Mark Twain has been quoted (perhaps incorrectly) as saying that “A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” As shown on this blog and elsewhere, the Observer really messed up in its autism coverage. It ran a front page article by Denis Campbell – giving a very misleading account of some draft research, and completely messing up its figures in order to inaccurately argue that autism prevalence has risen to 1 in 58 UK children.
The Observer still hasn’t properly apologised for most of its errors, and at least one of the falsehoods that originated in that paper appears to have spread – not just across this world – but into the virtual world of Second Life. In their account of a piece on autism and Second Life, Channel 4 claims that “New research suggests as many as one in 58 children may have autism.” No, it doesn’t. Unless you either can’t do basic stats and don’t know how to interpret research, or you believe what the Observer says without bothering to fact-check it.
Oh well. I hope that Denis Campbell and his colleagues at the Observer feel very, very proud.
UPDATE: right, have now watched the offending segment more closely. They mention the 1 in 58 figure in the video segment, too. I’ve contacted Channel 4 to ask for a correction – will see if they fix their mistakes.