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The lonely onlys

Posted on March 01, 2016 by

As we’ve explored many times on Wings, one of the many reasons you should never trust a newspaper’s headline is that even the ones that are technically true can be painting a highly (and deliberately) misleading picture.

For example, more than two years ago we pointed to a Scotsman story that blared “A THIRD OF SCOTS WOULD BACK EXIT FROM EU”, which is a rather curious spin to put on a poll which found a 13-point margin for staying in the EU.

A paper particularly fond of misusing stats in this way is the Daily Mail.


Anyone casually walking past a newsagent’s shelves this morning would have found themselves thinking that Scottish voters were firmly opposed to the idea of a main evening news bulletin made in Scotland. 36%, after all, is barely a third, which automatically suggests to the reader’s mind that almost two-thirds are opposed.

Yet turn to the detail and you find that if there was a referendum on the subject, the 36% would be the majority. Just 33% are actually opposed to the notion, with everyone else either unsure or not bothered either way. (We suspect turnout in the vote would be low.)

If the Mail’s spin had been applied to the 2014 independence referendum, you’d have thought Yes won, because only 47% of the electorate actually voted No.

Opinion polls don’t tell lies. But it’s the easiest thing in the world to make them appear to, by presenting the numbers very selectively. The especially insidious thing about doing it on your front page is that you can subliminally plant a false message in the brains of people who’d never dream of buying your newspaper.

When you see any poll percentage figure reported by the media, readers, always ask yourself who they’re NOT telling you about.

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    1. 01 03 16 11:43

      The lonely onlys | Speymouth

    45 to “The lonely onlys”

    1. Richardinho says:

      On the other hand, anyone who actually reads the newspaper and comes across the actual numbers will be left with a very poor impression of its journalist ethics if they’ve got any critical faculty at all.

    2. Macart says:

      Still, happily their efforts reveal far more about who they are and what they stand for.

      A title built on lies, misdirection and manipulation, in the grand tradition of mainstream titles across these islands, serving chain pullers whose position is built on lies, misdirection and manipulation.

      They are sneeky little beggars aren’t they? 🙂

    3. Doug Daniel says:

      “If the Mail’s spin had been applied to the 2014 independence referendum, you’d have thought Yes won, because only 47% of the electorate actually voted No.”

      I love using that one on folk who try to claim only 37% (or whatever the number is) voted Yes, by including non-voters in the No vote. They never understand the point though, which makes it even more satisfying.

    4. The Man in the Jar says:

      at 11:04am

      Mon now! It is Daily Mail readers we are talking about here.

    5. NiallD says:

      Even more worrying is UKIP getting 7 MSP’s on 6% of the list vote. I wonder if that is correct or the Daily Mail has another hidden agenda behind the headlines.( Tories can’t do it, let’s try another right wing party)

    6. Ruglonian says:

      Same as it ever was!

    7. X_Sticks says:


      “if they’ve got any critical faculty”

      If they had they wouldn’t be buying the Mail

    8. think again says:

      Good morning fellow simpletons.

      The Daily Mail as Hothersall might say earns a living from whipping up…

      Don`t confuse them with the facts their minds are made up.

      Congratulations to all who have helped to show what a real “fundraiser” looks like.

    9. Janet says:

      About Tories and UKIP: the unionist vote could very well centre on either of these parties. An effect that I’ve seen described as “ulsterification”.

    10. bobajock says:

      Hold your nose, it must be hard. I walk past them all and stick to The National. The rest are like looking at a student paper (not a decent uni one at that), and realising they are told to make up a story as a test of readership age (4).

      We have papers/BBC London (Scotland branch) all just utterly useless. Its embarrassing explaining this to mates in Europe who have regions with their own full papers/TV news/multi channels. Happier – we will be sometime I hope.

    11. David says:

      One of the reasons I paid into the latest crowd funder is that I recognise that nobody should have to read the Daily Mail with a critical eye in their free time. I am glad to have Stu reading the paper professionally and continually and consistently pointing out all the flaws. You are doing a good job Stu and I am grateful to have been spared from the pain and discomfort of this necessary task.

    12. Ian Brotherhood says:

      What is it with all these people (see WOS Twitter) having their pictures taken side by side with David Coburn aka The Womble From Hell?

    13. call me dave says:

      Excellent the sleight of hand in the papers explained. 🙂

      Today in the Hootsman: Sometimes it has to tell the story.

