Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and Journalism

The mushrooming of ‘fact check’ offshoots within the maintream/legacy media (MSM)  has been conspicuous in shaping and defending prevailing narratives. On first blush, a fact-check service may seem a sound idea: the media, seeking to cut through claim and counter claim by examining the established facts behind a contentious debate, could represent a valuable addition to the wider public debate and help restore the media in its purported role of holding public policy and polity to account. However, based on evidence to date, it is by and large a case of the tail wagging the dog. This is to say the MSM decides on an agenda in relation to any given issue, then pursues a biased fact-check ‘investigation’ intended to confirm the existing editorial agenda.

As recently as January this year, Mumbrella reported the following (emphasis added)

Just one in two people trust the media, a new survey has shown, with feedback from more than 36,000 people in 28 markets globally. PR firm Edelman’s Annual Trust Barometer for 2022 found 56% of people said the media was a divisive force in society. And just one-third (35%) said the media contributed to making societies more cohesive.

Two-thirds (67%) of people globally said they believe journalists and reporters purposely try to mislead people by saying things they know are false or grossly exaggerated – up 8 per centage points on last year’s report. Faith in the media fell in 15 countries, with the US and Australia among those reporting the biggest drops.

There is no greater exemplar of this phenomenon than Their ABC, whose fact-check service, mediated by a leftist cabal at the RMIT headed by Russell Skelton, spouse of the ABC’s Virginia Trioli and author of numerous anti-conservative tweets, is laughable as a source of purportedly impartial information. It’s like handing the review of an NRL referees’ performance to the aggrieved fans of the club he is alleged to have robbed of victory. A public stoning is a given.

But the ‘fact check’ phenomenon is by no means restricted to Their ABC. The Australian Associated Press (AAP) describes itself as ‘Australia’s only independent national newswire’ and worryingly boasts of ‘influencing the agenda every day’. That last quote from the AAP website is a self-incriminating admission if ever there was one. It could easily and more accurately be rephrased as ‘imparting its agenda every day’.

The AAP FactCheck banner screams “Trusted, Accurate, Impartial”. On the first point, clearly AAP has not received the memo that survey after survey demonstrates Australians do not trust the MSM or, indeed, journalists in general, and that whatever level of faith remains has been getting continuously worse, not better, with the advent of fact checkers and the COVID pandemic. In regards to the last point, a quick glance over the AAP website content will leave most truly impartial readers with a distinct impression that this is a left-canted news organisation. For example, whenever AAP picks up wire copy about Donald Trump from its US counterpart, Associated Press (AP), there will be an obligatory sentence stating the former president’s complaints about the 2020 election are “unfounded”.

Beyond the bias inherent in deciding what to report and what narrative-ruffling stories to ignore, there is the matter of accuracy. After you have read the following, I’ll let you make up your own mind.


ON FEBRURY 4 this year, AAP FactCheck published an article titled; “NSW hospital data claim ignores vital COVID statistics”. The target of the fact check was an unsuspecting Instagram user who posted the following:

wow the more I look at the stats from official governmemt websites the more I realise how much the media and politicians are lying to us.

So here you can see I’ve highlighted the cases in NSW Hospitals and ICU from last week to this week.

The post shared a screenshot of the NSW Health COVID Dashboard and pointed out, correctly, that on January 25, 2022, the dashboard indicated that 71.8 per cent of hospitalised patients were at least double vaccinated. The AAP FactCheck debunked the Instagram poster’s claim with the following rationale

NSW Health’s COVID-19 Weekly Surveillance report on January 20 clearly lays out the higher risk of severe illness and death for the unvaccinated. Table 5 (page 7) of the report shows the clinical severity of COVID by vaccination status, including hospitalisations, ICU admissions and deaths. The data is from the beginning of the Omicron wave in NSW in November 2021 to the first week of January 2022.

