Haven't I seen you somewhere before?

I've mentioned before that papers like the Daily Mail don't exist to report the news, which is what most people imagine that newspapers exist to do, but to ceaselessly push a few unchanging narratives that their editors imagine their readers want to read. Instead of accurately reporting on published studies or newly released statistics, the papers distort and adapt them, until they're made to fit in with the pre-existing narratives the paper has already prepared.

Of course, one big story the Mail tells over and over is that immigration is out of control and a bad, bad thing. Within the bigger narrative is a smaller one that implies that British Citizens are leaving in droves and being steadily replaced by foreigners.

There's another example of this today, in 'Over 200,000 Britons fleeing the UK each year as record 160,000 foreigners are granted citizenship'. You don't have to be a genius to spot the implication that Britons are leaving the country because of the new citizens. That's what the word 'flee' does.

As we'd expect from a story that appears under the byline of James Slack and Steve Doughty, what appears below the headline twists and misrepresents figures in order to bolster the misleading impression created by the headline. Regular readers (all three of you) will probably be familiar with most of these from Mail classics like last November's 'Record numbers of people are leaving the UK as more immigrants arrive', or last August's '196,000 out, 574,000 in: Record numbers leaving Britain for new life abroad - as immigration to UK soars' - but here's a quick rundown of the techniques this new version uses to fool people. The two main sets of figures we're talking about are 'Emigration from UK reaches 400,000 in 2006' and 'Persons granted citizenship United Kingdom 2007'.

Comparing apples with oranges
The difference between this and earlier permutations of the same story is that it compares the number of people settling here permanently with the number of UK Citizens leaving the UK for what is probably a much shorter stay. Already, this distorts things quite a bit.

Lying by omission
The paper conveniently neglects to tell us that while over 200,000 UK citizens left the UK in 2006, 81,000 returned from visits abroad of 12 months or more. The net total is a loss of 126,000 UK citizens for a period of a year or more. Quite a lot less than the number of new citizens. Doing this means the paper creates an impression that is exactly the opposite of what the real figures actually show.

It also leaves out that the number of people applying to become citizens has also risen in the last year. This means the reader will never find out that the number granted citizenship rose by 7% while the number actually applying rose by 8%. Zanu Liebour haven't just made it way more easy for people to get citizenship.

Lying about what the real figures show
After setting up all this, the paper says:
The rising rate of emigration meant that nearly 1.6 million Britons left the country to live abroad between 1997 and 2006.

This is rubbish. Just over 1.6 million Britons left the country for a period of at least 12 months. Not to live. Between 1997 and 2006, 979,000 returned to the UK too. That leaves around 700,000 that have actually left the UK not to either return or be replaced by other Britons returning. Instead of there being 400,000 more Britons 'fleeing' the country than foreigners becoming citizens since 1997, there are actually around 500,000 fewer.

Misrepresenting Government measures
The article says:
The increase in the number of passports being given out comes despite Government attempts to make it harder for migrants to 'earn' the right to live here permanently.

Were the measures introduced purely to make it harder for people to become citizens, or to make sure that those who did met certain standards?

The rest of the article introduces other unrelated figures to help pile on the impression of an avalanche of new information emerging about the avalanche of foreigners invding our tiny island. It says:
The mountain of statistics released today also contained bad news for the Government on asylum.

This conveniently neglect to mention that half the 'mountain' of statistics it has used up until this point are six months old.

Assigning non-existent sinister motives to the statistics' release
This follows on from the implication that there has been a 'mountain' of immigration statistics released today (there have actually been three reports). The article says:
The Home Office opted to focus on a fall in the number of arrivals from Eastern Europe, revealed in yet another statistical release.

Here's the Home Office Press Release section. There are no press releases from today, and only two from Monday. Neither focuses on Eastern European migration. The only way the Home Office has 'opted to focus on' a fall in the number of applications (not arrivals) from Eastern Europe is by releasing them at all. And since they came underneath a 'mountain' of other stats, they can't have been focussed on.

General hyperbole
People are 'fleeing'. There's a 'mountain' of statistics released by the government. The number of people being granted citizenship has 'surged' by 7% (the number actually applying has surged by 8% as well - but the paper leaves that bit out).

That's about it. I do like the way the story crams three reports into one article and attacks the government for releasing a 'mountain' of statistics, as if they all need to be covered right now because the paper never regurgitates old figures and presents them as new. This is the third time the paper has tried to make the same point in nine months, but it still claims to be troubled by the sheer number of new statistics it has to deal with.

It's so badly done, I wonder if it's self parody.


fat tulip said...

Excellently dissected. I wonder how many people flee abroad to escape the Mail and their readership.

- One of three readers

(ps you missed out an 'e' on the end of 'time' in the last para)

Paul C said...

Second of three readers here.

The fact that the DM keeps recycling stats (and you have to keep re-dissecting them) makes me wonder whether people who read the DM actually read the DM. I get the impression that it's more like background noise than a source of information.

That makes you sound more quixotic than I think you are. Apologies. Keep it up!