Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Ladybird book

I strongly recommend this:

The Ladybird book of Chiropractic treatment and English libel law


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Vic and his constant knocking of the town

I have just posted this on the Express website in response to V Barlow's article about parking charges. Let's see if they allow it to be posted.

"I really don't think that less than the cost of a small orange juice for parking is what tempts or deters people from shopping in Macc. In fact the freer roads, not clogged by parking, is welcome and makes visiting a nicer experience.
Is a trivial cost really the issue? After all Vic prefers to shop at Handforth Dean and doesn't seem to mind the cost of driving there (40p+ per mile) to do so.

I challenge Vic to come up with 3 really creative initiatives to stimulate our town center and stop recyling this tired and lacklustre suggestion.

Over to you Vic, let's see what creative answer you can suggest to help our town.

Let me suggest, as a first, start saying positive things about it and the people in it. I have spoken to people who say that the image you portray of the place really puts them off."

Can't dance? Problem solved!

I defy you to watch this with a straight face:


I wonder where I can get a jumper like that.......

PCC wants to take on blogging

Now, there are many reasons why this is a bad idea, the lamentably poor record and low standards of the PCC being amongst them.

So, if you'd like to add your voice to the opposition to this, see here and sign

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The irony continues

I visited the site of the now discredited* Macclesfield Forum site to see what I could learn about hypocrisy from the person who posts on the Express site; he is an undoubted expert in the subject.

Anyway, what a dispiriting experience.

After 2 years they have about 140 members, of whom about 6 ever seem to post. On a typical day there may be one post (and usually none at all) and that will be in the grim "free house" where they all pretend they are in a pub and say hilarious things like "make mine a (insert drink of your choice)".

You can imagine themselves rolling about in laughter at their own wit!

Back to the story. 

One of their members, posting on the thread about their actions in hijacking the name of the prospective Tory candidate said:

"Could be worse, say like putting people's real names on blogs!"

Now, when someone writes something like that you'd assume that they would use their own name. Wrong!  This person calls him or herself "Windgather"!

Now I could of course be wrong and that is their name; if so, my apologies to Mr or Ms Gather. I don't think that "Wind" is much of a christian name though!

*I will be blogging about their devious  attempts to draw people to their site and to interfere in democratic discussion in the town at a later date. Suffice to say that their hijacking of the name of the Tory candidate (amongst other things) only serves to discredit them in the eyes of those who value free expression and the democratic process.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Oh the irony!

"Macc"forum has just posted on the Express site suggesting hypocrisy in others in what is a thinly disguised ad hom attack.

Oh the irony! 

What he does not seem to understand is that it doesn't matter who posts, what matters is what is posted and he should try responding to the comments instead of pursuing his little vendetta.

So if Einstein were to say that the world is flat he would be wrong, despite his eminence. If my cat were to say (and were capable of it) that the 2 + 2 = 4 then she would be right, despite her limited mathematical skills.

This person seems to have trouble with memory, history, judgement and the facts. 

I will be blogging in more detail about this person / site and the way that they misrepresent themselves and others and the way that they seek to corrupt public discussion in our town when I get a bit more time.  Macclesfield deserves better!


The Express obviously agree as they have removed his post.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Do you want Tony Blair as EU President?

Well, if you don't, then add your name to this petition:

And pass the message on

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Could this be the question?

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.

Trafigura and Carter-Ruck threatening democracy

Trafigura is a large (and I mean LARGE)  company which trades in oil and similar things. They have been (allegedly) caught dumping very nasty things in Africa which ave injured, maimed and killed people.

Carter-Ruck are lawyers who work for Trafigura, and Carter-Ruck decided to stop the Guardian reporting a question to be raised in Parliament! Yes, really!

Anyway, the full details are eloquently reported here by MJR:

What we have is a wonderful example of the Streisand Effect, where the attempted muzzling has resulted in vastly greater  public exposure than would have happened if they had done nothing.  

So, pass it on; spread the word........

Monday, August 24, 2009

Some sense on the so called Macclesfield Forum

Pete makes a fine point:

"I'm not sure, reading Vic Barlow's column this week, if we should rage with anger or laugh with the joy of someone seeing the light.

Vic doesn't once mention here his own highly relevant experience - he ran a forum and allowed people to be 'spiteful' on that forum precisely because those who administered Barlow's Beef turned a blind eye to all of the vices he notes in this article. He allowed people to use untraceable email addresses; he allowed people to use proxy servers; he didn't like people being 'anonymous' (remember how he used to say 'everyone knows who I am'? -or how forumster Frank Fisher screamed out 'make everyone use their name!') but he allowed anonymity to reign; and he knew, damned well, that multiple IDs were being used.

We should be grateful he has learned - but more than a little surprised that he makes no mention of Barlow's Beef in the piece in today's Macclesfield Express: ... er_bullies"

Monday, August 3, 2009

More grubby obscenity from "Old and"

Oh dear, Mr or Ms "Old and" is back with their obscene bile. Regrettably I am unable to publish this contribution as it is a string of obscenities and perrverted insults and is quite unsuitable for a public forum.
One does have to wonder at what drives this person. It seems that they don't like anyone having views other than their own, but fail to express what those views are, or anything except puerile insults and filth. Stripping out the nastiness, their comment was, in essence, that I should not be allowed to contribute to online discussions because they don't want me to! Make of that what you will. They seem, simply, to want to shut down free expression in the Macc media. It is telling that one of their comments (and about the only one repeatable) was that they wanted me banned from the internet. Now what could frighten them so much that they would want to ban someone from expressing their opinion?
Given the strange ad homs I do wonder abut this person's prejudices, fears and fantasies; they clearly need some help or is it perhaps that they maybe a danger to others? I still have this vision of the park flasher, or, having read their latest attempted contribution, maybe something darker and more sordid.
They do seem to be worried about being a sock puppet though! Given some of the obsessions they raised, I suspect this may be "Macc Man" who seems to be either a sock puppet or a clone. The posts online are either indications of sock puppetry or the vicious thug (to quote another local blog, albeit one that seems to be moribund) on the old ASTM who apparently threatened violence against some others, definitely launched an astonishing series of ad hom attacks against others and is reported to have lied about other contributors. NB. The current leaders of the so called "Macclesfield" forum have welcomed him with open arms! This person exhibited the same fear of rational debate as the sock puppets. Not much difference between them.
They are clearly not particularly brave though.

