How one man fed the world his rotten Apple

I’ve been reading a fair bit about the latest twist in this Apple / Foxconn controversy, but this account of how an unrepentant Mike Daisey duped everyone into believing his fabrications is by far the most insightful:

“This is how Daisey perpetrated his con since “The Agony and the Ecstasy” premiered in early 2011: He took a vacation to China, hacked together a story out of some sensational lies then paraded them around like the world owed him a favor. While we were too busy wallowing in self-recrimination to check if what he said was true, he used his fake facts to leverage himself into the position of the world’s most prominent Apple critic, appearing on MSNBC and “Real Time with Bill Maher,” and writing an op-ed in the New York Times. In the process he debased anyone who actually cared about the true injustice of Apple’s manufacturing process. Daisey’s lies hurt labor organizations like SACOM by giving their critics ammunition to ignore their real complaints. He cynically warped the stories of Chinese workers to promote his campaign, and trivialized the work of journalists who actually do real reporting on the issue.”

via How I Was Duped By Mike Daisey’s Lies.


Who’s really in charge: the people, the politicians or the media? (British Social Attitudes Survey Part IV)

What I find interesting is whether politics and the media follow or form public opinion. Certainly some results from the British Social Attitudes Survey (BSAS) seem to conflict with the predominant political view of the time – secondary schools are doing a decent job, for example. Other long-held views seem to be completely detached from the mainstream political and media narrative – most notably that income inequality is too great, which has been the opinion of roughly 80% of us since 1987 despite rarely being discussed and no great attempts being made to fix it.

The decreasing support for increasing welfare could be seen as a response to Tory rhetoric and media horror stories. However, the proportion of people who agree government should spend more on benefits has been in steep decline since 1991. My view is that most people’s opinions are shaped more by personal experience and word of mouth than media stories and political spin. Of course, people will then choose to believe or deny what they read in the papers or see on TV depending on how well it fits their expectations. But, ultimately a kernel of a belief needs to be in place first (I suspect, for millions across Britain a friend of a friend knows someone who, it’s rumoured, has a new plasma TV, three kids, has never worked a day in their life AND is going on holiday TWICE this year).

It’s strangely reassuring to see that politicians and the media are merely grossly distorted reflections of public opinion rather than creators of it.

Is the person sat to your left a Thatcherite? (British Social Attitudes Survey Part I)

Both the Mail and the Telegraph leapt on NatCen’s British Social Attitudes Survey (BSAS), released today, to declare public support for the coalition’s policies and a sharp swing to the right. Finally, they breathlessly claim, Thatcherism has emerged victorious. Suffice to say, it’s not quite as straightforward as that.

To be fair, this is the conclusion of John Bartle, co-author of the BSAS report, who writes,

“We interpret the reverse after 1997 as a further shift back to the right (and pretty sharp it is too)… it suggests that the public are now less supportive of ‘big government’ than at any time since the late 1970s”.

Far be it from me to challenge the expert opinion and mind-boggling methodology of one of the people responsible for producing the report, but I do question the assumption across the right-wing press that this is good news for Tories.

John Bartle continues to say,

“…according to our estimates, the electorate were nearly as ‘right-wing’ in 2009 as 1979, the year that Mrs. Thatcher came to office…”

Despite increased disillusionment with ‘big government’ following the New Labour years, the coalition is still facing a country less right-wing than that which welcomed their spiritual leader. So, the Tories are on shakier ground than Thatcher, yet are intending to go ideologically further than even she dared.

Chapter 9 of the report explains that “between 1979 and 1997 [the political centre in Britain] moved to the left”. Basically, the result of Thatcherism was to drive the country leftwards. Considering in 2009, after more than a decade of New Labour, it had supposedly shifted back rightwards, I would guess these findings are better reflective of disappointment with the government of the day rather than long-term changes in supposed political alignment. People turn off solutions when they don’t live up to that which is promised.

The broad conclusion that Britain is ‘right-wing’ is therefore ultimately meaningless. If we are unfortunate enough to face a decade of Tory ‘small government’, I’m sure Britain will drift leftwards again.

So, don’t worry. You’re not surrounded by children of Thatcher. Just ruled by them.

Oh… maybe we should worry.

Is James Delingpole for real?

