Sensationalisation

Before the shootings in Paris, I had commented that the Danish media was spending a lot of bandwidth talking about Islam creating an us-and-them mentality. After the shootings, the story was simple enough for the media to have on repeat, so the message could be properly disseminated. Vice.com reported on concerns that political forces were hijacking the event for their own devices, at the expense of community cohesion.

Every time a politician tries to make political capital on anything, there is always an equal and opposite reaction. For every voter they recruit with talk of their economic or social policy, they turn off others. They accept that risk. That risk is acceptable: it’s how free speech works.

Every time a politician tries to drive a wedge between ‘our values’ and the ‘other’, their aim is to recruit  voters but they are putting others off. This sort of politicking makes the marginalised feel more so. Usually, the marginalised stay passive and so politicians have got into the habit of doing it. You see it in the UK, when the Conservative Party propose stopping national unemployment insurance pay outs to the obese. And of course, we saw a lot of it after the shootings in Paris. “Why don’t moderate Muslims decry these attacks?” “Muslims are solely responsible for stopping this”. For every Dane that nodded their ignorant little head about the sentiment; many were irritated, infuriated, provoked.

And it’s just free speech. It’s just how free speech works. Those who work in politics are free to make disenfranchised people feel like shit, if it gains them a vote down the line. You won’t find any argument on that point here.

But.

Shouldn’t they be a bit more nuanced? Shouldn’t they make the effort to tell the long story? Shouldn’t they look at the wider picture a bit more? And make it a bit more thoughtful?

They do it because it works and they do it because we are lazy. The voters cannot be bothered to sit down and absorb a complex argument, so politicians are careful to craft the best soundbite to save everyone the effort. Instead of politicians having an actual debate on the nature of power, the role of conflict in the modern world, the causes of violence across the globe; we just get regurgitated pap. “Free speech should never be threatened!” “Their values are not our values!”

“For every subtle and complicated question, there is a perfectly simple and straightforward answer, which is wrong.”
H.L. Mencken

In fact, the message was simple enough that politicians and others who work in politics (for example, dictators), who have no respect for free speech could show up and pretend that they did for a day. It was easy for them because no one was having a discussion, they were just pronouncing shibboleths.

And, honestly, if someone unstable does become so incensed about any given poltician’s message that they become violent, this is not a reason to make the discussion more nuanced. For one, you cannot change your behaviour just because violent people do not like it. For another, their crimes are great for electioneering.

The reason to use free speech to make intelligent, moderate, well-informed pronouncements is for its own sake. Which is why it is not happening.

And thence to the role of the media.

Here is a video is from 2009 about a school shooting in Germany and its wall-to-wall coverage in the international media.

Forensic psychologists have pin-pointed things that can make copy cat mass murder more likely. These things include blanket coverage, sensationalised reports, making the shooter appear to be an anti-hero, focusing on the body count.

The media has responsible standards for reporting on suicide. The media mostly follows this, though not in the case of high profile suicides like Robin Williams. This is because using these guidelines saves lives.

By reporting on “Charlie Hebdo” (and the siege in the Jewish supermarket) in a sensational, blanket way, they made copy-cat killings more likely. They did not emphasise the troubled, disturbed lives of the murderers but made them out to be some breed of freedom fighter, allied to a terrorist cell. Compare/contrast with the reports on Breivik’s mental state and less than flattering comments on his character.

Though, it is not like the media cannot report on mass killings in a responsible way. The Chapel Hill suspect was dismissed as a mentally ill anomaly almost immediately and the crimes he is accused of were reported much less sensationally and were buried under the news cycle very quickly.

But what incentive does the media have to tone down the coverage of mass murder when it is clearly what the public want to consume? Nothing much happened between the Copenhagen shootings suspect being killed by police and his name being released but there was wall-to-wall coverage anyway. In this time online, many new stories were written because each click means revenue and the public are ready and willing to click. It is what the public want and so it is what they get.

His name has been released and the only detail about him that has come out is that he was active in illegal gangs. Straight off the bat, he is an anti-hero. The police have not confirmed this was a terrorist attack, just that they are investigating if it was. The Danish media are calling it terrorism anyway. This rolling coverage cements the same old us-and-them attitude. But who is ‘us’ and who is ‘them’?

Responsible reporting of this mass murder could save lives. But it is an election year, people don’t want to buy newspapers anymore and the public are simply not interested. They want pictures of bullet holes, they want to feel a frisson, they want a simple bedtime story. They don’t give a shit about the dead or their families, they just like to rubber neck and shudder.

And for all the Mr and Mrs Denmarks who are polarised against The Muslim Threat by this coverage; young troubled men are also being polarised against The West.

