The Sunday Telegraph today has devoted a remarkable amount of space to what eventually becomes a tedious and unsuccessful attempt to justify the succession of falsehood and misinformation over the EU by blaming their lack of success on the BBC for reporting the facts. Observers of the paper’s sad decline will note that it now uses the same tactics as the Daily Mail, but with less success.
The Tel’s problem is that, last weekend, they tried to pull the largely fictitious yarn that there were 600,000 unemployed EU migrants sponging off the state. The fact of the matter was that very few of them were claiming benefits of any kind, and although the Tel didn’t make the explicit claim that they all were doing so, the figure was pitched as part of a discussion on so-called “Benefit Tourism”.
But why devote so much space to the BBC? Ah well. The hated Beeb made the mistake of effectively fact-checking the Tel’s effort, and this has resulted in a remarkably sneering editorial titled “Are you happy, Tony Hall, about the BBC’s bias?”, making the unproven assertion at the outset, as the paper pretends that it cares about “overburdening of the welfare state”, which it does not.
This frames the debate as the Tel versus the might of the dastardly EU: “when we reported these facts, those sympathetic to the EU Commission’s views fought back”. See, it’s a Star Wars remake, and the BBC is on the wrong side: “Troublingly, the BBC – which prides itself on impartiality – appeared to take the EU’s side ... Its bias was, in our view, startling”. And, as the man said, there’s more.
“He claimed that the Government had failed to provide any evidence of benefit tourism – hardly surprising, since under Labour no record was kept of claimants’ nationality”. Bullshit detector sounding. We’re three and a half years into the Coalition’s tenure, plenty for them to have found some evidence of “benefit tourism”. So thank you, but I don’t want to look over there.
“Mr Easton pointed out that the figure of 600,000 included retired people, students and families of those working – a fact that we have never disputed and which does not undermine our account, because all those people could be eligible for or claiming benefits”. Not so much “didn’t dispute” as “failed to mention”. And the other 60 million in the UK could also be eligible for claiming benefits. So what?
“Theresa May, the Home Secretary, was afforded less than seven seconds to address the matter in a hurried interview. By contrast, a European Commission spokesman was allotted 11 seconds to discredit this newspaper’s version”. So the Tel is kicking off over four seconds of airtime. And it’s good to know they’re such a bunch of desperate saddoes that they’re timing everything.
This is the lamest of the lame. So we should expect a lot more of it.