Low information journalism

Part of the phenomena of the decline of traditional or “legacy” media is a failure to come to terms with the unprecedented connectedness of the world in which we now live.

The old world where only a select few gatekeepers were privy to a majority of facts and selected which ones made it into the finite resource of tomorrow’s paper or this evening’s TV news has gone. The delivery capacity for news is, in effect, infinite and the key restriction is now the curiosity and availability of time for the recipient to gather information.

We get our world views from diverse sources and quickly write off as not credible those which have been proven to be untrustworthy or, worse, manipulative either by false reporting or selective reporting.

The older generation of journalists are taking a huge amount of time to realise this and their failures to come to terms with it are highly public.

Today’s particularly excellent example is courtesy of Jaqueline Maley, “Columnist and senior journalist“;

Let’s get the easy response out of the way first; the reason so few people are talking about it is because the accuser is clearly suffering from severe mental health issues that call into question her credibility, as this disturbing interview demonstrates.

Well done Anderson Cooper and CNN team for putting her up for public consumption simply because you don’t like the result of the 2016 election. What next, trawl the mental institutions for more accusers?

Another reason few people are talking about it is that it’s an accusation in a book, but no police report has been filed. Apparently, she is “considering” it.

You and I are not in a position to know and certainly not to judge whether or not Trump forced himself on Ms. Carroll, but we can judge Ms. Maley’s article where she does exactly that and finds him guilty.

Rape is a terrible crime with long term consequences for the victim. It’s also a crime that can be practically impossible to prove once any significant time has passed. If you were raped in the 1990s, 2019 is somewhat too late to press charges and expect a satisfactory result.

If your expectation is otherwise, may I suggest you haven’t spent enough time considering the consequences of applying that standard to the males you care about, such as your father, spouse, sons, grandsons and close friends.

The more amusing point though is Jaqueline Maley’s failure to treat her readers as having an intelligence quotient much above molluscs.

To even consider writing her opinion piece with a laundry list of reasons she dislikes Trump anchored around Ms. Carroll’s book published accusation, requires her to have completely discounted the possibility of her readers seeking an alternate source of information.

The simplest of internet searches would have given her readers the following internal answers when they read the question, “why are so few talking about it?”;

  1. Ms. Carroll does not present well, and in fact gives off an air of being a nutter,
  2. She’s publishing the accusation in a book but hasn’t informed the police,
  3. The alleged assault happened 4 decades ago.
  4. With the best will in the world, Ms. Carroll seems to have been a bit of a serial target of rape, if her writings are to be believed.
  5. All things considered, Ms. Carroll is really not credible. That’s not to say she’s lying but just that the “optics” are terrible.

Bill’s Opinion

Dear journalists in 2019,

The internet is available and can be used as an incredibly quick and convenient fact checker against which your entire audience can judge your work.

You may wish to consider keeping that sentence at the front of mind whenever you submit copy.

There is a form of bigotry you may not have considered that you are guilty of; the bigotry of low expectations. An example of this would have been evident if you had asked most Australians whether they knew the name of the person this article was referring to in 2013;

They knew it was Rolf Harris despite nobody in the Australian media being brave enough to name him.

Trick me once, shame on you. Trick me twice, shame on me.

There seems to be an obvious solution waiting to be found

The new oppressed class living amongst us is, apparently, single people.

No, don’t laugh. It’s true; The Sydney Morning Herald managed to find space between the Folau-dering to published an article about it, so it must be correct.

Grab a coffee, settle back and let’s try not to laugh too loudly as we witness mental illness given a public forum yet again in Sydney’s premier progressive organ:

Ok, you were warned. Here’s one of the oppressed;

Lucy Bloom says everyday household expenses such as rent, utilities, insurance and buying food or furniture can be twice as expensive if you’re single.

You may find this to believe but Marilyn, sorry, Lucy is single. Hardly credible, is it?

Now that you’ve got over that shock, here’s some barely believable maths for you to come to terms with;

A one-person household can spend $2835 per month on living costs – 27 per cent more than couples, who spend a combined $4118 per month.
Lucy Bloom can attest to the fact the singles tax is alive and well in Sydney, too.

If, like me, you’re struggling with the underlying equation resulting a statement that $2,835 is 27% greater than $4,118, consider inserting the words “per person” somewhere in the sentence. Sub-editing going well?

Lucy is a financial giant amongst us pygmies, however;

“So many things cost the same whether you’re a single or a couple, so it’s effectively twice the price to be on your own,” the management consultant says.

She’s a “management consultant”? Let that one sink in for a moment. 

It gets better;

“If I had a live-in partner, the only cost that would change would be food, but there would be two incomes to play with,” she says.

And if my mother had wheels, she’d be a trolley.

Actually, Lucy, if you had a live-in partner with another income, you’d have two incomes to play with.

But regardless of language semantics, she’s doing it tough. She barely knows where next month’s hair dye is coming from; 

“The only way I make it work is by renting out my spare rooms on Airbnb, which covers my mortgage.”

