Damian Thompson, apparently, is ” the author of Counterknowledge: How we surrendered to conspiracy theories, quack medicine, bogus science and fake history.”
Seems like he’s surrendered to a bit of the latter himself with this daft post on his blog on the Telegraph about a claim – a claim, sod it, an unsourced “story” in the widest sense – about Muslims “invading” a hospital in Sydney. I don’t believe a word of it (but can’t be bothered to create a Telegraph account to poke fun at him). As Andrew Brown puts it so eloquently, “wtf?”:
Indeed, he asked if any of his readers could “stand it up”, since they are obviously better placed to do so than a leader writer on a national newspaper who has been a professional journalist for 25 years.
But this is a classic example of how teh interwebs are leading to crap journalism, where people hurry to post anything. Or perhaps it’s just making it more visible.
- “Literary writer had to dumb down and write thrillers” – the Times. No, she didn’t “dumb down” at all: see the article in the Guardian.
- “From today, feel free to download another 25 million songs – legally” – the Times.
Qtrax, a digital service announced today, promises a catalogue of more than 25 million songs that users can download to keep, free and with no limit on the number of tracks.
The service has been endorsed by the very same record companies – including EMI, Universal Music and Warner Music – that have chased file-sharers through the courts in a doomed attempt to prevent piracy.
Not a scintilla of doubt.
Or indeed fact-checking.(Update: actually, one of the people who was there tells me that they did try to confirm Qtrax’s claim with the four music companies, which were there at MIDEM, yet they didn’t confirm or deny until the next day.) For no, it didn’t have any agreements with the music labels. Perhaps more of a “misled the press” tale there.
- Twins’ marriage annulled – no, it never happened. (Think about it. They come from the same town. They share a birthday. Wouldn’t those two facts alone make you wonder? And consider the source – a lord wading into the anti-abortion debate.)
And that’s just a few days. I’ve honestly created a new category on the Guardian Technology blog called “Undo” for total reverse ferrets on stories. Estonia was attacked by Russian hackers? Maybe, but the only confirmed fact is that one kid in Estonia has been fined, in Estonia.
People on otherwise sensible newspapers are writing stuff where they don’t check whether assertions are facts. No checking. Just the rush to be in there, to get onto Google News, to be indexed, to be read, even if the readers point out that you’re talking rubbish.
Journalists may rail against bloggers, but it would be bloody good if we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot by doing precisely the things that we accuse the bloggers of – writing without knowing.