Via Rhetorically Speaking, Liberal Conspiracy, Tabloid Watch, the Enemies of Reason and Angry Mob (sorry if I've missed anyone) comes the fantastic news of the Mail being sued for blatantly and deliberately making stuff up.
Here's the apology in the Mail, and my favourite bit:
We have been asked to clarify a number of details by those featured in the article, who are concerned that it created the impression they rated their careers and figures more highly than having children.The people are 'concerned that it created the impression' are they? Whatever could have created tht impression in a story hradlined "For most women, giving birth is the most fulfilling event in their lives. But some are so afraid of missing out on their careers and losing their figures they refuse to go through pregnancy and choose adoption instead. Practical, or just plain selfish?"
It's nice to see the paper get caught out making stuff up, and quite deliberately it seems, since according to the Guardian:
The Mail blamed the offending elements on an unnamed executive who controlled a rewrite of the story, the statement from Carter-Ruck said, rather than the journalists who interviewed the women.Always good when the Mail has to pay out for its lies.
Here's the problem, though.
The Mail (and other crap tabloids) often prints exaggerated and distorted stories that bear no relation to the truth. In a few cases, these will be about individuals or groups who are capable of suing the paper, so you get to see hilarious climbdowns like this one or the one over the complaint from the Federation of Poles in Great Britain, but the vast majority of misleading stories are about groups of people who can't or won't sue, like asylum seekers or Muslims.
The Press Complaints Commission code states that only individuals directly affected by stories can have their complaint considered by the PCC. In effect, this means that the papers can say whatever they like about a group - asylum seekers, for instance - and for a start, nobody who isn't an asylum seeker will have their complaint considered no matter how untrue the story is. Worse than that, the PCC is unlikely to come up with an effective solution even if representatives do make a complaint - with the FPGB being an obvious exception.
Here's a quick example. A while back, the Express produced a pack of lies about the contents of a Muslim Council of Britain document. I complained, and had my complaint knocked back because I wasn't directly involved. More importantly, the MCB complained. The PCC found that the Express's article was misleading, but ruled only that the paper would have to print a letter from the MCB to correct this. The MCB rejected this, which meant the PCC could let it go.
It gets worse. Now that the Express was getting away with it, the paper could keep the story on the website, and more besides.
My complaint made reference to the fact that the headline on the website 'Muslims: ban un-Islamic schools' was misleading, and created the impression that Muslims had called to ban non Islamic schools (they hadn't called to ban anything). The MCB had made special reference to the paper pretending they had called for swimming lessons to be banned during Ramadan. Since we made our complaints, the online version of the story has been changed.
The headline is now 'Muslims: Ban non-Islamic schools' exactly the false impression I argued the old headline could create. There is now a separate quote box with '"Swimming lessons should be banned during Ramadan" Muslim Council of Britain'.
Well done, the PCC! Clearly Paul Dacre is right, and the shame of being in trouble with the PCC is too much to bear.
There are a couple of more recent things to keep an eye out for.
The Mail recently reported on an 'anti-Ipswich Muslim protest' march that ended with some very non-Muslim people smashing stuff up, assaulting someone and getting arrested by labelling Muslims who were not present 'extremists', rather than the thugs who were actually there, and gave extensive space to the organisers to have their say. That's par for the course. What isn't is that the paper has illustrated the Muslim protesters from earlier this year with a picture of some other Muslims, peacefully marching for something else.
The picture includes a much larger group that the fifteen or so goons who made the headlines earlier in the year, with a much wider generational spread, giving the impression that the protest was far more widely supported by Muslims than it actually was. The caption is vague enough to refer to the people in the picture the paper has used and the people from a few months ago, who the violent non-Muslim goons in the article were ostensibly marching against.
The picture is still there at the time of this writing, and it'll be interesting to see if it ever gets changed.
Also, the papers have all recently been involved in repeating the idea that there is overwhelming academic evidence to prove that children are adversely affected by being raised by homosexual parents. This is simply false, and Anton Vowl points towards an attempt to try to stop this particular falsehood from being circulated. It will be nice to see how this evolves, and whether complaints send it the same way as the complaints from the FPGB dod with the Mail's anti-Polish crusade.
Although these two are quite specific examples, they point toward the possibility of a worrying trend emerging. If - as lots of newspaper editors argued in evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee - it really is becoming much easier for individuals to sue newspapers, there's a real danger that we'll see minorities attacked by the tabloids with much greater abandon as they push the limits the Mail managed to reach with Polish people.
Instead of getting better, we could witness redoubled efforts to attack Muslims, gays, gypsies and anyone else the papers think they can get away with victimising. The Mail has already started with the scare stories about non-whites, and even to revisit scaremongering about black people I expected to have seen the back of twenty years ago. Couple that with the emergence of local papers soft-shoeing the BNP because of budgetary constraints making churnalism attractive, and we could be facing some very ugly times in our tabloids. Uglier even than now.