A vital lesson for campaigning bloggers

Following the recent furore over gun ownership in the USA as a result of the mass murder in Newton, Connecticut, and the clarion calls to ban firearms, the Junk Science blog has a post that caught my eye which begins thus:

Since England has banned gun ownership, violent crime is on the increase. Because kitchen knives are now supposedly used in half of all stabbings, the BBC News reports that some are now calling to ban pointy kitchen knives.

Doctors’ kitchen knives ban call

A&E doctors are calling for a ban on long pointed kitchen knives to reduce deaths from stabbing. A team from West Middlesex University Hospital said violent crime is on the increase – and kitchen knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings. They argued many assaults are committed impulsively, prompted by alcohol and drugs, and a kitchen knife often makes an all too available weapon. The research is published in the British Medical Journal. The researchers said there was no reason for long pointed knives to be publicly available at all….

Being sure such a current story would have had a prominent billing I was surprised not to have seen it.  A quick Google search however showed a range of odd, extremist and hate sites, such as Stormfront and Rense running the same story in recent days.

Curious, I followed the link into the British Medical Journal website to delve deeper.  It was there I found the article was actually published back in May 2005 and the most recent comment left on it is more than four years old.  The article is hidden behind a paywall, but a full copy of it, date stamped, can be read below for interest:

The problem here is many decent people who are making valid points about gun ownership and liberty in general are having their arguments undermined by reactionary, axe-grinding conspiracy theorists and bigots jumping on the bandwagon to advance their own twisted ideology.  Sadly Junk Science seems to have been caught out by this sudden focus on a story so out of date it actually made the news two years before Tony Blair left office.  It is a sad and credibility-harming error.

There’s a very important parallel point that needs to be made here.  When it comes to the politics of EU withdrawal we often see a similar thing.  A lack of knowledge or attention to detail by some who sensibly want the UK to leave the union can lead to mistakes that actually lump the rest of us in with those who make plainly outlandish claims referencing Magna Carta or claiming treason or demanding the Queen take on Parliament etc.  Such nonsense is seized upon gleefully by the EUphiles to discredit all those who wish to see the UK leave the union in the eyes of the electorate.

While apparent crowdsourcing and repeating a story that is doing the rounds may seem an appropriate thing to do, bloggers need to take care to check the sources and dig for the full story rather than accept things at face value.  Only then might people develop confidence in blogs as an accurate source of information that challenges the mainstream media and becomes a reliable alternative to the establishment narrative.  If we are to wage a successful campaign to extricate the UK from EU control we need to provide a trusted alternative to the EU-supporting mainstream media.  Building that trust starts now.

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