Superheroes, Sci-Fi and the “insert minority here” trope.

As I noted in my previous article, just about the least interesting thing about the leaked Sony/Marvel memo is the section detailing Sony’s “Character Integrity Obligations” which stipulated that the film version of Spider-Man must be straight – at least until Marvel gives the character a gay/bisexual/non-binary alter ego within one of its comic book universes – and that Peter Parker is contractually condemned to be portrayed as a straight white dork. To be honest, I really didn’t plan to write anything about this particular non-story because it genuinely isn’t very interesting, or more accurately the detail of the character integrity obligations clause isn’t particular interesting although the existence of the clause and the reasons for inclusion in that agreement… Read more »

Decoding Sony’s leaked Spider-Man Memo (Pt. 1)

Occasionally I get accused of doing proper journalism and I suspect this may turn out to be one such occasion. At the very least what I hope I’ll achieve with this article is a clear illustration of the difference between click-bait “journalism” – specifically last week’s “No Blacks, No Gays, No Spiders” non-story (see the first page of comments for the speed with which it was picked to pieces) – and some proper investigative and analytical blogging. So let’s start the story off with the basic facts. Around the middle of last week, WikiLeaks published another sizeable batch of documents sourced from last November’s cyber-attack on Sony Pictures. In this latest batch of documents there’s a 71 page executive… Read more »

The BBC, Charlie Hebdo and Jesus & Mo

If, like me, you were watching BBC Question Time on Thursday evening then you will have undoubtedly noticed that the venerable Dimbers dropped something of a bombshell during the opening debate on the Charlie Hebdo murders by referring to BBC editorial guidance which explicitly prohibited the use of images depicting Mohammed in very clear and unequivocal terms:

Due care and consideration must be made regarding the use of religious symbols in images which may cause offence. The Prophet Mohammed must not be represented in any shape or form.

As John Plunkett of The Guardian’s Media section noted on Friday evening, by the time that Question Time went to air on Thursday evening, BBC News had already broken this apparent… Read more »

Exposed: The “Charity” behind the Worst “Crisis Pregnancy Centre” in Britain

If you’ve already read the introductory article then you’ll be aware that the starting point for this entire investigation is a series of articles published by the Daily Telegraph in February 2014 which stemmed from an undercover investigation into the “counselling” practices of a self-styled “Crisis Pregnancy Centre” operating from premises in Central London – an investigation that was fine as far as it went but which, nevertheless, left behind a considerable number of unanswered questions, not least that of the identity of the people and organisation(s) responsible for running this centre. In this article, I’m going to begin to answer some of those questions but I will warn you that this is going to be the most… Read more »

The Worst “Crisis Pregnancy Centre” in Britain – A Special Investigation

In February 2014, the Daily Telegraph published a series of extremely disturbing articles based on an undercover investigation of a small number of self-styled “Crisis Pregnancy” Centres. The centrepiece of this investigation was a video lasting just under one and half minutes which showed a dark-haired young women flipping casually through a set of notes as she peremptorily informs the undercover journalist of the existence of an alleged link between abortion and child abuse [1].

“There’s also, an increased statistical likelihood of child abuse”, Annabel said. “When you have a child you have natural maternal instincts towards the child and there are also natural barriers that surround the child that you don’t cross. “In order to have an abortion you… Read more »

So where did all the women coders go?

Over at, Jessica Conditt poses a very interesting question

What happened to all of the women coders in 1984? In 1984, women stopped pursuing Computer Science majors at American universities. From 1970 onward, women had composed an increasing percentage of Computer Science majors, but something happened in 1984 and that number began to drastically fall, an occurrence at odds with other tech fields. This trend has continued into the 2000s, and today women make up roughly 20 percent of Computer Science majors, as opposed to the 1984 high of about 37 percent.

To go with that question we have a graph generate by NPR’s Planet Money team (Caitlin Kenney and Steve Henn) which does appear to provide a stark illustration of the trend she’s referring… Read more »

Do Goldfish have a longer attention span than American Internet Users?

If what you read on the Internet is to be trusted – and let’s face it the Internet never lies, then I have around eight seconds to convince you that this article is worth reading because most of you have an average attention span that’s slightly worse than that of a goldfish. With that picture of a goldfish in bowl added to the mix that’s about eight seconds’ worth of content and we’ve now ditched all the fish-brained slackers, so if you’re still here then hopefully you might be interested in finding out why this whole idea that Internet is somehow altering people’s brains and reducing their attention span over time is nothing short of a load of foetid dingo’s… Read more »

The Indy’s Rape Statistics: Wrong Again!

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had pick up The Independent over basic statistical errors and today they’ve made another absolute howler, albeit that at least part of the blame appears to lie with Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry:

Emily Thornberry, the shadow Attorney General, whose office uncovered the figures in the House of Commons Library, said: “Everyone with an interest in the protection of women is encouraging rape victims to come forward and it seems that they are starting to. It is therefore profoundly disappointing that we have not seen a surge in the number of decisions to prosecute. In fact, the proportion of rapes being sent for charges, prosecuted and convicted have been shrinking… Read more »

You Couldn’t Make It Up… unless you’re Richard Littlejohn

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the statement “Richard Littlejohn is liar” is closer to being a tautology than an observation but even by his usual pitiful standards his contribution to the burgeoning debate surrounding recent events in a number of Birmingham schools stands out as masterpiece of bullshit and utter fabrication:

Amid all the furore about Islamist infiltration of schools in Birmingham, another story involving the education watchdog Ofsted has received rather less attention. Inspectors have criticised a rural school in Devon for being insufficiently ‘diverse’. Although they concede that Payhembury Primary is a ‘happy place’, it has been denied an ‘outstanding’ rating because all 68 pupils are of ‘white British heritage’. Well, they would be. Small villages in… Read more »

The Indy plumbs new depths of irresponsibility

I expect at least some of you will recall that “The Independent” was originally launched as a quality newspaper. Those days have, however, long since passed as evidenced by today’s front page splash: But before you take any of those statements too seriously, you really pay close attention to the caveats in paragraphs 9 & 10 of the article that goes with this scaremongering headline:

Commenting on the new studies, Dr Aylin said they added up to “powerful” evidence of a global problem in healthcare. “The German study is interesting in raising afternoon surgery as an issue, but as the authors acknowledge, it may be that ‘the patients treated in the afternoon and on the weekends were more severely ill’,” he said…. Read more »