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Friday, January 15, 2021

The original posting is down. This my attempt at saving this essay by Nate White.

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The Question: “Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?”

I normally don’t share political content; there are many other profiles and places for that. I‘ve also learnt not to engage in highly divisive political debates, however based on reality my input might be.

Put simply, there’s little to gain in preaching to the choir.

But then there’s Donald Trump. And like much of humanity, I’ve been aghast at his recent abhorrent and often child-like behaviour. It’s hard to watch from a distance and equally hard to remain silent. The antithesis of what a leader should be.

Just look at those ratings! Yes, they’re comparable to the COVID-19 statistics he so casually downplays.

At a time where clear, transparent leadership is desperately needed and most decent people show compassion and humility, his self-centred presidency has degenerated yet further. Every decision is always about him and his enablers, not the people they pretend to represent.

Crucial announcements on public health and COVID-19 mitigation are instead delivered as politically-motivated statements in a confusing string of oscillating sound bites, contradiction or absolute nonsense — no matter how irresponsible or dangerous.

Where a new normal is for any reference of suffering or death, no matter how personal and painful, to be met with deflection and another ramble about self-perceived greatness. And any critique, no matter how relevant and important, is rebuffed by insults, a refusal to answer, even a refusal to attend press conferences. Then, yet another tweet-storm.

Welcome to playground politics, but without detentions or naughty steps. We thought it couldn’t get any worse, but it just did. And then again and again and again.

But don’t worry, let’s all inject Dettol and insert UV-emitting suppositories. Or pop hydroxycloroquine pills like we’re blind drunk and they’re peanuts. Forget those 5G-nanobot-controlled experts, if Trump says it, it must be true. After all, he’s normally right.

Then suddenly it’s not true and he wasn’t right. And all manner of spin is employed as the Trump team work furiously to deflect the latest blunder; remoulding lies upon lies like Play Dough.

Oh that’s what he meant this time. Silly us!

Then there’s the stay-at-home protestors, where another new normal is to see medical professionals try to block their procession; or even a large group of military-attire-clad, semi-automatic-wielding bullies descend on a state capitol in an apparently “acceptable and peaceful protest”.

Because Trump isn’t just going to this conspiracy story lovefest, he’s driving the bus.

Which brings me to this: the most accurate description of Donald Trump I’ve read.

The Question and the Answer

The story begins in February last year, when someone on Quora asked ‘Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?’. Nate White, a copywriter from the UK, wrote this response:

A few things spring to mind.

Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.

For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace — all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed.

So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.

Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing — not once, ever.

I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility — for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman.

But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is — his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.

Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers.

And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults — he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.

There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface.

Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront. Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.

And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist.

Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that.

He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat.

He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.

And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully. That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.

There are unspoken rules to this stuff — the Queensberry rules of basic decency — and he breaks them all. He punches downwards — which a gentleman should, would, could never do — and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless — and he kicks them when they are down.

So the fact that a significant minority — perhaps a third — of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think ‘Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:

• Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.

• You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.

This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss.

After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss.

He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.

God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.

He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart. In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws — he would make a Trump.

And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish:

‘My God… what… have… I… created?

If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set.

[For Nate White’s other writings, see here.]

For some reason, the thread has since been deleted from Quora (perhaps overwhelmed with responses?). But a few people were inspired to preserve it on blogs and in other forms — like this, on social media.

Under one such post, someone suggests Nate White’s response is a typical disconnected, elitist or bourgeois response to a man who speaks for sections of society the upper middle-class disdain. That Trump bypasses the traditional media, which they control, and speaks directly to these people. And that Nate White’s response only serves to alienate them further.

But please share it on. For all those of any social class, race, ethnicity, nationality, creed, sex or sexuality who loath him, his politics and his disinformation.

Trumpism: Many More Questions than Answers

While Nate’s brilliant response describes Trump to a tee, the ‘some people‘ part of ‘Why do some British people not like Trump?‘ doesn’t sit well with the ‘not like Trump‘ part. Kind of like the dissonance between two crunching keys on a keyboard.

Multiple past surveys in fact put the proportion of Brits who have any confidence in Trump at under one third — a figure that may well have fallen since. Half even think he’s outright dangerous. Male, female, right-wing, left-wing, pro- or anti-Brexit, many people in Britain generally dislike Trump.

