David Shipler writes: The phone at Ed Walsh’s Jerusalem home rang during a small dinner party one evening in the early 1980s. He was the Washington Post’s bureau chief, but the call was for me. In those pre-cell phone days, I made it a practice to let the New York Times Foreign Desk know where I’d be and how to reach me.
Ed said I could take it in his office, which was near enough to the dining room that the guests could hear my end of the conversation. An editor in New York wanted me to expand on a short piece I’d done on a small and insignificant event. They were considering it for the front page.
No, I said, please don’t. It will send readers the wrong message. It will inflate the importance of a minor incident. I no longer remember exactly what it was: perhaps a cabinet minister threatening to resign from the governing coalition, which always got New York excited although it was the Israelis’ routine method of conducting politics. Or, it might have been the time when a couple of Palestinian would-be terrorists crossed the well-patrolled border from Jordan into the West Bank, prompting a manhunt by the Israeli army, which caught them before they launched an attack. In any case, it needed to be reported but certainly didn’t rise to the level of major news, and I managed to talk the editor down from the height of what would have been embarrassing hype.
I returned to the table to see quizzical looks from a couple who were not journalists. Five minutes later, the phone rang again. This time it was for Ed, and we could hear him in the same conversation, working to dissuade his editor in Washington from overplaying the story. When he came back, one of the non-journalists laughed in amazement: I thought you guys were always pushing to get ONTO page one, and here you were trying to stay OFF!
Ed and I had violated the stereotypes of the hard-bitten newsroom in The Front Page, and we joked about that evening for years afterwards. I guess we tried to explain to the bemused guests that it was not the first time that Washington and New York had exaggerated the gravity of developments in Israel, that we thought our responsibility as correspondents included perspective and sober judgment. Ed must have given his crooked smile and a twinkle of irreverence for those in power, as he did wherever he encountered them–whether among politicians or editors.
Ed died on Valentine’s Day. I find myself wondering if his breed of reporter is dying too. The pressures in this age of cable and Internet and gotcha journalism work against the lower key. They promote self-promotion. They induce hype. And they distort reality as a result. [Continue reading...]
Obtain: to get something that you want, especially through your own effort, skill, or work
Michael Isikoff reports: A civilian NSA employee recently resigned after being stripped of his security clearance for allowing former agency contractor Edward Snowden to use his personal log-in credentials to access classified information, according to an agency memo obtained by NBC News.
In addition, an active duty member of the U.S. military and a contractor have been barred from accessing National Security Agency facilities after they were “implicated” in actions that may have aided Snowden, the memo states. Their status is now being reviewed by their employers, the memo says.
The Feb. 10 memo, sent to congressional intelligence and judiciary committees this week, provides the first official account of a sweeping NSA internal inquiry aimed at identifying intelligence officials and contractors who may been responsible for one of the biggest security breaches in U.S. history. The memo is unclassified but labeled “for official use only.”
While the memo’s account is sketchy, it suggests that, contrary to Snowden’s statements, he used an element of trickery to retrieve his trove of tens of thousands of classified documents: “At Snowden’s request,” the civilian NSA employee, who is not identified by name, entered his password onto Snowden’s computer terminal, the memo states.
When an investigative journalists writes that he has “obtained” a memo from the NSA, it might seem that the publication of the memo is the fruit of the labor of investigation. Obtain connotes, he got his hands on it, rather than, it fell into his lap.
In the case of Michael Isikoff and the NSA memo he obtained, how much effort did that require?
I don’t know, but I doubt it involved much more effort than is required to open an email from a Congressional staffer with a subject line like “Must-read document.”
Maybe it didn’t come by email. Maybe it was delivered by hand. Either way, my guess is that more effort was being made by the sender than the receiver. Indeed, in this case I wouldn’t put it past the sender to have volunteered a loaded term like “trickery” in an unspoken quid pro quo along the lines that a journalist lucky enough to be selected to receive such a gift should show his gratitude by framing his report in terms that would please the source.
