Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Impossible Battle against Fake News: The Horse Manure Crisis in London

Illustration and initial text from a recent post on WUWT

Sometimes, I have this horrible feeling that the battle against fake news and propaganda is just impossible to win. The latest example is an article appeared on the unnamable WUWT blog, which repeats the story that someone in 1894 "predicted" that 9 feet of horse manure would soon accumulate in the street of London. And, of course, since that didn't happen, we are free forever and ever from any and every possible kind of catastrophe.

Let me repeat it, this is a legend. I wrote that two years ago on the Cassandra blog: nobody ever wrote such a thing on "The Times" nor anywhere else. People keep repeating what they hear from other people and keep thinking that sheer volume means truth. It is pure invention, fake news.

What I found most bewildering is how slick it is the report on WUWT - note how subtly they link an article with the words "but fake". It is a recent article by Rose Wild where she says exactly what I said in my 2016 article: There never was such a headline on The Times.

But the WUWT author, Larry Kummer, never states that explicitly. The hurried reader will surely think that the term "but fake" refers not to the existence of the 1894 article, but to its wrong predictions. This is reinforced by the sentence "accurately describing the views of the time." It is hard to think that a non-existing article could be accurate about anything. Slick, indeed.

You would think that people have had enough of propaganda after having been duped so many times on so many issues but, no, propaganda continues to exist and thrive. Actually, it seems to be increasing in volume and importance. Maybe it is part of the way the universe works. Maybe the universe itself has been created as a giant propaganda machine to convince the Gods that the Ragnarok will never come and that Odin will never be eaten by the wolf Fenrir. Who knows? Maybe we are all the dream of a sleeping God who is having a nightmare.

Note: there are hundreds of thousands of Web pages reporting the story of the "Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894" as if it were a historical fact - If there are any which say it is a hoax, they are extremely difficult to find.


  1. Pictures of the late 19th show that the streets were indeed clean. In strong contrast with CO2, manure had a real commercial value and there was a strong incentive to gather and use/sell it. All large cities had their intensive market gardening belt and large amounts of manure was critical to their continued productivity.

  2. Bias Confirmation is a powerful human weakness

  3. One of things that are quite intolerable of modern fake news spread out by Official Mass Media in Italy, it is the catholic-comunist propaganda about the need of Puglia's agriculture laborers. Graduates in letters and communication, make fake articles and services for showing that "black men laboreres work as slave in agriculture, and they have poor piece wages because italian people do not want to work in agriculture". So in the catholic-comunist propaganda white italian people made a sort of "apartheid" with black people, and they need to be free and to vote (IUS SOLI).

    It's a big intolerable modern fake catholic-comunist propaganda, because they forget that since 1950s agriculture has been mechanized (and in the near term, modern mechanization in agriculture is changing fast in FIRST robotization) so nowdays, into a sane and modern agricolture farm doesn't need of laborers paid by poor piece wages, because there are mechanized stuffs to work in the fields, with less time and more productivity!.

    It's quite intolerable that in the XXI century that apulian mafia is maintaining "slaves as Confederate Economy did in 1861 in the Sud of USA" in the modern era of mass and wide agriculture mechanization.

    In Puglia was in charge Vendola and Emiliano (left parties) for long time, but they didn't anything to remove "black slaves Confederate Economy 1861 in Puglia" getting in mechanized stuffs for the Puglia's obslete farming sector.

    1. well I think it is hard to find how your comment is relevant for the post. Anyway, despite the 'mechanisation' of modern agriculture there is still everywhere need of manpower in agriculture. From strawberries pickers in Denmark and Holland to vineyard works in France, Italy and Spain. Machines can't do everything in agriculture. 'Black workers' in Puglia do need protection and civil rights. That's not a fake news. Plus, as this blog advocated many times, labour intensive occupation can be a sustainable alternative to CO2 intensive jobs... like mechanised agriculture.

    2. @ Mario Pansera
      bla, bla, bla... you have the right to think what you want :-) but you have to know that History doesn't care about your opinion, or my opinion too.

      The direction of jobs History into Agricoltural sector is that:

      If you don't want to read, you can watch it:

      As I already said, in Puglia was in charge Vendola and Emiliano (left parties) for long time, but they didn't do anything to remove "black slaves for apulian mafia Confederate Economy 1861" and getting in mechanized stuffs for fixing the Puglia's fucking obslete farming sector.

      And they did also nothing to adapt apulian productions at climate change, or to put in israelian farming tecniques on using few fresh water, because Puglia is burning lots of fresh water but Mediterranean Area is becoming a dry desert because of climate change.

