Some Things We Know – Says Fooyah

Before I start I want to question whether Diego Maradona dying warrants this much attention from the news. BBC Radio 4 have done ten minutes out of the last twenty five including on-the-scene reporters in Argentina and Naples. There could be a number of reasons why I feel antipathy towards this, none of them good! Firstly I don’t care for soccer. Secondly I’m not sure we should celebrate someone who fell so greatly from grace. Lastly, I’m not sure I can get over the “hand of god”, and that’s bad as I honestly don’t care about soccer, but apparently I did back in the 80s.

This communication is about the news because, while browsing the apple news app I saw the following:

Headlines Like These
Headlines Like These

Now, I know almost every headline is clickbait, but this once got me annoyed. The fashion these days for telling the story in a headline without telling the story is rather irritating and seems quite immature to me. I’d be more likely to click on a link if they actually told me what the story was about. I can’t be bothered to look through all the adverts and shitty webpage design to actually get to the point that I wanted to know.

“These are the areas of Kent with the highest corona cases . . . . “

That’s the kind of headline that is driven by the need to get people eyes-on the adverts on your page. I should get back to the problem with the Jupiter story.

“Double Planet” is in quotes. I mean they could just say that Jupiter and Saturn will align for the first time in 600 years. They aren’t a double planet. You don’t need to mention double planet. Just say they will be aligned. More importantly is that they will be aligned relative to the Earth, but maybe that bit doesn’t need to be explained.

The bigger issue for me is the “astronomers say” part of the headline. I know some people struggle with the idea that some scientists have opinions and we’ve seen that a lot over this last year. When science doesn’t know the answer different people will come up with different interpretations of what it means. Essentially the data aren’t that good. The more data we have the more science works out what is going on and the more scientists agree about what it means. Some data are notoriously fuzzy, such as coronavirus transmissions and a lot of the social sciences, but that doesn’t mean that with more data we won’t figure things out. Interpreting fuzzy data is hard and it means there are going to be problems. For example, give the same set of data to 100 economists would probably end up with 100 different hypotheses. That’s partly because economics is not a solid science but the main problem is that the data are fuzzy and there are too many variables to be controlled for.

Of the experiments and things we have data for the motion of the planets is one of those that is pretty much locked in with certainty. The variables are minimal and although we have corrected the original Newtonian motion with general relativity the four hundred year old ideas of Newton still work the vast majority of the time. Jupiter and Saturn WILL be close to each other in the near future. FACT. You don’t need astronomers to tell you that. Anyone can work that out. We know where the planets are and where they have been and where they are going to be. We are that good.

I do wish that headline writers had more cahunas to tell it like it is. I feel that copywriters hide behind the use of quotes as a “get out of jail free” card for if they get sued. OK, time for me to leave you to the delights of clickbaity headlines. Enjoy.

More Than That

This headline from the BBC is amazing. I don’t even know what sort of spin they are trying to place on the news. I’ve been trying to spend less time BBC bashing when there is plenty more shit out there but this one needs a bit more explaining and it covers one of my favourite topics: the survival of the planet. It’s easy to go to the Daily Bullshit Mail and rip it apart. It’s easy to look at so many news articles and explain why they are wrong but it’s depressing when it’s the BBc that do it. As I’ve said many times within these communications the BBC is the best news gathering we have in this country and it’s going to be destroyed by the tories.

The use of quotations in headlines is terrible. It allows news organisations to drag you in with a juicy quote from a story without actually telling you anything about the story. Or, as in this case, it is misleading. The real news headline should have been:

Climate Change Report by Think Tank Released.


What happened was a report was released. The headline the BBC used misses an important part of the report which said that the UK can’t go carbon neutral without changes to behaviour. That last bit swaps the whole style of the narrative around and makes the report more positive. It explains the headline. But most grumpy fuckers will read the headline, nod wisely as it agrees with their preconceptions, and then move on without actually learning anything. This headline gives the excuse that there’s no point changing behaviour because we can’t be carbon neutral by 2050. It’s an excuse to let people do what they are currently doing. It’s dangerous.

