warsaw, Kracow or Gdansk. I am in Southampton, an English city where one in ten of the 220,000 population is now believed to be Polish.And:
No one knows exactly how many Poles live in the city, but estimates start with "at least 10,000" and rise to 30,000.
The phenomenon of the Polish plumber - the hard-working, ever-available tradesman - has been experienced all over Britain. There can hardly be a street in the country where a kitchen or roof hasn't been fixed by an eastern European.And:
But while the middle classes have been full of praise, others claim the competition has meant British workers losing out. Last month, unemployment figures climbed to three per cent - the highest since October 2003 - giving fresh ammunition to the critics.
What emerges is an extraordinary picture of contrasts: hope and greed; hard work and exploitation; ambition and grinding poverty. But one thing is certain - the outcome of this 'open door' policy is nowhere near as clear cut as the Government would have us believe.And:
Yesterday, David Roberts, director of enforcement and removals at the Home Office, admitted that the Government is no longer bothering to hunt hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants and told MPs he did not have the "faintest idea" how many were at large in the UK.Nice bit of obfuscation about people who aren't necessarily eastern European in there. And:
The Government's figures are notoriously unreliable. They admit that two million Poles have travelled to Britain since the borders opened in 2004. The influx - greater than the population of Warsaw - records the number who have travelled to the UK, not the number who have stayed.That last bit is disingenuous. Since the paper's already told us that self-employed people aren't counted in the Worker Registration Scheme, we know that the bulk of the ones the paper found are probably self employed.
And although the Government admits to 204,000 Poles working here, that does not include those who have set up as self-employed or are living in the black economy and are paid in cash.
The ludicrous disparity between government statistics and reality was revealed in autumn last year when the Government said there were just 95 Polish plumbers working in Britain, yet the Daily Mail gathered that number together in West London within 24 hours with one card in a newsagents' window and three phone calls.
There is a bit of positive coverage here, but most of it is in the reported speech of others. Although there are one or two positive bits in the author's own voice, there aren't enough to balance the above out.
One of the Mail spokesman's defences (the same guy who gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights) is that the paper has printed letters that cover positive aspects of Polish immigration. As if a letter can match the importance of a front page headline.
Pathetic as the Mail's defence is, the PCC will lap it up. Nothing will ever be done about the paper's dreadful coverage of eastern Europeans until it's far too late and the paper has started picking on someone else. Exactly the same way the paper got away with deminising asylum seekers for years.
Still, I popped a couple of examples in an email to the FPGB. Fingers crossed.