Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Things that bug me – Part 2

Well I said I’d make up for lost time.

My second blog of the night – My earlier one can be found here : Things that bug me ! – Part 1 « Northernheckler’s Blog

Next thing I’ve seen that really bugged me  in the last few days was this pitiful article on the front page of the Daily Mail :England’s poor cancer detection and bad diet mean Slovenian women live longer which reports on the publication on the Government’s Health Profile of England 2009   http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/documents/digitalasset/dh_114938.pdf

This is just so absolutely typical of the Mail’s – “everything is terrible, and it’s all the fault of  Labour/David Cameron/Foreigners/Communists/Women/Fat people/Insert-your-own-scapegoat-here” approach to journalism.

One barely needs to read beyond the headline to sense the antipathy towards women, towards Eastern europeans, towards the National Health service, and towards the Government.

Reading on, it gets worse -

First we’re told “Health Care is so poor” – and yet this paper supposedly supports the Conservative party, whose support for the NHS is far from certain, and who definitely want to cut radically funding to public services.

It’s even worse than Slovenia – Slovenia ? Why Slovenia ? Could it be that it’s because we have some Eastern Europeans in the country at the moment, and it’s way of belittling them ? (Poland are noticeably further down the list than both Slovenia and England, but where would be the fun in saying that British women live longer than Polish women ?)

We’re given a picture of a fat woman, always the butt of so many jokes, tucking into what looks like a chicken take away. Doubtless we’re expected to believe she’ll wash it down with half a bottle of vodka, before dying of liver disease. Not that journalists ever have dodgy diets or drink alcohol.

Though the Mail picks up on the report’s concerns about alcohol related sickness and death, the claim that “deaths from chronic liver disease among women” are “driven by the rise in binge drinking” – are not at all borne out by the report – which cautions,

The method for calculating units of alcohol from drinks consumed has been revised since previous editions of the Health Profile of England. These revisions have been made to more accurately reflect the strength of some alcoholic drinks, and the way that these can be consumed. This makes comparisons over time between levels of alcohol consumption or binge drinking difficult.

but does suggest that

The proportion of pupils (aged 11-15) who had ‘drunk alcohol in the last week’ has continued to decrease since 2001.

The Mail’s version of the report though doesn’t bother with the good news, and carries on to make such utterly daft statements as :

“there was better news for English men – their life expectancy of 77 years and eight months is among the best in Europe, behind only Sweden, Italy, Cyprus and France”

Of course that won’t be much consolation for their poor old fat alcoholic unmarried female partners, as they face the final 5 years or so of their life without their already deceased men friends – still, could have been worse – they could have had their teenage pregnancies to a Slovenian

As a matter of fact the report itself  makes very interesting reading. It does draw attention to some of the biggest threats to the health of our population, but it also points out some of the major improvements that have occurred – such as for instance :

  • life expectancy at its highest rate ever – with male life expectancy amongst the highest in Europe
  • sustained reductions in infant mortality rates
  • declining mortality rates in targeted causes – cancer, circulatory problems, and suicides
  • reductions in the numbers of people smoking
  • improvements in the quality of housing stock

All of this data kept according to international comparators, in the public domain, and very open about the problems as well as the triumphs.

So why not do it some justice Daily Mail ? You have good reporters, intelligent people who can write intelligent articles that are accessible to a wide audience. Instead, again, you decide stir up resentment, disappointment, disillusionment, and anger – based on what ? Based on a biased and partial reporting of a very thorough report.

I just wish the Daily Mail would wake up to its influence and take some responsibility for its actions.

April 2, 2010 Posted by | blogs, news, politics, women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bleeding Heart ? OK, I can live with that !

This article was similar to many I’ve seen in the Mail : Teenage Vietnamese immigrant is discovered hiding behind car dashboard at Dover

It tells the story of a young 16 year old Vietnamese girl found huddled into the tiny space behind the dashboard of a car, apparently attempting to enter the UK immediately. It’s a harrowing picture that accompanies the article, and clearly demonstrates, just how desperate some people are to come to the UK.

I was sickened by the Comments which accompanied the article – A short selection :

“No Benefits = No illegal immigration.
Simples!”

“If the authorties spent as much time and effort chasing illegal immigrants as they do on motorists , we wouldn`t have an immigration problem.”

