EU lies and the British tabloids who told them

Last June, the Economist ran this chart: "Lies, Damned Lies, and Directives," which documents decades of flat-out lies about EU regulations that were published in the tabloid press (many invented by the UK's post-Brexit foreign minister and Trumpian hairclown Boris Johnson, whose press colleagues considered him most reckless confabulist on European matters in their ranks).

The lies were debunked by a tepid truth squad employed by the European Commission, who managed to get an average of about 1,000 visits to each of their articles. The Daily Mail gets 225 million visits/month.

The Economist also provides a hand league table ranking the British tabloids by their propensity for lying, with the Daily Mail at the very top (of course).

THE Brexit campaign has been plagued by little white lies, half-truths and disinformation. Neither side has showered itself in glory in its attempts to persuade the British public of the benefits or drawbacks of EU membership. But Britain has a long and well-observed tradition of fabricating facts about Europe—so much so that the European Commission (EC) set up a website to debunk these lies in the early 1990s. Try our interactive quiz below and see if you can spot the myths.

Since then the EC has responded to over 400 myths published by the British media. These range from the absurd (fishing boats will be forced to carry condoms) to the ridiculous (zippers on trousers will be banned). Some are seemingly the result of wilful misunderstandings. A story published by the Sun, a tabloid, in 1999 claimed that the queen would suddenly have to make her own tea because of new EU rules. Not only is this inaccurate, as a patient EC official pointed out, but the laws that this referred to were enacted by Britain itself in 1993. Another article in the Daily Star in 2004 reckoned that the EU was going to limit the speed of children’s playground roundabouts. This voluntary guideline, it turned out, was not proposed by the EU at all, but rather by a different organisation with the word “Europe” in its name. Other myths do not originate from anything close to reality, such as the allegation that the EC would ban darts from pubs or outlaw unwrapped sweets.

Debunking years of tabloid claims about Europe [The Economist]

(via John Naughton)

Notable Replies

  1. Enkita says:

    It's interesting how the graph shows exactly what you would expect based on a knowledge of the organs concerned. The perfect Mail story is:
    Week 1: New superfood essential for your health
    Week 2: How new superfood is killing you.
    The combination of food and the EU must excite all of Paul Dacre's dark fantasies. The amazing thing is that he went to what is perhaps the country's only mildly left wing private school - and ever since seems to have been rebelling against his education.

    (The UCS school song is about laying ignorance, intolerance and tyranny low, which is kind of the Daily Mail in exact reverse.)

  2. The Daily Mail has been a disgrace to UK journalism like forever. It's not Paul Dacre.

    Unless he's from the future and has been going back in time to keep it on track. I wouldn't bloody well put it past him.

  3. People like being lied to, if it's what they want to hear.

  4. Enkita says:

    I can't remember the author now but there's a little verse of the 1920s: "My papers sell most copies/because I print most lies."

    The point about the Dacre Mail is that whereas Rothermere supported Fascism before WW2, the Mail continues to be a fascism-loving newspaper after WW2, when we all know what Naziism was really like.

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