It’s a sentiment widely reflected around the world, as described by research such as this. So, the question Why does so much of humanity dislike Trump? seems somewhat more appropriate. And besides Nate’s character description, there are numerous reasons.

For example, should we really be having regular debates about what a president actually said? Is clear, transparent communication not one of the cornerstones of leadership and democracy?

Of course. But while no amount of spin can change what Trump and his team imply, a bucket-load of ignorance, whether wilful or not, will twist it into whatever some people want to believe — or are able to believe.

Anyone who blows the truth whistle or doesn’t toe exactly the same partisan line is ignored, bullied or fired. Democracy and free speech then become heavily influenced by disinformation, deflection, threats and a blinkered, singular narrative, thus rendering them almost meaningless.

But why does this so readily happen?

For starters, there’s the Dunning-Kruger effect, which I’ve mentioned numerous times in recent weeks. It’s a form of cognitive bias that partially explain how conspiracy stories might arise. A good explanation of this and other cognitive biases is given by Dan Pupius here. But in short: If someone lacks the competence to identify their own incompetence, it can give them false sense of capability, wisdom or intellectual superiority. Or as William Shakespeare wrote:

“The fool thinks himself to be wise, while a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

Various studies have also found a negative correlation between religiosity and intelligence, with those more susceptible to strong religious views tending to have lower levels of intelligence. Because intelligent people are more likely to resist religious dogma than conform, to adopt an analytic thinking style that undermine religious beliefs, and have less need for the comfort, security and self-enhancement others may gain from religious beliefs and practices.

This doesn’t mean all religious people are inherently stupid. There are many people who have less strong or progressive religious beliefs, freely acknowledging that the Bible, for example, and any literal interpretation of it are beyond outdated and meaningless. Some are even good scientists. They just have faith in some greater, divine power and a true origin behind certain religious scriptures. Something that neither science nor the mental and physical capacity of humans may ever be able to prove or disprove.

But there is a correlation. And not surprisingly, it then follows that God believers are more susceptible to conspiracy theories. Conspiracists believe deeply in unseen causal forces, drawing comfort and a sense of agency from their beliefs. Just as someone might from faith in a god.

To a certain degree, we’re all susceptible to various cognitive biases, no matter our beliefs, faith or partisan affiliation. In-group bias leads us to more likely trust people like us — within our group, team, profession, and so on. Similarly, confirmation bias is the tendency to look for or see only evidence that confirms what we already believe.

Vulnerability to such bias means we’re more likely to dismiss the studies or views of an expert because they don’t belong to our group or contradict a tribal belief; or equally, to accept those studies or beliefs without proper evaluation because they do.

Science can be wrong and it’s well documented many medical studies have significant flaws. That’s why meta reviews of multiple randomised-controlled trials are the gold standard. Media are also responsible for distortion or sensationalism when it comes to reporting on science. A brilliant, in-depth account of this is given in the book Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, and this article discusses the reasons why so many people doubt science.

But much of our modern world has been built on the incremental advancement of scientific knowledge. So, it’s implausible — at least, to most people — to believe that a large proportion of the global scientific community would unite with political leaders of every ilk and from all corners of the world to manufacture some sort of hoax. And apparently do it so badly that even a child would be able to identify the data that “supports” these wild claims.

Many things are simply not open for debate — they’re just facts. Biology is rooted in the principles of evolution. Vaccines save many lives. Climate change is really happening. And now, COVID-19 is having a devastating impact around the world.

For some people, ignorance or bias — or lack of education or intelligence — may be less significant in recognising scientific facts and forming fundamental belief systems. Research has shown people who tend towards schizotypal, Machiavellianistic and primary psychopathic personalities are also more likely to believe in conspiracy theories.

Such people may even be remarkably intelligent, but the intrinsic workings of their brains means they follow unusual patterns of thinking and behaviour, may be strategic and manipulative, and display social and emotional deficits. Their innate or acquired tendency for magical thinking means they see patterns in information that simply aren’t there.

They want others to see these ‘facts’ too, be they aliens living among us or the indisputable flatness of the Earth. And, unfortunately, their intelligence and ability to convincingly communicate their ideas makes them seem more credible, enabling them to reach and manipulate susceptible individuals, propagate their theories and become leaders of conspiratorial communities and cults.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, cognitive bias when coupled with online social connections, algorithms and automation form very large echo chambers — or filter bubbles.

