The Daily Mail: even worse than flat earth journalism

On July 22nd I wrote a small blog entry on my website regarding a dodgy article written in the Daily Mail about children with special educational needs.

In my entry I asked: “[a]t what point do we suppose the Daily Mail not only dislikes the inclusion of young people with special educational needs in schools, but doesn’t think special educational needs exist outside of the 2% once designated before the Warnock report of 1978.”

Of course the article in the Mail doesn’t explicitly say THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SPECIAL NEEDS because in doing this, not only would they be wrong (this shouldn’t phase them too much), they’d open up the grounds for a whole campaign and would alienate a large amount of people (even if those people are Mail readers).

The question of whether the Mail editorial staff or some of its staff writers deny the need for the category special educational needs or whether they feel too many children belong to this category is still worth asking even if we can’t reach a definitive answer, which is exactly what I did.

In my entry I say:

in an unsourced paragraph, the article suggests:

it has also been claimed that doctors, teachers and parents are too keen to pin medical labels – such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – on what might previously have been branded poor discipline

Before using a quote by Dr Gwynedd Lloyd, an education researcher at the University of Edinburgh, who said:

You can’t do a blood test to check whether you’ve got ADHD – it’s diagnosed through a behavioural checklist.

Getting out of your seat and running about is an example – half the kids in a school could qualify under that criterion.

My charge is obviously against the unsourced article where the Mail, instead of making a claim themselves, have claimed that “doctors, teachers and parents” attest to children being overbranded.

The quote of interest, unknown to me at the time, is the second one by Dr Gwynedd Lloyd.

Last week a comment appeared below my entry by Dr Lloyd herself telling me that:

The daily mail used a quote from me, without my permission, from another article that took a different approach. My argument is not that ADHD doesn’t exist, it is that we are clustering together lots of difficult and challenging behaviour under one rather simple diagnosis and then using stimulant medication. Of course such children need additional support in school and should get it. The daily mail used my quote out of context to support their argument against inclusion. I disagree completely with their conclusions!

Of course! The Mail don’t make claims themselves, they use claims by other people in order to hide what they really think, but even better than that, they use quotes from people who don’t even agree with the charge they are hiding behind.

I contacted Dr Lloyd through her work email to verify whether it was really her who had left the comment. After confirming this she told me that she was “really fed up with the Daily Mail using this bit of a quote. The original was in the Guardian and has since appeared without context (and to support opinions I dislike) twice in the Mail and one in the Telegraph. So not just the tabloids!”

So let it be known, the Mail (and the Telegraph) will use quotes out of turn, without permission, to write ill-thought commentary on subjects they find contentious. Why people continue using this rag for information is well beyond me.

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Special educational needs and the Daily Mail

At what point do we suppose the Daily Mail not only dislikes the inclusion of young people with special educational needs in schools, but doesn’t think special educational needs exist outside of the 2% once designated before the Warnock report of 1978.

The Warnock report (Baroness Warnock) for the department of education and science (DES)had been reflected in the Education Act of 1981. The most prominent feature of the report to feature in the Act was the recommendation to abolish the ten statutory categories of handicap which had encompassed special educational needs since the 1944 Education Act.

Those categories were blind, partially sighted, deaf, partially hearing, educationally subnormal, epileptic, maladjusted, physically handicapped, speech defect, and delicate, and only applied to 2% of school aged children.

The Act went on to criticise the lack in identifying solutions to children with special educational needs, and though not addressing the exact number of children who qualified, a DES circular 8/81 accepted that up to 20% of children of school attending age can be regarded as having special educational needs (p.9, Croll and Moses, Special needs in the primary school: one in five?)

What had developed with further enquiries and scientific research was that children who needed a special education made up a larger amount of the population than originally thought, when only appealing to physical disabilities and not emotional.

The argument that was to emerge, and linger in the minds of many educationalists, was whether children with special educational needs could be educated in the same setting as other children.

The Mail was one of the papers who viewed Mary Warnock with suspicion, referring to her as having a “monstrous ego” that has helped destroy our moral and social heritage, for her work on special needs, embryo research and support for euthanasia.

But, as Mike Baker in 2005, retorted:

The Daily Mail derided her as a “monstrous ego” who had established the principle that all children, however disabled, “should be taught in mainstream schools”.

Yet she has never said all children should be taught in mainstream schools. Her Committee of Inquiry, and the subsequent legislation, said that provision should be in the mainstream “wherever possible”.

Warnock negated the view of some (even many schools and school leaders) that children with special educational needs were unable to be educated. Further, it predicted the rise in children who could be identified as having special educational needs (in the immediate aftermath of the report the percentage went from 2% to 20%), which, as with many stigmas in society, was not something that didn’t exist before, but the way in which experts have defined it, and the measures with which they judge special needs, has changed.