AAP then displayed the following table from the stated Surveillance Report to support the above statement

So far so good, you may well be thinking. Clearly on the substance of the above data, vaccination is associated with the risk of hospitalisation, severe illness and death from COVID  – certainly not the panacea the media, so called health experts and the political class promised and continue to spruik. Furthermore, a week-on-week analysis of the NSW COVID-19 surveillance reports clearly shows a strong trend wherein vaccinated individuals were growing substantially, pro rata, among the ranks of the hospitalised, in ICU units and, unfortunately, featuring significantly in death statistics. The fact that a journalistic fact-check unit was unable to detect this trend, or unwilling to observe and expose it, says much about the capacity of AAP FactCheck to actually fulfil its stated values of trust, accuracy and impartiality. It’s as if the lives of double- and triple-vaccinated individuals in ICU don’t warrant csderation when you can focus instead on a hundred-or-so unvaccinated individuals.  

But here is the real rub. On February 4, when AAP sent out this article for subscriber organisations to republish, NSW Health had just released (COVID-19 weekly surveillance reports – COVID-19) the most up to date statistics from their weekly COVID surveillance data. AAP hails its experienced journalists and impeccable standards and insists the organisation exists to bring readers the truth, so there is no excuse I can imagine as to why the wire service didn’t avail itself of the most recent report before going to print (at a minimum, journalists covering the COVID beat should have known the updated report was imminent). Here is that second tranche of surveillance data in exactly the same format.

This data, current at the time of the AAP FactCheck, demonstrates the following facts by utilising exactly the same data source for AAP’s conclusions from above. (Remember these are the statistics for the entire period of 26 November 2021 through to 22 January 2022, the peak of the Omicron wave).

♦ 1.5% of all triple-vaccinated individuals who are COVID positive (PCR) are hospitalised.

♦ 1.2% of all double-vaccinated individuals who are COVID positive (PCR) are hospitalised.

♦ 1.1% of all unvaccinated individuals testing PCR positive who are COVID positive (PCR) are hospitalised.

Now the report notes the following caveats in relation to these statistics

The notes reproduced above refer us to table 6 of the same report, and we will look at that in a moment. However, note that in point two of the above caveat states that 

…the proportion of cases with two effective doses who experience severe outcomes is still lower than that for cases with less than two effective doses (authors emphasis) in every age group, demonstrating the effectiveness of vaccines to protect against severe outcomes.

This is followed by the third point, which directly undermines the second point — i.e. data for no effective doses over 60 can’t be trusted because the denominator in relative terms is tiny. Then there is the elephant in the room – the ‘less than two effective doses’ category in table 6 has merged into the ‘one effective dose’ status, thereby muddying the waters. Instead of comparing apples with apples, apples are now being compared with an apples-oranges mix.

Furthermore, note that it is not the case that “the proportion of cases with two effective doses who experience severe outcomes is still lower than that for cases with less than two effective doses in every age group, demonstrating the effectiveness of vaccines to protect against severe outcomes”, as stated in the report.  Add this to the fact that the denominator for those over 50 with no effective dose is small, and tiny for those above 60 in relative terms (as highlighted in point 3 above), meaning that skewing of statistics overstating proportionality likely warrants caution in analysing such figures. Curiously, in the ‘no effective dose age group 30-39’, the data of 11 out of 2123  is represented as 1%. I’m not sure about you, but my primary school maths makes the correct percentage 0.518% A reliable and trusted fact check would have examined such detail with greater specificity.

For those who think the above data represents an aberration, the latest NSW COVID 19 Surveillance Report was released online on February 17. Here is the same data analysis updated and laid out again.

There it is, in black and white from the same source of updated weekly epidemiological reports AAP used to supposedly debunk the claim. Furthermore, these statistics are likely to be even more heavily weighted for vaccinated individuals in the next report – that is the unmistakable and undeniable trend evident since the reporting period began in November 2021. Again, something decent journalism would have detected and questioned.

However, here is the final ‘kicker’ from the above NSW data: note the large number of cases categorised as ‘unknown’.

