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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Saturday 26th January 2013


I’ve always resisted the adoption of online and text message abbreviated communication feeling that if something was worth saying it was worth saying clearly so that misunderstandings could be minimised.

But, today, I’ve realised the value of ‘OMG!’ as a means of expressing the near speechlessness induced by a piece of the most dreadful reporting in a major national newspaper. This won’t be the first piece I’ve written after something outrageous appeared in the press but it is the first time such a piece provoked that immediate cry of horror.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Mitting ruled that six Algerians could be deported to their home country after the UK government received assurances about their treatment from the Algerian government but that one man, known only as ‘G’, who is suicidal should not be deported because the judge was not satisfied that he would receive the constant attention needed to prevent him taking his own life.

I became aware of the story because a report in ‘The Sun’1 appeared in my Google Alert for the word ‘ricin’, the toxin found in Ricinus communis, castor oil plant. ‘G’ was one of the men arrested in 2003 for alleged terrorism offences. It was initially claimed that ricin had been found but, as I’ve written before, Sunday 2nd October 2011 this was not the case. Not only was there no ricin but the men were cleared of all charges related to terrorism and one of the jury members was so incensed by the appalling conduct of the criminal justice system that he wrote a book2 giving full details.

Ricinus communis, castor oil plant

Ricinus communis, castor oil plant

But, it seems, you should never let the truth get in the way of a good bit of Islamophobia. The Sun under the headline ‘Judge lets ricin plot terrorist stay in the UK’ says;

‘Incredibly the fanatic, who was part of a plot to poison Tube passengers with highly toxic ricin in 2003, is out on BAIL — despite admitting he is a threat to the UK.’

No ‘alleged’, no ‘found innocent of’, no ‘unfounded’.

The Sun says there WAS a ricin plot so that must be true. OMG!

I was going to leave it there but it occurred to me that other papers might have reported on yesterday’s hearing so I searched Google News.

The Express3 decided to mock mental illness with the headline ‘Terror Suspect Can Stay In UK Because He's Depressed’ and said;

‘The judge told the six other terror suspects – including two linked to the 2003 ricin poison plot…’

Ink is in such short supply at the Express that they had to omit the word ‘alleged’.

The Daily Telegraph4 focussed on the likelihood of appeals delaying the deportation of the six men amongst whom it claimed were;

‘two fanatics linked to a ricin poison plot’

The Telegraph should, I suppose be given some credit for saying, later in the article;

‘two men who were charged and later acquitted over a plot in 2003 to spread ricin and other poisons on the streets of Britain.’

Though, saying someone was acquitted of a plot is not quite the same thing as telling the full truth that there was no plot.

Ricinus communis, castor oil plant

Ricinus communis, castor oil plant

I’m sometimes accused of having it in for the Mail Online because ‘all newspapers have agendas and twist the way they report stories’. My response is that it is true but that the Mail Online does it to a much greater degree than any other. On this story, the Mail Online5 has massively made my point for me.

Though it should be credited with using the word ‘alleged’, saying;

‘Among the six men were two fundamentalists with links to an alleged 2003 plot to commit mass murder using the poison ricin’

It loses all of that credit, and more, by headlining its report;

‘Human Rights laws stop Algerian terror suspect with links to gas plant massacre group being deported because he is suicidal’

In the report it says that these ‘links to gas plant massacre group’ come about because he is;

‘believed to support one of the terrorist groups which carried out the deadly attack on an Algerian gas plant’

Most of the reports say that ‘G’ does not dispute he is a risk to Britain's national security and I’ll accept that at face value, whilst remembering that there is, at least, one Muslim in jail in the UK because he decided he would not receive a fair hearing from a British court. Accepting that, however, does not mean accepting that it is right for a British media organisation to attempt to instil fear in the public by suggesting that someone who has been either in jail or under close supervision since 2003 can be blamed for the tragic events of last week.

OMG! doesn’t come close to how I feel about such reporting.


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