Smear as a political strategy by so-called journalists

ImageJournalism as practised by some is a dishonourable profession. The news values are significantly out-of-line with real agenda – the things that really should matter. The Olympics is a case in point. In context, the Olympics is just a sporting event; though readers will appreciate that it has many political and corporate undertones that trouble me. It is a relief, therefore, to find that some of my readers are equally sceptical about media and journalism. One of those readers, Mary Tweed, found herself incensed by the cover of the Spectator magazine last week (above left). I reproduce her assessment below.

The names have been changed. Sometimes to protect the innocent, occasionally to protect the guilty. In this case it’s probably to stop any comeback about the mendacity behind an outrageous front-page headline. Bullied by the NHS. Try as I might, I can’t connect the headline with the contents of the article.

This disconnection becomes more obvious with just cursory research. On Mumsnet and other websites where mothers share their experiences of childbirth, it’s clear that many people have had positive experiences of NHS maternity care. Maybe even a sizable majority. For example;

So why run such a lightweight piece under such a damning headline? Do they believe the story told adds up to bullying? Or worse some sort of systemic bullying unique to NHS maternity services? The author got a rude midwife and wanted a personalised service. Notice there is nothing in the article about the quality of care she received.

Page 1 here;

Page 2 here;

In fact it’s clear she intends to lie to get what she deems to be an appropriate personalised service for someone in her tax bracket. Good enough care is not good enough it seems.  I’m not claiming NHS maternity care is flawless. I am claiming the headline “Bullied by the NHS” has nothing to do with the contents of the associated article.  I keep coming back to that front page. Its almost like the publishers of the Spectator want to kick out at the NHS and will take even the most tenuous of opportunities to do this.

The Smear. It begins with a smear and ends with privatisation. The railways and council housing were the same. State education and the entire civil service are getting the negative propaganda treatment as well. Smear, degrade, sell. It feels like a propaganda war.  Ironically Boris Johnson used to be boss at the Spectator. In the most recent London Mayor election he accused Ken Livingstone of trying to wind the clock back to the 1970s. As opposed to the Spectator, which seems to be trying to wind the clock back to the 1870s.

Leah McLaren states in this article that in Britain infant mortality is “significantly higher” than in France. She does not give any facts or any details of the research at all to back this up.

According to the United Nations the mortality figures per 1000 births for France and Britain are as follows; 2005 – 2010 UK: 4.91 FRANCE:3.54

According to the CIA world factbook for 2012 the numbers per 1000 births are; UK:4.56 FRANCE:3.37

Both sets of figures above and the links come from wikipedia;

In percentage terms that could be described as a significant difference. In numerical terms it’s slightly more than one extra death for every thousand births. The author goes on to make the assumption that the differences in mortality rates are solely due to the method of birth chosen. This is not clear from the statistics and could be the result of other differences.

Her point about home birth and hospital birth seems muddled. She seems to say France has a lower infant mortality rate due to “medicalised birth.” Then a few paragraphs later says in the UK the risks of home birth vs hospital birth are virtually the same.

It’s unclear what she means. Are UK home births as safe as hospital births? Is there a problem with “medicalised” birth care in the UK versus France?

It also bears no relation to the front page about bullying by the NHS.

The irony is she has a genuine complaint against the midwife who upset her. The person in question disclosed confidential information about other patients. If Leah McLaren was serious about improving the care at that particular maternity unit she should have made a complaint. Disclosing confidential patient information is something health-care professionals take seriously.  Instead the author chose to write a quasi-anonymous article about feeling bullied.

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