No matter how you spin the above data, it is unambiguously the fact, based on NSW official numbers, that the vaccines offer a poor level of lasting protection, irrespective of two or three doses. To argue otherwise would be to describe white as black. Any additional benefit to the vaccinated, over and above unvaccinated individuals since the onset of Omicron in respect to hospitalisation, admission to ICU or death as an outcome is simply arguing at the margins. Add to this that the mRNA vaccines have zero demonstrated benefit in relation to restricting transmission and infection and it is fair to conclude that ranking of COVID mRNA vaccines as the least effective widely administered vaccine in the entire history of vaccines is beyond dispute. I hereby invite any fact-check organisation anywhere in the world to demonstrate otherwise.

And that fact brings me to a more general and personal reflection on journalists.

A NUMBER of years ago, I undertook a post-graduate course in journalism. What I encountered was a cohort of students who had no technical grasp of any field outside their fledgling grasp of journalism. What I also found was a large percentage of fellow students who saw journalism as a pathway to activism. And while I would be reticent to tar all journalists with this brush, it may go some way to explaining the substandard level of journalism so many in the broader community have identified. As the MSM has moved away from news reporting and presenting the competing sides of a story towards more ‘opinion’ and agenda-driven activist ‘journalism’ we are bombarded by opinionistas who are least well placed to have an informed opinion on the complex science that underpins such areas as human pathophysiology, immunology and virology; yet, undaunted by their ignorance, they are quick to venture what they epect their readers to swallow as a magisterial analysis of the pandemic and its numbers.

There has been a plethora of such journalism. It backed lockdown measures without questioning the wisfom and motives of those imposed them. All the evidence now points to such measures’ futility and the severe collateral damage that will take years before it is played out. How many fact-checking deep dive into excess mortality in Australia over the last two years, for instance, has AAP conducted? How many fact-checks comparing and contrasting Florida’s and California’s COVID public policies and outcomes? This is why, more and more, media outlets like Quadrant represent a healthy counter point to MSM and legacy media. The eclectic mix of contributors on this site often come from people with broad, worldly experience in many diverse walks of life, as opposed to the politically homogenised, hermetically sealed and largely monolithic world of MSM journalists. This is also why the ‘trust barometer’ displays the results it does in respect of journalists and MSM more generally.

My advice here is next time you see a supposed “unquestionable fact check” from the MSM, by all means read it but do keep a large grain of salt close at hand. Instead, do your own research because, if it comes from the MSM, you will only get “facts” that fit the narrative.

19 thoughts on “Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and Journalism

  • March says:

    One underlying fact not articulated by the MSM is that the group that were vulnerable back in 2020 remain highly vulnerable regardless of how many times they have been jabbed. The risk outside that group hasn’t changed much with vaccinations. The emphasis from day one should have been to protect the vulnerable as much as reasonably possible and let the virus rip through the rest of us achieving herd immunity. It would have been over in six months. Instead the flattened curve with all its lockdown, mask wearing, kebab jab misery is stretching out to the end of the decade.

  • ianl says:

    Yes, thanks Jack Weatherall, I appreciate your comments though I’m afraid the situation is quite obvious, particularly in what is known (disdainfully by the very people you describe) as the STEM area.

    Just the last few days has thrown up an atrocious example of this despicable smugness. Eraring power station is to close 7 years ahead of the earlier published schedule; forcing coal-fired generators to stay operational while denying them a market when the sun shines and the wind blows is guaranteed to force them into a deliberate bankruptcy. Despite this, even El Kean was acttually slightly abashed; destroying 2.8GW of reliable power supply and replacing it with 0.7MW of battery (ie. 25% of the previous power supply for perhaps 20 minutes) was a bit much even for him. Yet the TV journos of the ilk you have described ran their usual “battery will replace ugly old King Coal” propaganda. And the truth is that these people really neither know nor care of the difference between GW and MW. For them, this is just geek stuff and of no interest to activists saving the world.

    When the power fails, the slightest of silver linings to that poisonous cloud is that these people will be deplatformed for the duration – each time. Very cold comfort though …

  • lbloveday says:

    “….there will be an obligatory sentence stating the former president’s complaints about the 2020 election are “unfounded”.
    Chris Kenny in The Weekend Australian goes lower with:
    “…Trump disgracefully refused to concede defeat…”

  • Citizen Kane says:

    In regards to the ‘unknown’ cases highlighted above, a footnote underneath table 5 in the most recent NSW COVID surveillance report states ‘ Given the high vaccination rate in the population, it is likely that most cases with Unknown vaccination status have actually received at least two effective doses.’ So in effect these cases predominantly belong to the vaccinated data.

