Friday, 11 March 2011

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's…


Yes, if you really want the experience of being battered to death by stupidity and vulture-like revelling in mass deaths, then the Daily Mail is the newspaper for you.

They're asking (and this is an 'exclusive' in the sense that not even the Daily Star is dumb enough to steal this story - they've gone for the sober 'Hot! Megaquake Strikes Japan'):


As you're no doubt aware, the answer to any headline with an ? at the end in this or any other newspaper is 'no'.

This is a particularly good effort though. The use of 'latest' implies that many other disasters (unspecified in the article beyond a vague reference to the Christchurch earthquake which has got 'others on the Internet') definitely have been caused by the 'supermoon', whose '' are a neat little distancing effect. So 'latest' = definitely and '' = may not exist.

Wonderfully, the identity of these scientists is given: 'astrologers'. Do you not think that an astronomer might be the person to ask about an easily observable heavenly body? Or is that some kind of science fascism?

What they've done is the classic 'caveat in paragraph 23' trick: the (non-)truth of the story is several paragraphs lower, so that they can get the attention while claiming accuracy.

'Supermoons have a historical association with strong storms, very high tides, extreme tides and also earthquakes,' he said.
However, scientists dismiss this as utter nonsense and that although it makes a good photo opportunity for astronomers it has no impact on Earth.
Dr David Harland, space historian and author, said: 'It's possible that the moon may be a kilometre or two closer to Earth than normal at a perigee, but it's an utterly insignificant event.'
Professor George Helffrich, a seismologist at the University of Bristol was equally dismissive.
'Complete nonsense. The moon has no significant effect on earthquake triggering.
'If the moon triggers "big" earthquakes, it would trigger the many of millions of times more "small" earthquakes that happen daily. There is no time dependence of those; hence no moon effect.'

Why actual scientists answer the phone to the Hate Mail is completely beyond me - it just lends them credibility.

That's some quality journalism. No wonder it's credited to 'Daily Mail reporter' rather than a someone with a reputation to uphold. Either that or they've just cut-and-pasted from some weirdo's press release.

Just to be clear:
there is no 'supermoon', but sometimes the moon moves a bit closer. The distance moves regularly between 363,000km and 405,000km. This has a minor effect on the tides. It doesn't cause earthquakes or tsunamis. Or any other kind of 'disaster'.

If your newspaper is reduced to splashing the weird ramblings of people on 'the Internet' as though it's a) news and b) science, using a massive natural disaster including widespread loss of life, then you are a sorry fucking excuse for a publication and deserve to be publicly pilloried. Some people on 'the Internet' think that homeopathy cures cancer, Jesus was the son of God, creationism's a fake, Elvis is alive and the Jews control the world economy. Don't encourage them.

This just in:
Astronomers today predicted that a mysterious dense body known only as the Daily Mail will cause chaos, confusion, and mass outbreaks of hysterical dumbness tomorrow, as the print edition is thought to appear in shops across the country. Although there's no scientific evidence, some people on the Internet posit that reading a newspaper which consistently supported Hitler and Mosley will give you cancer. 
Nostradamus was unavailable for comment but issued this statement: 'I told you this would happen. In the bit about goats building pyramids'. 

PS. Here's a little something for the ladeez.

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