      Nowdays in the I°countries, it's starting the next technology revolution in agricolture sector

      I perfectly know what it means, and I already know what kind of implications this trend will bring. Quite soon you will have to put robots in the fields, and if you don't put them at work, your production process will be obslete, then your firm will be out of the market, because your firm will not be able to grant quantity, quality, timing, and making profit.

      Facts are quite simple:

      Nowdays into a sane and modern agricolture farm, there is NO NEED of laborers paid by poor piece wages, because there are more and more mechanized stuffs to work in the fields, having more productivity, with less time.

      In the future, there will be less jobs into Agricolture sector.

      This means there is no jobs opportunities for "black or white laborers, paid by poor piece wages".

      If there is no jobs for italian, there is no jobs for illegal immigrants too.

      If there is no jobs, there are no opportunities of integration for illegal immigrants people, so authorities have to close illegal camps, and oust those people because they are not italians, and they have to come back their homes.

      In XXI century it's quite intolerable for me, that fucking apulian mafia is maintaining "slaves as Confederate Economy did in 1861 in the South of USA" in the modern era of mass and wide agriculture mechanization!.

    3. and what energy source will feed these robotic peasants? eheheh
      my father is from Puglia, he runs a wonderful little farm, without chemical or robots and it's highly productive. You know... a lot of talking about Apulian Mafia can't hide racist ideas.
      take care!

    4. @ Mario Pansera
      Proposing false facts never ever happened, Inoring and hiding facts, Mis-representing facts: those are matter of FAKE NEWS.

      For the rest of your comment... same old story, especially when catholic-comunist people meet someone who don't agree with them, especially when catholic-comunist people runout of facts and stuffs, they always start to blame the other person for racism and neonazy stuffs and things like that. This conduct it's really boring to me.

      On the other hand, for sure you have problem: you are not able to separate signal from noise.

      I suggest to fix it.

    5. Calm down, guys, or I'll have to block both of you.

    6. Hi Ugo,
      I've been your reader since long time and I'm an academic like you. I particularly appreciate the quality of your usual commentators, the quality of their argument and their attitude. I understand you can't control all the comments. But please read carefully this thread and judge who is to block and who has to calm down ;)
      con affetto

    7. Non te ne fare Mario, il mio non era un giudizio. E' solo che i commenti sono come il vento, vanno lasciati soffiare e poi spariscono. Se ti vuoi divertire, dai un'occhiata ai commenti a qualcuno dei miei post sul "Fatto Quotidiano." Se mi ci dovessi arrabbiare, avrei già dovuto utilizzare almeno un paio di trapianti di fegato!

    8. e ci hai ragione tu... complimenti per l'ultimo post ;) timing. Spero di vederdi alla Degrowth conference ad Agosto.

  4. Republicans have been fed a steady diet of propaganda for years.
    Came back to bite when Russia used the audience preconditioned for acceptance of mindless garbage to Trump them.

    1. I'm finding equal amounts of poor information in all sectors of the political spectrum. Typically, those who point out flaws about the other side are just astonishingly blind at the antics of their side.

  5. Ugo,

    I know it is off topic, but I couldn't resist to paste such a beautiful example of just-playing-out Seneka cliff ;):

    "Analysts have predicted that Venezuela’s oil situation would deteriorate over the course of 2018, but the descent is happening much faster than most people predicted."

  6. Unfortunately no graph was attached to the article. It is of course not "ideal" Seneka cliff (plateau lasted many years), but the right arm of the graph perfectly matches.

    The best I could find is:

    If you select 10-years perspective (on the left below the graph) it is nicely visible.

    1. Take a look at this!

    2. The whole thing with Venesuela being a "failed state" is very biased. Most news we can get in the west about Venezuela i pretty distorted.

      Much of the drop in Venezuelan Oil production is, as far as I know, a direct result of US trade embargos. Venezuela is simply having a very hard time getting replacement parts for Oi rigs.

      Anyone really interested in some other perspective on Venezuela, there is this counter to John Olivers Venezulea bashing (By Aby Martins Empire Files channel):

    3. Alien, I watched the video you mentioned but was not impressed. For example his undertanding of inflation and price controles seemed to rather confused. John Oliver isn't any more impressive. Reminded more me of watching Johnny Carson than an intelligent exposé.

  7. I think your are being way to sensitive and overly dramatic about the WUWT blog. It did not seem like such a sly deception. They also acknowledge solar as a solution: "(or large improvements to existing sources, such as solar)".

    So if fusion energy does not pan put we can plaster a fraction of the Sahara desert with solar panels to power the whole world! Both blogs are not so different in essence.

    1. Well, I wouldn't say that my blog and WUWT are similar, but, after all, the difference is in the eye of the believer!



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)