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Sunday 31 January 2016

Sun Josie Cunningham Creep-Out Busted

The Murdoch faithful at the Sun fill much of the paper with slebs. Slebs sell papers. They also fill much of the paper with people who aren’t proper slebs, but are what Russell Harty would have called “famous, nay, notorious”. Famous and notorious because of what they have done, and that the press has been on their case. One of these people is a single mother from Leeds called Josie Cunningham.
Josie Cunningham

Ms Cunningham is featured by the Sun regularly. Indeed, one might get the impression that she is featured by the Sun so often that the coverage verges on the creepy and exploitative. Another thought that readily occurs is that the Murdoch doggies wheel out Ms Cunningham to do no more than fuel their own prejudices about single parents and anyone receiving something out of public funds that the hacks don’t like.

The Sun’s latest leery exposé of Josie Cunningham is in that vein: “Boob scrounger Josie Cunningham blows £3k of your money on dodgy gnashers … Wannabe model’s crooked smile”. Did someone give her £3,000 which she then blew on dental treatment? To no surprise at all, the answer is that, no they didn’t. So what is the real story?

For this, we have to scroll to the end of the article to see a comment from Ms Cunningham’s agent: “Dentists agreed to treatment because she had a kidney problem as a child and trialled a new drug that resulted in her teeth being damaged”. Instead, the Sun invents “The shameless wannabe model was craving a white Hollywood smile … It is thought she will try to persuade the NHS to fit dental implant veneer … A source said: ‘This feels like the taxpayer’s got one back on her’”. Source my arse.

Woman has dental treatment no shock horror. Even the story of her breast implants has been turned into a “scrounger” one. Was she the only woman who ever got implants on the NHS? No. But she was easily manipulated into giving the press a story and posing for a few photos. And so back came the Sun: “Josie Cunningham breaks down on camera to plead 'I want help to be happy... I just want to be pretty’ … Woman dubbed 'boob-job scrounger' wants to turn her life around”. Dubbed by the Sun, let’s not forget.

And back they came again: “My brain is as big as my boobs... Navy wanted me to be a warfare specialist … Says Josie Cunningham”, this pile of steaming bullpucky containing the claim “Instead of serving the State, it ended up supporting her”. Sadly, the taxman’s profit and loss account for Ms Cunningham is missing. How convenient.

On and on goes that catalogue of exploitation: “FREELOADER Josie Cunningham is to cash in with a lucrative tell-all book about her life”. On which she could not possibly avoid stumping up tens of thousands in tax payments (readers are told it will be a “six-figure deal”). It’s a strange kind of freeloading that interests the Sun.

Josie Cunningham may be a willing participant in the Sun’s creepy game. But she is being exploited, and seriously so, to fuel the Murdoch press’ prejudices about benefit recipients and single parents. They are using her as a modern-day circus freak.

Much of the press would not sink that low. But there is no barrel that the Sun’s hacks are not prepared to scrape in the pursuit of sales. No change there, then.

Michael Dugher, Delusional Dunce

Since last year’s leadership election, there has been a group of Labour MPs whose mantra has been as predictable and it has been pointless: if only the party would concentrate on attacking the Tories, they tell us in faux-reasonable tones, while all the time taking every opportunity to run to the right-leaning press and cravenly slag off their own party leader, on the grounds that they didn’t vote for him and it’s not fair.
Michael Dugher: he wasn't up to the job

Those taking this stance are readily recognisable: the pleading and slightly-dismayed-at-all-of-it-honestly John Woodcock, the supercilious smirk of Jamie Reed, the nominally Labour Simon Danczuk, and perennially complaining John Mann. And then there is Michael Dugher, whose delusional willingness to be the pointless sacrifice of the party’s right-wing is reprised in today’s Mail On Sunday.

If the idea of Dugher being interviewed by the MoS’ political editor Simon Walters was to make the MP sound remotely credible, it didn’t work. He comes over as the kind of person you would not want to be stuck in a lift with, someone who might hang around the bar looking for anyone they could bore. Readers are told “His idea of a night out is six pints of Guinness with his muckers and a curry rounded off by karaoke, where show-off Dugher hogs the limelight with pitch-perfect renditions of Sinatra classics”.

The rest of the world will do it their way, thanks. Yet Dugher still believes he is leadership material: “He baulks at the notion of a so-called 'suicide' leadership challenge, but when put in less emotive terms, grasps the nettle: 'There's nothing any of us wouldn't do to get Labour back in touch and in power … Asked if he rules out making his own leadership challenge, his 'no one has asked me to put in for the leadership' reply is less than categorical”. He’d be humiliated. Only Danczuk would do worse.

And Walters, oddly for someone who knows his politics, gets the reason for Dugher’s recent departure from the Shadow Cabinet wrong: “Corbyn will ignore the threat posed by Dugher at his peril for one big reason: he is a close personal and political ally of heavyweight Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, godfather to Dugher's daughter, who defended his 'talented' friend when Dugher was fired by Corbyn”.

