FactCheck UK/The Bullshit Awards 2009


3:42 am - February 2nd 2009

by Unity    


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There’s already a number of different projects under way, or in the works, to coincide with the upcoming Convention on Modern Liberty and I’m now going to add yet another new project to the list.

So,  Monday 9th February is the launch date for FactCheck UK, a new blogger-driven project that aims to pull together some of the best talent from the British blogosphere and subject the veracity of Britain’s politicians and mainstream media to some much needed independent scrutiny.

I shouldn’t really have to explain the concept as you should all be familiar with the US FactCheck website and Channel 4’s own sporadic efforts. We’ll operating to more or the same principles but with a somewhat wider brief, one that takes into account the role of the media in spreading disinformation and bullshit. We’re also planning to be a bit less po-faced that our American counterparts and lace the site with a bit of humour to go along with the serious business of chasing the truth.

And if you’re unsure as to why we need such a project and how it might be connected to the Convention on Modern Liberty then just try reading Costigan Quist’s recent musings on the corrosive power of fear and the effect it has on our personal liberties – if there’s an overriding ‘mission’ behind the launch of the site its simply that of trying to counter the tide of fearmongering that poisons the public’s perception of a wide range of important issues, making it easier for politicians to push through the kind of illiberal legislation that eats away at our freedom.

What can you do to help?

For starter’s spread the word.

I’m providing the hosting and taking care of the set up work, including putting together the look of the site, which will be running on WordPress 2.7, and I’ll be putting some of my own time into putting together and sourcing content for the launch, using material I’ve posted both here and at the Ministry as a starting point.

Over the next week, I’ll also be talking to a few other bloggers (and there’s one or two I’ve already spoken to) about coming in on the project and providing content, but to make this work we need to spread the net as widely as possible and open up the project to a wide range of contributors, each of whom will bring their own skills and knowledge to the party. So, the more people who know about the project then (hopefully) the more people we’ll find who’re going to be willing to come on board and share the workload.

I’ll stress at this point that the project will be non-partisan in terms of its overall political outlook and, to that end, contributors will be asked to play by a few basic rules in regards to sticking to the facts and using, citing and linking to reliable sources.

Openness and transparency will also form a major part of the ethos of the site. Unlike either the US site or Channel 4, comments will be open under all content – and yes, there’ll be a comments policy and a very light touch moderation regime – but if you’re prepared to call out a politician or media organisation for making economies with the truth then you should be prepared to make an open defence of your position and accept the same kind of scrutiny.

A much fuller explanation of the site’s ethos and operating standards will be made available on the site when it launches but, for now, if you’ve got a bit of time to spare, an inclination to get involved in a project like this and feel you can play by those basic rules then we want to hear from you, even if other commitments mean you could only contribute to the site every once in a while. The more contributors we have on board, the more ground we’ll be able to cover, and because our remit includes covering the output of the mainstream media, there’s a lot of ground to cover.

So, if you’re interested in contributing to FactCheck UK, drop me an e-mail to factcheckuk[AT]googlemail.com and I’ll see about sorting out an account for you on the site. Oh, and it would help speed things up considerably if you include something in the email to enable me to easily identify your online identity, if your e-mail address doesn’t point me to your blog or the name you use when posting comments – we are looking for contributors with a bit of credibility behind them, at least at the outset.

The Bullshit Awards 2009

As part of FactCheck UK’s launch festivities, and to coincide with the convention itself, onthe 28th February, we’ll be announcing the results of the 2009 Bullshit Awards, as nominated and voted for by the British blogosphere.

Nominations for each of the 12 awards categories open today – please read through the categories listed below and  e-mail your nominees directly to us at factcheckuk[AT]googlemail.com – we did want bullshitawards[AT]… for the nominations address but Gmail doesn’t appear to allow addresses that include the word ‘shit’, so that’s our first experience of censorship and we’ve not even got under way.

Please note that, in the case of most of the awards categories we will need you to provide some information/evidence in support of your nomination, most of which we would expect to be nothing more than a link or two to the material which backs up the nomination and, of course, all nomination must relate to comments, speeches, articles or events that occured between 1st January and 31st December 2008.

