Archive for the ‘tabloids’ category

Better understanding of numbers needed, stat

Results from a new survey doing the rounds today lament the global public’s political innumeracy. But, far from being wrong at random, citizens from fourteen different countries think the world is a worse place than it actually is. No area of standard media controversy escapes our collective statistical pessimism: from immigration, to teenage pregnancy, to the ageing population, those surveyed are sure there is more, it is worse, and everyone is dying.

Some of these numbers are delightfully crazy if you think about them. For example, the average estimate from the UK general public is that, in a given year, 16% of 15–19 year-olds give birth. So one in six people in a 5-year age bracket give birth annually…so, on average, almost every girl has a baby before she hits 20. Nationally. And around half of people must have guessed more than that. Would you? Really, would you?!

Additionally, Brits think 24% of our population are immigrants, when actually it’s 13%. Check out how ignorant we are! And it seems that ignorance in these cases is not bliss: it’s a combination of fear and misunderstanding of percentages.

Perceptions of immigration: What a mess!

Perceptions of immigration: What a mess! Today’s Daily Mail front page.

So far, so depressing. But wait, there’s more: this litany of public misunderstanding was reported in numerous publications, including…the Daily Mail.

Whilst the Mail stops short of blaming our unskilled estimation on pregnant teenage asylum seekers (who are shown in the sidebar in their beachwear), this editorial decision may nonetheless have registered on your irony meter.

Since the survey somehow didn’t make it into the print edition, let’s instead look at some headlines which did (Daily Mail, 29th October 2014):

  • IMMIGRATION: WHAT A MESS! (Front page, top story. Immigration.)
  • Is UK really doing worse on child poverty than Romania and Bulgaria? (If this were determined by polls, then probably yes.)
  • Britain an El Dorado for migrants (Immigration.)
  • We can’t control borders while we’re in the EU, says minister (Immigration.)
  • No more rescue missions to save migrants in Med boats (Immigration.)
  • Is Qatar the most two-faced nation on Earth? (Foreigners.)
  • A swamped [immigration] system that just can’t cope (Immigration.)
  • The Taliban and Hamas live in luxury in Qatar’s capital city (Foreigners, cont’d.)
  • And the bride wore a hidden camera (Includes pull quote: ‘A passport is like gold dust’. So also immigration.)
  • Former Girl Guide who turned extremist flees to Syria with baby son (This ‘young mum’ was actually 23 or 24 at the time. In fairness to the Mail, however, this story is about emigration.)

Oh God. What kind of country do we live in? Mummy, I know you’re only 14, but please protect me from it all!

Sorry, where were we? Oh yes, that survey of topical pessimism. Clearly people aren’t answering from personal experience, because the average of everyone’s personal experience should give approximately the correct percentage. (This is due to maths.) So could people be guessing based on fear and prejudice? And where might that have arisen?

We don’t know but, as the Mail’s headline writers clearly do know, implication is a powerful tool. We’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Just as a friendly warning, those conclusions are probably numerically inaccurate.

Written by Statto and Tom

October 29, 2014 at 17:11

Posted in Daily Mail, statistics

Jimmy’S a vile man

It was on Friday evening that the BBC finally fixed it for all of us to see a photo of Jimmy Savile looking like a child-molesting paedo-creep:

If the accusations levelled against the cuddly national treasure, entertainer and knight Sir Jim had been faintly unbelievable thus far, then this was surely proof. The thin-lipped grimace; the wild eyes; the mottled skin, unflattered by direct flash; all classic signs that the BBC had chosen this, amongst thousands of photos of the eponymous star of Jim’ll Fix It, in a bid to fulfil their tabloid duty to the British public to painstakingly not quite totally piss all over due process. The Beeb has been slow on the uptake with that internal investigation (with delays of over 30 years)…they could probably afford to wait a little while before dropping that JPEG-bomb.

Besides, we’ve got the horrible reports of victims, the pervading memory of a creepy and eccentric bloke, and now this photograph. The profile of Jimmy Sa-vile is just about complete. Since you can’t libel the dead: let it be known that he did it, the disgusting kiddy-fiddling shit.

Written by Statto and Tom

October 13, 2012 at 12:45

Posted in BBC, paedos, tabloids, UK news

Headline Superheroes Assemble: Round 2

Column inches and pixel-millimetres-squared are precious, so truncation is natural in headlines…but, just sometimes, sense and sensitivity should come first. Welcome the latest batch of headline superheroes!

Do let us know if you find any of your own: tweet @headheroes, hashtag ’em #headlinesuperhero, Facebook ’em, or leave a comment below!