“It would be nice to know what happened to these people `attempting` to get into our fair country.  Let me have a guess? They`re still here.”

“Until we pull out of the EU, scrap the Human Rights Act and take control over our borders this crisis will not stop.”

“There is no point spending the money for airport xray machines as it really can’t stop the determined crazy muslim terrorist who wants to get his virgins in heaven.”

” 1. Place in detention centre.

2. Deport on next available flight, at her Embassies expense! “

“Zero tolerance. Depot (sic) them all!”

“Too many bleeding hearts in this country.”

“No wonder they want to come here! So would i if i knew i could get money, a house, food, heating and clothing for FREE!  However, i have a British passport and UK birth certificate, i’ll just have to work for the above.”

( I’m not going to systematically debunk any of this – see Tabloid Watch articles for regular fisking of this kind of stuff eg. : Nobody benefits from ‘immigrants on benefit’ stories )

Suffice to say that this kind of hatred and vitriol dismays me. Why you may ask ?

Well maybe because I’m a White Anglo-Saxon of vaguely Protestant working class upbringing – My culture and values are supposedly exactly the ones which these bigots and xenophobes are so keen to protect.

And what are those WASP values ?

Well I was brought up to believe that if someone called at our family home, then we didn’t keep them waiting on the doorstep – we invited them into the warm.

If we had visitors, then we didn’t give them the chipped cups and glasses – we gave them the best china – and we made sure that they had something to eat and drink from it as well – if we didn’t have enough – well we just shared what we had.

If friends came round, and it was a mealtime, then they were invited to join us, and if we were similarly given hospitality at someone else’s house we were expected (by our own families) to return the favour.

It’s still how I live my life, despite moving from a council house in the Heavy Woollen district to the leafy home counties, and despite become part of the so called ‘middle classes’.

I find that my children’s friends tend to like coming to our house – because they’re treated with courtesy and respect, and hospitality. Which I guess means we spend a little more on food & drink, and I guess inconveniences us a little. You know what though, I like it – and I can afford it.

As a headteacher I’m not exactly poverty stricken of course, – but guess what – when my Dad was a factory worker, and my Mum was a part-time nursing auxiliary – we could afford it then too. Just a question of priorities.

And if you want to know what core British culture is about, then I’d say this – If my family came across a girl of only 16 years old (a little older than my 13 year old daughter and 16 year old son), wedged into a space in a car, clearly desperate and in distress,  what would we do ?

Well we’d make sure she was alright – we’d check that she wasn’t hurt – we’d make sure she could get herself cleaned up with a shower or a bath – we’d sort her out with some clean clothing; and offer her food and drink – and maybe somewhere to stay for a night or two.

Then, and only then, would we start to talk about the problems she faced in the future – and whether it would be a good idea to stay for longer, or whether we’d help her find her way to somewhere more appropriate.

So there you go – no pre-judgement – no fast track – just common decency and humanity.

Those are my values – they’re shared by lots of people – from lots of different cultural backgrounds. If that makes me a ‘bleeding heart’ liberal then I’m fine with that – I care about people, I want to live in a country that does too – not just it’s own people – but all people. Not just people who are like me – but all people.

Just in case any one was wondering.

February 7, 2010 Posted by | Family, news, racism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Moderation Game

UPDATE : See this latest post on the Mail website : Is there no lower limit to the depravity of these odious people LEO McKINSTRY: Sorry not to join the liberal wailing: heroin traffickers deserve to die

Yesterday morning I was dismayed to be waking to the news that Akmal Shaikh, a British citizen, had been executed in China after being convicted of drug smuggling.

There will be plenty of reaction to that news – this blog is not primarily about his execution, but around the way in which comments on on-line articles and blogs can be manipulated to give false impressions of public opnion.

Before I come to that though I’d like to say that I was a little disappointed that people in the UK seemed to make such a big issue of Akmal’s bi-polar disorder. I’m sure it’s an issue the Chinese authorities should have discussed – but let’s be absolutely straight about this – it would be just as wrong that he was executed irrespective of his mental health.

In the UK we don’t execute people. We haven’t done for 45 years. Prior to that a capital sentence has effectively not been available for crimes other than murder, for almost 150 years.