No, Dugher was binned because he was perceived as useless, and Zelo Street’s sources (plural) are senior enough for me to be certain of that. Since succeeding him as shadow culture secretary, Maria Eagle has given the role a far higher profile. Dugher was too close to the Murdoch press, to whom he ran immediately after getting the sack.

What is yet worse for his dwindling credibility is his smear of Jeremy Corbyn: “'Communism In A Modern Setting' is not Labour voters' idea of a slogan. You can't just make the same old speech to fellow travellers in a meeting hall”. Folks, the kind of cheap attack that the Tories made against Michael Foot. Yet Dugher, like all the others, wants us to think that he is the one who is reasonably and loyal.

Michael Dugher, a thoroughly immodest man with much to be modest about, and doomed to remain on the back benches. It is only through his delusion that anyone believes otherwise.

Top Six - January 31

So what’s hot, and what’s not, in the past week’s blogging? Here are the six most popular posts on Zelo Street for the past seven days, counting down in reverse order, because, well, I have shopping stuff to do later. So there.
6 Tory Bullying - What Newsnight DIDN’T Say The misuse of personal data, and deployment of legal threats, is still going on in and around the Conservative Party.
5 Don’t Menshn Troll Hunters When it comes to doing a programme about victims of social media trolling, (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch is probably not the ideal choice as one of those victims.
4 Cameron’s Holocaust Memorial Shame On Holocaust Memorial Day, our Prime Minister chose to deflect from the row over the Google tax settlement by describing 3,000 desperate people fleeing chaos in their homelands as “a bunch of migrants”.
3 Corbyn Calais Smears Busted Did the Labour leader visit a refugee camp and call for all their residents to be let into the UK? No he didn’t.
2 Louise Mensch - A Word In Your Ear The bullying over the Tim Hunt affair has got to stop. And only one person can stop it. Because she is at the heart of it.
1 Danczuk Expenses - Police Called In Rochdale’s nominally Labour MP was found to have claimed allowances for dependent relatives he has not seen for some years. A complaint to the Police followed.
And that’s the end of another blogtastic week, blog pickers. Not ‘arf!

Saturday 30 January 2016

Louise Mensch - A Word In Your Ear

Hello Louise.

The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things. Things like fact and fiction, truth and lies, facts and opinion, criticism and bullying, intellectual process and rabble rousing, disapproval and sadistic pursuit, task closure and character destruction, interest and obsession, correction and harassment.

Some or all of these concepts may be familiar to you. What may not be familiar are self-awareness, humility, apology, restraint, and something that, as a Christian - you do, I recall, identify as a Christian - you should hold dear: forgiveness.
Why am I taking time out to address you? Well, someone has to. You haven’t listened to anyone else, and there are things that you need to hear, like them or no.

When two or more people disagree about a recollection of events, that does not make one party truthful and the other a liar. Nor does it make one good and the other bad. It does not entitle any other party to intervene and indulge in a campaign of not just shaming, but of deliberate humiliation and, ultimately, of character destruction.

There is no entitlement to whipping up hate mobs. Not for you, or for anyone else.

You do know what I am alluding to here.

We are, regretfully, back at the continuing fallout from your distinctly zealous defence of scientist Tim Hunt. It is a defence so zealous that it verges on damaging the very person it is meant to support: Hunt has given your campaign his tacit approval.

You have, in conducting your defence of Hunt, not merely criticised others, but lashed out at them, name-calling, browbeating, accusing, all the time shouting “liar”. All others are liars, Louise, but never you. You are above such behaviour.

But you are, as is well-known, not above such behaviour. You did, after all, first come to the attention of the wider public when you lied, openly, premeditatedly and deliberately under the protection of Parliamentary privilege, about then CNN host Piers Morgan. The video where you decline to repeat your lies outside Parliament is still available to view; it is included here so all, including your own supporters and defenders, may view it.
When you shout “liar” at Deborah Blum, Connie St Louis, Sue Nelson, David Colquhoun, Dan Waddell, Paula Higgins, and all others who disagree with you, do not forget who really did lie, very publicly, and while serving as a Member of Parliament.

When others make an honest mistake, change their minds, or just suffer a memory lapse, you would do well to stop and think before, once again, shouting “liar” at them. There are so many examples of your doing this yourself that one is spoiled for choice.

As time is short, I will restrict the charge sheet to a series of mis-speaks and misattributions on the case of the Sudanese women Meriam Ibrahim, the laugh-out-loud claim that Charlie Hebdo was a real person, the claim in your now-defunct Sun column that there had been an EU coup in Portugal (totally untrue), your pursuit of the HuffPost over Channel 4 presenter Cathy Newman, and your accusation against the BBC that their Songs Of Praise programme that featured a church in a Calais refugee camp  was a fake because the worshippers were Muslims (also totally untrue).

You would not take kindly to anyone shouting “liar” at you for all or any of that. Yet you are more than willing to take that approach to others.
One area where you have proved sensitive, and very recently, is the thought that your behaviour had spilled over into harassment. You challenged Graham Linehan earlier today to provide a citation to his assertion that you had harassed a 17 year old girl. But you know he is referring to Abby Tomlinson of Milifandom fame. And you know what Ms Tomlinson said about what you were doing. And you were doing it during the run-up to her “A” Levels, in the middle of her period of revision.