Aphrodisiac attack wife convicted

Her husband shakingly testified that she had smashed through the window, unleashing a volley of oysters, dark chocolate and tiger penis.

Fire extinguisher student is paying too high a price for his idiocy

His professor failed him for the whole year on account of one terrible extended essay on the differences between long-cone and star-burst hose dispersal systems on foam-based fire-fighting tools.

Gunshot man’s ‘execution’ death

For when ‘Man shot’ just doesn’t cut the mustard. Also a plot synopsis for the new Judge Dredd movie.

‘Rest break’ death ambulance technician keeps job

‘Hey, Rest Break!’ called Aphrodisiac Attack Wife from the back of the ambulance.

‘Look, I’ve told you. Call me Death Ambulance Technician—I don’t feel like we’re on nickname terms yet,’ responded ‘Rest Break’ Death Ambulance Technician, grouchily.

‘I can sort that out!’ she replied, unleashing a volley of oysters, dark chocolate and tiger penis.

Outcry over disowned US rape girl

As if it weren’t bad enough that she’s been disowned, Rape Girl has to live with her new title, which defines her by an event that not only brought her great physical and emotional pain, but also led to her estrangement. Woo!

Hartlepool stab death man was ‘self defence’

Hartlepool stab death man story editor was ‘poor standard of English’.

Baby wipe horror man admonished

‘You won’t dare admonish me when I’m a fully-grown Wipe Horror Man!’ riposted the baby Wipe Horror Man gravely, as shocked onlookers tried to grapple with the severity of the circumstances surrounding a dirty bum.

Bikini girl: Pervert yeti stalked me

Bikini Girl was forced to call upon the declarative powers of Pervert Yeti’s arch-nemesis, Sex Claim Man (remember him?).

Noisy sex woman admits ASBO breach

‘Yes! Oh, yes! Yes!’ Noisy Sex Woman told the court on being asked if she’d breached her ASBO.

Slough sausage choke baby death woman jailed

Baby Death Woman wowed a capacity crowd with her signature move, the Slough Sausage Choke.

Death explosion man ‘devastated’

Explosions do tend to be quite devastating. Whatever the case, keep your distance, or this guy might death explode.

US Skype death soldier Bruce Kevin Clark ‘not shot’

Skype Death Soldier’s powers include killing the conversation and causing fatal exceptions in VoIP software.

Prison for anti-freeze drink man

This jailbird tear-jerker will melt your heart: he was raised to be an ice-cold killer, but all that ethylene glycol put paid to that.

Murder girl parents’ India trip

I bet Murder Girl Parents were proud to have their holiday summed up succinctly with just five nouns and one possessive apostrophe.

Electrocution death firm cleared

…of electrocution death bodies.

Still no clue over bath death man

…headline choice.

‘UDA were behind boy bat attack’

Meet Boy Bat: a very rich young bat who paid for a special boy suit to be made so he could rid his cave of evil. And guano.

Banknote fetish man gets jail sentence cut on appeal

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from the headline superheroes, it’s that we’d appeal against the cutting of sentences.

Written by Tom and Statto

September 18, 2012 at 17:40

Sun bathes in self-righteousness over royal tits up

Every link on this page is NSFW because it’s a link to The Sun (and who wants their colleagues to think they read that?), but some also contain pictures of ladies with no top on. Check the hover text!

Yesterday, The Sun led with the ‘furore’ around the topless Kate Middleton photos published in French magazine Closer. The grumpy paper, usually no stranger to famous people’s boobs, speaks out to support pressing charges against the photographer who snapped her sunbathing topless on a balcony.

Thankfully, Sun editors are smart enough to realise that at least one of their readers might recall August 24th, when they published nudey pics of Prince Harry ‘in the public interest’ (a day after publishing naked pictures of a Sun intern and their picture editor reenacting the scene, also in the public interest). Hypocrisy? Don’t worry, the red-top defends its no-top double standards in a blistering editorial:

Harry had no realistic expectation of privacy. He invited large numbers of strangers to his hotel suite for alcohol-fuelled high jinks involving stripping naked without any checks on who was present. No attempt was made to remove mobile camera phones.

Another semi-clad celebrity who could also presumably have had no reasonable expectation of privacy from the Sun was Kate Moss, photographed shortly before the Harry furore, topless on a yacht in St Tropez. In this case, there seems to have been no missed opportunity to frisk everyone in a several-mile radius for image-recording apparatus, and thus it appears that The Sun is trying to both have its Kate, and eat it.

