Posts Tagged ‘The Guardian’

Guardian writer fabricated his stories

May 28, 2016

The Guardian is blatantly biased – but that’s perfectly OK. They tend to be quite selective in choosing which stories to report and which to ignore and that, too, is perfectly OK, since they make no secret of the agendas they pursue. Their opinion pieces nearly always cherry pick information to suit their point of view and I have no problem with that. Their spelling mistakes are legendary (perhaps they need to have an Indian-American with the spelling bee gene as a spell checker). But they do not make up the “facts” they do report.

Except, it seems, they sometimes do.

The Guardian has retracted 13 articles by a freelance writer Joseph Mayton who has been writing for them since 2009. They have also deleted extracts from his other articles which could not be verified. Mayton denies he has fabricated his stories – but his protests which claim unprofessionalism as a defence – are not very convincing.

Guardian Retractions

Guardian editor Lee Glendinning writes:

…. we acted immediately to investigate when sources claimed that they had not spoken with the writer of the piece they were quoted in.

The article in question, from February, was by a freelance journalist, Joseph Mayton, who began writing opinion pieces for the Guardian in London in 2009, while based in Egypt. He contributed several opinion pieces before starting to write occasional US news stories, on a freelance basis, in May 2015 from California. These stories ranged from coverage of wildfires to issues related to marijuana farms, urban vineyards and whale deaths on the coast.

When Mayton was unable to provide convincing evidence that the interviews in question in the February article had taken place, we hired an independent fact-checker to investigate all of his prior work, which comprised 37 single-byline articles published between 2015 and 2016, seven shared byline stories from the same period, and 20 opinion pieces written from 2009 to 2015.

In an investigation that included approximately 50 interviews, our fact-checker found articles that contained likely or confirmed fabrication, including stories about two events that organizers said he didn’t attend. Dozens of sources could not be found – either they had no online presence or they were anonymous and could not be substantiated – and several people quoted in Mayton’s articles either denied speaking with him or giving the quotes attributed to them. …..

….. In light of the extent of the fabrication and the uncertainty surrounding many of the articles, we are removing 12 of the news stories, and one opinion piece from the Guardian website. In the articles that remain, quotes and information that could not be verified have been removed, and we have published footnotes on each article page to outline this. There were other stories which proved accurate, with no corrections needed, and have been left as is.

I use The Guardian as one of my key benchmarks for liberal-left opinions. I don’t expect objectivity from them and I hardly ever agree with their viewpoint but I do rely on their veracity.

And so I am very glad to see them take this action to protect, at least, their reputation for accuracy in the facts they do report.

h/t – Retraction Watch


Russel Brand and The Guardian have helped cement Cameron’s majority

May 8, 2015

On Tuesday last week (28th April) Ed Miliband met with Russel Brand with the goal of “making the election more interesting”.

On Monday this week (4th May) The Guardian (in the shape of columnist Owen Jones) published an article “Russel Brand has endorsed Labour and the Tories should be worried”. Now Owen Jones is a 4th generation socialist and a defender of and an apologist for the stereotyped “chav”. The Guardian has the Lib Dems as their primary favourites with Labour coming close behind.

In the event, The Guardian and Russel Brand have been almost classically, and doubly, counter-productive. Russel Brand’s self-admitted “big mouth and laptop” are not as persuasive as he and some others would like to think. Jones wrote:

He has nearly 10 million Twitter followers; his YouTube interview with Ed Miliband received well over a million hits and counting; he is listened to by hundreds of thousands of disillusioned Britons, particularly young people who have been repeatedly kicked over the last few years. Russell Brand matters.

And however much bluff and bluster the Tories now pull – maybe more playground abuse from David Cameron, who called Brand a “joke” – his endorsement of Labour in England and Wales will worry them. More people have registered to vote than ever before: between the middle of March and the deadline to register, nearly 2.3 million registered, over 700,000 of them 24 years old or younger.

The Brand effect has been compounded by The Guardian effect. Brand’s mouth and his laptop have certainly been irritating enough to have pushed some few – maybe the critical few – towards Cameron. The Guardian stridency has helped in the collapse of the Lib Dem vote and has sent more of them towards anybody rather than Labour. Brand and The Guardian have effectively provided the icing on Camron’s cake. Twenty four hours ago it was unthinkable that the Tories would have gained any seats and the expectation was for prolonged coalition negotiations. That the Tories could possibly have a majority was not even an outlier in the polls or for the political pundits. And now even the SNP must dampen some of their expectations of influence in Westminster since the Tories have a clear majority of 10 (which is in practice a majority of between 15 and 20 considering the Sinn Fein, the DUP and the Speaker).

As the Spectator writes:

Elsewhere, commentators hailed Brand as the man who has ‘access to voters politicians can’t reach’. Brand was treated as a celeb conduit, a connector of the political class with the plebs, someone who could actually turn things around. ‘The Tories should be worried.’ People seriously said that.

