Every so often a news story seems to tick so many of a newspaper’s boxes, but despite the exciting claims made in the headline, you find precious little information in the article itself that backs them up. Normally headlines are written after the story, but not always.
As long as the newspaper isn’t libelling any specific group or individual, then there’s nothing to lose except their credibility. Fortunately this isn’t a massive priority for tabloid newspapers [or us, in fairness, Ed.].
On the front page of The Daily Mail on 26th August, one such article appeared.
As you all know, The Mail keeps its circulation by maintaining a daily narrative that every aspect of the world that its readers know and love is under threat from dark forces.
screamed the headline.
Animal Rights protesters suspected of tampering with Nurofen
Claimed the sub-headline.
So what we have here is a story about thousands of packets of Nurofen Plus, which has a significant share of the UK analgesic market, being filled with Seroquel XL anti-psychotic drugs by animal rights activists. In case any of you are too young to remember, animal rights activists were one of the popular tabloid baddies before Al Qaeda made terrorism less cool and everyone else took their ball home.
As with other anti-psychotics, the side -effects of Seroquel can include anything from depression (not funny) to a painful and long-lasting erection (a little bit funny).
This is a pretty dramatic attack we’re sure you agree. However, if you read on, the claim that it was animal rights motivated is repeated but the claim is not attributed to anyone. The paper just carried it because it was a health scare, a terrorist attack and probably carried out by hippies.
Last Monday, exactly one month afterwards, a little article appeared on their website (but wasn’t important enough to make it into the main paper the same day) detailing how a 30 year old man was in court charged with tampering with five packets of Nurofen. And all mentions of animal rights have disappeared.
Of course none of this came as much of a surprise to Dr Aomesh Bhatt, the Medical Director for Nurofen Plus who was quoted by a different news source on the same day as the original Daily Mail story appeared:
Nurofen Plus has a firm policy of not testing on animals. We don’t know where the Daily Mail got their story.
We do- from the nightmares of their readers.
Other highlights from last week included…
The flexible morality of The Sun and The Mirror. Remember when the tabloids all expressed disgust at paparazzi photographers trying to sell pictures of a dying Diana? What about pictures on the front page of Michael Jackson’s corpse looking decidedly less busy than it was in the Thriller video? Well that’s completely different. At least The Mail managed to wait until page five.
The Sun missing the REAL Rihanna exclusive. Tuesday’s Sun featured shots of a scantily clad Rihanna dancing about in a farmer’s field near Bangor, Northern Ireland. The leering article (sample quote: “she even whipped out her Bangors”) ended with
the farmer must have thought that all his harvests had come at once.
In the next day’s papers, it turned out that the farmer wasn’t quite so pervy after all. 61 year old Alan Graham became the Daily Mail’s hero when he found the shared ground between protestant principled prudery and ‘farm fanny film’ fearing feminism.
Far from Alan wanting to take Rihanna to the shed for a good milking, he had actually taken offence at the scenes and asked Rihanna to stop shooting.
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