One area where The Sun’s standards are at least universal is between the living and the deceased. In this best of beach babes’ boobs digest, most recently updated on July 25th this year, two of the included breasts belong to troubled, and now dead, pop star Amy Winehouse. There’s even a Kate-controversy connection, with Ms Winehouse having got naked on a balcony whilst on holiday. (Let’s just check whether that was included in the Sun’s glowing photobituary ‘life in pictures’… Oh, no. Fancy that.)

But, remember, kids…back to The Sun’s defensive editorial:

The final irony is that it is France—smug, privacy-obsessed France—that published grossly intrusive pictures no decent British paper would touch with a bargepole.

If The Sun’s staff took some time out from peddling selected smut, they could buy a dictionary—or hire a pap to snap a celeb reading a dictionary with her boobs out, like a decent paper would—and learn what ‘irony’ means. (We think there’s a picture of Britain’s breast newspaper making a big deal about not revelling in outdoor boobies.) Oh, and check out ‘smug’ while you’re at it: I haven’t heard France making self-satisfied, sweeping statements about heterogeneous groups lately. Which makes the accusation, in itself, ironic. Oh, stop it with the long words and turn to Page 3 for the things that really interest the public’s bargepole.

Written by Tom and Statto

September 17, 2012 at 09:42

Posted in boobs, The Sun

The Express talk scrap about Europe

It was hard to walk past a news stand today without doubling over, either from fear or hilarity depending on whether you’re one of the Express’ Righteous Crusaders to Get Britain Out Of The EU Right Now or someone that at least makes an effort to form an opinion. For the Express, it did scream:

Express: EU plot to scrap Britain

Don’t worry though, the body text was far more measured:

The plan could create a modern-day equivalent of the European emperor envisaged by Napoleon Bonaparte or a return to the Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne that dominated Europe in the Dark Ages.

Yes, that’s right. The EU is at risk of transforming from a sometimes-ineffective but well-meaning bureaucratic nightmare quite literally into a brutal religious dictatorship in which no-one can see because all lighting was banned by Brussels. And what’s the plan, you ask? Why, nothing less than a devious scheme to merge the presidencies of the European Council and the European Commission!

It’s unclear why this would result in the scrapping of Britain (or indeed what it means to ‘scrap’ a country anyway), but perhaps the author of this exclusive exposé was badly burned when he got a dual-fuel deal on his utilities and some bright spark delivered his gas and electricity through the same pipe.

Regardless, at least we learn—albeit with a citation most definitely needed—that

The two senior EU bureaucrats, Mr Barroso and Mr Van Rompuy, are locked in a bitter power struggle to determine who is the true big cheese or ‘grand fromage’ in Europe.

Thank God that they want to be the grand fromage and not the große Käse, or the Express’ typewriter (which has had all filthy, foreign diacritics removed) would’ve been unable to cope.

In reality, there may be a few guys in Europe who have had a little blue-sky thinking session and wondered whether rationalising the mad European institutional labyrinth with a single big Président might be a good place to start. That’s it. If they were genuinely challenging the existence of Britain, we’d be out of Europe faster than a hedge fund’s capital gains.

There are three ways you can take this story: you could be a sneery, sad newshound who finds this hilarious; a Machiavellian newshound who thinks we should get out of Europe and thus sees this as a slightly rancid means to an end; or, you could be an unfortunate Express reader, for whom this is news, taken as a fact as cold and hard as fromage cheddar dans le réfrigérateur.

How are stories like this allowed to be published? If anyone buys the Express other than purely ironically, and we have to assume they do, this kind of crap is dangerous. There are good, interesting reasons to be involved in, or wary of, various aspects of the European project, but out-and-out factless antipathy doesn’t help anyone, except possibly the Express’ proprietors.

In fact, their willingness to treat their readers with such disdain is rather tasteless. Like cottage cheese. Which, unhelpfully for sarcastic sub-editors on a deadline, translates to blanc à la faisselle. But, like the EU, it requires more than a GCSE in French and some hysterical newspaper-stoked fear to understand.

Written by Statto and Tom

May 4, 2012 at 18:54

Posted in Express, tabloids

Daily Mail Bricks itself in

To those lucky enough not to have been following this story since its bitter beginnings, Samantha Brick is a woman. She wrote an article for the Daily Mail on Tuesday, complaining that other women hate her because she’s too beautiful. The utter irrelevance of the piece, the galling arrogance of the idea, and Ms Brick’s failure to meet the standards of ‘beauty’ for many readers was a red rag to a platoon of bulls. The page was inundated with comments, and thus was born a temporary mini-phenomenon for both traditional and social media.