We can laugh at it all now, and we should – in fact, it’s important that we do. Because it turns out that Brand’s ability to get people lining up behind Miliband was pure bluster.

And Russel Brand has compromised his “Don’t Vote” stand for ever and has ensured a Tory majority into the bargain.


When it comes to climate change, “hot” = “cold”!

May 9, 2014

Why climate change is “bad” when nobody really knows what static climate is to be desired, and where climate stagnation would mean that the earth was dead, escapes me.

Taking pot shots at The Guardian on climate change is not very intellectually challenging, but sometimes the temptation cannot be resisted.

June 2011: Britain’s hot spring could be result of shrinking Arctic

March 2013: Scientists link frozen spring to dramatic Arctic sea ice loss

The first article was written by Robin Mckie, “Science Editor” and the second by John Vidal, “Environment Editor”. Which leads to the inevitable conclusion that for The Guardian, “hot” may be synonymous with “cold” but “environment” and “science” have entirely different values.

arctic ice guardian 2


arctic ice guardian 1



David Attenborough is my hero but humans are not “a plague on earth”

September 10, 2013

David Attenborough is reported in the Guardian as being rather pessimistic about the future of humans.

Sir David Attenborough warns things will only get worse

People should be persuaded against having large families, says the broadcaster and naturalist

Much of what he is reported to have said is perfectly sound but many of the conclusions then present a pessimistic and apocryphal – a very Guardianesque – view. In fact I suspect that the spin is entirely due to the Guardian’s reporter and the Guardian’s remarkable ability to see a looming catastrophe in every advance.

That with falling fertility rates, world population will continue to rise at a decreasing rate and stabilise by 2100 is just a matter of arithmetic. But a 100 years from now we will face the challenges of a slowly declining population. That natural selection is “defeated” when even weak individuals are cared for and are not allowed to die is not something to regret. We are in the process of artificial selection over-riding natural selection and at a quite different pace, but it is just another challenge for humans – not something to wring our hands over. In fact we are already practicing a sort of eugenics by default.

Sir David Attenborough has said that he is not optimistic about the future and that people should be persuaded against having large families.

The broadcaster and naturalist, who earlier this year described humans as a plague on Earth”, also said he believed humans have stopped evolving physically and genetically because of birth control and abortion, but that cultural evolution is proceeding “with extraordinary swiftness”.

“We stopped natural selection as soon as we started being able to rear 90-95% of our babies that are born. We are the only species to have put a halt to natural selection, of its own free will, as it were,” he tells this week’s Radio Times.

“Stopping natural selection is not as important, or depressing, as it might sound – because our evolution is now cultural … We can inherit a knowledge of computers or television, electronics, aeroplanes and so on.”

Attenborough said he was not optimistic about the future and “things are going to get worse”.

“I don’t think we are going to become extinct. We’re very clever and extremely resourceful – and we will find ways of preserving ourselves, of that I’m sure. But whether our lives will be as rich as they are now is another question.

“We may reduce in numbers; that would actually be a help, though the chances of it happening within the next century is very small. I should think it’s impossible, in fact.”

… he also appeared to express qualified support for the one-child policy in China.

He said: “It’s the degree to which it has been enforced which is terrible, and there’s no question it’s produced all kinds of personal tragedies. There’s no question about that. On the other hand, the Chinese themselves recognise that had they not done so there would be several million more mouths in the world today than there are now.”

He added: “If you were able to persuade people that it is irresponsible to have large families in this day and age, and if material wealth and material conditions are such that people value their materialistic life and don’t suffer as a consequence, then that’s all to the good. But I’m not particularly optimistic about the future. I think we’re lucky to be living when we are, because things are going to get worse.”

“Worse” is a matter of judgement.

We will feed and house more people than ever before. We will take care of more of the elderly than ever before. We will each have more and affordable energy available to us than ever before. We will educate and empower more people than ever before. More of us will see more of this world than ever before. We will face more challenges than ever before.  That’s not “worse”.

It’s silly season: Aliens and global warming “fun” paper picked up by the Guardian and others and the co-author apologises

August 20, 2011

It’s August and the silly season is on us.

Global warming >> detection by advanced aliens >> humanity exterminated

Even a science fiction author would have qualms.

The Guardian carried a headline: Aliens may destroy humanity to protect other civilisations, say scientists saying Rising greenhouse emissions could tip off aliens that we are a rapidly expanding threat, warns a report. They had picked up on a “fun” paper which was a couple of months old. It was attributed – now admitted by a co-author – quite wrongly to NASA.