For the record, my moderation policy is to avoid cutting posts with the exception of personal insults, obscenity, filth, illegality and anything that may compromise anyone's desire for privacy. Discussion about evidence and opinions etc are welcomed.

So if "Old and" can come here and enter a discussion then he or she will be welcomed. He or she does not have to agree with me or anyone else, but just to join in discussion.
That is, after all, the basis of most internet forums and blogs.

Anyway, let's see if Mr or Ms sordid reappears..................

Friday, July 31, 2009

Beware the Spinal Trap

The following is a reprint of an article by Simon Singh that appeared in the Guardian last year. It is highly critical of significant aspects of chiropractic. As a result the British Chiropractic Association decided to sue Simon Singh.

The article is being posted and reprinted on many blogs and in magazines as a sign of solidarity with Simon as he fights this misconceived libel case. His lawyers have edited several sections that are at the heart of the BCA claim. As you can see, the substantive article remains – that chiropractors lack evidence for their treatments. I believe it is in the public interest that such criticism is not allowed to be stifled by the legal actions of vested interests.

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all, but the research suggests chiropractic therapy has mixed results – and can even be lethal, says Simon Singh.

You might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that “99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae”. In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer’s first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying – even though there is not a jot of evidence.

I can confidently label these assertions as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.

More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.

Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: “Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck.”

This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Edzard Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher.

If spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.

Simon Singh is a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardian for which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Grubby obscenity and a nasty contributor

Sadly I have had to delete a comment, posted by Mr or Ms "Oldand". The comment was so grubbily obscene that I could not put it on a public board.
Now, it does raise questions about this person's motives and, possibly, their mental state. What I suspect it that he or she is one of those who restrict or try to restrict free expression and discussion in our locality; either a Maccforum clone or one of the current infestation of puppets at the Express. Rather than simply accepting that people have differing views and the right to express them (which should be particularly important when you claim to be offering a forum for the community and when you appropriate the name of that community for your forum), these people want to restrict them, which is a shame.
The comment that this individual posted was really rather disturbing. I would worry, for example, about this person being around children or vulnerable people. I have an image of him or her thumbing though the dictionary to find rude words and get a little excitement. My other, and less nice, image is of them in a grubby mac, flashing in the local park.
Let's hope that he or she keeps his or her sordid little fantasies to him or herself in future.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

free debate

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Creationism and reality

An excellent take by Petros here

Friday, May 29, 2009


An excellent page on RationalWiki detailing all the scientifically controlled double blind studies which have conclusively demonstrated the effectiveness of homeopathy.

See here

Sums it up perfectly!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Oh dear, they're back

After a welcome break from the nasty machinations of a small group, with their multiple puppet identities, on the Macc Express site, we now have one of them pop up again.

Junior Macc Lad is the name chosen this time

Why, oh why do they do it?

Update. Plattypuss appears as well, pretty much at the same time as JMLad, commenting on the same topic and in total agreement with him!

Update 2. And now "Old Sailor" has reappeared expressing the same views as the other two. It is spooky how these people (or, rather, user names) suddenly appear together and using the same language and holding pretty much the same views.
You will see that they pretty much always attack the other posters, claiming that they are shouting people down, ganging up and so on, when it is the puppets who make the personal attacks.


Update 3. Now he / she is back as "Hatch". will we see all the names being trotted out in succession I wonder

Update 4. and now as Mf.w. You'd have thought that they would at least change their style when they change sock puppet names!

Update 5. Now appearing as Jonty. Same approach though.

Update 6. Now appearing as Eric.T. Same approach and even the same words. Seems very worried about sock puppets!

Updat 7: Now in the guise of "Guido". Same message, just getting less coherent.

Update 8: Now we have Quinlan (yesterday) and Loktite. Same words, same spelling, same views, same approach. All out of the same sock drawer. A telling statement was: "I am told by my neighbour a retired Chief Superintendent....". Sure they were. What they probably meant was "I am the embittered retired policeman who messed up Barlow's Beef and then helped orchestrate a campaign of stalking and vilification against a number of other people who disagreed with me".

Update 9: And now we have the MaccForum clones chiming in with a rather spiteful and patronising post in response to Mogangirl.

A plague on all their houses!

Update 10: Dorothy has reappeared. Well, well, well. And also Eric and Biker. They really are wheeling out all the old names. Same words though ("sad" is used as lot) and same approaches. "Dorothy" is complaining that the Vic lovers cannot submit their views!

Interestingly, someone (posting as "Old and") posted a comment for this blog as follows:

"Update10: Have sex with someone. Please"

I am not really sure what to make of that, as it seems to bear no relationship to the blog comments. Do you think it is a puppet making me an offer? Sex with a sock? No thanks!
Or perhaps it is the gun toting clone (MaccForum) showing off his manhood.
Either way it is a very strange comment and probably says a lot about the contributor.

On that thought, I remember an excellent Smith and Jones sketch with someone in hospital who had had his penis amputated. The doctor came in and offered him, amongst other things, a subscription to "Guns and Ammo" magazine, membership of a shooting club and a camo jacket, as these were things that interested people who were deficient in the male bits area!

Update 11: Now we have Gedd. Dorothy has also transformed into Dorothy M! Yet they don't bother to change the way they write or what they write. This is usually a series of ad hom attacks on anyone who criticises Winterton or disagrees with Vic. They should hang their heads in shame.

Update 12: They are all coming back again. We've had Biker and now Jonty.