      Holyrood 2016: New polls show further increase in SNP support

      Prof Curtis doesn’t seem to have updated his graphs yet.

    14. Opinion polls do tell lies. All the time their whole purpose is to try to influence the gullable by trying to imply that the small number of people they.ask somehow represent the whole country which anyone with halve a brain knows is nonsense they are not accurate to any degree and should be banned

    15. Marie Clark says:

      Aye well, it is the SCOTTISH ( aye right) Daily Mail, can’t expect anything else from that lot.

      Re opinion polls, aye sometimes the lie, or those interpreting them do. But, one thing seems clear from the latest Holyrood poll,that we Scots are being ever so naughty again, and not listening to all the guff, sorry truth, that the MSM and the BBC,tank commander Ruthie, sad, sad wee dug Kez and daft wee Willie winkie keep telling us.

      It’s all just white noise now that passes me by. If the referendum taught us anything, it’s to look closely at anything that they tell us is true. I know that I now analyse everything,thanks to the Rev we all know how to do this now.

      Hopefully, we might gets some of the no voters to do the same. My no voting sister in law is now for yes, didn’t see that one coming but welcome none the less.

    16. AFewHomeTruths says:


      Today’s TNS poll has SNP 60% and 55% on list which fed through seat predictor gives SNP 80 seats, Lab 27, Tories 15, Greens 5, Lib Dems 2, UKIP ZERO.

      Seats graphic is here.

    17. AFewHomeTruths says:


      Today’s TNS poll has SNP 60% and 55% on list which fed through seat predictor gives SNP 80 seats, Lab 27, Tories 15, Greens 5, Lib Dems 2, UKIP ZERO.

      Seats graphic is here.

    18. Susan Millar says:

      What a great response to Wings crowdfunder so far with over £52,000 raised in under 24 hours.

      If any of you wonderful people have anything left after donating maybe you could see your way to helping my local MSP Bruce Crawford get re-elected. Bruce is chair of the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee at Holyrood and has been instrumental in scrutinising the new Fiscal Framework. We must get this guy back in.

      His crowdfunding page is at:

      He’s only looking for £3,000 to pay for campaign materials although if you could get to his overstretch target of £5,000 I know he would be absolutely delighted.

      Wings readers are the greatest and I know you will help if you can.

    19. Tony Little says:


      You are correct that many people who read the full article will have a poorer (maybe) perception of the journalists/paper, but that it NOT the objective. we know that actual MSM purchasing is massively down, BUT the 3″ headline still plants a subliminal message, often some distance from the truth.

      These headlines are NOT meant for their own readers, but to sustain the overall background noise that Scots are [fill in negative aspect here].

      It’s classic propaganda. Simple message repeated constantly.

    20. Davy says:

      Imagine newspapers telling lies and spinning crap whatever next, maybe than would explain why everytime their is an article or quote from Nicola Sturgeon about the EU referendum in the media.

      They then issue a quote from that apology of a gussethole Coburn, in a so-called rebuttle. Why are they allowing him to spout out crap without any questions being asked back.

      Is their any evidence that ukip will gain any seats in Holyrood ? why is that piece of footscrape being promoted so many times in the media ?

      PS, just incase anyone did not catch my level of respect for ukip, let me just note that its low, bottom of the biggest shitpile in the world type low.

    21. orri says:

      Definitely something suspect about that seat projection. Unless the LDs level of support is very regional then they should be in line for more seats than UKIP.

      The SNP are probably getting all the constituency seats so we can take as a rule of thumb that if they don’t get list seats there’s only 7 in each region to fight over. Greens have just over a third of the vote labour might and Conservatives are in between.
      That’s 6 seats already gone leaving the LDs and UKIP to fight over the last one with the LDs having an edge.

    22. chris kilby says:

      Lies, damned lies and Daily Mail stories.

    23. David Ritchie says:

      Well the Daily Mail has form on its headlines. In 1934 it had a headline ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’. Its editorial policy has obviously not changed over the years.

    24. Anagach says:

      Its the simplest form of spin to put your own words on the most selective and carefully chosen of the numbers.

      No actual outright lie required.

      But the headline stuff works, as does the phrasing of the question;

      “You must be disappointed with the turnout ?” on the largest ever demo against something the BBC is ‘neutral’

    25. geeo says:

      Off topic, but pete wishart ruled out of order for attempting to talk about estimates on an allocated estimates day !!

      Told by deputy speaker that although it is estimates day, he can only talk about the SPECIFIC estimates on the order paper…Foreign Office Spending.

