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Richard North caught white-washing Booker’s Wikipedia entry

with 17 comments

whitepaint

Wikipedia’s article on Christopher Booker is currently the top search result when you type type his name into Google. Alongside a rather impressive biography, the article references “Don’t Get Fooled Again”, and includes a list of Booker’s false statements on global warming and asbestos (including the notorious claim that white asbestos is “chemically identical to talcum powder“), with links to the various corrections issued over the years by the Health and Safety Executive.

Enter Richard North, Booker’s co-author for the surrealist masterpiece “Scared to Death” (which debunks the dangers of passive smoking, white asbestos, eating BSE-infected beef, CO2 emissions, leaded petrol, dioxins, and high-speed car driving), and erstwhile “chief researcher” of the UK Independence Party.

When The Guardian’s George Monbiot took issue with Booker over his pseudo-scientific claims, North mounted a spirited defence – albeit one that relied on further false claims about asbestos science. But it appears that he also went further. Last month, someone calling themselves “Defence of the realm” cut all critical references from Booker’s Wikipedia entry. The change was quickly reverted, so they did it again the next day, claiming that the criticisms were “libellous”. The edit was again reverted, only for “Defence of the realm” to try it one more time a few days later.

The identity of Booker’s pseudonymous champion would have remained a mystery but for the fact that Wikipedia allows us to browse through a user’s previous contributions to the website. These include an online discussion from November in which an anonymous user first identifies himself as Richard North, gives his email address as RAENORTH at aol.com, and then signs in as “Defence of the Realm”.

It might at least be plausible that an entirely different Richard North had chosen to spring to Booker’s defence, were it not for the fact that Booker himself gives the same email address for “my friend Richard North” in several of his Sunday Telegraph articles. Barring an improbably elaborate conspiracy to frame North as a serial wiki-whitewasher, it would appear that, for all his democratic rhetoric and iconoclastic posturing, Richard North is less than keen on the public knowing the full facts about his co-author’s track record…

17 Responses

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  1. Hello Richard,

    I’ve read “Scared to Death” and thought it a rather good book. Why wouldn’t you debunk the dangers of “passive smoking”?

    Best regards

    Gary

    Gary Walker

    January 20, 2009 at 7:16 pm

  2. Gary,

    By all accounts many people felt the same way about “Scared to Death” as you did. I’ve got a copy myself and it’s an impressive tome, persuasively written. But my personal view is that it’s better read as an outstanding piece of surrealist fiction than as an authoritative account of the way things actually work in the real world. While researching “Don’t Get Fooled Again” I took an in-depth look at the background sources that Booker and North cite in support of their claims about asbestos. What I found was that, as with Booker’s columns in the Sunday Telegraph, in many cases the sources had been wholly or partially misrepresented, and key facts ommitted. I touch on this issue here: http://richardwilsonauthor.wordpress.com/2008/10/20/bookers-praise-for-john-bridle-and-bogus-claims-about-the-bbc/

    With regard to Booker’s claims about passive smoking, I would recommend taking a careful look at the sources he cites in support of his argument, to see if they really say what he says they say…

    For better or worse (for better, I suspect, on balance) in this country it is possible to write a book making wholly bogus claims about a range of scientific issues pretty much with impunity. Whereas the libel laws generally serve to deter people telling malicious lies about other people in print, and the flaccid and ineffectual press complaints commission offers at least a faint suggestion of a deterrent against the very worst kind of factual inaccuracies in the media, it seems that when it comes to books about science, the sky’s pretty much the limit…

    Richard Wilson

    January 20, 2009 at 9:09 pm

  3. I think we need to slow down a little bit on Asbestos Lung Cancer threat. It takes years of exposure to be actually infected with this disease. Although I agree that we should take precautionary measures but still I believe we are being too paranoid about it.

    Thanks

    Ali

    Ali Kiyani

    March 24, 2009 at 9:19 am

  4. Ali,

    Do you have a scientific reference to back up that claim? Any thoughts on cases like that of 17-year-old Sophie Ellis – who developed mesothelioma at the age pf 13? http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/asbestos-campaign/2009/03/asbestos-gave-me-cancer-at-jus.html

    Or the case of Michael Braidwood, who developed mesothelioma having worked with asbestos for just six weeks during the 1970s?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/youandyours/items/01/2006_42_wed.shtml

    Richard Wilson

    March 24, 2009 at 10:23 am

  5. Richard,

    Here you go:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesothelioma

    It says “symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos”

    Plus if you look at cancer.gov website, it says

    “Although reported incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, mesothelioma is still a relatively rare cancer. About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year.”

