Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Let's hear it for charlatans

Iain Dale is running a poll of most influential journalists for Total Politics magazine. I should be third on the list (alphabetically speaking) but don't get a mention.

One journalist who is on the list is Christopher Booker of the Sunday Telegraph. On Comment is Free, George Monbiot takes him apart for his claims about asbestos, calling him the patron saint of charlatans.
We lean ever more heavily on experts. But who can we now trust? Corporate PR has become so sophisticated that it's almost impossible for most people to tell the difference between genuine science and greenwash, or real grassroots campaigns and the astroturf lobbies concocted by consultants. PR companies set up institutes with impressive names which publish what purport to be scientific papers, sometimes in the font and format of genuine journals. They accuse real scientists of every charge that could be levelled at themselves: junk science, hidden funding, undisclosed interests and inflated credentials.

If journalists have any remaining function, it is to help people navigate this world: to try to understand the crushingly dull documents that most people don't have time for, to smoke out the fakes and show how to recognise the genuine article.

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