You have made many comments recently accusing others of some kind of defamatory behaviour, either slander of libel. Once again, the unfortunate Connie St Louis has been a regular target. Yet your claim that she libelled Tim Hunt will not result in any action, as there has been no libel.

Moreover, you seem to forget that you have deliberately libelled others recently: Paddy French of Press Gang was not happy that you called him a hacker. The man otherwise known as Joe Public suffered a yet more egregious defamation: you accused him of both hacking and stalking. On both counts, you were plain flat wrong. You are in no position to claim the moral high ground on that subject.

But what is worse than all these failings, Louise, is the obsessive and sadistic bullying in which you have indulged, and continue to indulge.

You deceived Connie St Louis very deliberately over her appearance on BBC’s The Big Questions: what she did not know was that you had colluded with one of the other guests. You used that collusion against her, and have continued to do so. She made a mistake during the broadcast - it was, after all, live - and you instigated a campaign of bullying against her.

Ms St Louis accepted she had made a mistake; she could have just ignored the social media assault, but decided to do the right thing. Her statement via the BBC was the signal for yet more bullying. This bullying has gone beyond the obsessive to the vicious and sadistic. Yet you keep on, apparently determined to destroy her. Let us understand this well: you want Connie St Louis to lose her job.
That would not be the first time you have tried to deprive someone of their livelihood.

Why you should behave in this way does not so much anger others as mystify them. They, after all, would either instinctively back away from such excess, or someone close to them would urge restraint.

But I suspect, Louise, that there is nobody there - at least, not anyone to whom you are prepared to listen - to urge that restraint upon you.

And so on goes the escalation of your campaign, lashing out at your demons, all those “liars”, who in reality are human beings, as you are. Fallible. Flawed. Yes, Human.

Others have tried to reason with you: Jon Ronson urged caution only today. He immediately identified the problem as bullying.

And there’s the problem, Louise: you’re doing it, but cannot stop. Worse, you cannot accept that you are doing it. You can’t even begin to see that this is harming not just you, but Tim Hunt as well. While he remains silent on the subject, he is by inference accepting what you are doing on his behalf.

You don’t have a monopoly on truth. You are in no position to call “liar” on anyone. You have no authority to pursue others with the objective of getting them sacked. But you are more than capable of putting your own reputation beyond the pale.

And that last is what you are doing with some aplomb right now. Perhaps the time really has come to stop and think. And then do something you are not in the habit of doing: showing some expression of regret - and then apologising. Apologising for all the hurt, offence, upset, nastiness, and, yes, the bullying.

It’s your choice, Louise. I hope that, this time, you choose wisely.

Sun Banker Bashing Explained

What has got into the Murdoch faithful at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun lately? The 2008 financial crash, last week, was suddenly attributed to the people who actually caused it - the bankers. This was a bit radical for Tony Gallagher and his pals - after all, since he has sat in the editor’s chair, the only thing the Sun has been notorious for is its ability to tell More And Bigger Whoppers For The Benefit Of Itself Personally Now.
Yet there it was: under the headline “Nail the banks”, readers were told “Why do our top bankers remain unpunished for triggering the 2008 recession? … The world is still feeling aftershocks. A worse downturn could be imminent … Every day our courts process countless petty crimes … Yet almost none of the bankers who oversaw catastrophic incompetence and reckless greed costing the country billions faced the music”.

Wow. That’s quite a U-Turn for a paper that brought its readers stories like “Ed says sorry for Labour's economic Balls-up”. That attack on then-Shadow Chancellor “Auguste” Balls continued “Mr Balls said he was sorry for failing to regulate the banks more tightly ahead of the crash, which took place under Gordon Brown, and admitted not every penny had been spent wisely by the Labour party”. It was Pa Broon’s crash back then.

Even on the day of last year’s General Election, a Sun editorial thunderedMillionaire celebrities queue up to front Labour’s campaign of misinformation. Maybe the great recession to which Labour left us so exposed passed these luvvies by. It certainly didn’t hurt them like it did ordinary people … Maybe they never read the ‘joke’ Labour left the incoming Coalition in 2010, sneering that there was no money left. But mega-rich stars will not suffer one bit when Labour turns on the spending taps, wrecks businesses and crashes the economy again”. Less than a year ago, it was Labour’s fault.
And it was Labour’s fault in 2010: as the Sun pleaded with its readers to vote for Young Dave, an editorial toldCan gloomy Gordon Brown put right what Labour have messed up for 13 years? … Mr Brown asks to be judged on Labour’s record, first under Tony Blair and then under him. So let’s do it … We know Labour have wrecked the economy. Mr Brown has trebled the national debt for a wasteful spree the country could never afford”.

But then, that editorial also said “Make no mistake, if the Tories gain power we will hold them to account and make sure they deliver for you”. But they haven’t: all the Sun’s attentions since Mil The Younger became Labour leader, and then again after Jeremy Corbyn took over last year, have been in creating one screaming denunciation after another. Directed towards Labour. And letting the Tories off the hook.