Danes, indeed, do say ‘neger’

The use of the word ‘neger’ is not just reserved amongst the lower classes, uneducated and old. Personally, I have heard it from university educated people, young people, people I thought were friends and colleagues. Every time I call them on it, they are universally shocked that anyone has anything to say on the matter.

Friends of mine report that a similar cross-section of Danish society use the word.

Here are some internet comments from people I don’t know, talking about the frequency of hearing ‘neger’ in Denmark

growing up
Never happened in the old days
White student shocked at the frequency of its use
White student shocked

Here is an article in English about it:-

Winnon Brunson Jr: Racist insult provoked me

Here is an article in Danish about it:-

Mary Consolata Namagambe: The quiet racism in Denmark

This educated, young guy in Venstre publicly announced he would use ‘neger’ in place of ‘sort’ as a protest against Haribo removing crude racial stereotypes from bags of sweets.

Here is a Dane saying he, and everyone he knows, uses the word ‘neger’. He is either a student or a graduate of a university. Someone likes this.

Everyone I know says 'neger'
Everyone I know says ‘neger’

As for the prevalence of Danes saying ‘neger’ is closer to ‘negro’, so it is actually a neutral word. This is what I could find on the internet. There are also articles online which mirror the reasoning given in comments. There are several posts about how Martin Luther King called himself a negro, so therefore, a corruption of the word ‘negro’ is acceptable in modern day Denmark. Several articles note that since ‘neger’ is derived from the Spanish word ‘negro’, and not from the English word ‘nigger’, then the word is neutral.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Here is a screenshot from an article from videnskab.dk where a linguist or ‘negerekspert’ as they call him, says it is not politically incorrect to use the word ‘neger’ in Denmark.

Word is acceptable here in Denmark
Word is acceptable here in Denmark

 

Racism in the Danish Press

A new report has highlighted racism in Danish society. One of the problems they point out is that the media promotes racism.

With the report stating that “some media have continued to portray minority groups, in particular Muslims and Roma in a negative light,” Jacob Machangama from libertarian think-tank Cepos, argued that the reports findings are biased.

“It’s a deeply biased view that Danish media promotes racial discrimination,” Machangama told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “There is no justification for it. If you spoke to the chairman of [the journalists’ union] Dansk Journalistforbundyou would probably get a different point of view.”

Taken from the Copenhagen Post (by Peter Stanners)

Report finds immigrants suffer discrimination

Let’s take that point slowly, shall we, because it’s a good one. Cepos say if you ASK the chairman of the Danish journalist union “Is some of the Danish media racist”,  you would get the answer ‘no’.

The report compiled by an international group from the Council of Europe found the answer ‘yes’ by taking reports from at least two independent sources. As we all know, the answer between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ is ‘sometimes’, so the “right” “unbiased” answer should be ‘sometimes’.

You have got to be fucking kidding me. What on EARTH aren’t they teaching them at schools these days?

Halfway between a lie and the truth isn’t also the truth. If at least two independent sources are saying that some of the Danish media is racist, polling the Danish media yourself isn’t going to get the bottom of the matter.

Well, just for comparison’s sake, here’s what a Danish newspaper (Jyllands Posten) allowed an extreme-right politician write in their online paper.

What the hell are 16 943 Somalians even doing in Denmark?

by Søren Espersen

It suddenly hit me this morning when I read a story about some systematic tax evasion by a group of Somalians: in Jyllands-Posten: What the Hell are 16 943 Somalians even doing in Denmark…?

It wasn’t so much that a group of them had cheated their taxes, that’s something that even Danes excel in, nah, it was more about what are 16 943 Somalians doing in Denmark instead of being home in Somalia because of the Jyllands Posten’s side story next to the big story on tax.

In the article: “Somalians are the least well integrated in Denmark” it was reported that the Somali community in Denmark is a total parallel society, made up of people who are completely isolated from the surrounding country and where families and clans rule. An expert from Roskilde University Shahamak Rezael said to the paper that it is basically about how migrant families place their loyalty in as much as “it looks like they think more about me-and-mine and in that way live in a parallel existence”.

The paper reveals that Somalians are completely divorced from other immigrant groups by having a large systematic money collection universe from which millions of kroner every year, via Dubai, are sent to clans in Somalia. The expert from Roskilde said in this connection that this trade is to underline that the Somalian’s loyalty is limited to their network back home.

Jyllands-Posten tells us further that the Somalians do extremely poorly in the labour market and they isolate themselves in ghettos, where they can continue their Somalian life, completely without connection to us others.

For me, who has read Aayan Hirsi-Ali’s books and has interviewed the strong and brave women, amongst other things about this peculiar Somalian world, the Jyllands-Posten article with this shocking information makes me wonder.

