I wanted to leave this topic well alone, but unfortunately Peter Hitchens is now claiming on his own blog that:

Intrepid Web voyagers may also be able to find an encounter with me and one of my more virulent critics, in which I have caught him red-handed distorting my words, and he and his supporters insist that this is perfectly all right.

My crime was to copy and paste something I had written in an earlier blog post, here is what I wrote in the comments:

I admitted – twice in the post – that I had pointlessly ranted, but how else can you engage with a writer who actually claimed in the column that I was writing about that: ‘most of our elected leaders are “unrepentant illegal drug-takers”‘

People interested in the complete post can read it here (because Peter seems to have an aversion to linking to sources).

Now, what I put into inverted commas was what I had written previously, only the words in speech marks belonged to Peter Hitchens – his original words:

So many of our leaders now are unrepentant illegal drug-takers themselves that they shouldn’t be trusted near the making of laws*.

I pointed out to Peter that I was quoting my own words and his – as shown by inverted commas and speech marks – but I apologised for the clumsy introduction which was misleading. Rather than accept this and move on he accused me of blatant distortion, dishonesty and concluded that the credibility of this blog was now in ruins – ending with his final comment:

Final, final, final word. It is clear from all above that in this little world, objecting to dishonesty and distortion is ‘pedantry’, and twisting the words of others is excusable. No absolutes here, then. Truth here is a relative concept. That’s the choice of the host of this site and of his friends. Very well. The rest of us can now with confidence refer to this place in future as ‘The site that makes up quotes’.

Hence my lovely new tagline. One little detail and everything I have ever written can be dismissed as far as Hitchens’ is concerned. Nicely done.

Anyway, throughout the ‘debate’ – most of the time it really doesn’t deserve the term – with Hitchens I was open and honest as usual – even in the comment that led him to accuse me of distorting his words I linked to my original post that would have set any reader straight about my clumsy quotation immediately (they would see I was copying and pasting what I had written earlier, not purposefully putting words into his mouth) – hardly the actions of someone being purposefully deceptive or dishonest. I moderated no comments, the thread stands in its mind-numbing entirety for any neutral observer to make their own mind up about the terrible nature of my crime, and the superb intellectual victory scored by Mr Hitchens.

Except, although he keeps referring to this blog and his victory over anyone who argues with him, he won’t link to it. He doesn’t trust his own readers to make their own mind up; instead he just fills them in with his version of events. He may argue that the level of ‘critics’ he encountered was too low to warrant a link, but it seems apparent to me that he simply could not defend his position on passive smoking so he therefore decided to derail the argument in order to ‘win’ on his own terms.

Peter Hitchens can accuse me of whatever he likes, I stand by my arguments about why he is wrong about passive smoking (more about this later) and I stand by the comments section of that post to demonstrate that I am a reasonable, open and honest person (not to mention naive for thinking I could get anywhere or achieve anything with the argument). If he really thought the comments section of that post suggested otherwise perhaps he should link to it and let his readers make up their own minds.

*Furthermore, Hitchens’ argued that the meaning of ‘most’ is massively different from ‘many’ and therefore I was massively and dishonestly distorting what he originally said. However, given that laws require a majority to get through the House of Commons it follows that Peter’s worry would only be real if a significant majority of politicians were ‘unrepentant illegal drug-takers’ to push such votes through. This suggests that ‘most’ is an appropriate word to use – and remember, he doesn’t just say ‘many’ but ‘so many’.

And let’s face it, here is a man who is happy to stand by his ludicrous (no evidence provided) statement that: ‘So many of our leaders now are unrepentant illegal drug-takers themselves that they shouldn’t be trusted near the making of laws.’ But change ‘many’ to ‘most’, and he feels the need to defend himself in case he is being made to look silly.

BBC bashing, again

Today’s BBC bashing story: ‘BBC gives globe-trotting staff a lesson… on getting to work by BUS’

The reality:

The BBC is moving about 1,500 staff from London to Salforsd [sic] as it transfers its children’s and sports departments as well as Radio 5 Live and BBC Breakfast.

As part of its preparations bosses set up six sessions covering different aspects of getting to work, under the heading Transport to MediaCityUK Briefing Day.

The day includes talks on parking and cycle provision, the city’s Metrolink light rail service, help in how to buy tickets, information on bus services and individual journey planning sessions…

A BBC spokesman said it wanted staff to have ‘the most relevant and up-to-date information’ to plan their travel. He added that the guest speakers were not paid.