And that is what the banker bashing rant is really about: there is no way the Sun can dump on the Tories. Rupert Murdoch is relying on Cameron and his pals to screw over the BBC, green light the next bid for Sky, and kick Leveson 2 into the long grass. So the next crash will be someone else’s fault. It is not the first time the Sun has helped the Tories in this way: the paper backed Mrs T when she blamed a “World recession” in her first term.

That was a pack of lies, too. But being at the Sun means never having to say you’re sorry.

Telegraph Corbyn Book Claim Busted

The increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph has today combined book serialisation and creative headline writing as it tries to smear Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, but ultimately fails as its deceit is unravelled. The headline, “Revealed: Jeremy Corbyn 'showed off' naked Diane Abbott to impress Left-wing friends”, looks mildly diverting until you see the quote marks. And then it falls apart.
Jeremy Corbyn: still not scary looking

The sub-heading is another that is not supported by the following copy: “In the first of a series of explosive revelations, Rosa Prince's Comrade Corbyn reveals how the Labour leader invited fellow activists to his flat to see Ms Abbott in his bed”. The clear inference is that Corbyn invited his colleagues round to show off Ms Abbott as some kind of trophy. But the reality is that the Tel is over-egging Ms Prince’s pudding.

This is of course not the first time we’ve been here recently: the unofficial biography of Young Dave by Isabel Oakeshott was largely sold to the press via one event related as hearsay (yes, the pig’s head one). The Corbyn claim is not hearsay, but it is a single source, and that source’s recollection does not match the headlines.

Here’s what that source said: “One Sunday autumn morning, he had broken up with Jane, and we were out leafleting. And for some reason he called four or five of us and said: ‘Oh, we’ve got to go back to my flat and pick up some leaflets’ … It seemed a bit odd – ‘Why the hell didn’t you bring them with you, Jeremy?’ So we all bowl along to his bedsit, follow Jeremy into the room; there on the mattress on the floor in the one room is Diane with the duvet up to her neck, saying: ‘What the ****’s going on?’ We were quite shaken”.
Diane Abbott

The source than offers the opinion “It was [the] late ’70s, it was still a point of interest, a white man with a black woman, so he was slightly showing off: ‘I’ve got a new girlfriend, and she’s black’”. One person’s opinion. And if Ms Abbott had the duvet “up to her neck”, how does the Tel know she was naked? The source doesn’t say that.

Moreover, the claim of “showing off” is shaky: Corbyn had, as the source relates, just split with his first wife, with whom he shared a flat. It’s not outside the bounds of possibility that Jezza had not remembered he had moved from that flat to a bedsit, where there was only the one room. We would be more certain on that point if Corbyn’s reaction had been included in the story, but for some reason it is not.

That this serialisation is being slanted to try and damage Corbyn is left in n doubt by the “additions” the Tel has made to its piece: a poll asking “Can you imagine Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister?” with the second of three possible answers being “Yes, and it terrifies me”, along with a video showing “All of Jeremy Corbyn’s awkward moments as Labour leader”. That memo from CCHQ is clearly having an effect.

But as serious journalism, this is not going to trouble the scorers. No change there, then.

Friday 29 January 2016

Sun German Lottery Bullshit Busted

Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun discovered yesterday that the real winner of the £33 million lottery prize had come forward. But there was a problem: the ticket holder decided to remain anonymous. What to do? Simples: the Murdoch doggies would return to their previous excuse for journalism, and once again go after “German Gran” Susanne Hinte, because, er, she’s GERMAN.
This time, despite the total lack of any evidence to back it up - not unusual for the Sun, admittedly - the hacks have decided that Ms Hinte is going to get herself into trouble on the grounds that, er, the hacks say she’s well dodgy. So out came the headline: “£33M winner is found … ‘Wash’ Gran in hot water … THE LYIN’ THE RICH AND THE FRAUD PROBE”. There’s a fraud probe? Well, no there isn’t.

So what’s the deal? “‘Wash’ gran fears police at her door”. She does? That one is in the “highly questionable” category: “A member of her family, who asked not to be named, said: ‘That’s what she’s scared of and she knows it’s a possibility. If Sue purposely mocked up a dodgy ticket it’s fraud and she can expect the police to be knocking. The ticket was farcical, a joke’”. I wonder who wrote the words for them?

Colour me cynical, because I am cynical. Are there any more alleged witnesses? Well, the Sun has managed to talk to “Julie Howard, 37, her pal for 15 years before they fell out over a pair of curling tongs”. This story is crap, isn’t it? The Sun’s own copy tells you: “Susanne’s claim had been among several hundred since it revealed last week the winner was from Worcester. But a source said most would have been dismissed immediately”.

What do the Murdoch doggies expect the rozzers to do, arrest several hundred people because they all suggested they had the winning ticket? Or do they expect the law enforcement agencies to let the rest of the several hundred off, and nick Ms Hinte instead on the dubious grounds that the Murdoch press decided to splash her all over the Sun’s front page three times? Pull the other one.

