16/06/2010

Distortions, doublethink and urban legends

Sorry - the headline was sneakily meant to disguise another post about flag bans.  I've gone all Paul Dacre!  I'll be saying the c-word and making stuff up a lot next!

It's always fun looking at Sun roundups of outrageous BANS to see how padded out with exaggerations they have to be in order to fill the space.



"The England flag was STILL being banned across the country yesterday - amid national outrage," says 'Cross country' - an article that also manages to include the photo accompanying this post and a whole bunch of other pictures of smiling people waving flags and not being at all cross. It's doublethink-tastic!

The most obvious thing that I feel like a pedant for pointing out is that if any of the places in this article actually ban the England flag, it's because they don't allow any flags. In focusing on the England flag the paper's feeding off the 'white people are so oppressed' meme the Mail also tapped into with its story conflating training courses with jobs the other day.

Half-truths hop around Sun stories like randy rabbits with tourette's who can't help SHOUTING random WORDS from the middle of sentences. This one tells us that the 'killjoys'' 'litany of pathetic excuses' about the ban include:
...the flags making official vehicles look TACKY, that the St George Cross might appear RACIST - and fears one could fall off and HURT someone.
Imagine someone TELLING you that YOU can't have a FLAG. There ISN'T any PROOF of all of THESE reasons IN the article, by the WAY.

We've got five examples. One or two of them use the classic technique of quoting an employee or someone who's read about a ban and might have misinterpreted or exaggerated themselves first. If they exist at all in the first place, that is. Great.

Apparently 'a van driver' at 'the UK's biggest water company' said something about flags not fitting the company image. The paper's added in the bit about being told to remove support for our World Cup team.

Lancashire County Council has apparently 'outlawed' (outlawed, really?) flags on vehicles and offices as well as shirts. The paper doesn't bother to mention that the rule only applies to employees at work.

The story talks about York Council's 'barmy ban' too, also neglecting to mention that it only applies to employees. On top of that, the paper decides not to tell us that York Council have only mentioned flags and stickers attached to the outside of council vehicles, sneakily using this sentence to follow the one about Lancashire not allowing flags or shirts in offices to make us think the ban's wider.

We also have a caravan park that has said flags and bunting are 'overbearing'. 'Overbearing' is the only word quoted. Has it actually stopped people from displaying them though? Is this actually a 'ban' or a request? We're not told. Nobody who works at the caravan park is quoted, altough we're told one caravan owner couldn't believe it.

Lastly, we have the Housing Association I mentioned in my last post - but we now have the added bonus of the news that this ban has been lifted, which is something the Mail hasn't bothered to report.* The Sun parrots the claim that this was because flags are racist - although the only proof the Mail had of this alleged allegation of racism was that an employee said the company were 'in effect' saying the flags were racist. You know as well as I do what 'in effect' means. It means someone didn't actually say those words, but something you've chosen to interpret in that way.

The rest of the article contradicts the idea that the England flag is being banned across the country. Apparently, a pet terrier wore TWO flags on it's head in Leytonstone! Fancy.

Is that it? Some workplaces don't allow employees to attach things to vehicles or wear football shirts to work? Jeez. Outrageous, workplaces not allowing you to wear sportswear. Bet that's never happened before. Oh, and one dubious sounding caravan park 'ban' that I can't find anywhere else with Google searches.

This crappy rumour really does have a life of its own away from the papers, as I clumsily tried to explain back in 'Are England shirts being banned?'

Anecdotal evidence time. Hurrah!

The night before last, my mum told me on the phone that my aunt, who lives on a Council estate, has claimed that people on another estate in the same borough have been sent letters telling them to take down their flags. Something to do with the tenancy agreement.

Thing is, my sister lives on that estate and hasn't seen any such letter. Her reaction is, "well, if I get one, I'll go out and buy the biggest flag I can," and yadda yadda yadda. Nothing made my aunt stop to think, "Hey, why didn't we get one of those letters? Wouldn't the Council have the same rules for all their estates?" and therefore demand proof. My mum has gone ahead and hung out a flag in defiance, although she doesn't live on an estate. My sister, at least, has decided to wait for the proof of actually getting a bloody letter.

Still, these loony lefty Councils. Can't trust'em, eh? Except my mum, sister and aunt all live in a tory borough, and have a tory MP.  Those PC tories.  Always wanting to ban the England flag.  And fly it over Downing Street.  It's a doublethink win double!  Or should that be quadruple?  I dunno.

*There really was a ban that was lifted this time.  Often in the bad old days of the 80s, papers would make shit up about a loony council banning something and word the correction to make it look like there had been a 'climb down' rather than admit nothing had been banned in the first place.  Be wary when papers say a ban has been lifted.

**UPDATE**   It's only just occurred to me how totally mad it is to pad out a story about how something has been banned with pictures and words about people doing the thing that is meant to have been banned.

6 comments:

Al said...

Sadly, there does seem to have been an isolated case of actual ban that's genuinely because those imposing it fear the flags could be offensive, here in Cambridge:
http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Home/Take-down-your-flags.htm
Though it mainly seems the company are just arsey about flags, they did include the words "could be offensive to others" in their letter.

Which is clearly bonkers, given the flag-bedecked supermarket pretty much next door.

Ray said...

It is indeed a proper ban. But the story has the rationale:
"Atlantic Estates sent residents the letter also warning them that flying the flag from windows and balconies would breach their leasehold agreements. "

and

"But Andrew Strong, managing director of Atlantis Estates, stood by the decision. He said: “We have been trying to get that flag down for two or three weeks. This is not about offending other people but is part of the leasehold agreement which some residents have asked us to act on. If we were to allow this there are 80 or 90 flats that could have lots of different flags flying. "
(my emphases)

So they had some complaints and decided to enforce part of the leasehold agreement which is their legal right as landlords. The quote gives the impression that if they hadn't received complaints, they would have turned a blind eye, but once a complaint comes in they have to act on it.

Would be interesting to see if they do this with all breaches of the leasehold agreement or just with this one.

I am not affiliated with blah blah blah by the way,

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Could be an interesting one, that. As Ray points out, the ban was in response to someone complaining.

What would be good to know is what country the flag that was complained about came from. In the Daily Mail article I link to, the ban was in response to a complaint about an Irish flag.

Do we have some people complaining that they're offended about other countries' flags moaning about made up people that might be offended by the English one?

Ray said...

Clearly there is a need to either ban all flags and make people appraoch each other shiftily in the street and whisper "are you, you know, english?" or make us all learn new hand gestures to signify nationality.

Or we make everyone tattoo their forehead with the flag of the country they most identify with.

I am of the mind that there should be no middle ground. Paul Dacre's with me, who else?

Jon Davis said...

I must say I do find it comforting that your mum gets taken in by some of these things too.
A few years back mine said to me, 'They tried to ban the town Christmas decorations in case it offended the Muslims. They did.'
My uncle had told her about it, and so therefore it was unquestionably true.

Host said...

Sadly, of course, all this works - only last week had a colleague post on Facebook about the fact that she "as gonna wear an England flag on her t-shirt and let them try to ban me then!" (whoever 'they' are, I've no idea... probably the marauding political correctness and diversity police, I guess.