Tag Archives: daily-mail

Eek! Evil EU ban our traditional way of light!

Chris Applegate’s life work is without purpose. Why? Because the Daily Mail is unspoofable. What satirical mind could have come up with this pile of nonsense for instance?

Revolt! Robbed of their right to buy traditional light bulbs, millions are clearing shelves of last supplies

Millions of Britons are finally waking up to the fact that their beloved light bulb will disappear for good after 120 years.

Traditional 100-watt bulbs are vanishing from the High Street because of a controversial European Union decision.

Yesterday panic buyers were snapping up the remaining bulbs in a last-ditch attempt to stockpile the final supplies. Hundreds of leading supermarkets and DIY chains – including Sainsbury’s, Asda and Homebase – have already sold their last remaining bulbs after a surge in panic buying.

Other stores say they have enough stocks to last until the end of next week.

Let’s work backwards on this one. First of all, very few stores will have enough stock to last until the end of next week. That’s how modern shops work. Why keep loads of deadweight stock in store when you can have it delivered to you when you need it?

Secondly, until you read this, were you aware of any panic buying? No? Me neither. On the other hand I am very much aware that one of the main suppliers of lightbulbs on the high street, Woolworths, shut its doors for the last time yesterday. I was also very aware over Christmas how all stores were keeping their stock particularly low. During an economic downturn and with the banks in trouble, we should expect this as cash flow has become that much more important.

Thirdly, traditional? Joseph Swan invented it 131 years ago (with that crook Edison trying to rip him off as per). How does that count as “traditional.” My generation’s grandparents will have had gas when they were kids – that is how new an invention this is.

Fourthly, 100w? If your complaint about energy saving lightbulbs is that the light from them is “harsh” (I disagree, but there you go), why would you want a 100w bulb? Wouldn’t a 60w or 40w suit you better (lower wattage bulbs will remain on sale until 2011)? I am not a historian of the lightbulb but I’m pretty much willing to bet you that the “traditional” bamboo-filament bulbs of the late 19th century would have blown up if you put 100w through them.

Fifthly, an EU decision? The UK voluntarily signed up to the scheme.

Sixthly, energy saving bulbs cause seizures? Epilepsy Action don’t think so (hat tip: Blagger).

Seventh, energy saving bulbs cause rashes? Maybe, in certain cases, but only for people who already have dermatological conditions.

Eighth, energy saving bulbs damage the environment? They do contain trace levels of mercury, but if recycled properly are no problem (I’ve been using these bulbs for over 20 years and have never even seen a broken one – they’re much more robust than incandescent bulbs). “Traditional” bulbs contain mercury as well – in fact by switching to compact fluorescent lamps, you will reduce the level of mercury you use.

Regarding points six, seven and eight though, they are out of date as LEDs are set to replace CFLs over the next few years. The main barrier to introducing them has been, yes, the predominence of the “traditional incandescent light bulb.”

All in all, the Mail story amounts to a confection of lies and misleading scare stories. Pretty much nothing in it turns out to be true. So no change there then.

Charlie Brooker says it for me.

If I had had an opportunity over the weekend, I was planning to write an essay on my view of the whole Russell Brand / Jonathan Ross episode. Having read Charlie Brooker this morning however, I now realise I don’t need to:

The sad, likely outcome of this pitiful gitstorm is an increase in BBC jumpiness. I have a vested interest in this, of course, because I’ve just started work on the next series of my BBC4 show Screen Wipe, on which we sometimes sail close to the wind. In the past, the BBC has occasionally stepped in to nix the odd line that oversteps the mark – as it should do, when parameters aren’t out of whack.

But when the Beeb’s under fire, those parameters can change. Last year, following the “fakery” scandals, we recorded a trailer for the series in which I mocked a BBC4 ident featuring footage of seagulls, by fooling around with a plastic seagull on a stick and muttering about how you couldn’t trust anything on TV any more. Pure Crackerjack. But suddenly it couldn’t be transmitted, due to “the current climate”. So God knows how restrictive things might get over the coming months.

Read it all here.

The Daily Mail: the paper for pervs

I’m struggling to avoid writing about the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand affair, but it has to be said that the Daily Mail really do take the biscuit on this one. In it, Georgina Baillie calls for Brand and Ross to be sacked for leaving her grandfather ‘utterly horrified and disgusted’ after ringing him up and claiming that Brand has slept with her. Of course, it happens to be true and the Mail see fit to print several pictures of Andrew Sachs’ granddaughter which might conceivably also ‘horrify’ and ‘disgust’ him, but sod that – BURN THE WITCHES!

To be fair though, that story is being printed in most tabloids today. It is to another story we must turn if we want to really uncover the dark heart of Dacre. Today the Mail also prints a story about teachers having sexual relationships with their pupils. Under the headline “Dear Sir, I really thought you loved me…,” it includes several soft focus pictures of girls in school uniforms and paragraphs like this one:

Awkwardly, 14-year-old Laura Walker sat down on the log, among the dark trees, her thigh just brushing against that of her 32-year-old teacher, Steven Edwards.

