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Month: April 2019

Article Breakdown: The Times v The SNP

Posted in Article Breakdown

The Times:

Firearms statistics mask rise in serious gun crime


Politicians spin a story the way they think favours them. Papers do the same. Here is a classic case of both in action. In a new segment, Article Breakdown, we take you through the entire article, adding our own comments.

Serious gun crime in Scotland is on the rise with a marked increase in attempted murder, armed robbery and possession with intent to kill.

Humza Yousaf, the justice secretary, lauded new figures showing that firearms offences were at their lowest level since 1980 but the statistics masked an increase in the most serious crimes.

When I read this, my first thought was: “Isn’t ALL gun crime serious?” Apparently not. I couldn’t find a standardised definition of what is and is not serious, however. So one assumes that this is The Times’ own criterion. As for Humza Yousaf – I would dismiss this as a case of “politician is selective in use of facts” but a look at the actual numbers shows that The Times is far more guilty of this.

There were two gun related homicides in 2017-18 compared with just one in either of the previous two years.

Really?!?! TWO? Why don’t you just go for mass hysteria and say they’ve doubled?!

Attempted murders more than doubled from four to ten in the three-year period, and there were nearly twice as many incidents of possession with intent to endanger life, commit crime and cause fear of violence, up from 35 to 64.

Sorry I suggested it. This is the problem you have when gun crime is so low in the first place. Not much has to change for there to be an “increase”. Literally, one more murder than the previous period was all that was required to double the first statistic. In other words, the most serious crime of the lot has risen by one.

The figures were released days after the former boxer Bradley Welsh, 48, who had a cameo appearance in Trainspotting 2, was shot dead outside his Edinburgh home in Chester Street. A man arrested in connection with the shooting has been released pending further inquiries.

And do you think it would have been more responsible for the Justice Secretary to say: “Everyone, take cover! Gun crime is out of control!”? Whether you agree with his choice of statistic or not, it is his job to tell the public they have no reason to be alarmed after an incident like this, and pointing out that gun crime was at its lowest level since 1980 was a good way to do it. Two things I would add. First, overall crime being the lowest in 39 years is a far better indicator than one year to the next, unless there is a significant change, which there wasn’t. Secondly, I am grateful I live in a country where gun violence is so rare that any incident is headline news. Since Bradley Welsh was murdered, there have been five mass shootings in America – that’s not counting any incidents where less than 3 people got shot.

Armed robbery rose from 26 to 34 incidents in 2017-18, and serious assault with a firearm rose from five to eight.

The record low number of overall incidents is due to a decrease in less serious gun crimes, including steep falls in gun-related vandalism, from 45 incidents to 14, and reckless conduct from 74 to 37. Mr Yousaf said: “These figures show we are continuing to make progress in tackling firearms misuse with offences now at their lowest level for any single year since 1980.

Both those figures are significant drops, especially when compared to the earlier statistics. 14 is less than a third of 45, and both those figures are many times higher than TWO. So Humza Yousaf probably felt justified in reaching that conclusion. If you really want to get into the party politics of it all, couldn’t the SNP claim that the numbers had been falling, but has risen since they lost their majority in Holyrood?

“While firearms offences are rare, we know that just one such incident can have a devastating impact on victims and the wider community, so we are determined to continue working with our partners to reduce these numbers.

Does anyone have a problem with this bit? This is pretty much exactly what you would expect a serving Justice Secretary to say. Next!

“We are the only part of Great Britain to license air weapons. Since our licensing legislation was passed in 2015-16 offences involving an air weapon have fallen by a third.”

Which is really interesting. I note The Times has no comment to add to any of this. The data for Scotland is also significantly lower than any other country in the UK (even when adjusting for population size).

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Johnson, Police Scotland lead for specialist crime and intelligence, said: “We welcome the fact that firearms offences are at a historic low. Our officers work tirelessly to reduce the number of firearms on our streets.”

Well, there you have it. If he thought the comparatively slight rise in violent crime constituted reason for more concern, he would say so.

In a two-week firearms surrender campaign in June last year 474 firearms, 690 air weapons and 337 lots of ammunition were handed in to police.

