The Daily Mail: even more comprehensively anti-science than I thought

Much of the climate delusionist material that is recirculated by the Oz, Bolt etc, comes from the UK Daily Mail (not a Murdoch paper, but maybe even worse). So it may be worth pointing out that the Daily Mail is a comprehensive source of science misinformation. In particular, it has been the leading promoter of discredited anti=vaccination claims about links to autism.

Not only that, but the Daily Mail has taken a leading role in anti-scientific scare campaigns about “Frankenfoods”, aka GM food. Google produced this page which seems to wrap up all the conspiracy theories about MMR, AGW, GM etc into a single utterly loony package. It neatly eliminates the need to read Bolt or the Oz?

My only question is: When is Graham Lloyd going to start reproducing this kind of material?

38 thoughts on “The Daily Mail: even more comprehensively anti-science than I thought

  1. @Rustynails

    You did make a worthwhile point in you first comment on this thread:

    Firstly, the vast majority of people do not have the time nor the inclination to wade through reams of scientific studies so yes they rely upon newspapers and sound bites.

    Indeed so. Which is why it is such a serious matter when the plutocracy uses the mass media to misinform the electorate on matters of great seriousness. The Mail and its associated website has a huge audience. The Murdoch press in Australia is pervasive – and republishes lies seeded by the GWPF in the Mail. There is a reason for all this. It is not a malicious practical joke.

    If you aren’t perturbed by the erosion of democracy this represents, then nothing I can say will make any difference. You will get the future you deserve – but the rest of us will not.

  2. @Rustynails
    Yes, it’s true that many people rely on newspapers and sound bites. That’s why it’s a good idea to remind people (in what might be considered a sound bite, so you should approve) that newspapers print a lot of rubbish, which is more or less what John Quiggin is doing, as are the people who routinely refer to the Daily Mail as the ‘Daily Fail’, the people who wear T-shirts saying ‘Is that the truth, or did you read it in the Telegraph?’ (or ‘… see it on FOX?’), and so on.

  3. Rustynails, if people rely on newspapers and soundbites for acquiring accurate information about the subjects of interest to them, then they are letting themselves down.

    In a free market, the big newspaper proprietors can shape the news any way they want, and all the evidence is that some of them do just that. It is as simple as placing a story template on the web-equivalent of the wire news services^fn1 that they own, and leaving it up to the various newspaper editors (who are working for the papers that the proprietor also owns) to select (the version/variant of) the story that best suits their particular readership, and off they go. If the template only provides for a particularly conservative slant on the subject of the article, none of the consumers (i.e. the newspaper companies that need news articles for their newspapers) are going to completely rewrite the story with a neutral or left wing slant to it.

    With a bit of googling, it is relatively easy to get a sense of the flow of a given article from news wire service to media, especially to the print media. Comparison of a given article on a particularly hot topic, say the upcoming IPCC report, can demonstrate how slight variations of the one article suddenly populate the print media, and the degree to which different newspapers slant a story to the right can also be seen, by simple side-by-side comparison. I say “slant a story to the right”, because that seems to be the overwhelming majority of cases.

    Those who control the production and flow of information have their own interests at heart, not necessarily the interests of their readers. Therefore, it is encumbent upon us—the readers—to do the hard yards and to look into the facts behind a story, rather than merely rely upon the newspapers to do that for us. I’ve fallen into this trap of not following up on newspaper articles, only to find later that they were quite inaccurate, and in a selective manner to boot. It is a bit of a shock when first confronted with this, but it is not really anything new. I guess the point that really hit me was that if this issue of severe bias and inaccuracies is present in subjects for which I already have some solid technical knowledge, then clearly this could also be true of subjects for which I have little prior knowledge, especially if these subjects are of political or financial value to the proprietors of the media.