And, just for fun, the Maccforumclones are with their usual patronising, bullying and spiteful approaches. They really can't take it that some of us don't see them as gods of the Interweb in Macclesfield.

Update 13. Now Macc Man has also reappeared. Same old, same old.
Still trying to stop anyone from criticising Vic, using the line that he has the right to express his opnion (of course he has) yet trying to stop other from expressing theirs. Have they never heard of irony?

Update 14: And now back as Jonty. Same old thing; nothing new from them. Quite funny that he is trying to claim he's not a sock puppet though.
It is such a shame that between the MaccForumClones and the Sock puppets they are trying to strangle free expression and debate in the media in our town.

Update 15: Now back as Macc Man. The same old ad hom attacks using exactly the same approaches and even words. really they don't like people having the right o express themselves in this town do they?

So here is my posted reply:

If you find them boring, then why read them? :)
However there are issues that you raise about free speech and the ad hom approach is simply a way of bullying people into not expressing their opinions.
Actually my comments originally were not so much about M Jackson as the over the top and seemingly endless reporting.
That there are issues with VB's journalistic approach is a worthy subject of public discussion. I don't have the luxury of a column in the paper where I can express my views unchallenged, however this place would seem to be a place were the people of Macclesfield should be able to raise concerns etc without fear of ad hom attacks from Vic' self appointed bodyguard.
It is such a pity that there are those who would rather suppress discussions and would try to bully people with alternative views into silence by using the now drearily familiar ad hom approach.
It is intriguing how many of these different names use such strikingly similar approaches though. The same words, same attacks and so on. Now, I wonder why that could be........

Update something or other:

Now back as Darryl and Mf.W
Same old, same old. we are getting a "poor little me" thing from Darryl trying to claim that he cannot express his opinion because 2 others are stopping him. How exactly?
Is it rather an expression of intellectual inadequacy when faced with people who can string a few words together?

With E.T chiming in with exactly the same sort of stuff. Pathetic

Update number "Too many to count":

So, we have Comogio and Darryl and Joe G. All saying exactly the same thing and all appearing on the same thread and pretty much nowhere else. Wow!
I wonder do they / he / she ever disagree with their hero, Vic?

Update: Yet another

Joe G still there and using the same old, same old approach. Ad Hom rather than discussion.
However there is a new one: Carpenter. What are the odds of him beinng just another manifestation of the puppet infestation? Amazing that he pops up just on the V Barlow section saying pretty much the same as the others.

And another:
Now we have "Incey Wincey". Not sure if this is one of the regular puppets as he / she seems a bit dim, even when measured against the usual ones!
However the fact that he / she  has taken a spider related name certainly indicates puppetry. When will they learn?

Update 13 Nov

Incey Wincey is back again. Just pure ad hominem in his or her posts. He / she makes themself look just spiteful and nasty. What a pathetic way to act.

Update 27 November
They are still there. Incey Wincey is still there and joined by "Windgather" and "Smokey"
What is certain is that there is a small group (maybe only 2) who are dedicated to preserving Vic as the only person who is ever right about anything in Macc! Pathetic eh?

The last update  of the year

Now we have "The Shadow" claiming that he is being denied the right to have an opinion of his own!

Come on, think of something new when you invent a new puppet persona.

The we have "Ollie the Owl" who is just as dim as always

19 Jan  After a bit of a break we have Comogio and Biker posting on the same day.  Some frantic logging off and back on perhaps?

Ooh, we have a new one: Estoppel. Same as before though. Can't even read by the looks of it.

Now we have "Carpenter" again. Same tired old ad hom arguments. Same uncritical adulation (or is it love?) of Vic,. Same inability to understand the points being made.

Ooh, there may be a new one:  W.O.I
Let us watch this with interest.

And now we have "Chady", who, along with WOI completely misunderstood what Pete and I wrote . Interestingly "Chady" referred to W.O.I as RSM.  I wonder why that could be.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Matthias Rath - steal this chapter

April 9th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in BANT, africa, alternative medicine, bad science, book, death, matthias rath, nutritionists |

imageThis is the “missing chapter” about vitamin pill salesman Matthias Rath. Sadly I was unable to write about him at the time that book was initially published, as he was suing my ass in the High Court. The chapter is now available in the new paperback edition, and I’ve posted it here for free so that nobody loses out.

Although the publishers make a slightly melodramatic fuss about this in the promo material, it is a very serious story about the dangers of pseudoscience, as I hope you’ll see, and it was also a pretty unpleasant episode, not just for me, but also for the many other people he’s tried to sue, including Medecins Sans Frontieres and more. If you’re ever looking for a warning sign that you’re on the wrong side of an argument, suing Medecins Sans Frontieres is probably a pretty good clue.

Anyway, here it is, please steal it, print it, repost it, whatever, it’s free under a Creative Commons license, details at the end. If you prefer it is available as a PDF here, or as a word document here. Happy Easter!

This is an extract from
BAD SCIENCE by Ben Goldacre
Published by Harper Perennial 2009.

You are free to copy it, paste it, bake it, reprint it, read it aloud, as long as you don’t change it – including this bit – so that people know that they can find more ideas for free at


The Doctor Will Sue You Now

This chapter did not appear in the original edition of this book, because for fifteen months leading up to September 2008 the vitamin-pill entrepreneur Matthias Rath was suing me personally, and the Guardian, for libel. This strategy brought only mixed success. For all that nutritionists may fantasise in public that any critic is somehow a pawn of big pharma, in private they would do well to remember that, like many my age who work in the public sector, I don’t own a flat. The Guardian generously paid for the lawyers, and in September 2008 Rath dropped his case, which had cost in excess of £500,000 to defend. Rath has paid £220,000 already, and the rest will hopefully follow. Nobody will ever repay me for the endless meetings, the time off work, or the days spent poring over tables filled with endlessly cross-referenced court documents.