‘I had butterflies inside my tummy,’ she says. ‘I knew what was coming.’

The mature man bent his head and kissed the young teenager – ‘snogged’ is the word she uses.

‘I was so excited,’ she says. ‘I couldn’t believe that he was interested in me, but he was clearly showing that he was. The kiss was very passionate.’

Do we really need this level of detail and flowery prose in an article which is supposed to be about exposing child abuse? This isn’t the first time I’ve read stories in the Mail which are ostensibly censorious but appear more than a little salacious. I recall reading an article about an actress a couple of years ago who was apparently raising her child with a gay man which went into an inordinate amount of detail about her physical characteristics and naked frollicking.

But the killer, for me, is the change in tone when the story examines the case of a female teacher sleeping with a male pupil:

Looking at Dean Dainty – a normal, spiky-haired, slightly scruffy schoolboy – you wonder how any grown woman could think it appropriate to view him as a sexual being.

The relationship began when Dean was 15 and the teacher gave him a mobile phone ‘for doing so well in her class’.

On it, he found her own personal mobile number, and they began texting each other. The texts quickly became sexual. No doubt the schoolboy could not believe that this pretty, blonde teacher might be interested in him.

‘We arranged to meet up, and she swore me to secrecy,’ he says.

He went to after-school break-dancing sessions with her, and she took him into a pub.

The affair was clandestine, with the pair – Dean was by now 16 – snatching sex wherever they felt they would not get caught.

Where are the references to his thighs? Or the talk about how ‘passionate’ their kisses were?

This ambiguous attitude towards paedophilia is of course nothing new in the Mail – it was one of the things that Chris Morris’ Brass Eye Special a few years ago both parodied and highlighted in its immediate aftermath. But we should never forget that these self-appointed guardians of moral virtue are uncomfortably close in attitude to the very people they claim to be condemning.

Karma Police and the fashion failure of fascism

Karma police, arrest this girl, her Hitler hairdo, is making me feel ill
And we have crashed her party
This is what you get, this is what you get
This is what you get, when you mess with us

Radiohead, Karma police

For reasons that may (or may not) become clear, the Daily Mail made me think of these lyrics today. As it has done through the years, thankfully a mite more critically this time, the paper has done a piece on the fascist du jour Richard “Dick” Barnbrook. The main revelation which I did not know was that he is in the final stages of divorcing a woman he met during his “Derek Jarman gay porn” years. Not terribly impressed with his politics, she says:

“In a way, I wanted to join the police to redress the karmic imbalance in the world caused by my husband’s views.”

Barnbrook has also been in the News of the World this week for two-timing his ballerina fiance with a nurse from Finland. I have to admit I am rather disappointed that NotW failed to use the headlines “a kick in the Balkans” or “Finns ain’t what they used to be”.

Possibly the most disappointing thing about the state of British fascism (apart from, of course, the fact that they are racist, violent thugs who are improbably gaining electoral support at the moment), is their sartorial inelegance. Oswald Mosley may have dressed his blackshirts up like Doctor Who villains, but at least they knew what a fucking iron was.

Oswald Mosley and his blackshirts

Richard Barnbrook as Adolf HitlerOne thing you can say about Barnbrook is that with his brown suit and already suggestive fringe, at least he makes it easy for people to caricature him.

Frankly though, I prefer these fellers.

Is time travel the new porn?

The Daily Mail’s Science Editor Michael Hanlon has a pop at the trend in physics towards ever more outlandish theories in the New Scientist this week:

Fun yes, but is it harmless? Scientists, and people like me who stick up for science, are happy to pour scorn on astrologers, homeopaths, UFO-nutters, crop-circlers and indeed the Adam-and-Eve brigade, who all happily believe in six impossible things before breakfast with no evidence at all. Show us the data, we say to these deluded souls. Where are your trials? What about Occam’s razor – the principle that any explanation should be as simple as possible? The garden is surely beautiful enough, we say, without having to populate it with fairies.

The danger is that on the wilder shores of physics these standards are often not met either. There is as yet no observational evidence for cosmic strings. It’s hard to test for a multiverse. In this sense, some of these ideas are not so far, conceptually, from UFOs and homeopathy. If we are prepared to dismiss ghosts, say, as ludicrous on the grounds that firstly we have no proper observational evidence for them and secondly that their existence would force us to rethink everything, doesn’t the same argument apply to simulated universes and time machines? Are we not guilty of prejudice against some kinds of very unlikely ideas in favour of others?

Coming from a Daily Mail man, this sounds like fightin’ talk (to be fair to him, I haven’t read anything by Hanlon that I would characterise as scare-mongering anti-science, but as the Science Editor you’d have thought he’d have some say in the sillier stories that do follow this trend in his paper). He has a point though. New Scientist’s cover story this week is about a scientific theory that the new Large Hadron Collider at CERN could be made into the world’s first time machine. When you get into the detail though, it turns out that this whole theory depends on “dark energy” of which we know very little, being used to “stretch” open the mouth of the resulting wormhole in space-time to allow us to communicate – let alone walk – through it. That’s a whole heap of speculation.

