“Fake News” and “Fact Checks” – Eva Bartlett and the Mannequin Challenge

I know probably everybody reading this has heard of Eva Bartlett by now, and you’ve probably seen the clip. However I couldn’t put this out of my mind somehow, I started to look at it all more closely. I fear that a lot of people have become a bit too partisan deciding that “she’s one of us”, “yes that’s right” and so forth. Sometimes you need to be partisan in things, very probably we do now on the Syria situation, but I just felt inclined to try and have a closer look. One big question, was Assad really using chemical weapons against civilians, and if so do you really want to be joining either side of a conflict where things like that are happening (possibly on both sides, more on that in a second)?

INTRO – THE UN PRESS CONFERENCE

She made some very serious allegations about Western mainstream media coverage of the war in Syria. She also made some very serious allegations about a group called the Syria Civil Defense, who are also known as the White Helmets. The group’s stated mission is to save lives by rescuing as many people from the war zone as possible.

Here is Eva Bartlett in action at the UN conference just in case you haven’t seen it yet:

2 key points:

At 5:13 she talks about the (alleged) attack on the al Quds hospital.

At 9:45 she talks about the opposition making chemical weapons.

THE CHANNEL 4 “FACT CHECK”

Channel 4 did a “fact check” on EB’s claims. Near the start there was a claim that started alarm bells ringing in my head:

She writes a blog for the state-funded Russian media outlet Russia Today and is candid about her support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting Syrian rebels with Russian and Iranian help.

Eva Bartlett’s blog is not “for the state-funded Russian media outlet Russia Today”, Eva Bartlett’s blog is Eva Bartlett’s blog, says Eva Bartlett.

She has appeared on RT, but then as she points out, so have quite a lot of other people. Merely appearing on the programme does not make her an RT employee, as this seems to be implying, any more than Tommy Robinson’s appearance on the Daily Politics makes him a BBC employee. Of course she must be financially supported somehow, but for channel 4 to make this claim without presenting any evidence to us, well its really quite irritating, isn’t it.

Here is the link if you want to check the “fact check”, it was already looking not very credible in my mind:

https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-eva-bartletts-claims-about-syrian-children

Further down is an absolutely stupid statement:

It’s not clear whether critics of the White Helmets believe that all the videos the group posts of people being rescued from bombed-out houses are fake.

Critics of the White Helmets are not all going to think exactly the same way about this, this is just stupid. I only mention this because it seems to me this is a sort of slur against ALL critics of the White Helmets – lumping them all together, presumably with the intention of hinting that this is all a big conspiracy theory. It also asks:

Why use fake victims when there were other real people to film and photograph?

another really stupid question. To film real people in a war zone must be difficult to do, not to mention EXTREMELY dangerous. It also says:

And we have a Reuters photographer on the ground at one of the incidents, who was satisfied that the events he was recording were genuine.

Now this *sounds* quite impressive doesn’t it, but we only have their word for this, we’ve no way of verifying this from the “fact check” at least.

I wasn’t really sure about what channel 4 were saying here about the girl, it seemed to me they had selected particular photos where the girl’s face was contorted/or different angles. It seemed they were focusing just on one claim and I couldn’t really (frankly) be bothered to go into it too deeply. So I scrolled down to read the comments below the “fact-check” article. In the comments a couple of people had posted links to a Youtube video featuring some of the White Helmets in a “mannequin challenge”.

THE WHITE HELMETS’ MANNEQUIN CHALLENGE

What is a mannequin challenge (call me square but I’d never heard of this before)? This is a funny internet craze where people create videos showing groups of people who appear to be frozen in time while the camera pans around viewing them from different angles. It seems that some bright sparks in the White Helmets organization decided that it would be a good idea to make a mannequin challenge video of one of their “rescues”, in this case of a man from a bomb site. Unfortunately they didn’t really think this thing through, because by creating such an obviously fake video they have seriously damaged the credibility of the whole organization in one fell stroke. Any video they now produce of one of their “rescues” is going to be taken with a very large pinch of salt, however realistic or even actually real it may be. You can view the video in this article:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-38066791

Quote from the article:

“The video and the related posts were recorded by RFS media with Syria Civil Defence (White Helmets) volunteers, who hoped to create a connection between the horror of Syria and the outside world, using the viral Mannequin Challenge,” the statement read.