    AND

    “The risk of asbestos-related disease increases with heavier exposure to asbestos and longer exposure time. However, some individuals with only brief exposures have developed mesothelioma. On the other hand, not all workers who are heavily exposed develop asbestos-related diseases.”

    http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Sites-Types/mesothelioma

    Ali

    Ali Kiyani

    March 24, 2009 at 10:40 am

  6. Ali,

    No-one disputes that asbestos-related illness typically takes years to manifest itself. But your claim was that “it takes years of exposure to be actually infected with this disease”. Leaving aside the fact that “infection” refers to viruses and microbes rather than non-biological hazards like asbestos, this is a completely different claim, and it is strictly inaccurate. There are many documented cases of a person developing mesothelioma after being exposed to relatively low levels of asbestos for a length of time considerably shorter than a few years. The fact that a long period of time will then pass before they actually develop the disease and die is hardly going to be much of a consolation.

    Clearly the longer a person is exposed for, and the higher the level of exposure, the higher the risk will be that they develop the disease. Again, no-one seems to be disputing this.

    But at lower levels there is still a real risk, and real people are dying as a result. You, Christopher Booker and the asbestos industry may not think that those deaths matter very much, and if that’s your view you are entitled to it. But what I take issue with in my book is the deliberate and systematic distortion of the facts (some people might call this “lying”) about the true dangers of low-level exposure. Booker and the asbestos industry have claimed that white asbestos poses a “non-existent risk”, and/or that a risk only exists at relatively high levels of exposure. This is a complete falsehood, and a dangerous one to promote because it will likely lead to more people taking wholly unnecessary risks. Whether it’s 2,000 people dying ever year because of asbestos exposure or just 20, if those deaths are preventable through awareness-raising then surely it’s right that we do so?

    Richard Wilson

    March 24, 2009 at 11:07 am

  7. [...] He has also been exposed as trying desperately to whitewash the reputation of fellow climate sceptic Christopher Booker, whose Wikipedia page he “sanitised” last year, removing a list of inaccuracies in his friend’s work from the online encyclopedia. [...]

  8. [...] are Costing Us the Earth. In the words of scep­tical writer Richard Wilson, the book is a “sur­real­ist mas­ter­piece”, claim­ing to debunk “the dangers of pass­ive smoking, white asbes­tos, eat­ing [...]

  9. [...] Richard North (Hauptreferenz eines weiteren von Dirk Maxeiner zitierten Artikels auf Watts Up With That): Co-Autor von Christopher Booker u.a. von “Scared to Death: From BSE to Global Warming: Why Scares are Costing us the Earth”, , “which debunks the dangers of passive smoking, white asbestos, eating BSE-infected beef, CO2 e…. [...]

  10. Ive read ‘scared to death’, a good read but there really isnt any argueing with the proof the people get sick because of these things. Asbestos does kill people and no amount of theory bashing or rumour spreading can argue otherwise

    Asbestosis Claim

    March 29, 2010 at 2:01 pm

  11. i was looking for a long time the information that on your blog post.thanks now i bookmark your site to subscribe your blog post

    amalignant mesothelioma

    April 23, 2010 at 1:27 am

  12. This stuff is unbelievable. We’ve been fighting asbestos and meso for over 30 years, and we’re still finding cases.

    Alfred Beet

    June 14, 2010 at 11:41 pm

  13. [...] Scared to Death: From BSE to Global Warming: Why Scares are Costing Us the Earth, called a “surrealist masterpiece”, given it claims to debunk “the dangers of passive smoking, white asbestos, eating [...]

  14. [...] honourable and masculine threats to sue these Politically Correct ninnies (and the equally rugged editing of critical libelous Wikipedia articles) he has finally been forced to tone down his pant-wetting [...]

  15. This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last week.
    thanks & regards – mesothelioma resource

    dgreatblog

    July 13, 2010 at 1:20 pm

  16. Nice friends!
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    zaman

    July 24, 2010 at 3:16 pm

  17. thanks for sharing information sir. the information is important for us.

    Sunu

    September 10, 2010 at 3:53 am


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