Shock horror… Fox News are ratcheting up the fear factor again with another of their ever-so-fair-and-unbalanced reports … this time about GPS jamming equipment which could… only could you understand… be used to try and crash an aeroplane.
Having establish a tenuous connection, between GPS jammers and airline navigation systems, and said they can be bought ‘legally’ on the internet when every federal law enforcement agent they spoke to said “they’re illegal”, Fox then go on to tell you how they work and the potential disaster and havoc they could cause.
So any would-be terrorist doesn’t have to do any research, those kind folks at Fox News have done it all for them.
Of course what Fox don’t point out is that the only jammers with a signal that’s likely to be strong enough to affect a plane’s GPS system work off a car cigarette lighter … now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a car cigarette lighter socket on a plane … I can’t think why that might be.
Nor do they really highlight that fact that GPS is only one of the navigation systems used by aircraft, and that a plane wouldn’t fall out of the sky if its GPS system went offline – I wonder how many times that actually happens and the plane carries on normally under the control of ground-based air traffic control radar? Probably more often than you’d like to be honest.
The bottom line is a news story designed only to scare, and devoid of the facts that would make it not at all scary, and therefore, not news.
Maybe the channel should get a new catchline: FOX – Non-news written by non-journalists for non-entities.
After yesterday’s post it was interesting to see that Al Jazeera English are not the only ones who are behind the curve on new media – Sky News, no less, have been trumpeting their latest innovation: Sky News being streamed for free on their website.
Good Lord, how have I struggled through the past few years only being able to watch BBC, ITN, CNN, MSNBC, Russia Today and Al Jazeera English, all of whom have been streaming their live output for free for years?
Cue chest thumping from the Sky News bunker:
With Sky News now available on more platforms than ever – on TV, online, on mobiles, through iphone and ipod touch apps, at train stations and on planes – there’s barely a screen in Britain now where you can’t access Sky News.
I’m always reminded at this point of the creatures Douglas Adams once described in The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who had 50 arms each and so invented the under-arm deodorant before the wheel – one wonders how Sky News could ever have thought it was more important to have an iPhone application BEFORE a live free stream.
Maybe the answer can be found in Michael Woolf’s excellent takedown of old Digger Murdoch in a recent edition of Vanity Fair, which sums up everything you ever need to know about the sad attitude of old media execs to the future of media.
As for Sky News, I guess someone there is feeling really pleased with themselves this morning, and wondering whether they should go one step further, and put Sky News content into print…
So I heard through the grapevine today that those clueless wonks at Al Jazeera English had launched a new blog section on their website. Obviously “new” is a relative term for them because the “blog” is a product of Web 2.0 and therefore already well past its sell-by date (and yes, I am aware of the irony of saying that in my own… blog).
Still, the BBC have had blogs for years, as have CNN, so I guess it was only a matter of time before Al Jazeera English copied them; which is a shame because to date, the Al Jazeera website had stood firm against the stereotypical “blog” and focused on its excellent feature writing instead, often bringing these together under a single subject or reporter name, rather than just giving them their own blog-branded new media ghetto.
One hopes that these one-day-wonders won’t replace the well-written and truly original journalism that Al Jazeera regularly put onto its website’s Focus section, but I’ll bet they do, and then try to pass it off as “convergence”.
(You can always tell when a Newspaper or a TV executive is lying about convergence, and using it to cover up cuts in spending – their lips move.)
Obviously whoever is in charge of innovation there must be on long-term sick leave because the blogs are now “the in thing” while elsewhere on the site all of their excellent comments have been shut down on both the website and their YouTube channel – so much for being the “voice of the voiceless”.
The head of common sense must also have been having an off-day because while the new blogs have been mentioned fleetingly on-air, there’s absolutely no mention of them at all on the Al Jazeera English front page to date.
Come on Al Jazeera, you can do better than this.
(Oh yes, if you want to see these wonders of the new media era, they can be found languishing at their own site – and one further observation: Why didn’t the Asia-Pacific region qualify for its own blog?)
There’s nothing that annoys me more than lazy, cut-and-paste, hype-ridden journalism, and no subject has generated more of this than Climate Change (or so-called “Global Warming”).
Some wonk somewhere produces a report saying so many thousands of people have died, or lost land, or been internally displaced because of global warming and the hype-mongers of the press are all over it like a rash with doom-laden white-on-black prophecies of impending catastrophe.
This happened the other day when the Global Humanitarian Forum put out a report claiming that global warming is killing 300,000 people a year; former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said it was a “silent crisis”:
Climate change is the greatest emerging humanitarian challenge of our time, causing suffering to hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
But even in Kofi Annan’s comments on the report are the seeds of doubt. Here’s how it appeared in The Times:
Mr Annan said the report could never be as rigorous as a scientific study, but said: “We feel it is the most plausible account of the current impact of climate change today.”
