Sunday, March 01, 2015

01-Mar-15: Facts, dam facts, and non-factual inventions aimed at the gullible

Friday's revised AFP report on that Gaza flooding
[Screen capture from this source]
A number of news channels reported this past Monday ["23-Feb-15: Dam!"] about a malicious Israeli "attack dam" strategy. With Hamas regime spokespeople in Gaza as their sole source, they dutifully parroted serious charges about Israel deliberately opening the gates of dams in southern Israel so that floodwaters would pour into the teeming communities of the wretched Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip. 

Not a single reporter saw anything to confirm the claims. The dams were never named or located or photographed. 

None of this, however, prevented some of the most respected names in journalism from reporting that Israel's actions were malicious and calculated to increase Gazan suffering.

We followed up a day later ["24-Feb-15: The mess that the receding flood waters reveal"] with some observations about how some of the silly media people were dealing with having been conned: 
  • Ma'an, the self-styled "independent" Palestinian Arab news source that had run the story (here) as its main lead during last Sunday's evening hours, left it online, unchanged (you can see that it's still unchanged today). Headlined "Hundreds of Palestinians flee as Israel opens dams into Gaza Valley", the piece reports as fact that "Israeli authorities opened a number of dams near the border, flooding the Gaza Valley in the wake of a recent severe winter storm."
  • The influential Chinese newsagency, Xinhua, reported it too, and made no change once the facts got clearer. It too has left the story as it was, unmoved by the actual facts even today.
  • Egypt's Al Akhbar reported it on the first day ("Israel's Open Dams Flood Gaza, Hundreds Evacuated"), and it too found no need to update it, to modify the charges, or to investigate the facts as received from the Hamas-controlled ministry that announced them. The same is true as of today: Sunday's bogus Al Akhbar story still stands.
  • Aljazeera's version changed its version of the story, to their credit, quoting Israeli sources and presenting a more balanced version while repeating the made-up Hamas claims.
  • The Russian RT news agency editors also ran with the Hamas claims, but a day later tried to clean their act up by modifying the original headline and some of the contents too, to project a "he said/she said" narrative. As we noted, RT's editors didn't claim to conduct any actual investigation into the facts. Getting it from Hamas was evidently sufficient validation for them.
There are others as well. But the most interesting of the list is Agence France-Presse ("...the oldest news agency in the world and one of the largest", according to its Wikipedia entry). They published and syndicated the Hamas whopper on Day One to their huge subscriber base. But by the following day the story had already been removed. Clicking on the story's original link [] produced an AFP error message. 

On Friday, the French agency issued a completely-changed version of its tune.
"For the residents [of Gaza], there was no doubt: Israel was responsible after deliberately opening "a dam" to flood the enclave. But an examination of the facts on the Israeli side tells another story, shattering a long-held Palestinian myth... [AFP]
(There's a video version of AFP's February 27, 2015 shattering-the-myth report here.)

Here's what AFP's new take on the attack-dams story does not do:
  • Does not make any mention of its disgraceful original report
  • Does not acknowledge that its gullible reporters and editors accepted at face value a string of Hamas claims about Israeli malfeasance, and did so without making the smallest effort at checking the facts until it ran into a torrent of criticism from readers and media watchdogs
  • Does not apologize for its role in creating the Hamas myth and then spreading it as "news" throughout its subscriber base
  • Does not name and shame the Hamas individuals who fed it the original story
  • Does not name and shame the AFP stringers, AFP reporters, AFP news editors, AFP fact-checkers and AFP syndication editors who had only one job to do (report and disseminate the facts on an objective and verifiable basis) and failed miserably.
Affairs like the attack-dam myth get propagated widely because, for the professionals of the news reporting industry, their anti-Israel character is enough to overcome the absence of a factual basis and the nonsense logic underpinning them. For those of us who depend on them (to whatever extent) for information and ideas, we have much to fear from today's industrialized mainstream news channels.

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