Thursday, September 10, 2009

Agendas, idleness and collateral damage

It all started on Sunday when as I munched on my muesli I surfed through the Sunday scream sheets and I stumbled across this. It would seem, from the headline that scouts were being banned from using pen knives. And my first thought was, “yeah right,” on the basis that firstly it was in the Mail and second, as a scout leader, I get any important rule changes like this cascaded to me pretty quickly. So I read on to discover that apparently

“The Scout Association is advising boys* and their parents that they should not bring knives to camp – despite it being legal for anyone to carry a foldable non locking blade in public as long as long as it is shorter than 3 inches.”

Eh? What the hell was going on? There was nothing on the website, there was nothing on any recent emails, where was this all coming from?

“in a recent edition of their official in-house magazine, Scouting, they are advised that neither they nor their parents should bring penknives to camp”.

Now this rang a bell, I’d read something about knife law in scouting some months ago, so had a rummage under the bed and found the relevant article. Now I wont just cut and paste (more on cut and pasting later) wholesale, I shall simply leave you to compare what the Mail selectively quoted from that article, with what the whole article actually says (you’ll need to scroll to page 50).

As you can see all it is is clarification of what Britain ’s complex knife laws allow and recommendations as to how to put that into practice. And that boils down to stay within the law and only use them when appropriate. Now I ask you, is that really so controversial?
So far just a piss poor bit of research.

It got worse though, as on Monday the Scouts Chief Commissioner made a statement on the scouts website in reaction to the story, in particular he said

A Mail on Sunday journalist approached us on Friday having read the latest guidance we issued in Scouting Magazine/online in December 08 and April 09 on advising Scouts on the situations in which they can use a knife as part of normal Scout Activities. He was looking to make the story into "Scouts Ban knives shocker". The media team took them through the facts and sent them links to our various documents and magazine articles giving him the following info,

- The Rules changed about wearing knives with uniform in 1968
- We have issued regular guidance to the Movement on this matter ever since 1968 e.g. early 1980's , 1996, 2008 and 2009 (the latest being the magazine article in April/May)
- We need to support leaders with information to help them support young people

Despite making these facts available the Mail on Sunday published the piece, They used a few selective statements and quotes some out of context..

Yes, it would seem that despite being told directly what the situation was the Mail decided to go ahead and publish this story anyway to make the scouts look bloody stupid, wet and generally part of the ‘elf and safety/political correctness gone mad crap that they churn out ad infinitum.

And they have form for this as well. I was ready to put my fist through the monitor at the distortions they published in 2007 over the “sun rise” camp on Brownsea Island. On that occasion the situation was that a camp was held on a remote island with limited cooking facilities for 300 kids from 150 countries including every religion and culture you can imagine including Jews and Muslims (no pork) Hindus (no beef), Buddhists (vegetarian) and many that you probably can’t all with their own variations. Given this the organisers went for a vegetarian menu for simplicity. The Mail naturally span this in to “scouts ban bangers, political correctness gone mad”. Rather than report on kids from all round the world living peacefully together.

Spinning out right lies about scouts fits perfectly with the whole “why oh why can’t it be the 1950’s again” agenda of the Mail which is itself made up of its various prejudices, prejudice against anything not white middle class and Christian with nice little women who know their limits and Dixon of Dock fucking Green on every street corner cuffing cheeky young scamps round the ear. Which is of course what the 1950’s were like. Apparently. You see in this world we should wear pointy hats, shorts and sharpen sticks with not a girl in sight. My lot will be going canoeing, go karting and to the ballet this term. Times change and the Mail does not like it one bit.

They could have written something positive this weekend. An explorer scout called Lucie Jones looks like she’ll be a big star on X Factor (not my thing personally but still positive). They could have written about the centenary celebrations of our sister organisation the Girl Guides, but they ignored it. Instead the scouts just became canon fodder for their constant crappy agenda.

Yet what are we to make of the rest of the press? Indeed in particular the broad sheets and how they responded to this? Did they see a story and decide to check the facts? Do a spot of research? Pick up the fucking phone and speak to someone? Did they?

Did they bollocks.

No instead every single one of them simply lifted it straight from the Mail (although in fairness the Indie The Mirror and The Sun pulled theirs after being contacted by Scouts press office). At least the Guardian made some vague attempt to put it in their own words. Not so others who seem to have discovered the copy and paste function. Worst of the lot in this insipid bout of utter bone idleness was, I’m afraid to say the Times. Yup The Times, I may not agree with all their politics by had at least credited them with some decent journalism. Clearly I was mistaken.

Let’s play spot the difference shall we?

Exhibit A The Mail

Exhibit B The Times

Oh I’m sorry, did I get those the wrong way round? Sorry, it’s just I can’t tell the sodding difference. If one of my scouts had been as bone fucking idle as that I would happily kick their arse, where as journalists right across the country get paid for this crock of shit.


*And another thing, if I have to tell one more person, be it journalist, parent or random punters that girls can be scouts (and beavers, cubs and explorers as well) then I’ll happily strangle them with by bear hands. And yes that does go against the scout promise and law, and I don’t care either!

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