They say that once you put something on the web it exists, no matter in whatever ghostly form, for ever. Today’s graphic may turn out to be a case in point. Someone called @JamesMelville tweeted it yesterday, with this message:
My eye fell on one statement in the middle of this interminable list of sheer British badness:
Britain is the country with … the worst infant mortality rates in Europe.
I used to have something to do at work with population statistics and that didn’t sound quite right. It wasn’t. On the EuroStat web site I found the United Kingdom infant mortality rate (the number of deaths of children under one year of age during the year per 1,000 live births) – 3.8 in 2013. The figure certainly isn’t the best, but it’s better than nine of the 27 EU member countries and better, if you take the wider European area, than many others including Switzerland.
So how many of the other sixteen ‘facts’ are true? Since the graphic Mr Melville tweeted has no attribution it’s not possible to say without further, and probably quite time-consuming, research. His Twitter home page offered me a tantalising clue. His profile sports a natty green and blue tartan and he describes himself as a ‘Scotsman in Cornwall’ and an ‘Exiled Scot.’ Now where have I heard of another exiled Scot in the English west country before?
My dander by now well and truly roused I remembered the old who-dun-it cliché of cherchez la femme, although in this case my suspicious mind was tending more to cherchez la nationaliste.
A Google search threw up about twenty other uses online of this image. A number seemed to be random recent tweets but one or two were on Scottish political blogs and an old Yes group web site (Bellshill and Uddingston). Was I getting closer to the source? Way down the page there was a slightly different version of the same image with this addition at the bottom:
Well, well, our old indyref friends the Radical Independence Campaign. Their web site’s still sitting there but looks moribund and presumably whoever maintained it has moved on to other things, as people on the further fringes of politics tend to.
Still, there was the promise of being able to check the ‘facts.’ It had to be somewhere on their web site. I searched every page. Not a sausage. Neither the graphic nor any list of sources.
Meantime, should I check that long list of British badness that was presented so starkly during the referendum campaign? My instincts tell me I’d be wasting my time. Sure, a few might be more or less right. But some are expressed in such vague and ambiguous terms as to be almost impossible to track down. Unless of course the statistical whizz who drew up the list cares to post a note of the sources as a comment to this article.
They won’t of course. But now the list’s out there in cyberspace for endless tut-tutting and recycling, as Mr Melville has done with his meretricious ‘Tories and their right wing media lickspittles.’ His LinkedIn page tells me he’s a marketing consultant specialising in the sport, arts, heritage, social enterprise and public sectors, so he should know better. Even if the selection of assertions about the UK were the facts he claims, which I am sure many are not, they would tell a much more complex story than ‘Tories bad.’ And they could be balanced by (true) facts about how the UK fares well in international comparisons.
The list is, of course, nothing more than propaganda designed to fulfil a purpose for a campaign and a cause long dead. But it’s out there and will doubtless reappear over the next few years as indisputable fact. For me, it merely adds to the long list of lies told by the campaigners for separation during 2013/14. I wish I’d seen it when it first appeared.