British journalism magazine the Press Gazette publishes article based on my blog post re: Magazine publisher’s claim the Daily Telegraph falsely reported about his criminal past in order to undermine state-approved press regulator
The Press Gazette’s January 27, 2016 article (source)
Earlier this week, I blogged about Steve McNought, co-director of Bristol-based magazine publisher Arkbound, who suggested he was taking legal action against the Daily Telegraph for allegedly falsely reporting about his criminal past.
Yesterday, long-running London-based journalism/media trade magazine the Press Gazette published an article based on my blog post.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), which regulates the majority of UK news media publishers, has so far refused to apply for recognition under the Charter.
McNought, whose firm publishes Boundless magazine, told the Shooting The Messenger blog: “The Telegraph’s coverage is a clear attempt to undermine Impress, using me as a tool to do so, in the most nasty and underhand way.”
He also claimed there were a number of factual inaccuracies in the story, but would not go into detail about what these were.
McNought was quoted in the Telegraph story, written by chief reporter Robert Mendick, as claiming the piece had infringed his privacy.
Prominent co-signer of failed CSPI retraction demand Dr. David L. Katz rails against “censorship of science” – but author/journalist Nina Teicholz says “specious retraction efforts are also a form of censorship”
Today, Dr. Katz expanded on that issue, in addition to broader issues of censorship and the scientific method, via his bi-weekly column for The Huffington Post:
Good science is an enemy to no one, since it advances understanding and knowledge…and thus choice. Good science empowers us with options. Censorship, of course, keeps us uninformed – or worse, misinformed. Ignorance is the ultimate form of repression.
Scientists are the first to acknowledge that the sounds of science are not always, immediately, perfectly in tune. It can take any number of revisions to get the lyrics and melody of truth just right. But this very process leads us robustly and reliably toward truth and understanding.
…When science is subordinated to silence, and the press to propaganda – only tyrants control the flow of information.
As readers of this blog will know, Dr. Katz’s recent concerns about “censorship of science” are quite the turnaround.
In 2015, Dr. Katz was one of 180+ co-signers to a flagrantly censorious retraction demand organised by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) – a powerful Washington, DC nutrition lobby group.
Via the Huffington Post, Dr. Katz trashed the BMJ for its “calamitous” decision, as well as the two independent researchers, and finally Teicholz herself – referring to her in passing as “a journalist with no known relevant expertise and a book to sell into the bargain.”
It’s not the only time Dr. Katz has attacked Teicholz in the media.
As reported on The Sidebar – my Atlanta, GA blogging buddy Peter M. Heimlich’s crack investigative journalism blog – Dr. Katz has been “clawing” at Teicholz for years.
Shortly before the release of Teicholz’s best-selling book on the history of nutrition science, The Big Fat Surprise (2014),he attacked her motives and speculated about her “rolling her eyes at this column on the way to cash her royalty checks.”
When her critique of the dietary guidelines came out in 2015, he argued that the BMJ should not have published her article because “she is not a nutrition expert, and not a scientist.”
He was later quoted in journalist Ian Leslie’s acclaimed April 2016 Guardian article about the nutrition wars, “The Sugar Conspiracy,” describing Teicholz as “shockingly unprofessional” and “an animal unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”
Celebrity nutrition expert Dr. David Katz (source)
Yesterday, I e-mailed Teicholz for comment about Dr. Katz’s sudden change of heart re: his “censorship of science” tweet.
In her response, Teicholz said that “specious retraction efforts are also a form of censorship, as are intimidating columns trying to discredit the work of people whose views are different from your own.”
Dr. Katz’s dramatic December 6, 2016 article (source)
Later that month, he wrote an article via LinkedIn, in which he connected the retractions – the result of an unrelated enquiry by Peter M. Heimlich – to Teicholz’s BMJ article. But as Petertold the Yale Daily News, he was unaware of the dietary guidelines dispute when he broke the story on his blog.
Dr. Katz’s review has since become infamous on the Internet for its lavish prose and self-reverential comparisons to legendary writers like Milton, Yeats, Dickens and Plato.
On that note, here’s an especially moving paragraph from that review:
I found the writing — prose that nonetheless managed to hint at epic poetry — as enthralling as the story was riveting. In reVision, Colleen McCullough meets John Milton. Yeats meets Yourcenar. In the blend of rollicking adventure with utopian aspiration, J.K. Rowling meets Gene Roddenberry. Where characters are vividly rendered and complex ideas distilled to stunningly simple clarities, Dickens meets Dawkins. As a clash of other worlds illuminates the better ways our world might be, Plato’s Republic meets Lord of the Rings. Where lyrically beautiful writing and deep currents of humanism traverse expanses of law and folklore, science and faith, passion and politics — the Bible, Bill of Rights and Bhagavad Gita commingle.