On this last point there is, however, one small consolation, and I will spell it out as a cautionary tale: I now know more about Matthias Rath than almost any other person alive. My notes, references and witness statements, boxed up in the room where I am sitting right now, make a pile as tall as the man himself, and what I will write here is only a tiny fraction of the fuller story that is waiting to be told about him. This chapter, I should also mention, is available free online for anyone who wishes to see it.

Matthias Rath takes us rudely outside the contained, almost academic distance of this book. For the most part we’ve been interested in the intellectual and cultural consequences of bad science, the made-up facts in national newspapers, dubious academic practices in universities, some foolish pill-peddling, and so on. But what happens if we take these sleights of hand, these pill-marketing techniques, and transplant them out of our decadent Western context into a situation where things really matter?

In an ideal world this would be only a thought experiment. AIDS is the opposite of anecdote. Twenty-five million people have died from it already, three million in the last year alone, and 500,000 of those deaths were children. In South Africa it kills 300,000 people every year: that’s eight hundred people every day, or one every two minutes. This one country has 6.3 million people who are HIV positive, including 30 per cent of all pregnant women. There are 1.2 million AIDS orphans under the age of seventeen. Most chillingly of all, this disaster has appeared suddenly, and while we were watching: in 1990, just 1 per cent of adults in South Africa were HIV positive. Ten years
later, the figure had risen to 25 per cent.

It’s hard to mount an emotional response to raw numbers, but on one thing I think we would agree. If you were to walk into a situation with that much death, misery and disease, you would be very careful to make sure that you knew what you were talking about. For the reasons you are about to read, I suspect that Matthias Rath missed the mark.

This man, we should be clear, is our responsibility. Born and raised in Germany, Rath was the head of Cardiovascular Research at the Linus Pauling Institute in Palo Alto in California, and even then he had a tendency towards grand gestures, publishing a paper in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine in 1992 titled “A Unified Theory of Human Cardiovascular Disease Leading the Way to the Abolition of this Disease as a Cause for Human Mortality”. The unified theory was high-dose vitamins.

He first developed a power base from sales in Europe, selling his pills with tactics that will be very familiar to you from the rest of this book, albeit slightly more aggressive. In the UK, his adverts claimed that “90 per cent of patients receiving chemotherapy for cancer die within months of starting treatment”, and suggested that three million lives could be saved if cancer patients stopped being treated by conventional medicine. The pharmaceutical industry was deliberately letting people die for financial gain, he explained. Cancer treatments were “poisonous compounds” with “not even one effective treatment”.

The decision to embark on treatment for cancer can be the most difficult that an individual or a family will ever take, representing a close balance between well-documented benefits and equally well-documented side-effects. Adverts like these might play especially strongly on your conscience if your mother has just lost all her hair to chemotherapy, for example, in the hope of staying alive just long enough to see your son speak.

There was some limited regulatory response in Europe, but it was generally as weak as that faced by the other characters in this book. The Advertising Standards Authority criticised one of his adverts in the UK, but that is essentially all they are able to do. Rath was ordered by a Berlin court to stop claiming that his vitamins could cure cancer, or face a €250,000 fine.

But sales were strong, and Matthias Rath still has many supporters in Europe, as you will shortly see. He walked into South Africa with all the acclaim, self-confidence and wealth he had amassed as a successful vitamin-pill entrepreneur in Europe and America, and began to take out full-page adverts in newspapers.

˜The answer to the AIDS epidemic is here,” he proclaimed. Anti-retroviral drugs were poisonous, and a conspiracy to kill patients and make money. “Stop AIDS Genocide by the Drugs Cartel said one headline. “Why should South Africans continue to be poisoned with AZT? There is a natural answer to AIDS.” The answer came in the form of vitamin pills. “Multivitamin treatment is more effective than any toxic AIDS drug. Multivitamins cut the risk of developing AIDS in half.”

Rath’s company ran clinics reflecting these ideas, and in 2005 he decided to run a trial of his vitamins in a township near Cape Town called Khayelitsha, giving his own formulation, VitaCell, to people with advanced AIDS. In 2008 this trial was declared illegal by the Cape High Court of South Africa. Although Rath says that none of his participants had been on anti-retroviral drugs, some relatives have given statements saying that they were, and were actively told to stop using them.

Tragically,Matthias Rath had taken these ideas to exactly the right place. Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa at the time, was well known as an “AIDS dissident”, and to international horror, while people died at the rate of one every two minutes in his country, he gave credence and support to the claims of a small band of campaigners who variously claim that AIDS does not exist, that it is not caused by HIV, that anti-retroviral medication does more harm than good, and so on.

At various times during the peak of the AIDS epidemic in South Africa their government argued that HIV is not the cause of AIDS, and that anti-retroviral drugs are not useful for patients. They refused to roll out proper treatment programmes, they refused to accept free donations of drugs, and they refused to accept grant money from the Global Fund to buy drugs. One study estimates that if the South African national government had used anti-retroviral drugs for prevention and treatment at the same rate as the Western Cape province (which defied national policy on the issue), around 171,000 new HIV infections and 343,000 deaths could have been prevented between 1999 and 2007. Another study estimates that between 2000 and 2005 there were 330,000 unnecessary deaths, 2.2 million person years lost, and 35,000 babies unnecessarily born with HIV because of the failure to implement a cheap and simple mother-to-child-transmission prevention program. Between one and three doses of an ARV drug can reduce transmission dramatically. The cost is negligible. It was not available.

Interestingly, Matthias Rath’s colleague and employee, a South African barrister named Anthony Brink, takes the credit for introducing Thabo Mbeki to many of these ideas. Brink stumbled on the “AIDS dissident” material in the mid-1990s, and after much surfing and reading, became convinced that it must be right. In 1999 he wrote an article about AZT in a Johannesburg newspaper titled “a medicine from hell”. This led to a public exchange with a leading virologist. Brink contacted Mbeki, sending him copies of the debate, and was welcomed as an expert.