  • I wonder why we even have Somalian residents in this country, when they don’t have the least interest in Denmark or in the Danish people.
  • I am surprised that Denmark entertains and supports a giant group of people who only have contempt for us and our way of life.
  • I wonder why the Somalians don’t just go home when all their life, journeys, thoughts, language -and work in general – is in Somalia.
  • Yes, I wonder what the hell 16 943 Somalians are even doing in Denmark.
Yours Faithfully

Søren Espersen

Danish Mainstream Culture is Quite Racist

Discuss.

I mean, I can think of a lot of examples which highlight that Danish mainstream culture is quite racist and have written about them at length.

So, let’s have a heated debate. Do you readers out there think that Denmark is quite racist in the mainstream? Or is it just little pockets? Can one say “It’s not racism in this country to do x”, if anyone has been offended by it? Is it just individuals making mistakes and not indicative of the culture as a whole?

Strictly no derailments!

Examples include personal attacks and the following:-

1) America/the UK/every other country is the same/worse

2) That’s not racist! You’re overly sensitive/can’t take a joke.

3) Shut up and go home.

Like my main man Lao Tzu says:-

“A great nation is like a great man:
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults
as his most benevolent teachers.
He thinks of his enemy
as the shadow that he himself casts.”

If someone is telling you that you have shat the bed, you probably don’t say

1) Other people (e.g. babies) shit in their beds all the time

2) I was joking when I shat the bed/it’s my culture to defecate here

3) Get out of my bedroom if you don’t like shitty beds!

But rather: please tell me more about developing my voluntary nocturnal anal continence.

Let’s do that here. (But for racism and not recumbent bowel evacuation. )

Translating the News: Parental Competence Cases

This took a long time to translate. I wanted to get it out there because I think a lot of people who go around praising Denmark to the heavens have no idea how anything works here because it is hidden behind layers of the Danish language. Sure you can google translate but how would you know which articles and what can you make of sentences like “Neither is self-evident in the municipalities,” if you do not have a smattering of Danish. I would also like to point you in the direction of Only in Denmark for a selection of news stories about Denmark in English.

I understand that you WANT Denmark to be a wonderful shining example of how to do things but it does have major weaknesses. As you will see in this article, some people are working hard to make things right but they face incredible resistance and are not always successful.

The cultural expectation is that professionals are trustworthy and know what they are doing. In the cases where only one or neither of those things are true, there are no safety nets. Everything is left up to interpretation and then set it stone, never to be interpreted again.

Denmark is also crippled by a belief that there is nothing to learn from “experts”. Everyone invents their own wheel here or else does What Has Always Been Done. Practically, that means studies of effectiveness or quality are rarely conducted. If they are, they are waved away by those wish to try something similar with such reasoning as “our town is smaller than the town in the study, we will be different.”

I get a lot of “Well, it’s like anywhere then! You’d get this in <insert country>!”
Denmark is not some Shangri La. There is a lot of serious incompetence which result in horrifying decisions being made. You have taken exactly my point.

Translated from: Methodological freedom does not involve due process in custody cases

PARENTAL INVESTIGATIONS IN A LAWLESS LAND

When borough councils have to identify parents who are harming their own children, they have a free hand in methodology, time frame and professionals consulted. There are no exact rules for how the sensitive parental competence investigations have to be conducted, even though they are often key in the cases where children are removed from the home.

The result is that there is an enormous variation of how thorough investigations that judge the ability to take care of children are. Even though the investigations have become commonplace in forced removal cases, there are no minimum requirements in the investigations which are not even mentioned in our laws.

Therefore there are, for example, no requirements that a registered psychologist should be consulted or that the parents and the child should be observed together. Neither are a matter of course in the municipal boroughs. (As shown by a survey by P1)

In the survey, 61 boroughs gave widely different descriptions of what a parental investigation is. While some boroughs use up to half a million on observing the whole family in a family institution for several months, in some places manage to conduct parental competence investigations for a few thousand kroner, by one social worker reading the files from local government workers and daycare workers.

Lawyers with great experience in the area experience also a sharp variability in quality of the investigations.

“It can be very superficial, what happens. Perhaps, they are not with the parents for a long time or they don’t see the parents interact with the child. It is very inadequate in practice,” said lawyer Bjarne Overmark.

He has represented a normally functioning Asian woman, who was written up in a parental investigation as “retarded” because the answers she gave the psychologist were childlike and primitive – simply because she did not speak particularly good Danish.

