The media is not your friend

This is the incredibly irresponsible headline in today’s Daily Mail (click to expand):


There are two appalling things about this headline. The first is the use of the word’ jump’, making it seem like things are getting worse. There was actually a drop in new infections yesterday, but you wouldn’t know that from the Mail’s headline.

The other thing is the way this picture is framed, with the use of the word ‘chilling’, and the pixelated face and the chemical suits. Sure it’s not good if an elderly person, or anyone else, gets a nasty virus and has to go to hospital. But this sort of thing happens all the time, every day of the year. There was a nursing home on a street near where I used to live, and quite often I’d see an ambulance outside whenever I happened to go down that street. Remember that 1600-1700 people die every day in Britain. An old person being transferred from a nursing home to hospital via an ambulance is completely normal.

This is not news reporting. It’s manipulation, and pure propaganda.

Here’s the real news: The number of new cases yesterday fell from 1035 to 665. The number of deaths fell from 56 to 48. Things are not going the way the doom-mongers said, but they’re not going to tell you that.

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6 thoughts on “The media is not your friend

  1. How are these new cases being counted? We are in quarantine in our house because my daughter came back from a trip to London with some kind of bug. She seems to be over it now but my wife seems to have succumbed to it. Is it Covid 19? If it is it seems to be quite a mild version. I haven’t got it yet, if I don’t get it does it suggest I have immunity? We haven’t been included in any stats but there could be thousands of cases like ours that go unreported.

  2. The New York Times is now openly referring to reprobates who look at the data as “deniers” and “disbelievers”. Still, the Usual Suspects have a lot at stake in the Virus Panic — if this proves to be a damp squib, who will henceforth pay much attention to Algore and little Greta?

    Some punters at the once-respected London Imperial College did a neat bit of academic entrepreneurialism. They took an existing mathematical model, made a bunch of assumptions, and concluded with remarkable precision that 81% of GB & US populations would be infected by the virus. Back in the real world on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in fairly extreme circumstances, less than 20% got infected. “All models are wrong”, as statistician George Box observed.

    But our Betters will manipulate the data to make things seem worse. Look at what happened with AIDS, where no-one directly died from the Immune Deficiency — people died from diseases which opportunistically took advantage of the immune deficiency. Initially, a death was not counted as AIDS-related unless the actual disease was the unusual Kaposi’s sarcoma. Later, as the “epidemic” that was going to lead to the loss of an entire generation grew, traffic deaths in Africa were being counted as AIDS deaths.

    This question of classification of cause of death is particularly tricky with a virus that mainly targets late-life individuals with existing medical problems. The opportunity for bureaucratic meddling & misrepresentation cannot be ignored.

    Mark Steyn is currently doing an online reading of Daniel Defoe’s account of the London plague in 1665. In those more honest times, the observation which led to panic was that the total number of deaths (burials, actually) per day was doubling and tripling. It seems that total daily deaths from all causes is the real metric we should be focusing on — because it eliminates any doubts over the classification of cause of death.

    I have searched high & low for a source of current daily reported deaths — and can’t find any. There is lots of data on deaths that happened several years ago, which is not really relevant to the current situation. If anyone knows of such a source, please share.

    In the meantime, with historical data saying typical UK “All Causes” deaths run around 1,700 per day and the breathless media telling us that a mere 48 deaths yesterday were ascribed to this virus, we have to conclude that we are not facing any statistically-significant change from normal. We are certainly not looking at anything like London’s Great Plague of 1665.

    So let’s re-open the bars and get life back to normal. (With frequent hand-washing, of course).

  3. I met that George Box at a conference once. He was a lively chap.

    He did, it must be admitted, enjoy being the centre of attention.

    It was an American conference so the amount of fawning over Box by young academics was a disagreeable sight. “With a trowel” as my father used to say. And yer Shakespeare before him.

  4. The truly disgusting thing about the Mail (and other on line social media) is that stories like this are bigged up to breathless levels to catch the attention of the hard-of-thinking purely because it’s a revenue generator. Clickbait. It’s cynical and dishonest and is self-sustaining; more scare stories, more clicks, more revenue.

    When Facebook, Twitter and the like started up originally, I was naive enough to think they’d bring down much of society as we know it because it amounted to a channel for mob rule. The reality is very different. The mob rule element is there, but the real evil which will bring us down is clickbait, dishonest and badly written stories which fuel the mob. It’s always the money. Always.

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