Skillinger’s November 2016 petition to Parliament (source)
According to petition.parliament.uk, Parliament’s Petitions Committee will only consider holding a debate if a petition reaches 100,000 signatures, a number quickly surpassed by Skillinger’s petition in late November.
However, the Committee decided not to debate because the bill was “debated on many occasions in Parliament before it became law.”
The Petitions Committee’s response to the petition
Via my December 21, 2016 public records request to the House of Commons, here’s how members of the public¹ who signed the petition responded to the Committee’s decision:
The website states “if a petition gets 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in parliament”. Why then are we being told that the Petitions Committee is overruling this in the case of the Investigatory Powers Act petition?
Yes it has been discussed before but the public is still not happy with the outcome and with over 150,000 signatures, it seems the discussions that have taken place previously have not fully captured the views and expected outcomes of a significant number of people.
Where on your website are the rules about refusing to consider petitions with over 100,000 signatures for discussion in Parliament?² This should be made very clear below your statement about petitions receiving 100,000 signatures being considered for debate on your home page.
And secondly, why are the public’s views on this matter not being shared with Parliament? Something of this magnitude with so much potential for internal and external misuse should be very carefully considered and reviewed for as long as it takes to get it right. And the people whose data is expected to be used should be listened to throughout the whole process.
People should consent to their data being used in this way, this is basic ethical governance. Why is it that we have rigid ethics committees for all other professions but not for politics which impacts not just on a sample of people but on the entire population?
Harold Spritzer It was my understanding that the government *had* to discuss any petition with over 100,000 responses. Therefore, what is the purpose of the Petitions Committee, when popular petitions, that the government would rather brush under the carpet, are so easily ignored? What is the purpose of democracy when it can be this easily ignored? I ask you to reconsider this decision, and will be bringing this up directly with my MP.
[The same person responding to the Committee’s response that its decision was based on the fact that “the issues had recently been debated.”]
The IPA may have been “recently” debated, however, its worth nothing;
• A previous version of this bill, the “Draft Communications Data Bill,” was previously thrown out. The implication of this bill is very much – if not exactly the same.
• As usual with most technology focused laws and legislation, those that voted on the bill know and understand very little about the law, and have in fact – just chosen to exclude themselves from the law!
Just because a bill has been discussed “recently” does not make grounds to ignore public viewpoint. This law and decision just goes to prove that separate and divide between Parliament and the public is ever growing, treating themselves as “above the law” by excluding themselves from the law, and is simply an attempt to legalise existing illegal behaviour by the government.
So you have decided not to debate the new Snooper’s Charter law. So really the process is a waste of time if you’ve already “debated” a topic, whether we sign the petition afterwards or not? Makes the whole process a farce and you should have this clearly stated at the top of each petition. Maybe something along the lines of “Please do not waste our time with this petition if we have already debated the issue, thanks”.
When matters like this are concerned, the number of times a certain matter is debated is irrelevant. What is important is that over 100,000 people are still not happy about the circumstances to whatever matter is being petitioned. Therefore there is still substantial concern which is not being addressed.
My personal opinion is that if you are adamant that you will not discuss matters that have already been discussed, and therefore it is irrelevant whether people are happy about it or not, that you shouldn’t waste our time with websites that kid that we have a voice and opinion, because “if we already debated it, then we won’t debate it again”. It sickens me.
You may as well shut this website down, as all it really is in practice is a forum for you to track how many people don’t like something as opposed to being a platform to change anything that’s important.
Responses have been lightly edited for continuity purposes.
Today, I asked him to comment on the Telegraph’s article. Here is his response.
“The Telegraph’s coverage is a clear attempt to undermine Impress, using me as a tool to do so, in the most nasty and underhand way. Aside from the factual inaccuracies, the article completely disregards my recent work – which includes getting personal commendations from Prince Charles, winning a series of awards, and being part of several respectable initiatives. The article implies that anyone with a criminal background cannot be a journalist, yet throughout history some of the greatest journalists have come from disadvantaged backgrounds that sometimes involved criminal conduct during their youth. Given that the Telegraph itself is run by people with not exactly ‘whiter than white’ backgrounds (any simple investigation will reveal the full details), and that it has been subject to numerous libel proceedings, with a proven political bias, their stance is deeply hypocritical. It is an ethos that implies no-one deserves second chances, and should never be allowed to move forward, no matter what positive steps they make.