No further comment, letting the statistic speak for itself. See, you can do it.

The Daily Mail has been a gold mine today

Posted in Headlines

Revealed: Woman who broke wrist in a Prince Philip car crash then slammed decision not to prosecute him is herself facing motoring charges for ‘speeding then failing to name driver’

Isn’t it an outrage that someone facing justice for breaking the law demands that the same applies to other law breakers?

‘Just get out there and jail the lot of them’: Fury of commuters and businesses’ as eco-warriors cause a third day of chaos in protests that have cost London £12million (and there’s STILL a pink boat in the middle of Oxford Circus)

Businesses have spent BILLIONS trying to hide the truth about Climate Change; but now they’re annoyed that people trying to save the planet are costing them money

Half an hour from COLLAPSE: Firefighters saved Notre Dame with moments to spare reveals minister – but blaze still took its toll on priceless artifacts after crews failed to find the fire for 23 minutes after first smoke alarm sounded

Confusion as Daily Mail seriously underestimates the size of Notre Dame – 23 minutes is pretty damn quick

Is Meghan writing Charles’ letters too? Royal watchers say American spellings in Prince’s letter to President Macron after the Notre Dame fire are not ‘appropriate for future British King’

Daily Mail: Let’s moan about the use of “American spelling” even though WE used the American spelling of the word “artefacts” in another headline on the same day!

Meghan ‘wants an American nanny to take care of Baby Sussex – and may even hire a MALE one ‘

SARAH VINE: Oh baby, Meghan’s got a lot to learn when it comes to the unexpected complications childbirth can bring

Could YOU be the Queen’s new gardener? Royal family is seeking a green-fingered staff member for £69-a-day – but the successful applicant gets to LIVE at Buckingham Palace

No, we’re totally not obsessed with the Royal family! Also, being a nanny is a woman’s work.

Today in “Headlines we don’t need to edit”

Posted in Headlines

Anger as sex toys sold next to kids’ shampoo in Dundee Poundland

Above: This article in the Dundee Evening Telegraph is Head and Shoulders above anything else we can find.

US fire chief explains why Notre Dame blaze could not be controlled any quicker – as French firefighters reveal Trump’s plan to dump water from the air would have DESTROYED the building

Above: Daily Mail reports that Donald Trump displays his usual level of compassionate understanding.

Dad sparks backlash after moaning about not getting enough attention from hospital staff as wife gave birth

Above: I literally need to do nothing with this Daily Record article. Read it.

FPR Comment: Comedy and Twitter

Posted in FPR Comment

Twitter’s ‘PC brigade’ aren’t killing comedy – they’re shining a light on bigotry


Dogs aren’t defecating on the ground; they’re fertilising the grass. Theresa May is not an incompetent leader; she’s inherited a terrible mess. Jokes are not funny; they make a point about the way the world is. Do you see what these three statements have in common? They are all false dichotomies. Newspapers are quite good at these and today’s guilty party du jour is the Guardian.

The quoted headline is a very much off-the-fence piece about Twitter’s role in regulating and distributing comedy. I just knew before I clicked on it that I was going to have some kind of issue with it, but I couldn’t immediately put my finger on what it was. It’s not like Jack Bernhardt is particularly wrong in the points he makes. He just misses the point – there is no fence. The three statements, at least the way they are written, assume that one clause or the other is true, when in fact it is entirely possible that both are.  And so it is with Bernhardt’s headline. Twitter is not either “killing comedy” or shining a light on bigotry – it is doing both.