Since we only see information we want to see and find believable, and everyone in our social circles — in person or online — seemingly holds the same views, it can become almost unfathomable that any credible opposing view can exist.

This not only validates and reinforces long-held beliefs, it also allows for the rapid dissemination of disinformation. Especially when sponsored by dark elements through carefully manipulated multi-million propaganda campaigns.

Think Steve Bannon, Fox News, ONAN and Newsmax, the tobacco and fossil fuel industries, Scientology and certain other religious groups, the NRA. Think of QAnon or the numerous Trump supporters who already belonged to cult-like groups before his candidacy even became a thing.

Side Note: it just occurred to me that Trump 2020 can be written as 1+1 0 1+1 0 or simply 110110… 110110… 110110…

With the skewed understanding of reality that results from believing disinformation and misinformation, like perceiving real-world events through a cracked and fogged lens, the gap between fundamentally opposing ideologies — perhaps one more egalitarian and communitarian and the other more individualistic and hierarchical — becomes a chasm.

All this forms the perfect storm and enables Trump and his sponsors to pander only to his most partisan supporters with whatever they want to hear — or he wants them to hear, even if it’s complete fabrication. Everyone else is simply the enemy and everything else is labelled as “fake news”. It’s always “us and them”. Trying to have a meaningful debate with these people just draws on extreme cognitive bias and leads to further alienation.

And so a cult of personality is born. The Dear Leader posing as some divine, all-powerful saviour, always speaking the truth, always working to defeat the manufactured enemy.

It’s information warfare, an arms race between fact-based journalism and demagoguery, between critical thinking and click-bait, between reality and fiction. At the mere touch of a seemingly harmless “Tweet”, “Post” or “Share” button, with or without malicious intent, the fallout can reach every corner of the globe in seconds like no weapon has ever done before.

Pseudo-political leaders and conspiracists are living in their golden age — a disinformation bonanza.

So, what about those armed stay-at-home protestors? Why? (Just why?)

Because it makes them feel more powerful. They have nothing of substance to add to any debate — nor the ability to do so, so they have to resort to threatening behaviour.

What they will never be able to realise (lack of intelligence, Dunning-Kruger or personality quirks and deficits)— as they’re too long and too far influenced by their klan (in-group bias) and political dogma (confirmation bias) — is: they are the problem, not the solution.

COVID-19 mitigation versus welfare is a major issue around the world, particularly in lower-income communities and countries. I’ve posted about the situation in Thailand here, for example. But most ordinary people can also recognise that as soon as you don military attire and pick up an assault weapon to push your ‘peaceful’ argument, you’ve lost the debate.

Social distancing is not about us as individuals, our freedom or some antiquated constitution written by musket-carrying forefathers. It’s about the impact our behaviour might have on the health of others.

It’s about recognising that with freedom comes certain responsibilities. And as soon as someone is willing to flout those responsibilities, steps must be taken to protect other people.

But Trump and his team continue to send mixed messages to incite these protestors, selectively criticise Democratic governors, fuel conspiracy stories, deflect blame and attempt to win cheap political points.

Or to put it another way, even during a global health crisis, Trump and his team will continue to single-mindedly target the cognitive and partisan bias of his supporters with what’s-in-it-for-me propaganda and lies.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Land doesn't vote. People do.


Data scientist Karim Douïeb created a more accurate representation of how American's vote. He used colored circles, sized proportionally to population. Better than the usual method but still not quite accurate. Within each dot, there are both blue voters and red voters. Using shades of purple might be the better answer. Still, this is damn good, yes?

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Wandering attention in life drawing class

 

No naked, dancing, wood nymphs posed for our life drawing class. And yet there she was, a naked wood nymph balanced on one toe in the corner of a life drawing sketch pad. 

In truth, our model was an older woman wearing heritage clothing. And the student was a quiet, young girl who seemed very serious, very studious, not at all the free spirit. Still, a dancing wood nymph appeared off to the side, near the bottom corner, of the large sheet of paper.

