Sunday 5 December 2010

PCC says it's OK to lie

So after a couple of months of pondering, the PCC have got around to replying to my complaint. You remember the one, where I pointed out that Richard Littlejohn was talking out of his arse when he claimed that "any Afghan climbing off the back of a lorry in Dover goes automatically to the top of the housing list"?

He said this despite the fact that it is simply not true - asylum seekers do not even join the housing queue and illegal immigrants (for fairly obvious reasons) aren't entitled to council houses and benefits at all. So Richard Littlejohn, who likes to portray himself as a man who speaks uncomfortable truths, made something up. He gave false information to his readers. He lied. And he did all this in an article that essentially blamed Afghan asylum seekers for the fact that an ex-soldier who served in Afghanistan couldn't get a council house, thus continuing the Mail's policy of whipping up anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hatred based on misinformation.

The PCC code is very clear on such matters. Section one, clause one says:
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures
And they've gone further on the subject of asylum seekers, issuing a note to editors that says:
"The Commission – in previous adjudications under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code – has underlined the danger that inaccurate, misleading or distorted reporting may generate an atmosphere of fear and hostility that is not borne out by the facts."
So obviously after I pointed out that Littlejohn had published inaccurate, misleading or distorted information that generated an atmosphere of fear and hostility that is not borne out by the facts, there was only ever going to be one outcome:

Commission’s decision in the case of Stable v Daily Mail


The complainant considered that the article falsely stated that “Afghans climbing off the back of a lorry in Dover” were given precedence in the allocation of council housing.


The Commission acknowledged the complainant’s concern over the statement; however, it had to consider the remark in the context of the article in which it appeared. The article had been clearly presented as a comment piece, in which the columnist expressed his concern that a soldier who had served in Afghanistan had not been granted a council house. The Commission considered that the columnist had exaggerated and simplified the example of housing immigrants for the purpose of stressing his assertion that the “system of government exists simply to punish those who do the right thing”. It emphasised that the newspaper should take care when using such rhetorical methods of expression that readers would not be misled into understanding that they reflected statements of fact. In this instance, on balance it considered that readers would be aware that the columnist was not accurately reflecting the government’s policy on the housing of immigrants, but that he was making an amplified statement for rhetorical effect. It was therefore the Commission’s view that, on this occasion, readers generally would not be misled in such a way as to warrant correction under the terms of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.

The covering letter notes that I can't complain about the decision or ask them to reconsider, but notes that they'll forward my letter to the editor. You couldn't make it up.

Now that the PCC has been quite clear that it's OK for journalists to lie for rhetorical effect, I think I'm on safe ground when I say that Richard Littlejohn is a fine, upstanding journalist, the Daily Mail is a wonderful publication whose employees can be proud to work for it, and that the Press Complaints Commission is an effective, relevant and entirely useful organisation that continues to make an excellent case for ongoing self-regulation of the UK media.


Anonymous said...

i agree with bnm. littlejohn is a vile specimen, and in this case you were right and he (shockingly!) was wrong. the pcc should've been more thorough.

noodle said...

.... The Commission considered that the columnist had exaggerated and simplified the example of housing immigrants for the purpose of stressing his assertion that the “system of government exists simply to punish those who do the right thing”....

what could possibly be wrong with using lies to stress such a worthy and indisputable 'assertion'?

Anonymous said...


Quite. That sentence makes my brain hurt its so wrong.

Basically, its okay to lie in order to assert a falsehood which based on that lie.

Franz Kafka, Joseph Heller and George Orwell couldn't have come up with that between them.

Anonymous said...

Spread this idea around - instead of getting all your protesters in one place so they can be kettled and beaten up, any protest movement should just send 3 volunteeres to every newspaper outlet with banners asking people not to buy the Daily Mail for that day. That way everyone would get to know about the protest, and everyone would be told the daily mail is a mouthpiece for the tories (Some folk don't even know this!), and it would be a very measurable protest, because the daily mail has to take back the returns that aren't sold.

Gareth said...

I wouldn't line my dog's basket with the Daily Mail. Shit paper, shit journalists and shit editorial. DM also considered England 2018 bid video 'too multicultural'.

Do the DM journos & readers ever get outside these days or are they all geriatric? Video was representative of reality. No going back.

Only solution is to promptly die doing a favour to all of the young left wingers who are the future of this country or fuck off to your holiday homes abroad, yes abroad in 'jonny foreigner' land. So it can't be all bad can it!?

Anonymous said...

well done you for making the case.

valdemar said...

Would the PCC have been so indulgent if Littlejohn had written, say, 'The Jews were behind the global credit crunch'?

Some people you can tell any old lies about, some people you can't. Great country we have. Wonderful free press.