Why fooling journalists has always been child’s play

The Hijab hoax is yet another black eye for journalists.

CNN reported the story as fact.

So did the BBC.

And the Guardian.

Newsweek did.

The New York Times did.

The Toronto Star did.

The Globe and Mail did.

BuzzFeed did before their cleansing.

The CBC did, linking it to other hate crimes.

Oh dear, and a 11-year-old can fool the international press with ease.

No wonder people no longer believe the press.

How can such a hoax be believed by “seasoned” reporters?

In this case, the “hate crime” was part of a convenient narrative for the press in their never-ending feud with the American president.

It is the reason #MeToo took off so rapidly. It was part of connecting the dots.

Or removing liberties in a game of Go.

Except there were way too many red flags to ignore.

There are real cases of things happening, except the crimes are not palatable for the press. Here is a cute little kid who is eloquent, and the crime was PG-13 friendly.

Real-life attacks are not so clean and sanitary.

So the press rolled with it with a roar, without asking hard questions.

You ask about the surveillance footage. You walk the same path with a stopwatch, and take notes of possible witnesses and possible inconsistencies.

That was the problem from the get-go. The media didn’t look at all for corroborating evidence. You talk to neighbours and teachers. You talk to the local gossips. You talk to the crossing guards and schoolmates.

You find out who is the victim. You work toward finding the culprit. Even as a journalist, you have to do the legwork. Why would this girl be a target, rather than another girl. Was it convenience, for instance, or something else?

This was a classic case of journalism by stenography. Grab a press release and roll with it.

And then other media crib the notes, amplifying the story that was never, even if it were true, been overplayed as it did, considering the number of real hate crimes that never make it into the news that were far more violent, severe, and persistent. It did not warrant that kind of coverage it got. I can see the Toronto Star and the Toronto Sun making a mention of it without naming the victim to protect her identity…and ensure what was reported was, you know, true, and a couple of local stations, but that’s it.

Hate crime hoaxes are a murky area: people feel uncomfortable with them, and they are on the outskirts of being a more hardcore version of a hoax: it is a form, inventional or otherwise, of propaganda, and even war propaganda.

Because it incites and takes advantage of the already established line in the sand.

This will set back a lot of real hate crimes. It will play into the hands of those who think these are not real cases. The press had the duty to pull back. They could have said there was a report of an attack, but instead of giving the girl’s identity and then speculate whether it was a hate crime or not, they should have given the details of what they had — and didn’t have. Was there surveillance? Witnesses? Evidence?

That’s what good journalism needed to be — but as usual, we didn’t get that at all.

And that is the reason a world of grown-ups got fooled by a child.

 

The Sins of Omission: How journalism keeps missing the obvious and letting women down. In 2018.

Journalistic narrative is the profession’s greatest sin.

In Hamilton, at least, there should be, by now, the greatest scandal with people marching in the streets.

But the reporter who stumbled upon something horrendous, adds a link, and no one is struck by the seriousness of what had been told to him.

Grim City Tattoo Club is a tattoo parlour in Hamilton, Ontario, and it is doing something very noble: providing no questions asked free laser removal.

The club was inundated with over seven hundred fifty requests and I am certain the tally has gone up, but this is the quote that should send shock waves through this country:

A lot of them have been through severely abusive relationships, where boyfriends and stuff have branded them with their names, or basically ‘property of.’ There’s been a lot of people who have had tattoos done in horrible situations, like human trafficking, they’ve escaped, and now they’re stuck with these symbols.

You have a source that has, through a genuine good deed, stumbled upon modern slavery. She has hundreds of emails, and even if 1 percent are from women who were branded during their ordeal, that’s still a disturbing number, especially as these would be people who escaped, and it is safe to say there are more who didn’t flee than those who did.

The reporter merely offered this link.

How about pursuing the story on just how many women in Hamilton are slaves? Sex slaves, or just work slaves.

True North strong and free?

With that many women branded like cattle?

We have a city in North America that is allowing women to be branded and enslaved.

In 2018.

How many in Toronto? How many in New York or Los Angeles?

