Posts Tagged ‘fake news’

Scientists Call For Research-Based Policies

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

Recent events have brought scientists much more into centre stage, and politicians now claim to be “following the science” although this often means simply picking and choosing those bits from the wide range of scientific advice that suits their particular agenda.

Science isn’t monolithic, and its predictions are generally in terms of probabilities rather than certainties. Different disciplines may bring rather different emphases to aspects of complex problems and sometimes we need a wider view than that of a particular specialism – and even some common sense.

It seems clear that at the beginning of the Covid outbreak our government placed to much confidence in the advice of some mathematical modellers and failed to follow that based on medical experience in dealing with earlier pandemics on wearing masks and tightly controlling international travel that kept infection rates near zero in some countries. And that they had dismissed the evidence of earlier exercises in pandemic control and failed to follow the conclusion that we needed stockpiles of protective equipment.

Simple mathematical predictions close to the start of 2020 – like those I made metaphorically on the back of an envelope from then available data – suggested that by leaving the progress of the virus essentially unchecked we might expect around 400,000 deaths. It was perhaps calculations such as these that led to a massive programme of ordering vaccines.

Our various lockdown control measures – too little and too late – and gradual improvements in the care of those infected have so far managed to keep the numbers down to a little under half that initial estimate, though another wave may take us rather closer, particularly if variants prove more resistant to current vaccines.

A couple of days ago I was invited to complete an online opinion survey about the political challenges facing our government. One question asked me to pick one from a list as the major political challenge facing the UK government. I read through the list, which began with something about immigration and was shocked to find after reading the 10 choices I had to pick ‘Other’ and type in ‘Climate Change’.

It was climate change that essentially prompted the protest by scientists on April 22nd 2017 to march through London from the Science Museum to a rally at Parliament. They came to celebrate the vital role that science plays in our lives and to call for an end to the fake news and fake science such as climate denial by politicians such as Trump which will prove disastrous.

The march drew attention to the need for international cooperation to combat the existential challenge of man-made global warming – and warned of the danger to this from Brexit and isolationism around the world.

It was an unusual event in many respects. As I pointed out on My London Diary and elsewhere:

“It was a considerably more nerdy protest than most, and some of the posters and placards were difficult event for someone like me with a couple of science degrees in my past to understand. Many scientists do seem to have a problem in communicating with the rest of us and write slogans like ‘Do I have large P-value? Cos I feel Insignificant’ or ‘dT=α.ln(C1/C0)’.”

My London Diary

As well as covering the march and rally by scientists I also photographed campaigners calling for the reform of our secretive Family courts, Poice and Social Services which cover up their failures and corruption by gagging orders, and a protest outside the Consular department of the Russian Embassy to show solidarity with LGBT people in Chechnya, where over a hundred men suspected of being homosexual have been rounded up an put into camps and tortured, with three thought to have been killed. You can see more about these events and the scientists’ protest on the links below.

Reform Family Courts
LGBT rights abuses in Chechnya
Scientists Rally for Science
Scientists march for Science


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Remainers march

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

Back in July there still was hope that we might be able to avoid the huge mistake of Brexit, and thousands came to march in support of staying in Europe. And while the recent election makes it almost certain we will leave – and leave on terms that will be very damaging to the country, I still suspect that in a few years time we will be begging Europe to let us back in, or at least to come to some much closer arrangement than is likely to result from negotiations by the current government.

Like the referendum, the election campaign was marked by an enormous amount of misinformation and lies, mainly from the Conservative Party; First Draft checked out the ads from both parties on Facebook from Dec1 to Dec 4, and, according to Full Fact, ” found that a majority of the Conservative ads during this period included or linked to claims that Full Fact has questioned“. First Draft give a figure: ” 88% (5,952) of the most widely promoted ads featured claims about the NHS, income tax cuts, and the Labour Party which had already been labelled misleading by Full Fact.

