Pulling Together


Why I have not subscribed to Spiked

For those who have not come across it, Spiked is an online publication specialising in opinion and observational articles. It is fairly non-partisan and publishes counter-cultural articles from across the political spectrum. Some I find infuriating because I disagree with the authors’ assumptions. Many I agree with, at least up to a point. The key point is their articles oppose the current political orthodoxy. They encourage free thinking and Free Speech.

Many of their commentators are concerned about Wokeism, as I am, because it attempts to silence other people and persecute those who disagree with it and because its base expectations are often shallow and not thought through. Spiked writers generally want to write in depth, developing an argument paragraph by paragraph. At least they're making an effort to think for themselves and encourage others to do so. Most of the time it is a place for serious thought.

You will by now sense I have a problem with it, even though I see it as a necessary publication to balance other so-called intellectual positions which dominate our culture at present. You will be right.

The problem is not with their own writing. It is with the setting in which their writing appears. A serious publication needs, in my view, a serious environment; one where every article is sensible or at least worthy of the context. Unfortunately, that is not the case with Spiked. Beneath its articles appear several rows of links. Many of these link to other articles, but as one scrolls down the page, an increasing number become “sponsored”. Now, I accept there is a need to cover the expense of publication and advertising revenue is one way to do that, but in a serious publication, say a Sunday supplement, which seems to be the level at which this is pitched, one would expect the advertisements to have a certain credibility. One would not expect to see advertisements which looked deceptive, or pretended to promote blatant falsehoods. Yet that is what one sees in Spiked increasingly as one moves down the page. Several of these sponsored links are to impossibly hyped and probably impossible bargains, others to news articles which are so implausible as to be categorised as fake.

Today, for instance, I read a story about a schoolgirl who found a giant insect in the woods, apparently known to animal experts as a “disease-spreading insect from the other side of the world.” Anyone who came within a few feet of this creature would fall dangerously ill within minutes and her bringing it into town sparked a major health crisis for the whole county. Drastic measures had to be taken to eradicate all traces of this animal, including burning down the area of woodland where it had been found, incinerating the creature indoors in the vet’s surgery where it was held, treating numerous people in hospital and burning their clothes and the ridiculous story went on. In the end, the girl was credited with avoiding an even bigger disaster by exposing the insect’s presence and received an award from the President for her public-spirited action.

Where do I begin to examine such a story rationally? Well, I could start with the picture of someone holding the creature. Given how dangerous it was supposed to be, why would anyone pose for a picture holding it? If being in the same room were likely to put you in Intensive Care, no one would pick it up. Then there’s the slight problem of the insect’s size. Arthropods cannot transport oxygen far around their bodies owning to their lack of haemoglobin-equipped blood. They breathe through small tubes which permeate their body, and all their tissue must be very close to one of these tubes. The more the body is scaled up, the harder it is to get enough tubes into the volume and still have space for working tissue. For this reason, a lobster is about as big as an arthropod can get. This insect was the size of a Pekingese dog. Moreover, it had not the compound eye of an insect but the lensed eye of a mollusc or vertebrate. Clearly, it was a model, for no such creature could exist. Then there is the vagueness of the report. The town was not named. The county was not named. The species of the creature was not named, nor was its native land on “the other side of the world”—from somewhere, nor the disease it spread, which needed samples to be taken to identify it despite the fact the vet knew the creature would spread it. Even the President was not named. No one was named.

Or perhaps one should consider the girl’s history of rescuing animals from the wood and taking them to the vet. Surely the vet would have pointed out on previous occasions that animals live in woods and don’t need rescuing, and why would she take an animal which is not sick to a vet anyway? The girl does not look the same in all the photographs. She changes age and height from one to another. The police uniforms seem to cross the Atlantic between pictures. Would anyone start a fire in a wood or indoors as a safety measure?

This was just one of many links to supposedly astonishing news items appearing on Spiked’s pages, with its own articles scattered between them.

I quite understand that any kind of publication has to cover costs by taking advertising, but I would expect a serious publication to require advertising to comply with ASA standards. I cannot understand why an online magazine devoted to myth-busting and asking serious questions about popular assumptions would undermine its mission by participating in spreading fake news, even for money. I am sure a publication like Spiked needs to exist, but I’m equally sure it doesn’t need to sell itself short like this. It just doesn’t look professional.

About the Author

K J Petrie has a Full Technological Certificate in Radio, TV and Electronics, an HNC in Digital Electronics and a BA(Hons) in Theological Studies.

His interests include Christian and societal unity, Diverse Diversity, and freedoms from want, from fear, of speech, and of association. He is a member of the Social Democratic Party.

The views expressed here are entirely personal and unconnected with any body to which he belongs.

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