N E W S • F R A M E S • • • • •

About media framing • (written by Brian Dean)

Archive for the ‘Daily Mail’ Category

The News – created by TaxPayers’ Alliance

TaxPayers' Alliance on BBC and in Daily MailSept 15, 2011 – The BBC’s Daily Politics gave a platform yesterday to TaxPayers’ Alliance director, Matthew Sinclair (on “energy bills”). Meanwhile, the Daily Mail quoted TaxPayers’ Alliance chief executive Matthew Elliott (in an article on how ‘Union chiefs plot wave of strikes to cripple country’). Elliott also has a Daily Mail blog.

Earlier this month I cited some “newscreated by the TaxPayers’ Alliance (on “benefits cheats”) which appeared in the Telegraph and Mail. Also, on Sept 2, the Express quoted TaxPayers’ Alliance in a front-page story on “scrounging families”. The front page of the Express on August 24 quoted Emma Boon of Taxpayers’ Alliance in a story about public-sector pay rises. The next day (Aug 25) the Mail quoted Emma Boon in a front-page story on Quangos.

As you can see, the TaxPayers’ Alliance is very active and highly successful at shaping the news. Who are they, and how do they get so much media coverage?

“Thinktank” funding & framing

The Taxpayers’ Alliance is a rightwing pressure group, but it calls itself “Britain’s independent grassroots campaign for lower taxes”. In a Guardian article on the secretive ways of so-called thinktanks, George Monbiot lists TaxPayers’ Alliance as one of several groups which refused to provide useful information on the sources of their funding. So, a “grassroots” “alliance” of “taxpayers” which doesn’t want us to know about its funding.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) uses frames which are well-established in the tabloid press: “benefits cheats”, “wasteful EU bureaucrats”, “fat cats” (public-sector variety), “rip-off” energy bills, etc. Emotive issues which get headline coverage. A TPA spokesperson typically cites the “public” “outrage” and “fury” which has supposedly “erupted” as a result of not following “cost-cutting” (and ideological “free-market” rightwing) solutions which TPA recommends.

TPA uses populist language: “It’s shocking that so few benefits cheats are facing serious punishment for their crimes. If crooks think the system is a light touch, with little or no consequences for being caught, then they will carry on fleecing the taxpayer without hesitation.(Matthew Elliot, TPA Chief Executive, in Daily Mail)

TaxPayers’ Alliance Press Release Archive >>

Tweet a “Thinktank”

I’ve created a list of UK thinktank twitter accounts here. Use it to publicly query a thinktank of your choice on the sources of its funding. (This was an idea originally floated on Twitter and promoted here by George Monbiot).

Written by NewsFrames

September 15, 2011 at 11:51 am

“Feral underclass”

Feral underclassSept 6, 2011 – On this morning’s front pages we have a choice between the Guardian on rioting “criminal classes,” and Daily Expressfury” over some judge’s remark that squatters “are not criminals.” The Guardian reports Kenneth Clarke’s comments about a “broken penal system” and “a feral underclass, cut off from the mainstream in everything but its materialism”.

The Express reports a Tory MP saying “I am outraged” (over the judge/squatters).

In newsagents, you can sometimes observe people tutting and/or nodding in response to such “news”. It’s probably advisable to give a wide berth to people who exhibit such reactions.

“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”Plato, 4th Century BC

Alternative headlines:

Written by NewsFrames

September 6, 2011 at 9:19 am

Posted in Daily Mail, Guardian

Pressure group sets UK “news” (part 2)

Think-tank sets newsSept 5, 2011 – A leading story on BBC Radio 3 News this morning (and also reported in the Mail and Telegraph):- the “right-of-centre think-tank”, Policy Exchange, had some ideas about policing. These were as follows: The police could be more efficient by hiring civilians to do “backroom jobs”, and police should commute in their uniforms to increase visibility.

This “news” also featured prominently on the BBC website. The Press Association also covered it.

Anyone can write a report containing cost-cutting suggestions, of course. How does it get elevated to the status of major “news”? The Telegraph has described Policy Exchange as “the largest, but also the most influential think tank on the right”. It’s David Cameron’s favourite think tank, according to the New Statesman.