“Living by one of the best beaches in Sydney certainly helps my occupancy rate,” she says.

“On the upside, I have my personal freedom and an asset that has increased in value by $600,000 since 2017,” Ms Bloom says.

Right. Not exactly walking 20km barefoot to the well to collect drinking water each day, are we?

That last sentence in the quote is almost “Peak Sydney”; I’m sad and lonely and need to seek attention by dying my hair bright pink and whining about my life in a national newspaper but at least I’m an economic genius when it comes to investing in property. 

Let’s hope nobody bursts her bubble by showing her the CoreLogic indices relating to apartments in the Eastern Suburbs any time soon.

The best is saved for last though. Apparently, the oppressed singletons have one significant expense the privileged couples don’t;

One in four Australians spend $100 or more on pre-date preparation, including new clothes, shoes, hair and makeup and a further $79 on the first date.

They didn’t mention the additional costs associated with veterinary bills for cats, strangely.

Bill’s Opinion

This seems to align closely with Sailer’s First Law of Female Journalism;

The most heartfelt articles by female journalists tend to be demands that social values be overturned in order that, Come the Revolution, the journalist herself will be considered hotter-looking.

Never ascribe to mendacity

…that which can be explained by incompetence.

Let’s be honest, we all have a secret place in our hearts for the occasional conspiracy theory. Some people believe the moon landings were faked, others think the Jews are the secret rulers of the world, some poor deluded souls even believe Kylie Minogue can hold a tune.

The fire that destroyed the Notre Dame cathedral has set off a plethora of conspiracy theories. My favourite is that the fire was set by Muslim terrorists and has subsequently been covered up by the dhimmis in the French Government.

As I wrote over at Tim Newman’s gaff, “because that’s what terrorists do, isn’t it; destroy a cultural icon and then not tell anyone”.

This is why William of Ockham’s razor is so useful; the explanation which requires the fewest number of assumptions to be correct is likely to be the truth.

This podcast is the best example of the conspiracy mindset. Stefan Molyneux is a famous YouTube and podcaster, and like the proverbial stopped clock he sometimes gets things right.

This is unlikely to be one of those occasions.

As I understand it, the evidence suggesting an arson attack and subsequent governmental over up is as follows;

– The fire started after workers had left the site.

– Other churches in France have been attacked.

– A brown man was seen smiling nearby

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps some terrorists set the fire, didn’t call Le Monde to claim responsibility and the French authorities have hushed it all up.

Or, perhaps sloppy work practices by the renovators resulted in a spark lighting a fire in a church with plenty of dry wood.

We’ve always been at war with the Eurasia Group

The usually sound Ambrose Evans Pritchard regurgitates a press release from the Eurasia Group risk report in the Telegraph (Sydney Morning Herald paywall avoidable version here);

The answer to questions like this in headlines is almost always, “No, you’re just trying to get eyeballs“.

Oh, that’s worrying.

By that I mean, it’s worrying that the UN isn’t also in the list of global institutions past their sell-by dates that are in crisis. In the words of Saint Augustine, “Oh Lord! Make me pure, but not yet!“.

Bloody hell, we’re almost on the brink of another world war? There’s no way the government will allow that, just think what it would do to their plans for annual skiing holidays and the values of their Caribbean villas.

It all sounds very worrying though, whatever might be the cause?

Ah, it’s just another #OrangeManBad #LiterallyHitler article.

One of these political thinktank pieces isn’t compete without an economic prediction, of course;

Sure, the EU is going to have a few challenges ahead, especially if the UK is lucky enough to exit without a deal and gets to keep the £39bn ransom, but we’re heading for deflation, are we?

Given that the USA inflation figures for 2018 were 2.54% and projected to be ~2.44% this year, I wouldn’t go holding one’s breath for it to turn negative. Something like a meteor strike would have to happen in 2019 to turn that into deflation.

Oh goodeee, another article telling us the reason why we voted to leave the EU.

Personally, it was Magna Carta, 800+ years of Common Law, legislative sovereignty, the right to determine our own immigration laws and the fact that calling 73 MEPs for a population of 67m “democracy” seems like a sicker joke than anything Louis CK could come up with. But no, Eurasia Group, do tell us why we voted Brexit.

As for the problems between China and the USA, yes sure China is not running as hot as before (-16% sales of smartphones was an interesting recent data point), however, Xi looks to be trying to rapidly build bridges with Trump. It’s almost as if, I dunno, Trump’s strategy is working. Perish the thought.

So, after you’ve scared us half to death, what’s the chances of any of this happening?

“Muddle through”.

We do like a good old fashioned muddle.

Bill’s Opinion

As you were, platoon. We’ll be just fine.