So to execute someone for drug smuggling – a crime which would only attract a relatively modest prison sentence in the UK  – is absolutely outrageous. It’s barbaric in the extreme, and reflects very poorly on the nation of China – who still have a large number of capital offences, including the making out of false invoices to avoid the paying of tax Capital offences in the People’s Republic of China (something to think about if you’re one of the British musicians who routinely ‘smuggle’ expensive guitars back from the US).

As I say – outrageous and disgusting.

Let me back to those comments though …

I read an article on the Mail’s website : Akmal Shaikh: Vigil for death row Briton due to be executed in China at 2.30am on Monday 28th December, and clipped the web page.

However as I write, the link to the article, is no longer valid, but the links to the comments now link to this page : Gordon Brown leads furious outcry as China executes British drugs mule by lethal injection

The article has changed somewhat – now reflecting the fact that Akmal has now been executed by lethal injection (although the URL seems to indicate that this was by firing squad which the report clearly does not say).

The “death row Briton” is now “British drugs mule” which doesn’t sound quite so nice, and Gordon Brown’s protests to the Chinese appear to be the major focus of the new story, but all in all this is. to be fair, a very balanced article – as the original one was. It’s acknowledged for instance that there was “cross party outrage” about the execution – and Mr Shaik’s mental problems are presented as fact. There is extensive coverage of Mr Shaik’s family background, of the campaign by Reprieve to try to overturn his conviction, and lots of coverage on the barbaric execution practices of the Chinese government  – all done in a professional, and fairly objective way.

Then we get to the comments.

Well the first one I read on the revised story says :

“Sorry but he had it coming”.

Which is actually somewhat tame compared to some of the others :

“if he is a drug smuggler he deserves to be executed never mind thee.s mamby pambys (sic)”

“Gordon Brown urging China to give a reprieve makes me sick. That just about sums him up. Look after the interests of low life scum while the country is collapsing around his ears. Lets count the days until we get rid of this idiot.”

(I guess that reader missed the paragraph where David Cameron supported Gordon Brown’s intervention)

“Let him rot he deserves it !”

Let’s have a closer look though – the comment about “thee.s mamby pambys” was dated 26.12.2009 – that’s actually three days before this article was supposedly published, and two days before the article which I read – which does make one wonder which article the responder thought he or she was commenting on.

Most of the comments have very little sympathy for the executed man. Many of them have been “rated” up or down – with some of the most vehement comments getting 900 or so positive ratings, whilst the ones with the lowest are – yes you’ve guessed it – comments which question the wisdom of executing Akmal.

But let’s remember

“The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.”

So this must be genuine public opinion that’s so overwhelmingly in favour of turning back the laws on capital punishment to the mid 19th Century.

Well no, because the comments “have been moderated in advance”

This of course means that the Mail decides which comments go up, which don’t, and actually could well mean that it decides which scores are allowed on the rating system – though they don’t say that.

What makes me suspicious about this, is that when I checked the site on Monday, there were only 60 odd comments, despite the story having been there for many hours, and despite some of the comments being rated by 500+ viewers – which to me indicates a very heavy censoring of the likely number of comments which came in, and if they’ve been edited, it seems clear that they’ve been edited very heavily to favour the pro-execution comments. This I deduce from the cross party consensus in revulsion at the execution which the article itself reports – there simply MUST be far more people objecting to the execution than was presented then.

A few days later (today) we then find that the number of comments jumps dramatically to well over a thousand, but remember that usually the visitor can see just a selection of the “newest” comments – which are obviously moderated so that the selected few are shown; the “oldest” – which were obviously moderated in the same way; the “best rated” – which tends not to change much, the oldest nastiest comments tend to be the ones; and the “worst rated” – ie. The ones that show any glimmer of a dissenting voice.

This is steering the view presented of the comments coming in in a particular direction. Very wrong in my opinion. It’s manipulative and untruthful.

And of course the mail still claims that the comments don’t represent its own opinions.

If on-line news source have any integrity they should publish details alongside the comments they show – showing how many comments are received, how many were rejected, the reasons they were rejected for, and a permanent link to the article which the comments were originally submitted in response to. It’s not acceptable to publish a comment that was a response to one article, as if it were a response to a later revision – it is dishonest.

I will return to the issue of comments on this site again – there are some serious issues at stake – and though I have (again) picked on the Mail to illustrate one aspect of these problems, they are by no means restricted to that publication.

I’ll be doing some thinking in the meantime – I wish some of the comment moderators on various websites would do the same.