No quality control

The president of the boroughs’ social service leaders Ole Pass admits that no one has ever investigated the extent or quality of parental competence investigations and that the boroughs have not compiled the best practice of which methods work  or even give the greatest assurance that the parents who are harmful to their own children are identified.

“I’m not denying that there might be a need for a countrywide investigation and a compilation of what is best in different situations. I just wouldn’t want any  standardisation because there are a lot of diverse factors in play,” said Ole Pass who is also against a definition of exactly what a parental competence investigation is. “It would definitely limit the borough’s necessary freedom of methodology,” he said to P1.

The President for Parliament’s Social Affairs Özlem Cezik (SF) has difficulty seeing why there should be a difference in how parents are investigated on Lolland or in Ringsted. She wants clear, uniform guidelines for boroughs, if necessary through legislation.

“I don’t think it is sensible that there are no professional guidelines for such an investigation. It’s a bit like when an organ is being removed, you make sure it is a doctor who operates on you and that someone takes your blood pressure and so on,” she said.

She points out that parental competence investigations can directly cause forced removals and that they must sharpen requirements for transparency and due process around the investigations.

“This has got to be set out in law, so that everyone knows there is a professional basis for these investigations and at the same time parents get the due process of a second opinion or a complaints procedure.”

Özlem Cekic thinks that the investigations should be undertaken by a multidisciplinary team under an experienced psychologist. In this way, this also ensures that all cases are assessed by several individuals.

Ample due process for the parents

As the system works today, the Appeals Board refuses to consider the quality of parental competence investigations because the law does not give quality requirements for the boroughs to meet.

But the boroughs cannot see any problem that parents can neither make demands nor complain about the content of parental competence investigations. “There are indeed ample opportunities to complain about the decision as the borough acts on the basis of the study,” points out the President of many years of social worker leaders, Ole Pass.

“The lawyers who represent parents in these cases ought to know how to shoot down the reasons the boroughs gives. That’s usually what happens in these cases, that the lawyer drags the evidence documents into doubt to shoot the borough’s arguments down. It looks almost like a court,” said Ole Pass.

He thinks that lawyers all too often are occupied with the parents’ – and not the children’s – due process.

Branded for ever

Lawyers experience, however, that they are appealing to deaf ears when they attempt to correct mistakes or misunderstandings in parental competence investigations.

“Unfortunately, I experience it far too often. Typically what happens is that what were hearsay or guesswork a long time ago in the case suddenly appear as truths in the finished parental competence investigations,” says Mona Melberg who is a lawyer with specialising in parental cases.

“As soon as the first mistake sneaks its way into a parental competence survey, it is virtually impossible to get the investigations content or conclusion changed,” said Mona Melberg.

“It’s incredibly hard. You can make a couple of comments but it is seldom taken particularly seriously.”

That’s what the parents of seven year old Maja experienced, Camilla Christensen and her husband Henrik Andersen, who told P1 how their daughter was removed when she was 18 months old.

“I have never felt so powerless. Never. It was horrific. They took our child completely away from us,” remembers Maja’s mother.”

Maja did find it quite difficult to maintain eye contact and had trouble bonding with her parents. She was born with autism. But the psychologist who conducted the parental competence investigation mistook Maja’s autism as some sort of developmental disorder due to her parents inability to bond with their child. The result was a forced removal, which took Maja’s parents nearly six years to reverse.

“The whole process hinged on the psychologist’s incorrect assessment. So it was done on a mistaken basis. The mistake happened, and now we and our daughter have to live with the consequences,” said Maja’s father Henrik Andersen.

No knowledge about methodology

Maja’s story is not the only example of a borough investigation overlooking a child’s disability. Some of these could maybe be avoided if psychologists got some clear guidelines for how they should investigate children and their parents.

Even when boroughs choose to use registered psychologists, they can be on shaky ground. No one has ever investigated what works best or even if investigations identify those parents who are actually harming their children. Therefore it is entirely up to the particular psychologist themselves to use trial and error with the methods they know, explains psychologist Søren Friis Smith, who conducts investigations himself.

“We psychologists are asked to go where angels fear to tread when we carry out these investigations. We actually don’t know anything about what the upshot of changing the design of the investigations would be. It could be important and very interesting to work out,” said Søren Friis Smith to P1.

Last summer the Social Ministry formulated for the first time guidance for parental competence investigations. But the guidelines are not binding and it is underlined in the text that it is optional for the boroughs to follow the because the guidelines are not connected to any actual legislation. Out of the 61 borough councils that took part in P1’s investigation, one borough revealed that they have changed the procedures after the new guidance.

Social Minister Karen Hækkerup (S) did not wish to comment on the administration’s opinions on the unregulated parental competence investigations because she was busy last week and on holiday this week.

Related articles