Why I Write About The Daily Mail

June 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm (Legal Chill, Media) (, , , )

Daily Mail Editor Paul Dacre 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.

10 Comments

  1. Kausik Datta said,

    Oh, eloquent! Bravo! This is why the correct moniker should be the Daily Fail!

  2. jon said,

    Top work. As another blogger who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time writing about the Fail, it’s good to see I’m not alone!

  3. Elisa said,

    To be fair that I’m A Celebrity… article with the gratuitous nipple shot is two and a half years old.

    Then again, this one isn’t:

    http://istyosty.com/tmp/cache/8f15f2ecde63844485bb4d6f39982a70c98a4d91.html

    I would attempt to find some more examples in the Fail, but it burns…

    Great post, and good points about hypocrisy. Does the Fail really not bother with an editorial policy these days? If so that would certainly back up those accusations that their more offensive articles are published just to generate hits on the Fail’s online edition.

  4. Shirley said,

    Excellent article – fully concur.

  5. Martin said,

    Nice one. But then the Mail is an easy target because of it’s obvious over-the-top shrill style and apparent inconsistency. Papers like the Guardian or the Telegraph are a little more sophisticated about how they cast, frame and phrase their own hypocrisy, bigotry and ignorance to appeal to their own particular audiences, partly because their audiences want to feel sophisticated.

    Probably. I read the G yesterday and the T today and frankly, I’d rather have the picture of a nipple.

  6. jdc325 said,

    “I read the G yesterday and the T today and frankly, I’d rather have the picture of a nipple.”
    I suspect you’re not alone in that Martin. That piece with the gratuitous nipple shot is the most-clicked link on my blog this week.

    @Elisa I think there’s some truth at least in the link bait accusations. I’ve got a vague idea that Dacre defended the celebrity boob pics on the basis that once the Mail have lured people to the site they’ll go on to read the serious political analysis that he reckons the Daily Mail provides. (The Daily Quail had a look at how frequently various papers mentioned the word bikini online and the Mail were way out in front: bikini ranking.)

  7. draust said,

    I don’t really see Fail readers as being a red wine demographic, so not sure why they bang on about it so much. Eight pints of lager, twelve Bacardi Breezers, multiple bourbon and cokes, or alcopops for younger Fail readers … any of those… But not Chateauneuf., surely? Red wine is probably foreign, after all, and might even be French.

    Apart from the ever useful Daily Fail, the other name for the Fail that I used to like was the sadly no-longer-blogging “Dr John Crippen’s” Peoples’ Medical Journal.

    BTW< I reckon any post that mentions the Fail ought to have a link to Dan and Dan

  8. Martin said,

    I know some very well edumacated and interestingly intellectual people who can spel and read without moving their lips and everything who read the Daily Mail regularly. And I was recently staying in a very twee, very very expensive village, definitely G&T and fine red wine country, and early in the morning the local shop had a pile of Telegraphs, two big piles of Daily Mails, and one lonely Guardian. (“There’s nothing wrong with being foreign, they can’t help it poor things. But if they come over here because they like it here, they should make an effort to be like here. etc. etc”)

    jdc let’s have more stories involving nipples. I’ll read them. Erm. I guess that’s the point? Ho ho…

  9. Neuroskeptic said,

    Do you read Viz magazine? They have excellent, er, commentary and critique on the Daily Mail.

    e.g. “Richard Littlecock – Little Cock, Big Opinions”, and his latest adventure, Richard Littlejohn goes to Hell in a Handcart (literally).

  10. deetee said,

    Re the Guillan Barre syndrome and influenza vaccine scare, here is yet more new research indicating “people who received a flu shot were no more likely to get GBS than people who didn’t get the shot.”
    “In fact, the flu virus itself, rather than the vaccine, “is a likely risk factor for GBS,” they said in a June 7th report online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.”

    http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/745419

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