Peddling Hate: The UK Gutter Press Back to its Old Tricks (It Never Stopped)

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The title of this piece is a deliberate side swipe at the kind of headlines that one might find in the UK gutter press.  As a blogger who painstakingly researches and references my articles, I take it personally that sections of our mainstream media are granted an enormous platform which they use to spit at poor and marginalised people from a safe distance. Today’s blog looks at some recent examples of this dangerous hatemongering, some devastating outcomes and asks: how do we make it stop?

Transphobia from the Left

 NPG x87274,Julie Burchill; Charlotte Raven,by Polly Borland

There have been a rash of article of late across the mainstream media which have specifically targeted the Trans* community with harassment, ridicule and hate.

In January of this year, a thoughtless comment in a Suzanne Moore article led to the mother of all twitter spats.  Moore’s refusal to accept she had caused offense in an article led to a vigorous response from the Trans* community.

Unfortunately, Julie Birchill decided that what this powder keg really needed was a naked flame, and promptly hurled herself into the fray in the form of a bilious article.  The piece is nothing short of hate speech and spawned a series of equally disgusting clones by the likes of Tom Peck, Terence Blacker and Toby Young.  The following are quotes from the Birchill rant:

“I nevertheless felt indignant that a woman of such style and substance should be driven from her chosen mode of time-wasting by a bunch of dicks in chick’s clothing.”

“To have your cock cut off and then plead special privileges as women – above natural-born women, who don’t know the meaning of suffering, apparently – is a bit like the old definition of chutzpah: the boy who killed his parents and then asked the jury for clemency on the grounds he was an orphan.

Shims, shemales, whatever you’re calling yourselves these days – don’t threaten or bully we lowly natural-born women, I warn you. We may not have as many lovely big swinging Phds as you, but we’ve experienced a lifetime of PMT and sexual harassment, and many of us are now staring HRT and the menopause straight in the face – and still not flinching. Trust me,  you ain’t seen nothing yet. You really won’t like us when we’re angry.”

Perhaps most upsetting was that these articles were not appearing in the Daily Mail or the Sun, but the Guardian and The Independent, who really should know better.  Given our politicians are all leaning to the right to gather more votes; are our newspapers now following suit in the name of readership?

Transphobia from the Right

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Richard Littlejohn used his platform in the Daily Mail to launch a visceral attack on a Trans* teacher which set off months of press harassment, ending with the teacher taking her own life to escape the media storm.

Lucy Meadows was three months into living her life as a woman when she decided she could live no longer.  The 32 year old teacher had undergone gender transition and had been well supported by her school.  The school sent information on her name and gender change in their newsletter and stated their full support.  A few disgruntled parents and a bigoted columnist later, and a hate genie was out of the bottle.

In an article entitled ‘He’s Not Only in the Wrong Body, He’s in the Wrong Job’ Littlejohn railed against what he viewed as an utter obscenity.

“But has anyone stopped for a moment to think of the devastating effect all this is having on those who really matter? Children as young as seven aren’t equipped to compute this kind of information.” He writes.

The article goes on to quote a parent of a student who says: ‘My middle boy thinks that he might wake up with a girl’s brain because he was told that Mr Upton, as he got older, got a girl’s brains.’

My three year old niece thinks ninkynonks live at the bottom of the garden, but I’m not launching a hate campaign against In the Night Garden.  These adults are using their children’s natural curiosity as a cover for their own hatred.  A simple conversation, honesty without judgement; this is all a child needs to make sense of the world.  What these bigots also assume is that their children are not already having conversations with themselves about sexuality and gender (which believe me, they are).  A clear statement that they will be loved and accepted for whoever and whatever they are is the biggest gift a parent can give their child.

Instead, those children will now have to process the death of their teacher by suicide after months of press harassment. This example of a person they knew and cared for being hounded literally to death simply because she didn’t ‘fit in’ will no doubt have blown those children’s world apart.

Immigration, Immigration, Immigration

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The Daily Mail really does specialise in the kind of flagrant, innate bigotry that is generally ignored or snorted at when dispensed by a drunken uncle.  But the Daily Mail is not a drunken uncle.  It is one of the most widely read newspapers in the country and should not be granted some kind of exception to print what the hell it likes because people continue to buy it.  That said, if people would only stop buying the poisonous rag then it would be forced to adapt or die.

The picture above is just one example of the kind of anti immigrant propaganda one can find among its pages.  I wrote an article recently busting some myths around immigration, but when the mainstream media machine is pumping out bile like this on a daily basis, rational voices are drowned out.

According to the Daily Mail, immigrants are taking our jobs, raping our women, launching crime waves, swamping the country, and generally ruining our country and way of life. No facts required, no perspective provided, just straight out lies and propaganda.

The Welfare State is Responsible for Murder? What?!

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This morning the Daily Mail further disgraced itself with the above front page. The paper is now exploiting the death of six children, to take a swipe at the welfare state.  Blaming the welfare state for the Philpott killings is like blaming the Rambling Association for the Moors Murderers.