The article comes on the back of Shane Allen’s comments that the Twitter PC brigade was imposing a “Victorian moral code” on comedians, damaging comedy’s ability to “test boundaries and challenge orthodoxies”. I think Bernhardt took this too much at face value, citing Fleabag and Derry Girls as examples of shows that don’t have a Victorian moral code and do push boundaries. Just because there are examples of somewhat edgy shows that have been supported and not destroyed by Twitter, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the so-called PC brigade will celebrate all good shows. There are examples of snowballs every year, but that does not mean the planet isn’t getting hotter. It is entirely conceivable that Derry Girls could continue to be as good as it has always been, yet make one joke that apparently pushes the boundary too far and all of a sudden Twitter has turned. What Shane Allen was voicing was a legitimate concern. Yes, it is apparently possible for comedy to challenge us without it offending anyone that matters. But there is no guarantee you will get away with it and so there is plenty of incentive to keep it clean. Bernhardt brings up that cartoon in the Mash Report. It was generally well received online – but does anyone else think the fact that it was making fun of two very un-PC people might have had a hand in that? And let’s not forget that Piers Morgan tried to use social media to take down the Mash Report, but it turned into a popularity contest and that didn’t work out too well for him. It’s also worth remembering that “Victorian moral code” is, in this case, a generic term to denote regress; otherwise jokes about 6-year-olds dying during a factory shift would be perfectly acceptable. I’m not saying they wouldn’t be anyway, but how many of us are experts on what does and does not amuse Victorians?

I’m not sure what the fact that Allen has been at the helm of BBC comedy while 1970’s shows have been rebooted has got to do with the price of tea. Perhaps Bernhardt felt that pointing this out equated to a “zinger”. From a comedic standpoint maybe it does; he’s the expert. From an argumentative one, no. Complaining about other people regressing humour toward an older standard whilst also trying to revive classic shows doth not a hypocrite make. Indeed trying to suggest it does is, in my humble opinion, lazy journalism. After all, could Allen not claim that trying to recapture the glory of those classic comedies was a result of this regress he is wary of? In a world where someone in his job will be increasingly paranoid about commissioning something “offensive”, surely rehashing a sacred institution is a safe bet? At least, it would be in terms of offence – whether it is funny or not is another matter.

To say that the PC brigade “does not kill comedy” is incredibly optimistic. Unless you want to go down the route of “it must be true because comedians still exist”, then the argument is clearly false. Comedians have been fired for jokes; that’s just a fact. Ask Gilbert Godfried or Catherine Deveney. And again, even if you think those sackings were justified, you’re missing the point. Such is the power of Twitter. James Gunn was fired for an old joke, Stephen Colbert was almost cancelled for a joke taken out of context (see later), and Joss Whedon (not specific to comedy but an excellent example) was bullied off of Twitter by a mob of people claiming to be feminists who didn’t like a storyline in Avengers: Age of Ultron – these people somehow having missed the memo that Whedon was the genius behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, not just a great feminist show but one of the greatest TV shows of all time. Also, it doesn’t have to be comedians. It can be a couple of friends sharing a joke between themselves that someone with a stick up their rear end happens to overhear. It’s not hard to find a well-known comedian talking about the worry they have about being held to too high a standard or having already told the joke that will get them fired (for example Jack Whitehall). So the premise that mass groups on Twitter do not constitute a threat to freedom of comedic expression is not one I buy.

Bernhardt then defends against an attack nobody was mounting. “It might seem unfair to take Allen to task… but his comments have weight”, he writes. In other words, he’s writing not because of the context in which the comments were made, but who was making them. No. You’re absolutely allowed to have an opinion on Allen’s comments; just like I’m allowed to have an opinion on yours. It might be different if these were comments made in private that somehow became public, but Allen knew what he was saying. Presumably, he stands by those comments. Allen is fair game. So is Bernhardt.

Which brings us to a central point of Bernhardt’s article: that comments like these make it easy for the right wing to caricature social media as censors of comedy. But do you know what makes it even easier? Yes; social media censoring comedy. Allen’s comments in isolation mean nothing; if they didn’t correspond with reality, there wouldn’t be a story. It’s easy for the right wing to say that there is a PC brigade on Twitter because – well, there is. There are plenty of examples (see above). Plenty of examples are plenty too many; one example of the “PC brigade” going after an innocent target is proof enough. If you want to shine a light on bigotry go ahead – but don’t be wrong. That is a big ask; folks on Twitter are not renowned for due diligence. As for phrases such as “check your privilege” and “identity politics” – is Bernhardt seriously trying to claim that this doesn’t happen? “Check your privilege” is as common in online debates as a Dalek in Doctor Who – not there all the time, but does appear more often than it should.

