Archive for the Media Category

A Discussion on Immigration

Posted in Journalism, Media, Politics, Uncategorized with tags , , on May 14, 2010 by pieman70

This article won’t be a discussion on immigration per se.

One of the arguments you hear from the right/anti-immigration side is that parties like UKIP and the BNP (Yes, I mention them in the same breath because they are the same) are merely a symptom of not being allowed to discuss immigration without being called racist, or indeed as some papers say, in between headlines and front pages about immigration, “You can’t talk about immigration”.

So, I’m putting in a suggestion on how a discussion on immigration where the pro immigration side, will discuss immigration without calling you racist, bigoted or any other accusation of that ilk regardless of how racist you get.

This isn’t a free ride, any anti-immigration types who participate have to agree to some terms of my own devising, gleaned from many a head/brick wall interface type conversation I’ve had with them in the past.

First, argument must be conducted online in a discussion forum type environment, this allows both sides to cite articles, studies and websites and have plenty of time to read and counterpoint them.

Second, Argument must be based on facts, statistics and reports, not anecdote, opinion or editorial.  The number of times I’ve been in a discussion and quoted, for example that Legal migrants are entitled to all our benefits, as they have come over here with a job at some point and therefore paid tax, Asylum seekers get £30 odd a week and illegals get nothing, being illegal.  Only to be told that “I see them every day and they get more than that” Back it up, with facts and figures, otherwise I might as well respond “No they don’t, I see them not get benefits every day.” Similarly, the oft stated claim that “They don’t integrate” prove it, both sides, have studies been done.  I recall one (Can’t find a citation sadly) which actually said your average muslim migrant read the sun, watched X-Factor, supported the local football team and worried about immigrants (Seriously) how is that not integrating.

Third, the anti-immigration side have to specify at each point who “They” are.  Again I’ve been in arguments where “Immigrant” flits between someone in from the EU, someone on a student Visa, economic migrant, illegal migrant and asylum seeker.  (In truth this is because most anti-immigration types don’t know the difference)

Fourth, leave your tin-foil hat at the door.  There is no point pretending to have a discussion with someone only to respond to a set of facts with “Oh well they would say that” If you have a fault with the figures, by all means, lest see a factual backing up of these, or a scientific deconstruction of the methods.  I’ve seen this done in just about all of migration watch’s stuff and its a perfectly valid form of argument.  Claiming the figures were “Made up” because they don’t fit your view is not.

Finally, both sides must be willing to give ground.  Again the pro-immigration lobby (Aside from their more lunatic fringes) are better at this, accept that people have concerns, that these can be in the form of their communities changing, and that sometimes an influx of migrants makes them feel like they’re being squeezed out, and their voice may not be heard (A bit like being me in a seat where everyone else is happy with Douglas Alexander) the anti-immigration side will similarly have to be open to accept that the line fed to them by the daily mail is actually based on a slanted editorial agenda and that their life views may in fact be wrong.  (Sorry, that in itself is slanted, but purely because the bulk of research I’ve read shows it to be the case)

The tabloid calls for open discussion mean on their terms, basically say what we like without accusations of racism.  The structure I suggested would produce a real discussion, but not one I suspect the anti-immigration supporters would enjoy.

I Believe in the BBC

Posted in BBC, Evil Big Buisiness, Journalism, Media with tags , , , on October 14, 2009 by pieman70

Apologies for this long, rambling and ranty post

At the recent Edinburgh TV Festival the Mac Taggart lecture was delivered by James Murdoch, Son of Rupert Murdoch Billionaire Tyrant and owner of News international.  His speech attacked the BBC calling in particular for the online news service to be scaled back or completely removed, and argued that the only true guarantor of independent journalism was profit.  This of course has nothing whatsoever to do with News international wanting to charge for online versions of their paper, and this being hard because

1, a cardinal rule of the internet is that it is very hard to charge for something that you previously offered for free

2, it is even harder to charge for something when someone else is offering a superior product for free.

Fortunately in a room full of professionals and educated people, this didn’t really wash, and most saw this for what it was, the usual Murdoch dislike of anything they can’t buy or drive out of business.  However there are fears that in order to gain press support some backroom deals may well be made by both parties next election to begin the dismantling of the BBC.