I understand the argument for simply turning the other cheek and ensuring our personal news consumption comes from other sources, but it actually bothers me that this paper exists. It would bother me if it was a pamphlet handed out by the BNP, let alone one of the UK’s most widely read papers.  It bothers me that people are being so horribly misinformed, and having their basest fears and prejudices stoked by billionaire press barons.  It bothers me that these misinformed people will misinform their children, friends and family.  It bothers me that these lies, repeated often enough, will become truth by popular opinion.  So for me, it is not enough to create our alternative media and write decent, well researched pieces.  We need to challenge this indefensible hatemongering head on, because it is not a victimless crime.

The truth is that such hate speech has an impact, it hardens opinions and it results in injury and death.  There were 43,748 hate crimes recorded by the police in 2011/12. 35,816 (82%) were race hate crimes; 1,621 (4%) were religion hate crimes; 4,252 (10%) were sexual orientation hate crimes; 1,744 (4%) were disability hate crimes; and 315 (1%) were transgender hate crimes.  Last year also saw a record breaking 12,711 prosecutions for racially motivated hate crimes; that is 35 crimes every day.  Hate crime against disabled people has shot up by 25%, thanks in part to the constant scaremongering about ‘scroungers’.

This is why hate speech needs to be countered, not simply ignored.  Those who listen take actions and generating this level of anger, fear and hatred boils over into real pain for real people. The post Leveson world is no different from the pre Leveson world.  Gutter press merchants are still printing sexist, homophobic, racist, transphobic, disablist rhetoric and masses of people are still buying it.

So what do we do?

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Firstly, we can support independent media which honours humanity.  Refuse to buy from media which fails your honour test, and pay for the media that does even if it is free to use (there is a PayPal button on my ‘About’ page!).

Secondly, don’t stand for it. If you see something which you believe counts as hate speech, do not shrug it off as ‘just what the Daily Mail/Sun/Daily Express does’.  Complain to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), start a petition, take to the comments section with your view and invite your friends to join in. Give them hell.

Finally, be good people. The recipe for world peace is world peace.  By this I mean: all it takes for us to live in peace with each other is to just…live in peace with each other.  Have the courage to counter opinions which challenge that speech, with love and understanding.  Hug your friends, forgive your enemies, be a force for wonderful things in the world.  That’s not just some soppy rubbish, this is how we make our world a better place; we be better.

Take Action

Petitions

Sack Littlejohn for Death of Lucy Meadows

Boycott Daily Mail for Philpott Front Page

Campaigns & Things of Interest

Hacked Off – campaign group against intrusive press

How to Make a Complaint page of the PCC

Please leave your thoughts on all of the above in the comments section, along with further campaigns, petitions and other cool stuff readers of this post might like to see.

18 thoughts on “Peddling Hate: The UK Gutter Press Back to its Old Tricks (It Never Stopped)

  1. Sigh, it was the welfare moms in the nineties and now it is the immigrants , scroungers, including fake disabled. Once it was the Catholics and the Irish ( same thing usually), the Jews the Commies and so on and so on. You would think that after studying history people would get an inkling of the Big Lie and the Scapegoat, and begin to question propaganda, but we don’t, do we? The powerful can always divide the powerless by arousing their basest fears and prejudices. It makes one want to weep. THANKS FOR YOUR GOOD WORK.

  2. Pingback: Peddling Hate: The UK Gutter Press Back to its Old Tricks (It Never Stopped) | L8in

  3. I can’t understand why Littlejohn hasn’t been arrested. I have served on committees with the Police and others in my work with a community organisation where the issue of hate crime was frequently discussed. It is a criminal offence to victimise an individual because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation. The vile worlds that this man was putting out was nothing more than a campaign of hate against Lucy. He belongs to the same ilk as the yob in the street who spills out his anger and hatred with verbal abuse in the street. If the police can (an should) deal with these obnoxious individuals then why not Littlejohn? One has to ask where this hatred comes from and, as is often in these cases, it most likely stems from some unresolved sexual issues.

    • I signed the petition to call for the paper to sack Littlejohn already. But I would gladly also sign the petition calling for Littlejohn to be forced to confront his deep-seated sexual issues. In fact, if I could sit in, I’d pay for it.

  4. ….so what should we just leave ‘people’ like this to what they want… I mean the slimebag of a ‘man’ who does the things that this thing has been found guilty. of… I’m fairly intellegent and I see no blame or slur on the welfare state here…. it’s a condemnation of the failings of the social services …… 6 children DIED at the hands of this sicko and y’all condeming the Mail for reporting it …still what to say …y’all wanna stay in the ‘us and them’ society nothing I can do to change that….. I’m guessing we’re dealing with Guardian readers here ….a paper just as misinformed /ing as any other …..oh just reread the last paragrap of the blog….that’s ok then we’ll give the mail staff a big hug …and the ‘thing’ that MURDERED ‘its’ children …… that’ll sort it…;<?