It sells copies of the New Scientist, but somehow I doubt we are on the brink of a major new discovery of this kind any time soon. And if we were it will probably not be anything like the future we imagined. Just as we have been denied the jetpacks we were promised, this new time travel technology will probably end up so boringly mundane that we don’t even notice when they start churning it out. Instead of people in jumpsuits from 10,000 years in the future coming back to murder their ancestors, my guess is the first time we see this technology being used is when some bozo introduces the mobile phone that allows you to text yourself messages in the past to make sure you remember to pick up the milk on the way home.

Like picture messaging, no-one will see the point of it at first, but then suddenly everyone will be at it. Within weeks, the lottery will become utterly pointless as the jackpot is won on a weekly basis by 60 million people and thus pays out 5p each. On the other hand, the stock exchange will become even more chaotic as people tip themselves off on a massive scale, only to discover that if everyone’s at it such information becomes utterly redundant. Eventually a member of Parliament hits upon a wheeze to claim their additional costs allowance an infinite number of times and the universe will implode in a puff of contradiction and self-important venality.

How annoying will that be? Even if it doesn’t happen, I can just imagine my future self texting me lies just to screw me over. Bastard.

The true enemies of reason

I saw Richard Dawkin’s two-part documentary The Enemies of Reason a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been meaning to add a note of criticism here.

It’s not that I disagree with his assessment that people such as spirit mediums and alternative health gurus are not antithetical to enlightenment values; far from it. My problem is that the programme lacked analysis about why such movements have grown in popularity over the past forty years.

Take homeopathy for instance, and the fact that the NHS now ploughs millions of taxpayers pounds into clinics such as the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital. How has such a thing come to pass? Have health managers lost their minds? While no doubt there are true believers working inside the NHS who are pushing for homeopathy, I suspect the underlying reason is more prosaic. Indeed, Dawkins himself alluded to this, as Susan Blackmore points out, by alluding to the Placebo effect and comparing the amount of time a homeopath spends with their patient – 1 hours – to the amount of time a GP spends with their patients – 8 minutes.

We could, arguably, achieve the same effects as homeopathy by allowing GPs to prescribe a wider range of treatments. A week in a health spa, for instance. Healthcare professionals know however that such leftfield treatments would be politically untenable. Mental health treatment is very much a Cinderella service, despite the fact that it is now well recognised that depression and a whole range of long term health problems are inextricably linked. So is it any wonder therefore that they turn to an approach with is supported by people such as the Prince of Wales and has at least a quasi-scientific basis to it? Who can blame them for indulging in a noble lie, if the result is more people treated successfully?

Who, then is responsible for creating this climate whereby mental health treatment is marginalised while homeopathy is lauded? We can’t really blame the Prince of Wales. The real problem is that the latter is championed by a whole section of the media. The same media champions horoscopes, the Bible Code and all sorts of anti-intellectual faffery. By coincidence, it also advances an agenda that women are better off staying at home being dutiful housewives, that Princess Diana was murdered, that the poor get what they deserve, that padeophiles are lurking on every street corner, that asylum seekers live like sultans at taxpayer expense while local people struggle to find housing and that the house price boom is an unequivocal good.

What I’m getting at, of course, is that the missing third part of Dawkins’ the Enemies of Reason is an expose of Paul Dacre, his poisonous empire and his competitors at the Express. It seems odd to expose well meaning dowsers as frauds while failing to lambast the people at the top of the chain. Of course, were Dawkins to indulge in such a project he would find himself having a torrent of shit poured onto him by the very people he chose to attack. That may be what is holding him back. But if he doesn’t, who will? It would at the very least be entertaining to watch the likes of Melanie Phillips and Peter Hitchens go bright purple.

Science is a bit shit, says the Daily Mail

The front page of the Daily Mail has this masthead: “Do dogs have a sense of humour?“.

I don’t know who originally observed this, but it has been said that if the Daily Mail ever uses a question mark at the end of a headline, the answer is usually ‘no’. In this particular case however, we are assured, scientists don’t know the answer either. Indeed, it is a lead in to an article by the Mail’s science editor in which he is promoting his new book “Ten questions no-one knows the answer to (Yet)”.

As this book is brought to you by the guy who happily spends his days attempting to scare the living shit out of his credulous readers by presenting the most speculative and shoddy of research as incontrovertible fact (as long as it is seeking to prove a link between something and cancer/autism/piles/whatever), I’m not entirely sure he is exactly a reliable witness. In fact, the main agenda of this book appears to be to cast insinuations about scientists. If we can ‘prove’ that scientists don’t know what time is, then how can they claim to know anything about mobile phone masts? Eh? EH?! Etc.

I find the links between right wing, nasty politics and credulous anti-science fascinating. Tony Blair goes off to have rebirthing mudbaths; his buddy George Bush has conversations with God. Both consider intelligent design to be a subject worthy of discussion. Both think human rights should be compromised and the US should be able to trample on any country which annoys it. And there’s nothing neo-cons like more than to cast aspersions about climate change science. What is it about conservatives and the indulgence of irrationality? Answers below, please.