Murdoch’s argument sounds valid, who wouldn’t trust an independent company, who have to make a profit over something government run, except the BBC has many safeguards in place to stop it being the governments propaganda wing.  In fact the BBC has been one of the biggest critics of the government, even in its current gun shy state after the brutal attack the government made on it over the Iraq dossier.  In fact if anything it’s the profit driven news companies who deserve more scrutiny as they show what news gathering would be like under a purely commercial model.

In Nick Davis’ book “Flat Earth News” he describes what he calls the “news Factory” an environment which exists when companies run news organisations for the maximum amount of profit.  In these news factories such as those run by news international, staff are overworked and short on time, and in general stories are run direct from the news wire or indeed more often than not reworded from corporate press releases or other papers articles (A process referred to as Churnalism) with minimal to no fact checking.  This leaves the commercial news operators wide open to distortion by PR companies, and the like.  It also creates a style of journalism that stays away from dangerous stories, namely watch what you say about big companies, or anything not form an “Official Source”  The BBC has fallen into this trap as well, although not as badly as those run by companies like News International.

The second problem with profit driven news is what I call the Daily Mail syndrome.  The Daily Mail is Britain’s best selling paper, it is also full of distortions presenting a view of the UK as a nation swamped with foreigners all raiding our lucrative benefits system, while white hard working taxpayers foot the bill, it shows a Britain swarming with feral youths and crime, which naturally only hanging and the birch would solve.  It also, as has been said by better men than me, has engaged in a rather odd project to classify all inanimate objects into those that cause or cure cancer.  When questioned, the Mail defends itself by stating that it reflects the views of its readers, and I don’t doubt that, it reflects the worrying state of mind of little Englanders and paranoid xenophobes everywhere.  It also pedals racism and constantly misrepresents the facts to fit its agenda.  And this sells by the bucket load.  In short, it works on a principle of “hell with the facts, tell them what they want to hear and we make money” That is what profit driven news gives you.

A great example of the true faults with profit driven news occurred at the end of last year during Israel’s attacks on Palestine.  The Sun, a News international paper, ran a story about Islamic extremists creating a hit list of prominent UK Jews.  Sir Alan Sugar was on this list (And he successfully sued the Sun, more on that in a bit).  The Story was sourced from a supposed independent Terror Expert named Glen Jevaney, who claimed he had been staking out internet forums for just this ort of thing.  Jevaney was backed by Tory MP Patrick Mercer, A shadow cabinet minister, so official source.  This story was published in the Sun with minimal fact checking.  Several independent bloggers, most notably Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads (www.bloggerheads.com and I can only recommend you read his expose on this yourself) and that’s independent as in they do this for free, did what the profit driven media did not and looked into this.  It transpired, and eventually broke recently on radio 5, that the person posting on an Islamic website about targeting high profile Jews was Glen Jevaney, he’d been trying to bait the residents into providing a story, and when none bit, he used his own posts as evidence of extremism.  He was found out, not by professional journalists, but by enthusiastic amateurs who were not held to costs or deadlines.

So, to conclude, the BBC, if it has any problems at all in its news gathering, it is that it tries too often to emulate the commercial companies.  James Murdoch is wrong; the profit motive provides shoddy journalism.  The best comes from having time and the guts to follow a story in detail, do research and properly investigate.  So far the profit medial provides none of this.

Setting out to be Offended

Posted in Media, TV with tags , on January 27, 2009 by pieman70

Jonathan Ross returned to work this week, and to controversy once again. The controversy was, quite frankly, stupid.

The gist of the story is this. Ross was interviewing someone who made a comment about an old lady who kept trying to kiss him. Ross made some comments. At this point it may be considered poor taste but that’s it. Its an anecdote about an old lady.

The News of the World, clearly trying to mine their own overblown Sachsgate decided that for once they were going to do research and the like and tracked down the old lady in question and her son, so he could be suitably offended and they could be suitably smug and condemning. This is really stupid in 2 ways.

1. The guy hadn’t listened to the show, and was unaware of its existence until the News of the World found him and told him. That’s a hell of a lot of effort to be offended. I’ll say this to any papers now, if any radio DJ has insulted my gran, I really don’t care.

2. Until the News of the World got its crusade on, no-one knew who this woman actually was. Of course now her name is in papers across the nation and she may as well now be known as that blokes senile granny.