      Yet again, the SNP highlight the ridiculous ways of the HoC.

    26. Fred says:

      I’m sure folks will welcome a Scottish Six as long as it’s not more of the same auld unambitious shite served up as news at present!

    27. Fred says:

      On quite another matter, spotted a tartan carpet shop in Polmadie the other day & popped in, beautiful stuff but all of it made in England. Something far wrong when the east end of Glagow, & elsewhere, which used to turn out carpet by the square mile now makes zilch & the world market for tartan Axminster is catered for elsewhere.

      The lassie in the shop did say that it’s their ambition to set up manufacturing again in Scotland. Hope she succeeds!

    28. Breeks says:

      It all rather depends on what the Scottish Six actually was…

      If it was an apolitical Scottish news service with a healthy degree of autonomy then I would support it. Sadly however, that’s just not going to happen.

      If it was just an extension of the existing Misreporting Scotland / Radio Shortbread carry on which currently assaults the senses, then I wouldn’t be watching it anyway so couldn’t care less.

      If it purported to be an independent Scottish news service, but was hailed as such by the BBC and Unionist propaganda machine, then I would quite happily set light to it. I’m not stupid. The whole demand for a Scottish news service stems from the BBC’s feckless and chronic inability to provide one.

      None of this matters of course. I couldn’t care less about the Scottish Six. It is small potatoes compared to what I really do want. I want a fully independent Scottish news service which has no connections to, nor origins from, the present rogues gallery of alleged journalists who sold us down the river in 2014.

      Would it be a halfway house perhaps? A semi autonomous service we would adopt as our own and groom as the bedrock of a possible State broadcaster for an Independent Scotland? Hmmm. Veeeery dodgy that one… Non starter if it has been tainted by the BBC hallmark. It is already spoiled goods.

      It’s strange, but even 3 or 4 years ago I’d have leapt on the bandwagon to support the Scottish 6. But seeing the BBC unfrocked for what it is, whether the BBC’s Scottish Six happens or not is a matter of no real consequence.

      Scottish broadcast news is no longer an issue about what I want, but what I want rid off, and that’s the BBC. Get rid of the BBC, and then let’s talk about Scotland’s news broadcasting.

    29. Richardinho says:

      Good to see the Tories falling back again in the polls after it looked like they were gaining a bit of momentum. Think a lot of folk were taken in by the “isn’t Ruth nice” propaganda but the slimey behaviour by the Tories in the last few weeks has reminded them of the reality.

      I don’t agree with folk down here in England (where I live) voting Conservatives but folk in Scotland who vote Tory are just not right in the head in my opinion. How can you support a party who are so obviously out to screw Scotland over?

    30. Glamaig says:

      o/t BBC1 news at 1 explained how dangerous it is for homeless people to sleep in recycling bins. Visit Bristol and interview a random homeless person. Oh look a tartan blanket. He’s SCOTTISH. Explains speaking clearly enough how dangerous it is and they give him SUBTITLES FFS! How many homeless people are there in Bristol I wonder and how many are Scottish? Of all the homeless people in England they choose a Scot. Very odd, and he didnt need subtitles.

    31. Jack Murphy says:

      Richardinho said at 3:46 pm:-
      “……..Think a lot of folk were taken in by the “isn’t Ruth nice” propaganda but the slimey behaviour by the Tories in the last few weeks has reminded them of the reality…….”

      Exactly,we must keep reminding people she and the rest of the Tories in Scotland are in the same Party as Cameron and Osborne.

    32. Petra says:

      @ Glamaig says at 3:56 pm …. ”BBC1 news at 1 explained how dangerous it is for homeless people to sleep in recycling bins. Visit Bristol and interview a random homeless person. Oh look a tartan blanket. He’s SCOTTISH. Explains speaking clearly enough how dangerous it is and they give him SUBTITLES FFS! How many homeless people are there in Bristol I wonder and how many are Scottish? Of all the homeless people in England they choose a Scot. Very odd, and he didnt need subtitles.”

      Nothing new with that one Glamaig. For years every drunk, down and out and crook on one TV programme after another was a Scot. Reminiscent of Goebbles and the Jews.

      Strange however that the BBC in England zoom into and report on a homeless Scot whilst they conveniently forget to mention that Scotland is absolutely inundated with homeless people from England now.

    33. robertknight says:

      Lies, Damned Lies and the Scottish Daily Mail!

