Dreadful, dreadful journalism

September 13, 2014 • 4:12 pm

Well, I never! Click the screenshot below to go to the shoddy piece at The Raw Story. I think they got the names reversed.

Screen shot 2014-09-13 at 6.04.54 PM

Pot, kettle, anyone? The article is about a book, probably also worthless, by Tom Roston, called The Quantum Prophets: Richard Dawkins, Deepak Chopra and the Spooky Truth about their Battle Over God.

The article is almost completely about Chopra’s dislike of Dawkins. There are four full-sentence quotes from Chopra and just a few quoted words or phrases from Dawkins.

The headline is biased and misleading. It’s a really dumb story, and more journalistic Dawkins-bashing. Have these people no sense of how a journalist should behave? It’s a sad state of affairs that journalists like David Ferguson (and Andrew Brown) have to be set straight by their commenters, as Ferguson was in this stinker of an article.

I swear, places like BuzzFeed, HuffPo, and The Raw Story, which specialize in short, sensationalistic stories, and pay their writers either nothing or next to nothing, are going to be the final nail in the coffin of journalism. When the dust has settled, we’ll be awash in e-tabloids and maybe one newspaper: the New York Times. 

But of course we’re partly to blame, because people simply don’t have the time or mental effort to create the demand for decent, well-researched stories. It’s easier, and sells better, for e-tabloids to simply beat up Dawkins.


72 thoughts on “Dreadful, dreadful journalism

  1. I’ll take it on the chin. I may get re-‘moderated’ for using uncordial language- but I cannot help it. This man is an opportunist of the most opportunistic variety. Shameless. Pre-packaged hogwashy one liners. I wonder why he’s not wearing an amusing costume with a turban and sunbeams coming out of his body. That would surely be evidence of his Saibabaness.

  2. The Raw Story is a clickbait site – it almost never presents the actual “raw story”, almost every story it posts is a distorted summary of an actual story from elsewhere.

    This article, for example, is actually clickbaiting of a Salon story – which, if you look at the link they use, you’ll see they found on Facebook. Journalism! The Salon article is actually an interview with Chopra, and not an entirely sympathetic one.

    Very rarely the Raw Story will summarise in text a video it considers worth a story.

    But in almost all cases, The Raw Story is a leech on others’ stories and is not worth your time.

    1. “I want to know why it is that he so brazenly makes money off of inner peace and science with cheesy products, like $300 DreamWeaver glasses that emit light and sounds to induce sleep states.”

      You’re right, the Salon story is not entirely sympathetic to Deepak.

      1. Having read the Salon article by Tom Roston that you link to, (and ignoring the attention-grabbing Dawkins headline), most of the article is about Deepak’s ideas and they let the man himself demonstrate that any connection between Deepak and reality is tenuous at best (where it isn’t a trivial play on words).

        I got a giggle out of his ideas on teleportation. “ ‘Teleportation of information will be possible,’ he says.”
        Yup, I think it’s called ‘radio’.

        1. “I got a giggle out of his ideas on teleportation. “ ‘Teleportation of information will be possible,’ he says.”
          Yup, I think it’s called ‘radio’.”

          Laughed out loud at that one! Thanks.

        2. The grandparent post says

          “I want to know why it is that he so brazenly makes money off of inner peace and science with cheesy products, like $300 [“tat” is the generic EN_East-Pondian)

          and you say

          any connection between Deepak and reality is tenuous at best

          I think there’s ample evidence for Deepak having a perfectly good connection to reality. That he’s a shamelessly hypocritical profiteer is also abundantly obvious (that, or he’s a deranged idiot).

      2. Indeed, the interview is about as critical as it’s possible to get in the mainstream press.

        “But this is your reality too,” I say, knocking on the table between us and pointing to the people sitting nearby. “We are living in the same reality.”

        At this, Chopra leans in. “I tell you, the big difference, and I am being totally honest with you,” he says. “I think we’re living in a lunatic asylum.”

        He looks around the room. “I think everybody here is an inmate,” he says, his hands touch his chin, quickly, and his eyes widen. “I am also in the lunatic asylum. But I am not an inmate anymore. I have picked up my visitor’s badge, and I can see the melodrama that they are creating. I can even empathize with their drama, but I refuse to participate unless I want to.”

