The Hijab Hoax is an important lesson in understanding why Canadian journalism is dysfunctional.
The Toronto Star was one of the biggest culprits in this whole rotten affair, even if they are trying to put the blame on the Toronto school board.
As I have said elsewhere, I have studied hoaxes for over twenty years, and I have seen many school kids in peril hoaxes: I cannot remember a single one where the media made such a big to-do, or ever released the child’s name and face, let alone what school they attended.
Because if this child is in danger, the last thing the press should do is help an attacker know the child’s identifying characteristics.
So even if the school board okayed it, and even if over-zealous mom and dad rant on Facebook, that does not mean the press has to go along with publicizing identifying details to make an attacker’s job easier.
The press doesn’t usually make a child this vulnerable; so the fact that they did is mystifying.
But there is a second reason why no credible reporter would have covered the story as it did.
Because all they had was the say-so of one person. The girl. You do not run with a story like that.
There were no witnesses. No surveillance footage. No evidence. They could have waited for more information before they pounced on it the way that they did.
So what was different that the press went overboard?
They did not treat this girl in the same protective manner they treated other children in similar circumstances, whether their stories were true or not. They left her vulnerable in two critical ways: 1. If her story was true, then whoever harmed her once would know exactly where to harm here again, because the press also released the names of her parents, and it does not take a brain surgeon to then track her down.
2. If her story was false, she’s still just a child, and now this episode will haunt her for the rest of her life, and should she discovered the cure for cancer, her obituary will still slap her in the face with this episode. Kids with juvenile records get protection that she never did.
The press and even the Prime Minister saw the hijab, and then treated her as a pawn to show up how superior they were to Donald J. Trump.
Instead, they endangered and traumatized an 11 year-old in their shameful games.
If they saw her as the child that she is, they would have given her the same precautions they gave children before.
But they didn’t see her as a human being. That’s why this hoax exploded the way that it did: they did not perceive the situation realistically, and you cannot find a solution unless your facts, logic, and perceptions are based in truth and reality.
This is yet another black eye to Canadian journalism with global ramifications. They should have held back and verified, and when it was obvious the girl told a fib, they could have not made an international fiasco out of it. They shamed her. They shamed their country. They shamed their profession.
And there was no need for it. Not at all.