Though the Guardian actually does say that one of the authors is a “NASA affiliated scientist” and does not explicitly say NASA was behind the paper the report does imply that this was a “formal” NASA paper. This was of course picked up by a number of other media outlets – Svenska Dagbladet among them – which merely carried the Guardian report headline and all. Not one of the journalists who reported the Guardian silly season story actually bothered to read the original paper which is here:

Acta Astronautica, 2011, 68(11-12): 2114-2129. Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis by Seth D. Baum-1, Jacob D. Haqq-Misra-2 & Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman-3

1. Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University.
2. Department of Meteorology, Pennsylvania State University
3. NASA Planetary Science Division

The third author, Shawn Goldman, who happens to work at NASA organising conferences and workshops, has been forced to explain and clarify that this was just a “fun” scenario done in his spare time and has nothing to do with NASA.

Shawn Domagal-Goldman is currently a postdoc at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. For 3-4 days a week he works in the astrobiology program office, organizing conferences and workshops. The other 1-2 days are dedicated to research focused on exoplanet characterization lessons from the “pale orange dot” that was the Archean Earth.

(Archean Earth was similar to but somewhat warmer than today, existed some 3800 – 2500 million years ago and is thought to have contained no free Oxygen. Bacteria were around. I suppose if you can get your mind around imagining the Archean Earth then imagining aliens picking up on global warming and emissions signals and destroying humanity is child’s play).

Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman

Alien expert?: Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman

He writes:

Yes, I work at NASA. It’s also true that I work at NASA Headquarters. But I am not a civil servant… just a lowly postdoc. More importantly, this paper has nothing to do with my work there. I wasn’t funded for it, nor did I spend any of my time at work or any resources provided to me by NASA to participate in this effort. There are at least a hundred more important and urgent things to be done on any given work day than speculate on the different scenarios for contact with alien civilizations… However, in my free time (what precious little I have), I didn’t mind working on stuff like this every once in a while. Why? Well, because I’m a geek and stuff like this is fun to think about. Unfortunately, there is not enough time for fun. Indeed, I felt guilty at times because this has led to a lack of effort on my part in my interactions with Seth and Jacob. Beyond adding some comments here or there, I did very little for the paper.

But I do admit to making a horrible mistake. It was an honest one, and a naive one… but it was a mistake nonetheless. I should not have listed my affiliation as “NASA Headquarters.” I did so because that is my current academic affiliation. But when I did so I did not realize the full implications that has. …..

One last thing: I stand by the analysis in the paper. Is such a scenario likely? I don’t think so. But it’s one of a myriad of possible (albeit unlikely) scenarios, and the point of the paper was to review them. 

Perhaps the aliens picked up on Archean Earth and actually seeded the progression of the bacteria into humanity.

Oh well! It is August and we are all entitled to be silly – even the Guardian.

COP10 was much noise and no substance – thank goodness!

November 4, 2010


Flag of Nagoya City

Flag of Nagoya: Image via Wikipedia


My first impressions after the COP10 UN conference on biodiversity held in Nagoya was of a jamboree involving 5,000 people mouthing diffuse platitudes and woolly goals which had little to do with the further development of the human species. The Japanese hosts came up with 2 billion $ in the last few days of the conference to assuage some of the demands being made by developing countries and to be able to mount a PR exercise about the great success it had all been.

I don’t often agree with George Monbiot of The Guardian but this time I think he gets it right. It was a con. There was no substance in the declarations made at the end of the conference. The only point of difference is that I am profoundly thankful that there was no substance to something which has no real objectives whereas Monbiot believes that this was a minor tragedy. He writes:

We’ve been conned. The deal to save the natural world never happened

The so-called summit in Japan won’t stop anyone trashing the planet. Only economic risks seem to make governments act.

‘Countries join forces to save life on Earth”, the front page of the Independent told us. “Historic”, “a landmark”, a “much-needed morale booster”, the other papers chorused. The declaration agreed last week at the summit in Japan to protect the world’s wild species and places was proclaimed by almost everyone a great success. There is one problem: none of the journalists who made these claims has seen it.

I checked with as many of them as I could reach by phone: all they had read was a press release which, though three pages long, is almost content-free. The reporters can’t be blamed for this – it was approved on Friday but the declaration has still not been published. I’ve pursued people on three continents to try to obtain it, without success. Having secured the headlines it wanted, the entire senior staff of the convention on biological diversity has gone to ground, and my calls and emails remain unanswered. The British government, which lavishly praised the declaration, tells me it has no printed copies. I’ve never seen this situation before. Every other international agreement I’ve followed was published as soon as it was approved.

The evidence suggests that we’ve been conned. The draft agreement, published a month ago, contained no binding obligations. Nothing I’ve heard from Japan suggests that this has changed. The draft saw the targets for 2020 that governments were asked to adopt as nothing more than “aspirations for achievement at the global level” and a “flexible framework”, within which countries can do as they wish. No government, if the draft has been approved, is obliged to change its policies.

Read the whole article

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