How to insert extra hate about eastern Europeans into the Daily Mail

I wanted to look at a further example of the Daily Mail dehumanising eastern Europeans yesterday, in an article about Peterborough Council moving a camp occupied by eastern Europeans, but I didn't have time. I decided to have another go today, but the article 'Council to pull down immigrants' illegal camps - because they give the city a bad name' has disappeared from the site (what a shame - such a snappy headline) and been replaced with 'Living in a squalid camp and existing on handouts, migrants from EU 'who don't want a job''. This is even better, since we can have a look at how the Daily Mail takes a standard generic bit of churnalism and adds to it to ramp up the nastiness and hate.

Before we start, Google the term 'Council raps immigrants' illegal camp'. See how many stories there are with that identical headline? Click anything later than page four and you'll get this disclaimer at the bottom of the page:
In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 35 already displayed.
This is pretty much the definition of the word 'churnalism'.

I've had an original idea! Let's write about camps of migrants in Peterborough!

The original Mail article, reproduced at LiveLeak.com, is pretty much identical to all the other Google results I looked at - except for the headline (which handily ignores the bit in the article saying the camp gave migrant workers a bad name - presumably because migrant workers have nothing but a bad name in the Mail). This version talks only about one camp, housing 'up to 20 people', exaggerated in the headline to 'camps'.

The second version wades straight in with the hyperbole in the headline. The camp is 'squalid', the migrants are 'living on handouts' and they 'don't want to work'. Before we even get to the article, we're invited to abandon all sympathy for anyone living here. They're not the victims of the rising cost of housing, or examples of the result of harsh rules on claiming benefits on arrival in the UK. They're just lazy and they live on handouts in squalor. As if that's not enough, the opening sentence tells us:
The torn tents, slop buckets and overpowering odour of human waste suggest it is a refugee camp.
They're so dirty and smelly they might as well be refugees. Ugh. Not refugees!

This story makes extensive use of the tabloid weasel word 'many' (which the Daily Express has shown us can actually mean 'none'). Apparently the camp 'shows how many live after arriving from Eastern Europe[...]', 'the city council said many at the camp had refused offers of help to find work and accommodation', 'many do not even have tents, but sleep in the open on the ground or in nests of blankets.' How many? Why not give a number? And do people sleep in nests, or would that be animals?

The few attempts at giving numbers are just as weaselly. The "up to 20" living in this camp from the original article becomes "around 20" and:
Sources say there could be up to 200 migrants living in a dozen similar temporary settlements around the city.
Note the paper covering its back by inserting 'sources say' (what sources?), there 'could be' and 'up to' 200 migrants. If there are a dozen similar settlements, why aren't we shown them? The closest we come is a picture of some rubbish, which the caption claims is from 'another' of the camps, probably the one the article describes that actually isn't there ay more.

While we're talking about pictures, how do we know the picture of men in a car park was taken in Peterborough? How do we know they're eastern European? How do we know the photos that seem to be of the camp are actually of the same place, since they come from different sources?

Pots and pans sat on grates, ready for fires to be lit when the residents returned from a shower and a change of clothes at a centre for the homeless.
Because that's where all the people not around had gone. Not to work, obviously. because none of them want to work.

The paper uses a few out of context sentences from people to back up its claims. Curiously, one of them says, "I came here because I heard that when you arrive there would be a job." Proof! They don't want to work!

Finally, there's a picture with the caption "The immigrants are given food hand-outs and only work occasional days" (the article mentions only once that these people get charity 'handouts', not state or Council ones). Hang on - they work occasional days? The headline says they don't want to work. Does that mean the paper was using that in the same sense that I don't want to work? In the sense that I do work, but I don't bloody want to.

So, these camps are squalid and smelly, the people are lazy and live on handouts and they represent 'many' of the people who have come from eastern Europe to the UK. If this was a one off story, it would be easier to defend. But it isn't. It's part of a relentless conveyor belt of negative stories about eastern Europeans and Polish people, tapping into some of the very first scare stories about how many 'gipsies' would flood to the UK after the accession of eastern European countries. It's a story about eastern Europeans living rough that goes on for around 800 words without once mentioning that they don't qualify for housing benefit. It obfuscates about where the 'handouts' the people apparently live on come from. It begs far more questions than it answers.

It's no wonder then, that this sort of thing leads people like David Gibson to think that someone cooking their dinner near a dead swan must be eating the swan. And not only that, but this from 'Immigrant caught cooking swan surrounded by the bodies of slaughtered birds':
Several of the campsites were littered with dozens of old car batteries but it was not clear what use these were being put to.

Mr Gibson said: "Maybe they are stripping them apart for the lead, or perhaps they are tipping the acid in the water to kill the fish.

"Unless we catch someone it could be one of a number of things."
Why on Earth would you see a car battery at a camp site and not think 'I wonder what someone hooked that up to. Telly or radio?' Why would a fisherman think it was at all likely that someone would use battery acid to kill fish that they were presumably going to eat?

Might it be because the fisherman has become predisposed to think of certain people as dirty, smelly, lazy scroungers and thieves?


Rainbow Sheep said...

I submitted a response to the Mail website rubbishing the figures used in this article - surprise surprise, it has not appeared yet...It is actually quite frightening how many news websites it's appeared on already. (Looks like another Press Association Special.)

Rainbow Sheep said...

Sorry to post again, but found these links on the Peterborough Telegraph site which might be of interest:




On this website I couldn't find any sign of the Peterborough story currently doing the rounds nor could I find a mention on the Peterborough Council website...

septicisle said...

The Scum's version of events is here.

septicisle said...

There's a report about it now on Look East interviewing two of them in this "camp" - one has lost his passport and so can't get work; the other currently can't afford housing. They're not on benefits, the camp doesn't look dirty, and both want jobs, far from being work-shy. Top work from the Mail as usual.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Septicisle - when you say 'both', do you mean there are not 20 people there?

I know there are only 2 tents in the picture and I suspected there wouldn't be as many as 20 = but only 2?

Richard T said...

On the BBC news page this morning was a report of three men being fined for killing swans - all had what seemed to be english names. I looked out of interest on the Daily Mail's site to see if they had picked this up since they take a wholly praiseworthy interest in the Queen's birds. There's no mention of it. Surely some mistake?

septicisle said...

5cc: There might well have been other camps in the same vicinity, but on Look East they were certainly only two men interviewed and one camp site.

eric the fish said...

Richard - was it the Bedfordshire case? It was reported in the Times Friday. Found old reference at

Another great piece btw!