        “Of this world but not in it,” I say, ignoring the shackles that apparently tie him to Dawkins, paraphrasing what I’ve heard him say before. He smiles.

        When a man says he is the only sane person in a room, that pretty much confirms he’s insane, doesn’t it?

        Oh, snap!


            1. lol

              What I would trust him to do would be to gather some twigs from his backyard and try to sell them as all-natural, homeopathic, ayurvedic, organic, non-gmo, gluten-free toothpicks…and detox system.

    2. The Salon article is actually an interview with Chopra, and not an entirely sympathetic one.

      That’s an understatement.

      Two of the most “sympathetic” things reported are that Chopra claims to be doing good with his earnings from glowy glasses and that Dawkins also sells DNA necklaces and could learn from him. As you can tell, examples of sympathy from the interviewer were not numerous.

      Chopra is what you get when you turn the Dunning-Kreuger effect up to eleven.

      1. The irony of tuning the Dunning Kruger effect up to 11, is … sweet.
        I’m off to the electronics catalogue to get a potentiometer that goes up to 12!

  3. If you’d like to see more about the blog/ news sites you mention, I suggest that you read Ryan Holiday’s “Trust Me, I’m Lying” when you get the chance (maybe a 3 hour commitment). The first half is a confession. The second half is a critique.

    There is no mention of cats in any of it, but none of us is perfect.

  4. Not having read the book, I can only say there’s nothing I’ve heard from Richard Dawkins that I disagree with. Nor have I ever heard him be anything but a gentlemen. A direct and forthright English gentlemen fully capable of making his point crystal clear. Chopra is a space cadet, and has been since day one. His audience is similarly inclined far-out folks who know nothing about science other than buzz words. Dawkins’ characterization, “magical language” and “bullshit,” is spot on. This is not an open question.
    (Be advised, I’m a long time Dawkins fan.)

  5. The headline is biased and misleading. It’s a really dumb story, and more journalistic Dawkins-bashing.

    Nothing you wouldn’t find from Myers and chums on Freethought Blogs.

    Meanwhile ISIS are lopping heads off.

    1. Ah, the Dear Muslima defence. Don’t criticise anything here, because something worse is happening somewhere else. So why are you wasting energy on this site, instead of opposing ISIS?

      1. Are you both trying to bash Dawkins and import inflammatory obsessions from Myers and chums on Freethought blogs (FB)?

        I wouldn’t know what “the Dear Muslima defense” is, and you didn’t give references. But a google trawl pointed onto FB. Imagine then my surprise [not really] that you are placing a strawman into Dawkins mouth, apparently so you can bash him for your own ideas. I won’t link to the FB mess, but I found Richard Dawkins own words:

        “… But my point is that the ‘slightly bad thing’ suffered by [name redacted] was not even slightly bad, it was zero bad. …

        My trawl also turned up this recent update:

        “… There should be no rivalry in victimhood, and I’m sorry I once said something similar to American women complaining of harassment, inviting them to contemplate the suffering of Muslim women by comparison. But maybe you get the point? If we wish to insist (in the face of judicial practice everywhere) that all examples of a sexual crime are exactly equally bad, perhaps we need to look more carefully at exactly who is belittling what.”

        Richard Dawkins is once again defending the use of nuances, without which analysis becomes impossible. I note that one can see that the “defense” strawman appears at once in the comments, amid the Dawkins (and Israel!) bashing.

        Thanks for the continued successful testing of the notion that when criticized, Dawkins-basherers indefensible response is Dawkins-bashing.

        I’ll let RD close this comment:

        “Pandemonium in the Pigeon-lofts. Freethought Feeding Frenzy.”

  6. Dawkins bashing is really a fashionable industry these days, from all quarters, Chopra, his extensive fleas, and some others I think we all know about.

    1. Big fleas have little fleas
      Upon their backs to bite ’em
      And little fleas have smaller fleas,
      So ad infinitum

      Swift, I think, or re-cycled by Swift. Which would make Dawkins a flea upon Darwin’s back, and Chopra and other fleas further down the food chain.
      Sadly deceased now, I had friends who studied fleas extensively. “Flea, per se, isn’t an insult.”

