It’s easy for me to go after the tabloids, it doesn’t take a genius to see how the Daily Mail is full of lies or that Fox news distorts the facts to the extend that their consumers are left knowing less than when they started. With the broadsheets it’s a different story. The broadsheets brings with them an air of respectability, a faithful following of educated intellectuals who trust the newspapers enough not to bother checking their sources, which (when you do some research) often fall apart like a year old muffin. First in the firing line is the Independent. This paper is particularly dangerous because like their sworn enemies the redtops, the Independent is predisposed to shameless hyperbole; unlike the tabloids, most people trust what the paper says.
One of the first posts I did on this blog was about how, after a ten year campaign for cannabis legalisation, the Independent made a full about turn and placed a front page apology for their actions based on only a shred of evidence. The Independent got their facts wrong on a grand scale including wrongly reporting that the ACMD were to recommend cannabis be upgraded (the opposite was true) and wrongly reporting the figures for the the increase in cannabis strength by a factor of thirty times!
Recently the Independent have continued their campaign of hyperbole filled drug scare stories with a report about Valium that failed to mention the word “Valium”. The report was littered with glaring errors – (edit: now slightly mitigated after my complaint to the PCC – see my report on the similar Hull Daily Mail article and the Metro article, both taken down after my complaints to the PCC). Of key importance is the fact that the article wrongly reports that Valium is used to treat depression when in reality Valium is an addictive anxiety drug that worsens depression. This is a severe editorial failure because the millions of people who read the Independent and who have easy access to Valium (or already use the drug recreationally) would be likely, after reading the Independent article to use the drug to self medicate if they get depressed. Conversely, the addictive nature of Valium is not mentioned in the article. The report also likens the drug to Speed, something which anyone who knows anything about Benzodiazepines will find laughable. Once again, the report seems to be little more than a reworded press release, this time from a rather spectacularly misinformed police force.
This week the Guardian’s Observer caused somewhat of a storm among the skeptic bloggers after running a fawning article about Burzynski; a controversial cancer doctor in Texas who for the past 30 years has encouraged the parents of children with cancer to send him their children to take part in his “trials”. All for a tidy sum of hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop of course.
Burzynski has never published any peer reviewed research of his findings and his licence is under investigation by US authorities. Rather than tackling his critics with debate or published work he respondents by issuing “cease and desist” libel threats to anyone who criticises him as the Quackometer and Rhys Morgan found out this week. Luckily for Burzynski, the Independent is on hand to send him a few million uncritical hits to add to his army of “placard waving supporters drummed up by PR campaigns”.
In researching this article, I stumbled across the holy grail I was looking for, a rather enlightening piece by one of the Independent’s health correspondent’s Jeremy Lawrence. The “manifesto for failure” is full of choice quotes that explain in detail the pithy reasons given for why journalists don’t bother checking facts. This piece invites the rather spectacular riposte by the target of the article, Dr. Ben Goldacre. Hopefully more of the bloggers that are doing such a sterling job of dismantling the main stream media garbage can get picked up by the major papers. Sooner rather than later please.Follow Simon on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, RSS, or join the mailing list.
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