“This was an error of judgement, and we apologise on behalf of the volunteers involved.

I can’t however help wondering in watching this mannequin challenge video if the people involved have done this sort of thing before (acting), there is something practiced about it, it does not look particularly amateurish to me. However of course I could be totally wrong, that’s pure speculation. You can watch it in the link and tell me what do you think.

Another quote from the article:

But critics, often pro-Assad or pro-Russia accounts on social media, allege links to jihadist groups and have long claimed that the organisation fabricates reports and rescues.

I can’t help feeling this is another attempt to discredit the people questioning the white helmets – the phrase “often pro-Assad or pro-Russia” seems loaded to me. So what if they are “pro-Assad” or “pro-Russia”, what difference does that make? What matters is whether the claims are true or false. This very article is surely doing exactly that – claiming that the white helmets have fabricated a rescue! Are the BBC “pro-Assad” or “pro-Russia”? I’ve never been under THAT impression. At least the BBC reported this, although I don’t know how prominently (this is a thing, sometimes the BBC will publish something important but not put it on the front page, squirrel it away in a section).

At the end of the article it says this:

A spokesman for the RFS told the BBC that the activist group occasionally used this kind of campaign to help shine a spotlight on the suffering of millions of ordinary Syrians.

He pointed out that in the past it had attempted to raise awareness of the conflict by leveraging the popularity of computer game Pokemon Go and comic-book heroes The Avengers.

Terrible though all this is I almost laughed when I read that somehow. Note it says “this kind of campaign”. What, faked rescue videos shine a spotlight on what exactly? Pokemon Go in a war-zone? That seems particularly alarming, don’t try this in your own war-zones kids.

This is a very important point to make I think – if we are to be no longer allowed to view a fake news item like this mannequin challenge video by the “White Helmets”, then we lose a vital bit of information that helps us decide whether to take the “White Helmets” seriously or whether to question every single video they produce. Of course this one video alone does not prove that they are a completely fake organization, not by any means. It is just one small piece of evidence that can help us to build a picture. If European governments ever go ahead with their plan to censor fake news, this vital information may end up being suppressed.

There are other serious allegations about the White Helmets mentioned at Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Helmets_(Syrian_Civil_War)#Criticism

SNOPES

Snopes also “fact-checked” some of Eva’s claims including the Al Quds hospital claims and one about the little girl called “Aya”

http://www.snopes.com/syrian-war-victims-are-being-recycled-and-al-quds-hospital-was-never-bombed/

Quote:

Despite Bartlett’s claims, the existence of multiple children named “Aya” does not indicate the “recycling” of victims or prove that accounts of violence against Syrian civilians by their government are falsified. It attests only to the popularity of the given name Aya among Syrian families.

I didn’t look into this “fact-check” in detail, any feedback on it would be much appreciated – I think the stuff about the al-Quds hospital is much more interesting than this business about “Aya”, but if they believe in White Helmets videos after all the above then we have to wonder a bit at least. We know that the White Helmets have faked at least one video, after all.

EFFECT ON EVA BARTLETT HERSELF

Judging from some interviews I listened to, it would seem she is now spending a lot of time batting away these claims of “fake news” rather than actually reporting on things. It seems a shame really, doesn’t it. Why not do some reporting of your own MSM, instead of playing these childish games and slandering people without showing us anything to back your claims up with.

THE WAR IN SYRIA – WHO’S SIDE ARE WE ON??

I’ve been confused since this whole thing started about whose side the West is on in the civil war in Syria, maybe we’re not sure. However apparently (according to the BBC) we have special forces fighting against the Islamic State:

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-37015915

Quote:

The pictures, which date from June, follow an attack by the so-called Islamic State (IS) on the moderate rebel New Syrian Army base of Al Tanaf on the Syria-Iraq border.

Now, I’m sorry but I’ve really reached the point where I take the word “moderate” with a pinch of salt in all this. I suppose if we’re fighting the Islamic State then its a good thing, but if we’re helping to destablize Assad’s regime, well you see I just don’t know..