This is a chilling testament to the danger of elevating cranks by engaging with them. In his initial letter of motivation for employment to Matthias Rath, Brink described himself as “South Africa’s leading AIDS dissident, best known for my whistle-blowing exposé of the toxicity and inefficacy of AIDS drugs, and for my political activism in this regard, which caused President Mbeki and Health Minister Dr Tshabalala-Msimang to repudiate the drugs in 1999″.

In 2000, the now infamous International AIDS Conference took place in Durban. Mbeki’s presidential advisory panel beforehand was packed with “AIDS dissidents”, including Peter Duesberg and David Rasnick. On the first day, Rasnick suggested that all HIV testing should be banned on principle, and that South Africa should stop screening supplies of blood for HIV. “If I had the power to outlaw the HIV antibody test,” he said, “I would do it across the board.” When African physicians gave testimony about the drastic change AIDS had caused in their clinics and hospitals, Rasnick said he had not seen “any evidence” of an AIDS catastrophe. The media were not allowed in, but one reporter from the Village Voice was present. Peter Duesberg, he said, “gave a presentation so removed from African medical reality that it left several local doctors shaking their heads”. It wasn’t AIDS that was killing babies and children, said the dissidents: it was the anti-retroviral medication.

President Mbeki sent a letter to world leaders comparing the struggle of the “AIDS dissidents” to the struggle against apartheid. The Washington Post described the reaction at the White House: “So stunned were some officials by the letter’s tone and timing during final preparations for July’s conference in Durban that at least two of them, according to diplomatic sources, felt obliged to check whether it was genuine. Hundreds of delegates walked out of Mbeki’s address to the conference in disgust, but many more described themselves as dazed and confused. Over 5,000 researchers and activists around the world signed up to the Durban Declaration, a document that specifically addressed and repudiated the claims and concerns–at least the more moderate ones–of the “AIDS dissidents”. Specifically, it addressed the charge that people were simply dying of poverty:

The evidence that AIDS is caused by HIV-1 or HIV-2 is clearcut, exhaustive and unambiguous… As with any other chronic infection, various co-factors play a role in determining the risk of disease. Persons who are malnourished, who already suffer other infections or who are older, tend to be more susceptible to the rapid development of AIDS following HIV infection. However, none of these factors weaken the scientific evidence that HIV is the sole cause of AIDS… Mother-to-child transmission can be reduced by half or more by short courses of antiviral drugs … What works best in one country may not be appropriate in another. But to tackle the disease, everyone must first understand that HIV is the enemy. Research, not myths, will lead to the development of more effective and cheaper treatments.

It did them no good. Until 2003 the South African government refused, as a matter of principle, to roll out proper antiretroviral medication programmes, and even then the process was half-hearted. This madness was only overturned after a massive campaign by grassroots organisations such as the Treatment Action Campaign, but even after the ANC cabinet voted to allow medication to be given, there was still resistance. In mid-2005, at least 85 per cent of HIV-positive people who needed anti-retroviral drugs were still refused them. That’s around a million people.

This resistance, of course, went deeper than just one man; much of it came from Mbeki’s Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. An ardent critic of medical drugs for HIV, she would cheerfully go on television to talk up their dangers, talk down their benefits, and became irritable and evasive when asked how many patients were receiving effective treatment. She declared in 2005 that she would not be “pressured” into meeting the target of three million patients on anti-retroviral medication, that people had ignored the importance of nutrition, and that she would continue to warn patients of the sideeffects of anti-retrovirals, saying: “We have been vindicated in
this regard. We are what we eat.”

It’s an eerily familiar catchphrase. Tshabalala-Msimang has also gone on record to praise the work of Matthias Rath, and refused to investigate his activities. Most joyfully of all, she is a staunch advocate of the kind of weekend glossy-magazine-style nutritionism that will by now be very familiar to you. The remedies she advocates for AIDS are beetroot, garlic, lemons and African potatoes. A fairly typical quote, from the Health Minister in a country where eight hundred people die every day from AIDS, is this: “Raw garlic and a skin of the lemon–not only do they give you a beautiful face and skin but they also protect you from disease.” South Africa’s stand at the 2006 World AIDS Conference in Toronto was described by delegates as the “salad stall”. It consisted of some garlic, some beetroot, the African potato, and assorted other vegetables. Some boxes of anti-retroviral drugs were added later, but they were reportedly borrowed at the last minute from other conference delegates.

Alternative therapists like to suggest that their treatments and ideas have not been sufficiently researched. As you now know, this is often untrue, and in the case of the Health Minister’s favoured vegetables, research had indeed been done, with results that were far from promising. Interviewed on SABC about this, Tshabalala-Msimang gave the kind of responses you’d expect to hear at any North London dinner-party discussion of alternative therapies.

First she was asked about work from the University of Stellenbosch which suggested that her chosen plant, the African potato, might be actively dangerous for people on AIDS drugs. One study on African potato in HIV had to be terminated prematurely, because the patients who received the plant extract developed severe bone-marrow suppression and a drop in their CD4 cell count–which is a bad thing–after eight weeks. On top of this, when extract from the same vegetable was given to cats with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, they succumbed to full-blown Feline AIDS faster than their non-treated controls. African potato does not look like a good bet.

Tshabalala-Msimang disagreed: the researchers should go back to the drawing board, and “investigate properly”. Why? Because HIV-positive people who used African potato had shown improvement, and they had said so themselves. If a person says he or she is feeling better, should this be disputed, she demanded to know, merely because it had not been proved scientifically? “When a person says she or he is feeling better, I must say ‘No, I don’t think you are feeling better’? I must rather go and do science on you’?” Asked whether there should be a scientific basis to her views, she replied: “Whose science?”