All right then, let’s talk about context. According to Bernhardt, “taken out of context” is a go-to response for comedians that have been caught out and the defence often does not stand up to scrutiny. He cites two examples where – according to him – context doesn’t improve the situation. The first is Louis CK’s joke about the Parkland survivors and I agree – that was neither funny nor appropriate. That is, however, just my opinion. He goes on to say: “Did we really miss a wider comedic point buried in Mark Meechan’s antisemitic videos that context could have provided? No.” Here, I wholeheartedly disagree. Markus Meechan’s video – there was one video; so the plural form should not have been used in any case – was NOT antisemitic. Unless saying that Nazis were “the least cute thing I can think of” is antisemitic now; I must have missed that meeting. It wasn’t buried in the video at all; it was quite plain to see for those who have watched it (which most people who say it is antisemitic have not actually done). Thus, just going by the two examples Bernhardt gave, I would have to conclude that the “out of context” defence is valid more often than he thinks it is. Since we’re mainly talking about Twitter here, let’s talk about #cancelcolbert shall we? An excellent example of attempted firing by someone that didn’t get the joke. In fairness to her, there’s no particular reason she should have understood the context at first, but I think it is also fair to ask that if you’re going to call for someone to be fired, you better make sure you fully understand the context first. Otherwise, you get Clarksongate. Sorry, Mr. Bernhardt, I don’t think it was Shane Allen that was missing the point.

Of course, none of this means that Twitter cannot be used for the forces of goodness. It is a fast and effective means of sharing information. But a racist joke that doesn’t get shared on Twitter is still a racist joke. Of course, in some circumstances, it is good to share so that someone is exposed for who they really are. The flip side of that particular coin is someone’s distasteful views might get more publicity than it is entitled to get. The information sharing, I can generally get behind. But that is hardly ever what Twitter is these days. The bottom line is that Twitter is just a tool. Like all tools, it can be used for both good and evil purposes. It’s on the internet; that’s really the first clue. To say that it is only used for one is, if nothing else, rather naive.

Posted in Spoof

GUARDIAN: Democrats set new deadline for release of Trump tax returns


The Mayor of Drumnadrochit caused confusion at Holyrood yesterday when she sent a request to the LNMO (Loch Ness Monster’s Office) demanding that Nessie reveal herself to the general public on, or before, Tuesday 23rd April. Some have said the alarm felt by some MSPs is an “over-reaction” – but to be fair, the primary method for contacting the LMNO is of course a written letter stuffed into a corked, glass bottle and thrown as far as possible into Loch Ness – so it was always going to make waves.

The notoriously camera-shy Loch Ness Monster, affectionately known as Nessie, has always shunned ANY public appearance whatsoever, citing some lame excuse about contractual obligations to the BBC to stay out of sight to avoid contradicting the once-popular children’s TV show, Family Ness. When asked if Nessie could be released from said contract, a spokesperson for the BBC, Boris Johnson, claimed: “I haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re talking about”. Many take this as confirmation that the BBC does not intend to pursue legal action if Nessie were to make a public appearance, roughly some 35 years after the show was axed. Thus Nessie is free to appear if she so chooses, but still declines to do so.

This is the first major action for the Mayor of Drumnadrochit since she defected from the USA last month. Stateside, she had been heavily involved with trying to force President Trump to release his tax returns, but she moved to Scotland to “pursue more realistic goals”. Nessie’s lack of appearance is a political hot potato, as locals see her as a boost to tourism, but consecutive no-shows have given rise to the movement calling themselves “Concern Unto Nessie Truth”, which advocates that the whole thing is a myth. When the Mayor’s office was asked to respond to claims she didn’t exist, they brusquely replied “Of course the Mayor of Drumnadrochit exists”. This confused statement may have been responding to claims that an internet website made up the role of Mayor of Drumnadrochit for the benefit of any readers outside of Scotland, as they probably wouldn’t know what a Lord Provost was. When asked what other goals she had that she felt were more realistic than Trump releasing his tax returns, the Mayor cited many ambitions, including Scotland winning the World Cup, and making a success of Brexit.