This is highly disturbing.

And yet the narrative is just about the club.

I have no issues with that, but this was a preface to something far more sinister in one of Canada’s largest cities.

The CBC missed the obvious. This is enough to have more than one journalist on a slavery beat.

How many are foreigners lured and then trapped? How many are teenagers who were thrown out of the house, only to be placed in even greater peril?

We have a prime minister offering to legalize weed, but for all his bluster about being a “feminist”, what is he doing about this?

He is capable of responding to local travesties, as he did when an 11-year-old girl told police a grown man cut her hijab on the way to school.

What about all the women getting confined and branded by their abusers?

This is a crisis. This is an absolute crisis, and yet it has already been forgotten.

And they say #MeToo has gone too far?

Nice try.

Lapdog intellectuals and why journalism lost its way.

The model of journalism was flawed from the get-go: journalists gave the story, but how news consumers decided to process those facts was never really challenged.

Do you believe everything you’re told, like a good little doggie?

Or do you distrust everything the media tells you?

Neither method helps. I find a lot of people go the lapdog route when the story sways the same way they do politically, and shut out anything that questions that narrative.

I have found that Left or Right are, at most, half correct, and that neither side can have any airs of being superior to the other. Propaganda is on both sides, and it is the reason I reject both sides.

However, skepticism of facts is a better way to go. We have to always ask where did someone get the information and how rigorously they tested the information. Even when  facts seem right, we still should question what those facts mean. You examine each before deciding if the fact is good, or if it is a lie.

But the lapdog method seems very prevalent among those who see themselves as educated. It is lapdog intellectualism: stick to a few publications that reaffirm your political beliefs, and use those publications as blinders to the actual reality around you.

Harper’s is the lapdog intellectual’s best friend, and the reason I don’t bother much with it, but they are hardly the only ones who preach to the converted.

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Because the problem with lapdog intellectuals is they never question how a story is actually put together.

They think processed cheese naturally comes in a gummy, orangey square.

I am reminded of CBC’s The Fifth Estate’s disastrous documentary in 1996 that resulted in them losing a libel case with the judge giving out the largest settlement in Canadian history.

It was bad journalism through and through, with cartoonish heroes and villains cast — and highly manipulative optics and editing.

The “field notes” in the case had clearly shown a bias, and the judge in the case had very harsh words for those involved in the segment.

The problem was executives thought they’d win the case and that they did nothing wrong.

The entire set-up was wrong, from beginning to end, but to those who believe, they will defend it.

You let the facts make the case. You do not have gushy visuals of who you deem “the good guy”, and extreme close-ups of the one who decide is the villain. The facts should do that for you.

Media skepticism is needed: not just fault-finding with one Partisan side, but with the entire journalistic set-up. It makes it ripe for ideological hijacking and blatant propaganda.

But the lure of people who need to be reassured their thoughts are “right” is too much for media outlets. It is pandering, of course, nothing more.

It is difficult to be a radical centrist and hold everyone accountable equally. We don’t actually have that sort of journalism, and it shows.

Canada’s journalism’s slumber and why the next generation needs to wake up

I came across this article on CBC’s website, and it is worth thinking about.

From 1950-1965, people who went into one Montreal hospital, many women for postpartum depression became de facto prisoners in a secret concentration camp, run by a doctor on behest of the CIA.

To goal was to “brainwash” these patients with LSD and electroshock therapy.

This isn’t a conspiracy theory. This was proven that these patients were unknowing subjects in “experiments” that were torture sessions. No knowledge and no consent.

And it went on in Canada for fifteen years.

To this day, victims and their families are fighting their own government and being bullied into signing nondisclosure agreements.

The government’s is using citizens’ own tax dollars against them.

So think about it: for fifteen years in Canada, people were going to the hospital, trusting that the doctors were going to help them, not experiment on them by permanently damaging their brains and traumatizing them.

Who would believe these pateitns against the word of respected psychiatrist Dr. Ewen Cameron?

But where were Canadian journalists from 1950-1965?

Praising the authorities in medicine in their news stories as they appealed to their authority.