  7. I saw a headline on Salon.com the other day:

    “Bill Maher refuses to watch John Oliver”

    Buried about 2/3 of the way into the article, which was about something else entirely, the reporter asks, “Do you watch other political comedy shows, like John Oliver?” Maher says, “No.”

    What a scandal!

    In other words, the example cited today is SOP for online “news” media.

  8. If there’s a new meme in the world it’s this: the belief that Richard Dawkins is an “arrogant ass.” I hotly disagree, but I noticed that more than a few people commenting at The Raw Story piece say as much. It’s unfortunate that this perception of Dawkins seems to be growing. I’m not sure how he can go about ridding the world of this meme.

    1. A lot worse things than that have been said about Dawkins. And unfortunately most of them lately predominantly come from atheists.

      1. I’m afraid to know what these comments are.

        But as they would say in D.C. or Hollywood, Dawkins most definitely has a PR problem of late. Too bad.

      2. A lot worse things than that have been said about Dawkins. And unfortunately most of them lately predominantly come from atheists.

        I have more sympathy for the faith heads who attack Dawkins because they know no better; the likes of Myers who dangle from atheism’s arse like shit from a goldfish need to sort their fucking priorities out.

        1. Yes, whatever happened to Myers? If anyone should have a “strident” button appended to his lapel it’s Myers.

        2. Ummm… I don’t want to turn this into a Pharyngula-bashing session. I think that website has become just as bad as the e-tabloids at bashing Dawkins and other well known atheists, but discussing that here may well create the climate on this site that prevails over there. None of us, I think, want that.

          1. We are also seeing attacks on Dawkins from formerly secular/progressive print media in the UK: The New Statesman and The Guardian.

            It’s the 21st Century – we were winning the argument in the West. We’d just be laughing off Chopra’s bullshit if we weren’t too busy watching our backs.

          2. Bury your head in the sand all you want I guess. He sits all day on Twitter worrying about false rape accusations and telling people that having a down syndrome baby is immoral. Why support this? He’s been a good scientist and makes good arguments for the case against God, but his social politics are offensive.

            1. I wasn’t aware that RD had spoken out against people who have Downs syndrome babies, but it’s exactly what I’d expect and hope any rational person would say. Why would anyone in their right mind want to have a child who is almost certainly going to suffer from disabilities and require special care all their life? Who can possibly benefit from it? Not the parents, who are going to have to look after it all its life (or do they expect ‘the community’ to look after it for them?) and certainly not the child.

              1. The trouble is that, either through genuine misunderstanding or deliberate distortion, an argument against giving birth to children with disabilities sounds like an argument for devaluing existing children with said disabilities. To be fair, Dawkins does have a quarter of the blame here for trying to convey difficult points through Twitter soundbites, but you do wonder how many people there are among his detractors who are positively eager to demonize his views.

            2. “Bury your head in the sand all you want”.

              Jerry quoted a tw**t from Richard 3 days earlier, about theology and this website. That rejects both your claim on not being aware of Richard’s tw*tter activities, and on Richard’s tw*tter activities.

              “his social politics are offensive.”

              That is your opinion. As opposed to Chopra’s mysticism it is difficult to analyse social politics objectively.

              Chopra’s mysticism is objectively offensive. It is used to scam money of people against non-functional products, and it is anti-scientist.

              In contrast, Richard’s social politics as you describe them are benign. False rape accusations are harmful.

              And it is also harmful to not act against disabilities when we can. Few oppose voluntary medical treatments for lowered abilities, which is why we know disabilities are unwanted and costly.*

              Objectively unwanted and costly at that, so we can at times say something on politics. I grant you that. However, this particular statistics doesn’t seem helpful to you.

              *That disabilities is unwanted by most having a choice doesn’t mean people with existing disabilities are devalued.

    2. I think, that this perception has always existed in the minds of the religious. Dawkins has always be someone who spoke his mind openly and clearly. And most certainly he is not someone who uses weasel words to obscure a point in order to protect someone elses feelings. But yet he manages to be very respectful (at least most of the time).

      This is a character trait that I respect very much. However, he sometimes really does put his foot in his mouth on Twitter which is unfortunate. Because every time I have seen him speak, he does express himself very eloquently.

  9. Why are you encouraging us to visit their website to look at a bad article? That’s how they make their money, and I’m sure they keep track of which articles generate a lot of attention.

