Tabloid bullshit of the month award: September 2011

It's that time of the month again. No, not that time of the month, stop looking for werewolves.

It's time for the 5cc tabloid bullshit of the month award. Yee-hah! Here I am! Rock you like a hurricane!

It had been a slow month for most of September, until the government released a bunch of immigration stats that predictably got the tabloids in a lather. Tabloid immigration fiddling is so 'meh' by this point in the life of the bullshit awards though, so for the longest time the front runner was Jo Willey for her nonsense in the Express, suggested by a lovely reader.

Don't worry, she must be in the running at some point. I've read her column.

Then - hoo-boy! The Mail on Sunday and it's sister paper came a knockin' with a brand spanking new Winterval style myth to thrill us all with tales of the end of Western civilisation at the hands of evil Political Correctness Gone Mad, and with the BBC as the culprits!

So, this month's winner, in an unprecedented situation, is the entire Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday for the hilariously transparently exaggerated claim that the BBC has BANNED the use of BC and AD, in favour of the HEATHEN BCE and CE.

It's the end of Western civilisation! Worse even than nuclear war.

Here's the email:
Dear the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday,

It's time to get out the turntables and switch on the Northcliffe House disco ball. Both of you, yes the entire Daily Mail stable, are the winners of journalism's most coveted prize! Yes, it's the 5cc tabloid bullshit of the month award! There's gonna be a party like it's nineteen - fifty-five!

An entire newspaper has never won the award before, not even the Daily Star, and reading the stories behind the Star's front page headlines is like pulling back the curtain only to find that the Wizard of Oz is actually just a picture of Jordan, a BNP pamphlet and a copy of Mucky Boobs.

You have really outdone yourselves. Light up a cigar and start a conga!

Here's why you won*:

A couple of weeks ago, Peter Hitchens sits innocently watching University Challenge, when the programme only goes and uses an abbreviation that's been the academic standard for decades! Who would have thought it? And on a show that questions people in Universities. It's an outrage!

Instead of doing a couple of minutes of research to find out if it's true, he decides, "The BBC’s Chief Commissar for Political Correctness (whom I imagine as a tall, stern young woman in cruel glasses issuing edicts from an austere office) was hard at work again last week."

Jeepers. They have a Commissar now? And such a sexy dominatrix with such unlikely anthropomorphic glasses?  (I wonder if she ever takes off her cruel glasses and shakes her hair out, giving Peter's imagination a saucy wink. The minx.)

Sniffing a new Political Correctness Gone Mad sensation, Paul Dacre gathers his winged monkeys to his lair and screeches, "This could be the new Winterval, and it's about our commercial rivals! Fly! Fly my pretties!"

Chris Hastings writes the full story. Instead of thinking, hey, Hitchens is given to ridiculous and embarrassing hyperbole, must check to see if this is true, he thinks, hey, Hitchens is given to ridiculous and embarrassing hyperbole, must check to see if this is true. Oh, it isn't. Let's write the story as if it is anyway. There's always the last couple of sentences we can bury stuff in.

In reality, all that's happened is the BBC has issued no edict about what abbreviations should be used, instead leaving the decision up to individual editors. That's not really Political Correctness going mad is it, allowing people to say what they like?

You'd imagine this would make an editor spike the story, or embarrassed by how damp the new PC Gone Mad outrage squib really is, cut it short and bury it thirty pages in. Instead - BOOM! Front page headline.

Then, the monkeys well and truly flew. James Delingpole, lured from his usual home for getting things wrong and making a fool of himself at the Telegraph, and obviously having missed the last two sentences of Hastings' story, declares the usage of an abbreviation an attack on Western Civilisation. A Marxist one, no less. Ooh, those Marxists and their evil 'letting people make their own decisions about what terminology they use' ways. When will we be rid of them?

Reverend Dr Peter Mullen, who also seems to have missed the last couple of sentences of the previous front page story tells everyone the BBC has stopped using the abbreviations because it wants to obliterate Christianity from public life. As TabloidWatch points out, this nonsense was published less than half an hour after the BBC broadcast the 50th anniversary edition of Songs of Praise.

Not one to be left out of a panic about Political Correctness, Melanie Phillips parps, "Apparently, [the BBC] has decided that the terms AD and BC (Anno Domini, or the Year of Our Lord, and Before Christ) must be replaced by the terms Common Era and Before Common Era."

Now, to be fair to Melanie, she follows this up with, "Actually, this edict seems to have been laid down merely by some obscure tributary of the BBC website rather than from on high."

But to be fair to reality, having this sentence follow a definite claim about the BBC deciding things 'must be replaced' could easily lead the reader to infer that because of an edict from an obscure tributary of its website, the BBC has decided abbreviations across the board must be replaced.