Isolating everyone who could be identified as having special educational needs would dilute schools and build barriers between people, that wouldn’t be beneficial for anyone in the long term.

What didn’t help matters much was Warnock’s decision to make a u-turn on her report in the 70s, saying instead that more, not fewer, special schools should be set up.

The Mail in an article today report that Philippa Stobbs, a senior government advisor, on special needs, has warned that schools are ‘over-labelling’ to “cheat league tables and attract more funding”. Which if true is the acting upon a perverse incentive by a school, and should not be used to call into question the different labels of special needs themselves.

However, in an unsourced paragraph, the article suggests:

it has also been claimed that doctors, teachers and parents are too keen to pin medical labels – such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – on what might previously have been branded poor discipline

Before using a quote by Dr Gwynedd Lloyd, an education researcher at the University of Edinburgh, who said:

You can’t do a blood test to check whether you’ve got ADHD – it’s diagnosed through a behavioural checklist.

Getting out of your seat and running about is an example – half the kids in a school could qualify under that criterion.

The latter is a statement of fact; you can’t do a blood test to check for ADHD, very true, and lots of children do like running about, but this does not quash the existence of ADHD any more than smiling proves the inexistence of depression.

Yet regarding the former quote, what benefit would a doctor receive from claiming a child has ADHD rather than poor discipline.

It is hard to tell whether the Mail are really highlighting this in order to show that more children are labelled with special educational needs, or whether they are dubious about the labels themselves, since they provide no proof of schools being perversely incentivised to ‘over-label’ or any professional benefitting from doing so.

Brentwood newspaper cozies up to BNP

Last year I was horrified to see on my local newspaper website an advert by the BNP. This year things are a little more serious for one Essex newspaper.

Martin McNeill, the editorial director for Newsquest, who own Basildon Echo among others, on which website the advert appeared, made the excuse to Jon Slattery that:

We are accepting paid-for advertising from any political parties or candidates standing in the current elections. I appreciate how strongly many people feel about the BNP, but it would be undemocratic and against the principle of free speech to refuse to accept any party’s advertising provided it falls within our guidelines.

It might explain this Essex newspaper having its hands tied – though I think the excuse is rather a lame kop-out. But this article in Brentwood will not be able to carry the same excuse off.

It reads:

“The party operates under a veil of secrecy to protect members from those who oppose their beliefs and did not reveal the location of the meeting until just minutes before it was due to start. With the pub set to become a regular meeting place for the new group, they have asked us not to reveal where it is.

“Christine Mitchell, a 68-year-old grandmother from Chelmsford, will be running the branch from here on in. Mrs Mitchell, who is contesting the newly created Saffron Walden seat in the general election on May 6, said: ‘We are fighting for British jobs for British workers, that is the start but we are standing for other reasons – crime rates, the state of the education system and the fact MPs have stolen from the public.’

The former Conservative leader of Westminster Council, Peter Strudwick, spoke for more than an hour during the meeting, rallying support for what he called “ideologies” for the future…

“Searching faces scoured the room until a man who had until then sat quietly in the corner, put his hand up to pledge £100. Others then thrust crisp £50 notes in the pot before the less well-off handed over their screwed up £10 and £20 notes. There was much applause and hand shaking as the money came flooding in, uniting the room in the campaign to bring about radical change.”

The last line is of course the most disturbing; this isn’t just an account of the meeting, it ends in a partisan way, not challenging the notion that the BNP are “radical change” – which of course might be true, but not in any way to be celebrated or uncontested.

As just a brief conclusion, I will point out that this is Essex is part of the Essex Chronicle, which in turn is owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust, which of course owns the Daily Mail. Not that that means anything of course.

(H/T left foot forward)

Ideology and the Femail

Is there a moral difference betwixt The Daily Mail’s bird magazine Femail or the Guardian’s woman bit Women? There is notable content difference, because by and large contributors tend to lean either on or to the left, and on or to the right respectively. But isn’t the inclusion of a supplement dedicated to woman’s issues itself gender divisive? If the content of that magazine has bits in it that talk about equality of the sexes rather than ‘Of course we women don’t want a male pill – it would end those happy little ‘accidents‘ or “I lost 10 stone in a year – and here are the pictures to prove it!” then does that secure a progressively moral high ground?

Similarly, is a female car more sexist if an Iranian company makes it than if a car is made in Europe that is advertised for women? Both magazines mentioned above are designed with women in mind, like both cars mentioned, but is it the content alone which satisfies our leftist sensibilities? If so, is this not a little weak? What does the content tell us about what women want (to use that old chestnut): if the content is on gender inequality is this a marker that we are not there yet? Or, if the content is about cosmetics, is this a marker that women are equal and this an expression of what it means to be female today, and not just the desire (often hidden in equality discourse) to be more like men – like that was a symbol, or an End Point, of equality.