What have the Police and Camelot said? “West Mercia Police said Camelot may report it if ‘they believe someone has intentionally attempted to defraud the lottery’. A spokeswoman said: ‘At the present time we have not been asked to investigate any such matters’ … A Camelot spokeswoman said: ‘We cannot discuss details of this or any other individual claims’”. That sounds like the Sun has come up empty handed.

Even the claim “Susanne, who we revealed yesterday sent saucy snaps of herself to a lorry driver, is due before Birmingham magistrates in March on theft charges” is crap. It’s between her and the, er, trucker. And while the Sun might do guilt by association, the process of law does not. Nor do courts tend to find “She’s German” convincing. This story is cheap and nasty even by the Sun’s cheap and nasty standards.

But it cost next to nothing to cobble up, and sold a few more papers. So that’s all right, then.

Danczuk Cyril Smith Book Panned AGAIN

Rochdale’s nominally Labour MP Simon Danczuk faces yet more adverse comment on his latest expenses problem, with first wife Sonia Rossington accusing him of beingeconomical with the truth” over claims for dependent children. While the MP says “When I initiated the claim in 2011 all four children used to stay with me in Rochdale on a regular basis, and I would have assumed quite rightly that the same would have happened in London”, his ex-wife is having none of it.
The children have not stayed overnight in Rochdale with Simon since [2009]” she told Rochdale Online - meaning the two children from their relationship. And it gets worse for Danczuk, as Smile For The Camera, the book on Cyril Smith he co-wrote with sidekick Matt Baker, has been subjected to a thorough panning over its research and accuracy by Les May, the account now being published online via the Northern Voices blog.

May was a long-time colleague of John Walker, who met with Danczuk several times in London and then in Rochdale - at his own expense - about a book charting Smith and his actions, only for Baker and his boss to go cold on the idea and shut him out (Walker’s recollection can be seen HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE). His critique has focused on the book’s research, and specifically on the Knowl View residential school.

He bought a copy of the book on the basis of its favourable publicity, but soon concluded “I assumed it was filled with solid evidence that Cyril continued and extended his sordid activities after the closure of Cambridge House in the mid 1960s. It isn’t" (Smith’s Cambridge House years were the subject of the Rochdale Alternative Paper report of 1979 that was then picked up on by Private Eye).

Some narrative appeared to be duplicated. The recollections of Smith’s alleged victims were told in language which was oddly over-descriptive, and stood in stark contrast to the accounts published by RAP. Above all, readers were reminded that Smith “had a team of people behind him”, that the MP was being “protected”. And then there is Knowl View.

Nobody disputes that some of the boys at Knowl View indulged in homosexual activities. There were cases of “cottaging” in nearby public toilets. One rent boy had to be removed from the school. But, as May points out, despite Danczuk and Baker’s book suggesting that Smith’s name appeared in the report on goings-on at Knowl View, it did not.

By now, Zelo Street regulars may be experiencing a sense of déjà vu: I’ve already told of the claims in the book about Smith being stopped on the M1 by Northants Police and caught with a stash of child porn in his car, which were then investigated and shown to be bunk. Both Danczuk and Baker were asked what evidence they had to back up their claims, yet they could not produce any. Once again, the book claimed that “powerful people” were “protecting” Cyril Smith.

As Les May says, Smith emerges as a not very nice person. But that did not make him a paedophile. Putting May’s analysis - based on actual evidence - alongside the Northants Police episode, which was backed up by a detailed FoI exchange, leads to one conclusion: the Danczuk and Baker book on Smith is at best seriously flawed, and at worst could well be little more than well-written and descriptive rumour and speculation.

Did UK Taxpayers Fund Sky Startup?

Media watchers in the UK could be forgiven for thinking that they had entered some kind of timewarp, after James Murdoch was re-appointed as chairman of Sky, four years after he departed in disgrace. This comes hard on the heels of another re-appointment, that of the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks as CEO of News UK, who was of course found Not Guilty at the Hacking Trial.
But Rupert Murdoch and his minions might not enjoy too much scrutiny falling on their recent past, not after Rupe kicked off at Google’s £130 million tax settlement with HMRC. Although this was as predictable as it was petulant, all that it did was to invoke comparisons with the amounts of tax paid in the UK by Murdoch’s own companies in the recent past - or the distinct lack of it.

As the Independent noted back in 1996, Rupe’s UK interests had made £979 million of profits in the preceding ten years, yet had paid only £11.74 million in tax, that yielding a tax rate of just 1.2% (that of the Google deal is estimated at 2.7%). It got worse: the BBC told three years later that Newscorp Investments, Murdoch’s main UK holding company, had paid no net corporation tax for the previous eleven years.

How did that happen? One has to assume that no law had been broken: not even Creepy Uncle Rupe is immune to the attention of the tax authorities. And we need look no further than the early years of Sky, and later BSkyB, for clues as to why Murdoch could square his tax-free circle. In August 1990, News International, as it was then, reported an annual loss of £257 million. Things did not improve for some years after that.
Guess who's coming back for more dinner?