In other words: “We haven’t a clue”.
What makes this worse is that this is not actually the Forum’s own report, but one that they farmed out to some “thinktank”, a consultancy group called Dalberg Global Advisers who themselves admitted their estmates had:
a significant margin of error
In other words: “We haven’t a clue either”.
The problem is that Climate Change is like the Cold War – our political leaders have jumped on it as a way to scare the bejeezus out of their electorate, and so the only way for scientists to get decent funding for new research is to claim it has relevance to Climate Change – just like in the 1960s and 1970s when the best way to get research funding was to claim some Cold War defense implications.
Of course the outcome of this research is often so spurious and theoretical that no-one really knows what it means and can put any kind of spin on it that they like; this is especially true of any Climate Change work done with atmospheric modelling, a branch of science which sometimes seem to owe more to Harry Potter than it does to any real world physics.
For example – we’re told that the Arctic ice cap is disappearing at an increasing rate. Now watch this video and ask yourself a simple question: “If the ice appears and disappears so quickly every year, how can they be so certain?”
So Kofi Annan’s comment about about rigorous scientific study is telling, because that is actually happening, although because the results don’t have BIG numbers or lots of dead, injured and displaced that fit neatly into a headline, the lazy hacks in our newsrooms don’t give a damn.
I saw this example over on another blog today: Lindzen’s Climate Sensitivty Talk: ICCC June 2, 2009 – not the world’s most inspiring headline, and it has a link to a powerpoint which is full of graphs and equations which would make the average person’s head spin.
To sum it up: Dr Richard Lindzen compared the main Climate Change predictive models to the real data, the observations of what has really happened, and he found the real world did not behave like the models said it would.
What we see, then, is that the very foundation of the issue of global warming is wrong. There is little to be concerned about (due to our emissions). Of course, climate change will always occur and we should be prepared.
Dr Lindzen knows which way the winds of political opinion are blowing on climate change, so he has a little afterthought for those who spend their lives neatly coccooned on Planet Politics:
In a normal field, these results would pretty much wrap things up, but global warming/climate change has developed so much momentum that it has a life of its own – quite removed from science. One can reasonably expect that opportunism of the weak will lead to efforts to alter the data (though the results presented here have survived several alterations of the data already). Perhaps most important, these results will of necessity ‘offend the sensibilities of the of the educated classes and the entire East and West Coasts,’ and who would want to do that.
OK, so this is just one report, and no doubt the ardent Climate Change supporters will pooh-pooh it, but that’s the way science has always worked, just remember some of the crap that Galileo and Copernicus had to put up with.
What’s more worrying is that underlying all of this is knowledge that this report will not get the same coverage as the UN’s spurious “finger-in-the-air” fearmongering did, because the majority of mainstream media journalists are too lazy, too stupid or just too ignorant to dig out the truth.
Just look at sites like this infotainment site from ABC News and ask yourself: “Apart from a few question marks in some of the headlines, where is the rigorous journalistic examination of the facts?”*
If our scientists can’t agree among themselves, shouldn’t THAT be the story the public are told?
*[EDIT/Update: Viewing the ABC News site further I found myself asking another question: “If ABC News had existed back then – what would they have foreseen for a fictional child born on June 2, 1909?” – if you think about this for more than just a second, and look at where we are at now, you’ll start to grasp just how ridiculous a once-great journalistic organisation has become.]
Tiresome repetition of the bleeding obvious award today goes to the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property (SABIP) who are wasting hundreds of column inches in the newspapers with their claims about digital piracy in a new study.
The 85-page coffee-table leveller, with the snappy title Copycats? Digital Consumers in the Online Age, estimates that seven million people in the UK are involved in illegal downloading of music, movies, software and games, although they fail to provide much in the way of explanation about how they arrive at their conclusions regarding numbers.
Certainly when it comes to working out what the annual worth of downloaded material, they introduce the same specious statistical methods used by opponents of Jerry Spinger: The Opera that I commented on some years ago.* (I would link but those kind people at Google have responded to my attempt to reclaim my old Blogger blog by taking it down completely)
The authors say that UCL researchers found 1.3 million users sharing content on a single P2P network at noon on a specific day.
They then use some very unsubtle mathematics to arrive at a remarkable conclusion”
If each “peer” from this network (not the largest) downloaded one file per day the resulting number of downloads (music, film, television, e-books, software and games were all available) would be 4.73 billion items per year. This amounts to around £12 billion in content being consumed annually – for free.
Ooooooo look at that BIG number – something that’s sure to be seized upon by ignorant journalists and even more ignorant politicians everywhere, giving the politicos a nice little bandwagon to jump on to try and divert attention away from the expenses scandal which continues to claim careers at Westminster.
