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If you frequent twitter or you have a lot of facebook friends with a certain set of political beliefs, or you read the Huffington Post, then you may have seen this article in the last couple of days:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ramesh-patel/growth-cameron-austerity_b_2007552.html

The author, one Ramesh Patel lays bare the lies about the United Kingdom's budget deficit spread by George Osborne. What's more, Patel isn't some left-wing hack taking backhanders from Ed Balls's press office - he's a tory! "As a Conservative I have no pleasure in exposing David Cameron's deficit claims", he says.

What a story! I'm somewhat sceptical though...



Let's leave aside the actual statistics for now, and the question of what exactly Mr Osborne has said in the past. Clearly this view of events goes against the accepted wisdom, but that's not a reason to reject it straight away, at least not without a proper rebuttal. (Here is a proper rebuttal by the way. You may also want to compare the article to these two posts I made two years ago.

Instead, let's look at the author's credentials. When Paul Krugman speaks out against austerity measures, he may be in minority of economists, but he is worth listening to. Rajesh Patel is also an economist, among other things. Here is his Huffington Post profile:


"Ramesh Patel worked in finance from investments adviser with JMC Finacial (sic) Assets, to comodities (sic) brokers in metal and currencies with Capital Assets. As well as a CEO for Proactive Internet Marketing and Brown Pound Publishing. Current (sic) working on a book on the UK deficit Myth and the real agender (sic) from the right and left."

Yes, that really is how his profile is written, spelling mistakes, bad grammar, bad style and all. This is a columnist on a major news website. Odd.

Let's find out a bit more about him on LinkedIn. There are 49 Ramesh Patels on LinkedIn in the UK. The thing is, none of them seem to be this Ramesh Patel - none of the photos match and none of the work histories match. Wouldn't you expect someone who has been the CEO of an internet marketing company to have a LinkedIn profile?

There are quite a few Ramesh Patels on twitter, but none of them seem to be him. Wouldn't you expect someone writing occasional articles for an online news site to have a twitter account, at least to publicise them?

Even more curiously, if you google for "JMC Financial Assets", you won't find a company with that name. It's the same story with "Brown Pound Publishing". "Proactive Internet Marketing" does show up, but only as the generic concept "proactive internet marketing" and not as a company name. An internet marketing company that can't be found by a google search either isn't very good, or it doesn't exist.

What is going on here?

My initial reaction on seeing this was that Mr Patel was deliberately writing an article to appeal to a certain type of reader, knowing that it was exactly the sort of article that would go viral.

But now I'm not so sure.

We have a journalist who doesn't seem to exist. He has worked and even run companies that don't exist. His profile and the article itself on a supposedly reputable news site are full of very obvious typos. The opening sentence "As a Conservative..." seems just too perfect. It's rather like a Manchester United fan saying to a Liverpool fan "I'm a United fan, but even I have to agree that goal was offside" - it has more weight than a Liverpool fan arguing that "we wuz robbed".

Finally, if this was a bona fide story, I would have expected it to be picked up by other left-of-centre news outlets, or at least their websites. The Guardian doesn't have it. The Independent doesn't have it. The BBC doesn't have it. I think they aren't carrying the story because they employ professional fact-checkers.



So here's my theory.


I think that this story has been written by someone who wants to make lefties on the internet look stupid. I would not be at all surprised if in a day or two, we find out that this is a hoax.

(Incidentally, some of you may know that one of my greatest ambitions in life is to perpetrate a hoax. You may even be wondering if I am behind this. I'm not, honest!)

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
parrot_knight
Oct. 27th, 2012 11:04 pm (UTC)
The Huffington Post, with little editing and reliance on people producing high quality copy for no money, is very prone to this sort of pamphleteering; and any entrepeneurial would-be commentarian can style themselves head of this-and-that business or thinktank (number of employees: 1).
philmophlegm
Oct. 27th, 2012 11:12 pm (UTC)
"...any entrepeneurial would-be commentarian can style themselves head of this-and-that business or thinktank"


Ooh, that's so tempting!
wellinghall
Oct. 28th, 2012 07:38 am (UTC)
No! Bad Polo!
(Anonymous)
Oct. 28th, 2012 04:38 am (UTC)
Odd indeed
Ramesh Patel is a sadly deluded man from Wolverhampton, who has never been an investment banker, and who recently changed the name of his current venture from Brown Pound to Autotrust Breakdown Service ltd.

Whilst this helps to explain his laughable attempt at journalism, it leaves one wondering quite what exactly The Huff Post is doing?
bunn
Oct. 28th, 2012 08:32 am (UTC)
I would love to think we lived in a world where people would feel silly for spreading content that is so obviously ill-written and dubious, but tragically, my facebook feed suggests otherwise.

Even if you point out that a link someone has shared is fraudulent and dangerous, half the time people don't seem to care.

This is why I hate facebook. I used to hold to a comforting illusion that the human race had higher standards.
wellinghall
Oct. 28th, 2012 09:55 am (UTC)
This is why I hate facebook. I used to hold to a comforting illusion that the human race had higher standards.

Sadly, it is not only Facebook that has wrecked any illusion I might once have held along those line.

ETA: And then there's this:
http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2010-12-13/

Edited at 2012-10-28 09:58 am (UTC)
bunn
Oct. 28th, 2012 11:28 am (UTC)
Well, my view of the standards was not very high before Facebook. But Facebook definitely pushed it down several notches.
wellinghall
Oct. 28th, 2012 11:35 am (UTC)
Fair enough ...
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )