There's a new type of Mail story I've noticed recently - I can broadly describe it as "minorities trying to get compensation" and it seems to be quite prevalent - in the Mail's news list, anyway.
Today, for example, we have a story about a black teacher who was denied compensation after being poisoned by a pupil, a (blue-eyed) Muslim woman who won compensation for sexual harassment at work (though the Mail claim this can't possibly have been true because they have pictures of her wearing - horrors! - a vest top) and a story about soldiers mainly from Commonwealth countries who are suing the MoD after getting trench foot.
Do you see a pattern emerging here? It's not just brown people, as we can see from the Bosnian Muslim woman, but I think this is an entirely new strand of story - of course, people go to court to sue for this, that and the other every day; but the Mail has focussed on a Muslim woman, a black woman and some foreign soldiers. Not that the Mail don't often cover white people suing, of course, because they do; but I can't help wondering if these stories don't just fit in more with the Mail's own ideas about the marvellously oxymoronic Littlejohnism of 'diversity Nazis' running the country and giving precedence to minorities to get on the no-win-no-fee gravy train.
The Mail likes to position itself as being distinct from all these things. And no wonder it snorts with derision at those who would dare to seek redress through the courts, given the thousands upon thousands of pounds it has to pay out every year for the complete crap it prints about those who are fortunately wealthy enough to complain in court rather than go through Paul Dacre's Press Complaints Commission. So perhaps it's not just moral rectitude that sees it take this stance - if only people couldn't sue, they'd make thousands more in profit.
Just as the Mail's repeated stories about deliberately false rape accusations, without putting them into perspective with the number of convictions (or indeed unproven but nonetheless true rape accusations), has skewed readers' perceptions of the issue so much that on every story about rape where readers are invited to have their say, there is an assumption that most women are just 'making it up' to get a payout, I wonder if the same thing isn't happening here. There are dozens of tribunals that take place every day - which ones are the Mail picking, and why might we think that should be?
Incidentally, the Mail use a curious image to illustrate the story about soldiers getting trench foot - the image of Victoria Cross hero Johnson Beharry, with the caption:
Soldiers from warmer Commonwealth countries, like Grenadian Private Johnson Beharry VC (pictured), are far more susceptible to cases of Non Freezing Cold Injury (NFCI)
Er, right. Except Johnson Beharry isn't suing, and he hasn't had trench foot, so why use a picture of him? Is it to show Mail readers what a black person looks like, in case they've forgotten?
And do you remember all that middle-England sympathy for the Gurkhas recently? Do you think the same kind of sympathy extends to soldiers from Commonwealth countries who served the Queen and were let down by shoddy kit? If you do, you don't know Mail readers very well...
That's okay then - give them an aptitude test. If they fail then they don't get to join up. The forces are not in control of the theatre of operations they might be required to operate in and if you are incapable of tolerating the climatic conditions required of such service, get and do something else. I'm ex forces and tolerance of such conditions is a matter of common sense and an absolute precondition of service - it never did me any harm and I've seen the worst you can get. You damm well know what you're signing up for. Next we'll hear is they want out because they're being shot at. IT'S THE JOB STUPID!!
- Tough, UK, 16/6/2009 10:39
It'd be nice to think that's a spoof or a parody, but I'm pretty sure it isn't. Also:
If you have managed to contract trenchfoot, it is down to your own neglect.
- GB, London, 16/6/2009 10:37
Also, there's a subtle difference between the way the Mail and BBC tackle this story. Mail:
One ex-soldier from Nigeria, who was discharged after suffering NFCI, told the programme he contracted it on winter exercises in Wales and now faces constantly sore feet and fingernails which drop off.
"Your feet are stuck in your boots. They are swollen and your fingers feel stiffer to move," he said.
"I was told 'Soldier on, and stop being a wimp'."
He told Today that the Home Office had refused him a visa to return to the UK for the final medical he required to get £150,000 compensation.
Scott Smith (not his real name), from Nigeria, was medically discharged from the army after suffering NFCI.
He had only been in the UK for a few months and contracted the condition whilst on winter exercises in Wales.
He described the experience: "Your feet are stuck in your boots. They are swollen and your fingers feel stiffer to move"
But when Mr Scott complained he says he was told to "just get on with it".
He said: "I was told: 'Soldier on, and stop being a wimp'."
Now back in Nigeria, Mr Scott's fingernails continue to drop off and his feet are constantly sore. He also says he finds it hard in his native country to get treatment for his condition.
The MoD has admitted liability in his case, he said, but to get compensation worth £150,000 he needs to undergo a final medical in London.
It's a subtle difference, but it's there. You could read the Mail story and not realise the MoD had admitted that particular case; I don't know why they felt it important to leave out that detail, but it does make you wonder.