Saturday 25 November 2017

Imagine the uproar if an independent left-wing media site had published irresponsible fearmongering fake news like this

Everyone remembers the absolute furore a couple of months ago over that story in The Canary that the BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg was listed to speak at the Tory Party conference right? 

It didn't seem to matter a jot that Kuenssberg was actually listed as a guest speaker in Tory conference publicity, the mainstream media picked up her subsequent denial and created the narrative that left-wing independent media is creating "fake news".

Of course the Canary article attached more importance to the event literature about a Tory party fringe event than it was probably worth, but they absolutely didn't fake the evidence that she was listed as a speaker there, and the question of why the chief political editor at the (supposedly impartial) BBC was listed as a speaker at the Tory party conference was actually a legitimate one.

Now consider the absolutely undeniable fake news that the Daily Mail spread about the incident at Oxford Circus on Friday 24 November. They picked up a Tweet from November 11th and spun it into a headline about a lorry having supposedly ploughed into pedestrians, adding to the fear and panic over the incident.

Whether you think the Canary story about Laura Kuenssberg was justifiable or not, there's a vast difference between picking up on publicity listing her as a speaker at a Tory conference event and then working it up into an article about a lack of political neutrality at the BBC, and picking up a weeks old Tweet, combining it with unverified accounts of gunshots and using it to stoke public panic about an ongoing public safety incident.

One is an example of stretching something real beyond what it's probably actually worth, and the other is deeply irresponsible fearmongering.

Most of the mainstream media let this shockingly inaccurate and deeply irresponsible Daily mail headline pass without comment. 

The only reasonably big news outlets to run the story were the Huffington Post, RT, IB Times and The Irish Post. Apparently this kind of wildly inaccurate fearmongering by one of the most visited websites in the UK didn't warrant any kind of critical coverage on the BBC!

Just imagine how the BBC/Daily Telegraph/Murdoch Press would have dog-piled a site like Evolve Politics or The Skwawkbox had they published a load of pathetically researched, shockingly inaccurate fearmongering fake news about an ongoing public safety incident, then deleted it instead of issuing a proper retraction and clarification?

The question here is a simple one: Why is it that independent 
left-wing media outlets are apparently being held to very much higher standards than the right-wing press?

Aside from the Daily Mail fake news about the incident at Oxford Circus, there's also the way that the mainstream media regularly churnalise misleading drivel from the right-wing Guido Fawkes blog into headlines, like the fake news story they broke about Jeremy Corbyn having backtracked on a supposed promise to wipe out pre-existing student debts, when no such promise was ever actually made.

There's an ongoing mainstream media tactic of lazily churnalising misleading Guido Fawkes tropes into headlines while the majority of mainstream media coverage of independent 
left-wing media sites like The Canary, Squawkbox, and Evolve Politics is highly critical on the rare ocasions such sites get coverage at all.

Why do inaccurate and poorly researched Guido Fawkes posts so often frame mainstream media narratives, while a fraction of the inaccuracy or exaggeration from independent 
left-wing sites would be used to justify the increasingly common mainstream media trope about how such sites are unreliable and inherently untrustworthy?

Of course I'm not arguing that independent 
left-wing media should be afforded the same leeway as muck-raking right-wing trash sites like the Daily Mail and Guido Fawkes. 

When independent media outlets make mistakes or exaggerated claims it's absolutely right that they issue retractions or clarifications, and everyone in left-wing independent media has a big responsibility to work hard to make sure our assertions are backed up by facts and evidence.

The issue here isn't that certain independent left-wing media outlets have occasionally made mistakes or exaggerated claims (of course they have, nobody is perfect), or even that journalists in the mainstream media are seeking to amplify these mistakes or exaggerations in order to discredit independent 
left-wing media as a whole (self-interested mainstream media hacks attacking a perceived threat to the established order of things is actually pretty understandable). 

The problems are that the mainstream media fail so badly to dog-pile and eviscerate the Daily Mail and other right-wing media outlets in the same way when they're guilty of publishing very much more irresponsible and inaccurate things, and that they actually churnalise misleading crap from the Guido Fawkes blog into mainstream media headlines without bothering to subject their posts to a fraction of the critical scrutiny they apply to claims from sites like The Canary or Novara Media (on the rare occasions left-wing independent media sites ever actually get a mention in the mainstream media).

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