The Murdoch newspaper’s claims about the campaigning organizations were simply not true. Brian Cathcart examines the evidence
The title at the top of the first page of the London Times read: ‘Teachers told to avoid ‘biased’ opinions of BLM and Stonewall’.
And the report below began with the sentence: ‘Teachers should avoid using material from campaign organizations such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Stonewall which may hold ‘partisan political views’, government guidelines on states of impartiality.”
This is very bad journalism. It is false and inaccurate and therefore manifestly in violation of the editorial code of conduct to which the Times‘, John Witherow, and his reporters are publicly engaged.
The new government directives in question simply do not give teachers the instruction that the Times says yes. It also does not, at any point, refer to the views of BLM and Stonewall as “biased.” In fact, it doesn’t specifically address BLM’s opinions or mention Stonewall at all.
the Times cannot claim that this is a matter of interpretation or inference because his assertion that government guidelines “States” those things closed that line of retreat. These things have either been declared or have not been declared. And they weren’t.
The document on which The temperature based on her story is the Education Department’s “Advice: Political Impartiality in Schools”, published February 17.
It is substantial, with passages including ‘the law’, ‘identification of political issues’ and ‘balance in teaching’, ‘age-appropriate teaching’.
An introduction signed by Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi states: “This guidance does not seek to limit the range of policy issues and viewpoints that schools can and do teach. These tips should help those working with and in schools to understand the relevant legal obligations. »
Where in this guide did you the Times find support for his claim that teachers have been asked to shun the “biased” views of Stonewall, the charity that campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ+) rights?
Since the guidelines don’t actually mention Stonewall, it’s clear that they can’t label their opinions as “partial”. The tips also don’t even address LGBTQ+ people or groups, although there is a reference to homosexuality. This occurs in a scenario intended to aid understanding, and it is worth quoting:
“When teaching about the decriminalization of homosexuality in the UK, including the Sexual Offenses Act 1967, it can be important to teach the prejudicial views of those who oppose change. Teachers are not required to portray these discriminatory beliefs as indiscriminate or acceptable in our society today.They can and should be clear with students about the dangers of current sexist beliefs and practices, including the facts and laws about discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Sounds like a message Stonewall and his supporters would be happy to endorse.
10 favors the governmentmade his press friends– At our expense
And what about BLM? Unlike Stonewall, he is explicitly mentioned in the advice, in a storyline related to teaching racism:
“Where schools wish to teach specific campaign organizations, such as some of those associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, they should be aware that this may cover partisan political views. These are views that go beyond the fundamental shared principle that racism is unacceptable, a view that schools should reinforce…Schools should ensure that this content is taught appropriately, taking steps to provide students with a balanced account of opposing views on these points.
A reminder of what the Times asserted: “Teachers should avoid using material from campaign organizations such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Stonewall which may hold ‘partisan political views’, the Government’s guidelines on impartiality states. “
Breaking this down, the guidelines don’t say that teachers “must avoid using material” from BLM, but rather that they should “be aware” that the material may be partisan and that they should “ensure that the content is taught appropriately”. Very different.
The guidelines don’t even identify BLM itself or its material as being discussed — instead, it refers to “some of those associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.” And nowhere does it say that BLM “may hold partisan views”. the Times is simply wrong.
If the article‘s title and opening paragraph at the top of the first page were pure fiction, the rest didn’t fare much better.
The fourth paragraph of the article read: “Government sources said the move was aimed at combating the politicization of sensitive topics such as race and gender by campaign groups.”
Thus, the genre was raised by unnamed “government sources” rather than the guidelines. It was a spin, but a weird spin. Did the Times ask his sources why, if they thought the genre was relevant, there wasn’t a word about it in the advice? Apparently not, although it is surely strange to “fight” something by not mentioning it.
This was followed by a few paragraphs supposedly relating to the BLM, in which, with the clear purpose of making the anti-BLM guidelines appear, the Times deployed the same sleight of hand as before.
Although there is an organization in the UK called Black Lives Matter, there are also a large number of groups that partner with the Black Lives Matter cause. Even though the guidelines very clearly referred to members of the latter category — “some of those associated with the Black Lives Matter movement” — as possibly holding partisan political views, the Times wrote more bluntly that “campaign groups such as BLM” held such views.
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Sleight of hand
Does it matter? This is because it is a dishonest attempt to the Times to harm BLM and Stonewall, and more generally because words matter – especially in journalism.
Every word in journalism is or should be chosen: it is not a casual affair and should never be. So when the Times misleads its readers by saying that a government publication “states” something it doesn’t say, we shouldn’t shrug it off.
Likewise, when The temperature writes of “campaign groups such as BLM” when it should say “groups associated with the BLM movement”, we have to acknowledge that this is deliberate. This story is a libel against BLM and Stonewall, and nothing more.
What can we do about it?
It is possible to lodge a complaint with Witherow at the Timesbut he’s already shown he doesn’t care about accurate reporting, especially in the case of Andrew Norfolk.
It is also possible to complain to IPSO – but IPSO is a bogus press self-regulator and will bend over backwards to get the Times off hook. Its approach to simple dishonesty is often to pass it off as a mistake or an approximation, and in this way it gradually devalues journalism and allows for more dishonesty.
If you don’t like what the Times is up to snuff, don’t buy it or subscribe, and suggest to your friends that they don’t either. And if you want, donate to Black Lives Matter or Stonewall. In the face of bad journalism, they need your support.
Brian Cathcart is a journalism professor at Kingston University in London and the author of “The Case of Stephen Lawrence” (1999)
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