Second silly season at the Guardian

Christmas is always like a shorter version of the summer silly season for the media, but the usually more sensible Guardian seems to have gone slightly overboard in its efforts to fight the malaise this year.

First of all was their seven-month infiltration of the BNP. It was interesting, but the relevation that the BNP are racist is hardly the scoop of the year. Perhaps a seven-month infiltration of the Vatican and exposé of Papal Catholicism is scheduled for next year.

The fascists’ techniques for encrypting emails, secret rendez-vous and the like are interesting for those of us who actively fight them on a regular basis but unlikely to be compelling for the average reader. Perhaps the most damning factoid – that the membership list includes an assessment of the racial background of the members – was only mentioned in passing.

And what we really wanted was a big list of all the middle-class members that the BNP had apparently recruited. Instead, only a few particularly noteworthy individuals were thus exposed, though the inclusion of a member of the London Tourist Board who wanted to keep out foreigners was certainly a highlight.

Overall, you couldn’t help but suspect that the investigation had been brought to its conclusion to a deadline, despite not getting quite as much as hoped, in order to fill up pre-Christmas front pages.

Even worse was this weekend’s front page headline “Religion does more harm that good – poll”. This was a poll conducted by the Guardian, again an example of the media trying to generate news rather than report it, in advance of the Christmas lull in order to fill up headline space.

But the poll did not actually ask “Does religion do more harm than good?” The headline was instead a logical and linguistic contortion designed to disguise the fact that the Guardian had asked two different questions – whether religion causes division and tension; and whether it is a force for good. Unsurprisingly, there was a majority for both propositions, but a larger majority on the first. But that does not actually add up to evidence that most people think “religion does more harm than good”.

We don’t want to get in to a debate about religion at The Daily, but we do object to the abuse of polling data in lieu of hard facts. You expect poll manipulation from politicians, but the journos are meant to scrutinise it rather than join in themselves because they can’t be bothered to get any real news.

A note to the Guardian – if we wanted to read made-up stories about polls rather than proper news, we’d buy the Independent.

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