When class was over, the student tore the page from the pad and discarded it. The emotionless portrait might have been kept and handed in for a mark but for the presence of the vibrant, naked nymph sharing the page. I believe the young girl found the presence of the little nymph embarrassing.

I asked the artist if I could reclaim her art from the trash bin. She said yes. Today both images hang on my hallway wall. The artist has gone on to become an executive with a high-paying office job in a San Fransisco highrise tower. She no longer draws, keeping her desire to draw naked dancing ladies a closely guarded secret.


Did a journalist rush to judgment when pointing to suspected perpetrators?

 

 

A weekly column demands an essay be written every seven days. It should come as no surprise that a good number of the columns pumped out by journalist-columnists contain filler. Take this week's column by journalist-editor-column-writer and journalism school instructor Larry Cornies.

Cornies tackled the story of a noose found hanging in Warbler Woods near a popular southwest London public trail. The trail attracts hikers from all around the area. In fact, the trail is so popular there is a small parking lot for the public at the trail entrance near Commissioners Road West.

Cornies quotes Dr. Javeed Sukhera, chair of the London police services board, who called the noose "a symbol of white anger." He said, "A noose is never 'just' a piece of rope. It is a direct threat to my family and [me]."

Yet Cornies writes, "I suspect, this week’s incident was the work of bored, pandemic-bound youths looking to provoke a little conflict or excitement in their affluent neighbourhood . . . "

If I were editing Cornies piece I'd remove his conjecture. What evidence does he have that rich, bored kids were behind this. None that I know of. If he does have information, he should come forward, speak to the police. What are the facts behind his suspicions?

Is this another instance of a journalist rushing to judgment driven by the desire to write a tidy story?

Monday, June 29, 2020

The thoughts of a dying photojournalist: Part II

Let me be clear. I have a very bad heart. It is failing. But, that said, I watch my diet, I stopped jogging and have eliminated all exercise that causes a heart to race and I lost all the extra weight I was carrying.

The result is that I am doing far better than many would have foreseen. I am now on my second pacemaker/ICD and my granddaughters are rooting for me to get a third.

On the downside, I have my off days. Yesterday was an off day. My limbs felt like lead. When I took my blood pressure it was clear why I felt so sluggish. My blood pressure had dropped to 79 over 50. My pulse rate was at 50 bpm, my pacemaker's lowest setting.

I am a little panicked about getting my thoughts out and I'm finding it far harder than I had ever imagined. Journalist do not want to hear, let alone consider, any criticism. Damn but they are thin skinned. I have had very little push back when it comes to facts. But I have endured a lot of nasty insults, many lies have been hurled my way. After tweeting an insult, the nastiest journalists cut our connection and block or mute me.

This is a reaction that I believe would make Donald Trump proud. If journalists want to be taken seriously, journalists have to respond to serious criticism, thoughtful takes on the problems facing the industry. They must respond with measured words and not angry, emotional insults reminiscent of the childish insults of a school yard bully or an orange-haired president.



Speed kills

I like to say news stories are put together at warp speed because the speed, often demanded by a fast approaching deadline, warps the stories. Sometimes to the breaking point. Reporters strive to tell the truth, to be fair, to stick to the facts. But how does one recognize truth, recognize a fact? This can be harder that you might imagine, especially when your time is limited.

When I was working as a journalist for an online digital publication, I covered an Ann Coulter talk at Western University. When she cancelled her next night's talk at the university in Ottawa,  I wrote a piece on that as well.









My report drew a lot of flak from a local journalist, a very good journalist I might add. He is one of my reporter heroes. I found it very upsetting that he took such strong umbrage at my article.

As I recall, he wrote an opinion piece saying Canada had been embarrassed by the cancellation of Coulter's talk. Universities should not be places where free speech is blocked by mob action.


Coulter had claimed she was forced to cancel by the large number of unruly protestors who had gathered a short time before she was slated to speak.

He challenged me to a debate in the weekend paper. He said he could back up every fact as he had checked them all with other journalists at other publications.

I agreed to debate him. I had a different take because I'd take a different approach. I knew I was right. I'd contacted the Ottawa university, the police tasked with providing security, I tracked down people who attended the event, or non event as it was cancelled, and I talked to Ann Coulter's people as well. And I downloaded some unedited images of the crowd I obtained thanks to the Coulter team.