December 30, 2009 Posted by | news, politics | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Chaos Theory ?

Happened to glance at the front page of the Daily Mail earlier today and saw this headline : £11bn VAT rise shambles: Chaos reigns on High Street with just three days to go before sales tax goes back up

Obviously a little concerning as I was on my way to London to do some shopping with my son and his friends. My dictionary defines “Chaos” as “complete confusion or disorder” – so I wondered what I might find down Oxford Street.

Well surprisingly enough I found it busy, yet strangely orderly. There were queues in some shops, but no real confusion – in fact in Primark they had a man telling people which till to go to – which speeded things up a bit. And at the tills, they seemed to know what they were doing – accepting all the usual credit cards, and cash as well – which wasn’t confusing a bit. And I didn’t see any marauding mobs of disorderly people. All very orderly really.

So “chaos” did not reign on this particular high street, although I’ll await reports of random burning and looting from elsewhere in the country. It seems that retail companies think it’s an insane time to change the VAT back, and don’t know when they’ll actually change their prices.

Not sure why they don’t know really – because they have had 12 months warning of this, and despite the mail saying that this is will be an “£11 billion VAT shock” I can’t really imagine that anyone will be “shocked” – ( feeling of extreme surprise) about this. You’ve known about it for a whole year !

Actually hang on a bit – £11 billion ?  Oh right – that’s how much we “saved” this year – so a net gain for the public, and (assuming their figures are correct ) that extra £11 billion should pay off 13% of the existing national debt – you know the one that the Mail (and the Tories) are always harping on about – which again should bring it in to around 50% of GDP (compare to United States current 71%, Italy’s ~100%, and Japan’s 194%) (Source : UK National Debt) (My figures are assuming GDP remains constant – not necessarily true, but you’ll catch my drift I’m sure).

The article goes on to say that the reversal of the VAT will cost around half a billion pounds to retail companies to change their prices – this averaged over the two changes, one of which has already happened, and one of which will happen sooner or later irrespective of whether it’s implemented this week or in a month or in a year.

Whenever it was implemented it is a predictable expense which well managed companies have had a long time to plan for.

The VAT reduction is an issue which is really quite interesting. It’s not easy for a lay man like myself to tell whether it really has made any difference to the economy – certainly 2.5 pence in the pound reduction is not a cut that’s left me feeling like I suddenly have loads more spending power – but it does leave shops slightly more margin for making a profit – and may well have stimulated the economy – the Mail’s claim that we have a “bumper sales period” amounting to a “shopping bonanza” would seem to indicate that. And yet I know people working in the retail industry who were deeply frustrated by the costs of changing catalogues at the last minute last year.

So why can’t we have some analysis and objective discussion of these issues – which I’d be seriously interested in having a truly expert opinion on ?

I wish the Mail would do that, because as things stand this front page article is not news in any sense that I understand.

December 29, 2009 Posted by | news, politics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Holidays !

I couldn’t resist blogging on this latest bit of festive fun from our friends at the Daily Mail : ‘Season’s Greetings’ from David Cameron as Tories Christmas cards ‘pander to politically correct brigade’

Well I don’t know about you, but I thought ‘Seasons greetings’ was about as traditional as it got – can’t see why anyone could  object to that, mind you I can’t see why anyone should object to Happy Christmas either – I get a lot of cards with both on – and send a few too. Many of them to Muslims, Jews and Hindus – who don’t seem to mind (and who send them back as well).
But having been subjected to pressure from people over-sensitive that their cards could cause offence to some people (ie The Mail) – the Conservative party have bought in new stock that says Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (shown above).

Political Correctness gone mad I call it !!!

The new stock of cards is apparently sold out by the way.

I never cease to wonder at The Mail – if this is how they treat their friends it’s no wonder they’re so unfair to their enemies.

PS  – The one with the phone box is not offensive in any way – but it is seriously naff !

UPDATE :

I nearly forgot – one of the trails for other articles on The Mail website was for this tasteful Christian story about Sarah Jessica Parker’s wardrobe malfunction. Have a look : Sarah Jessica Parker suffers a wardrobe malfunction as flimsy dress is caught by the wind , and marvel at how in the space of a couple of webpage inches and a single click, The Mail can go from criticising their favourite right wing party for preferring generic winter scenes and pictures of robins to pictures of Jesus and the Three Kings. “, to clearly demonstrating their preference for pictures of outlined female breasts and genitalia to pictures of Mary, Joseph and the Inn Keeper.