    34. Glamaig says:


      Interestingly, in the US, its upper class Brit types who are used to portray villains

    35. geeo says:

      Friend of the SNP Scott Arthur is on the SNP Facebook post regarding the NHS trying to be clever, but failing rather badly….????

      His last interaction…..

      “So, you were just about to answer my question that you dodged the first time then….?

      “If the SNP had not secured the no detriment agreement in the fiscal framework talks recently, the Scottish budget would have been as much as £7 billion WORSE OFF over the next 10 years.

      This massive cut would have destroyed Scottish services, would labour then have followed the current model of mitigating tory cuts and increased SRIT to fund this £7billion of cuts to our Budget ?

      If the answer is Yes, how much would our tax go up in Scotland ?

      If the answer is No, where would labour have found the £7billion over the 10 year period” ?

      As always, take your time.
      Scott Arthur.

      “Gordon Blackhall

      Let’s look at the facts.

      1. Labour actually urged the SNP to seek a no detriment solution. It was part of Labour’s vow that’s now been delivered in full.

      2. Do you have any analysis that shows how worse off Scotland would be with the earlier offers? No you don’t as the SNP kept the offers secret from the people of Scotland.

      3. £7b over 10 years is a lot of money. Independence would lead to bigger cuts in one year!

    36. geeo says:

      Oops…premature sending…


      @Scott Arthur.

      1. Implying that labour are in any way responsible for ensuring Scotland were not shafted is ludicrous.

      “Labour’s vow” ??

      That is an interesting statement.
      It is complete rubbish and a complete lie of course.

      The fiscal framework is NOT the desperate unionist ‘vow’, signed by the main party leaders btw (NOT Labour) it is the legal method of implementation of the new ‘powers’, limited as they are.

      If the ‘vow’ has been delivered then why is the Scotland Bill STILL in the HoL as opposed to being on the statutes ?

      It is no more ‘delivered’ than next weeks post.
      That makes you a LIAR and a FANTASIST.

      2. Yes, i do.

      The fiscal framework negotiations from the start were supposed to adhere to the Smith Commission’s NO DETRIMENT premise.

      By offering “compensation” in the manner they did, THAT was a clear indication of DETRIMENT to Scotland over a 10 year period.

      The AMOUNT of detriment was originally viewed as £7 billion over 10 years (no media outlet questioned these figures btw), then as the compensation went up, the DETRIMENT came down, until the Finance Secretary simply threatened to throw it out completely and here we are.

      3. Are you really still trying to flog that particular dead horse ?

      To know that figure would be to have knowledge of final negotiations of the disentanglement of the union.

      I am almost impressed that you seem to know that WHENEVER Scotland becomes independent, she shall need at least £7billion of cuts !!!

      What do you base that on exactly, as it requires knowledge of stuff that is yet to happen to build up to a date you have no idea of, after a negotiation which you have absolutely no knowledge of how it will be dealt with ?

      Again….take your time…..

    37. yesindyref2 says:

      TNS poll I come out with from my uniform swing by constituency and region:

      SNP 80, Lab 27, Con 15, Lib 1, Green 5, and Other 1 but that’s Margo’s list seat, could go Green.

      RISE don’t feature in the polls. Scotlandvotes has Lib 2, but I have the SNP getting Orkney constituency – or an Independent. Which would leave Tavish Scott the only LibDem MSP – and presumably leader!

    38. Gary45% says:

      Don’t believe the hype surrounding a Scottish Six.
      It will be run by the same biased arseholes who run the EBC.
      A more credible title would be Shortbread and Tartan Daily Pish For The Gullible.
      Can anyone honestly say the current crop of EBC news readers/journalists!?! would become impartial over night????
      Stop paying the TV licence fee you know it makes sense.
      SNPx2 + Euro and Indy AYE.

    39. Robert Peffers says:

      @Rev Stu

      “Who said, “Anyone casually walking past a newsagent’s shelves this morning.”

      That’ll be me then, I’ve walked casually past more Newsagent’s Stalls than I’ve even noticed for at least going on 50 years now. You just can’t trust the dead tree press these days.

      Since I swore off smoking and eating that poisonous sugar stuff I’ve had little use for newsagents shops, other than perhaps to shelter from a sudden downpour. Thing is I can’t say I even miss the tobacco, sugar or newsprint.

      Onywey! Thank you for Wings – I can generally trust what I read there and spot the trolls, and even genuine unionists, before they have typed their first paragraph.

