Why I’m cancelling my SMH subscription: letter to the editor

Edit: the editor, Darren Goodsir, called me personally tonight to discuss these issues. In particular, the article about using alternative therapies to treat cancer received a lot of attention both internally and externally, and it appears it has been amended to address the concerns raised in my letter.

To the editor, Darren Goodsir,

I have been a long-term reader of SMH.com.au. I used to think that the Sydney Morning Herald represented some of the highest quality journalism in Australia, independent from the News Corporation empire and from the influence of government which is increasingly becoming a problem at the ABC. Unfortunately, two recent issues have made me cancel my paid subscription to SMH.com.au.

The first issue is to do with what I consider to be a racist headline that appeared on the site on January 28th 2013. The headline was “Blind woman groped on train by refugee who asked for a kiss”. The mention of refugee is unnecessary and I cannot imagine the SMH writing “Woman groped on train by white person”. The headline focuses attention of the criminal actions of one person on to an entire group in an unjust way.

I believe that this headline appeared on the front page as part of an editorial decision to participate in ‘click-baiting’, as the issue of refugees surely generates plenty of attention on the site. While I find the process of click-baiting itself problematic, the click-baiting that occurred in this case amounts to race-baiting, and I can no longer financially contribute to an organisation that does this.

The second issue is to do with the promotion of ideas which are harmful. On the 29th of January, the SMH published “The way of the wellness warrior“, a story about a woman who ignored medical advice for her cancer and instead chose to self medicate using alternative dieting. A link was put at the bottom of the article to the Cancer Australia website. On that site it states “There is little evidence that alternative therapies are effective. Most have not been assessed for efficacy in randomised clinical trials, though some have been examined and found to be ineffective.” No mention of this position is made in the article, and a link as an afterthought does not wash the SMH’s responsibility of the anti-science propaganda that you have promoted.

Convincing people to ignore medical advice, especially with conditions as serious as cancer, is extremely dangerous. One of the great minds of our time, Steve Jobs, died as a result of not taking medical advice to treat his pancreatic cancer which had a good chance of survival. Promotion of such ideas is just as bad as the promotion of anti-vaccination ideas. They can have deadly results and the SMH will have blood on its hands if even one person dies as a result of becoming an adherent to this.

The new payment method for the SMH allows me to do something that I was unable to do previously; I can financially punish the SMH for both of these sins. I therefore request that my subscription be cancelled.

James Jansson

Comparison of summary statistics of Node.js and Ruby On Rails

Ruby on Rails and Node.js are programming languages/environments used for the creation of back-end code for webservers. They both have their advantages, and I won’t go into that very much here. They are relatively rare in comparison to PHP, Java and even Perl. However, successors for webserver programming are regularly talked about and both of these are considered viable contenders for environments used for webservers. The question I like to ask is “what’s next”? Let’s first look at Google Trends graphs.

Search trends

As you can see, Read More

Liberal Party Fails at Chart Making

So the Liberal Party put up a chart on their Facebook page today. In case you miss it (or they take it down) here it is:

liberalfail

Now look at the axes on that chart. Something strange? Well, last time I checked 371 is not 6 times more than 222. Here’s what the chart should have looked like:

Liberal Fail

Looks a lot more reasonable, doesn’t it? The Liberal Party is guilty of one of two things here. Either they are bad at mathematics and graphing, OR they are deliberately trying to deceive the public. One way or another, these are not the type of people I would want to have run the country.

The end of farming: a hypothetical

This example is very rough and has plenty of flaws, but I would be interested in people’s answer to this, as it will uncover at least a little about the value system that leads to people’s justification for being meat eaters or reason for being vegetarian, as well as what type of utilitarian you are (if you are indeed one).

Imagine you live in a society where things seem to be a little off. You have all of your physical needs provided for you in this society. You receive some health care, shelter and enough food to keep going. Your diet consists of a mix of food provided to you by ‘the government’ and whatever you want to pick in the area in which you live. Life is pretty easy, but not that interesting. Read More

Consciousness and the mind upload problem- a thorough critique

It is popular for people to talk about mind uploading as part of our future as humans. Mind uploading involves the storage and recreation of a mind in a computer. Many futurists believe that this will become a part of most people’s end of life strategy. By uploading your brain, you can avoid the certain death of your physical body. Some even think that it will become popular to upload our minds earlier in our lives, to allow advantages such as being able to exist in a simulated world, or to avoid unexpected accidental death. An uploaded brain might be able to store ‘save points’ where an individual can go back to if their artificial body is destroyed. Read More

Are we already living in the post-scarcity era?

We humans have a problem: we want more than we have available to us. We feel like we can’t afford the things that we want because everyone else wants the same thing. In science fiction like Star Trek, people of the future can create their food, and almost anything else they need, using a replicator. Payment isn’t necessary, because the production costs are so cheap that there is an abundance of those things. This is what we would call a post-scarcity era. In a post-scarcity era, items are so cheap to manufacture that they are essentially free. Read More

Bank deposit guarantees

I have been thinking for a long time about a very serious discussion I had with my friend Alex about bank guarantees. There was a lot of arguing going on about whether it is a good thing or a bad thing. I think that we came to the agreement that bank guarantees are good when things are bad, but extremely bad when things are a bit more bad than usual. This is an article outlining the basic concepts of what a bank deposit guarantee is, what it is good and bad for, and also talking about potential alternatives. Read More

Australian Christian Lobby buys the views they want on marriage

Congratulations Australian Christian Lobby. You’ve managed to buy a report which states exactly what you want: that the lack of marriage is ruining the world. Not only that, the press has lapped this report up at the same time as burying your financial involvement. The report I speak of is the For Kids’ Sake report, conducted by Patrick Parkinson, a professor of law at Sydney University. Read More

Rockmelon

I grew this rockmelon (cantaloupe) on my desk. I used old PET bottles as the pot and tray. I used my desk lamp to give it energy. The rockmelon seed came from a rockmelon I ate. There were originally hundreds of seeds in the pot, and a lot germinated, but at some point they all putrified and died. I though that was the end of them all. But then I used the heat from my desk lamp to warm the earth in the pot. A lonely seedingly came through, and this is its journey since 24/06/2011.