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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Saturday, 13 March 2010

Hold the front page - Daily Mail twists truth to scare people over drink


It's like shooting fish in a barrel these days I know, but after being alerted to this by a fellow blogger, I couldn't let it pass without comment.

The Mail this week ran a story titled 'Beer for breakfast? Pub chain Wetherspoon to open at 7am'.

It's one of those classic weasels whereby if you read to the end of the piece, you eventually get the true facts. But journos know that most people read the headline and the first paragraph. If you did that here, you could only come away with the very clear impression that Wetherspoons is going to start serving - as the headline says - 'beer for breakfast', from 7am.

The only trouble is, that's not true:
  • Wetherspoons will NOT be serving alcohol when they open at 7am - they won't be serving alcohol till 9am - meaning the headline is factually inaccurate:
  • Wetherspoons ALREADY serve alcohol from 9am - so this is not news - in terms of pursuing its anti-drink agenda, there is actually no story here. Wetherspoons is NOT extending the hours during which it serves alcohol, even though the story is desperately trying to make you think they are.
So far, so Daily Mail. But the reason I had to write this piece was the following sentence:

"The new early hours are one result of the controversial shift to 24-hour licensing laws that has also coincided with a rise in concern about under-age drinking."

Even by the Mail's standards, this is a masterclass in deceit and distortion, and deserves to be dissected and studied carefully.

Firstly, its place in the article seems odd. Why are we suddenly talking about underage drinking when we were just talking about breakfast in Spoons? Read it quickly - as most of us do - and you'll think that Spoons opening for breakfast is going to encourage underage drinking. This is not what the sentence says, and it wouldn't make sense of it did now we've established alcohol won't even be served at breakfast time. But if it's not trying to do that, why is it here? It's actually irrelevant in this story - it's part of an entirely different story. Given that alcohol is not being served, the whole area of licensing laws and '24 hour drinking' is irrelevant to the story - this breakfast move has nothing to do with liberalised licensing hours whatsoever. This point is only here to create an entirely false association between Wetherspoons and under-age drinking.

Secondly, look carefully at the sentence itself - it links two entirely separate concepts - 24 hour licensing laws and underage drinking. It cleverly uses the word 'coincided' because there is no evidence whatsoever that what they refer to as "24 hour licensing laws" have had any impact on underage drinking, but still, the link is forged.

And finally, there's that beautiful weasel of 'a rise in concern about underage drinking'
What's that you say? Under-age drinking is rising? Oh hang on, no, that's not what you said is it? Because under age drinking is not rising, and you know it's not rising. In fact every single survey conducted since the new licensing laws were introduced, such as those surveys discussed here and here, shows that underage drinking is FALLING.

But you say 'concern' over underage drinking is rising? It is, is it? Among whom? And why? Wouldn't have anything to do with the Daily Mail creating a scare story where none exists, would it?

Take a bow Sean Poulter. Even by the standards of your colleagues, this is a brilliant piece of shit smearing. If it weren't so evil, I could almost admire it.

Fortunately, most of the commenters on the article have seen through your spin. Apart from some vile, bigoted comments about people on benefits, no one can really see what the supposed problem is in this (non) story - and this is Daily Mail readers we're talking about. Maybe there's some hope for us after all...

4 comments:

Tyson said...

What can you expect from the Daily Mail??? However, I should point out that some, not all, Wetherspoons will be serving alcohol from 7am. I can see the look of shock on the editor's face when he realises that one of their stories had a grain of truth in it!

Eddie86 said...

And again, what can we do about it? I'll be writing an email linking to this, and leave a comment on their website, but other than that this shit smearing is still legal!

Jeff Pickthall said...

I'm not convinced the DM has an "anti-drink agenda."

As far as I can see it's agenda is anti-liberalisation as part of a broader narrative that goes "Labour government introduced it therefore we've got to attack it" and the broader narrative "Britain is getting worse and liberal lefties are to blame."

At the same time the DM attacks nanny-stateism and takes the view that we can decide how much to drink for ourselves and we don't need NuLieBore to bloody well tell us.

It even commissions rather good pieces from prominent beer writers.

The DM screeches about other people's drinking habits. DM-readers can drink as much as they like; lower-class, broken Britain, out-of-control, binge-drinking red-top readers are being encouraged to drink all hours by NuLieBore to win their votes.

StringersBeer said...

Underage breakfast drinking? If they can get those idle b*st*rd teenagers out of bed at 7am, good luck to them.