I hate the Daily Express newspaper. I genuinely think it plays a huge part in making the UK a much less pleasant place to live, because it demonstrates that there are people—a hugely vocal minority—who are stuck in a vitriolic mind-set of utter hatred towards anyone who isn’t the same colour, race, class, creed or, often, gender. Having spent 4 and a half years working in a press clippings agency, I think it’s fair to say I’ve read more than my fair share of Express articles, and if I never have to touch Richard Desmond’s dirty organ again it’ll be too soon.
The Express have printed an article claiming that a website built by the European Parliament, set up to educate kids as to the workings of the EU and the democratic process, is “’sinister’ Soviet-style propaganda”. It contains a quote from Paul Nuttall, UKIP MEP, stating that “Political propaganda on vulnerable kids is a form of child abuse”.
Unless we really believe that informing the next generation about how their world works is a Bad Thing, this is ludicrous even by the low standards of the Express. In what is clearly a golden age of information, the more we tell our kids the better we arm them for their future. Sure, we might disagree with someone politically, but it is nonsensical to flat-out lie in order to keep people from making up their own minds. The Express has not been known for its adhesion to the truth for a long time, but it is baffling that there is apparently no limit to how far they are allow to push the boundaries of fiction in the name of “news”.
In the absence of any legitimate legal response or agency that might actually be able to do something about this kind of thing, I’d normally recommend doing what I always recommend doing with stories from the Express: just ignore it. However, the response from the European Parliament’s Information Office, reproduced below, is utterly brilliant and displays a sense of humour previously unheard of in Belgium.
Welcome to the brave new world of EU reporting at the Daily Express, where information is bad, transparency is dictatorship, civic rights are forms of oppression and checking facts makes you blind.
We do not normally find it worthwhile challenging Daily Express euromyths. It would be like trying to engage UFO Magazine in scientific debate: a waste of time and dangerous for one’s mental health. Moreover, we are used and resigned to the peculiar phenomenon of its journalists switching off all critical faculties when it comes to taking politically motivated anti-EU tirades as fact, then working backwards to try to fit the circumstances to the ‘crime’.
But today’s ‘story’ really does deserves a short comment. The paper, prompted by a complaint by a eurosceptic politician, published a piece arguing, entirely un-ironically, that creating a website informing young citizens and future voters of their rights is now to be considered propaganda.
You heard right. The modern, Express-sanctioned meaning of propaganda – made worse by that one-size-fits-all criticism of “paid for by tax payers’ money” – is not raging against a minority, say, or distorting the truth about which side is winning in a war, or inciting the populace to violence. Modern day propaganda is for a democratically elected Parliament to make people (including young people) aware of its existence and their rights within it. And to have the audacity to do so with the aid of that sinister, new-fangled technological wizardry: a website!!!!
In fairness, an Express reporter had contacted this office and asked for a quote about how ‘The Parliament’ would justify its deeds.
Never mind that an eloquent explanation of the purpose of the initiative (which is still only just that, a proposal being looked at) already appears in the document she herself had raised as ‘proof’ of this conspiracy to inform.
Never mind that it had been written by a body of senior MEPs including a British vice president of the Parliament, whom she was at liberty to interview were she able to spare the time. (She could not, or did not see fit to publish their comments).
We also happened to mention that, with one simple Google search, we had been able to come up with the UK Parliament’s equivalent of this outrageous practice. Shocking, I know. Is there to be no end to the horror?
The reporter, to be perfectly fair, displayed immense fortitude at this juncture. She absorbed the ground-shifting discovery that propaganda was indeed alive and well at the heart of the Mother of Parliaments – never mind the barbarous EU – and then delivered this killer line: we should feel free to use this example in our own comment to her.
Let me write this again. It was to be somehow our job to put the ‘propaganda’ slur in context by mentioning the existence of similar initiatives in most national parliaments including Britain’s own. Providing context and balance in a story is no longer the job of the Daily Express reporter, you see. If you want balance and context you have to knit it yourself.
You’d be searching in vain for this context in today’s story, reader. You will not find it. What’s worse, your ignorance of the existence of sinister educational websites set up by the Houses of Parliament leaves your children vulnerable to the horror of ‘Soviet-style’ British propaganda right here right now, under your very nose and, needless to say, with your taxes.