    40. Robert Peffers says:

      @bobajock says: 1 March, 2016 at 11:46 am:

      “Hold your nose, it must be hard. I walk past them all and stick to The National. The rest are like looking at a student paper (not a decent uni one at that), and realising they are told to make up a story as a test of readership age (4).”

      That reminds me of when I used to write short stories for my web site. I used a few writer’s aids, including a program to corrected spelling, grammar and style.

      You could set it up to correct your writing to several standards, for example casual letter, formal letter or business letter. It also allowed settings for all levels of reading ability.

      The bottom level in the reading standards was, of course Primary One Schoolroom. However, the bottom level of the adult readers ability was rated as the Daily Mirror, which in those days was the direct equivalent of the Daily Record.

      I kid you not.

    41. Robert Peffers says:

      @Blair Paterson says: 1 March, 2016 at 12:44 pm:

      ” … they are not accurate to any degree and should be banned”.

      They are, Blair, no different from the News-sheets nor the Radio & TV newscasts. The reader, listener and viewer must really use a bit of logical discernment about what they read, hear and view.

      Let me explain a very typical example of the distortion they all have applied to a story we have all read, heard and viewed in the recent past.

      The story designed to blacken the Scottish Police over the couple who died when their car ran off the road and it was days before the police found the dead man and the alive young woman, who later was to die.

      So just what would an analytical reader make of that story to garner the truth? That is as opposed to the sheer unmitigated, and very deliberate, spin applied by the Scottish press, broadcasters, and without doubt, the unionist political parties and their followers.

      The actual plain facts were these – a couple in a passing car spotted a car among the trees by a rather busy, and dangerous to stop at junction. They reported exactly what they saw, an abandoned, probably crashed, car among the trees.

      They obviously didn’t think it was occupied for they did not dial the emergency 999 number but instead used the non-urgent police line.

      Thus Police Scotland got an non-urgent report about an abandoned car and they have more than enough emergency 999 calls to deal with on any day to day basis.

      Facts :- the car must have been hard to spot as there was not a lot of reports phoned in: There was no sign of injured people or the callers would have made a 999 call.

      I wouldn’t care to guess just how many other abandoned cars were reported scattered around Scotland about that same time.

      So just what were the press and broadcasters attempting to do? Why were the unionist parties falling over themselves to make it seem as if it had been reported as an urgent matter of a car accident with injured people on board?

      Now remember that certain newspapers, and broadcasters actually reported, in print and on air, that it was an actual 999 call the police had ignored.

      It was, without doubt, a very tragic and regrettable incident but hardly a deliberate and callous neglect of duty on the part of Police Scotland.

      Neither was it a case to shrug off as if nothing should be done to improve matters. Quite frankly I said, when they introduced the non-emergency line scheme, that it was a bad idea and was asking for trouble. That trouble being that Joe & Josephine Public are not trained to distinguish what is, or what isn’t, an emergency.

      I, having been a union rep and trained to assess possible dangerous situations on safety walk-rounds, had a better idea than most that a non-urgent phone line was a dangerous idea but any reader, listener or viewer can think such things through if they put their mind to it.

      To be frank I would suggest reporters and journalists are actually trained to look for matters to distort to make the news or blow out of all proportion to make their points. In other words they no longer stick to reporting the news – they try to make the news.

    42. Sinky says:

      geeo says:@ 6.03 pm

      Someone else has the measure of Dr Scott in Edinburgh Evening News

    43. Jim Lewis says:

      “if they’ve got any critical faculty at all.”

      That made me smile. They’re Daily Mail readers. They can’t have any critical faculties. It’s the rule.

    44. Gullane No 4 says:

      Did wings not state recently that only 1.6% of Scots read the Daily Mail………nothing to see here.

    45. Robert J. Sutherland says:

      I can well understand the reservations expressed by some about the value of having a BBC “Scottish Six”, but I believe they are unfounded. Firstly, whatever the inclinations of an initial news team might be, it will from the start offer us news that hasn’t first been through a heavy London metropolitan-centric filter. It also opens up a significant opportunity for improvement. The necessity of setting a wide and distinctive news agenda should act over time to erase the “always looking over the shoulder to London” syndrome that appears to be the main bugbear of BBC Scotland news at present.

      Lastly, the predictable opposition to a “Scottish Six” of the yooney media and failed lordly expats such as Forsyth and Lang should alone be a fairly reliable indication of the potential merits, should it not?

      Let’s accentuate the positive, make it happen, and judge the results accordingly. What’s to lose…?

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