    • Thank you for that enlightening demonstration of the insidious effect this sort of propaganda has on the unwitting individual. No one is claiming we shouldn’t report these issues. They’re asking that they not be used to justify unconnected political agendas. Just because it involves an emotional issue, doesn’t mean you should just believe anything you read. The availability of benefits doesn’t create murderers – the claim is ludicrous. The US has hardly any social provision and has still created the likes of Jeffery Dahmer. But because one murderer happens to have claimed benefits, the paper and the Prime Minister use the association to suggest correlation. It’s just as stupid as assuming that because Peter Sutcliffe was from Leeds that all mass murderers will come from Leeds.

      You need to take a pause and question the motivations of the people imparting information to you. They are using those children just as cynically as Philpott did. If they were interested in preventing the problem, they would be calling for more investment in criminal prevention and giving more resources to the overtaxed institutions that weren’t able to deal with him the first time around. They aren’t doing that because it’s not their remit; their remit is to convince you and everyone else that the political direction adopted by their cohorts in government are justified. And that treats no one with respect; not me, not you, not people on benefits and certainly not the children that you’ve said you are concerned for.

  5. I completely share your outrage over what the Mail does. I was particularly upset by Littlejohn and the Lucy Meadows case. However, please be very careful in framing what you say about this, as incautious language here can allow the Mail to claim some kind of disingenuous ‘innocence’ – and they will.

    Lucy died. That is all we officially know. Suicide is regarded as likely – many trans people are driven to it, and many many more attempt it as they are stigmatised, ridiculed and isolated (or much worse) in society. Papers like the Mail are at the forefront of that hate and stigmatisation, have been for years, and they did so again in this case.

    However, it is not possible to suggest that the Mail CAUSED Lucy’s death – categorically – and if the coroner comes back with a verdict that (a) She committed suicide and (b) There were a number of factors involved (potentially, one suspects, but not only including press harassment), then the Mail and others WILL use it to claim they are not the prime culprit, or even responsible at all.

    This would be a travesty. The Mail, the Accrington Observer and others, all monstered Lucy, and their disgusting behaviour took no account of the total lack of ‘public interest’ in this story, or the potential effect on an innocent life. That is the issue here – the attitude, motivations and seeming untouchability of the Mail and others in their bullying of the weak and the unprotected to find a story. Pictures were used without permission by newspapers, money paid for ‘negative’ quotes (while supporters of Lucy, of whom there were many, went unquoted). If we allow the Mail, or others, to hide behind some kind of defence that it remains ‘not proven’ exactly how much role it played – specifically – in the death of Lucy Meadows, it is allowing them off the hook. It is their sickening behaviour which remains key to this, not the sad fact of the ultimate fate of Lucy.

    More on this here http://image-not-available.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/the-death-of-lucy-meadows.html

    • …whilst I have the greatest sympathy for Lucy Meadows…I can’t see the connecton to this case….this ‘man’ killed 6 children… had a history of violence and rape…. ( that’s just what he got caught for ? ) and what we’re suposed to protect him from the ‘evil’ Daily Fail…… doesn’t compute for me…. ;<?

      • I wasn’t commenting on the Philpott case. But the gratuitous attempt to make it somehow the ‘fault’ of the welfare state (Mail clearly taking it’s role as evangelist of right wing Tory party very seriously as it tries to take the heat off IDS’s welfare measures) is classic Dacre. The ‘insidious conflation’ of two unconnected themes so that one poisons the other is something the Mail – and the tabloids – are real experts at. You see it all the time – gratuitous connections made so that innuendo sticks, to a very clear agenda. As your outrage is inflamed around one aspect, the aim is to ensure some of it attaches to the other too..

        Philpott didn’t do what he did because he was a product of welfare. He did it because he was/is scum.

  6. I liked your post until you put a link for Hacked off who’s campaign for press regulation which will curtail free speech. They also refuse to revel the people who fund the group like often complained about Tax Payers Alliance.

    • Erm… care to explain how they will do that? They want to make the press legally accountable for their actions. That doesn’t curtail free speech. It just prevents the press having carte blanche to act however they want and wash their hands of the consequences.

  7. Today I complained about the Daily Mail article on the Philpott case to the PCC. In a grotesque irony, guess who chairs the PCC Committee on the Code of Ethics? One Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail. Thus, all complaints to the PCC against the Mail are about as useful as a fart in the wind.

  8. I ceased buying a national newspaper (the Guardian) the moment they switched support to the LibDems although I do occasionally visit Guardian.com. I suggest all those who feel journalism in this country has reached a new low cease buying these tawdry rags, although the fact they are all losing money seems to indicate many people have already done so.

    As for the Daily Bile, it is the UK’s version of Streicher’s ‘Der Sturmer’ and the only useful purpose it would serve is if one’s lavatory paper ran out

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  10. especially boycott! use other sources and pay to do so, steer others away from such hateful reporting…all good. guess in these days of orwellian realities there’s few options for holding these ministry of truth asshats to any standards of decency…love this…reblogging

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