I’ve written before about the anti-vaccination lobbyists and their obsession with competing interests. John Stone’s big discovery was apparently that Dr Evan Harris’s father was once on a committee. Competing interests by proxy are hardly notable, but anti-vaxxers have sometimes failed harder than that in their conspiracy theorising.
A comment on a recent post by John Stone at Age of Autism attempts to link Adam Rutherford to Brian Deer and Rupert Murdoch. This purported link rests on a line in Adam Rutherford’s bio on his website: “he has also written for Times Higher Education”. A site-specific search shows one article by Adam Rutherford on the THES website. It’s a book review from 2009. For the commentator at AOA, this single article is apparently proof positive that Rutherford is tainted by an association with Murdoch and Deer:
Dr Rutherford has an interesting career. It includes writing articles for The Times Educational Supplement. Murdoch again!! No wonder he was so chummy with Brian Deer on his BBC Radio 4’Science Betrayed’ programme. Two commissioned Murdoch journalists together!! How jolly!!
The only thing is, this single article was written almost four years after News International sold off their education titles (including THES). The Guardian wrote about the deal at the time. It’s mentioned in the 2005 headlines section on the Exponent website and the full story can be found here. As far as I can tell, Rutherford was never a “commissioned Murdoch journalist”.
When I was alerted to this comment by a forum post (hat tip to Journal Checker for spotting the comment and checking on the claim), I attempted to check the facts and verify the account given in the forum post. I searched for articles by Adam Rutherford on the THES website, I looked for confirmation that News International had indeed sold their education titles prior to Adam’s book review, and I contacted Adam to ask him to clarify whether my understanding of the situation was correct.
The commenter on AoA clearly did not attempt to check whether their understanding of the situation was correct. Despite comments on that site being moderated (a post I left on the site in reply to another comment was still in moderation at the time of writing this blog post), the claims regarding Adam Rutherford’s alleged link to Murdoch went through moderation and were published – again, without any fact checking being done. If you’re going to pre-moderate comments, then perhaps you should take some responsibility for fact-checking them…