And there, perhaps, is a clue, if not exoneration. This is a continent that has been brutally exploited by the developed world, first by empire, and then by globalised capital. Conspiracy theories about AIDS and Western medicine are not entirely absurd in this context. The pharmaceutical industry has indeed been caught performing drug trials in Africa which would be impossible anywhere in the developed world. Many find it suspicious that black Africans seem to be the biggest victims of AIDS, and point to the biological warfare programmes set up by the apartheid governments; there have also been suspicions that the scientific discourse of HIV/AIDS might be a device, a Trojan horse for spreading even more exploitative Western political and economic agendas around a problem that is simply one of poverty.

And these are new countries, for which independence and self-rule are recent developments, which are struggling to find their commercial feet and true cultural identity after centuries of colonisation. Traditional medicine represents an important link with an autonomous past; besides which, anti-retroviral medications have been unnecessarily – offensively, absurdly – expensive, and until moves to challenge this became partially successful, many Africans were effectively denied access to medical treatment as a result.

It’s very easy for us to feel smug, and to forget that we all have our own strange cultural idiosyncrasies which prevent us from taking up sensible public-health programmes. For examples, we don’t even have to look as far as MMR. There is a good evidence base, for example, to show that needle-exchange programmes reduce the spread of HIV, but this strategy has been rejected time and again in favour of “Just say no.” Development charities funded by US Christian groups refuse to engage with birth control, and any suggestion of abortion, even in countries where being in control of your own fertility could mean the difference between success and failure in life, is met with a cold, pious stare. These impractical moral principles are so deeply entrenched that Pepfar, the US Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, has insisted that every recipient of international aid money must sign a declaration expressly promising not to have any involvement with sex workers.

We mustn’t appear insensitive to the Christian value system, but it seems to me that engaging sex workers is almost the cornerstone of any effective AIDS policy: commercial sex is frequently the “vector of transmission”, and sex workers a very high-risk population; but there are also more subtle issues at stake. If you secure the legal rights of prostitutes to be free from violence and discrimination, you empower them to demand universal condom use, and that way you can prevent HIV from being spread into the whole community. This is where science meets culture. But perhaps even to your own friends and neighbours, in whatever suburban idyll has become your home, the moral principle of abstinence from sex and drugs is more important than people dying of AIDS; and perhaps, then, they are no less irrational than Thabo Mbeki.

So this was the situation into which the vitamin-pill entrepreneur Matthias Rath inserted himself, prominently and expensively, with the wealth he had amassed from Europe and America, exploiting anti-colonial anxieties with no sense of irony, although he was a white man offering pills made in a factory abroad. His adverts and clinics were a tremendous success. He began to tout individual patients as evidence of the benefits that could come from vitamin pills – although in reality some of his most famous success stories have died of AIDS. When asked about the deaths of Rath’s star patients, Health Minister Tshabalala-Msimang replied: “It doesn’t necessarily mean that if I am taking antibiotics and I die, that I died of antibiotics.”

She is not alone: South Africa’s politicians have consistently refused to step in, Rath claims the support of the government, and its most senior figures have refused to distance themselves from his operations or to criticise his activities. Tshabalala-Msimang has gone on the record to state that the Rath Foundation “are not undermining the government’s position. If anything, they are supporting it.”

In 2005, exasperated by government inaction, a group of 199 leading medical practitioners in South Africa signed an open letter to the health authorities of the Western Cape, pleading for action on the Rath Foundation. “Our patients are being inundated with propaganda encouraging them to stop life-saving medicine,” it said. “Many of us have had experiences with HIV infected patients who have had their health compromised by stopping their anti-retrovirals due to the activities of this Foundation.” Rath’s adverts continue unabated. He even claimed that his activities were endorsed by huge lists of sponsors and affiliates including the World Health Organization, UNICEF and UNAIDS. All have issued statements flatly denouncing his claims and activities. The man certainly has chutzpah.

His adverts are also rich with detailed scientific claims. It would be wrong of us to neglect the science in this story, so we should follow some through, specifically those which focused on a Harvard study in Tanzania. He described this research in full-page advertisements, some of which have appeared in the New York Times and the Herald Tribune. He refers to these paid adverts, I should mention, as if he had received flattering news coverage in the same papers. Anyway, this research showed that multivitamin supplements can be beneficial in a developing world population with AIDS: there’s no problem with that result, and there are plenty of reasons to think that vitamins might have some benefit for a sick and frequently malnourished population.

The researchers enrolled 1,078 HIV-positive pregnant women and randomly assigned them to have either a vitamin supplement or placebo. Notice once again, if you will, that this is another large, well-conducted, publicly funded trial of vitamins, conducted by mainstream scientists, contrary to the claims of nutritionists that such studies do not exist. The women were followed up for several years, and at the end of the study, 25 per cent of those on vitamins were severely ill or dead, compared with 31 per cent of those on placebo. There was also a statistically significant benefit in CD4 cell count (a measure of HIV activity) and viral loads. These results were in no sense dramatic – and they cannot be compared to the demonstrable life-saving benefits of anti-retrovirals – but they did show that improved diet, or cheap generic vitamin pills, could represent a simple and relatively inexpensive way to marginally delay the need to start HIV medication in some patients.

In the hands of Rath, this study became evidence that vitamin pills are superior to medication in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, that anti-retroviral therapies “severely damage all cells in the body–including white blood cells”, and worse, that they were “thereby not improving but rather worsening immune deficiencies and expanding the AIDS epidemic”. The researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health were so horrified that they put together a press release setting out their support for medication, and stating starkly, with unambiguous clarity, that Matthias Rath had misrepresented their findings.

To outsiders the story is baffling and terrifying. The United Nations has condemned Rath’s adverts as “wrong and misleading”. “This guy is killing people by luring them with unrecognised treatment without any scientific evidence,” said Eric Goemaere, head of Médecins sans Frontières SA, a man who pioneered anti-retroviral therapy in South Africa. Rath sued him.

It’s not just MSF who Rath has gone after: he has also brought time-consuming, expensive, stalled or failed cases against a professor of AIDS research, critics in the media and others.