As with so many news reports, assessing its significance requires more than reviewing its content. It requires that we understand how it came to be published.
Isikoff is in this respect no different from any other reporter: he reveals nothing about his own investigative process.
What he does is advance a narrative that the NSA have been pushing from day one: that Snowden should not be seen as a whistleblower; he should be treated as a thief.
Yet the NSA, like every other intelligence agency, is not run by professional truth-tellers. From their perspective, Snowden represents a multifaceted problem and one element of the solution they are pursuing is character assassination.
Snowden has not faced questioning under oath in Congress, but so far — unlike Keith Alexander and James Clapper — nothing he has said has been demonstrated to be a bald-faced lie.
The New York Times notes that another feature of the memo is that it appears designed to lay to rest any expectation of high-level accountability:
The letter, first reported by NBC News, was intended to answer congressional queries about who, beyond Mr. Snowden himself, would be held accountable for the security lapses that led to his disclosures. The answer appeared to suggest that no senior officials of the N.S.A. or its oversight organization, the office of the director of national intelligence, will be disciplined or fired for what officials have called the largest and most damaging disclosure of classified material in American history.
The director of the N.S.A., Gen. Keith B. Alexander, is retiring next month after serving far longer than his predecessors. The director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., who has also been a focus of criticism for failing to police the speed at which security upgrades have been conducted throughout the intelligence community, remains in office.
Both men, and their wives, were guests at the state dinner on Tuesday night for France’s president, François Hollande, which was widely interpreted as an indication they remained in good stead at the White House.
Like Isikoff, the Times reporter, David Sanger, appears to be carrying water for the NSA when he claims that the question — “did [Snowden] have the help of a foreign intelligence service?” — is “reverberating around the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department”.
While those reverberations are apparently audible to Sanger, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein has heard nothing.
Finally, one question that neither of the reporters address is whether it would be unusual for NSA employees or contractors to provide a systems administrator with their passwords. Even though, for obvious reasons, that practice can be described as a security lapse, it might also have been commonplace.
If that’s the case, then the individual referred to in the NSA who resigned, may now justifiably feel like the fall guy.
In a report exemplifying the kind of journalism-as-stenography in which David Sanger specializes, comes this observation about the pressures under which Director of National Intelligence James Clapper now operates — thanks to Edward Snowden:
The continuing revelations have posed a particular challenge to Mr. Clapper, a retired Air Force general and longtime intelligence expert, who has made no secret of his dislike for testifying in public. Critics have charged that he deliberately misled Congress and the public last year when asked if the intelligence agencies collected information on domestic communications. He was forced by the Snowden revelations to correct his statements, and he has been somewhat more careful in his testimony.
“Critics have charged” that Clapper perjured himself in Congress, but as studiously impartial journalists, Sanger (and his colleague Eric Schmitt) are incapable of making any determination on that matter.
This is really pseudo-impartiality since by avoiding using the word lied and framing this as a “charge” from “critics” the reporters are insinuating that Clapper might have merely made a mistake. Indeed, to say that he has since been more “careful” in his testimony suggests that his earlier statements were careless.
Seven members of Congress who in December called for a Justice Department investigation of Clapper, were not suffering from the same affliction which makes Times reporters mealy-mouthed so often. They called Clapper’s words by their real name: a willful lie.
Director Clapper has served his country with distinction, and we have no doubt he believed he was acting in its best interest. Nevertheless, the law is clear. He was asked a question and he was obligated to answer it truthfully. He could have declined to answer. He could have offered to answer in a classified setting. He could have corrected himself immediately following the hearing. He did none of these things despite advance warning that the question was coming.
The country’s interests are best served when its leaders deal truthfully with its citizens. The mutual sense of good faith it fosters permits compromise and concessions in those cases that warrant it. Director Clapper’s willful lie under oath fuels the unhealthy cynicism and distrust that citizens feel toward their government and undermines Congress’s ability to perform its Constitutional function.
