The Hijab hoax is yet another black eye for journalists.
CNN reported the story as fact.
So did the BBC.
And the Guardian.
The New York Times did.
The Toronto Star did.
The Globe and Mail did.
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.