But his most heinous campaign has been against the Treatment Action Campaign. For many years this has been the key organisation campaigning for access to anti-retroviral medication in South Africa, and it has been fighting a war on four fronts. Firstly, TAC campaigns against its own government, trying to compel it to roll out treatment programmes for the population. Secondly, it fights against the pharmaceutical industry, which claims that it needs to charge full price for its products in developing countries in order to pay for research and development of new drugs – although, as we shall see, out of its $550 billion global annual revenue, the pharmaceutical industry spends twice as much on promotion and admin as it does on research and development. Thirdly, it is a grassroots organisation, made up largely of black women from townships who do important prevention and treatment-literacy work on the ground, ensuring that people know what is available, and how to protect themselves. Lastly, it fights against people who promote the type of information peddled by Matthias Rath and his ilk.

Rath has taken it upon himself to launch a massive campaign against this group. He distributes advertising material against them, saying “Treatment Action Campaign medicines are killing you” and “Stop AIDS genocide by the drug cartel”, claiming–as you will guess by now–that there is an international conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies intent on prolonging the AIDS crisis in the interests of their own profits by giving medication that makes people worse. TAC must be a part of this, goes the reasoning, because it criticises Matthias Rath. Just like me writing on Patrick Holford or Gillian McKeith, TAC is perfectly in favour of good diet and nutrition. But in Rath’s promotional literature it is a front for the pharmaceutical industry, a “Trojan horse” and a “running dog”. TAC has made a full disclosure of its funding and activities, showing no such connection: Rath presented no evidence to the contrary, and has even lost a court case over the issue, but will not let it lie. In fact he presents the loss of this court case as if it was a victory.

The founder of TAC is a man called Zackie Achmat, and he is the closest thing I have to a hero. He is South African, and coloured, by the nomenclature of the apartheid system in which he grew up. At the age of fourteen he tried to burn down his school, and you might have done the same in similar circumstances. He has been arrested and imprisoned under South Africa’s violent, brutal white regime, with all that entailed. He is also gay, and HIV-positive, and he refused to take anti-retroviral medication until it was widely available to all on the public health system, even when he was dying of AIDS, even when he was personally implored to save himself by Nelson Mandela, a public supporter of anti-retroviral medication and Achmat’s work.

And now, at last, we come to the lowest point of this whole story, not merely for Matthias Rath’s movement, but for the alternative therapy movement around the world as a whole. In 2007, with a huge public flourish, to great media coverage, Rath’s former employee Anthony Brink filed a formal complaint against Zackie Achmat, the head of the TAC. Bizarrely, he filed this complaint with the International Criminal
Court at The Hague, accusing Achmat of genocide for successfully campaigning to get access to HIV drugs for the people of South Africa.

It’s hard to explain just how influential the “AIDS dissidents” are in South Africa. Brink is a barrister, a man with important friends, and his accusations were reported in the national news media –and in some corners of the Western gay press–as a serious news story. I do not believe that any one of those journalists who reported on it can possibly have read Brink’s indictment to the end.

I have.

The first fifty-seven pages present familiar anti-medication and “AIDS-dissident” material. But then, on page fifty-eight, this “indictment” document suddenly deteriorates into something altogether more vicious and unhinged, as Brink sets out what he believes would be an appropriate punishment for Zackie. Because I do not wish to be accused of selective editing, I will now reproduce for you that entire section, unedited, so you can see and feel it for yourself.



The document was described by the Rath Foundation as “entirely valid and long overdue”.

This story isn’t about Matthias Rath, or Anthony Brink, or Zackie Achmat, or even South Africa. It is about the culture of how ideas work, and how that can break down. Doctors criticise other doctors, academics criticise academics, politicians criticise politicians: that’s normal and healthy, it’s how ideas improve. Matthias Rath is an alternative therapist, made in Europe. He is every bit the same as the British operators that we have seen in this book. He is from their world.

Despite the extremes of this case, not one single alternative therapist or nutritionist, anywhere in the world, has stood up to criticise any single aspect of the activities of Matthias Rath and his colleagues. In fact, far from it: he continues to be fêted to this day. I have sat in true astonishment and watched leading figures of the UK’s alternative therapy movement applaud Matthias Rath at a public lecture (I have it on video, just in case there’s any doubt). Natural health organisations continue to defend Rath. Homeopaths’ mailouts continue to promote his work. The British Association of Nutritional Therapists has been invited to comment by bloggers, but declined. Most, when challenged, will dissemble.”Oh,” they say, “I don’t really know much about it.” Not one person will step forward and dissent.

The alternative therapy movement as a whole has demonstrated itself to be so dangerously, systemically incapable of critical self-appraisal that it cannot step up even in a case like that of Rath: in that count I include tens of thousands of practitioners, writers, administrators and more. This is how ideas go badly wrong. In the conclusion to this book, written before I was able to include this chapter, I will argue that the biggest dangers posed by the material we have covered are cultural and intellectual.

I may be mistaken.


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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I've got a stalker!

Well, I suppose that may be something to be proud of.
The Macclesfield Express, a tatty rag, but all we have in our town, has a facility to add comments online about articles.
Now, this can lead to some interesting discussions and can also be quite informative.
Unfortunately it is also being used by two small groups to continue a war that started quite some time ago.
On one side we have the group I have called the Gordonites, after one of the log in names that they use.
This is a small group of people who used to frequent the late, and unlamented, Barlow's Beef forum.
There were 3 or 4 of them and they adopted a variety of names and personas there in order to control discussion and shut down anyone who had views different from theirs.
In short, they created a series of sock puppets.
They can be recognised by their extreme fear of alternative views, hatred of anyone asking questions (they prefer the "because I say so" approach) and by the words and terms they use.
The other group is the one I have dubbed the MaccForumClones.
These people were also on the BBeef forum in conflict with the Gordonites. They eventually set up a forum which, despite being called "Macclesfield Forum" is anything but a forum for the town. I visited in March and found that it has more rules than the measuring section in WH Smith and was very unwelcoming!

