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Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Comparison of 'news stories' highlights importance of readers asking questions in what is called 'Information Literacy' and 'Critical Thinking'

I apologise for presenting a sketchy blog post here as I am a slower operative with a lot to do away from blogging, while I hope the below gives readers 'food for thought'.

Exhibit A

On Friday 6 September 2019, Yahoo! News saw fit to publish a 'news' story headed:

Voters fear Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10 more than a no-deal Brexit, poll shows

David Harding

Britons are more worried about Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10 than a no-deal Brexit, according to a new opinion poll.
Almost half of all voters would rather Britain left the European Union without an agreement rather than see the Labour leader in Downing Street, the poll from Politico claims.
The poll found that 43% of voters would favour the UK crashing out of the EU while just 35 per cent would prefer Corbyn as Prime Minister.
A further 22% did not want either, seeing them as equally bad options....
As surely as some 'think tanks' are very far from transparent about who funds them, it occurred to me on reading that story that the potential vested interests of the pollsters concerned were not declared, like who commissioned them? One of my contacts suggested the poll's author might be Dominic Cummings, Special Adviser for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Neither does that report declare how many people were polled in this instance, though the report states:
"Almost half of all voters would rather Britain left the European Union without an agreement rather than see the Labour leader in Downing Street, the poll from Politico claims."

Talking of numbers, New Statesman pointed out in July 2019 that just 0.13 per cent of the UK population voted for Boris Johnson to be its Prime Minister — "a group of people roughly the size of a decent football crowd."  That fact alone renders the legitimacy of his authority as Prime Minister highly suspect, even before his unilateral 'coup' to shut down or 'prorogue' Parliament.

Eleanor MacLean (1981) Between the Lines: How to Detect Bias and Distortion in the News and Everyday Life presents a 'Checklist for Careful Thinking' that I highly commend. The 'Checklist for Careful Thinking consists of six categories:
  1. What is a source?
  2. What is the basic message?
  3. What is presented in support of the point of view?
  4. How is the message conveyed?
  5. Who stands to gain?
  6. Conclusion
In this era of online pollsters and especially with such a tiny proportion of a national population, more and more use is made of 'opinion polls' in order to lull the electorate into a stupor, as can be deduced from this instance, and it would be pretty obvious that such a story would or could be engineered to further the image of Jeremy Corbyn as the worst of the options available.

None of the poll questions outlined in the report attempts to gauge how much or how little the sample population knows or might know regarding concerns they might have about the potential harm that a 'no-deal Brexit' could open the UK to. My suspicion has long been that with the likes of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove in charge, their 'end game' is destruction of the welfare state.
"Boris Johnson" "Michael Gove" "welfare state" brexit

One of my other sources replied, to the idea that Dominic Cummings might have been the poll's author: "Dominic Cummings once manipulated an issue with a poll that gave his side 60%. The poll consisted of 10 people!"

And as one demonstrator against Boris Johnson's coup spelled out recently, "More people applied to Love Island than voted for Boris Johnson" to be UK Prime Minister.
Placard: More people applied to Love Island than voted for Boris Johnson"Photo: Martin Francis of Wembley Matters blog

Exhibit B

By contrast, the previous day John Pring of Disability News Service reported:

Baroness Grey-Thompson speaking in the House of Lords
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said that it felt as though
the impact of a no-deal Brexit on disabled people had
"been forgotten and will be ignored"

Trio of disabled peers pledge to fight off no-deal Brexit ‘time bomb’

Three disabled peers have pledged to do all they can to avert the significant impact on disabled people of a no-deal Brexit, with one warning of a “time bomb” that is now likely to “detonate”.

They spoke out this week as MPs and peers returned from their summer recess, facing the threat of the UK being forced to leave the European Union (EU) without an agreement at the end of next month.

The disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson told Disability News Service (DNS) last night (Wednesday) from the House of Lords that a no-deal Brexit would be “disastrous” for disabled people.

She said: “I will do everything I can to avoid it.”

She said she was “completely against a no-deal Brexit” but was unclear about what action she would take.

She said: “The action I’m likely to take is more likely to be in the chamber rather than outside and I’m just trying to get through each vote and plan around that....
More at

As a now blessed by state pension as quasi-'Unconditional Basic Income' retired jobseeker, I, like many disabled people have learned to question and be suspicious of those peddling 'no deal Brexit' and other such forms of 'disaster capitalism' that would accelerate the corporate demolition of the welfare state and make the UK politically more like the United States in plutocracy terms.

Their objections to the prospect of 'no-deal Brexit' are based on disabled people's collective experience of social transformations based on bias and distortion.

Part of my sense of mission in promoting this blog is to help make Disability News Service and its revelations better known to my readership.

Further reading on 'Critical Thinking' and 'Information Literacy'

"Critical Thinking"

"Information Literacy"

A principal finding from my previous study of information literacy informs me that a good Table of Contents can help illumine the reader's mind without having read a book from cover to cover. The Table of Contents for Eleanor MacLean (1981) Between the Lines: How to Detect Bias and Distortion in the News and Everyday Life is an excellent case in point:

Between the Lines
How to Detect Bias and Propaganda in the News and Everyday Life

MacLean, Eleanor
Publisher:  Deveric, Halifax, Canada
Year Published:  1981  
Pages:  296pp   ISBN:  0-9690919-0-7
Library of Congress Number:  P91.M23   Dewey:  302.2'4
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX8412

An exploration of medthods of "dec-doing" our daily newspapers and radio/TV news. Examines our predominant sources of information (mass media) and indicates the existence of many alternative sources of informaiton.


Table of Contents
1. What gave you that idea?
Forming opinions
Thinking clearly
The mass media of communication
Further reading
2. Getting the message
Determining the overall message
Bias and propaganda techniques
De-coding some messages
News and current events
Mass culture
Impact of propaganda and advertising
Further reading
3. This message was brought to you by . . .
1. Where the news comes from
2. Ownership and control
3. How do present trends affect the media's message?
4. Where does government fit in?
5. The global village
6. Isn't there any good news
Further reading
4. Propaganda, bias and point of view
The first casualty
The Bloody Road to Zimbabwe
Textual analysis of The Bloody Road to Zimbabwe
The other side of the story
Further reading
5. "Underdevelopment": Case studies
Case Study #1: Brazil
Case Study #2: The Atlantic Provinces
Conclusions: Where is the "Third World"?
Further reading
6. Do not adjust . . .
Communication and modern world problems
1. The analysis
Postscript: the experience
2. Resources
Subscriptions/ newsletters
Information centres/ sources
Of interest to educators
For Chapter 1:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
For Chapter 3:
Atlantic Canada media ownership
Thomson newspaper chain
A missing section on the elite
For Chapter 4:
Last of the few
List of tables


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