Back in 2013, we were trying to start a war against Assad:

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-23892783

Fair enough in that this was about trying to deter the use of chemical weapons, but now we have these claims that the “rebels” also may have used chemical weapons. Are we going to bomb both sides in the conflict? I suppose that might make sense if we had really precise weapons but in another claim, the RAF were accused of hitting some Syrian forces. We had Obama giving Assad “red line” warnings and things on that and then he didn’t do anything, if I remember right.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Assad DID use chemical weapons on civilians and its been proved by the UN:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/25/un-proves-assad-regime-dropped-chemical-bombs-on-civilians/

Quote:

The US and other council members have repeatedly blamed the Syrian government for the chlorine gas attacks, saying no other party in the four-year civil war has helicopters to deliver the toxic chemicals.

However in other claims surface to surface rockets were used to deliver chemical weapons.

Syria chemical attack: Key UN findings

FRIENDS OF SYRIA

I came across this website/blog which I’ve been following for a while to try and pick up anything useful but I’ve not commented on this site. Some of it may be fake news, or it may reflect what’s going on, I just don’t know (there I go again). It seems though that they genuinely are trying to make sense of what’s going on there, but it definitely is pro-Assad. There does seem to be another side of the story – that there are people in Syria who are Sunnis but they are also pro-Assad, who knows maybe even the majority of them are in this category. One of EB’s claims is that the Western media exaggerates the Sunni-Shia split. Some of the people who comment there are Muslims I think but the website is pro-Trump, so its a bit of an interesting mix of viewpoints to my mind:

https://friendsofsyria.wordpress.com/

EVA BARTLETT’S BLOG

https://ingaza.wordpress.com/

I’ve looked at some of her blog but not in great depth. If anyone wants to dig in a bit and tell us all what they think I would be interested in what they have to say.

THE CORBETT REPORT

One link I noticed in her (EB’s) blogroll was the Corbett Report. I followed this guy for a little while ages (a few years) ago but I rather quickly came to the conclusion that he was a bit too into “conspiracy theories”, I didn’t think his claims really stood up to scrutiny after a while. He jumps to a lot of conclusions in my opinion, and the conclusions don’t seem to necessarily follow on from the claims he makes. He has some conspiracy about 9/11. I have never come across a 9/11 conspiracy theory that I found convincing, although I haven’t really taken a deep interest in the subject anyway. This is not to say I didn’t think questions needed to be asked about a lot of aspects of what happened, I’m just saying that I don’t believe the whole thing was orchestrated by people in the US, as Corbett seems to think. Linking to this site is not a plus point for Eva Bartlett in my view, unfortunately it kind of feeds into the narrative that she is a “conspiracy theorist” herself, and I don’t really get the impression that she is.

https://www.corbettreport.com/

https://www.corbettreport.com/only-911-truth-can-smash-the-911-lies/

9/11 Conspiracy Theory:

CONCLUSIONs

In general I’m inclined to come to the conclusion that I don’t feel any of the sources are totally reliable, the phrase “fog of war” springs to mind. The war seems like a choice between the lesser (Assad) of two great evils.

If our governments are going to go meddling in these places and help enable the dismantling of law and order (leading to these terrible atrocities – see some of the links below), then I feel complicit in what they are doing, more and more these days. I am not anti-war as a principle thing at all, but I think we need to be a lot more questioning of what our government is doing. I have lost almost all confidence in our governments on almost every front. What do you think? Any fact-checking of my above article will be appreciated, I don’t want to make a mistake on this stuff.

If you think I got anything wrong, please let me know.

ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB
(I’VE NO IDEA HOW ACCURATE ANY OF THIS IS, I JUST PICKED UP THESE LINKS AS I WAS GOING – WARNING SOME OF THIS STUFF IS REALLY HORRIFIC):

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/29/us-military-airstrikes-mistake-syria-assad-deir-ez-zor

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23927399

https://www.theguardian.com/global/2016/sep/28/aleppo-hospitals-are-latest-casualty-in-attacks-by-the-syrian-regime

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10796175/Syria-chemical-weapons-the-proof-that-Assad-regime-launching-chlorine-attacks-on-children.html

http://www.globalresearch.ca/un-syrian-chemical-weapons-report-exposes-washingtons-lies/5361671

http://www.christianpost.com/news/isis-kills-10-year-old-girl-using-flesh-ripping-torture-device-174526/

Syria conflict: Rebels ‘filmed beheading boy’ in Aleppo (quite why the BBC put that in quotes I don’t know, there is a video of it happening I believe (though I didn’t watch it)):
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36835678

Quote:

A legal adviser for the Western-backed Free Syrian Army was also cited by Enab Baladi as saying it would hold to account those responsible for such a violation.

Addendum

In the feedback we received for this post at Not the Daily Telegraph, commenter DJ Mystery Twister posted a link to a Youtube video of a presentation by one Robert Stuart.

This contains claims that a BBC Panorama program featured fake footage of victims of chemical attacks in Syria.  The claim is also made that the BBC program was intended to encourage support for a UK military intervention in Syria against Assad that the then UK Prime Minister called for.  The UK government were defeated in parliament on this occasion however.

[@26.00] At the Frontline club the journalist does seem evasive – trying to suppress questions:

“It kind of makes me sick to my stomach that people would even believe that that did not happen.”

“I don’t want to even talk about that.”

 

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A Post-Truth Era? Part 2 – A Fake “Fake News” Epidemic

[This post was originally posted on the Disqus channel “Not The Daily Telegraph“]

There used to be a phrase you heard a lot, “you can’t believe everything you read in the newspapers”. Well nowadays of course we need to update the phrase to say “you can’t believe everything you read on the internet“. Journalism used to be something that only professional journalists could do, because printing newspapers was an expensive business. Now of course anybody can publish words/images/video on the internet, at no cost (once you own a computer and you have an internet connection). Since there are literally a few billion people who are all able to publish on the internet then obviously it makes sense to look at the “information” there, especially from untrustworthy/unknown sources, from a highly skeptical point of view. It may seem to some readers that I am wasting my time stating the obvious here, but it seems we are being expected to believe that this is not obvious.

As I was researching (i.e. reading stuff on the internet) for this blog post, I began to feel a little bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of “news” and opinion articles that are now being published that are concerned with the subject of “fake news”, at well known news and opinion sites. What the heck is going on, I wondered? Is there really suddenly an epidemic of “fake news” taking place? Have these writers suddenly realized that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet? Neither of these explanations really had the ring of truth to them to my mind, but rather a third explanation seemed to me the most plausible, that this story of an epidemic of “fake news” was in fact itself fake. Furthermore that there was a deliberate purpose behind the pushing of this story that “fake news” was taking over the planet, namely it was a rather transparent and feeble attempt by the established mainstream media (MSM) to discredit the rise of alternative media sites that were challenging and undermining their narrative. In this post I am going to take a closer look at some of the claims being made to see if my theory holds water.

AN EXAMPLE OF “FAKE NEWS” REPORTING – A RIOT IN DORTMUND

Breitbart picked up a story from a German local news site Ruhr Nachrichten about an (alleged?) riot in Dortmund on New Years Eve:

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2017/01/03/dortmund-mob-attack-police-church-alight/

A number of MSM sites then started making claims that Breitbart had “greatly exaggerated” the story. Politico.eu opened their article with a claim that the Dortmund police had described the night as ‘average to quiet.’

http://www.politico.eu/article/germany-fires-back-at-breitbart-for-report-on-new-years-riot/

Quote 7 Jan 17:

German politicians, press and police officials say news report from the U.S. right-wing news website Breitbart that suggested a “mob” had “chanted ‘Allahu Akhbar’” and set fire to a church in Dortmund have been greatly exaggerated.

Local newspaper Ruhr Nachrichten, which published reports on events that happened on New Year’s Eve, said its online reporting had been distorted to produce “fake news, hate and propaganda.”

The Independent also reported that the German police had “shaken their heads in disbelief” at Breitbart’s reporting (tut, tut):

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/breitbart-news-dortmund-police-new-years-eve-fake-news-germany-angela-merkel-syrians-refugee-crisis-a7514786.html

Quote 7 Jan 17:

However, according to local journalists, there was no mob and the St Reinold Church – which is not Germany’s oldest – did not catch fire.