In fact, more harm here has been done by the tabloids, who have turned this into a circus where now existed. Of course it has also raised the grim spectre of “Standards” at the BBC which will no doubt further hobble any decent comedy. We can look forward to more insipid comedy like My Family I guess.

My take on it, The BBC alone has 6 analogue radio stations (1-5 and a regional one) all of whom broadcast 24hrs a day (I think) now if you find Ross’ banter offensive there are 5 other places from the BBC alone for you to tune into in the few hours he is on. Same with TV, so Channel 4 is showing horse Orgies (they’re not, calm down) well watch BBC2, unless the programme is called Gentle Gardening for the Easily offended and in fact involves sex, swearing and bad language, watching Horse Orgies and claiming offence is really just going out of your way to be offended by something.

What bugs me is that there are a significant group of people who believe all broadcast media should be made so it caters to, well frankly them. Specifically nothing should offend them, which is a bit unreasonable since their threshold for offence seems so damned low. Now if I was to demand TV Catered to my every whim, well aside from a few Sci-fi and US shows it would probably look a lot like Channel Dave. So, I have a satellite channel that pretty much caters to me. And that’s good, but the God Channel, Living and various other channels hold no interest, so I don’t watch them. I don’t get offended and write complaints, I just watch something else, which is surely the best advice to any serial complainers.

Pie Man’s Guide to Science in the Press

Posted in Media, Science with tags , on January 26, 2009 by pieman70

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/01/for_gods_sake_have_bryan_apple.php

This site is a great deconstruction of a particularly woeful attempt as Science by a Journalist who clearly has no idea bout the subject. This is becoming an all to common issue.

Now, before I start, I should shoot myself in the foot. This subject is covered far better in the following blogs.
http://www.badscience.net/
http://www.quackometer.net/blog/
And many, many more (Take a peek at who I’m following if that’s possible rather than putting together a page of links)

Anyway, following these sites for some time really gives you an impression of how poor science reporting in the media is. And in particular reporting on health related stories.

Previously health news didn’t bother me. I was unfit, drank too much and ate the wrong foods, however now I have a child, and so while I still refuse to take too much responsibility in keeping myself running I am quite concerned about how to keep my daughter safe. And this is the problem. Ben Goldacre of bad science fame hits the nail on the head when he states that the press are only interested in 3 types of science news, The Miracle Cure, The Hidden Threat and “Crazy Boffins do something Mad”. It also doesn’t help that most Journalists see themselves as crusaders uncovering the Truth, when in fact, due to that requiring effort, they do little more than re-word press releases. This is why with all health stories. In fact, with all stories, you should check the facts yourself. However since people are concerned parents wondering if its safe to let your child near a wi-fi modem, I’ll try as far a possible to stick to health.

SO, there is a story, reported in several papers and on TV that eating a bacon sandwich a day will make you really healthy. Now, we’re all busy people (Well you are) so we don’t have time to go on to pubmed and look for the peer reviewed paper published in a reputable journal. Its a shame that the online sources don’t provide a link as it would at least show that the research has been looked at and had it methodology scrutinised as well as the interpretation of results. Regardless we can’t check there, we need some easy information. Now, don’t google, due to the way google presents results you could well be directed to a site that misleads, for example to the World Bacon Producer’s website, which would mysteriously tell you that its true, fried bacon is good for you. Instead there are two websites that are your friend.

http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/ This lot really deserve more recognition. A simple goal to try and give out solid information about science. Check to see if they have anything on the subject.

Second should be a no-brainer http://www.nhs.uk/ yes, believe it or not, particularly in the case of health scares, they really try to get the real info out there. They even have a very interesting “Behind the Headlines” feature.

However, these two try their best, they can;t cover every idiot story. So first look is Dr*T’s guide to consumer science as a starter
http://thinking-is-dangerous.blogspot.com/2008/03/bluffers-guide-to-consumer-related_25.html

But failing that, we finally get to my real guide, things that should raise warning signs.

1. Does this sound plausible. When you look at things like magnet therapy, does it really sound likely. This is open to your understanding of science but a good start

2. Is a study referred to? Again not often, for facts like that are not for the likes of us, but sometimes a university is quoted, look to see if the University is crowing about miracle breakthroughs.

3. Is there some claim of conspiracy. The Alternative health and the Anti-Vaccination crowds love to think that there is some big pharmaceutical conspiracy suppressing their efforts. However all conspiracies, in fact most things in general should be treated with skepticism. Journalists like conspiracies, because it looks like they’re exposing the truth rather than re-hashing a press release. In reality, most people shout conspiracy when all evidence has proven their case false.

