On Monday we once again witnessed the Daily Mail’s full contempt for the truth when they published the wrong pre-written Amanda Knox verdict complete with made up quotes pulled out of the sky. Admittedly, this sort of thing now happens with such frequency that it is no longer surprising that many an Enlishman now call the paper the “Daily Fail” with no sense of irony or exaggeration. Only last week the Daily Mail told us that “most Brits oppose gay marriage” when the statistic is in fact the precise opposite way round! This week the Daily Mail’s shameless misinformation has reached new heights. David Cameron went on the BBC  to argue his case for the axing of the Human Rights Act. His justification for this was a tale of a prison van being driven “100 miles to be used to transport a prisoner 200 yards” because of the Human Rights Act – a story literally cobbled (or should I say cobblered?) together the week before by the Mail! Ironically, the actual reason for the prison van being used was the fact that the prison was privatised! (a famous past time of the Conservatives.)

Daily Fail David Cameron Prison Van Fail No Laughing Matter: The Daily Mails Web of Deceit, Lies and Misinformation

Further Reading

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Today I made a tough decision, I decided to accept google ads so I can upgrade my servers. I was horrified to see the first advert to appear was for an American company spreading misinformation about drugs, I find this particularly offensive because I’m aware that misinformation about drugs may well kill infinitely more people than drugs themselves. I’ll provide the evidence for that statement in this blog post and  I’ll also explain why a multi-billion dollar industry is paying advertisers to feed you misinformation about drugs.

drugs are bad Public Service Announcement: <STRIKE>Drugs</STRIKE> Misinformation Kills

My instinctive response was to block the advertiser but I can’t censor every unscrupulous advertiser that Google pops on my site so I’ve decided to be up front about this, give you the facts and let you join the dots.  If a product has to be marketed heavily you should already be suspicious, if information has to be marketed you should be down right terrified. By all means see what they’ve got to say, but never trust claims that are not backed up with evidence that is reported elsewhere and always check the sources. Internet advertising is not like television advertising which has basic quality controls. Anyone can pay to put an advert online and you must consider what their motivation is. I’ll do my bit by ensuring all adverts are clearly labelled  so you don’t get them confused with content.


Red Bull, Pilsner and The Tragic Case of Leah Betts

Misinformation Kills3 1024x207 Public Service Announcement: <STRIKE>Drugs</STRIKE> Misinformation Kills

Leah Betts died in 1995 from water poisoning after drinking 14-15 pints of water in 90 minutes. She did this after being misinformed that it is essential to drink  large amounts of water after taking ecstasy.  After her death newspapers wrongly reported that she was killed by contaminated pills (to this day the guilty newspapers never corrected these lies). The alcohol and energy drink industry who  were afraid that ecstasy was damaging their market share quickly jumped on the case. The makers of Red Bull and Pilsner funded a £1 million bill board campaign. Since it just displayed a picture of a dead body with no explanation of who was behind it, the general public naturally assumed it was run by the health service, this was very far from the case.  The PR company that Red Bull hired for £5 million aimed to market Red Bull as a  “substitute for taking ecstasy”. This was largely done with a million pounds worth of pictures of a dead girl’s body. The campaign perpetuated the lies that led to the death of Leah Betts and did nothing to prevent the incident happening again. Millions take ecstasy every weekend and the few deaths that happen every year are in most cases caused by severe dehydration or drinking excessive amounts of water, neither of which are a result of ecstasy but symptoms of misinformation.

If you take ecstasy you should just drink normal amounts of water and use the toilet as normal. Ecstasy is an anti-diuretic which makes you feel like you don’t need to use the loo. Avoid alcohol which is a depressant so actually negates the effect of ecstasy, it also puts unneccessary strain on the liver and dehydrates you. The required dose of ecstasy is extremely low, less than a tenth of a gram. This is all information that no ad campaign bothered telling people. Meanwhile a £1.8 Million US Government funded study this year concluded there are no long term effects on the brain caused by ecstasy use. The elephant in the room? Alcohol on the other hand has long been a confirmed a neurotoxic drug with far greater potential for addiction and greater potential for harm than ecstasy. Alcohol kills many times more people in a week than ecstasy does in a year. The drinks industry doesn’t spend millions on misinformation campaigns for nothing, the prospect of a drug that can make someone capable of drinking water at a nightclub makes them absolutely piss themselves (please excuse the pun).

How Mephedrone got confused with Methadone

Mephedrone or Methadone Public Service Announcement: <STRIKE>Drugs</STRIKE> Misinformation Kills

Mephedrone is a recently synthesised drug that was initially quite unpopular due it’s relatively unpleasant after effects. To date no only one coroner world wide has ever formally attributed a death to Mephedrone. In 2008, a profoundly ridiculous story by vice magazine popularised Mephedrone after the reporter claimed to insuffulate six grams of the drug. For a start this was criminally irresponsible as this drug has never been tested on humans and this is nearly a hundred times the dose recommended by users (who will recommend it to be taken orally anyway). Not even Charlie Sheen would go “banging seven gram rocks” of this stuff let alone suggest it in a magazine read by those with a collective reading age of a boiled egg. For the record no one should “bang” seven grams of anything, ever, unless they happen to be a beetle (the bugs not the rockstars).