Why should that be, with papers like the Sun and the now-defunct Screws coining in the money? Well, out of that £257 million loss, Sky lost £95 million in addition to start-up costs of £120 million. Soon after that, Sky “merged” with BSB, although in effect it was a takeover. There were significant costs involved in making the two organisations into one. And then came the big money sports deal of the decade.

BSkyB bid £304 million for live broadcast rights to the then-new FA Premier League. This, too, had to be funded somehow. Fortunately, the tabloids were raking in good profits, and this enabled Murdoch’s broadcasting ambitions to be achieved. But if the organisation overall was losing money, then there were no profits to report. And without profits, there would be no Corporation Tax to pay. Which leads to one conclusion.

UK taxpayers effectively subsidised the Murdoch empire from the late 80s and through the 1990s. Profits from the Sun and Screws went into propping up BSkyB, not into the Exchequer. And now that Sky has a turnover of £7.5 billion, and is generating profit hand over fist, in return those same UK taxpayers are getting … nothing. Nil. Zero. Zilch. Nix. Nada. Bugger all. Except for Rupe to lecture them about paying their taxes.

He gamed the tax system, he’s had our national broadcaster screwed over, he’s sticking two fingers up at his detractors, and now Rupert Murdoch is whinging about tax. What a trouper. What a hypocrite. What a 24 carat shyster.

Thursday 28 January 2016

Don’t Menshn Troll Hunters

Yesterday evening, BBC3 broadcast a programme titled Troll Hunters, looking at the serially and seriously abusive and threatening behaviour some people exhibit towards their chosen targets online. Vlogger Em Ford was the presenter, and in the course of the programme, those who had been trolled tracked down and confronted their trolls. So far, so imaginative. But then a controversial figure entered.
(c) Doc Hackenbush 2014

(Thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch was introduced as a victim of trolling. She duly confronted the sad specimen who had indulged in abusive and threatening behaviour. But away from the programme, not everyone was happy to see Ms Mensch portrayed as a victim. After Ms Ford Tweeted out “Thank you so much for all the tweets and support with #TrollHunters”, the dissent began to appear.
Charlotte Booth’s response was typical: “Good subject to tackle but Louise Mensch has trolled/hassled many herself (incl my sister) See timeline of @twcuddleston etc”. What’s more, Ms Mensch has one advantage over her own (admittedly odious) troll: her tens of thousands of Twitter followers makes the whipping up of a hate mob very straightforward. Abby Tomlinson of Milifandom fame knows this. She was prompted to respond.
Enjoying #TrollHunters on BBC 3. I'd like the opportunity to confront my Twitter troll & ask why - when's the next flight out to New York?” she Tweeted. No prizes for guessing that the subject of her message was Ms Mensch. Abby stressed that she was with Ms Mensch when it came to her own troll, though: “Not condoning what she went through, obviously, wouldn't wish it on anyone & she was right & brave to stand up to that vile man”.
But she let it be known what the Mensch massive had done to her wellbeing: “It still gets to me that she spent months writing false articles about me online/ generally making me feel awful about myself … 4,000 words about how she didn't like me, promising to write more when I turned 18, the way her followers then joined in”. And, as Zelo Street regulars will know all too well, Abby Tomlinson is not the only one Ms Mensch has gone after.
June Eric-Udorie also found herself targeted, for no reason other than pundit and writer Julia Hartley Brewer had passed adverse comment upon her. Ms Mensch was dismissive and patronising, as she was with anyone who dared to question her highly partisan and selective approach to the Gamergate row, and especially her defence of sexism row scientist Tim Hunt. She was right: those who said otherwise were liars.
It’s a pity that Ms Ford chose Louise Mensch as a participant in her presentation: there are, sadly, lots of women who have been targeted by the less adequate members of the male sex who would not have proved controversial. And the Mensch grip of facts is not always good: after establishing that her troll had worked at Heathrow Airport, she declared that she would be contacting British Transport Police.

That would have been an interesting conversation. The BTP look after the railways.

Rupert Murdoch - Tax Hypocrite

After Google concluded its tax deal with the authorities in the UK, its management would have expected opposition politicians to pass adverse comment on a settlement that yielded a tax rate of less than 3%. What they may not have expected is the sustained combination of whinging and victimhood playing coming from someone in a related market sector to their own. But that is what they got yesterday.
That's what I bladdy think of youse bladdy Google bladdy tax bladdy deal, ya bastard Pommie drongoes!