Breitbart have since admitted the church was not Germany’s oldest, they got that wrong, as for the fire well the Independent describes it:

The brief fire on scaffold netting near the church was reportedly caused accidently by a wayward firework.

This does pretty much match what the Ruhr Nachrichten had reported. Hm, so there was a fire started by a firework then, it was just possibly a little bit exaggerated?

Here is a video of some of the celebrations from Ruhr Nachrichten:

You can see fireworks being set off in a reckless (and illegal) manner near buildings, and riot police and the fire brigade are present. Well, perhaps riot police are present on most “average to quiet” nights in German city centres nowadays, its quite normal these days. Some members of the crowd were waving a flag which looks like a Free Syrian Army flag.

Breitbart hit back and stood by the rest of the story:

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2017/01/08/fake-news-fake-news-media-sow-division-with-dishonest-attack-on-breitbarts-allahu-akbar-church-fire-story/

A bizarre feature of this story is the reaction of Ruhr Nachrichten to the Breitbart coverage, yet in their own coverage Ruhr Nachrichten had this to say:

http://www.ruhrnachrichten.de/staedte/dortmund/44137-Dortmund~/Silvester-Boellerverbote-und-Platzverweise-Die-Lage-in-Dortmund;art930,3185532

Erste Anzeichen für eine unruhige Nacht erhielt die Bundespolizei am Silvesterabend bereits um 18.35 Uhr, als eine Silvesterrakete in eine Gruppe von Obdachlosen geschossen wurde und einen 32-Jährigen schwer verletzte (siehe Eintrag 11.23 Uhr). Um 19 Uhr feuerte eine Gruppe von Männern von der Katharinenstraße aus mehrere Leuchtkörper auf den Hauptbahnhof. Die Männer wurden überprüft, Pyrotechnik sichergestellt. 25 Minuten später bewarfen mehrere Tatverdächtige zur Sicherheit abgestellte Bundespolizisten und beleidigten sie mit den Worten “fuck you” und “scheiß Polizei”. Ähnliche Vorfälle wiederholten sich immer wieder.

I pasted this into Google translate, which turned it into this:

First signs of a restless night the federal police on New Year’s Eve already at 18.35 clock, when a New Year’s Eve rocket was shot in a group of homeless people and a 32-year-old seriously injured (see entry 11.23 clock). At 7 pm, a group of men fired a number of lanterns from the Katharinenstrasse to the main station. The men were checked, pyrotechnics ensured. 25 minutes later, several suspects protested against federal police officers and offended them with the words “fuck you” and “shit police”. Similar incidents were repeated over and over again.

My impression from all this is that Breitbart did exaggerate the story slightly in at least one respect, particularly the phrase “set fire to a historic church” suggested the actual church was on fire, when only some netting on the scaffold caught alight. However in general I don’t think they greatly miss-represented what Ruhr Nachrichten had reported. That footage looks pretty riotous to me, I would not have wanted to hang about in the square with fireworks going off in all directions like that. If the fire brigade had not responded as quickly as they did, then the blaze could possibly have spread to the roof and burnt the whole church down I would guess!! Hats off to the fire brigade then..

Quite a lot of evidence that illegal firework displays are now quite normal in Germany can be found on Youtube, for example:

Nothing to see here, its quite normal, move along, move along…. Just an average, quiet little riot then on the whole….

You may also recall there was a similar firework display during the NYE celebrations in Cologne 2015/16, that the MSM chose not to report on at all until the news was already well and truly going viral on alternative and social media.  Once again, these stories are the kind of stories that the MSM doesn’t want to publicize, for fear of seeming “politically incorrect”.  Could it be that by attacking Breitbart in this way the MSM are trying to cover up the fact that they didn’t report the story AT ALL?  This is an example of what I think we should call “lying by omission” (aka propaganda by omission), a subject I will be returning to look at in detail in a coming post.  This omission should be seen as a far more significant case of misleading the public, than the slight exaggeration that Breitbart appear to be guilty of.  Of course the significance of this “celebration” and others like it is that the German people have welcomed these migrants believing them to be needing help.  Now these migrants are ignoring Germany’s laws and creating an intimidating atmosphere in German cities, and insulting their police, its scarcely a show of gratitude.