December 18, 2009 Posted by | idle banter, politics | , , , | Leave a comment

The Mail covers it’s tracks at last

Many of you will have had your attention drawn to this distasteful piece of racist journalism in the Mail : Migrant found dead in the back of a lorry as it prepares to enter Channel Tunnel .

What was shocking about this was that the comments on this article are quite clearly moderated, and yet there were (as of yesterday teatime)  just 13 comments, each of which was to a greater or lesser degree filled with hate and xenophobia.    Milkofhumankindness

These have been dissected at some length by a variety of bloggers – notably by the wonderful Tabloid Watch yesterday : Mail readers think death of illegal immigrant is ‘good news’

I found the “One down millions to go” comment particularly obnoxious – it is tantamount to encouraging the killing of illegal immigrants.

It was strange that as the day wore on, and even this morning when I looked at the site again in order to bookmark the link ahead of writing this blog entry, the number of comments still stood at 13 – so clearly these comments were moderated – and although the Mail is at pains to say these comments do not “necessarily” reflect their opinions, they have clearly modded out a great many more comments and just chosen these hateful few to display as representative of public opinion.

Well there’s such a thing as free speech I guess – and I also guess that the Mail would defend that right quite vigorously.

There’s also such a thing as incitement to racial hatred as well though. I feel quite strongly that publication of these comments – as “moderated in advance” clearly crosses that line.

Perhaps the Mail have been quietly convinced of that as well – because if you check out the link at the top of the article, you’ll find that there are now only two of the comments left – at least there were at 9.00 on Monday the 2nd of November 2009.

I’m glad that they’ve removed the majority of the comments – so credit to them where it’s belatedly due – but the people at the mail seriously have to think about the hatred they are spreading – if they don’t it will one day blow up in their faces – and quite probably all of ours as well.

November 2, 2009 Posted by | blogs, politics, racism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who decides what the public think ?

NEW mak

Just got back from a week in Cornwall.

I had a very weak mobile signal. I could occasionally tweet. Could not get mobile internet on my laptop – so didn’t see any websites. Didn’t have a telly, didn’t pick up a newspaper.

So from being a news addicted politically aware blogster, I turned very quickly into someone who didn’t have much of a clue what was going on.

Even having been back for nearly 24 hours now, I’m still not up to speed – which sort of puts me on a par with the rest of the country – you know, the type that doesn’t do blogs, the type that uses Facebook to share family snaps rather than run political campaigns, the kind that follows celebrities on Twitter, rather than politicians. The kind that goes to make the coffee when the news comes on, and if they ever read a newspaper, it tends to be from the back to the front, or maybe just the back.

So what’s going on in the world – well it seems some bloke who advises the Government on drugs has advised them to reverse the recent reversal of cannabis’s grading as a Class B drug, and to reduce its classification. As a result he’s apparently been sacked. According to the BBC news on 5 Live, this has been done “On a whim” of the prime minister. Now the media are up in arms about the Government being dismissive of scientific evidence, and it would seem are presenting the Prime Minister in a negative light for his actions.

And with my very scant knowledge of what’s going on – I’ve barely any reason to challenge that perception – so it sort of becomes my own perception by default.

Except I’m not so sure (well you knew I’d be cynical didn’t you !). First of all it strikes me that if the Government had followed the advice, we’d effectively have a U-turn on a U-turn – and remember the last U-turn wasn’t in response to any great pressure, it was in response to the difficulties experienced in practice to the partial decriminalisation of cannabis – an admission that the new policy was not working. I can’t imagine many Governments being keen on a 360 degree turn.

Next it strikes me that an advisor should be doing his advising in private, not in the national press. I work with advisors/consultants as part of my local authority’s work for Building Schools for the Future – No one in the authority would take kindly to those advisors bleating the advice which we pay them for, to the general public. Neither would we feel bound by their advice – advisors provide a particular perspective on an issue – part of the picture. Not the full picture. If any of them sought to publicise their advice, and criticise the authorities actions in the light of it, then I suspect that the likely outcome would be that the authority would dispense with their services.

