The Daily Mail have been responsible for a number of misleading, inaccurate, or distorted articles. When blogging about the Mail I’ve focused on articles about health and science, whereas other bloggers have cast their nets wider: for example Tabloid Watch, Mail Watch, and Angry Mob.
The Daily Mail have given me a new reason to write about them. Lawyers working for Associated Newspapers have threatened a blogger and his webhost with legal action over an article about Paul Dacre. This just provides extra motivation for me to write about the Mail and Dacre. Below, I will provide examples of articles that I hope will provide some insight into why I’ve already spent so much time writing about them.
The Mail’s article 1,000 girls on Pill at 11 talked of “shocking figures” and the sexualisation of children, but the data the article was based on didn’t show why GPs prescribed the Pill, which can be used to treat heavy periods and severe acne. Not long after that, there was an article in which the Mail seemed furious about Marie Stopes allowing “team members, their partners and dependants […] to access MSI’s core services… without charge”. Then there was this, on sex education. As well as devoting column inches to criticising GPs, sex education providers, and Marie Stopes, the Daily Mail also publish articles expressing concern about teenage pregnancy “blackspots” – like this one.
Perhaps the Mail think that contraception, abortion, and sex education are unnecessary and that the best way to prevent what they refer to as ‘teenage pregnancy blackspots’ is to teach abstinence? If so, then this might make for uncomfortable reading:
Teaching about contraception was not associated with increased risk of adolescent sexual activity or STD. Adolescents who received comprehensive sex education had a lower risk of pregnancy than adolescents who received abstinence-only or no sex education.
The Mail have some funny ideas about other aspects of health. For example, the benefits of red wine. The Mail seem to have a bit of a thing for red wine and have promoted it as a remedy for various ailments (usually on the basis of studies conducted into a component of red wine called resveratrol, which is also found in several foods).
Their Red wine for a painful back story relied on research in animals involving injections of resveratrol. Perhaps their best effort was “It can prevent cancer and blood clots. Now red wine could stop inflammation too”. This article claims, on the basis of a study into “the effects of resveratrol on two groups of mice exposed to a strong inflammatory agent” that “the drink blocks two key proteins in the body to prevent inflammation” – but the research was into resveratrol rather than red wine (and conducted in mice rather than humans). And promoting the idea that red wine can prevent cancer is not without risk – readers may be interested in this piece from Ben Goldacre on reporting of red wine and breast cancer in the Telegraph.
The Mail have previous form when it comes to publishing articles on science or health that are inaccurate, distorted or misleading. For example on MMR. In fact, the Mail seem to have a good deal of trouble when it comes to publishing accurate pieces on vaccination.
As well as their role in promoting the ill-founded MMR scare, they’ve also covered Hepatitis B vaccination and HPV vaccination (taking different editorial lines in different countries). Scaremongering about the flu vaccine was followed just a couple of months later by an article warning of a “flu crisis“. Having previously raised the spectre of Guillain–Barré syndrome and muttered darkly about the possible association with vaccination, the Mail then failed to report on a paper that found no evidence of an association.
As well as the dangerously misleading articles on health issues and bizarre approach to sex education, I’ve noticed the Mail’s tendency for hypocrisy. Having played a leading role in the media’s MMR hoax, the Mail saw fit to publish an article that referred to people who had paid attention to their scaremongering as “morons” and “middle-class twits”. Then there was the coverage of the phone call made to Andrew Sachs.
Following the broadcast of an unfunny and offensive telephone call from a couple of comedians to an actor, the Daily Mail went on the offensive (see here) and called for heads to roll at the BBC. I wonder how many people reading that piece realised that the Daily Mail and General Trust group owned 20% of ITN – a direct competitor of the BBC.
The Mail’s campaign continued with an article complaining about nudity. Even though actor John Barrowman’s genitalia were not actually shown. While unseen nudity on the BBC is obviously frightful and raises serious questions about the corporation’s effect on the nation’s youth, the sort of nudity you can find by looking at the Daily Mail’s website is fine. Presumably, the picture of a nipple on this page was essential and they couldn’t possibly have told us about the blood-sucking leech that attached itself to a contestant on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here without it.
As always, Charlie Brooker says it far better than I could:
…if TV broadcast the kind of material you see in the press – if it paid women in lingerie to recount graphic celebrity fuck’n’tell stories, or shoved its cameras up the skirts of girls exiting taxis so viewers could wank to the sight of their knickers, or routinely broadcast grossly misleading and openly one-sided news reports designed to perpetuate fear and bigotry – if the box in the corner smeared that shit on its screen for 10 seconds a night, it’d generate a pile of complaints high enough to scrape the crust from the underside of Mars.