There are differences of opinion about the propriety of the NSA’s data collection programs. There can be no disagreement, however, on the basic premise that congressional witnesses must answer truthfully.
A willingness to align oneself with those in positions of power is the explicit price of access for journalists who cherish their ability to communicate with senior officials, yet Jane Mayer describes how little such access can be worth:
Not long after coming to Washington in 1984 to cover the Reagan White House for The Wall Street Journal, I learned that Reagan’s embattled national security adviser was about to resign. I quickly went to see him and asked him about this point-blank, and with warm brown eyes that kind of looked like a trustworthy Labrador retriever, he looked across the desk at me and told me that he had absolutely no plans to resign.
I may be telescoping this in memory, but as I remember it, the very next day after I had shelved my story, they announced his resignation and I was stunned. Government officials lie. They lie to reporters boldly and straight-faced. It taught me that access is overrated. Never forget that the relationship between reporters and the subjects in power that we cover is, by necessity, one that is adversarial and sometimes full of distrust and opposition.
True. But I would argue that whether a journalist is aligned or in an adversarial relationship with power is an issue that can itself become a distraction.
What counts more than anything is a commitment to truth.
Such a commitment neither presupposes a trust or distrust of power. It is not in awe of power either positively or negatively. It recognizes that those perceived as the most important people in this world are never as grand as the positions they occupy.
Union of Concerned Scientists: Back in 2012, after the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the National Review each published pieces that likened climate scientist Michael E. Mann to a child molester and called his work a fraud, Mann fought back with a lawsuit, charging them with libel. Now, in a preliminary ruling, a Superior Court Judge has sided with Mann, paving the way for the case to move forward and potentially setting an important precedent about the limits of disinformation.
The ruling, in essence, reinforces the wise adage attributed to former New York Sen. Patrick Moynihan that, while everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, we are not each entitled to our own facts. But first, some background.
Michael Mann, a world-renowned climate scientist at Penn State University, is perhaps best known as the author of the so-called “Hockey Stick” graph. Some 15 years ago, in 1999, Mann and two colleagues published data they had compiled from tree rings, coral growth bands and ice cores, as well as more recent temperature measurements, to chart 1,000 years’ worth of climate data. The resulting graph of their findings showed relatively stable global temperatures followed by a steep warming trend beginning in the 1900s. One of Mann’s colleagues gave it the nickname because the graph looks something like a hockey stick lying on its side with the upturned blade representing the sharp, comparatively recent temperature increase. It quickly became one of the most famous, easy-to-grasp representations of the reality of global warming.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change featured Mann’s work, among similar studies, in their pathbreaking 2001 report, concluding that temperature increases in the 20th century were likely to have been “the largest of any century during the past 1,000 years.” But while Mann’s peer-reviewed research pointed clearly to a human role in global warming, it also made Mann a lightning rod for attacks from those, including many in the fossil fuel industry, who sought to deny the reality of global warming. [Continue reading...]
Lloyd Grove writes: [S]ince last fall the pugnacious Greenwald — constantly making television appearance by satellite from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he lives with his domestic partner, David Miranda — has seemed to be the camera-ready face of First Look Media. [Editorial strategist Eric] Bates, however, said that’s all wrong.
“I think the way the news of the founding of it got leaked led to that misperception, because every time you saw the initial headlines for months, it was a ‘Glenn Greenwald-led organization funded by Pierre Omidyar,’ as if Pierre was simply writing the checks,” Bates told me. “And I think we’ve done a better job of making it clear that’s just not the case… Our ambitions and aspirations are much broader.” Indeed, Bates described the $250 million being spent by the press-shy Omidyar — whose personal fortune is estimated at $9 billion — as an “initial” investment.