“I have been informed that several people and organisations have written to The Telegraph in criticism of this article, though I doubt any remedial or corrective action will be taken. The libelous aspects of this article are currently subject to legal challenge.”
See also: “The Case for Regulation,” my October 31, 2016 item re: Members of official UK press regulator IMPRESS answer criticism that state-backed regulation could undermine a “vibrant local press.”
WikiLeaks Task Force demands Jezebel writer delete “rapist shitbag” Assange tweet or “face the consequences”
The WikiLeaks Task Force, set up to “correct misinformation” about anti-secrecy media organisation WikiLeaks, claimed Jezebel writer C.A. Pinkham was “committing libel with actual malice” after he tweeted a critical response to the task force’s own tweet criticising US President Barack Obama.
WikiLeaks founder, Australian journalist Julian Assange, was granted political asylum by Ecuador’s London embassy in mid-2012 after facing sexual assault allegations in Sweden. He says the sex was consensual and believes if he leaves the embassy he risks being extradited to the US to face prosecution for WikiLeaks’ 2010 release of classified government documents.
Guardian Readers’ Editor Paul Chadwick denies my request for more info about his paper’s vetting procedures for anonymous contributors
Last month, I blogged about a purported hoax on British daily newspaper the Guardian by serial media prankster Godfrey Elfwick.
In November, the paper had publishedan anonymous opinion piece about how its left-wing author was nearly turned into a racist after being exposed to right-wing views online.
Shortly after the article was published, Elfwick – who had previously duped the BBC World Service into allowing him to denounce Star Wars as “racist and homophobic” during a live radio broadcast – claimed authorship of the article.
Perhaps owing to his success at hoodwinking the BBC, many on Twitter – including award-winning US writer and leading New Atheist Sam Harris, whose views on Islam are cited in the article as having helped lead the author to nearly becoming a racist – seemed to accept Elfwick’s claim of authorship at face value.
This led to a high-profile Twitter spat between Harris and eminent US journalist Glenn Greenwald, who accused Harris of engaging in “hatermongering against Muslims.”
Harris later used Elfwick’s unsubstantiated claims to demand an apology from Greenwald.
When I asked Guardian Readers’ Editor Paul Chadwick about Elfwick’s claims, he insisted his paper was “confident about the authorship of the article,” and that he saw “no point encouraging trolls by paying them attention.”
In a follow-up e-mail, I asked Chadwick about his paper’s vetting procedures for anonymous contributors, stating my concern that “without being able to provide demonstrable evidence that an article is genuine, you open the doors to false claims of authorship.”
Here is his January 3, 2017 response:
From: Readers’ editor (Guardian) <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: **** <****@aol.com> Subject: Re: Question about Anonymous Guardian article re: possible hoax Date: Tue, 3 Jan 2017 19:20
Dear Dean Jones,
Yes, there are processes for vetting contributors, but I am sure you will understand that if they are to maintain their effectiveness it is counterproductive to detail them.
Guardian Readers’ editor’s office
Guardian News & Media
The December 12, 2016 letter, via the Coolness of Hind blog (source)
As seen above, the letter claims the parent had “expressed views that do not match the vision and values of the school,” and that unless he changed his “tone” when speaking to members of staff, it would “have no other alternative but to refer the matter to the authorities.”
From the logo on the letterhead, it appears that the letter is likely from Bevington Primary School, a multi-cultural school located in Ladbroke Grove, London.
I have e-mailed the school to confirm whether or not it sent the letter; if so, whether it has reported the parent to authorities; and to ask about the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, under which parents have the right to withdraw their children from religious education lessons as well as acts of collective worship at all schools.
Screenshot from website of Bevington Primary School (source)
Update, 12/01/17: Bevington Primary School today responded to my query, saying it is “unable to comment on individual cases” and that the matter “is confidential.”
See also: “The Tyranny of Values,” my October 23 item re: Downing Street’s unattributed use of data from “right-wing think tank” the Henry Jackson Society to “name and shame” universities that host “extremist” speakers.