Paul Revoir must be so proud to put his name by this drivel (not to mention the obvious typos littering the article).

I have finally made it onto the Mail website (sort of)

So, Peter Hitchens responded to my recent 5-minute post on his claims about passive smoking – that he essentially wasn’t convinced by the ‘stories’ about the dangers and thought that the evidence was ‘very thin’. Anyway, you can read that conversation here, but interestingly enough Peter has now decided to blog about the subject – in which he again accuses me of being a ‘scornful but anonymous person’ even though my name was revealed in the comment section of this blog shortly after Peter’s first comment. Obviously he misses simple details even if they are given to him, hardly a good start for his blog post that is supposed to demonstrate that he can provide evidence to support his assertions.

Amusingly, despite being given numerous links to various studies demonstrating a link between passive smoking and health issues, he is still clinging to one particular controversial study (Enstrom and Kabat – said to have been ‘funded and managed by the Center for Indoor Air Research, a tobacco industry front group tasked with “offsetting” damaging studies on passive smoking’) as well as introducing collection of newspaper articles on the subject (as if journalists are the ones to turn to for accurate scientific reporting). None of which can discredit the meta-analysis (confirmed on several separate occasions) that shows that secondary smoke has a statistically significant impact on health.

Now, I’m not a paid writer and I don’t have the time or patience to take the matter any further, but if anyone does have a good knowledge of the subject then feel free to read Peter’s blog post and post your thoughts in the comments here.

Cheese-Rolling back and the Mail still isn’t happy

It was only a matter of time before this year’s annual cheese-rolling festival made it into the tabloid newspapers as a prime example of how ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ had gone truly mad. As has been covered before by numerous blogs on a number of occasions, this event was cancelled last year because the event had grown to big for the location. Traffic congestion and parking were particularly problematic and forced the organisers to postpone the event whilst they looked at making suitable arrangements in order to hold the event again. At no point did health and safety play any part in the cancellation of the event.

Well, the event is now returning with the relevant changes having been made, but the media narrative remains the same: ‘That stinks! Uproar as ancient cheese-rolling festival organisers charge £20 entry (and blame elf ‘n’ safety)’. The headline is a long way from being accurate. For starters, the nature of the event has changed and the £20 charge is being levied for entrance to a day’s worth of entertainment – described as ‘rustic games and competitions’.

The Daily Mail is quick to identify the motivations behind these changes:

there’s no surprise that the twin evils of elf ‘n safety [sic] and commercial gain are to blame.

Ignoring the Daily Mail’s laughable complaint about commercial gain – coming from a paper that will write almost anything for the same reason – it is not surprising that nowhere in the article is the claim about health and safety backed-up. All that is mentioned is that the local authorities demanded that the organisers have in place a ‘comprehensive traffic and crowd control plan, limiting the amount of people on the hill’; something that fits in with the reason that the past event was cancelled: the event had outgrown the location and the informal way in which it was run.

This restriction of spectators amounts to 5,000 tickets being available per day to people wanting to watch or participate in the cheese-rolling on the hill – whilst an enclosed area at the bottom of the hill will remain free to the general public with the races being shown on large screens. The organisers justify the charge by pointing out the cost of staging an obviously popular event:

‘Once you try and restrict the spectators, you have to introduce perimeter fencing and security arrangements which are unfortunately all very expensive and we have to find a way to pay for it.’

Nothing here is striking me as unreasonable. This isn’t about health and safety, or even people trying to make a bit of money, it just seems to be about an event that has grown over the years until there was no choice but to organise it more formally.

As for the ‘uproar’ mentioned in the headline the Daily Mail found a veteran cheese-chaser who said:

I don’t think the hardcore fans will pay £20 per day.

All in all this is just another story rammed into a creaking media narrative that struggles so much for real evidence that ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ has gone mad that it has to resort to silly headlines and unsubstantiated claims. All written from behind the safety of the ‘Daily Mail Reporter’ byline. Whoever wrote this should really question just what it has come to when they write articles that they simply do not want to attach their name to.

How to lose an argument, by Peter Hitchens

Yesterday Peter Hitchens confessed that he was ‘wrong on cigarettes but believe me, I’m right on cannabis’ before then demonstrating that when it comes to the dangers of passive smoking he is utterly clueless. Hitchens’ claims that:

No, I never believed the stories about second-hand smoke, and still don’t.