The UK cannot go climate neutral much before 2050 unless people stop flying and eating red meat almost completely, a report says. But it warns that the British public do not look ready to take such steps and substantially change their lifestyle.

From the BBC article

No one wants to change their behaviour because we don’t like change. But we MUST change and change soon. It is obvious we have destroyed this planet for the next ten generations and massive changes are required NOW to make sure that we minimise the terror. Currently we are breaking every possible system the planet has and we are going to make this place a horror movie in one hundred years or maybe even earlier. I guess we have to thank short-termism politics and the general selfishness of those who seek power and then want to maintain that power. It’s hard to imagine people who push their way to power actually wanting to help people. They do exist but are rare and seen as the odd ones.

I do sometimes think that maybe the best thing to happen to this planet is the extinction of our species. The planet will take a while to recover but it will eventually be a glorious place of life and death and the struggle to survive without our influence.

The weight of this world should be on all our shoulders. But I fear it is held by a few.


You see, sometimes the news headline writers don’t get it right. Below is the front page headline from BBC News.

Pay Gap Headline
Pay Gap Headline

It makes it look as though firms are rushing to publish their details because they want to. They want the world to know how much they don’t pay women. It makes it look like there’s a race to publish, like they really want to get that information out there. But, when you click, you get more details:


This article goes on the explain the reality. Firms are behind in publishing their details. It’s funny isn’t it, the original headline makes it look as though companies can’t wait whereas the reality is they haven’t been bothered to publish the details so far. Perhaps it’s time for new headline writers but not those employed at the Daily Mail though.


Lazy Headlines

A trend I have noticed more and more in the news these days is the use of quotations in a headline. This is probably because of two reasons. The first is that it is incredibly expensive to defend “libel” accusations in the English court system. This gags publishers to a certain extent. The second reason is that it makes headline writing easy and removes controversy because the publisher can say “we were using quotes”. Here are some examples from the best UK news organisation the BBC.

Quotation Marks Excuse
Quotation Marks Excuse

In the Toby Young article the term “regret” is used in quotation marks because it’s a feeling that an organisation is having. It’s obviously a bullshit term for the fact that the Office for Students’ were WRONG, but rather than admit to being wrong they claim the organsation has “regret”. Let’s face it, they were wrong.

“Intorlerance” is written because someone said it and the BBC don’t want to put any form of objective fact into the reporting. Also, this article relys on what MPs and Peers said rather than any form of what does and will work. It’s entirely opinion and therefore possibly wrong. Hence the quotation.

“Down to privilege” used in the third article is ammusing. Being in quotes means that it’s treated as an opinion rather than a potential objective truth. This saves the BBC from having to defend their wording for the article because all they are doing is quoting a scientific study, or maybe they are putting their own spin on it. It doesn’t really matter. What the BBC have done is shy away from stating an objective truth.

The world these days doesn’t seem to like the idea that some things can be known for sure and they are truths. We can test them. Hell, you can test them if you want to study for long enough. Other things are opinion. I’m not sure opinion belongs in headlines.

Not Risking It
Not Risking It

Look at these headlines. The BBC aren’t claiming the welfare system is at critical point. They aren’t being objective about it. They haven’t looked at the evidence and declared it is fucked. They have been lazy and just written down what someone said. It weakens the argument being made for investment.

“Lots to do”, if we were honest and objective then we could clearly state, without the need for speech  marks, that there is a ton of stuff still to do on Brexit. Once again the quotation weakens the argument being put forward. It lends a sense of opinion rather than reality.

“Cheating”, yeah. They were lying weren’t they. They spent more than they were allowed and yes they cheated. It doesn’t have to be in quotation marks. We know that’s what they did.

“Sexism”. This headline says that although someone accused Boris, the sexist, of being sexist, we aren’t sure and are really relying on the speech of someone else rather than declaring our foreign secretary a rascist, sexist idiot.