If we think the content of those magazines are moronic, then isn’t the problem not that women magazines are made, but that they are bought?

After pondering these circular questions I wanted to find out the ideology behind using Buddy Holly’s song Everyday as part of the advertising campaign for the Daily Mail’s female magazine Femail. Could it be for the reason that Buddy Holly’s widow Maria Elena Holly, who owns the rights to Buddy Holly’s  name, image, trademarks, and other intellectual property, has throughout her life used these things for her own gain? As one article mentions “[m]uch of the tension existing between Maria Elena and Lubbock [American city in the state of Texas] stems from Maria’s desire to make money off anything baring Buddy Holly’s name or image”. By some accounts Maria wanted to name a street the “Buddy Holly Walk of Fame”, and call a terrace “Buddy Holly Terrace” – all at the expense of the city of Lubbock. She also tried, unsuccessfully, to sue Peggy Sue Gerron, the woman to whom the 1957 Buddy Holly classic “Peggy Sue” was dedicated – for releasing an autobiography called “Whatever Happened to Peggy Sue?”, in 2008.

Here was a woman who tried, and often failed, to amass capital – and charge people for the pleasure – from her husband’s name. She presumably owns the rights to the song Everyday, which the Daily Mail have paid to recreate as part of their advertising campaign for their women’s supplement Femail. Is it implicitly because this is the sort of feminism the Mail subscribes to? Female capitalism in the Name of the Father – the paternal function which imposes the law and regulates desire? Probably.

See more Gender Targeting in Print Ads by Nicola Batchelor (first result, opens as doc. file)

Oborne the Brave

Do we remember when Nick Cohen had a druken pop at two conservative columnists who were shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, he questioned their journalistic braveness (against his Martin Bright standard, who took his right wing ideas to the Statesman – like a man), Peter Hitchens for playing it safe in the Mail, and Oborne for much the same reason. Well I wonder if they took heed, I recently saw Hitchens write a reply to an article mentioning him in the staggers, and today Oborne today wrote a kind of introduction to his new book in favour of the Human Rights Act in the Guardian.

Oborne noted;

Myths abound about the act. These start out as newspaper reports. Soon they enter popular discourse. It is not long before they are used in the speeches of politicians. And yet almost invariably they are fabrications, or sometimes even outright lies. In our book we provide numerous examples. It is widely reported that hardcore pornography is available in prison thanks to the act, that the police cannot put up “wanted” posters thanks to it, and that it prevented Britain deporting Learco Chindamo, the killer of headteacher Philip Lawrence. All these stories – and many others – have distorted and poisoned public discourse on the Human Rights Act. They are false.

These myths (and/or major criticisms) about Human rights, I wondered, in which newspapers would they be likely to appear in, remembering for a moment who Oborne’s employers are? Perhaps this Metro report can help us. Of course the Metro are owned by Associated Newspapers (as are the Daily Mail). Does Oborne despair over this, perhaps not enough, causing one interested blogger to ask ‘why Obore didn’t write that in his Mail column?!’

This article by Afua Hirsch also details other examples where the Mail were responsible for erroneous reportage on Human rights, in particular the story headlined “The war criminals we cannot deport because of their human rights” which “suggested the Human Rights Act, and not – as is actually the case – a loophole in the UK’s implementation of international law, was to blame for genocide suspects living with impunity in the UK.”

She mentions in her article the case of Denis Nilsen who the press went crazy for when it noted he was allowed to view hardcore pornography as part of his human rights. Oborne himself mentions this in today’s article, as can be seen in the given quote above.

No prizes for guessing which organ of the press also had fun with this story. For those who can’t guess, see here!

Coincidence? Yes probably…

I just so happened to be reading an old article on Pickled Politics about the BNP European election leaflets when I was referred by a comment below the article to two Daily Mail articles criticising the party.

When I looked at the comments section of one of the articles I realised the number was rather worrying;

Just for fun

Lies, deceit, hate and Tory melancholy

Tory hacks are not as wry as before the expenses scandals. I mean, everyone is sulking, but Labour have plans up their sleeves, whereas the Tories main election winning force – i.e., “liberal conservatism” – is shaking.

Three events have been talked about today that have made the Tories just that little bit sadder.

Firstly, the family of Winston Churchill, notably Tory MP Nicholas Soames, are angry that the BNP have hijacked Churchill’s sayings in order to drum up national pride (although the uncovering of Nick Griffin’s edited magazine ‘The Rune’ has wiped smiles of the far-right’s faces, showing Griffin on record praising the SS and attacking the RAF).

Second, Tory Student has asked readers to vote UKIP (pretty standard this one?)

And thirdly, Daily Mail writer Peter Hitchens is sick of BNP voters using the Mail as a platform of their own, waving Read the Daily Mail placards and bombarding their comments pages with hate messages (because that is the job of the editor).