Plus, a million extra points to Melanie for laughably claiming that, "Christmas has been renamed in various places ‘Winterval’."  (In case any of you were wondering, it hasn't. Winterval was an ill thought out marketing exercise used for only two years over a decade ago in only one place, which had Christmas celebrations and everything.**  You can see a poster from Winterval here, which clearly has the word 'Christmas' in very big letters at the top).

Then, predictably, Richard Littlejohn falls for the new myth hook, line and sinker. This should be no surprise, coming as it does from the man who thought a dog was a woman, 'The Hopscotch Centre' for Asian women exists to teach them hopscotch and that phoenetic spellings of words he doesn't like are hee-lair-ee-yuss. Don't panic!

But these are just tabloid opinion pieces. As the PCC has pointed out in response to a couple of complaints about columns from Phillips and Littlejohn, people will apparently know all this stuff is opinion and not believe it to be true.  For people to start thinking it might be true, you'd need the claim to start appearing in news stories.

So well done Steve Doughty for his second mention in the 5cc tabloid bullshit awards, with 'The make-up of modern Britain: 70% of us claim to be Christians... and only 1.5% are gay', saying:
The finding that the nation remains overwhelmingly Christian comes days after it emerged that BBC programme-makers have been put under pressure to stop describing dates as BC or AD. 
Instead, they have been told to use the non-Christian alternatives Before Common Era and Common Era.
Doughty's article lacks even the final sentence clarification from Hastings' original outraged headline story. Job done. Myth successfully planted in the news.

The new myth, like so many before it, has spread across the right-wing press to the Express, the Telegraph and even to London's bumbling Mayor.

The difference is that we've watched this one from the beginning. The BBC have explained the truth several times. The original story from the Mail even includes the true explanation at the bottom - but Western civilisation is still under threat from a Marxist plot.

Given that this whole thing has sprung from outrage at the BBC allowing its editors to say what they like instead of dictating that they must use the Mail and its commentators' preferred terms, I'd like to bring this to a close by quoting these words:
But then, political correctness is all about dictating what people are permitted or forbidden to say as a way of controlling and reshaping a society and its values.

That's it.  Everyone mentioned in this email, including the editors of the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline's RightMinds section can now count one monthly award for themselves, which becomes important at the end of the year when I award the winner of the most the 5cc tabloid bullshitter of the year award.  Paul Dacre, Richard Littlejohn and Steve Doughty now have two each, so it's all to play for.

As ever, I will be reproducing this at www.fivechinesecrackers.com, and you are all warmly invited to reply to this email with an acceptance comment or some sort of attempt at a rebuttal (sending an email rather than commenting on the blog post will let me know it's you). No winners have ever replied yet, exhibiting uncharacteristic coyness for people who often seem so shouty and strident. Why not be the first? Give us all a laugh.  
Cheers then,


*I might have imagined some of what happened in this timeline, much like Richard Littlejohn imagines the contents of his column, but with less of an obsession with Minder, gayness and bins.

**Angry Mob has an excellent history of how this particular PC Gone Mad Myth evolved here.
So, that's it for another month. A massive, massive thank you to MacGuffin at TabloidWatch for his coverage of this new myth, which helped me no end in pulling this together.

I do hope you're enjoying these awards - they're always the most popular on the site unless one of my tweets gets RTed by someone good. They're quite fun to write, so to be fair I'd do them anyway. They've snowballed a bit from what I originally intended, which was to pick the one most rubbish story from the month, but there is a lot of tabloid bullshit out there.

Tune in at the end of next month for October's awards, which will mark the first anniversary of the first award, won by Jack Doyle - also a favourite to win the end of the year award.

Thanks for keeping on coming back. Reward yourself with this blog's official theme tune.

Now get out of my house!


Minority Thought said...

Brilliant as always!

pressnotsorry said...

I always enjoy reading these. Absolute brilliance. :)

Fuckaduck said...

One question: At the end of the year, how could you POSSIBLY choose a winner out of all the monthly Bullshit Award recipients? It seems as if every month the previous winning bullshitter is swamped by yet another, ever-greater tsunami of reeking bullshit...I wonder what October holds?

But it's a wonderful expose of the printed media's bullshitting tactics. What's your secret? How do you find the will to carry on with it?

From a long-time reader and first-time commenter.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Bum. I just deleted a comment from the spam filter without thinking and it probably wasn't spam.

It said 'circle jerk comment' - so not everyone likes it you know.

Mr Larrington said...

They probably deserve it next month too with their priceless posting of the wrong verdict in the Amanda Knox case.

moodycow said...

Just found this wonderful site. Have u the link for the Jo whiley rubbish?