4. Does it claim to drastically change our understanding of science, because if it does it better have some really good evidence and if that’s not even present then be sceptical.

5. Does it pander to your base desires. Beer is good for you, Fatty food makes us fitter, Burning fossil fuels actually makes trees grow, The Cake is not a lie. Its nice to think all these things are true, but in reality its usually the results of a poor to non-existent study by the marketing board of Carling/McDonalds/Shell/Aperture Science.

I hope this ramble will add my voice to trying to get people to understand a bit more about the absolute twaddle that regularly appears on our news reports about science, and perhaps shames a few journalists into doing some research (Any) before they report.

Again, just to re-iterate, if you’ve found this rant rambling or otherwise badly done, please look at the linked websites that do a far better job than I ever could.

The Jewelry Issue

Posted in Media, News, Religion with tags , , on August 13, 2008 by pieman70

As always the hypocrisy of the gutter press is only matched by the curious ways the memories of its readers work. Take the recent case of the Sikh schoolgirl now allowed to wear a religiously significant bangle despite her school’s “No Jewelry” policy. This strangely caused outrage from some of the more gutter presses editorials harping on about how we “Bend the rules” for foreign religions and treading out the usual “Bet if it was a crucifix this wouldn’t have been allowed” all part of the general intention to make the christian parts of the community, particularly the middle englanders, terrified that we are becoming a foreign country.

I am going to step away from the arguments of what constitutes items you have to wear as part of your religion and go straight to the hypocrisy bit.

In 2006 a case made the papers regarding a BA flight attendant Nadia Eweida, supposedly asked to remove her crucifix as it offended other religions. Strangely enough the tabloids were less focused on their “Rules are Rules” high horse then. Of course this flight attendant, plus tabloids and church members strove to make this sound like BA pandering to minority religions while dissing Christians, after all, they do a BA turban you know, I wring my hands in between typing.

Of course, as with many tabloid stories, the truth is far more revealing. The facts are thus. BA has a no visible jewelry policy, a policy that was in place when Eweida joined the company and which she had been happy to conform to for the years up to 2006 when suddenly, it became a problem. BA offered several compromises, initially that if it was that important to her she could wear it under her uniform and also offering a non uniformed, non customer facing position, however this wasn’t good enough for her and even though she has lost her racial discrimination tribunal she is apparently continuing to fight. As it transpires she was a very difficult worker, constantly demanding concessions to her religion.

Several things annoyed me about the resolution to this case. First was that BA pandered far too much. I would have been out straight away with “She has been content with this policy for x years, why is this suddenly an issue, this is our uniform policy etc. Instead they relented and their uniform now allows for a lapel pin or cross on a chain. This was not helped because Pope Tony Blair weighed in seeing some outraged middle englanders who might like him if he was on side and suggested BA relent.

of course now the tabloids are going nuts in the opposite direction, demanding concessions are not made, despite the fact that, unlike a crucifix, the Sikh bangle is a necessity. Also the school hasn’t ruled out crucifixes.

Now while the school issue in my mind is separate, school being something you have to attend, I now think that employers should be allowed to state the working hours and any terms relating in a contract (For example, shifts covering Sundays, Xmas etc) and dress codes in contracts. roughly as BA have done, but I would like to see these actually enforced in the above situation. The court case should go something like this “Did you sign a contract with a No Jewelry, work on Sundays policy” “Yes” “Case finds in favour of employer” no more of this jumping through religious hoops after the event in the name of tolerance, you accept the conditions or you don’t accept the job.

Guardian follow up

Posted in Media, News with tags , on July 2, 2008 by pieman70

Well, who says blogging does nothing, while the look is the same the search function on the Guardian website now works and you can pull up an archive by columnist, basically now it looks less like “The Guide” and “Comment is Free” are fighting each other. Good work.

