Last Monday, I pointed out to those ranting about dredging the Somerset Levels that the unprecedented levels of rain might be a more significant cause for the flooding, and that areas along the Thames Valley had also become inundated. Nobody was suggesting that the Thames should be dredged – but give it a few days and a little creative excuse generation, and yes they were.
Who're you f***ing calling a liar, c***?!?
By yesterday, the Mail had indeed decreed that the Thames should have been dredged, demanding “So why wasn't Thames dredged? In case a rare mollusc was disturbed - despite the region being described as one of the most 'undefended flood plains in England' ... Environment Agency put welfare of 'aquatic species' before residents”. All hate boxes were duly ticked.
But, as Captain Blackadder might have said, “there was a problem with this ... it was bollocks”. Not for nothing did Alastair Campbell call the paper “The Dacre lie machine”, and Nick Davies recall one Mail staffer telling “Dacre kills with headlines”. This story is pure manufactured outrage, and to make matters worse, it is also totally untrue, not that this fusses the inhabitants of Northcliffe House.
As in Somerset, residents see that there has not been dredging for some time, and that there is flooding, so connect the two. It is an easy conclusion to reach, and that there has been a level of rainfall not matched in centuries is not allowed to enter. Fortunately, the Mail’s own account contains the facts, although they are buried well down the page, so readers will have already made up their minds.
Here’s the Environment Agency (EA): “If protected species are living in a river and dredging would reduce the risk of flooding then we would ensure that dredging occurs without having a serious impact on wildlife”. So molluscs were not the reason for the lack of dredging. Why so? “the natural activity of the Thames removes significantly more silt than mechanical dredging would do”.
What does that mean? It means that Blackadder was indeed right, and that the Mail is peddling another pack of lies. Worse, it knows it is doing this, but hey ho, there’s a Government agency to rough up and papers to sell. The Mail’s legendarily foul mouthed editor couldn’t give a stuff if the EA’s workforce get abused by the locals, as long as he has his conversation with those Daily Mail readers.
And we know that misinformation on this issue is the name of the game as the Mail’s tedious and unfunny churnalist Richard Littlejohn has joined the attack: “The news that dredging in the Thames Valley was abandoned because of the presence of an endangered species of mollusc, called the Depressed River Mussel, is one for the You Couldn’t Make It Up files”. But Dick can always make it up.
Keep the readers frightened. Keep them annoyed. Above all, keep them ignorant.