Cigarettes stink and spoil the atmosphere, and anyone who smokes them near others who are eating is inconsiderate and rude. But I think the evidence that they give cancer to anyone apart from the people actually smoking them is very thin indeed.

When even a cursory glance at Wikipedia provides so much evidence (and provides so many references to reputable sources) that I am not even going to attempt to condense it here, you know that there really is no point in trusting Hitchens’ views about Cannabis. It’s almost amusing how Hitchens will cling to the flimsiest anecdotal evidence when it suits his agenda, but will dismiss masses of empirical evidence as ‘very thin’ when it suits him.

Dear journalists: it is not a ‘tidal wave’

I’m sure you’ve all seen the videos shot from helicopters of the massive tsunami that struck Japan. You’ve probably seen enough that you’ve wondered at the fate of countless individuals – the motorists driving as normal, oblivious to the wall of cars, boats and destroyed houses pushed towards them as if foam on the crest of a wave. It’s a sombre scene that requires careful, thoughtful but above all accurate reporting. So I’d like to politely request that journalists please refer to the wave as a ‘tsunami’ because that is what it is. It is not a ‘tidal wave’ because this event had nothing whatsoever to do with tides.

In particular can the Daily Mail please correct this:

There is just no excuse for such shoddy journalism.

Daily Mail celebrates original WAG Eva Braun

A couple of blogs covered the Daily Mail’s decision yesterday to change the layout of its website for the terribly important news that they had found a photo of Eva Braun – the ultimate WAG, you know she was married to that Hitler chap that the Daily Mail has a curious obsession with – with a blacked-up face. Today the Daily Mail has repeated the full width format on its website because Japan has suffered a destructive earthquake and Tsunami, putting into context the kind of major you-must-know-about-this news stories that such space is normally reserved for. So it appears that the Daily Mail thinks that a photo of dead women with blacked-up face is just as important in news terms as a national natural disaster.

As usual, things get even worse when you see what they have covered with a full double-page spread in today’s print edition:

The original WAG
Click to enlarge

Just imagine how many packets of tissues the Daily Mail office got through today. The ultimate, original WAG, a genuine NAZI pictured nude and in lovely two-piece swimming costumes. The Daily Mail should cease publishing immediately because they can never top this (unless it turns out Hitler and Eva Braun made a few home videos…).

You know why

Today’s Daily Mail front page features a big plug for the Daily Mail ‘Femail’ section and asks the question:

Click to enlarge

Penny Smith’s article tried to look at the reasons why women might feel this way and she identifies:

  1. Fairy stories
  2. Dolls – specifically Barbie
  3. Playground pressure
  4. Boys – who have posters of glamorous women on their walls

No mention of the role that the media plays, or that the worst culprit is the newspaper that is publishing this article. Worse, Penny Smith at one point looks at the difference between how men perceive their own bodies or image and quotes Nick Ferrari who claims that men look in the mirror and see themselves as fantastic because:

It’s our defence mechanism… we are bullied by the women in our lives, and told that we’re useless at everything from putting up shelves to making a souffle rise – and likewise in the bedroom…

Penny Smith then pretty much wipes out any remaining credibility by admitting:

Even if said in jest, I suspect he’s right.

I’m always amazed at the queue of women ready to write misogynistic drivel in the Mail. Here is a section of the Daily Mail aimed at women and the best it can come up with is this stereotypical tripe. In an article about why 97% of women have at least one ‘I hate my body’ moment every day the writer still manages to admit that men are only different because women bully them so much that they have become delusional as a defence mechanism.

To complete the hypocrisy you only have to turn to page 3 of today’s Daily Mail and look at the pictures of Kate Moss – who at 37 has a body most women would be ecstatic with – but the Daily Mail can easily find fault with her. For starters the Mail prints a big picture of her bottom accompanied with a caption that mocks the small lines visible in the picture. As if that wasn’t enough they also include a paparazzi photo showing what she looks like without make-up – described as the ‘bare reality’.

Click to enlarge

It’s no secret that the Daily Mail really hates women, so I wonder why every few months they feel obliged to ask why women hate they way they look. When a supermodel is slaughtered on page 3 you can see why the average women finds it so easy to pick faults with their body.

What kind of person buys the Daily Star?