“Not just a tide, a tsunami” – Leading health and nutrition journalist Marika Sboros answers my questions about the low-carb high-fat (LCHF) diet and explains why the scientific consensus is starting to turn on diet and nutrition
Marika Sboros is one of South Africa’s leading health journalists, with over 30 years experience in the newspaper industry. She has written for several major South African publications, including the Rand Daily Mail and Business Day (owned by Times Media Group), where she currently writes a regular fitness column and commissioned features.
Since launching last year, FoodMed.net has become the go-to source for all things nutrition-related, with particular emphasis on the Kafka-esque “trial” of LCHF pioneer and University of Cape Town (UCT) emeritus professor Dr. Tim Noakes.
In 2014, the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) charged Noakes with unprofessional conduct for giving “unconventional advice to a breastfeeding mother on a social network [Twitter].” That was for a single tweet in February 2014, in which he said good first foods for infant weaning are LCHF.
Last month, I contacted Marika to ask her about the LCHF diet, and about recent efforts by health authorities from around the world to shut down doctors, nutrition scientists, and even journalists whose work challenges the conventional wisdom on nutrition.
She generously agreed to answer my questions.
Q. How did you come to write about the LCHF diet?
A. Nearly three years ago, I started noticing a spate of nasty media reports aimed at South African scientist Prof. Tim Noakes. The reports created the impression that he had lost the scientific plot, that he was doing something terrible, advising beyond his scope of medical practice, expertise etc. Worst of all, that he was telling people to eat foods that would end up killing them on a grand scale.
That piqued my interest as a journalist. I had interviewed him many times in my career – mostly to do with high-carb eating, the benefits of carbo-loading for athletes, optimum nutrition for long-distance runners, that sort of thing. I had always found him to be very rational, a man of huge integrity and intellect. So, I wondered what could be behind this apparent change.
I contacted him to ask for a Skype interview. He agreed immediately, and we ended up speaking for ages.
One question I asked: “I see you only eat apples these days. Why?”
He answered: “I don’t eat apples. I only eat berries.”
“So why did you tell this journalist you only eat apples?” I asked. He told me he had never spoken to the journalist. I was gobsmacked. The journalist, who I knew well, had quoted him verbatim in a lengthy interview in a well-known magazine.
I wondered what on earth would motivate a good journalist to do something like that? I started digging deeper into media coverage and found it littered with similar instances of journalists quoting him directly without ever speaking to him – and without checking their facts.
I was skeptical about what Prof. Noakes was saying about the research that prompted his dramatic scientific U-turn – what I call his “Damascene” moment. However, because I had respect for him as a scientist and an ordinary human being, I started reading up on the literature, just as he had done.
Slowly but surely, the same awful realisation began to creep up on me: the “experts” had got it all very wrong for decades. We had all been fed a big fat lie. The diet-heart hypothesis was unproven dogma – and still is. It’s the basis on which the “experts” told us to avoid healthy animal fats. Far from avoiding fad diets, I had been on the biggest and most dangerous fad diet of them all most of my adult life because I listened to experts I trusted. I was horrified at the implications, both for my family’s health and people across the globe.
Thus began my journey, my very own Damascene moment, in February 2014.
A year later, I attended the first Low Carb Summit Prof. Tim Noakes and Karen Thomson organised in Feb 2015. Karen is a dynamo all on her own. She is author of a brilliant book, Sugar Free: 8 Weeks to Freedom from Sugar and Carb Addiction. I recommend everyone to read it.
She was so incensed at unprovoked, irrational attacks on Prof. Noakes, who she knew well, she mustered global scientific forces to support him.
The summit was an eye opener, a seminal event for me on my scientific journey. I met many of the world’s finest LCHF minds. Among them: Prof. Steve Phinney, Dr. Eric Westman, Dr. Jay Wortman, Dr. Jason Fung, Dr. Michael Eades, Dr. Aseem Malhotra, Dr. Gary Fettke, and British obesity researcher Dr. Zoe Harcombe. It was a revelation.
What was also a revelation was how nice and decent and perfectly rational these experts were – and are. They were approachable. They also didn’t speak with one “voice.” Some don’t even call their theories LCHF. However, they all say that when people eat real food, that is unprocessed food, as close to its natural state as possible, and avoid grains like the proverbial plague, they naturally tend to eat LCHF.
I began to feel even more confident that I was on to something really big in the world of nutrition science.
I attended the first HPCSA hearing against Prof. Noakes in June 2015. I started off skeptical of his view that there was a concerted campaign to discredit him. I came away convinced of it – and it had nothing to do with him trying to convince me.