It describes itself as promoting “wider use of market forces” for “progressive ends”. This involves getting “public waste” framing repeatedly into the “news”, and thus into the brains of millions.

Alternative headlines:

Written by NewsFrames

September 5, 2011 at 7:45 am

Pressure group sets UK “news”

Pressure group creates "news"Sept 4, 2011 – This “news” story about “benefits cheats” appeared in both the Telegraph and Daily Mail on 2/9/11. The story appears to have been created (ie promoted as “news”) by the rightwing pressure group, the TaxPayers’ Alliance. (The pressure group was also quoted on the front page of the Express on the same day – over a different story.)

A spokesperson for the TaxPayers’ Alliance was quoted at length in the Mail: “It’s shocking that so few benefits cheats are facing serious punishment for their crimes. If crooks think the system is a light touch, with little or no consequences for being caught, then they will carry on fleecing the taxpayer without hesitation. Tougher sentences will help to discourage would-be cheats but reforms to the system as a whole are  also needed, to make it easier to detect scammers.”

The same quote also appeared in the Telegraph. No other sources were provided by either newspaper for this particular “news” story.

Alternative made-up “breaking news”:

Written by NewsFrames

September 4, 2011 at 4:36 pm

The new “unconscious” (part 1)

The "new" unconsciousSept 1, 2011 – Today’s Mail headline will provoke diverse reactions: indifference, confusion, curiosity, anger, guffaws, etc. The word “anarchists” alone denotes a highly “contested” concept, leading to different responses.

Cognitive science uses the term “cognitive” to refer to all the mental operations involved in such responses.* It holds that the vast majority of these are “unconscious”. This isn’t the Freudian or Jungian “unconscious” – it’s something new in scientific terms (starting around the 1970s). It owes more to empirical research than to sexual/poetic insights (of Freud, Jung etc).

The “cognitive unconscious” has huge implications for philosophy and psychology. And also for “media studies”. One such implication is that it’s not all about “intelligence”. A common (but ignorant) criticism regarding “framing” analysis is that it assumes people are “stupid”, susceptible to “spin”, that they can’t think for themselves, etc. This criticism typically comes from tabloid newspaper editors when confronted with the charge that their headlines induce fear and hatred.

Cognitive science tells us that these reactions of fear and hatred have little to do with the relative stupidity/intelligence of readers. In fact, a high IQ is no defense against having such reactions, since the cognitive processes which underlie them are mostly unconscious. What’s required as a defense is knowledge of these processes, which comes from empirical research. That’s what the field of “frame semantics” is about.

Of course, there are a lot of stupid people around, but that’s a different topic…

* This is a different usage of “cognitive” than in traditional philosophical discourse, where it refers only to conceptual or propositional thought. In cognitive science, “cognitive” may even include physical, bodily processes which underlie our conscious experience.

Written by NewsFrames

September 1, 2011 at 8:54 am

“State fat cats”

State fat catsAug 25, 2011 – It almost looks like a Mail-Express double-act (see yesterday’s Express). The framing in both cases seems to be provided by the rightwing pressure group, The TaxPayers’ Alliance (both Mail and Express quoted TPA). The “state” (and its “fat cats”) in this case refers to Quangos. “Quango” was originally an acronym for ‘QUasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation’. The idea was that they would not be a formal part of the state structure – it brought “private sector” framing (and ideology) into the public realm.

Widespread waste, bureaucracy, corruption, etc, followed. It’s now been successfully reframed as “state”.

The Mail story segues smoothly from “state fat cats” to “generous” redundancy payments for public sector workers. It then quotes a Tory politician: “this sort of generosity would not be found in the private sector”, and a TaxPayers’ Alliance spokesperson: “Most taxpayers could only dream of such a generous redundancy.”

Not all quangos (or “public bodies”) are equally wasteful and corrupt. For those who have the time, there is much more to this story. See, as a starting point, Britain’s Shock Doctrine.

Alternative headlines:

Written by NewsFrames

August 25, 2011 at 8:36 am