Against the envy of less happier lands

Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt gives the following speech in Richard the Second on the subject of Britain’s natural defences;

This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,

This other Eden, demi-paradise,

This fortress built by Nature for herself

Against infection and the hand of war,

This happy breed of men, this little world,

This precious stone set in the silver sea,

Which serves it in the office of a wall,

Or as a moat defensive to a house,

Against the envy of less happier lands,

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

Consider then, the current UK Home Secretary’s strange assertion on the problem of illegal immigrants paddling across the 21 miles of sea from France;

Bill’s Opinion

Au contraire, Mr. Javid; there are several historically-proven easy answers;

1. Have the British Navy patrol the limit of the UK’s territorial water between England and France (12 nautical miles?).

2. Tow any vessels illegally entering the territorial waters back to the nearest French port.

3. If the French authorities complain, robustly suggest that they consider doing their damn job in future.

It would seem there are easy answers to the problem of maintaining national borders, after all.

Update; thanks Sam Vara for the correction to Javid’s job title.

Questions we can answer

Traditional bricks and mortar retailers are suffering as people switch to cheaper, more convenient ways to shop.

Here’s a question for anyone who owns or runs a business;

Q. What do you do if your competitors are carving into your margins and market share with cheaper prices and more convenient services?

Do you;

A. Look at your cost base and search for efficiencies that will allow you to reduce prices?

B. Work to create a better consumer experience?

C. Investigate whether there are alternative goods or services you could offer to complement or replace the loss-leading lines?

D. Lobby the government to impose special duties, taxes and levies on the consumers who purchase from your competition?

Bill’s Opinion

If you chose option D, congratulations! You are officially a member of the crony capitalism class.

Welcome to the internet and the 1990s, Australian retailers, spoiler alert; get to see Bowie, Prince, George Michael and Motörhead in concert at the next available opportunity.

The answer to the question might not be very welcome

Those readers who find themselves in Sydney at the start of September may consider the following opportunity to “analogue troll” for $45.

Of all the breakout sessions, this one piqued our interest particularly;

Where to start? In the words of Luke Skywalker, “Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong“.

Let’s answer the question asked in the session’s title last and pick off the sentences in the description first.

42 billionaires now own more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population.

Interesting use of language there; bottom half. I think they mean poorest half if we’re trying to not be judgemental or insulting. Anyway, the relevant question to ask about that statement might be, how does this situation compare against previous periods in human history? Is the trend improving or worsening?

Pick your data source and point in time for comparison but it has been estimated that for most of human history, the average daily income was the equivalent of $1.

At the time of Croesus, the world’s population was approximately 115 million.

Comparing averages is dangerous statistical activity, as is comparing net wealth with income, but let’s assume half of the people alive with Croesus had an income of $1 a day in modern terms. Let’s also assume that they had no real savings to speak of and were living hand to mouth. So, do we think Croesus’ net wealth was less than $57.5m, i.e. half of the population multiplied by a dollar a day?

Similar examples might be made with Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan, several of the Emperors of China, the Pharaohs of Egypt, various Indian emperors, etc.

What about any number of other historical figures who concentrated massive wealth and land? Do we think their wealth was above or below about $57.5m in modern terms? If above, we’ve just dismissed the first statement of our Sydney Socialist friends as being irrelevant.

Let’s look at the next assertion;

In a world that’s never been richer, hundreds of millions remain trapped in poverty, facing starvation and disease, especially in the so-called “third world”.

Well, the world has indeed never been richer. This is an interesting chart from The Atlantic (a publication not known for blindly supporting free market capitalism) showing GDP per capita over the last few hundred years;

Gosh, I wonder what might have caused that huge improvement since 1800 in Western Europe and the USA? Sure, that’s about the time Marx and Engels wrote their envious little book but, in the real world, something was happening in England that was changing the level of wealth and finally breaking the Malthusian model.

The statement about hundreds of millions remaining trapped in poverty is less accurate and, in fact, increasingly wrong as time proceeds. Don’t believe us? Ask the UN. The target of halving the number of people living in extreme poverty was achieved 5 years early.

Again, why do we think that happened?

The last sentence is a question, which we’ve already shown to be asked from a false position;

What has led to this obscene situation, and who is to blame?

Bill’s Opinion

The answer to the question, “Why is the third world so poor?” could be as simple as “Collectivism, i.e. Socialism”.

Perhaps the better question to ask is, “Why is the third world being lifted out of poverty so rapidly?

To which we would offer the answer, “An embracing by the general population of free markets, international trade and the individual desire for self-improvement”.

Capitalism, in other words.

Before the industrial revolution, people were living in abject poverty in hand to mouth existences. Marx and Engels could have watched the starving farm workers being buried in the ground if they had visited rural England. Instead, they went to the concentrations of populations gathered around the new factories. The conditions they saw were also terrible but, and this is the elephant in the conference room at the Sydney Socialism event, it was better than the rural alternative. That’s why the farm workers voluntarily moved to the cities in the first place.

Let’s just leave this chart here and ask ourselves whether the Sydney Socialists really have the answer to the problem;