CLAIMS THAT “FAKE NEWS” IS SWAYING ELECTION RESULTS

Probably the most serious allegation about the “fake news” “epidemic” is that it is influencing the results of political elections in the US and in Europe. Consider this article in the Forbes site:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidschrieberg1/2017/01/09/fake-news-threatens-critical-european-elections/

Here the claim is made that fake news had influenced several recent election results including the US presidential election and Brexit:

In critical elections in 2016, fake news played a critical role in the stunning and unexpected outcomes.

This is obviously not verifiable one way or the other since we don’t state our reasons for voting on the ballot paper. Forbes must have truly spooky and stupendous mind-reading abilities to reach this conclusion. This is at best an attempt to present mere conjecture as fact.

The article goes on to paint a picture of a dumb US electorate having its strings pulled by teenage pranksters and Russia, the latter impression seemingly backed up by a report published jointly by the CIA, FBI, NSA:

https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf

The article also refers to the by now famous group of teenagers in a town called Veles in Macedonia who propagated fake news during the US presidential election. Also quoted is a by now famous fake headline:

Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement

If you read my earlier post on the “post-truth” phenomenon, you will remember that the BBC also made a big thing about this very same silly prank fake news headline. This is yet another case of “saturation” in use (a technique also used to propagate politically correct ideas). If you repeat the same daft thing over and over again eventually people start to take it more seriously. In this case they are promoting the daft notion that this prank headline about Pope Francis might have somehow influenced the US election.

Some of the fake news was published by “newspapers” that you’ve never heard of before, such as the “Denver Guardian”. According to the “Denver Post”, there is no such thing as the “Denver Guardian”:

http://www.denverpost.com/2016/11/05/there-is-no-such-thing-as-the-denver-guardian/

A spokesperson for the Denver Guardian was unavailable for comment (and their website link doesn’t appear to be working either). Something fishy going on there. On a more serious note, readers will probably be wondering why a supposedly reputable site like Forbes is making a big thing about these teenage internet pranksters in Macedonia. I’ll tell you why, its because they don’t like Donald Trump and they think the EU is really great, and they are clutching at straws to make their point.

Here is some “statistical analysis” of the fake news impact on the US presidential election from Buzzfeed:

This Analysis Shows How Viral Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News On Facebook

Quote:

During these critical months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.

They then contrast this with what they imply is comparable data about Facebook content about real news stories:

Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.

Now if taken at face value these numbers might seem a little disturbing. FAKE NEWS STORIES ARE BEING READ MORE THAN REAL NEWS, we might be inclined to think!

However I see a number of problems with concluding very much at all from this data:

1. We don’t know if the people reading these fake stories actually believed them, or whether they just thought “ha, some funny fake news LOL!”.

2. We don’t know if the people reading these fake stories were in any way influenced by them, let alone if they would have voted differently if they had been duped by them. If people are going to believe any silly story they see on the internet, then there’s probably not much hope that they are going to vote sensibly anyway.

3. We don’t know how many of the reactions/comments were skeptical.

4. The number of people eligible to vote in the US is 231,556,622 apparently. The same people might have reacted/shared/commented on the stories multiple times so 8+ million shares/reactions/comments might equate to significantly fewer people, maybe even less than 1% of the electorate.

The originator of the “Pope backs Trump” story is alleged to be this website (its also been alleged the originator was another website):

http://southendnewsnetwork.com/

They are now reporting: “Seafront is on lockdown after Somali pirates take over Southend Pier”:

http://southendnewsnetwork.com/news/seafront-on-lockdown-after-somali-pirates-take-over-southend-pier/

A spokesperson for Southend Pier has denied the presence of Somali pirates on the pier but confirm they have posted lookouts to reassure the public.

