I DID a session with my Monday-morning students this week entitled: “It’s all about angles.” This morning’s papers offer what would have been a perfect example.
I think some of them found the topic a little too abstract. The idea was to explain the angle in terms of how a story is written – “a story is like a needle, it needs a sharp point” – and the way different angles can be taken on the same story. Or if you wish, how a story can be forced to fit a sharp angle (just glance at the Daily Mail any day of the week).
The Policy Exchange think tank has conducted a poll of British Muslims and its findings are covered “three ways by three papers” it says in the BBC website review of the papers – my starting point on a slow brain day.
The Times takes what you might call a socially optimistic approach to the story, beneath the front-page headline: “Most Muslims want full integration with British way of life.”
…Apologies, I had to step away there for a moment as I was at risk of burning my toast. Accidental incineration is a hazard of writing a blog at breakfast time. As, too, is burnt porridge…
The Times says of the research, which involved polling more than 3,000 Muslims, that they “broadly share the views and priorities of the wider population, rather than being shaped by supposedly ‘Islamic’ concerns”.
The paper adds: “Ninety-three per cent feel a fairly or very strong attachment to Britain and are likely to identify the NHS, unemployment and immigration as the biggest issues facing the country.”
To the Times, the survey is seen to have come to a positive conclusion. Not so the Mail which ferreted around in the findings until it could find something more to its taste – “Only 1 in 4 British Muslims believe Al Qaeda carried out 9/11 attack, says think tank.”
Now isn’t the Daily Mail just like one of those miserable people who always strive to see the worst in everything. Perhaps that is why so many readers buy the bloody thing: what they read confirms their worst suspicions that the world is a half-empty glass containing something they’d rather not sip.
“Some 31 per cent thought the American government was behind the strikes on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon,” the paper says, giving the Times a nasty jab in the ribs.
“Another 7 per cent said it was a Jewish plot, while 58 per cent did not know.”
In other, less inflammatory words, nearly 60 per cent of those asked had no view or opinion on the 9/11 attack, while a tiny proportion of nuttier Muslims thought it was a Jewish plot. If a statistic can have a wrong end, you can be sure the editor of the Daily Mail will grab it.
The Guardian takes a cautionary approach under the headline: “British Muslims have separatist tendencies”. David Goodhart, co-author of the report, says: “British Muslims as a whole continue to live somewhat more separately than other large ethno-cultural minorities – in neighbourhoods and schools, in terms of women not working, and in terms of attitudes and religiosity.”
One survey and three contrasting reports. It’s all about angles, you see.