I also know that research evidence rarely proves or disproves anything – rather it tends to support particular hypotheses. So what ever evidence the advisor has or has not, it’s unlikely to prove conclusive (and I don’t know what the evidence is remember). It’s also likely to be part of a whole range of other indicators.

Governments don’t take decisions based on just one factor. They have to consider things like how popular a decision is likely to be for instance – and if that sounds cynical then just remember that no Government can do anything if they lose power – so popularity HAS to be a consideration. They also have to consider not just realities but also perceptions – because we need have no doubts that had the Government followed the advisors advice, they’d have been perceived (with assistance from the press) as being ‘soft’ on drugs, and as woolly liberals (not to mention dithering and U-turning).

If anyone thinks that scientific evidence is the only basis for legislation then simply consider the case for an outright ban on tobacco. The evidence is overwhelming – it IS a major cause of ill health and death in the general community. But whatever your position on a tobacco ban, I think most people would agree that there are a myriad of complicating factors that enter into the thinking that would lead to a ban. Tax income, freedom of expression, Nanny states, relationships with trading partners, employment, consequences of criminalisation – I could go on – but won’t – you get the picture, it’s not just about scientific evidence.

Everything I’ve said here though is without any knowledge of the facts of this case – I can’t even remember the bloke in question’s name. Which as I said previously, puts me on a par with large numbers of the population, people who don’t share my interest in politics and current affairs – but who have a vote just as I do.

What seems likely to me is that far from the sacking of this being on “a whim”, it’s more probably that it’s been thought out very carefully. I’d also suggest that the ‘advice’ that’s been made so public has not been done as an off the cuff throwaway thing either – it’s been planned with some expectation of the consequences.

The Government it seems have acted swiftly and firmly to defend their position and to sack the advisor in question. Whatever you think of the action, it is hardly that of a dithering administration. It’s pretty authoritative I’d say.

So who decides which way to sell this to the public ? Who decides how to take a story and turn it into a way to present the Govenrment in negative tones again ? More importantly – Why do they decide this ?

The news outlets in this country have a massive impact on public opinion – to the extent that for many people their opinion is effectively decided for them. It worries me, that most of this opinion forming is done simply by rubbishing everything the Government does – and I’m sure it would be the same for a Conservative Government.

This saddens me. They need to take more responsibility, make proper analysis of the news, give both credit and criticism where it’s due – and most importantly, to give some respect to the public and the enormous power which they wield over them.

[The picture by the way is actor Milton Johns who has nothing at all  to do with with this blog other than that I thought he looked suitably creepy ! Can anyone remember the name of the 1973 children's drama series he was in alongside David Bradley (of 'Kes' fame) ? - Try to remember ! Try to remember Terry ! ]

October 31, 2009 Posted by | politics, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Smears & distortions

(publishing this in a bit of a hurry – I’ll tidy up links & references later)

On Monday night I chanced across an article on the BBC website (Cancer jab alert after girl dies

- Note the date and time – it’s saying Tuesday at 3.30PM – but was definitely published the night before – I’d say around 10.45 PM) regarding the sad death of a 13 (Now updated to 14 on the BBC site) year old girl Natalie Morton. It said that this was ‘after’ her cervical cancer jab.

It didn’t imply directly that the cancer jab had caused her death – but left the inference hanging for all who cared to make it.

Reading a little deeper, I gleaned that this girl had died only the same day – it was likely that there were friends members of her extended family that were not yet aware of her death, and yet already the story was headline news. Clearly not because of her death per se, but because of a perceived link with the cervical cancer jab.

It struck me immediately as a somewhat irresponsible piece of reporting. Clearly there was as yet no evidence of causation or correlation between this girls death and the cancer jab, and clearly this story would send panic through many thousands of young girls and their families as they await their turn for the injection.

It struck me also that any risk to the public – even if there was a direct causal link between the jab and the girls untimely death – was still so slight as to make any wait until after the post morten was complete before reporting a prudent and sensible decision. Given also that the logic of probability would suggest that it was more likely than not, at that stage that the girl’s death had been due to causes other than the cancer jab.

The story went out though, and by morning was receiving saturation coverage – on the front page of The Times for instance. ( This story was by no means exclusive to the Times & the Beeb).

At around 8.15 in the morning, my wife ( a nurse by profession) received a call from a very anxious friend asking her advice as to whether to allow her daughter to have the injection that day. “Go ahead !” was her advice. However I strongly suspect that the advice was not followed.