So even during the height of the profession, hordes of people fell through the cracks.

They still are falling through them, even with Facebook and Twitter. Do not kid yourself.

So at what point do we realize we need the kind of intellectual soldiers to do what society needs them to do — find the truth, and expose it before things get badly out of hand?

What happened to facts and context in journalism? It always lost out to narrative.

Gary Mason’s peculiar column in the Globe and Mail mystifies me.

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But it is typical of journalistic narrative that reporters are always above reproach. Mason takes issues with the dismissal of CBC reporter Richard Zussman, for doing, what he assumes was something similar that he did years ago.

Mason says:

If I was a journalist working at the CBC, I’d be furious and asking a lot of questions about what has happened here.

But he is writing for the Globe and could have just as easily asked the same questions, yet there are a lot of holes in the article.

Holes readers needed to have filled before they can judge whether or not the dismissal was warranted or not.

But according to others I’ve talked to at the CBC, Mr. Zussman was sacked for not following proper procedures when it comes to pursuing outside commercial undertakings. While he apparently made an immediate manager aware of what he was doing, he did not get necessary approvals further up the food chain. Consequently, he may have contravened provisions of the company’s code of conduct that involve conflict of interest and other matters.

And as we do not know the provisions, we cannot assume anything about whether the dismissal was justified or not, though Mason has no problems making the leap:

Okay, suspend the guy for a couple of weeks if you feel you need to make an example of him. But robbing him of his livelihood for writing a book? That is utterly absurd.

Maybe it is not as absurd as it sounds. He brings up Jian Ghomeshi, which is in no way similar to this case, but Mason forgets the troubles CBC has had with Amanda Lang and Evan Solomon, and the public backlash it created, which would be more similar.

Yet Mason does not bring either of those cases up at all.

The piece is short on both facts and context, but heavy-handed in its liberal use of narrative.

If it is absurd, prove it. That’s all.

Otherwise, don’t try to get people worked up based on narrative alone.

Why the Canadian journalism fell into the abyss

The Global Times almost got it right when it said:

The superiority and narcissism of the Canadian media, that Canada is being pursued by China, is beyond words.

Well, they shouldn’t be talking, either. Egotism and journalism have been going together for a very long time.

And it is the reason journalism collapsed. Hubris is a bad quality to have when you are a news producer.

But in Canada, the collapse has been far more pronounced because of the small population, coupled with government enabling an industry through their welfare payments/government grants. Even so-called “private” broadcasters received money from the government, or they wouldn’t be functioning.

The National Post’s Andrew Coyne was letting a green-eyed monster guest-write his column lamenting how CBC wants to charge five bucks a month for “premium” access to their latest app.

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It won’t help Canadian journalism’s fortunes. When you took an easy way out by applauding your prime minister’s penchant for taking selfies, you have signalled to potential news consumers that everything in their country is fine, and no one needs to bother getting informed because you are not the outlet to do it.

And with the press consistently talking down to people, their fortunes can only go downhill from there.

But it was all propped up with government paying for everything one way or another, but as the tax base erodes, there is less money to fund things.

So Canadian news producers never actually understood how the world really worked.

Just like the teenager who lives rent-free in their parents’ house and then looks down on the homeless kids whose parents threw them out.

And then has the gall to go up to the dispossessed ones and tell them what they should do because he knows better.

Journalists desperately need more than just a humbling, but their arrogance has gotten more out of control as they lose their own power and clout.

CBC is the kid who is heavily subsidized by the Bank of Mom and Dad, and their coverage reflects their perpetual ignorance of the world.

Because their interpretation of reality has been tainted by their confining perceptions.

They can charge for their service, but it’s not going to save their fortunes.

Because they are disconnected from reality.

But there is no credible alternative to take their place. Nothing will reignite the need for news so long as there is no alternative way to journalism.

And we need that alternative now.

Not just in Canada, but everywhere else in the world, including China, because for all their clout, their journalistic innovations and contributions to news producing leaves just as much to be desired.

And when you realize an entire planet filled with educated people have not done a thing with it, it is a very disturbing truth to face.