    1. Sorry, Mr. Prescriptive, but I don’t allow readers to tell me what to do. (Have you read the Roolz?) Please take yourself off to other sites where the proprietors will do things that are only to your liking.

    1. If you’re going to have faith in human nature, I guess, now, it would be the a lot of commenters are wise to yellow journalism and find it worthwhile to counteract it.

  10. It seems to me when one wants to bash atheism you mention Dawkins. It reminds me of how creationists always mention Darwin. Dawkins is a big name in science, which makes him a target. I have a friend that once told me that, “You haven’t made it big until someone compares you to Hitler.”

    1. The trouble is, as Sastra has pointed out elsewhere (though in other words), that some intellectual positions are judged not by their merits and not by critical evaluation, but by the characters of their practitioners. This problem is all the more obvious when you look at religious positions, since most of the respect afforded to religions is due to their supposed “higher” attributes (presumably things like feeling awe and wonder, “explaining” our place in the universe, inspiring and comforting people, etc.). The fact that they do so through insane or wishy-washy beliefs is treated as beside the point, at least by liberal believers.

      Unfortunately, the most visible atheist “representatives”, namely Dawkins, appear as antagonists to all that. This, I think, explains the emphasis on “aggressive, strident, militant” atheists (rather than on the strength of their arguments), and the comparisons to fundamentalists and evangelicals, in the mainstream. Not forgetting also that religions promote category confusions so well that “criticizing ideas” and “attacking people” get readily confused.

  11. Their battle has been one-sided for the most part, with Deepak stalking Dawkins on twitter (go look at Deepak’s twitter page!) and Dawkins usually completely ignoring Deepak.

  12. Wonder why the same reporting team didn’t comment on the fact that Deepak has already, (using his extensive “scientific” knowledge) demonstrated that the teleportation of misguided info is already a fact – he’s been streaming it from his arse for a long time now!
    Dawkins v Chopra? Hilarious comparison!

  13. Reading the Salon article …

    First, Chopra reminds me how “bamboozled” people are by the materialist model of science. Most people are convinced that a rock is a rock. He is not.

    I’ve got to struggle to avoid taking my sock off, for to put the rock into the sock, for to exchange philosophical subtleties with Deepakitties. Right between the eyes.
    Subtlety never was my strong point.

      1. Actually, a little bell is ringing somewhere in my brain. We’ve been here before.

        Doctor Johnson and “I refute it thus” come to mind…

  14. I really don’t get the “bad scientist” comment. Isn’t it enough to disagree with someone (however vociferously) without trying to malign their profession? I can sort of understand why Chopra would do it, though many instances of Dawkins-bashing try to take aim at his credibility as a scientist. Strange.

  15. The sage of the Shakyas did not sell enlightenment – he gave it away to all. Chopra is clearly not a sage.

    As another allegedly enlightened person is said to have remarked; “by their fruits you ahall know them”.

    OTOH “the devil can cite scripture for his purpose” (from the merchant of venice)

    who ya gonna trust?

  16. Imo, Chopra criticizes Dawkins in order to attempt to give himself credibility by being mentioned in the same sentence as him. Theists oppose Dawkins because he’s an outspoken atheist so Chopra tries to get their favour via the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” method. Atheists who oppose Dawkins are of the same ilk as liberals who who take the “Islamic terrorists aren’t real Muslims” line.

    Chopra makes me wonder if his ridiculous idea that the body completely renews itself every seven years is an explanation for the peevish childishness of his own consciousness.

    1. Well, there is some grounds to think your body renews itself, most cells are replaced on a regular basis though the period varies widely. (Brain cells, unfortunately, are not. This means that if you manage to live forever you will turn into a zombie. I think).

      Deepakitty has just misinterpreted this fact as usual.

  17. “Dawkins is selling DNA necklaces on his Web site. Did you know that? He could learn a trick or two from me.”

    Sure, he could pretend they were something more than mere jewellery in the form of a double spiral, but quantum-synchronically absorbed the essence of the wearers’ DNA, giving them Wondrous Healing Powers™.

    1. Helix, please 🙂

      And of course the wavelength of the helix is phase-locked to the natural frequency of your aura, boosting your orgone energy and enhancing your karma.

      Or something like that…

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