But the question is: how much top-flight talent can they recruit if Greenwald remains the organization’s apparent front man?
Greenwald and Scahill, especially, have positioned themselves as fearless warriors against “modern establishment journalism” as practiced by mainstream media outlets such as The New York Times and NBC News (on which Greenwald engaged in a memorable brawl over Snowden with Meet The Press host David Gregory).
At last summer’s 2013 Socialism Conference in Chicago, Scahill spoke of “lapdog stenographers posing as journalists,” prompting cheers from the audience, and Greenwald inveighed against “the corruption of American journalism,” “actors who play the role of journalists on TV,” and even former Times executive editor Bill Keller, who “defines good journalism by how much you please the people in power you’re covering.”
That would have come as news to Keller. who in a December 2005 showdown at the Oval Office defied President Bush and his demand that the Times not publish an exposé of the NSA’s warrantless electronic eavesdropping program targeting people inside the United States. The story — by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau — earned Keller the Bush White House sobriquet of “traitor” and was a worthy predecessor to Greenwald’s NSA/Snowden scoops last June in The Guardian, for which Greenwald and Poitras are on the short list for a prestigious George Polk Award.
Some mainstream journalists who would otherwise be logical recruits to work on national security issues with Greenwald & Co. — such as the Times’s Risen, who didn’t respond to my voicemail message, or The New Yorker’s Amy Davison and The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman, who declined to comment for this story — haven’t signed on with First Look, at least not so far. Perhaps they’re loath to identify themselves with a worldview that leaves so little room for nuance. [Continue reading...]
Let’s suspend the question about the definition of “top-flight talent.” What will be much more significant is whether Greenwald’s presence has the effect of producing a lack of editorial diversity.
In its mission statement, The Intercept says: “The editorial independence of our journalists will be guaranteed.” Take it as given that this means independence from the usual suspects — big government, the national security state, and the corporate media — but how much independence will these journalists have from each other?
There don’t need to be any editorial litmus tests applied in the hiring process to still end up with the same result: group think, or a tendency moving in that direction, that is simply the effect of like attracting like.
In the 1930s, the war against fascism attracted the support of 35,000 foreign fighters who traveled to Spain from as many as 53 nations to join the International Brigades.
In the U.S. media, the foreigners drawn to Syria are generally branded as jihadists or terrorists and their motives assumed to be extreme or fanatical. That for many of them their motives might be comprehensible to others who are not Muslim, seems to require a leap of imagination outside the reach of Washington, the press or most news consumers on this side of the Atlantic.
Channel 4 News in the UK, however, has the editorial gumption to frame the following report in a way that none of their American counterparts would dare:
Vice reports: If there’s anything that usually galvanizes journalists, it’s the mistreatment of one of their own. But more than a month after an Al Jazeera journalist was arrested in Egypt for “broadcasting false news,” most Canadians are probably still unaware of Mohamed Fahmy’s case.
Fahmy was the acting Cairo bureau chief when he was arrested Dec. 29 along with Australian correspondent Peter Greste and producer Bader Mohammed. Egyptian by birth, Fahmy was raised in Montreal, has previously worked for the New York Times and CNN and is, by any definition, a respected mainstream journalist, not some ink-stained pamphleteer looking for trouble.
So far, neither Prime Minister Stephen Harper nor Foreign Minister John Baird have said a word about the Canadian citizen currently being held in deplorable conditions abroad. Even journalists have largely ignored the case, with only a handful of reports written about Fahmy in the first weeks of his imprisonment.
Prosecutors have yet to formally lay charges against the three journalists and on Jan. 22 their detention was extended by 15 days, which Fahmy’s family says has left them feeling helpless.
“We have contacted the Canadian government and pressured them to take action, hired one of the best lawyers in town, reached out to the media, reached out to the human rights groups, contacted friends working with the Egyptian authorities, etc,” Mohamed’s brother Sherif wrote in an email to me on Monday. “After all this we are back to square one again.” [Continue reading...]