The main complaint from the Mayor’s detractors is the futility in making a demand for something that will obviously never happen. “This demand is a horrendous waste of taxpayer’s money” complained Chris Grayling. Others have piled on the criticism. One Detective Inspector Crabbe called it “pie in the sky”, while a well-known children’s entertainer, whose name we can only give as Peppa, said the Mayor was “making a pig’s ear out of the whole thing”. Scottish commentators have also leapt to Nessie’s defence, with Oor Wullie calling it a “bucket of nonsense” and Alex Salmond labelling it “harassment”. (We’ve got loads of these). “I’m not sure why this is news.” admitted one editor. “What is the point in demanding something you know you are not going to get?”

Posted in Article

Watford v Wolves: What a comeback!

Tara Moore: Hold my beer

So, you may have heard about a certain football cup Semi Final that was keenly contested, resulting in Watford coming from two goals down to book a place in one of the most prestigious sporting competitions in the world. But if it is comebacks you are looking for, then you’ll do no better than at a small-ish tennis tournament two days later, as reported in the Guardian.

Here at FPR, we can be cynical at times. Maybe we’re going soft in our old age (of literally four days old) but we thought this story needed to be shared. Saving a Match Point to avoid a 6-0, 6-0 defeat and then going on to WIN the match is a triumph of epic – some might say fairy tale – proportions. Huge well-deserved congratulations to Tara Moore; hopefully this is the start of something big. We look forward to British media over-hyping your chances thus causing you to collapse under the pressure time and time again. Ah, there’s the cynicism.

Also, well done Watford. Please, PLEASE beat City in the final.

(Photo credit: Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Action Images via Reuters)

Today in “Headlines we don’t need to edit”

Posted in Headlines

Speaker John Bercow explains the key difference between bellowing ‘Ordah!’ and ‘ORRDEEEHHHGH!’ when demanding constraint from MPs in the Commons 

We would like to note: The Daily Mail filed the above under “Brexit Crisis”

Democracy is overrated – let the Queen sort out Brexit

Above: The Guardian invites a guest correspondent from Germany.

Rhino poacher killed by elephant and devoured by lions on wildlife reserve

Above: Daily Record reports on criminal getting their just deserts.

FPR Comment: What was left unsaid about Dyspraxia

Posted in FPR Comment


Teacher sent to work at top secondary school despite being unable to READ or write


Teacher at Catholic London secondary school is suspended after it’s discovered he ‘CAN’T READ or write’

Above: Two good articles in The Sun and The Daily Mail Respectively – but here’s what was left out of the discussion

Here at FrontPageRage, our raison d’etre is making fun of poor or wasteful journalism that does nothing to improve the informed opinions of the general public. But sometimes, like now, we like to give credit where credit is due – particularly when we think we have something to add. A teacher that can’t read or write? Let’s face it: that’s a story. Both papers covered it well; explaining what happened and why. The Daily Mail acknowledged that they got the story from The Sun, and only missed one detail – that the subject that this wannabe teacher was “teaching” was business studies. Subject is, of course, important – the offence is far more serious had he got a job as an English teacher as opposed to, say, a PE teacher (the subject of choice for those who can’t teach, as the axiom goes). That notwithstanding, both papers confined themselves to the facts of the case really well. They spoke about how the “teacher” in question, Faisal Ahmed, defended himself by saying that he had dyspraxia. They correctly reported that Mr Ahmed had unsuccessfully sued for constructive dismissal and subsequently unsuccessfully appealed. Jolly good. That’s all I can expect of them for a fact-based article. But I want to take a closer look and zero in on the problems I have with Mr Ahmed’s pathetic and frankly insulting defence – a matter the papers were not at liberty to get involved in, but I am.