Charlie Sheen Banging Seven Gram Rocks Public Service Announcement: <STRIKE>Drugs</STRIKE> Misinformation Kills

Despite these crazy reports, despite the substance being shipped by the kilo after it’s shoot to star status by the red tops, despite the excesses never seen with ecstasy, no coroner in the UK has ever attributed a death to mephedrone. In March 2010 two men died after taking Government issue heroin substitute, Methadone. The Daily Fail wrongly reported this as Mephedrone and the red tops followed suit. If this was a typo it was a very convenient typo that was never corrected. The police swallowed the tabloid bait hook, line and sinker and disregarded desperate pleas by drug experts to wait for the post-mortem and held an international press conference that day declaring parliament must act to make mephedrone illegal. Like lap dogs the Government got right down to it, basing the decision on evidence which by that point had been confirmed by their own police force, coroner and Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to be misinformation. By the point of the decision so many of the remaining Goverment experts on the ACMD had resigned in protest that the council was completely legally defunct. (Which actually technically makes the ban defunct according do the Misuse of Drugs Act. Don’t quote me on that, I’m not a lawyer. This is incidentally, why the law is being changed to make the ACMD irrelevant)

The government responded by taking a blunderbus approach and banning mephedrone and a shedload of other chemicals that just happen to look like mephedrone. All these chemicals, many of which don’t even exist yet are effectively permanently written off for medical research despite most probably having completely different properties to Mephedrone. Well what do you expect when you have politicians that think they’re chemists?

wormhole Public Service Announcement: <STRIKE>Drugs</STRIKE> Misinformation KillsHere is a picture of a wormhole to illustrate the infinite stupidity of making a range of chemicals that don’t even exist yet permanently illegal because their chemical formula looks  like a chemical that sounds (nothing) like another chemical that killed two teenagers because they mixed said other chemical with alcohol.

Edit: Some people thought the above was a joke. This is no joke. Endless chemicals and their hypothetical derivatives that do not exist yet are now illegal only because if they existed they would be similar to drugs that are far safer than alcohol and tobacco and in the case of mephedrone because it sounded like methadone. There was no scientific consultation and no research is planned.  Intelligent, honest, hard working people who care about their personal health are rapidly being pushed either in to the criminality of illegal drugs or the unknown artificially accelerating frontiers of “legal highs”. This policy has the unfortunate side effect of categorically preventing new frontiers in medicine.

Fun fact: While mephedrone was legal cocaine deaths dive bombed for the first time in history.

Misinformation Campaigns  Actually Promote Drug Use

Below is a report by the RSA that references a wealth of research that demonstrates that the Government’s current method of restricting information and promoting the “Just Say No” message actually increases drug use. It concludes that the only way to reduce the dangers of drugs is to provide accurate and balanced information on drugs.

Illegal Drugs, Communities and Public Policy – Drugs – Facing Facts

Accurate and honest information on drugs can be found on the website of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, made up of former members of the ACMD who resigned in protest at the lies they were expected to tell. Due to the fact that academic research on recreational use is effectively prohibited by law and the Government’s FRANK website doesn’t actually contain any useful information, the crowd sourced data bank “Erowid” remains one of the only sources for drug information.

Halpern JH, Sherwood AR, Hudson JI, Gruber S, Kozin D, & Pope HG Jr (2011). Residual neurocognitive features of long-term ecstasy users with minimal exposure to other drugs. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 106 (4), 777-86 PMID: 21205042

Nutt DJ, King LA, Phillips LD, & Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (2010). Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis. Lancet, 376 (9752), 1558-65 PMID: 21036393

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Update (27/11/2011): Another study has since shown a similar finding, that respondents who watch Fox news are “less informed than those who say they don’t watch any news at all”.

Last month I reported on a study which demonstrated a strong link between (poor) knowledge and time spent watching FOX news. I was forced to conclude that the evidence as it stands did not prove a causal link. It may well be possible that “stupid people watch fox news” rather than “fox news makes you stupid”. I’ve just stumbled across some undeniable evidence for a causal link. A Fox News report which incorrectly places Egypt as between Iran and Syria. (I hope the irony of which country this actually is isn’t lost on anyone.)

FoxNewsEgypt1 Fox News Makes You Stupid: The Evidence

Source: mediamatters.org

This alone however isn’t enough evidence to definitively conclude that it is FOX news making the people that watch FOX news stupid. If anyone sees more evidence of misinformation or general ignorance by FOX news please comment below preferably with a clipping. I’ll keep this post updated as a naming and shaming page exclusively for FOX. Subscribe to comments below for updates in your inbox.

DoubleFacePalm Fox News Makes You Stupid: The Evidence

I should note in the interest of scientific integrity that, it is perfectly possible that as Miss South Carolina famously stated, this is all just because of a map shortage in the USA.

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