David Carr writes about Ezra Klein’s departure from the Washington Post. Klein, the Post’s highest profile blogger, is “going to Vox Media, the online home of SB Nation, a sports site, and The Verge, a fast-growing technology site.”
In making the switch, Mr. Klein is part of a movement of big-name journalists who are migrating from newspaper companies to digital start-ups. Walter Mossberg and Kara Swisher left Dow Jones to form Re/code with NBC. David Pogue left The New York Times for Yahoo and Nate Silver for ESPN. At the same time, independent news sites like Business Insider, BuzzFeed and Vox have all received abundant new funding, while traffic on viral sites like Upworthy and ViralNova has exploded.
All the frothy news has led to speculation that a bubble is forming in the content business, but something more real is underway. I was part of the first bubble as a journalist at Inside.com in 2001 — an idea a decade ahead of its time — and this feels very different.
The web was more like a set of tin cans and a thin wire back then, so news media upstarts had trouble being heard. With high broadband penetration, the web has become a fully realized consumer medium where pages load in a flash and video plays without stuttering. With those pipes now built, we are in a time very similar to the early 1980s, when big cities were finally wired for cable. What followed was an explosion of new channels, many of which have become big businesses today.
The same holds true for digital. Organizations like BuzzFeed, Gawker, The Huffington Post, Vice and Vox, which have huge traffic but are still relatively small in terms of profit, will eventually mature into the legacy media of tomorrow.
More and more, it’s becoming apparent that digital publishing is its own thing, not an additional platform for established news companies. They can buy their way into it, but their historical advantages are often offset by legacy costs and bureaucracy.
In digital media, technology is not a wingman, it is The Man. Kenneth Lerer, manager of Lerer Ventures and one of the backers of BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post, says that whenever he is pitched an editorial idea, he always asks who the technology partner is. How something is made and published is often as important as what is made.
Carr declares: “Great digital journalists consume and produce content at the same time, constantly publishing what they are reading and hearing.”
That’s true if “great” means popular and fast.
But speed is the fetish of the digital religion and there’s no merit in being able to get everything fast if the price is that it becomes stripped of value.
The commercial success of digital journalism may well depend on the creation junk media that’s just as palatable as junk food — cheap, fast, and with little nutritional value. But maybe what we really need is something less tailored to mass appeal — a counterpart to the slow food movement, where content is carefully prepared, chewed slowly, digested well, and less inclined to cause heartburn.
It would appear that whoever is behind the kidnapping of journalists in Syria doesn’t welcome the press coverage they’ve been getting during the conflict. It’s reasonable to assume that there is some kind of underlying rationale. So given that ISIS is generally believed to be the prime culprit, one has to ask: how does this benefit the al Qaeda group?
After all, for members of al Qaeda in Syria or anywhere else there’s little if any friendly press coverage. Likewise, most of the coverage ISIS gets tends to inflate perceptions of the group’s power, so in a sense all coverage, however grizzly, can be seen to serve the group’s interests.
The overall impact of the spate of kidnappings has been to greatly diminish the number of foreign journalists willing to enter Syria and to amplify the international perception of rebel-controlled Syria as a lawless and hostile environment. Who benefits from both of these factors? The Assad regime. Yet if the regime was believed to have a direct role in the kidnappings, this would seriously undermine the PR campaign that it has been waging with increasing success on the international stage. Much better to outsource the task to a group that has no image to protect.
Press Freedom Now: Syria is currently the most dangerous country for journalists. In fact, all of us at Press Freedom Now have never seen anything like it and have never had so many colleagues go missing before.
For those of us who have worked in Syria, this conflict zone makes previous experiences covering conflict look a bit like walks in the park. At least 30 journalists have been kidnapped in Syria or disappeared since the start of the conflict in 2011.