  • rod.stuart says:

    When exposed to all these “facts” that form the official narrative it is useful to bear in mind that the RT-PCR test is worefully inadequate as a diagnosis tool. Since virtually all of the “data” espoused to present the Truth about Covid 19 depends on the useless information provided by this test, everything you read and hear is for the most part bulldust.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Journalists are trained in Marxism. They are not trained in statistics, but they should be, at least to a level where they know enough to recognise how little they do know. It would be very helpful in their reporting on issues to do with climate variability as well as health if they were not dunderheads about decimal points, for instance, let alone competent re probability and statistical inference in general, including gigo modelling, as well as becoming familiar with useful primers like ‘How to Lie with Statistics’.
    Having dissed them sufficiently, let’s now agree that simple raw population statistics such as the above can have numerous category hurdles within them which analysts cannot bore down into via this raw presentation. Sometimes as we see above there is also aggregation that is beyond reasonable.
    You won’t get very far with epidemiological assessments from statistics like these.
    It is more useful to rely on clinical data, to obtain figures directly from hospitals in some well controlled collection exercises about Covid admissions (directly for Covid or Covid-associated), where data is then broken down by age, vaxx status including dates, ICU time, treatments, comorbidities (in detail) and deaths (with or of Covid); all in order to see any patternings by factorial analysis. It’s very complex, especially when we consider that individual immunity is variable, that it exists in cellular as well as antibody forms, that biological age may not match chronological age and that previous Covid/Corona infections may also be relevant.
    I’ve seen reference to proper clinical studies (which I haven’t read), not just these raw stats, where clinical data does seem to suggest that for older people, especially those with comorbidities, the vaxxes can offer a degree of protection against severe disease and death, which is the general line used to push for population vaxxing. Population vaxxing though is a big and unfounded leap from any individual clinical utility in getting a vaxx.
    I’m 80 this year and currently I have Covid; I’ll accept the PCR following the RAT. I have high blood pressure as a comorbidity. I am double (not triple) vaxxed 6 months ago, so presume my antibodies would be low but it seems my general immunity is still high. I’ve had only a moderate case of a weird sort of bad cold. Four bad days and now I am on the mend. I don’t know if it was just a security blanket but I did feel I had help (was it the vaxx? or my good friend’s prayers?) in fighting this thing off in ways that I often don’t manage to do with a common cold (to which I am very susceptible and which usually leaves me with a developing bronchitis and needing antibiotics).
    Go figure.
    I am happy at home, but have been placed on a special watch list by my area health service, due they tell me, to my age. Which tells us where the real Covid problem lies.

  • IainC says:

    The problem with post-modernism (more accurately “post-truth” or “post-civilization”) is that no matter how bizarre, counter-factual, anti-science of just plain deceitful any of the dozens of claims routinely made are, there is a sufficiently powerful, influential and widespread cadre of supporters in media, government and business who will repeat claims without checking their basis in fact.
    Extremely important slogans that are provably and proven to be wrong yet accepted as fact, including “RE is cheap”, “Australia is getting drier”, “climate change is definitely causing more X” (where X is any number of bad weather events), anything to do with biology or race, are seemingly immune to correction.
    Supporters of the narrative feel morally free to invent any fact regardless of its validity, as long as it advances the “cause”. The voices raised against the tide of misinformation are isolated and readily dismissed by the powerful mainstream apparatus.
    Even truth-friendly organisations such as the Australian do themselves no favours by mining social media, where post-modernist ideas dominate, for articles and controversy, giving the impression of a vast tide of public support for issues which are in reality dominated by a few extremely influential and busy activists.
    The ability of the dominant narrative to destroy careers is also a serious impediment to getting the truth heard. Everyone has something embarrassing online, and it only takes one slip, suitably edited, twisted and pretzeled out of context, for a social media tar-and-feathering to claim another victim, thanks to spineless or fellow-travelling management.
    What can small people like us do? Spread the facts to friends and family. Send them the scientific papers or abstracts if they don’t believe you. Arm yourself with a core of well-rehearsed sentences that show you know the truth and have evidence to back it up.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    OR, you can always cite the 198 scientific organisations worldwide which endorse the AGW hypothesis, including the Royal Society, the AAAS, and the CSIRO. If you are not a coal shill, that is.