In due course we’re told that the girl’s death was probably due to an underlying serious medical condition, and that the vaccination programme can go ahead regardless. The damage is done though. the drug is tarnished, and will be for the foreseable future, and it’s likely that several thousand young girls who would have had this injection, will now not do.

This incensed me. Partly because of the general public’s failure to grasp simple scientific logic. To understand that a death which happens after an injection, does not mean that the death was caused by the injection; but more seriously I was incensed by the way in which the press appear to deliberately exploit this ignorance – to promote mass panic and fear, and ultimately to discourage people from protecting themselves against the HPV virus. I have no doubt at all that as an indirect result of the sloppy reporting of this incident, some girls who are now 13, will at some time in the future suffer from cervical cancer.

What possible motive could any reporter, any journalist, have for reporting in this way ?

Why would they want to do this ?

It took a while before the penny dropped.

They did it because the story dropped into their lap on the eve of Gordon Brown’s speech at the Labour Party conference. They did it beacuse they couldn’t believe their luck that a human interest story which would discredit a Government initiative had come their way the night before Gordon’s fight back speech.

They ran the story with the simple aim of discrediting the prime minster.

They didn’t care that a young girl had died. They didn’t care that young girls now will die as a partial result of their actions in years to come. They didn’t care that the report suggested a link that was unlikely to be verified.

They just did it to try and get their man elected.

Well I am disgusted at this tactic.

If there are people who want Labour to be defeated so much that they have to resort to odious tactics such as this. to distorting and misrepresenting the truth with no concern for the public interest, or the private interests of a grieving family, then it suggests to me that there must be some very good reasons for keeping Labour in power.

The election campaign has barely started, but already the ‘forces of conservatism’ in seeking to smear Gordon Brown’s government have convinced me absolutely of my intention to Vote Labour at the General Election.

October 1, 2009 Posted by | politics | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Would you pay to cross-link to The Times and The Sun ?

Tom Harris’s blog today What about the blogs? Poses questions relating to the supposed plans by News International to introduce subscription fees for all its main titles (including The Sun and The Times) Rupert Murdoch plans charge for all news websites by next summer

And raises the question of what that will do to the blogosphere – whose habit of linking back to other sites – particularly in the mainstream media – is a staple diet of many blogs (mine included).

I think I can safely say that this isn’t likely to happen. The whole point of the new media technologies is that they are interdependent, and more or less free on a per article basis. (but not of course in total – I pay £20 per month for my ISP – some pay less, some much more)

Murdoch is right when he says that investigative journalism doesn’t come cheap. It’s certainly true that newspapers and their websites are not “not for profit” organisations, or charities – and that they have to make a crust somehow.

Well they’ll do it by the tried and tested ways of advertising, product placement & freebies with hard copies, and in the case of News International for one, selling the internet bandwidth which the punters use to surf on into their sites.

They’ll do it by merging the internet with their satellite channels, by merging their pay sports channels with their internet sites, and by selling the coverage of local football games in far flung rural locations, to homesick expats in further flung urban locations.

But if web users are faced with charges at the Times, then they’ll go to the Telegraph, or the Guardian. If they’re charged at the Sun they’ll go to the Mirror. If they’re charged at all of them, they’ll start going to foreign newspapers.

In short they will find a way round it. In just the same way as people found a way to record the Top 40 from their radio cassette recorders in the 70’s; in just the same way as they found ways to distribute MP3s in the 90’s and noughties; in just the same way as they moved to Firefox when the Microsoft product didn’t do what they wanted. They will find a way round whatever obstacles are put in place.

Now if Rupert Murdoch was really serious about doing something different, he’d be thinking about paying the bloggers – because that’s where most of the news seems to be coming from these days.

In all seriousness, if he (for instance) bought out WordPress, then he could offer a free blogging set up (as now), have a ‘posting on’ clause built into the small print – which gave his publications first dibs on the best stuff. He could sell a premium service, which gave access to flashy widgets with feeds from News International sources to place on their sites – making their blogs look professional, and giving further exposure and traffic to his own. And yes – paying the good bloggers to keep on doing it – provided of course they let News International syndicate the copy.

Whatever he may have blurted out in a moment of ire, I’m pretty sure that these thoughts haven’t escaped News International.

August 16, 2009 Posted by | blogs | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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