The Gordonites appear on the Express site in a variety of guises. Their sock puppet personas include:
  • Ger one emo
  • Maxonian
  • Gordon (of course)
  • Leigh Turner
  • Diddyman
  • Maxonian
  • Morganboy
  • Biker
and others that I'll add as I remember them.
These personas only appear in the Vic Barlow column comments section and their approach is to attack anyone who disagrees with Vic; they rarely, if ever, contribute to the discussions but go for the contributor.

Maccforum clones are a bit different.
The user name "Macclesfield forum" is operated by at least two people, hence the term "clones".
They also have a couple of puppets:
  • Tank
  • Prospero
Who appear from time to time.

Now a new persona has joined us: J Kershaw who purports to be from Congleton Road.
This persona has jumped into one thread and has tried very hard to suggest who I am and what I do. He / she hasn't got it right,but that doesn't seem to stop them.
He / she has contrived misunderstanding and used the thread to make personal attacks on me and to try to destroy my privacy online. This is rather odd behaviour as, to the best of my knowledge, I have never even met this person. Still, they seem to have some personal agenda or, possibly , vendetta! They don't actually seem terribly interested in the discussions though, just me. Should I be flattered?

The question is: Gordonite of MFC?
Macc forum does have one person who acts in the same way as the Gordonites with unreasoning hatred and a fear of discussion. This person has a history of making threats online and of being abusive.
This J Kershaw (who, incidentally, cannot be found on Congleton Road) seems very anti anyone asking questions and desperate to make personal points which are actually not relevant to the discussion. Why could that be?
I suspect that he / she is either a particular Gordonite who was know for his approach: stalking others from BBeef, finding out personal details, insulting their family members etc or is the dud actor from MForum who used to make the threats of violence, personal attacks online and had a morbid fear of being asked a question. Either way, a rather disturbing thought.

Anyway, all I know is that he / she, along with the usual suspects, really does not want open discussion there and, perhaps, I am simply in the middle of the war between the Gordonites and the Clones. Collateral damage of you like.
It's a pity though because it is pretty much the only online place for discussions that is open to all Macc people.

What is needed is for the Express webmaster to control things a bit more. Stopping multiple personas, monitoring IP addresses and stamping down on the personal attackers would benefit us all.

What I need to do is resist the temptation to respond to this persona. I must keep repeating the mantra "do not feed the trolls"!
Difficult though, as this Kershaw persona just seems creepy, sinister and rather nasty.

Update. There's a new one:
  • DavidJ
He uses exactly the same approach, and even words, as the others. It's so transparent, you'd think they'd be embarrassed by it. But they're not.
They do seem unduly fixated on whether someone asks questions. Bizarre!

Update 28 Feb

One I forgot: Macc Man. The silly thing is that he uses just the same phrases as his other puppet friends.

Why on earth do they bother?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Jeni Barnett, LBC, stupidity and threats

Dr. Ben Goldacre ( blogged about a programme on LBC fronted by someone called Jeni Barnett, some x list celebrity apparently.
This woman is brave: she wasn't about to let ignorance stop her from making the most asanine pronouncements about vaccines, health, parental choice, the medical profession, science and evidence and related matters. It seems that valour and critical thinking are not always to be found in the same person.
Ben commented on this person's woeful ignorance and the stupid comments that she made and also posted a 44 minute clip, as an audio file, from her programme on his blog. The point was that, to fully understand this person's broadcast ignorance and stupidity, the audio clip had to be heard. People could then consider all that she had to say.
Now, you would have thought that LBC would be happy for this excerpt from their programme to reach a wider audience and would have realised that there is a real issue of public interest here.

Were they happy for free speech to prevail?

Were they happy to allow critical comment about their show?


What they did was set their lawyers onto Ben to muzzle him.

This is what Ben had to say:

"Two days ago I posted about a broadcast in which their presenter Jeni Barnett exemplified some of the most irresponsible, ill-informed, and ignorant anti-vaccination campaigning that I have ever heard on the public airwaves.

To illustrate my grave concerns, I posted the relevant segment about MMR from her show, 44 minutes, which a reader kindly excerpted for me from the rest of the three hour programme. It is my view that Jeni Barnett torpedoes her reputation in that audio excerpt so effectively that little explanation is needed.

LBC’s lawyers say that the clip I posted is a clear infringement of their copyright, that I must take it down immediately, that I must inform them when I have done so, and that they “reserve their rights”."

However the LBC gang may have bitten off more that then can chew. The Blogosphere is now full of this and the clip in question can be heard here.

So, poor old LBC. Talk about shooting themselves in the foot!


The transcript can be seen here

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Macclesfield Express and their fear of real, local comment

The Macclesfield express is the only paid for newspaper in Macclesfield and is, therefore, central to local opinion forming and comment.
Unfortunately this paper is really very poor and getting worse.

This is their headline planned for 5 February 2009:

"Why paedophile killer Lea Mason runied my life - special forces soldier


That's pretty much every button on the DailyMail-o-tron pressed!

So, annoyed by this rag's descent even further into the murkier parts of the gutter, I penned this and submitted it on their comments section on their website:

The Express is really working hard on its pursuit of the worst kind of trash journalism with a trailed headline like this, isn't it?

But I do wonder what it is like to have one's life "runied" Is it what happens when a Manchester United footballer moves into the house next door?

Seriously though, why does the Macclesfield Express insist on trying to copy the worst of the national tabloids instead of trying to emulate the best of the local weeklies? Wallowing in human misery is not good journalism or providing an effective community news service.

How many press awards has it won in, say, the last five years, compared to the best, for example?

We are badly served by a paper that views its cheap and sensationalist reporting as good journalism and that only tries to titillate and outrage. It is a real pity that it chooses gutter journalism rather than act as the local forum and mouthpiece for ALL local people, and not the few who subscribe to its narrow political views and lamentably poor journalistic standards.

So far I have submitted it 4 times yet the Express has not let it through and it has not appeared on the site.

This rather proves my point, I think.