Idiot Nation

Posted in Media, Politics with tags , on August 27, 2007 by pieman70

This article made me thinkhttp://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ0207GREETINGS# In Britain we have similar problems. In short the vast bulk of the population will trust the opinions if idiot blowhards and opinionated columnists over respected scientists provided

1. They say things that the average numbnut agrees with.
2. They have their own newspaper column/radio programme
3. They portray the world as a black and white, right and wrong affair which is far simpler than the shades of grey reality

its become quite frustrating, why the hell do people put more faith in Richard Littlejohn (As an example, a really odious example) than Scientists, behavioural experts and people who have studied or have had years of experience of the subjects he mouths off on.This would be because in idiot Britain we don’t like hearing opinions that differ from our own, particularly if they can be backed up with :HORROR: FACT! (And I mean actual facts rather than saying FACT! at the end of a sentence, generally meaning, I have no evidence to support this but saying FACT! means I don’t have to defend my untenable position, its fact)

Some may argue that this is what I’m doing, and I’d agree, except for the fact that I’m doing this for free (Or rather when I should be being paid to work) and in a forum that no-one actually reads bar a few oddballs I know and some poor unfortunate who decided to read a random blog. In fact I am about as qualified to comment on such matters as Law and Order, Global warming and Immigration as any of these newspaper columnists, the difference is I’m not paid to do so, and no-one will say “That pie_man70, he knows what he’s talking about, unlike all those so called experts who just study the subject matter, conduct scientifically sound experiments and have firsthand experience of how these things actually work”

Take, for example, the argument of Law & order. Your litteljohns will say that the country is on a downhill spiral, and its all due to those namby-pamby and wringing liberals with their human rights act. Why can’t we suspend this piece of legislation which in no way protects all our rights, so we can properly punish criminals, instead of sending them to “Holiday camp” prisons we should beat them dawn to dusk for 50 years. That’s a proper deterrent; they won’t want to go back after that. Now I can argue the pros and cons of brutal prison regimes till I’m blue in the face, quoting studies that show that brutal prisons churn out more brutal criminals, that the goal of prison is to rehabilitate while keeping a danger to society out of circulation for public safety. I can ask at which point “Punishment” becomes “Revenge” but that doesn’t matter a jot when you consider a statement by a great author Christopher brookmyre. Talking about how people are sure that draconian prisons would cut re-offending rates and act as a deterrent, he points out that there is no deterrent because “No b***er expects to be caught”

Simple, succinct, ignored by pundits, and that’s an author not an expert, but its common sense, its logical.But yet those who trounce off opinion as fact get paid handsomely for their role in turning the nation into a pack of rabid lynch mobs, burning paedophiles as they are accused, beating up hoodies and breaking the legs of anyone who enquires about human rights.

Take another bugbear, regarding the band of idiots that makes up most of the public of this “great” land.Next to the opinion monger is the one scientist who disagrees with the general body of science. Now, I’m all for theories being properly tested, and all for dissent showing the weakness of firmly held beliefs, hells I welcome it. The problem is when you have a massive body of evidence for one side, say that climate change not only exists (Just about 100% proven) and that man is in some way an influence (About 90%+ of studies say this is the case) there are people who will latch on to that 10% of scientists, 10% often backed by interest groups to present data in a way more beneficial to, say oil companies, or airlines, because if you believe the 10% of often disproved science saying this is all sunspots, you can drive your 4X4 and fly to Malaga every year firm in the knowledge that the tonnes of CO2 you pump out has nothing to do with climate change.

Yes, we, as a nation will believe the bad, disproven science, particularly if it has a big name supporter (Michael Crichton, I’m looking at you) because, well frankly we’re lazy (I know lazy, I can smell my own) we don’t want to recycle, its hard. We don’t want to switch everything off standby because when we get in from work it’s nice to turn the telly on by remote control, and we don’t want to take public transport because it’s filled with all the idiots I posted about in my previous public transport rant. The worst example of this was while listening to TalkSport, some guy regarding the protests for Heathrow’s 3rd runway. He started by saying that the science on global warming was 50-50, specifically that you get some reports saying it is man made followed by some saying it isn’t. As previously stated it’s closer to 90-10. The second statement was the worst, he said, if flying, and driving 4X4 cars was so harmful to the environment was so bad, surely it would be banned.Now really, taking the very large, well funded Oil lobby, the vehicle manufacturers and the airlines, not to mention all companies involved in aviation and the jobs produced, if I were to stand for power saying I was banning any car journey that couldn’t be either walked in 20mins or covered by public transport, and that I was banning all short haul air travel, it would be election suicide, because the great British public is unwilling to give up these luxuries. And no know it all experts will tell them otherwise.