The Mail, Philpott, welfare…and MMR

April 6, 2013 at 5:28 pm (benefits, children, crime, Cuts, Daily Mail, Jim D, media, science, Tory scum, tragedy, welfare)

Daily Mail Welfare UK cover
As a general rule, it’s the political right who object to attempts to explain crime by reference to the social, economic or political context in which it occurs. This is, they say, to make excuses and to let evil people off the hook. Individuals must be accountable for their actions and distractions like poverty and unemployment should not enter into the equation.

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Which makes the Daily Mail‘s campaign to link the Mick Philpott case with the benefits system, at first blush, seem rather odd. AN Wilson, writing in the Mail, stated that “What the Philpott trial showed was the pervasiveness of evil caused by benefit dependency” and went on to ask his readers, rhetorically, “Do you think Philpott would have done this crime if he has worked regularly for the past 20 years and provided for those six children out of his own pocket?”
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Now this is all highly unpleasant stuff and clearly part of a Tory campaign to justify the government’s dismantling of the welfare state. The repugnant, monstrous figure of Mick Philpott has of course been a godsend to the Tories, taken up first by the Mail and then by Chancellor Osborne following a bizarre speech on welfare “reform” delivered at a Morrisons warehouse in Kent.
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But I’m not joining in with the shrill, self-righteous outrage expressed by the likes of Owen Jones and Pamela Nash MP: after all, us lefties do not hesitate to blame the Con-Dems and their cuts for death and misery. The Mail and the Tories will not be defeated by moralistic posturing or complaints that certain headlines, articles and speeches are “offensive.”
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For what it’s worth, I think the argument that Philpott did what he did in order to get his hands on more child benefit and/or a larger house, is pretty far-fetched. From what I’ve read and heard, his motives would seem to have been a desire to exact revenge upon his ex-mistress by framing her for the fire, and to simultaneously win himself media attention as a “hero” for having saved the children.
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But the truth is, none of us can know for sure.
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What we can know for sure, however, is that sections of the press and other media have played a big part in putting the lives of thousand of children’s health and lives at risk.
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The present measles epidemic in Swansea is the direct result of a cynical, irresponsible and hysterical campaign run by swathes of the UK media between about 1998 and 2010, against the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and its alleged (but in fact non-existent) link to autism. Thanks to widespread vaccination, incidences of the three diseases covered by MMR had been rapidly decreasing for years, to the point where they’d become very rare. But in the 2000’s instances of mumps and measles began to rise again. Dr Ben Goldacre, in his 2008 book Bad Science, wrote:
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“[T]he incidence of two of the three diseases covered by MMR is now increasing very impressively. We have the highest number of measles cases in England and Wales since current surveillance methods began in 1995, with cases occurring mostly in children who had not been adequately vaccinated: 971 confirmed cases were reported in 2007 (mostly associated with prolonged outbreaks in travelling and religious communities, where vaccine uptake has been historically low), after 740 cases in 2006 (and the first death since 1992)…
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“Mumps began rising again in 1999, after many years of cases in only double figures: by 2005 the United Kingdom had a mumps epidemic, with around 5,000 notifications in January alone.”
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Now, in Swansea, the measles epidemic has reached 588 cases and Public Health Wales have said: “it is just a matter of time before a child is left with serious and permanent complications such as eye disorders, deafness or brain damage, or dies.”
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According to the Guardian, “Take-up for the MMR vaccine dropped by 14% in south Wales in the late 1990’s after research, subsequently discredited, raised health concerns about the jab and prompted a campaign against it by the South Wales Evening Post.”
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And which major national paper was giving the provincial South Wales Evening Post its lead?
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No prizes for guessing:
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1 Comment

  1. Ian Taylor said,

    A feminist friend of mine had a good take on this:
    Given that Mick Philpott obviously held women in contempt and treated them disgracefully he ought to be seen as the vile product of a sexist culture – and so, in its own way, should the Daily Mail.

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