The fact that they have arrived at this number by a statistical sleight of hand, and that the real figure is probably only a fraction of that, has nothing to do with it – as the hacks say: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”.
Now in the interests of fairness, the UCL team did also look at other research and spoke to people in the entertainment industry and regulators, though they don’t look as if they’ve spoken to anyone who lives in the real world.
The problem is that the ignorant politicians will simply tell the ISPs to crackdown on file-sharing, even though the ISPs are, quite understandably, reluctant to become the policemen of the web.
The other issue that these dimwits choose to ignore is the cause of piracy – the backward and intransigent way in which the content creators fail to engage with their audience, preferring to treat everyone like criminals rather than providing them with good service.
That’s on top of the way in which content producers in the UK have been over-charging for their products for many years.
The newspaper industry is already reaping the whirwind of its digital denial, while the music industry only survived thanks to the intervention of Apple’s i-Tunes.
Television companies, Hollywood movie producers and book publishers are all desperately trying to avoid the on-coming train crash with the interwebs – one which they will surely lose unless they ignore specious reports from vested interest groups like SABIP and get their collective heads out of the sand.
[* The original post pointed out that opponents of Jerry Springer: The Opera being shown on the BBC claimed there were thousands of expletives used in the production, but that in reality there were much fewer; the protestors had arrived at their claim by taking the actual number of expletives used, and multiplied them by the number of people on-stage using that expletive, again producing a BIG number that the useless saps at The Daily Mail jumped on with avengeance as part of it’s ridiculous vendetta against the BBC]
“Gorgeous George”, as he was known, is one of the last remaining parliamentarians with any kind of character, a true orator and a fierce debater, a rarity in these dark days as the real people running the country have the reins of power snatched away by the men in grey suits, the automaton lobby fodder who have as much to do with the real world as a bag of Martian spanners.
Sadly though, as the mainstream media becomes ever more hype-obsessed, George has started to believe his own propaganda, and thinking that just because he could beat the questions of interrogators and senators, his next obvious step was to show them how it was done, and get his own show.
So he turned to Iran’s Press TV, an Al Jazeera wannabe set up by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and which therefore shares his tenuous grasp on reality, and the meeting of these two particular minds has produced unbelieveable results:
Normally at this point I would launch into a detailed, nay forensic, dissection of everything that is wrong with this interview – however in this case bandwidth limits prevent me from doing so – yes, it is that bad.
The line of questioning, the bias, the demenor and the method are so toe-curlingly, cringe-inducing that the only reason I stuck it out to the end was to see whether the interviewee would make it that far as well.
Fair play to him, he did, and in the face of George’s pathetic whinging and unsubtle attempts at provocation, did so with good grace and honour – a lesser man would have walked away earlier, or punched the interviewer in the face.
This is an object lesson in bad television and bad journalism, it breaks pretty well every rule from conduct to objectivity, and for my part I will be using it in future to demonatrate to trainees exactly how not to conduct an interview.
[Edit/PS: I wonder whether Ofcom will be investigating this now]
Lots of huffing and puffing over on another blog about claims that a picture of Air Force One flying over the Statue of Liberty have been faked, or photoshopped by the White House.
Proof, if ever there were any, that the Obama administration is as bad as its predecessor, according to those who believe it.
The flyover is already controversial because there were no warnings about it, and in a city which collectively ducks every time it sees a low-flying plane after the tragic events of 9-11, it was a spectacular PR blunder by the new White House staff.
So of course, the conspiracy theorists, especially those with an axe to grind over Obama’s presidency, have jumped on the bandwagon; first there was whinging about the pictures not being released even though they were funded by the taxpayer. Then they were released, which shut those whingers up.
Now come claims that the pictures have been doctored, and that some allegedly slipshod use of the Photoshop cloning tool means there are two flag poles on the island beside the Statue of Liberty.
Except it hasn’t been doctored.
It took me five minutes with Photoshop to show that while there are two similar shaped objects next to each other, one of which is the American flag at the top of it’s pole, the object to the left is not a clone of the flag.
The cloning tool does exactly what it says on the tin, the individual pixels are recreated somewhere else on the canvas, so the pixels of the two objects should be identical. That’s the definition of cloning.
They are not. Having sampled the hue and opacity of all the pixels in both objects, they are very different, which means they cannot have been cloned.
What the claimant has also cleverly done is place a bright pink up-arrow (^) in the space where, if you examine the original, the bottom of the second flag post should be (but isn’t).
Rather interesting that the original blog post was written by someone called “texasdarlin”, one wonders how close this person lives to Crawford, TX – if this is the best that the anti-Obama camp can come up with after he’s had 100 days in office then they may as well pack up and go home now, and write off the 2012 election right now.
Go back to your lives citizens, nothing to see here…