So who among the ranks of the media industry has been carping at Google? Step forward one Keith Rupert Murdoch: Rupe is not a happy bunny. “Google et al broke no tax laws.  Now paying token amounts for p r purposes. Won't work. Need strong new laws to pay like the rest of us … Global tech companies making enormous profits most places, funnelling $$ thru tax havens. Unless stopped will ruin local businesses who pay” he whinged.
There was more: “Tech tax breaks facilitated by politicians easily awed by Valley ambassadors like Google chairman Schmidt eg, posh boys in Downing St … Google has cleverly planted dozens of their people in White House, Downing St, other governments. Most brilliant new lobbying effort yet” rambled the News Corp head man, seemingly oblivious to the inconvenient fact of his own recent presence on Downing Street.
Murdoch met George Osborne twice before the recent deal - which will involve significant cuts - was imposed on the BBC, which he sees as a competitor to Sky, in which he is a major shareholder and would like to take over in its entirety. As to lobbying the White House, perhaps Murdoch forgot that he owns the Wall Street Journal, as well as the megaphone that is Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).
But it is when the history of Murdoch’s company tax affairs is examined that he is shown to be standing in a very draughty glasshouse. In 1995, the Independent reportedThe publisher of four national titles, including the Times and the Sun, earned pounds 779m in the year to the end of last June alone, but paid only pounds 8.3m tax … In the 10 years since 1986, NI has made accumulated pre-tax profits of pounds 979.4m (net of losses) but paid just pounds 11.74m in net tax, a rate of under 1.2 per cent”.
That is less than half the rate paid by Google in its recent deal with HMRC. It got worse: the BBC told in 1999A report in this week's Economist newspaper … states that in the four years to 30 June last year, Mr Murdoch's News Corporation and its subsidiaries paid only A$325m (£128m) in corporate taxes worldwide. That translates as 6% of the A$5.4bn consolidated pre-tax profits for the same period … By comparison another multi-national media empire, Disney, paid 31%”. And it got yet worse.

“Further research reveals that Mr Murdoch's main British holding company, Newscorp Investments, has paid no net corporation tax within these shores over the past 11 years. This is despite accumulated pre-tax profits of nearly £1.4bn”. “Pay like the rest of us”? “Local businesses who pay”? “Politicians easily awed”? F*** off and pull the other one.

It’s OK for Rupe, but not for anyone he sees as a competitor. Whinging hypocrite.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Jihadi Jack - Or Maybe Not

The desperation of the tabloid press to find more and more of those Scary Muslims, and especially among those who already live in the UK, knows no bounds. Just a sniff of someone who is a follower of The Prophet going within a hundred miles of the Syrian border is enough to get them into a froth. And when they find a white British Muslim convert, well, reality can just be slung out of the nearest window.
So it was with the case of Jack Letts, who is 20 years old, converted to Islam in his teens, and left the family home in Oxfordshire over a year ago. He has travelled to Syria since then, and posted photos of him there. This has enabled the more creatively minded of the Fourth Estate to add 2 and 2 to obtain a number that may not be 4. As usual, the Sun and Mail are in the creativity vanguard. Subtle it was not.

Jihadi Jack: First white Brit to join ISIS in Syria is posh farmer's son from Oxford … Football fan Jack Letts, 20, was a 'classroom clown' who liked a drink and sometimes smoked cannabis” told the Sun, adding “THIS is the first white British male known to have joined IS - the son of a leading organic farmer who was on BBC’s Countryfile … Jack Letts, 20, left his Oxford home and fled to Syria two years ago”.

There were, to no surprise at all, minor problems with the Sun’s account: Letts had not “fled” anywhere, and did not go to Syria “two years ago”. Nor, minor point this, was there any firm evidence to connect him to ISIS, or whatever they’re called this week. But that counted for nothing, as the Sun also told that “It is understood he lives in the IS stronghold of Raqqa after marrying an Iraqi”. And they can’t back that one up, either.

Over at the Mail, they were equally sure of their ground: “The 'typical middle class boy' who became Jihadi Jack: With a book editor mother and a father who has been on Countryfile, friends express shock that 'class clown' could become ISIS fighter … The Muslim convert secretly travelled to Syria and is now living in Iraq”.

There’s more: “MailOnline understands 'Jihadi Jack' is now a frontline fighter for the brutal terror group and lives with his Iraqi wife and his son Muhammed after moving to the Iraqi city of Fallujah from Raqqa”. But the Independent has sounded a sceptical note, noting that Letts’ mother had described these reports as “absolutely ridiculous”.

She added “He is not a member of Isis, he is very probably not the first white convert that has gone out there. He does not have a son and is not known as Abu Mohammed … We spoke to him yesterday and he said he had never had a weapon in his life. He went out there for humanitarian purposes to help kids in Syrian refugee camps … It is not as if he is hiding - he tells us what he has for breakfast”. Well, well.

Who to believe, Jack Letts’ mother, who spoke to him only the other day, or the hacks at the Sun and Mail, who haven’t spoken to him at all? One thing is certain: those papers who have accused Letts of joining ISIS should have their claims backed up if they want to retain any credibility. But they don’t care about credibility, and so they may not.

Cameron’s Holocaust Memorial Shame

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, when we in the UK remember the millions who died in the Holocaust. It is the date when the then USSR’s armed forces liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1945, one of several such liberations in the last days of World War 2 that showed the world just what had been done by those serving the Third Reich. Such events seared themselves on the consciences of entire nations.
I say, you Labour cheppies over thyah! You be jolly good plebs and let one tell a load of porkies about you! Jolly good sheow!!

