Nanny State Annual Awards for Fake News and Phoney Statistics
I am pleased to announce the launch of the CPL Nanny State Annual Awards for Fake News and Phoney Statistics. The awards will go to the person or organisation that has perpetrated the most gratuitous porky or porkies, fake news or phoney statistics, in relation to public health. I invite readers to submit examples of fake news and phoney statistics – whether it be in relation to alcohol, sugar, obesity, carcinogenic burnt bacon – or any other claim made by nanny-statists that is designed to foment moral panic, frustrate modern life or otherwise deter us from doing anything pleasurable, on the dubious basis that it is better to die of boredom than anything else.
There will be three categories of award in relation to alcohol, sugar and obesity.
A few examples of fake news and phoney statistics from the past:
“There is no safe level of alcohol consumption.” And: “Do I want the glass of wine or do I want to raise my own risk of breast cancer?” Both quotes are from professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer of health – even though she did get the wording a bit mixed up in the second quote, we know what she meant!
Another example would be chief nanny Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, chairman of the health and home affairs committee, who conducted a PR stunt in parliament on Monday (22 January), to campaign for minimum unit pricing (MUP), a policy she’s been championing for years. At the committee hearing she quoted the fake statistic: “The cost of alcohol is at least £21bn a year.”
At this hearing a couple of the usual suspects gave “evidence” – professor Sir Ian Gilmore from the Alcohol Health Alliance and professor Nick Sheron – both ardent alcophobes who support MUP. The usual lie that MUP won’t affect moderate drinkers was repeated – Gilmore stated its introduction at 50 pence a unit would cost moderate drinkers “just £1.72 a year”. To be fair, professor Sheron was nearer the mark when he estimated the cost at £60 to £150 a year!
Another recent example of fake news is the comment made by Richard Horton, the Marxist editor of the Lancet: “Liver disease is on a trajectory to become the biggest cause of death in England and Wales.” This fake fact is designed to scare us off drinking alcohol. In fact, the Office for National Statistics states liver disease is tenth on the list, causing half as many deaths as prostate cancer and an eighth as many deaths as heart disease.
But the best recent example of fake news in relation to alcohol came from – yes you guessed it – The Sun newspaper, which came up with this magnificent headline: “Boffins claim one pint a day can give you dementia.” As Chris Snowdon, director of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, put it: “That public health lie went around the world before the truth even got its shoes on.”
The prize for all three categories will go to the perpetrator of the porky we select and will consist of a trophy and a bottle of cheap booze with the label removed and replaced with a health warning, and wrapped in plain packaging, of course.
All suggestions should be sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of February 2018 and should contain the quote and attribute it to the person or organisation being quoted. All quotes should be from 2017 and when we’ve picked the winners all contributors and their chosen porky perpetrators will all meet in a disreputable bar for an award ceremony and a night of responsible drinking.