I watched in horrified fascination as the HPCSA got to work – as they tried to load the panel with dietitians against him. It made me suspicious. All my interactions with the dietitian who started it all, Claire Julsing-Strydom, just confirmed all my suspicions about hidden agendas. As soon as I started asking questions Strydom didn’t like – about her links with Big Food and the Association for Dietetics in SA (ADSA) of which she was president at the time – she went silent. Until then, I had had a good relationship with her professionally.
Ditto for the HPCSA. They simply wouldn’t talk to me about why they were going after Prof. Noakes as if he were a medical devil incarnate.
Prof. Noakes at the “Banting for Babies” trial early last year (source)
Again, that piqued my interest as a journalist. If there were nothing to hide, why were they keeping everything such a secret?
From there, the rest, as they say, is history. The more I dug, the more orthodox doctors I spoke to, the more their criticisms – more like venomous personal attacks on a distinguished colleague – just didn’t make sense scientifically, ethically or professionally. It all seemed like a vicious over-reaction.
Would you say your experience with LCHF reflects the general experience of others who have come to the diet?
I can’t really answer for the experience of others. I know there is great variety. From my own experience, I can say that I only started on the lifestyle about nine months after I started writing about it. Twitter trolls kept accusing me of being a “closet Banter,” a “cheerleader” for Prof. Noakes, etc. They said that made me biased, unethical, etc., ad nauseum. So I thought I might as well be hanged for the lamb (a great LCHF food) as for the tougher sheep.
I decided to give LCHF eating a try. I had no preconceptions, as I had tried every other diet under the sun in more than 30 years writing on health. Not for weight loss, as I’ve never had a weight problem, but just for health. I was also mostly vegetarian at the time and didn’t much relish the prospect of eating meat.
I went cold turkey (another good Banting meat). I cut out all bread, pasta, pizza, chocolate, sugar, all personal favourites. I was a BIG chocoholic. My experience was astoundingly positive. After a week to 10 days I started feeling different, better in many subtle ways. Especially mood swings and that predictable “afternoon slump” that would have me reaching for a high-carb snack as if my life depended on it. The only variable that had changed was to my diet.
I kept it quiet at first because I knew if I started bleating about my personal experience, it would energise the trolls. Now I don’t care what they say and no longer bother to give them oxygen. If anyone accuses me of bias in Prof. Noakes’ favour, or any other LCHF expert, I say: “sure I’m biased – in favour of good science.” And if anyone can show me the science to prove they’re wrong, I’ll publish it.
Why the recent clampdown on journalists (Nina Teicholz, US) and doctors (Dr. Gary Fettke, Australia) who question the conventional wisdom on nutrition?
On a macro level, I see it as powerful, global vested interests at work, drug, food and soft drink industries who have a lot to lose if the low-fat, high-carb paradigm is no longer mainstream. On a micro level, it is individual doctors, dietitians and academics who are in bed with those industries and who have bad cases of cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias.
As Upton Sinclair said: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Prof. Rory Collins in the UK and his irrational support for statins is but one of the most egregious examples.
One thing all these people lack is humility – and the courage it takes to say: “I got it wrong. I’m sorry.”
Is the tide turning on the old ways of thinking about nutrition, and do you see the science vindicating Prof. Noakes and Dr. Fettke, as with Nina Teicholz last month?
And most recently, another blockbuster book by US science writer Gary Taubes, The Case Against Sugar. It continues the demolition job science has done on the science – or lack thereof – on which official dietary guidelines have been based for decades.
Not just a tide, a tsunami.
Any recommendations from the LCHF cookbook you think might possibly sway a long-time vegetarian like myself?
I’ve never heard any LCHF “guru” or pioneer I’ve spoken to say that LCHF is for everyone. They all say that there is no one-size-fits-all diet. LCHF is brilliant for those who are obese, diabetic, have heart disease, even cancer. But it’s very much trial and error.
Prof. Noakes once told me he knows of a vegan extreme athlete who is LCHF, and eats only avocado and coconut oil! He says he wouldn’t advise that anyone else do that, but it works for the athlete. His times are good, all his health markers are good – his microbiome clearly copes with that diet.
I have told Prof. Noakes to write Banting for Vegetarians. He has put it on his lengthy “To Do” list.
One of his favourite sayings has become indelibly etched in my mind: “If you have to exercise to regulate your weight, your diet is wrong. Get rid of addictive foods.”