How Coughlan Won the Internet (But Failed at Fact-checking)

For those looking for someone to attack Coughlan’s recent Twitter storm on the English Defense League (EDL), you are in for a disappointment. I consider Coughlan’s ridicule of #creepingsharia to be both deserved and hilarious.

A quick recap of affairs (skip this paragraph if you know it), EDL spokesman and general blockhead Tommy Robinson tweeted his consternation at the use of a mosque image on Twitter’s homepage, adding the hash tag #creepingsharia to signify the supposed islamification of the West. Couglan promptly called upon his minions to spam that hash tag with equally (but deliberately) phoney examples of this same phenomenon. Within 24 hours the tag had bubbled its way to the top of the rankings, an achievement that even made the popular press.

As Coughlan rightly pointed out himself, if Twitter chooses to include a mosque on its homepage, how are we to conclude that we are heading for a day when scores of turban-clad fundies will pour out of the drain covers, ready to ransack British politics? The idea is ludicrous, especially when you consider that Twitter, like every significant company today, must have a policy for proportionate representation of different divisions of society. It’s even less surprising in light of the fact that Twitter is global, and Muslims are equally capable of tweeting too. And even in the wake of the current British drought, that scene looks far too dusty to be anywhere in the UK.

…Well, maybe Norfolk…

Coughlan deservedly basked in the success of such a fruitful bitchslap of the EDL, and I have no wish to take that victory away. My only concern is with one of the text cards in that video. Coughlan claims in his celebratory video that the image does, in fact, show the Taj Mahal, which is not a mosque, but a masuoleum. It would be a delightful icing on the cake for this to be true, but when I saw the image myself, it was immediately obvious that this was not the Taj Mahal.

Here is a screenshot of the offending image:

Twitter large

And here is the Taj Mahal:

Taj Mahal

Perhaps the most obvious difference is the fact that the Taj Mahal is surrounded by four towers, not one. The shape of the towers, curvature of the main dome and presence/absence of smaller domes are also clearly different.

The Twitter image does indeed appear to be a mosque, though I can’t find the original source to be sure. Of course, Coughlan’s point still stands: it is no more evidence of #creepingsharia than the fact that pillar boxes look like burkas. I’m just a little disappointed that Coughlan, whom I normally admire for his skepticism, fact-checking and source citing, has made such a basic goof. I guess we are all entitled to a slip now and again.

I’ll also take the opportunity to make a passing swipe at LatumWay’s mock #creepingsharia tweet: Arabic numerals were not created by Muslims, as the name suggests, but by Hindus in India, 1,500 years ago.

Skepticism never takes a day off.