GROWING CALLS TO CENSOR “FAKE NEWS”

Returning to the same Forbes article, we read of a truly alarming proposal by Italy’s “antitrust authority Chairman”:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidschrieberg1/2017/01/09/fake-news-threatens-critical-european-elections/

In an interview late last week with the Financial Times, Giovanni Pitruzzella proposed that European Union member countries create an institutional framework modeled on their current antitrust agencies and centrally coordinated out of E.U. Brussels headquarters, to identify fake news stories, pull them offline and fine their creators and propagators.

Note the phrase “pull them offline” – meaning no doubt to censor first and ask questions later. Do we have even the tiniest hope that this “agency” that would be “centrally coordinated out of E.U. Brussels headquarters” could be relied on to act impartially? I think not, please note that apparently Signor Pitruzzella also had this to say:

“Post-truth in politics is one of the drivers of populism and it is one of the threats to our democracies,” Pitruzzella argued.

,further confirming that Signor Pitruzzella has a heavy bias against what he calls “populism”. Once again we hear the ominous Orwellian phrase “post-truth”. Of course we can be sure such an agency will be missing a sense of humour, so anybody foolish enough to publish satirical content will run a risk of legal actions from the EU. Much business for lawyers will be generated and hilarious scenes will unfold in courtrooms all across the EU, if this agency gets the go-ahead.

Germany of course is leading the charge to censor “fake news”:

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2016/12/24/germany-set-ministry-truth-ahead-2017-federal-election/

However the UK parliament seems to be thinking seriously about jumping on the bandwagon as well:

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2017/01/16/uk-parliament-set-launch-fake-news-inquiry/

ACADEMIA JUMPS ON THE BANDWAGON

Some academics are adding their voices to the growing chorus of voices claiming there is an epidemic of “fake news”.

Fortune reports that a Professor Jonathan Albright has produced an astonishingly scientifically accurate map of the “Fake-News Ecosystem”:

http://fortune.com/2016/11/28/map-fake-news/

In the diagram you can see Breitbart and the Daily Mail represented as big red circles, whereas the proper news sites (e.g. the BBC, the Independent) are shown as grey-green circles. Seriously though the old phrase “garbage in – garbage out” does spring to my mind as I look at this map. I identified at least one case of the Independent publishing fake news and some probable fake news from the BBC in a previous post:

The “Trump Hate Surge”

Could it be this diagram really just shows us which right-leaning websites have been classified as biased by left-leaning websites which are themselves biased?

Apparently a list of fake and misleading websites has “gone viral”:

Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communications at Merrimack College in North Andover, MA, published the list Monday that’s currently being shared across social media by students, non-students and journalists alike.

http://www.kmov.com/story/33713839/professor-compiles-list-of-fake-misleading-news-websites

The list:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/10eA5-mCZLSS4MQY5QGb5ewC3VAL6pLkT53V_81ZyitM/mobilebasic

She accuses the websites of preying on people’s “confirmation bias”. Readers will be relieved to know that newsbiscuit and theonion are correctly listed as “satire”.

CONCLUSIONs

A seismic shift is taking place. Thanks in very large part I believe to the emergence of alternative media and social media on the internet, ordinary people are beginning to wake up to the fact that they have been misled by the MSM since the very dawn of time. Ever since the printing press was first invented and mass media became a feature of life, those who controlled the publication of news and opinions have been shaping our view of the wider world. Far from presenting an unbiased view of what is going on in the world, the MSM have been presenting to us a distorted version of events, and telling us what we should think about it. Now we can all “fact check” news stories, and share our information and opinions with each other and with the whole world. In a desperate attempt to retain control of the “narrative”, the MSM are trying to falsely smear news outlets that challenge that narrative. With each such attempt they further undermine their own credibility.

The really alarming thing about this battle is that governments seem increasingly willing to act on these slanderous accusations, and consider enacting legislation against so-called “fake news”. Of course the current elected politicians are almost exclusively members of political parties that were elected with the support of one or more existing news outlets. Consequently the established political parties have much to lose when the narrative of those news outlets is challenged and successfully undermined. I don’t think its particularly fanciful to even suggest that some of the policies of those political parties were to some degree shaped by the bias of those news outlets.

So, the next time you read a story about “fake news”, remember – you can’t believe everything you read on the internet!

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