If you’re familiar with the work of James Delingpole, you’ll know him as the painfully ignorant, eternally inaccurate “journalist” trolling on the Telegraph Blogs. Like a pickled deformed foetus, he is at both repulsive and fascinating. Repulsive because every opinion he has, belief he holds and statement he makes manage to distort reality and normal human decency to such an extent his articles become something like a written manifestation of a Dali masterpiece – if said masterpiece was painted by a brain damaged chimp with stumps for hands. Fascinating because I can not comprehend how someone so devoid of an ability to construct a cogent opinion (let alone honestly report anything factual) is a journalist – and has a regular presence on the website of one of Britain’s biggest daily newspapers. Yes, being an ignorant jerk isn’t exactly uncommon within the British press, but Delingpole is SO consistently bad, it genuinely troubles my mind.

I’ve long suspected Delingpole to be a fake. That the James Delingpole persona is entirely fictional; his blog nothing more than a vessel for other Telegraph writers to vent their most vile and hateful thoughts. Like a columnist ‘river of slime’. However, that doesn’t quite add up as I’ve seen the ‘Pole on the telly and I don’t think they make CGI that ugly. In the past, I’ve termed him a professional troll – a shameless shill paid to discuss issues he doesn’t really care about (and clearly knows very little about) simply to stir up controversy and attract readers. This too isn’t quite right, as Jimmy spends his offline time head-to-head with the world’s brightest, debating issues he knows very little about.

So, even though it hurt my brain to do so, I was forced to accept that Delingpole was genuine. At least, I did until today… (the plot thickens!)

Delingpole’s latest post on the Telegraph is so pointless it’s barely even worth mentioning. I only do so to set the scene. He rants in response to today’s “exclusive” report in The Times about EU plans to adopt a more ambitious target for the reduction of CO2 emissions.

[As an aside, earlier today The Guardian’s George Monbiot wrote a blog post about the same story. It’s interesting to compare the differing approach of the two long-term rivals. When confronted with the news, the first thing Monbiot did was phone the European commission in an attempt to check the validity of the story (for the record, they said it was “totally wrong” – interesting to think that The Times will be charging for such exclusives very soon). Meanwhile, Delingpole smacked his angry face into the keyboard until something resembling an article was vomited forth.]

Towards the end of this stream of non-consciousness, he rages about David Cameron’s commitment to tackling climate change (going so far as to use ALL CAPS – truly the mark of a serious journalist). This is despite telling his readers to vote Conservative pre-election. In the comments, one of his followers, Jacquesarden, points out this inconsistency. Not particular cutting, I feel. It is entirely possible to support one party about others but criticise individual policies. Regardless, the really interesting part of this tale is Delingpole’s enigmatic reply:

@jacquesarden Sorry mate, but I think you may be a bit too stupid to understand the point of any of my blogs. May I suggest the Guardian’s Comment is Free, or similar?

Now, this is unusual for a couple of reasons. For one, Jacquesarden’s is the only comment out of 16 to which Delingpole bothers to reply. It’s odd that a so-called professional journalist would respond to such a harmless comment with such a childish rebuke. More intriguingly is Delingpole’s reference to “the point” of his blogs. He could’ve just said something like: “I still feel voting Conservative was the best option; albeit out of an exceptionally bad bunch. However, just because I supported David Cameron in the general election, this doesn’t mean I’m going to relent when trying to bring some common sense to British politics”.

Instead, he teases us with talk of a “point”, suggesting a grander scheme behind the blog – something only an inner circle of his sycophantic followers know about. Maybe they’re not even in on the secret?

Now, what could this “point” Delingpole refers to be?

It can’t be to inform or educate his readers; his articles mainly consist of misleading claims and tenuous assertions.

It can’t be to further the debate about climate change; he frequently regurgitates long-debunked denialist arguments.

It can’t be to spread doubt and confusion about climate change; he lacks the credibility and knowledge to make much of an impact.

It can’t be to promote the libertarian philosophy; he’s very aggressive towards people whose thoughts differ from his own and is remarkably critical about people making money (admittedly the only people with money he mentions are the ones who also campaign for protecting the environment).

It clearly isn’t to help or support a Conservative government; if his advice for the Tories are anything to go by, he either wants them confined to the political wilderness or understands even less about the British public than he does about climate science (I think it’s the latter).

