Matthew Norman: Chris catches cold as ‘Mail’ goes nuclear

Diary

The first Swine Flu Article of the Week award of doubtless many goes unreservedly to Christopher Booker in the Daily Mail for "Pandemic or Panic?" Catchily sub-headed "After Salmonella, Bird Flu, the Millennium Bug ... Should We Actually Be Scared This Time?"

Mr Booker concludes that we should not ... and that "we should learn to be much more careful not to talk up scares beyond what the evidence is there to support."

That seems a perfectly fair line, and certainly a more temperate one than Simon Jenkins took in The Guardian (swiftly and expertly debunked by its own Bad Science columnist Ben Goldacre), where he insisted that it's all got up by the press to sell newspapers and the WHO to justify its budget. But Mr Booker wins not so much for his argument as its location. There is a special joy about finding such a calm appraisal of public credulity towards scare stories in the Daily Mail, which had downplayed pandemic fears itself three days earlier by leading its website with "How Swine Flu Could Be A Bigger Threat To Humanity Than Nuclear Warfare".

At times the Mail hasn't been so restrained, as with its proselytising of the fictitious link between the MMR vaccine and autism, while with the age's most unquestionably genuine cause for alarm it veers in the other direction to dismiss climate change as cobblers. With swine flu, for once, it appears unsure of itself, unable to decide whether to take the Booker line or the worse-than-nuclear-war one. Time and epidemiology will clarify its thinking, but for now let's reflect on Mr Booker's closing words. "Stick to the facts, keep everything in proportion and don't give way to speculations which, a year or two later, may make us look very silly indeed." Wise words. If only the Mail had followed them on MMR.

Mad science

No doubt subdued by the memory of her own role in inflating Dr Andrew Wakefield's flawed research into a measles epidemic, Melanie Phillips has been oddly reticent about swine flu thus far. Instead, Mad Mel turns to religion, and the relationship between Creationism and its kissing (with tongues) cousin Intelligent Design – the theory that there must be a higher power, to précis slightly, though God alone knows what.

Irked by a Today Programme item on the matter, MM derides the general belief that ID was invented to sidestep the US constitutional ban on teaching religion in schools. Far from it, she confides to her blog, the two are at odds "because Creationism comes out of religion while Intelligent Design comes out of science". Exactly which science she doesn't say. Nor does she mention the consensus that ID cannot be science since it cannot be tested by scientific methodology, and that it is widely known to scientists as "junk science", or to the more courteous American Association for the Advancement of Science as "pseudoscience". These details aside, spot on once again.

'Mirror' gets wrecked

A glorious week for the Daily Mirror on several traditional fronts. Pride of place among the usual deluge of "exclusives" goes to the genius two-year-old girl featured in every other paper the same day. Also impressive was the feature in which the faces of two celebrities were combined to produce a third, published the very day after the Mail did the identical thing.

Most pleasing was the report of the MPs' expenses debate in the Commons, regarded by everyone else as another humiliation for the PM. "Brown Perks Up" was the headline above Jason Beattie's account. "Gordon Brown breathed a sigh of relief last night ... " Now that interpretation really was exclusive. Once again we're reminded of Admiral the Lord Horatio d'Ascoyne in Kind Hearts And Coronets, bravely steering his vessel towards a collision, then saluting bravely to the last as he goes down with his ship.

BBC OTT re 'OTR'

Without having heard it, one can't be too dogmatic about the On The Ropes with Andy Kershaw, dropped from the Radio 4 schedule at the last minute, about which he wrote in this paper on Friday. But given that the interview was cleared by hyper-cautious BBC lawyers, and conducted by a journalist of the experience and judgment of John Humphrys, it's hard to believe the official reason that it infringed the privacy of the children about whom Mr Kershaw insists he spoke only with affection; and all too easy to believe that this was yet another depressing show of cowardice from executives whose only surviving instinct is the avoidance of trouble.

Gullible's travails

I much enjoyed Daily Express editor Peter Hill's appearance before the Commons media committee to discuss his sensitive handling of the Madeleine McCann story. "I do not publish stories I believe to be untrue," said Peter. Who can doubt his word? Whether one so endearingly gullible is suited to editing a national title, even the Express, is another matter, but hats off to him all the same.

Don't do as I do, do as I say

In The Sun, finally, Kelvin MacKenzie has a pop at the remade Reggie Perrin starring Martin Clunes. I thought the first episode was hilarious, but that seems the minority view, and Kelvin took grave umbrage. "Some between-jobs idiot at the BBC decided it could be updated," he harrumphs. "Having seen the first show, the answer is clear – no it couldn't." Well, he has a point. It can be pitiful when people try to reinvent a memorable triumph of old. Kelvin's paper, meanwhile, featured Gordon Brown's face in a 60 watt bulb beside the headline "Will The Last Young Family To Leave Britain For Australia Or New Zealand Please Turn Out The Lights".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Lead Systems Developer / Software Developer

COMPETITIVE + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Lead Systems Developer / Sof...

Recruitment Genius: Social Media & Engagement Manager - French or German Speaker

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: The world's leading financial services careers...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive - 6 Months Contract

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Digital Marketing Executive...

Guru Careers: Account Manager / Senior Account Manager

40-45K DOE + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Manager / Senior Account Manag...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border