  • Lawrie Ayres says:

    Ian MacDougall. If a hypothesis fails it fails and the hypothesis of man made warming has failed as has every prediction based upon it. The Arctic has not become ice free in summer, the hot spot above the equator is not there, polar bears are increasing in number, the dams did fill, the UK still has snow and lots of it, the world has not warmed for the past 18 or so years, there are less cyclones and land falling hurricanes. The list of failed predictions is endless. You might be able to find one that came true but I doubt it. The CSIRO and most Australian universities sold their souls fo government grants. They should be proving the hypothesis wrong because that is how science used to work when it had integrity and they should be researching alternative explanations for warming and cooling but they don’t. If they asked some geologists to join their faculties they might find the man made climate scam is a fraud.

  • 27hugo27 says:

    Lbloveday, like you, am sick and tired of Kenny and his ilk with their TDS. A usually good column ruined by ignorance and pettiness. He doesn’t even need to cite Trump, yet feels he needs to as an olive branch to the left. Memo to Chris – they don’t care! If he can’t even entertain the idea that the election was rigged, then he must also be in denial about the political crime of the century, the demonstrably false Clinton – generated Russian collusion hoax, where all the msm/deep state bureaucrats knew, malice of forethought, what they were doing. Trump is owed billions in reparations should Durham follow the money.

  • vickisanderson says:

    “What I encountered was a cohort of students who had no technical grasp of any field outside their fledgling grasp of journalism.”

    The principles of research seem beyond them. Testing an hypothesis means assembling all sides of an argument as part of the process. But this mob start from a premise that they are determined to support or demolish with selected data.

    And they have the audacity to claim that they “follow the science”. There is a great deal of “science” examined and put to the test by some of the world’s most outstanding epidemiologists and immunologists. But the clinical studies and frontline COVID experience of these scientists is ignore or mocked by the “fact checkers”. 60,000 signatures to The Great Barrington Declaration and tens of thousands in the Rome Declaration of these “dissidents” and “fringe epidemiologists” are dismissed by the “fact checkers”!

    Outspoken critic of these “fact checkers”, Steve Kirsch, reckons the MSM employs undergrads to do the work. Heaven help us!

  • vickisanderson says:

    Re the question about the collection of data and interpretation of the statistics:

    Prof. John Ioannidis of Stanford had it right from the very beginning in 2020. He and the “Black Swan” man Nassim Taleb had a right old stoush – with Taleb insisting the very high R0 of the Wuhan virus would could a global catastrophe. Ioannidis had already recognised that it was a virus that affected demographics at varying levels of severity. I confess that I initially thought Taleb would prove correct, and in some ways he was correct. But it was Ioannidis that understood the virus very early – & was pilloried for his theory. Most recently, British statistician Norman Fenton has used UK statistics to illustrate the accuracy of Ioannidis’ predictions.

    Incidentally, It still befuddles me that our medical advisers have missed a fantastic opportunity to improve our health. What they SHOULD have done (instead of instil fear) is promote a “health kick” – good food/exercise/supplements – to strengthen our immune systems. My husband and I have done this for the past two years and have never felt healthier. But has such a recommendation ever been heard in the last two years??? No, no – just wear masks (now accepted as useless) and lock yourself up in your house, and have repeated tests. And if you are unlucky enough to prove “positive” – just stay in your house unless you are really unlucky enough to become ill – in which case, you call an ambulance! No recommendation for aspirin or steroid inhalants to relieve inflammation, or even vitamins with proven anti-inflammatory properties………and no redress…..

