Saturday, 2 July 2011

The Mail's 'wildly speculative' claims about a Chinese city 'mirage'

On 26 June, the Mail website ran this headline:


The byline is Daily Mail Reporter - probably because no-one would want to admit to writing this:

Residents in a Chinese city have been stunned after a giant mirage of a 'ghost city' towered across the skyline.

The apparition appeared earlier this month after heavy rainfall and humid conditions along the Xin'an River in Huanshan City in East China.

Tall buildings, mountains and trees appeared to rise up through the ghostly mist that had descended over the river at dusk. There is usually nothing buy sky across the horizon.

'Usually nothing buy [sic] sky'? Really?

The pictures have baffled experts who visited the city to check that there were not actually any of the building already there.

It is believed that the sight may have been a mirage - a form of illusion that is common in in humid weather...

Although they happen occasionally, the mirage in China is believed to be one of the clearest ever recorded.

All of which makes it sound as if this 'ghost city' really did appear from nowhere - there's not a hint of doubt in the mind of Daily Mail Reporter that this 'mirage' did happen. Yet you don't need to be an 'expert' to think the buildings might actually exist.

The Chinese woman speaking in the video - a silly ITN report that the Mail repeats without question - says:

It’s really amazing. It looks like a scene in the movie, in a fairyland

Looking like a 'fairyland' - because the buildings are surrounded by cloud - is rather different to a 'mirage'. Moreover, there are several comments under the Mail article claiming there was a problem with the translation in the original video.

Here's Australian journalist Auki Henry:

The 'Huangshan city mirage' generated some wildly speculative claims amidst a whirlwind of media misinformation and hype. In a nutshell the reality was bad chinese translation combined with hyper-sensationalist reporting. All the buildings in the footage are real buildings, not visions, mirages or illusions, they actually physically stand exactly where they were filmed. The only thing out of the ordinary here is they are surrounded by floodwater and mist.

And Henry produces a graphic, clearly showing the buildings are indeed real.

Which might go some way to explaining why this is such a 'clear' recording of this, ahem, 'mirage'.

(Hat-tip to Tim Ireland)

6 comments:

  1. "The pictures have baffled experts who visited the city to check that there were not actually any of the building already there."

    I wonder where the Mail got that from. It can't have come from the original reports, surely - if there was no mirage, there'd be no reason for experts to be "baffled". I think this sloppy reporting goes beyond just relying on a bad translation - somewhere along the line, someone (perhaps not at the Mail) must have actually made that up to spice up the story.

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  2. "The pictures have baffled experts who visited the city to check that there were not actually any of the building already there."

    Are people actually paid to write this illiterate rubbish?

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  3. "Experts are baffled" must be the DM's most overly used phrase.

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  4. Probably a form of fata morgana
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fata_Morgana_(mirage)

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  5. I wish somebody would pay me to write illiterate rubbish, or even literate tosh. Modern newspaper journalism seems to be a very easy gig. Recycle or make stuff up - no investigation or research needed.

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  6. It's doesn't say much for ITN either, does it? I mean, what a bunch of idiots.

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