Now, the ante just keeps getting upped:

The self-parody alert apparently hasn’t gone off at Daily Mail HQ. Or maybe it has, and someone pulled the wires out and stamped on it a few times because the sound it made was just too beautiful for human ears. Even seasoned press disparagers are watching the continued apparently-uncontrolled-but-possibly-self-aware tailspin of the Samantha Brick non-story with a kind of pinch-nosed amusement so, apart from the fact that we’ve not linked to the story directly, they’ve won. The Daily Mail have found the winning formula.

They’ve created a totally bizarre perpetual motion machine of a story that runs entirely on its own perceived notoriety, regardless of the number of meta- prefixes required to explain the situation. I might be wrong, but I think we’ve become meta-meta-meta-interested, in that the most interesting aspect is that meta-meta-interested parties (who recognise the cheap ad-revenue-maximising strategy being employed) still go back for more. If that interests you, it’s time to get a job in a philosophy department. Or at the Guardian.

The Daily Mail is collapsing into an event horizon of navel-gazing recursive reporting which threatens to engulf Twitter, Fleet Street and, shortly, the entire western spiral arm of the galaxy.

And, when half of the Milky Way is torn asunder as an indirect result of them, I think we’d all be justified in hating Samantha Brick for her looks.

Written by Statto and Tom

April 6, 2012 at 14:22

Posted in Daily Mail, metamedia

No re-Morse

Oxford astrophysicist Professor Steve Rawlings was found dead on Wednesday. He was by all accounts an excellent academic, and I can vouch for the quality of his undergraduate lectures. Most importantly, my thoughts go out to his family, friends and the Oxford Physics community.

The tabloids’ thoughts, however, are nowhere to be seen (do they even have any?). I hate the prurient, half-baked insinuation flying around after a possibly-suspicious death, but sadly this one is close enough to home (I’m a physicist at Oxford University) that I have read some of it. I took the Telegraph’s hot-off-the-press reporting with an appropriate pinch of salt, revulsion and intrigue (the Beeb and Guardian being far too measured at this stage in proceedings to allow me to accrue any goss), but it’s The Sun which really took the biscuit, and pissed all over it like a US Marine. Murdoch’s red-top opens its sombre tribute to the great prof with

An Oxford University don has been found dead at a rival lecturer’s home after a suspected academic row.

A ‘rival’ lecturer? What does that even mean? Last time I checked, Oxford’s admittedly-unusual teaching system was not adversarial, and academics are notoriously benign. But, for those of us thickies for whom decoding nonsensical innuendo is too complicated, The Sun still delivers. Later in the article, it explains:

Prof Rawlings was based at St Peter’s College…in Oxford—setting of the Inspector Morse TV murders.

Oh, thanks The Sun, that’s really put this tragedy in a context I can relate to: it’s like a trite televised murder mystery! Now I understand. I guess a world of easy caricatures, cheap cultural shorthand and ‘rival academics’ who might kill one-another over differing interpretations of Bayes’ theorem is easier to write about than waiting for a police investigation to pan out in order to report actual facts.

Fuck you, The Sun.

And fuck you, The Daily Mail: they couldn’t even confine their self-satisfaction at having spotted the Morse connection to the article, and blurted it out in the headline:

Oxford don quizzed over the death of professor who was his best friend (with all the hallmarks of a Morse mystery)

Oh, so he’s his best friend now? I guess that does make some sense, given that they tell us

Professor Rawlings and Dr Sivia co-wrote a book titled Foundations of Science Mathematics…available for £13.99.

Sorry, what? Not content with merely ‘sickening’ and keen to rack up ‘bizarre’ to boot, The Mail’s remorseless search for not-even-circumstantial or just plain irrelevant non-evidence extended to seeking out some Amazon reviews for their co-written tome on maths. ‘It covers everything I need and will be useful to look back at maths I have done in the past, for future reference,’ explained a witness. I mean, student. Who read a book they wrote in 1999 and posted a review on the Internet. If that isn’t admissible evidence in our so-called justice system, I think we should probably abandon it right now and initiate universal Trial by Media in the Court of Public Opinion.

Every time a newspaper comes near something I know anything about, bullshit, inaccuracy and innuendo are thrown about as though salacious copy sells copies or something. The self-parodying, stereotype-laden stories in The Sun and The Mail lend the world a warm, simplistic familiarity, rather more like an episode of Inspector Morse than the diverse, messy world they claim to relate. Real life is far more interesting, and the real people in it far more complex than the column-filling caricatures in the tabloids. And one of those real people is now dead, and many whose lives he touched are now grieving. Have some fucking sympathy.

Rest in peace, Professor Rawlings.

Written by Statto

January 13, 2012 at 10:10

Posted in Daily Mail, The Sun, UK news