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Archive for the ‘missing context’

The provision of context 118

Posted on January 16, 2018 by

We’ve commented quite a few times in recent months about the Scottish media’s habit of running statistical stories rendered meaningless by the absence of any context.

The reasons for this aren’t necessarily sinister – sometimes journalists are just lazy or the full stats are hard to establish because like-for-like figures aren’t published – but usually it’s just a way to get an SNP BAD story out of isolated numbers which, if the full picture was presented, would render that impossible.

The above story from STV News today contains no furious rentaquotes from Labour or the Tories (at least not yet), so we should place it in the former category. Nevertheless, we do feel it’s our duty in a general sense to provide readers with the information that the Scottish media can’t be bothered to, so let’s do that.

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Under test conditions 293

Posted on September 06, 2017 by

One of the handiest things for truth-seeking political commentators (admittedly a rare breed) is that the three component nations that make up Great Britain currently all have different parties in government, so it’s always possible to measure the rhetoric of the main parties against their actions in the bit they’re actually in charge of.

So when Scottish Labour, for example, try to grab the credit for the SNP ending the public sector pay freeze by claiming that they’re “following Labour’s lead”, it’s a simple matter to look to Wales – where Labour run the Assembly – and note that the pay freeze there is very much still in place, with the Labour executive, unlike the Scottish Government, refusing to find the money to end it from its own budget.

(The same is true for many other policies the Scottish Government has implemented to fight Tory austerity, like free university tuition and mitigating the bedroom tax.)

And the Tories are no less hypocritical.

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That context thing again 352

Posted on April 03, 2017 by

Unionists were barely able to hide their excitement last month at the thought of some dead pensioners. This was former Labour MSP Dr Richard Simpson, for example:

(Simpson later went on to embellish the claim by saying that it had in fact reversed.)

The story was serious enough to be the Sunday Times Scotland front page lead.

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The flexibility of figures 573

Posted on January 15, 2017 by

It’s a well-known fact, of course, that 87% of all statistics are made up. But as this site regularly observes, if you’re the Scottish opposition and media there’s no need to invent fake ones when you can twist the real ones to present an image completely at odds with the reality.

The Sunday Times today has some fine examples of the craft of massaging figures for the purposes of deception. It carries two separate scare stories on the NHS, both of them using figures which aren’t based on any sort of news, but on opposition spin on existing stats. One comes from the Tories, under a dramatic headline:


The banner is pulling a classic trick – the £685m figure is actually the total sum spent in a decade, not the single year that most people would assume (since there’s no good reason to measure spending in decades, so headlines usually don’t do it). But remarkably it’s just about the most honest thing in the paper’s health coverage today.

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Data without information 193

Posted on January 07, 2017 by

This week a Scottish journalist told us ruefully that over the festive holidays, all parties send the newspapers “Christmas boxes” comprising a load of ready-made and pre-chewed garbage stories, each embargoed to specific days, for them to run in the news desert between Boxing Day and January 3rd with no further effort required.

(This year’s crop had been particularly dismal, our source revealed.)


It seems, though, that the media plans to continue the practice all year.

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Cops and cobblers 244

Posted on December 26, 2016 by

While its pages are mostly filled with toadying drivel about the Royal Family, today’s Scottish Daily Mail does manage to squeeze in a bit of supposed politics news.


We say “supposed” because as alert readers may have already suspected, the story quickly disintegrates under inspection. The figure of 3000 police officers leaving the force since it became Police Scotland (buffed up with a hysterical editorial on page 14 talking about the “truly alarming scale of the mass exodus”) is presented without any context as to whether this is a higher number than one would normally expect.

And sure enough, a few paragraphs in we find out that the vast majority have quit after 20 to 30 years of service, which is entirely normal – the article notes that “most officers retire in their late forties or early fifties”.

The line that caught our eye, though, was this:

“Last night, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: ‘Officers seem to be leaving Police Scotland in their droves.'”

Last night? You mean on Christmas Day Ruth Davidson had nothing better to do with her life than offer vacuous quotes to justify meaningless non-stories in the Daily Mail? For the love of God, someone get the poor woman a Netflix subscription.

All news is bad news 339

Posted on December 14, 2016 by

Figures released yesterday indicated that the number of full-time teachers employed in Scotland had risen by 253 over the past year, despite budget cuts imposed by the UK government’s austerity programme. This obviously presented the Scottish media with a dilemma: how could such statistics be presented as an “SNP BAD” story?

Luckily, we’re dealing with experienced professionals here.


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The missing numbers round 261

Posted on December 13, 2016 by

We often say here on Wings that our job is to teach people to instantly recognise the sneaky tricks used by the media to try to create false impressions without saying things that are technically untrue. (Because despite the tiny size they’re allowed to print corrections at, they’re still rather embarrassing.)

A key technique is to look at a headline or story and immediately ask what you’re NOT being told. So here’s an easy example from today’s Scottish Daily Mail.


What’s been left out there, readers?

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Who let the dogs out? 203

Posted on October 22, 2016 by

The popular children’s author and litigious bully JK Rowling, whose personal wealth is measured in hundreds of millions of pounds, has been devoting her time to the tricky task of finding people being rude on Twitter again.


In an attempt to prove that the independence referendum (described by the Scottish Police Federation as “robust but overwhelmingly good-natured”) had been every bit as grotesque as the Brexit one which has seen an enormous rise in serious hate crimes in England and Wales – comprising thousands of incidents up to and including murder – Rowling had cherry-picked out a few unpleasant-sounding social-media comments and compiled them into a series of delightful collages.

(We’ll leave aside that calling someone “Yoontermensch” is a fair distance removed from smashing them in the face with a plank of wood in the street, say. Though we will, as is traditional, remind readers that every single recorded instance of physical violence during the indyref came from the No side that Rowling lavishly funded.)

One of the comments (visible in the top-right corner of Rowling’s composite image) came from the Twitter account of this site. And we thought it sounded a bit off, so we had a quick check to see if we’d really said something so mean.

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How things are done in the sewer 130

Posted on October 22, 2016 by

Many readers spotted a particularly repellent article in the Daily Express this week, penned by its clueless and poisonous hack Siobhan McFadyen.


McFadyen, who rather uncharacteristically failed to insert any violent language into a headline about the First Minister, instead leapt eagerly onto an artificial furore around the actions of Gregg Brain, the Australian father battling his family’s deportation from the Highlands by the Home Office, at last week’s SNP conference.

(Their case is so outrageous that even the Daily Mail and David Coburn have joined the fight to have the family be allowed to stay.)

We got an email from Gregg Brain about how the story had come into being, and (with his permission) we thought you might like to see the exchange which took place between him and Siobhan McFadyen, with the purposes of illustrating how the press distorts, perverts and selectively omits quotes in order to mislead.

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Until your ship comes in 188

Posted on August 03, 2016 by

There’s been a statistic released in Scotland, so obviously there’s a crisis.


Anarchy on the streets can only be moments away.

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The one hundred and ten 342

Posted on March 28, 2016 by

Alert readers will have noticed that the Conservatives and most of the right-wing press have recently embarked on a hyperbolic campaign against the Scottish Government’s “named person” child-protection legislation. The latest assault is in today’s Daily Mail:


The shriekingly furious lead article thunders in outrage that “nearly two thirds of Scots have condemned the SNP’s state guardian scheme as an ‘unacceptable intrusion’ into family life”, which sounds like a pretty damning verdict.

It’s not until you look a little deeper that it all falls to pieces.

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