Labour put out far fewer FB ads during this time and for technical reasons the first report by Full Fact missed any misleading claims in them; later they updated the figure to say that of their 104 ads during the same period only 6.7% contained or linked to misleading data.

The Brexit referendum was similarly marked by deliberate misleading by the ‘Leave’ campaign, including the figure on the side of their bus. But perhaps even more importantly we were told that leaving Europe would be a simple process, and the public were given the impression that once they had voted it would all be over within a few months.

But the politicians are only a part of the story, and the huge misinformation campaign of both referendum and election is largely driven by the media, both newspapers and broadcasting. The Sun has previously boasted of having determined the results of UK elections, and certainly it and the other newspapers, mainly owned by a handful of billionaires, have played a vital role. Most of the broadcast media, with the exception of the BBC are also similarly controlled.

The BBC is a special case, and has long been under attack by both the left and right in politics for failing to be impartial. Unfortunately this doesn’t imply that it is getting the balance right, as the two sides attack it for very different reasons. Many Tories have long wanted to close it down largely because it is a public service and as such not making money for them and their friends, but at the same time have been very effective in getting members of a highly conservative establishment into positions of power within it. Labour have seen in taking up the anti-Labour views of the press and collaborating with the opposition to Jeremy Corbyn, conspiring with some Labour MPs opposed to him and even inventing fake news to discredit him and the party.

What we are left in now is a real mess. A country which would now almost certainly vote to remain being taken out of the EU, on the basis of a promise made by a former Prime Minister over a non-binding referendum. A referendum result that had it been binding would almost certainly have been challenged and rendered invalid in the courts. Scotland looking increasingly likely to break away and rejoin the EU after we have left. A border in the Irish Sea that makes the reunification of Ireland seem much closer (perhaps the only positive outcome of the whole sad business.) And a country that is going to become much poorer and more unequal. But most important of all will be the failure to take action over the climate crisis.

No to Boris, Yes to Europe

Angola & Muslims

Saturday, May 18th, 2019

I don’t know how much you know about Muslims in Angola, but when I took the picture above outside the Angolan Embassy just off Baker St in London I knew very little. So of course I Googled it, and came up with several articles, including one in The Guardian and I think on Wikipedia, and wrote a little about why this protest was taking place to go with my pictures, along with rather more about Anjem Choudary who came along to speak at the event.

Thanks to a post by AFP Fact Check, from AFP Kenya, I now know that these pictures have in recent months been shared on social media along with pictures from various countries showing mosques being demolished in posts falsely claming that Islam has been banned in Angola

Mary Kulundu, the author of ‘No these pictures are not evidence of Angola banning Islam‘ searched for the pictures online:

Finally, there are two photographs of Muslims protesting against the Angolan government. A reverse image search on Tineye showed that these two images were originally published in 2013 by the British photographer Peter Marshall on his website, My London Diary.

It isn’t of course true that Islam was banned in Angola, but an Islamic organisation had failed to get legal recognition in Angola, along with many other non-Christian organisations, which greatly restricts their activities. Several mosques have been destroyed and others closed and Wikipedia gives some some details, though the article may not be not up to date. But there are said to be 60 mosques still open in the country and Muslims are free to practice their religion.

But Muslims in Angola are still trying to get official recognition almost six years later, though apparently there is less opposition now, and the number of signatures required by any religious congregation to acheive recognition has been lowered from 100,000 to 60,000. Estimates of the total number of Muslims in Angola vary wildly from around 80,000 to 800,000, almost all of them Sunni Muslims.

Back in November 2013 I speculated on why Choudary had not yet been arrested, and a couple of years later he was, and sentenced for urging others to support ISIS. Of course when I took these pictures in November 2013, few had heard of ISIS, which was only proscribed in June 2014 . When Choudary talked about Sunni armies being on the move and establishing the Khalifa (caliphate) I thought he was being a fantasist, but all too soon the reality became clear.

See and read more at Islamists Protest Angolas Ban on Muslims


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