I was able to prove the talk had been cancelled many hours earlier than was being reported. It was cancelled before any large group, any mob, had gathered. Coulter's own unedited photos disproved her claims. The journalist begged off. We would not have a debate in the weekend paper.

The lesson here is that it is very dangerous to get one's facts from other publications. When I got into the news business, this might not have happened. We had more time to chase down facts in the early '70s. Good journalism takes time and the business has always short-changed journalists when it comes to time but today the problem is worse. Hedge funds don't care about news.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The thoughts of a dying photojournalist.

I was on my first pacemaker/ICD when this was taken.
As I write this post, I'm publishing the developing piece online. If any journalists have suggestions, I'm listening.

Soon, I will be 73-years-old. Will I see my 74th birthday? I hope so but I am not sure. I have a relatively rare, gene-based, heart disease: ARVC. This is a progressive condition where the heart's right ventricle muscle slowly converts to fat and fibrous scar tissue.


Strenuous exercise aggravates the condition by causing the heart to expand. It tears under the stress. The tears heal with fat and scar tissue. If this continues, heart failure ensues.

In my case, my expanding, deteriorating heart stretched its electrical system to the breaking point. As a result, I have a 100 percent heart block. I'm on my second pacemaker/ICD. Without a pacemaker, I'd be dead.

But, today I am alive and I'm going to make the most of it. I'd like to spend some of my now very valuable time by attempting to improve the profession I've spent a lifetime dancing about the fringes: journalism.

I was introduced to photojournalism by reporter/photographer Andy Whipple in the '60s, more than a half century ago. Andy opened my eyes to the magic resulting from the imaginative use of a long lens. Taking my 300mm lens he created images I had never dreamed possible. When Andy died from Parkinson's disease, the Bulletin in Oregon did a lovely piece on their Renaissance man.




Andy was just the first of a long list of inspiring photojournalists I have had the good fortune of having known. Many of those photojournalists were men and woman with  whom I worked at The London Free Press. Others were dedicated members of the NPPA in the States, or the ONPA in Ontario.

For many years I had the honour of running the annual ONPA photojournalism seminar held at Western University in London, Ontario. It was thanks to my time with the popular seminar that I got to know world-famous photojournalists like Eddie Adams, the man who took the photo of Vietnamese Brigadier General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong on the streets of Saigon with a quick pistol shot to the head.

After spending years giving back to the profession I love, I am now going to expand my interests to involve journalism proper. I would like to right some wrongs, force journalists to confront problems that all to often they ignore and maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to leave the world a better place.

Donald Trump has propelled the damning words "fake news" to the forefront of many discussions on media honesty. So, let me make one thing clear; I hate the term "fake news." I have personally known too many good reporters doing incredibly good work to smear the entire profession with those words. And yet, I must admit that honesty in journalism can be improved.

Anecdote

That said, consider how the media erred so egregiously when it widely promoted Liberation Therapy. For a brief time, many in the media claimed it was a miraculously successful treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS). Ask  yourself, how did a fine investigative journalist like Randy Richmond, lauded as Canada's top journalist in 2020, get a story so very wrong as he did in 2011 with a piece headlined "Out of the fog"?

The partial answer is the use of the anecdote. Journalists rely on anecdotes to add a human dimension, a rich, emotional overlay, to a narrative. In doing so, all too often journalists make the error of sampling bias.

Let's examine The London Free Press story which was part of a series on the shortcomings of the Canadian healthcare system. Randy introduced us to a local London woman, Susan Skeffington, who suffers from MS and was forced to travel to the Arizona Heart Institute in search of treatment. There she had the Liberation Therapy procedure. OHIP refused to cover the cost even though the procedure was unavailable in Ontario.

From Randy's story we learn: "Balloons were inserted into three of (Skeffington's) veins, bringing blood back to her heart to expand the walls. The balloons were collapsed and removed. The blood flow keeps the walls expanded.

Skeffington said she immediately noticed the effects of the procedure. "When I was sitting in recovery I was looking around the room and I thought, I am really moving my eyes easily."

Back home at the beginning of March, she has noticed more improvements. Her hands still have some pins and needles, but are more nimble. She has more energy, though she is not pushing herself.