So, what’s the point?

Possibly there isn’t a point and the James Delingpole blog is nothing more than the earnest writings of an egotistical man-child, overcompensating for his own insecurity and whose privileged upbringing managed to disguise what I suspect is a mild case of autism.

On the other hand, this could be the closest I’ve got to seeing Delingpole admit that the whole thing is a hoax – a parody. Could it be that the “point” of James Delingpole’s blog, and in fact his entire existence, is to act as a twisted reflection of ourselves?* A dark satire, exposing man’s innate instinct to eschew rationality and compassion in favour of bitter, instinctual self-interest? His every assertion is baseless and narrow-minded. Every piece of “evidence” he uses is mercilessly corrupted to fit a predefined conclusion. How then does he differ from the rest of us in our every day lives? When we tell our friends about how unfairly we’ve been treated at work, we don’t stop to fact-check or make sure all quotes are put into proper context. When overhearing a snippet of private conversation between two friends, we don’t seek to establish the full story before leaping to (and passing on) any conclusions. Delingpole’s gift to humanity has been to expose its lack of credibility by sacrificing his own.

Just think: when you’re reading Delingpole, you’re reading yourself telling the people who you want to take you seriously things you think you know stuff about.

Either that or you’re reading the deluded scrawlings of one of the world’s biggest cunts.

*That question was totally an homage to John Rentoul.

Weathermen, scientists and the lack of uncertainty about climate change

Traversing the snake pit of flaws and functional shortcomings that is the media’s ability to effectively communicate any message that veers from a position of so-called common sense or conservative opinion (note the little c) is a fun, if often fruitless, game. While such an exercise brings many opportunities for raging rants, getting to the root cause of why they are so fundamentally useless at their, almost, singular role in society is surprisingly difficult.

In the case of climate change and, in particular, how it relates to the decidedly un-warm weather in the UK, you can hardly be surprised that such noteworthy columnists as (ahem) Gerald Warner and Janet Daley get confused about the science when, reportedly, so do the meteorological magnates across the pond.

In a survey of U.S. weathercasters, 41% said their biggest obstacle to reporting climate change was “scientific uncertainty”. I’m sure many of the most vocal ‘sceptics’ (as they like to be called) in the media would agree. This appeal to doubt as justification for their failure would be more understandable if another survey didn’t show that 96% of climatologists agree that man is having an impact on global warming.

To see the bizarre discrepancy in acceptance of AGW (human-caused global warming) between climate scientists and those who could arguably be called their most public voice, I’ve cobbled together this graph based on the results from a number of surveys*…

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Style slashed as Tories cut more political waste; follows substance as Cameron wages war on rhetorical inefficiency

Here’s an interesting, if partial, view of the Tory party from an American politics student: The Tories a joke in Washington.

As successful as David Cameron’s been at making the right noises (or lack of the wrong ones) to win over much of the domestic media and readers thereof, he strikes me as a political lightweight on an international level.

Regardless, the Tory war to win over the hearts and mindlessness of the public continues with all the subtlety of Manatee gang rape. With the shepherd on his side, Cameron proceeded to woo the sheep, publishing his 10 key pledges in The Sun on Friday.

For what purports to be the 10 most important policy areas Cameron has under his well-tailored sleeve, they are depressingly uninspiring, weakly phrased and a bizarre mix of piddling specifics (see no. 5: introduce a free sports and entertainment Tickets for Troops programme) and vague platitudes (no 7: we will get to grips with national debt and public spending).

The Financial Times dissects (demolishes?) Cameron’s 10-point plan and come to similar conclusions. By my count: two of the ten are already taking place under Labour, three raise too many questions, another three are token gestures* and only two are considered new and worthwhile.

For the record, the two pledges the FT are most favourable towards are #5, a new Military Covenant with the troops, and #7, tackling the national debt. I’ll point out that Cameron does not mention a ‘new’ Military Covenant but simply pledges to honour the current one (who wouldn’t?) and that “getting to grips” with debt and spending is something any serious political party would be expected to do.

Nobody can deny the power of style over substance (of which popular love songs are the best testament; this morning I had the misfortune of listening to Maroon 5’s She Will be Loved, which, while clearly encouraging guys to prey on vulnerable teenage girls, will still be dedicated to Becky on every Late Night Love radio show…). Unfortunately, this list fails even to possess style. Annoyingly, I doubt that’ll matter.

