Can you spot the difference between the two headlines below?
That’s right: The first shocking headline claims the existence of’cemeteries the size of cities’. The implication is clear: that vast numbers of people have died as a result of the Chernobyl disaster.
This was not my understanding, and I was so shocked by this claim that I tweeted the author: you can read our conversation below:
After this exchange I thought I would re-read the article and was surprised to find that the headline had changed. Indeed, I wondered if I had been mistaken in what I had seen, but fortunately I had left a browser window open and was able capture an image of the earlier page.
- Link to first version Note: this re-directs to the second version and there is no note that the article has been changed.
- Link to second version
So what have we learned?
Firstly we learn that there are no ‘cemeteries the size of cities’ containing the unacknowledged dead from Chernobyl.
Secondly we learn that despite the absence of ‘cemeteries the size of cities’, the Chernobyl disaster was just that: an ongoing disaster played out in the lives of poor people trying to earn a living.
The ‘point’ of the article was probably to draw attention to their plight and to cause people to think twice about nuclear power in the UK. However by making unjustified and hyperbolic claims, the whole article becomes discredited: which parts should we believe?
And finally we learn that The Independent is continuing its splendid tradition of nonsense front page ‘scare’ stories. They have sadly taken down their front page story from Sunday 20th January 2008.
That story began routinely reporting results of an unrefereed conference article which claimed that mobile phone radiation affected the sleep of a cohort of people studied. Scratching around for supporting evidence they wrote:
It also complements other recent research. A massive study, following 1,656 Belgian teenagers for a year, found most of them used their phones after going to bed. It concluded that those who did this once a week were more than three times – and those who used them more often more than five times – as likely to be “very tired”.
I would like to finish by saying that ‘you can’t make this stuff up’. Except that The Independent can. And continues to do so.