And don’t forget to indicate which categories your nominating which individuals or organisations in – it’ll save time at our end.

Polling will start on 16th February 2009 and run right the way through to the 26th February with, hopefully, four or five nominees in each category, as chosen from your nominations by our nominations committee (and we’ll tell you exactly who’s on that committee when the main site launches on the 9th).

Any the final results to be officially announced on 28th February.

So, the top categories are…

The No Bull Prize

The one genuinely prestigious award we’re going to be handing out, the No Bull Prize aims to recognise the blog/blogger who’s made the most significant contribution of the year in the field of countering and debunking bullshit appearing the mainstream media.

Bullshitter of the Year

This is an open category, so you can nominate a politician, a journalist/commentator, editor or other public figure, but what we’re looking for in this category is either a single but overwhelmingly spectacular example of bullshitting or a consistent portfolio of bullshit over a period of months.

Moving on, we’ve got two parliamentary awards on offer.

The Minister for Bullshit Award

Nominations in this category are restricted to individuals serving as government ministers and shadow ministers/front bench spokespersons during 2008 and the bullshitting must have taken place while they held a ministerial/shadow post.

The Dishonourable Member Award

As you might already have figured out, this award mirrors the ministerial award but is restricted only to backbencher.

At the nominations stage for both these awards, extra credit will be given to candidates who successfully bullshitted on the official record (e.g.) Hansard and both awards are open to MPs, Peers, members of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh/Northern Ireland Assemblies and British MEPs.

And there’s also a special award open only to journalists/newspapers.

The Churner Prize

This award recognises journalistic endeavours in the field of churnalism, so what we’re looking for are the finest examples of newspapers and journalists regurgitating bullshit press releases without making any effort to check the contents for factual accuracy. Extra credit will be given in this category where nominations include a link to the original press release that was churned, without attribution, in order to generate the bullshit story.

And now, our list of awards recognising the best worst bullshitter within a specific field of endeavour.

The Apocalypse Now Award

Nominees should have made a significant contribution over the year in the field of general fearmongering and the active promotion of illiberal legislative measures.

The Witchfinder General Award

For this award, we’re looking for something more than simple fearmongering, with nominees having sparked off or made a significant contribution towards a full blown moral panic on the back of a premise which turned out to be complete bullshit.

The Dr Phibes Award

Nominees should have made a significant contribution to promotion of bad science, woo and other unscientific bullshit dressed up as ‘research’

The Whore of Babylon Prize

This one shouldn’t take much explaining. We’re looking for nominees who publicly push the view that civilisation as we know it will come to end unless everyone believes in their god, and the more blatantly censorious their arguments the better.

Oh… and to save time, Stephen Green (of Christian Voice) has already been passported into the main vote, so you’d needn’t go sending me any links to the press release section on his site.

The Celebrity Big Bullshit Award

For bullshit stories involving celebrities, naturally, with examples of errant hypocrisy gaining extra points at the nomination stage

The Troof is Out There Award

And another self-explanatory award, this time recognising the contribution of conspiracy nuts, troofers, cultists and anyone who thinks these awards are sponsored by humanity’s secret lizard masters.

The Twat-o-Tron Prize

Last, but by no means least, the Twat-o-Tron prize will be awarded, on a public vote, the best example of a ‘OMFGIT’SALLGAWNFUGGINMAD’ story of the kind guaranteed to generate a raft of twat-o-tron comments under the article.

So, there’s the categories and a rough idea of the kind of nominees we’re looking for, polling starts on the 16th February, so the closing date for nominations will be the 14th February 2009, and as soon the FactCheck UK site goes live on the 9th we’ll be bringing you a running update on the latest nominations.

And finally…

‘Sponsor an Award’

If you’ve got a blog then we’re offering you the chance to ‘sponsor’ an award.

Relax, we’re not looking for money or anything like that, just a bit of promotion in return for which we’ll attach you blog’s name to a particular award and ship you a nice little blog banner to promote the awards and your support for them.