What, so many asked themselves after seeing the scale of the deprivation, the callous disregard for life, the genocidal wiping out of so many millions of lives, the sheer horror of what had gone on, might have been changed for the better if they had only taken in many more of those who wanted to flee the twisted ideology of the Nazis? Could some of those deaths have been prevented? Why didn’t they realise earlier?

Many of those shamed by the discovery of camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau worked in the press: during the 1930s, the Daily Mail made a name for itself promoting Adolf Hitler and spreading panic among its readers about the influx of Jewish refugees into Britain. The Mail’s incendiary headlines were typified by “German Jews Pouring Into This Country”, to which it seems, even then, no hack was willing to put his or her name.

So when the British Prime Minster stood before the Commons today, only a few minutes after leading the House in recognition of Holocaust Memorial Day, and described those living in despair and squalor in refugee camps near Calais as “a bunch of migrants”, it was not just opposition politicians thinking Cameron might have stopped and thought first.
Indeed, Jonathan Freedland observed in a Comment Is Free piece that “No one is suggesting that the plight of those at Calais is comparable to the Nazis’ murder of six million Jews. But the common thread is this. One of the lessons of the Shoah – one tirelessly urged by, for example, the Holocaust Education Trust, an organisation praised today by Cameron – is that it is all too easy to dehumanise other people, to turn them from human beings with lives and needs and hopes into a problem to be repelled”.

And it gets worse: Cameron’s use of the “bunch of migrants” phrase was not some spontaneous, off-the-cuff gesture. It had been devised deliberately, as what the Tories’ election guru Lynton Crosby terms a “dead cat”, to deflect attention from the expected furore over his next-door neighbour’s apparently unduly lenient tax deal with Google. Worse, the remark had been trialled with several Tory MPs - who liked it.

The Tories knew that today was Holocaust Memorial Day. Cameron is not stupid: he is well aware of the sensitivities involved. Yet he and his team had no compunction in using the occasion to deliberately dehumanise thousands of desperate people for a cheap laugh - and so they could sling their dead cat on the table at PMQs.

On top of that, Cameron then claimed that Jeremy Corbyn had said they should all be let into the UK regardless, which he did not. So he’s a liar as well as a shit. But he’s in power, and for the Tories, that, it seems, is all that matters.

Tory Bullying - What Newsnight DIDN’T Say

Last night, BBC’s Newsnight featured an item on the Tory Party’s bullying scandal, and more particularly the problems facing the inquiry led by Clifford, Chance and set up by the party in the aftermath of Elliott Johnson’s death. It has been claimed that several potential witnesses have refused to testify because of the presence of one Rob Semple, who is considered by many to be far too close to Mark Clarke.
And Clarke, despite his denials, is at the centre of the scandal, after Johnson accused him of bullying, and many others then endorsed those claims. Semple has refused to recuse himself from the inquiry, and has also asserted that he and Clarke are no longer close. But then, the Sun’s alleged “Westminster Correspondent” Harry Cole also claimed to have fallen out with Clarke, with whom he had been very close friends, only for some items that must have come from Clarke’s personal correspondence to turn up in Cole’s Sun articles.

As Nic Conner, who featured in the Newsnight report, has said, “It does not matter if Rob Semple was or wasn't Mark Clarke's man in the Party Board, his presence will put off witnesses to come forward”. And what Newsnight did not cover was the question of potentially improper use of data - as Zelo Street regulars will recall, the access to Tory membership records was key to Grant “Spiv” Shapps’ plans last year (misuse of personal data is, it seems, outside the scope of the Clifford, Chance inquiry).

Had the Tories lost the General Election, and a leadership contest followed, Shapps would, it has been claimed, put himself forward. His access to all that membership data would enable him to post a good showing, even though he accepted he would not win. That would have enabled him to get his people into influential positions, perhaps get them selected as Prospective Parliamentary Candidates for 2020.
Those thus favoured, it was alleged, included Mark Clarke. And it seems the Tories’ problem with casual use of information is still around, as Eimhear MacFarlane has told: “I was a bit upset to get three separate emails last night where it was quite clear that my data had been harvested from one source (namely the Conservative Future membership database) and used by individuals for a purpose for which it was not intended”.

There’s more: “Two came from CF Executive members asking for me to support them in the CWF open primary. I’d already voted anyway. Another came from a London Mayoral candidate. Hello, I’m from Northern Ireland … You may be saying, ‘hang on, it’s only an email address’ but that’s not really the point. I willingly gave that email address over on the understanding that it would be used for the purpose I was handing it over for”.

Also missing from the Newsnight piece was the continuing investigation into the role of the Young Britons’ Foundation and its head man Donal Blaney in the bullying scandal, plus the fact that more than one Sunday title is still digging away at this angle. Zelo Street can reveal that Blaney has been claimed to have employed the services of another, rather more high-profile legal practice, to try and frighten off one of those papers.

Sadly, one paper that will not be deterred by such methods is still on the case, and should have more on the YBF’s role very soon. Some who would rather the story would go away are starting to realise that once the genie is out of the bottle, it won’t willingly return there.