The most frustrating point, in its sheer tenacity, is #3 which continues the Tories’ four-year mission to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights. Despairingly jingoistic and fundamentally stupid, I simply can not see why anybody could possibly care about this issue. What is it about the present Human Rights Act that rankles? The right to life? Prohibition of torture? Right to respect for private and family life? Despite Cameron announcing his intent to overturn this fifty-year-old convention way back in 2006 (did people even Tweet back then!?), a search on both the Conservative party website and the wider infowebs did not produce even a draft alternative**. At best the elusive Tory Bill of Rights is nothing more than populist pageantry; at worst, it’s a plot to enshrine Conservative (big ‘C’) values into British law.

Most likely they haven’t given enough thought about it either way.

And that seems to be the best summation of Tory policy. These are worrying times for Labour supporters and Tory distrusters. The Gordon Brown narrative is so deeply embedded in the national thought-hole, I think spectators (i.e. voters) would feel cheated if this play didn’t have the obvious cinematic ending – what this means for the country is, as always, second to how good a story it makes.

*My favourite of these is #8, promising to “restore discipline to schools by giving heads the final say on exclusions”. As the FT point out: “Out of 8,130 children excluded last year, only in 60 cases was a head’s exclusion overturned on appeal”. That’s only 0.7% of cases!

**If anyone does find this slippery sucker, let me know.

Right-wingers slam left-wing media – world continues to turn

Polar Bear liberal media eats Jesus

The British blogosphere’s most-renowned, right-wing opinion-thruster pithily directs his pointed musings towards the left-wing media with all the subtlety, nous, and scathe of a proper cock.

It wasn’t Iain Dale, however, who snagged my attention enough to warrant a rare emergence from my life-sustaining biosphere and caused me to head to my local Starbucks to get wireless access and post this pointless tirade – it was this needlessly long comment from someone called Geezer:

“Journos are usually the work-shy, couldn’t/wouldn’t do a proper job, type of a person.
Therefore, the work mindset matches a left-wing political mindset perfectly.
Well-educated, right of centre, types are more likely to seek a stable career option, rather than the flaky media world. The media is also the type of industry that allows people to immerse themselves in it, as a lifestyle choice and not just a job or career. So a cloud-cuckoo land, never grown out of being a student, type leftie, will be able to cut themselves off from the reality of ordinary life and surround themselves with like-minded people who talk the same bollocks all the time. A real world job, would give ’em a nasty shock and force them to grow-up. So instead they choose to produce output for the mass-media and tell everyone what they think they should be thinking, instead of actually empathising with their audience and talking about stuff that they are actually thinking about. (BBC do this, most noticeably)

It is also a very popular profession for would-be politicos (who don’t want the bother of getting elected) to get unelected influence, possibly more influential than the elected politicians, but without the public throwing them out when they’ve had enough.
The left have been dependent on that type of cultural revolution and insidious messaging for decades, as they struggle electorally (unless the lie through their teeth like NuLab).
Your average Oxbridge Lefty (if not going into politics or the public sector) will want to get into some part of the media, The BBC is always very popular with them, and because they have been so successful in getting into the media, lots more get recruited deliberately by these people, to keep the purity of thought within these organisations. So you get a dominance of the left in the mass media and news. Although we have a supposedly right-wing dominated national press in this country, they have been very happy to tell people to vote Labour for the past three elections and be conduits of Labour spin. I know it is the wishes of the proprietors, that govern editorial bias, but Labour’s courting of the media, seemed so effortless.
I very much doubt if there are many genuine big C conservatives in the national news media. The likes if Hitchens and Janet Daley, for example have left-wing backgrounds, yet claim to be the voice of conservative Britain. Funny, I know plenty of conservatives, and none of them has ever flirted with left-wing politics!
An industry where there is so much job insecurity, is going to breed snivelling crack-whores, who don’t mind who they work for or what they produce, as long as it keeps them employed and in the public eye. Most Journos at the Daily Mail, would probably much prefer to be working at the Guardian.”

He used the term snivelling crack-whores! I don’t know whether I love this guy for his creatively vitriolic and defiantly crunkish prose, or to hate him for being an ignorant cunt.