Early in the Syrian Civil War it appeared that the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the kidnappings of journalists. In recent months however, as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) has risen in prominence in Syria, it has become clear that ISIS is responsible for most kidnappings of journalists.[Continue reading...]
Drawing on his extensive experience in digital media as well as his diverse background in developing new editorial strategies and creating great user experiences, Bill will leverage all of his talents to help us build a next-generation media platform for a broad audience.
Gannon’s job title hasn’t been specified but his is presumably the lead editorial position. “Bill will assemble a specialized team to create a unique, digital approach to breaking news – from politics and business to sports and entertainment.”
Ray Rosen, from NYU, who is acting as an adviser to FLM and who is an opponent of what he calls The View From Nowhere (the pseudo impartiality that prevails in the mainstream media) was asked the following question in an interview with The Atlantic in December:
You’ve written that The View From Nowhere is, in part, a defense mechanism against charges of bias originating in partisan politics. If you won’t be invoking it, what will your defense be when those charges happen?
There are two answers to that. 1) We told you where we’re coming from. 2) High standards of verification. You need both.
Is “we told you where we’re coming from” referring to the organization itself, or the journalists it publishes, or both?
Both. Like I said: NewCo [renamed First Look] will not present itself as the Voice of God. Neither will its contributors. NewCo will not always be in harmony with itself, either. It will be messier than that.
Rosen did a short interview earlier this month with Gannon and given that Gannon is unknown to most people who are interested in FLM, it would have been great if Rosen had asked where Gannon is coming from. He didn’t and based on what Gannon says, the glibbest answer to that question is probably the most accurate: Entertainment Weekly.
The closest answer Gannon provided to the question of where he’s coming from was his explanation on his reasons for joining this venture:
I was initially attracted to the idea because it seemed to be a unique opportunity where my background in creating new editorial strategies and new user experiences could add value. I’ll be focusing on continuous news coverage and aggregation across a wide range of sections: world news, politics, business, entertainment, sports and more.
That’s marketing boilerplate — and a rehash of Omidyar’s press release. It’s the kind of statement I’d expect from someone entering a similar position in any new media outlet from Huffington Post to Buzzfeed. I get no sense of where Gannon is coming from other than that he believes he can devise ways of boosting the site’s popularity — on the unquestioned supposition that popularity is the best measure of success.
After the interview, Rosen adds an observation about the importance of establishing the right balance of “flow” and “stock” — terms defined by Robin Sloan:
Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist.
Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.
From the little that Gannon reveals, it sounds like he’ll be the kind of editor who focuses more on flow than stock — he’s no Lewis Lapham, that’s for sure.
If that’s the case, I remain skeptical about where FLM is heading since I firmly believe that any new media venture in America, for which investigative journalism is central, will for that very reason have limited popularity.
In attempting to legitimize the pursuit of a mass general interest audience, Gannon says: “The audience becomes aware of our our investigative journalism en route to their other news needs.”
On their way to catch up on Justin Bieber’s latest egg-throwing antics, users (who should not be narrowly defined as readers) will be enticed by the irresistible draw of reporting on fracking, climate change, or net neutrality.
From what I can tell, Huffington Post has already cracked this nut and established it goes the other way around: the serious bleeds to the trivial.
David Kenner reports: On Dec. 20, 2013, Molhem Barakat took his last picture of the Syrian war. He had been photographing a battle for control of Aleppo’s al-Kindi Hospital when he was killed along with his older brother Mustafa, a fighter in a local rebel brigade.
Barakat’s cameras, apparently provided to him by the news agency Reuters, were photographed covered in blood in the aftermath of the attack.
Barakat was just 18 when he died, but his images — transmitted through the Reuters photo service — gave people across the globe a glimpse into his world, and his country’s war. But while his precocious work appeared everywhere from the New York Times to Foreign Policy, his online presence served as a reminder that he was still a teenager. His last tweet brags about unlocking a new level in a computer racing game; his Facebook account is full of smiling selfies.
