You seen what they're doing now?

A very good mate of mine (I do have some, honest) has a particular hatred of one common tabloid practice. He doesn't like all the other good stuff either - but this one thing gets on his chuffing nerves.

It's using the word 'now' to kick off a headline. It's the way the word implies 'as if everything that's happened before wasn't enough, here's something ridiculous that'll try the patience of a bloody saint'.

The great thing about the word is that the reader fills in what comes before 'now'. The 'as if all this weren't enough' bit. Here's an example from today's Mail, 'Now fire service introduces hijab headscarves for Muslim workers'.

What comes before the 'now'? 'First of all we have to give them jobs like normal people,'; 'As if it weren't enough that the PG BRIGADE have BANNED Baa Baa Black Sheep,'; or 'First they tell us we're not allowed to push shit through their letterboxes'? You decide, reader!

As with all the best 'we're bending over backwards for these so-called 'minorities'' stories, this one is a massive bait and switch. The bait is in the headline and opening seven paragraphs:
Pop into the firestation and the chances are there'd be a group of reassuringly burly men in there waiting for the call out, with uniforms and firefighting suits tailored for their use alone.

The one or two women among them would have to make do with ill-fitting adaptations of the men's outfits while the handful of Muslim women in the service would be wearing their own head scarfs.

But, with the fire service anxious to attract recruits of all sexes and backgrounds, it was decided that something had to be done.
Four more paragraphs of blah later, and we're told:
For the first time also, women will get their own mustard yellow fire-fighting suit designed to protect their breasts and upper body.
Waitaminute! All women fire staff get new uniforms and not just the Muslim ones? But the headline made it look like the opening paragraphs were only about hijabs.

Still, these women eh? New Fire Service uniforms just for them. It's - wait for it - Political Correctness Gone Mad!

Except, as ever, no.

Something the few other agencies that cover that cover this story manage to mention is that these new uniforms for female staff are part of a redesign of all fire staff uniforms, including the men. Without the lovely 'now' headline tainting the opening paragraphs of the Mail story to create the impression that we're only talking about Muslims, it looks as though there has been a bunch new of stuff designed just for women (which makes the big picture of the new uniforms as used by Lincolnshire look weird, since it includes men). Fair enough, the DCLG did trumpet the extra new things delivered by the new uniforms and the idea of attracting women and minorities - so who can blame the Mail for spinning the story into one that rolls its eyes over the provision of equipment for women?

But there's one other detail the Mail decides not to mention, which also pops up in coverage everywhere else that mentions the story.

From the Telegraph's 'New fire service uniform includes full-length skirt and hijab headscarf', we learn this:
A new uniform has been designed for firefighters, including options of full-length skirts, long-sleeved shirts, hijab headscarves and turbans. [My emphasis].
From The Graun's 'Firefighters get new uniforms', there's this:
...the new firefighters' uniforms unveiled yesterday have another notable feature, being designed for the first time "for a modern, diverse workforce" - including hijab and turban versions, as well as maternity uniforms for pregnant female staff. [My emphasis again].
From the BBC's ''Ethnic' fire uniforms launched':
New firefighter uniforms, which include the option of a full-length skirt, hijab headscarf and a turban, have been launched. [And again].
Do a CTRL+F for the word 'turban' in the Mail article. Not mentioned at all, is it.

Which brings us back to the lovely 'now' headline. See how it makes the story one of outrage about special consideration for Muslims when we know from coverage elsewhere that other religions were considered. Nice.

Now, try this fun exercise! (Okay, I know - reading the Mail induces outrage, not fun). Cover the headline. Clear your mind. Read the article again.

It's about new uniforms for women isn't it? Why, it's almost as if the hack wrote a story focused on new uniforms for women in the fire service, but an outraged headline about Mulsiims was tacked on at the end. That would explain the lack of turban references.

Nick Davies, in the brilliant 'Flat Earth News' wrote about the Mail:
...if by chance, reporters come up with the wrong angle, it is reversed before it gets into print, either because the copy itself is rewritten or because the headline changes the angle. 'Dacre kills with headlines,' as one long-term Mail reporter put it.


At other times, the killer headline changes the angle to enforce the Mail's political line.
Whoever wrote the headline, it makes all the difference, doesn't it? And you know what does all the work? Those three little letters 'n-o-w'.

Without the 'now' at the beginning, the headline just moves the focus away from womens' uniforms to hijabs. A bit weird, but hey-ho. With the 'now' and my god, it's an outrage! See what they're doing now? They're only introducing bleedin' hijabs into fire service uniforms, in't they? As if being alowed to wear the bloody things in public weren't enough. Now they're allowed to snatch the bacon from your sandwich and wipe their bum on it because pork's against their religion, innit.

No wonder my mate hates the 'now' so much. And no wonder I made him one of the best men at my wedding.*

*I had two. The other is a Sun reader - but that's a whole nother story, folks.

Hadn't noticed this when I posted, but Akela got there first - even focusing on the 'now' bit.


Uponnothing said...

It is interesting that the print edition of the Mail does not include the 'now'. I guess you are right that the website allows headlines to be edited multiple times until the right effect is achieved - you can imagine the comments being monitored, if they are not racist enough, the headline is adjusted to make sure the reader makes the connections.

You're absolutely right though, the word 'now' allows the reader to project their own prejudices in creating a mythical version of what events went before this latest 'outrage'. It is far more effective to allow the reader to make up the long line of terrible Muslim demands than the Mail actually attempt to create direct links. 'Now' simply acts as a prejudice trigger.

The Mail does like to tell its' readers exactly how to feel, the word 'outrage' is used so frequently, even if the article isn't outrageous, and nobody in it claims to be outraged.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Cheers Uptonothing.

It's interesting that the 'now' doesn't appear in the paper version. maybe a bit too tabloidy for Dacre, who apparently still operates under the misapprehension that his paper is a 'midmarket' paper rather than a tabloid.

It's difficult to know whether the 'now' was removed before it hit the paper version or added before the web version appeared.

Without it the headline still shifts the focus of the story deliberately towards Muslims, which doesn't really sit well with the story itself, so I wouldn't be surprised if it was bunged on later.

If it wasn't, it makes the hack who wrote it complicit in a little bit of deception and lying by ommission.

Either way, it doesn't look good.

Helen Highwater said...

I agree about the "now" thing. It's really rather creepy.

Hilarious how one of the Mail readers thinks that the women would actually fight fires in the long skirt and hejab uniform. It never ceases to amaze me how they will drop logic in the face of an opportunity to have a bigotted rant.

Helen Highwater said...

PS: Travel West Midlands has had turbans and even rasta hats developed to be part of their uniform for absolutely ages. The "now" thing treats it as if culturally-relevant uniforms had never been done before, when they have, and with success. No one thinks it's odd. Except racists, obv.

Neil W said...

Anonymous, apart from the fact that terrorists aren't mentioned at all until you brought them up (I pressed CTRL+F and everything), I hope that 1. no members of the fire service are burnt and 2. terrorists are arrested, tried and punished accordng to the law. That's what makes us civilised.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Thanks for picking that up Neil, I hadn't spotted that. For those just joining the comments, an anonymous troll had suggested that he hoped 'these terrorists' would burn and he'd make sure of it.

Deleted it because I don't want to get in trouble for publishing hateful shite by shovel headed wankers.