Do you believe everything your government tells you? That was a rhetorical question, but can you believe what you read in a dictionary or see in an atlas? Alas, not always.
There are countless islands in the world, some of them extremely small, many of them uninhabited, so you would not be surprised to learn that one called Sandy Island appears in atlases of the South Pacific. You might be surprised though to learn that while the island can be found on maps, it doesn't actually exist!
This curious error goes back to 1792 when it was apparently discovered, or at least noted. Somehow it was incorporated into Google Earth, but recently a scientific expedition from the University of Sydney found, well, nothing. One of the scientists who took part in that expedition explained the anomaly to the BBC.
Sandy Island is far from the first such phantom island to appear on a map; probably the most famous is St Brendan's Isle, which was apparently located in the North Atlantic. It is named after Brendan The Bold, the 6th Century Irish monk who is alleged to have discovered America.
Okay, two anomalies, one old, one maybe not so old, but this sort of thing doesn't happen elsewhere, does it? How about an A-Z that shows a phantom road?
Well, these and similar errors are surprisingly common, apart from the fact that they are not errors but deliberate. They are copyright traps, which is all the explanation that is needed - yeah, copyright is dead, in cyberspace at least, but let's develop this a bit.
What about phantom settlements? Here is an amusing article about four of them: one in the UK and three in the USA. Okay, so that's maps, charts and atlases, but what about dictionaries?
Check out this article about phantom words and phantom articles from that font of all knowledge Wikipedia.
Okay, what about official reports? Many of these come in for severe criticism, both rightly and wrongly. The Warren Report on the Kennedy Assassination has stood the test of time; others like the White Paper on the murder of Stephen Lawrence are filled with nonsense.
One would expect or at least hope that witness statements taken by the police would largely be accurate, certainly those taken from either victims of crime or of disinterested bystanders, but sadly this is not the case. The police, certainly the British police, have a long history of doctoring even fabricating witness statements, though for rather obvious reasons these lies seldom come to light. The recent revelations of the Hillsborough disaster provide a striking insight into this, even though it took over twenty years for the truth to come out.
What other official documents are liable to contain incorrect or even blatantly false information? Not death certificates, surely? What if these are signed by the murderer, who just happens to be a serial killer? Although the case of Dr Harold Shipman was (hopefully) a never to be repeated anomaly, there is one well documented example of the Metropolitan Police attempting to obscure if not to fabricate outright the cause of death in a controversial case. In July this year, a police officer named Simon Harwood was cleared of the manslaughter of Ian Tomlinson. The victim - who was not a well man - had been caught up in a demonstration, although he was not a protester himself. He was assaulted and then pushed over by Harwood, gratuitously and for no credible reason. He got up and walked off, but collapsed after a few yards. He died at the scene.
If this incident had not been videoed, the whole thing would have been covered up, but there was no chance of this, so someone ensured that the pathologist who performed the autopsy would sign the certificate with the right cause of death. Dr Patel was not bent, but he was incompetent, and did as he was told. He was struck off the Medical Register in August of this year. Again, but for the filming of the assault, all this would have been covered up. The police on both sides of the Atlantic will go to extraordinary lengths to cover up for their brethren. The best way to get away with murder is to carry a warrant card, or to implicate a police officer in the crime. This is not an opinion but an observed fact.
If the doctoring of death certificates can be explained in the above cases by a desire to cover up crimes, there is a great deal of evidence that death certificates were, and perhaps still are, far from accurate in many cases.
Philip Burch was a distinguished scientist who spent over four decades at Leeds University. He was also a vocal critic of the smoking and nothing else = lung cancer hypothesis.
In his 1976 book The Biology of Cancer: a new approach, he wrote: "...the bulk of the enormous secular increase in death-rates from lung cancer recorded during this century was the consequence of diagnostic error and cannot be attributed to tobacco."
He pointed out inter alia that the rise in death rates from lung cancer over the period 1916-65 was accompanied by an almost equivalent fall in deaths from pulmonary tuberculosis.
Under Problems of diagnosis on page 327, he said one researcher found 178 cases of lung cancer at necropsy, only six of which had been recognised in life. (This dated from the turn of the 20th Century).
Around the 1910s, most clinical conditions affecting lungs in the USA were called pneumonia or pleurisy if acute, and tuberculosis if chronic.
Any publication involving statistics - government or otherwise - should be treated with some reserve, even if it is only estimates of the size of a crowd. Opponents of a demonstration will play down the turnout; supporters will exaggerate.
So how do we know what is true and what is not? Generally speaking it is not a bad idea to begin with the official narrative and see how it stands up. If nothing else, time and effort will have gone into producing it, and being official it should have some credibility. This applies especially to many of these media campaigns that proclaim the innocence of someone on death row or incarcerated for some other reason. At times, the Reprieve organisation and the American branch of Amnesty have duped the public on both sides of the Atlantic with outrageously dishonest campaigns on behalf of some convicted felon or other. You should take the time to look up the actual court judgment or something equally reliable before giving their mush a credibility it does not deserve, because many so-called journalists don't bother, and simply parrot the most outrageous lies uncritically.
If you believe all you read, best not read, as that old Chinese proverb goes. Or should that be Japanese?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com