Dyspraxia is a genetic condition that affects hand-eye coordination. That’s the nutshell version – it manifests in slightly different ways to each individual sufferer. Two dyspraxic people can have two completely different life experiences. Unsurprisingly therefore, it is not a particularly well-understood condition and it does have knock-on effects, such as on organisational skills. It is an invisible illness – my favourite example of this being a former girlfriend claiming she had never seen any evidence I was dyspraxic while my hand was bleeding from sustaining a dyspraxic injury. Indeed, one of the problems of having dyspraxia is that you’re prone to forget you have it until you are painfully reminded. Only now is it beginning to get proper representation in media, and like most disability representation, it’s not particularly good at first – the portrayal of Ryan Sinclair in Doctor Who was certainly not offensive, but neither was it accurate. Mr Ahmed will not have helped in this regard. Sure, it’s plausible that one result of his dyspraxia is experiencing pain when writing. But practically impossible to read? Pull the other one. That’s dyslexia – dyspraxic people have enough problems with non-sufferers not knowing the difference without having to worry about people who ought to know better. Dyspraxia is a rare, non-fatal and usually non-serious condition – it does affect day-to-day life, but please don’t use it as an excuse for getting sacked from a job you were incapable of doing. Mr Ahmed’s sacking was not because of his dyspraxia, but because of his dishonesty, and indeed Teach First’s inability to see the potential problems of sending someone basically illiterate to teach at a Secondary School. By trying to put dyspraxia front and centre of a defence he shouldn’t have even been mounting, Mr Ahmed has insulted and potentially damaged dyspraxic people everywhere. How are employers who have read this story likely to react when a dyspraxic person applies for a job at their company? Do you think it is possible, perhaps, that some of them might, as a result of this case, think that dyspraxia equates with illiteracy? Teach First, of course, will endeavour to NOT make the same mistake again and make sure they tell everyone from now on that the candidate they are putting forward is dyspraxic. Net result: dyspraxic people have it that bit harder to find work than they already do. A dyspraxic person wrote this article. The same dyspraxic person has a Master of Arts Degree from The Scottish University of the Year 2019, and considered a career in teaching but is now hoping to make it as an author. He is the humble editor of this entire website. None of these are things I could do if dyspraxia were as much a burden as Mr Ahmed asserts. Even if – IF – all of his problems are rooted in dyspraxia, that still does not excuse his actions here. He had to know that his condition was so serious he couldn’t possibly teach Business Studies, and not accept the job in the first place. But he didn’t do that. He took a job he couldn’t do, then wasted taxpayer’s money by suing the school when it took the only sensible course of action it had available. Not only did he put his own self-interest ahead of everyone and everything else, but he also did it in such a way that there may be damaging consequences for honest dyspraxic people who may yet find themselves unwillingly linked to something that should have nothing to do with them.

Posted in Article

Andrea Leadsom: no-deal Brexit next week would not be so grim


News agencies are still giving oxygen to rhetoric that should have been debunked two years ago, the Guardian reveals. Andrea Leadsom appeared on one of the British Biased Corporation’s flagship political TV shows to insist that Brexit had to go ahead. Despite repeated statements that a no-deal Brexit was not her preferred option, and despite spouting several lines of nonsense that would be easy to attack, The Guardian opted for a headline that misrepresented her position. While Leadsom did indeed say that a no-deal Brexit would “not be so grim as people think”, using it as a headline does give a misleading implication of support. I don’t think a zombie apocalypse would be as grim as people might think, but I would still actively try to avoid it happening.

Leadsom, whose most impressive achievement to date is being the last person to make anyone feel sorry for Theresa May, has clearly conducted the same amount of research on Brexit as she did to her opponent for PM when she inadvertently insulted May’s inability to have children. It’s probably unfair to criticise her for not understanding the difference between a customs union and formal agreements that incorporate customs. It’s less unfair to criticise her for referring to the idea of having a vote on something “undemocratic”, but let’s not open that can of worms. Her main argument for a No-Deal Brexit not being as bad as we think is that the Civil Service has made detailed plans to mitigate the situation. Any well-functioning Government has plans to deal with anything from a hurricane to a German invasion, but that doesn’t mean we should declare war, or continue to ignore scientists. When asked about the possibility of running for party leadership again, Leadsom admitted that she had not been prepared last time – albeit accusing her colleagues of being as unready as her. Let’s face it: she probably had a point there. Even the host – whose line of questioning was at least fair and a passable attempt at firm – could not suggest a better reason for running again other than that she possessed a pair of ovaries. Why the Conservative party need a woman to run on this occasion when they are still the only party to have produced any female Prime Ministers is unclear. Perhaps the women in the party simply prefer to wait and maximise their chance of being the first female Prime Minister to actually be popular.