There are 11 awards up for grabs at the moment – sorry but the ‘No Bull Prize’ is already spoken for and will be sponsored, this year, by the Ministry of Truth but if you’d be interested in putting your blog’s name to any of other awards then, as with everything else, please email us as factcheckuk[AT]googlemail.com.

As for the banners, we’l naturally we’re going for an amusing ‘bull’ theme, so to give you an idea of what they look like here’s the banners for the Minister for Bullshit Award, The Troof is Out There Award and the Twat-o-Tron Prize…

minofbulltrooferprizetwatotronprize

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About the author
'Unity' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He also blogs at Ministry of Truth.
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Reader comments


I’ll take Bullshitter of the Year Award to sponsor! heh

Stupendous Idea!

BRILLIANT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Can I go the whore of babylon…. so many whores…. so many…

Let’s not forget to berate Spiked Online in this exercise!

So, under what category would we put yesterdays Guardian story about belief in education?

My problem is with the scaremongering reporting. 25% say it’s true, 25% thinks it’s probably true (which probably includes a lot of people who get how science works) and the other 50% includes a bunch of people who “were unsure, often mixing evolution, intelligent design and creationism together”.

In other words, 50% are fine with evolution, 12% think it’s wrong and 38% don’t know enough about it and would probably benefit from watching David’s brilliant explanation on t’telly this evening.

I was thinking as I booted up the PC that some sort of “Bad Surveys” site would be useful, I think it’d fit right in with what you’re planning anyway.

Gah! *belief in evolution* FFS, coffee not kicked in yet.

Did that post really have to be so long? Sorry, I know you must get this all the time, but my lunch break isn’t two hours long. I seriously think you’d reach a larger and more appreciative audience if you were a little more concise 🙁

Also, I’m slightly worried that this will descend into a “we don’t like these people’s opinions” exercise. Nobody has a monopoly on truth, even people who are right most of the time get it wrong every so often, and getting righteous about the rightness of one’s own opinions will, by the law of averages, lead to some mistaken crusades every now and then. Just something to bear in mind.

Also, I’m slightly worried that this will descend into a “we don’t like these people’s opinions” exercise.

Hence the shortlisting and asking for links/evidence rather than just a list of the most popular nominations.

We’ll be looking, first and foremost, for outright lies, errors of material fact, fallacious arguments and the wholesale burning of strawmen as the criteria for shortlisting nominees, so its not going to be enough just to put people up because you disagree with their opinions.

So, under what category would we put yesterdays Guardian story about belief in education?

I dunno about the article but its based on a 72 page defence of NOMA which, as usual, fails to address Dawkin’s argument regarding addressing the question of the existence of god in probabilistic terms, so I’d put the report under the Dr Phibes Award for bad science.

Unity – I think Rob sort of has a point on post length (not this time, this post took like 2mins to read) but in general you tend to be very thorough, which I like because I can take a whole day to read one blog post at work, but newbies coming to a site for the first time are inevitably going to find it heavy going. Might I suggest that the site have a recommended word limit (of, say, 800 words exc. blockquotes) in order to make it more accessible?

And/or perhaps a “summary judgement” section right at the top that lays out the key points either above the fold or in the sidebar. People are hopefully going to use the site as a resource, but only if it’s eeasy to do so. With enough gravitas, journalists themselves will begin to refer to the site, and since you’ve already concluded that they are mostly lazy talentless hacks then making it easy for them to get an unbiased opinion on a topic they don’t understand (science particularly) might help raise the quality of journalism too.

11. Shatterface

This is a fantastic idea!

Just one question though – what does ‘woo’ mean?

I’ve seen it used on sites like Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science but I’ve not seen a proper definition.

what does ‘woo’ mean?

I think basically, bullshit trying to be presented as proper science.

I wasn’t sure if it was an acronym for something specific or if it just comes from the spooky sound you make while wiggling your fingers at children while telling a ghost story: ‘Woooooh!!’

I usually pick up slang rather quickly and I made a fair guess at the word’s meaning from the context but I’m interested in the derivation.

comes from the spooky sound you make while wiggling your fingers at children while telling a ghost story: ‘Woooooh!!’

heh. I like it. It’s probably right. It reminds me of witch-doctory type of goings on.


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