Just look at the US press. They accuse their president of telling “untruths” or being “misleading”. Bullshit. He’s a liar. Let’s call him that.

News agencies have a duty to report the objective truth as much as possible. The rising use of quotations means there’s less chance to offend people who can’t cope with objectivity.

It’s What Happens

I teach. It’s what I do. I teach teenagers. A lot of people I meet consider this to be a mad career. Teenagers are horrible. They wonder why I don’t teach younger kids. I teach because of a long series of accidents and uninformed choices throughout my life. However, after starting my teacher training in 1995 I found that I loved being in the classroom and working with kids. I consider myself utterly fortunate to have discovered a career that I enjoy so much. I have often said to myself that the day I “have to go to work” is the day I quit, at the moment I still get up every (working) day and “go to school”.

Teenagers are hilarious. They try to argue and make valid points, they are starting to learn the craft of putting together valid arguments and come to valid conclusions. Some can do this well, others take quite a bit longer. They often try to communicate their thoughts are struggle to do so. Daily I am involved in creating new thoughts and ideas and methods for explanation. This is great. It’s exciting and when the teenagers mess it up it’s just funny. I work with some of the brightest and [unintentionally] hilarious young people.

You’ll have to take this on trust but having a teenager try to explain his/her actions in a logical manner leaves me laughing (inside rather than in their face). Although my role is to teach mathematics I also aim to offer up techniques for questioning and finding out what really happens, how to get evidence, how to appraise arguments. I see this as far more important than the actual mathematics I teach. If I can help people seek their own evidence and make their own decisions then I have succeeded in improving their contributions to future society.

The title of this communication is “It’s What Happens”. I’d just like to point out that society seems to have a massive “downer” on teenagers.

Said Socrates [not the footballer]:

Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.

This is a quite well known quotation. It’s definitely gives the impression that we hate teenagers and have done for many years of society. There are often modern headlines in the newspapers and web-news-services where the implication is that modern society is going to ruin because of a type of behaviour of teenagers or young people. This is utter rubbish.

Here’s some cases of behaviour of the youth ruining society:

  • Pinball machines in the 1940s
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll in the 1950s
  • Sex and drugs in the 1960s
  • Punk in the 1970s
  • Alcopops in the 1990s
  • Mobile phones in the 2000s

Most of the people “corrupted” by these forms of behaviour are now the ESTABLISHMENT. I’m pretty sure that if you look hard enough you will see that society isn’t ruined. My theory is as follows:

People who write opinions and the news are jealous of teenagers. They don’t like the freedom, the care-less-ness, the risk taking, the fun that teenagers have. It reminds them of what they have lost and the dreams that have dimmed. It reminds them of mortgages, children and politics. They want to be young again.

The constant dislike of teenagers in the press is a constant of society, it will always be there. Are the youth terrible? Are the youth poorly behaved? No, not really. Teenagers are meant to be restless and care-free. It means they move on and develop in to fully functioning adults. It’s what happens.

BBC Headline #2

My second example of a poor headline from BBC News. This time it’s from their website rather than the iPhone app.

US spaceplane ‘spying on China’

This headline is poor in the following categories:

Quotation in Headline
No Shit Sherlock
Secondary Source

Quotation in Headline
You can write anything in a headline if you put it in quotes. Just ask any old nutter or naturopath what they think about something.

No Shit Sherlock
Is this really news? Are we to assume that the USA does not spy on other world powers? The only interesting thing is the existence of a super-spy-plane, but given rumour and speculation on the web this isn’t a surprise either. The USA have always had secret stuff. Are they going to some out and deny it? No, because that would mean guilt in many people’s eyes. Are they going to confirm it? No!

Using a Secondary Source
The text below the headline shows the article is essentially lifted from another publication which means the BBC can print anything in the original article as it counts as a source. Have they independently confirmed any of this? I doubt it.