“I was there the moment he grabbed the first camera — I still remember it. It was a Sony HD Handycam, and he was just so good with it,” said Adnan Haddad, a Syrian activist currently in Gaziantep, Turkey, who first enlisted Barakat to work in the pro-uprising Aleppo Media Center in the winter of 2012. “He’s a big loss. He was a young guy, a smart one, a very fast learner, and losing him like this — for the sake of making a few hundred dollars — is not worth it.”
Barakat took the sort of risks that would horrify most veteran journalists. One video posted on YouTube shows him trying to aid a stricken rebel fighter (he appears 56 seconds in) as other fighters warn of a nearby tank. He ducks behind a piece of debris for cover as the tank fires, and the picture is lost in the reverberations from the explosion.
This, clearly, was no ordinary childhood.
Barakat lived in the heart of the world’s most dangerous conflict, one that has claimed the lives of at least 61 journalists and has resulted in the kidnapping of dozens more. The overwhelming majority of journalists killed have been Syrians like Barakat, the only ones remaining to cover the story after the country became too dangerous for most foreign journalists.
Barakat’s death has raised a furor among war correspondents, who have criticized Reuters for not doing enough to protect the young Syrians whom it relies on for coverage of the war zone. Barakat’s extreme youth was only one aspect of the ethical dilemma: Journalists have raised questions about his lack of protective gear, his political affiliation with a rebel brigade, and whether Reuters violated its own safety guidelines by putting him in harm’s way.
Photographer Stanislav Krupar told journalist Corey Pein, who was one of the first to raise questions about this case, that Barakat was paid as little as $100 for a set of 10 or more photographs. Barakat used this money, according to Haddad, to improve the living conditions of his mother and father, who struggled with poverty even before the uprising and whose financial situation only worsened with the war. [Continue reading...]
This is how RT, formerly known as Russia Today, describes itself:
RT news covers the major issues of our time for viewers wishing to question more and delivers stories often missed by the mainstream media to create news with an edge.
The key word in this description is create.
As James Miller demonstrates in the following analysis, RT can certainly spin a dramatic yarn even when it has no evidence to back up its claims.
No doubt RT appeals to an audience that questions much of the information that is presented in the mainstream media. But as I’ve said before, critical attention is of limited value if it only gets cast in one direction. Too often, skepticism and gullibility come wrapped together.
James Miller writes: 80 civilians “massacred,” bodies thrown in ovens, and an international cover up of a horrific act of terrorism — these are just some of the striking claims made by the Russian network RT. On December 15th, the Russian state-owned media outlet formerly called “Russia Today” reported claims made by the Syrian and Russian governments that dozens of people had been butchered by radical Islamists in the Syrian town of Adra.
By the 17th, RT had even more alarming and detailed claims:
“People put in ovens, entire families kidnapped, Christians and Alawites executed — These horrifying reports come to RT from the town of Adra, north of the Syrian capital which has been occupied by Islamist rebel groups. At least 100 people are said to have been massacred by the rebels, but as the Syrian Army continues to liberate the city, that number is expected to rise. Our crew spoke to some of the survivors.”
This massacre in Adra, if it could be proven, could have been one of the worst massacres so far in Syria’s civil war.
According to the report, Adra’s residents were attacked by Islamist rebels, whom they have dubbed “the decapitators,” in a town that RT describes as “an industrial town” populated by workers who were trapped when a rebel surprise attack caught them, and the Syrian military, off guard.
There is only one problem — it has been more than three weeks since this report aired, and there is not a single piece of evidence that supports the claim that Islamic radicals massacred anyone in Adra. There’s not even evidence that a massacre has occurred at all. Even worse, several of RT’s key pieces of information have proven to not only be false, but to have been falsified in such a way that it appears that RT either made no attempt to verify the facts, or perhaps even helped falsify the report themselves. [Continue reading...]