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Vicki, I think so many qualified signatories to the Great Barrington Declaration did carry some weight.
    I signed it using my genuine MPH qualification and the name under which I gained it. Only a small drop from me in a much more impressive bucket but I think every signature helped. The argument in that Declaration made unambiguous good sense and is now looking very much proven right. And taking care of our own health is of course our own responsibility, with our right to judge for ourselves how to do it.

    Re journalism teaching: in Australia the cultural marxists took over this very early at UTS, the first journalism department in Australia, modelling itself to some extent on the Univ of Columbia J School in the US. The first of the teaching staff were spawned (a good word for it) from the ‘great split’ in philosophy at Sydney Uni which can be read about on the link below. During this whole period I was an ‘innocent bystander’ to much of it. The names are deeply familiar to me, dredges from another time.

    Some activists in the new Marxist renamed General Philosophy department, wishing to reach a wider population and influence more than mere philosophy students, and seeking to get tenured jobs, were drawn to the deep Marxist hive, a sort of commune centered on the media/comms rubric, developed under Gramscian enthusiasms by ex-philosophy professor Bill Bonney at what was then the NSW Institute of Technology, to be later joined by Marxist Wendy Bacon under the Communication banner when NSWIT became UTS. Other Australian universities then started opening their own schools of communication/journalism, all Marxist in origin and attitudes. They have been pushed to change, to include more of a newroom focus, the trade of it, but the damage was done; Marxism slowly morphed into socialist ‘woke-ism’ and its academic extremes of today. Some history was also taught, but always from a Marxist slant. Dispassionate it was not.
    Young hopefuls wanting to ‘write’ or ‘become investigative journalists’ were then sold this pup.
    A proper study of history and literature would have stood them in better stead.
    My opinion, with my view from the inside.

  • browndj77 says:

    All of the data in the tables is based on percentages based on PCR testing results. We know that the anti-vaxers are very unlikely to get a PCR test, so the percentage of people in hospital, ICU and deaths should be compared against the total NSW population that is vaccinated vs unvaccinated. The numbers don’t look as good when you view from this perspective for the unvaccinated.

  • rosross says:

    Logic decrees, if the Jabs were of any value then very few of the Jabbed would end up in hospital. The opposite has happened. Ergo, the Jabs are of no value.

    Logic decrees that the more people get Jabbed the better things will be compared to the more than a year with original Covid when there were no Jabs. In fact things have gotten significantly worse the more Jabbed people are. Ergo, the Jabs actually make things worse.

  • Citizen Kane says:

    # browndj77 – ‘We know that the anti-vaxers are very unlikely to get a PCR test….’ and the documented evidence for that is…..?

  • rosross says:

    The question everyone ignores is why for more than a year before Jabs and original Covid, the most virulent although not particularly virulent, were there few people in hospital compared to nearly a year of lots and lots of Jabbing when things are clearly worse?

    Either, the Jabs are causing problems, or as ignored science-medical experts warned, the combination of the Jabs and any virus if not any infection are causing problems, with what is the weakest variant so far.

    Whatever the answers the situation is much worse following Jabs and more masks, distancing and lockdowns.

  • rosross says:


    Worth remembering that there are no anti-vaxxers because these genetic treatments are not vaccines. More critical, most of those demanding their right to refuse participation in a highly experimental and risky genetic treatment state quite clearly they do not oppose real vaccines and have had those recommended.

    Also worth remembering that Unvaccinated means, someone who has never been Jabbed, but also someone Jabbed once, someone Jabbed twice and now, someone Jabbed three times but under the two week requirement time-frame when supposedly the ‘magic’ kicks in.

    So, patently, most of those in hospital are likely to be semi-Jabberoos and not the unjabbed.

  • rosross says:


    The numbers looked best for the totally Unjabbed.

    ♦ 1.5% of all triple-vaccinated individuals who are COVID positive (PCR) are hospitalised.

    ♦ 1.2% of all double-vaccinated individuals who are COVID positive (PCR) are hospitalised.

    ♦ 1.1% of all unvaccinated individuals testing PCR positive who are COVID positive (PCR) are hospitalised.

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