    In a free market, we get an uneasy tension between what the customers (think they) want and what the producers want to produce; there is nothing in that equation that points to an economically optimal solution also being a socially beneficial solution.

    fn1: For example, AAP, or Thomson Reuters, or Bloomberg; these are all news wire service providers for stories and story templates. Then there are the PR wire services, spreading like wildfire. Google “news wire service” to see what I mean.

  4. On the question of mis-representation, Tim Flannery is a good example. I too have some difficulty with his often over-enthusiastic portrayal of possible consequences of AGW. However, far too often the sequence of events is this:
    1) Tim Flannery is interviewed, or gives a press release to a reporter/newspaper.
    2) In it, Tim says “If A, then B will occur, if assumptions C are accurate.”
    3) We get the condensed version, i.e. “B will occur.”
    4) All the blogs and newspapers and Fox News, etc, pillory Tim for saying “B will occur.”
    5) Tim tries to cut through the barrage and to explain that “B will occur” was actually highly qualified in the original statement.
    6) Noone listens to Tim’s clarification, because they already know Tim said “B will occur,” which is clearly hyperbole of the first order.
    7) A few hardy souls google the original transcript/press release, and discover that Tim did in fact give a correct, highly qualified statement, with a quite different slant to what was disseminated in the mainstream media.
    8) Tim makes another statement about another potential problem caused by AGW…

    To which I’ll add:
    9) Tim makes the occasional mistake, which he then corrects, but the media take it as demonstrating that Tim’s “predictions” are wrong, yet again.

    Tim Flannery is low on my list of disseminators of information concerning AGW, but honestly, he cops far more flak than is deserved; if the mistakes and gross errors made by some of the conservative right commentators were tallied up, as individuals they would be far in excess of Tim in the erroneous and/or exaggerated effect of some issue to do with AGW. They don’t get slammed by the mainstream media—oh, wait, they are the mainstream media!

  5. @Donald Oats

    I am amongst those whose opinion of Flannery has declined sharply in recent years, though not for the reasons one finds in the Blotosphere.

    His discussion with Jones on Lateline the other night underlines my concerns. He is inept in his discussion of key issues — often sounding as if he wants to accommodate the prejudices of the delusionals — pairing the out and out liars of the spreaders of disinformation along with Suzuki as “extremists” and failing to refute the trolling Daily Fail claims put to him by Jones.

  6. The answer to your question, Prof Quiggin, is that Graham Lloyd has started today in the Oz.
    And true to type, the paper also has Judith Curry on page one of the Inquirer.

  7. @Nick Sorry Nick been a bit busy. A couple of points firstly ‘bp’ is well recognised as the more conservative measure of ‘known’ coal reserves but even then..
    “Kalimantan has 55.0% of the known coal deposits and Sumatra has 45%. Of these deposits 33.8 billion tonnes are inferred resources, 12.2 billion tonnes are indicated and 10.8 billion tonnes are measured resources. Of the total 60.8 billion tonnes coal deposits approximately seven billion tonnes have been identified as commercially exploitable or minable reserves. Assuming an average coal production of 155 million tonnes a year, the seven billion tonnes minable deposits will last for 45 years. This is compared to the estimate that crude oil reserves will be exhausted in 15 years.”

    Of course, the above is based on what is considered commercially viable at the moment. The reality is Sumatera has barely been surveyed for two reasons, firstly, the coal is generally of lower thermal value hence lower price and secondly unlike Kalimantan which has the Mahakam River, Sumatera has no way of transporting the coal to the port. Sumatera will remain that way whilst coal remains under $100 Tonne. You can rest assured that once coal hits $125 tonne, there will be a massive upgrading in Sumatera coal reserves, too bad its low calorific value and generally dirty coal contributing massively to environment pollution.

    However, congrats if you succeed in stopping coal exports from Australia. The rail line through the centre of Sumatera will become viable again along with jungle access for deforestation, the destruction of the last of the Orang Hutan and Sumatera Tiger. No a bad effort to make a few people feel smug in Australia? Untended consequences can be a b*tch hey?

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