PCC - Rod Liddle was inaccurate

Good news - the PCC has upheld a complaint against the Spectator for Rod Liddle's nasty little blog post last year on the grounds that it was inaccurate, which it was.

This time, rather than just sit behind the idea that Liddle is a columnist so nobody will believe a word he says anyway - the Spectator decided to defend Liddle by claiming his post was in fact accurate and offer some evidence in his support.

When I first looked at Liddle's piece, in 'Rod Liddle - more racist than the BNP?', I offered some evidence against his claims. The figures came from the Daily Mail story 'Over half of young knife suspects are black, Scotland Yard figures reveal', and I said:
Of course, given the way the Mail presented the figures, the story could also be the source of Liddle's assertion that the majority of knife crime was carried out by 'young men from the African-Caribbean community'. The whole point of the story was to emphasise the amount of knife crime black people were responsible for, so it's understandable that readers would walk away with the wrong impression. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this article informed Rod's.
You know what? Turns out I was right. The PCC's adjudication mentions that one of the three pieces of evidence offered in Liddle's defence was:
a Daily Mail article, which reported that ‘124 out of 225 under-18s legally proceeded against for knife offences in the past three months are from the black community'
That's exactly the article I was talking about in 'Rod Liddle - more racist than the BNP?' - the article that actually disproves Liddle's claim.

It's worth saying again though, it's understandable that readers would walk away with the wrong impression from that article. The headline 'Over half of young knife suspects are black, Scotland Yard figures reveal' sets the scene for an article about how much knife crime black people are responsible for. Here's how the article manages to create a false impression of the stats it reports without really lying:
  • It opens with figures from the only age group that show black people making up the majority of those proceeded against.
  • It follows by falsely claiming that most victims in that age group are white.
  • After the false claim, the article splits crimes where the ethnicity of the victim has been recorded (mindful to point out that the majority of victims in these cases in this age group are white) from crimes where it hasn't - revealing that the ethnicity of the vast majority of victims is in fact unknown.
  • The reason offered for this is that these people may be black gang members who won't report anything to the police - so the article has its cake and eats it.
  • It goes on to report that there had been 16 teenagers murdered in London so far that year - without pointing out that only three of them were white.
  • There's a pull out table of stats that only includes figures from the only age group that the majority of people proceeded against to be black.
  • These stats are placed alongside the one for victims' ethnicity, which makes it look like the people in the first half of the table are responsible for the crimes with the victims on the other half.
  • The article moves on figures from the 18-29 age group, which also includes a high proportion of black people proceeded against, and slips to the total from all age groups.
It's no wonder that readers would get the wrong impression.

Sometimes, when you point this sort of thing out, you get accused of snobbery for underestimating the ability of readers to understand articles. But here we have another newspaper journalist being sucked in - and the publication he wries for mistaking a tabloid article for evidence of something it isn't - all because the paper originally went for the most sensationalist angle that emphasised the criminality of black people.

What chance has everyone esle got?

As an aside - I wonder if Julie Spence had anything to do withthis adjudication.  Watch the Mail for negative stories about Cambridgeshire police.


Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Awesome news that is, the man is a monstrous tit.

sianandcrookedrib said...

there was an article on CIF that tried to compare liddle to John Milton, saying he was saying the unsayable and therefore a great proponent of free speech. i couldn't believe it! john milton, who wrote paradise lost, compared with liddle who produced a bunch of dodgy stats from a dodgy article to write a racist article that disallows the free speech of everyone who disagrees with him. totally crazy!