"The brain fog is gone," she says.
It's a great story but it is an anecdote and anecdotes can be unreliable. This is not science. At least two Canadians died from complications after undergoing Liberation Therapy. In the end, as CBC Radio reported in December, 2017, Dr. Zamboni concluded the therapy he devised was a "largely ineffective technique; [and] the treatment cannot be recommended in patients with MS." It turns out the London woman was given excellent advice by her doctors. OHIP was right to refuse to cover the cost of the quickly discredited procedure.

One would think a man who went on to become Canada's top journalist would know well the danger posed by sampling bias. Actually, I'm sure he does and did. In the end, it was clear that  Randy Richmond and anyone who put their faith in the anecdote at the core of his story found themselves deep in the fog of an unreliable anecdote. To the best of my knowledge, neither The London Free Press nor Randy Richmond every corrected the original story. But, the tale does appear to have disappeared from the newspaper's web site.


Pack Journalism or Herd Instinct

Journalists hate being scooped. When I worked at the local television station, every day there was a morning meeting to discuss what stories would be part of the six o'clock news. One big consideration was what was on the front page of the local newspaper that morning. If a story made the paper, it would make the nightly newscast.

The UFFI story is an example of pack journalism at its worst. As I recall, a U.S. investigative journalism television program, possibly 60 Minutes, originally broke the UFFI story. It made for gripping entertainment. The rest of the American media hated being scooped and immediately ran their own stories on what was claimed to be a growing health crisis. The Canadian media, for instance Marketplace, jumped on the band wagon and finally the daily newspapers raced to grab a piece of the story.

The problem, and this may surprise you because the truth is still not widely known, the story was a crock from start to finish. The media did a great job at spreading the UFFI myth but has failed miserably at getting the correction out. The myth was a front page story. The correction gets buried.

I recall taking pictures of a retired gentleman living in South London. He personally removed the brick from the exterior of his home, he could not afford to have it done, he scrapped the foam out the foam filled the space between the studs, treated the empty cavity, filled it with Fiberglas batt insulation and then rebricked the dwelling.

He was angry and rightly so. He had read everything he could about the various types of home insulation. It was clear that UFFI was the way to go. He insulated his home with the foam and then, within months, the UFFI story flipped. The media was filled with UFFI horror stories. Although neither he nor his wife had had any health problems, the couple watched their home, their retirement nest egg, become almost worthless.

He knew many of the "facts" being reported were wrong and I knew it too. How did I know. I had UFFI in my home as well. And like the gentleman rebricking his home, I still had the advertising bumph. We could show beyond any doubt that the supposed promises made by the manufacturers were never made or at least were not made to either of us. We both agreed the newspaper reports were bogus.

I recall driving to Grand Bend with a fine reporter by the name of Bill Eluchok. We were going to Grand Bend for a story on bacterial contamination of the water along shoreline of the Lake Huron resort. When we reached Grand Bend, Bill introduced me to a fellow from the Ministry of the Environment and told him I thought the UFFI story was hooey. Bill was surprised when the fellow agreed with me but he only agreed off-the-record. He was not prepared to take on the entire North American media.

I've done a number of blog posts on the UFFI story. I suggest you read them. Each one reveals another way that journalism failed readers while inflicting harm.



https://netwar.wordpress.com/2007/07/30/anecdotalism-and-journalism/
https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/verification-accuracy/journalism-discipline-verification/
https://books.google.ca/books?id=J-HKDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT96&lpg=PT96&dq=journalism+herd+instinct+scoop&source=bl&ots=Zd06KkWLzN&sig=ACfU3U3bvX6UNFByt9aFsmIGEbZEd2-6Ng&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjVkObG14nqAhWVbc0KHexZCp8Q6AEwCHoECAwQAQ#v=onepage&q=journalism%20herd%20instinct%20scoop&f=false

Sunday, April 5, 2020

I'm proud of how good Londoners are at following orders
























Last night my wife and I picked up seven bags of groceries without entering the store or making contact with anyone. As we left the lot, we noticed a very loose line-up of people patiently waiting to get into the LCBO (Liquor Board of Ontaro) store. The line wrapped right around the store.

My wife  and I are both amazed at how willing Londoners are to follow the social distancing guidelines. (My picture is not from the LCBO. Unfortunately, I neglected to bring my camera with me to the grocery store. Oops.)