The range of punditry available to listeners of broadcaster LBC spans a wide arc of the political spectrum, and most of their hosts, from James O’Brien to Iain Dale, not only know their opinions, but also what they can and can not say on air. Sadly, this realisation that there is a difference between what you can get away with in print, and what can be asserted when it’s going out live, has not yet permeated the station’s entire roster.
Squeaky dishonesty callout finger up the bum time
LBC’s problem host right now - and it was their own choice to use his services - is former UKIP Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, who recently made a variety of highly creative claims about Sweden on his show, one of which has now come back to bite both him and the broadcaster. Farage may have been motivated to make his claims after the country was named in a Twitter outburst by Combover Crybaby Donald Trump.
Mr Thirsty had been advancing his claim that there had been a “dramatic rise” in sexual crime in Sweden, and that this was directly related to the admission into the country of significant numbers of refugees. He concluded that “Malmo is now the rape capital of Europe and, some argue, even the rape capital of perhaps the world”. And it was this claim that has now landed him, and LBC, in hot water.
Why this should be is not hard to understand: taking figures for sex related crimes in Sweden, which for instance has a definition of rape which is far wider than that used in other countries - including the UK - and trying to use them to make like with like comparisons is not going to give a reliable result. Those who pretend otherwise are either deluding themselves, or have an agenda to promote.
As Farage has also claimed “Malmo in Sweden is the rape capital of Europe due to EU migrant policies. Anyone who says there isn’t a problem is lying to you”, it’s not hard to see what agenda he might be pursuing. In any case, there have been nine complaints to Ofcom over his LBC claim - and the regulator must take them seriously. Farage may be about to discover that what he gets away with in print does not work on air.
There are two reasons for this, both down to sham press regulator IPSO. The first is the ability of that regulator to shoo away complaints by third parties, which means that most, if not all, of those complainants who could not prove they were personally affected by Mr Thirsty’s assertion - which may be all of them - would not have their complaints taken forward. In this way, the press gets its backside routinely wiped.
And the second is what is known as the “Littlejohn defence”, or “Delingpole manoeuvre”: pundits can make whatever outrageous claims they want to in their opinion columns, and when the inevitable complaints appear, stating that the pundit is presenting opinion as fact, or just lying, IPSO can say “It’s only an opinion column”.
In an opinion column, pundits can get away with telling whoppers because this is “just done for effect”, and readers are expected to know it’s “only opinion”.
Nigel Farage is now discovering that the kinds of things he got away with at the Express and Telegraph may not get past Ofcom. Good thing too.