MSM vs Bloggers Smackdown: MSM still languishing in coma.


Wiggle in her Walk: Anatolian Neolithic Goddess

Anyone who still has faith in the veracity of mainstream media “science reporting” really, really needs to start reading Ben Goldacre at badscience.net, despite his grating misuse of prostitution metaphors.

Goldacre has blasted last week’s leering evaluation of celebrity bodies as a piece of fabricated PR fluff. But the MSM lapped it up, fuelled, no doubt, by a heavy dose of woohoos at the thought of yet another excuse to festoon their rag with a Hawt!!1! photo. The Telegraph UK reported: ” Jessica Alba has the perfect wiggle, study says”:

Jessica Alba, the film actress, has the ultimate sexy strut, according to a team of Cambridge mathematicians.

The academics found that it is the ratio between hips and waist that puts the sway into a woman’s walk – and the nearer that ratio is to 0.7, the better. This ratio provides the body with the right torso strength to produce a more angular swing and bounce to the hips during the walking motion.

Therefore, a woman with a 25in waist and 36in hips would have just the right proportions to carry off a sexy swagger as she walks.

Goldacre’s rebuttal, “Imaginary numbers”, is incontrovertible. Did the Telegraph inadvertently get the wrong end of the stick? Did they just misinterpret the results a little? Was this science published in a journal that wasn’t quite as reputable as they thought it was?

No. The whole thing was a corporate invention on behalf depilation-pushers Veet. Turns out their PR company, Clarion Communications, previously contacted Goldacre trying to enlist him into colluding with the fabrication, with the collusion sweetened by five hundred pounds.

Here was their opening email: “We are conducting a survey into the celebrity top ten sexiest walks for my client Veet (hair removal cream) and we would like to back up our survey with an equation from an expert to work out which celebrity has the sexiest walk, with theory behind it. We would like help from a doctor of psychology or someone similar who can come up with equations to back up our findings, as we feel that having an expert comment and an equation will give the story more weight.”
[…]
And there was survey data too. “We haven’t conducted the survey yet,” Kiren told me: “but we know what results we want to achieve.” That’s the spirit! “We want Beyonce to come out on top followed by other celebrities with curvy legs such as J-Lo and Kylie and celebrities like Kate Moss and Amy Winehouse to be at the bottom e.g – skinny and pale unshapely legs are not as sexy. I will find out when we will have the results of the survey for you.

The survey? Wasn’t actually nonexistent, it seems. It consisted of an internal company email to Clarion employees, and the results of that were then further falsified.

Goldacre contacted mathematician Professor Weber, the scientist whose name eventually became attached to the press release. His reponse included, in part:

…The Clarion press release was not approved by me and is factually incorrect and misleading in suggesting there has been any serious attempt to do mathematics here. No such thing has happened. No “team of Cambridge mathematicians” has been involved in producing the results that have been reported. I do not endorse what the press release says. I did not approve it and would not have done so if asked.
[…]
Clarion asked me to help by analysing survey data from 800 men in which they were asked to rank 10 celebrities for “sexiness of walk”. And Jessica Alba did not come top. She came 7th.”



Categories: culture wars, ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, Science, skepticism

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2 replies

  1. It’s stories like this that have made me stop using the term MSM, I just call it “corporate media” now (when I’m not being all Web 2.0 and calling it “old media”).
    All those resources and trained journalists, most of whom would probably rather be actually doing proper chase-that-story journalism, and this is what they produce?

  2. Sigh, that’s brilliant. Seriously, there are tears coming out of my eyes now. Why don’t they ever contact me with one of these shamful (notice I intentionally forgot the “e” to make it sound cooler) studies. I’d love it.
    I like the end of that quote by the Cambridge dude “Jessica Alba did not come top. She came 7th”. Brilliant.

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