Fraser Nelson, editor of the increasingly alt-right Spectator magazine, is another given a regular platform by broadcasters who presents an aura of authority, while peddling the kind of rank dishonesty that suggests he does not possess it. Perhaps the bookers who are so keen to have him on their channel’s shows have ignored Nelson’s lapses, including the latest, where he has been comprehensively owned by Danny Dorling.
Who he? Well, Dorling is “a British social geographer and is the Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography of the School of Geography and the Environment of the University of Oxford”. So it should be assumed that, on matters of social geography, he is highly likely to know what he is talking about. This Nelson has not yet taken on board.
So when the Speccy’s 2019 internships were advertised, with one of the “Research Tasks” being “Find three factual inaccuracies in articles or comments by Oxford’s Prof Danny Dorling”, Nelson might have chosen his words more wisely than to sniff “That’s just one test for the internship programme and it should not take long”. Yeah, easy, innit?
Dorling was not so sure. “Dear Fraser, I guess you can't give out any examples of these ‘factual inaccuracies’ as that would mean it wasn't a test? I did, however, want to thank you for getting so many more people to look at my work”. Nelson decided to continue the exchange. “Happy to update you as entries come in. But we’re disallowing the easiest hits: ie, your publishing a book called ‘peak inequality’ at a time when income inequality was at a 30yr low”. From the author of “IPSO, toughest press regulator in the western world”.
Which was totally fictitious. So it was no surprise when Dorling countered. “Please do, I would honestly be interested, after all ‘only Allah is perfect’. However, the attached graph tells a different story, as do the OECD & as did the late great Tony Atkinson. The link to the source is here - a summary of the book's central fact”. Link provided. Hint taken?
Sadly not. “Given that inequality data was simply not collected for a great many of these years (even Atkinson did not claim otherwise) that graph should be taken with a barrel of salt. Perhaps one of our intern applicants will show how you conjured up this a data series for the book”. Pah! A mere intern will be along shortly to demolish this paltry claim!
Dorling now had to point out the obvious. “Dear Fraser, The data behind the graph was published in a 2013 article in the Journal of the Royal Statistics Society (series A) ‘Fairness and the changing fortunes of people in Britain’. A copy of it for your hard working interns to read can be found here”. Nelson complained that no primary source was quoted.
Prof? “Dear Fraser, the academic paper is quite long and you are so busy tweeting so I'll help. Papers in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society are not published if they do not give their original data sources. I suggest you ask your intern to see page 36”. By this point, Nelson was beginning to get flaky, suggesting Prof Dorling was fibbing.
“That’s a task for the interns: your ‘peak inequality’ graph, purporting to show figures that were never collated, offers secondary sources, which are referenced to other secondary sources and on it goes. The question: how did the creative Prof Dorling do it?” The question is, Fraser, how did the Spectator’s editor fail to take the hint?
So the good Prof pointed it out with the equivalent of a dirty great club. “See page 36 of this JRSS(A) paper Fraser. If you were a student, this would be the point as which I would begin to despair over if you would ever get it and were all bluster. The underlying source is freely available on the web and has been updated since”. Link provided. Again.
Nelson continued to make a fool of himself, perhaps unaware that he had just sprayed his credibility up the wall in no style at all. It was left to Miles King to observe “Thread. In which the Spectator's Fraser Nelson attempts to persuade a leading academic geographer, that he can use student interns to rubbish said academic's work. (spoiler: Nelson loses whatever journalistic credibility he had)”. Nellie makes a Nellie of himself. Again.
So next time you see Fraser Nelson welcomed by one of the broadcasters to give his supposedly authoritative view, bear one thing in mind. It isn’t.
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