I don’t often take delight in others misfortune (at least I hope I don’t). But I am pleased to see Labour’s Phil Woolas brought to book. As Immigration minister he championed the Daily Mail cause against aslylum seekers, talking tough and nasty in order to please the bigots. I would be pleased if a Lib Dem were to replace him, but for me it will be justice enough to see the man himself removed.
Having read round the internet on this subject, the case has brought some interesting responses, and by interesting I mean downright strange.
Firstly there is the Daily Mail, whose general readership Woolas liked to play to. You’d expect the usual foaming-at-the mouth commenters to be split as here was a Labour minister who championed their cause. Do they cheer that a Labour MP has been found out as a lying cheat, or complain that he “woz only sayin what we were all thinkin”. No contest, it was the former, with some going as far as to accuse Woolas of being part of some great conspiracy to drop immigration controls flood Britain with foreigners. Thus demonstrating how little influence reality has on the opinions of the typical anti-immigration nutter.
Then there are repeated snide comments about Lib Dem “lies”, and how “they all do it”, and “What’s new after 13 years of Labour spin”. I know the 140 characters of twitter don’t lend themselves to much nuance, but really? Are people over simplifying for the sake of making pithy comments, or do they really not get it?
This was not just someone who told a lie. This is not someone who just picked on things in isolation in order to make someone look bad. This is not someone who expressed an opinion that happened to turn out to be wrong. This is someone who made up stuff about someone else in order to make them look bad, and printed it.
Amongst the commentary there are also some odd ideas about what constitutes a lie, and what is morally equivalent to telling an out and out lie.
There is a difference between telling lies and presenting your case in the most positive light you can.
There is a difference between telling lies and expressing mistaken beliefs. An untruth told in “good faith”, while morally wrong and a crime of incompetence, is not a lie.
There is a difference between telling lies and turning your back on a promise (for whatever reason). Being hopelessly unrealistic about what you can achieve is not dishonesty.
There is a difference between seeing things differently to you, and expressing that opinions, and telling lies. (Europhobes take note.)
There is a difference between telling lies about yourself to make yourself look good, and telling lies about another person in order to make them look bad. While I don’t approve of dishonesty in self promotion, it’s ludicrous to claim it is morally equivalent to defamation.
And no, I don’t believe politicians routinely tell lies about their opponents. They may highlight aspects of their behaviour in a negative way, they may express their opinions about what their opponents attitude amounts to. But they don’t generally just make stuff up.
If you’ve reached this point and are nodding away, then THANK YOU. There are still some sane, rational people out there and hope for the world.
If you thought this was all weasel words and pedantic nonsense, then please please please do grow up.
More on Phil Woolas:
I don’t often pay attention to the wind ups posing as news that newspapers print on the front page, but today’s Indipendant made me angry, and not with the journalists who published the story.
Austin Mitchell MP reports on the shameful conduct of the minister for immigration, and how it has made hi ashamed of his party.
Readers of a sensitive nature on these issues are warned that they may find the article upsetting.
I should have spent more hours in Hodge Hill two and a half years ago.
You may notice in the “causes” section on the right there a link to the “Just. Fair.” campaign.
(The animation requires that your computer has flash version 6 or higher).
On the way home I put some petrol in my car, and spotted the headline on todays “Daily Express”, complaining about the Dianna memorial fund giving money to asylum seekers and gypsies. This is furthering the myth that asylum seekers are freeloading scum, and not refugees fleeing from persecution. As far as I remember Princess Dianna was a supporter of the marginalised and disposessed in society, famously taking her sons on visits to homless shelters. The suggestion that asylum seekers don’t fit with this is outrageous, more about the right wing press’ image of them than reality. The article dismisses the fund as paying out to “fringe groups”. I think that term could describe most causes Dianna supported.
Fortunately I can’t find the same story in the online edition, but know I’m being too optimistic in thinking that’s beacuase they’re embarassed of making such statements.
Prompted by will I have elaborated on this post.
People in the more extreme wings of the press keep on that Britain is seen as a soft touch by refugees and asylum seekers. Well if this is anything to go by we are, and personally I’m quite proud to live in a country that’s only as racist and hard hearted as the one I was born and live in.
I wrote this commentary some time before I started this blog. Recent stories about media distorting health fears have made a revised version relevant again.
What has been worrying me recently is the undercurrent of hate, bigotry and fear in society. We all know it is far easier to react against something, than to stand up for something you agree with. However this does not fully explain why I feel so worried about the stress and anger in modern living.
The term “Asylum seeker” has been made to be a synonym for “potential illegal immigrant”. People are now convinced we’re being over run, and while the asylum system is may be in a mess, the situation is not anything like the alarmist coverage claims it is.
Children are safer now than they ever have been, but the increasingly shrill news coverage has convinced parents that cases like the Soham murders, are on the increase, and it is not safe to let your kids out. What is on the increase is sensitivity to and fear of danger; not the dangers themselves.
Earlier this year skewed coverage led people to believe the scientific community was divided over the safety of the MMR vaccine, to the point some people think it is riskier than not having it.
Distorted perceptions of risks are dangerous as people will also take actions to make their lives safer that have the opposite effect; running their kids to school, avoiding vaccines, not letting them play out and develop social skills and street sense. My main worry though is that driven by hate and fear, people will run to those who pander to those fears and exacerbate them, rather than those who will actually do something about them.