I tweeted the other day that anyone who reads the Daily Star must have the intelligence of a slug. I received quite a few responses, the majority informing me that I was being offensive to slugs, but one person who wanted to point out that his dad was an intelligent chap and read the Daily Star. I replied to this person probably dismissively- although I cannot be bothered to find the tweet – and thought no more about it.

Until now. So ‘pissed off’ was this individual that they felt the need to blog about it a while later and they pointed me in the direction of the post this morning. Essentially, his argument is this: after listening to Jim Davidson being interviewed on BBC 5Live he realised that not everyone is the two-dimensional caricature we suppose them to be, ergo it would be wrong to pre-judge people based on what they read.

A fair point, I’ll concede that not everyone who buys a tabloid newspaper is a unintelligent slug. However, my exasperated insult aimed at Daily Star readers was based on yet another front page headline that was completely fictional – not distorted, not inaccurate, but purposefully and completely invented. If that is the standard being set by the front page, what does that suggest about the standard of journalism enclosed within?

As you may be aware, the Daily Star recently appeared to throw its support behind the English Defence League, with a glowing write-up about how they were going to become a political party. For the record, the EDL did not have any firm plans to become a political party, but after the Daily Star article – and the massive phone poll support they received – they are now looking into it.

Once again, bad journalism has real consequences.

Which brings me back to any individual who buys a tabloid newspaper. As Richard Peppiatt wrote in his resignation letter to the Daily Star: news article invented in an office in London can get someone’s head caved in in Bradford. Now, as a reader of the Daily Star you might claim to not be an ignorant, hateful individual and you might instead argue that you’re a rational, intelligent human being. You might be able to rationalise why you buy it, how you see past the constant, hateful anti-Muslim (and fictional) propaganda and just enjoy the ‘fun’ articles inside or that you only read it for the sport.

But I’m not convinced by any of these arguments. I look at the average Daily Star front page and see only three consistant themes: racism, anti-Muslim propaganda and Jordan. Now, call me narrow-minded if you want, but I think that if you can still buy the newspaper in spite of this you must either be a racist, Muslim-hating Jordan fan or a complete simpleton. In either case, I can excuse you buying the Daily Star: you know not what you do.

Now, if a third type of reader does exist – in this case, the intelligent dad – then I can only point out that in purchasing the Daily Star they are funding, supporting and legitimising its agenda. I just have to wonder out loud what kind of intelligent person wants to do this. I can only think that maybe its that newspapers are like banks: we tend to stick with the one we’ve always used. Perhaps the Daily Star wasn’t always such a terrible newspaper – enlighten me in the comments if you wish – and some people are only buying it because it’s difficult to break out of an old habit.

As I pondered the other day, if the average Daily Star read Richard Peppiatt’s letter of resignation and realised that much of what they read was simply made-up by journalists at the newspaper – and in particular a lot of these stories were made up to stir-up hatred of Muslims – would they stop buying the newspaper?

Well perhaps the person who I ‘pissed off’ with my blanket accusation that all Daily Star readers were dribbling morons should make his dad read Peppiatt’s letter and see what impact his has on him. If he still intends to buy the Daily Star then I guess the most polite thing I can write about him is that he is extremely loyal.

More classic back page headlines

From the ever-excellent Football365’s Mediawatch section:

When Mediawatch saw Pep Guardiola’s comments about Jack Wilshere, we sighed and knew, just knew, that the tabs would run around screaming and wettting their pants like little boys who’d had too much Capri Sun.

For the record, Pep said (in his second or third language, note): “Wilshere is a top player. He is an excellent player, not just Arsenal, but also for the national team. [But] he is lucky because we have many players in the second team like him but he plays because there is no pressure at his club to win titles.”

This was said – as the papers well know – in the context of the pressure being so great at Barca to compete with Real Madrid that it’s not as easy to blood players as young as Wilshere in their first team.

But, even after Pep praised Wilshere’s qualities no less than four times even in that short passage, the coverage in the tabs ranges from the given, with The Daily Star opting for the headline ‘JACK BOOT: WE’VE GOT BETTER PLAYERS IN OUR RESERVES’, the expected, as The Daily Mail go with the headline ‘SECOND RATE: GUARDIOLA TELLS WILSHERE HE’D ONLY MAKE THE BARCA RESERVES’ to the hilarious, with The Sun’s self-appointed European Football Correspondent Antony Kastrinakis claiming Pep offered a ‘jibe’ at Wilshere and ‘taunted’ the young man.