05 November 2005
Blogs, the speed of dis-information, and possible repercussions
Over at Joi Ito's blog, Thomas Crampton (a supposed news professional with the International Herald Tribune) has posted a link to an Afrik.com story. The posting reads:

"Here's a home video clip a friend sent that claims to show Paris police shooting in the suburbs. Fairly strong stuff.
Disclaimer: I do not know anything further about the site or the clip."
Well, maybe you should have actually done some research on the site / clip before just blindly passing it on eh?

If one actually takes the time to read the article and translates it to English (or reads it in French, your choice) one finds that the video showing "...Paris police shooting in the suburbs" is video of the police shooting rubber bullets at protestors in the suburbs: [poorly translated text via Altavista, but the words "flash ball" are in English in the original article]

"One sees a stopped police car there open door. One believes to guess qu’un police receives a projectile. The response is immediate. One clearly sees there policemen in plain clothes drawing on several occasions, of which twice almost with bearing end, with their flash ball. One sees them running after the young people while shouting 'Return band of bastard ! '"

"Some of the rubber balls are even signed, explains Kader. There is a guy who in recovered one which carried l’inscription : ’Boum, boom in your buttocks, with soon, Luc’."

A small, but critical piece of information. Why is it critical? Because unless you tell the truth and point out that they are rubber bullets people will assume that they are shooting live ammunition at protestors. Specifically the article says "flash ball" which is the weapon that French police use most often seeing as how actual gun usage is severly restricted in France. Here's information about the "Flash-Ball".

"Oh, you're being facetious! No one would think that!" Really? Look at a site that links to Joi Ito's site and their commentary:

"Just above that post, Thomas Crampton, joi’s guest blogger, links a website where there s show a video of Paris Police shooting on protesters"


Notice how the story, like in a game of Telephone, has morphed from "claims to show Paris police shooting in the suburbs" to "a video of Paris police shooting on protestors" a small change typographically, but a massive change in meaning. This posting implies that the Paris police were shooting live ammunition at protestors. Considering the current situation in Paris, this kind of disinformation, if picked up, amplified and rebroadcast, could have the same effect as throwing gasoline on a fire.

These sorts of dis-information "mistakes" occur daily. How many people out there for example have heard the oft repeated tale of President Bush and the "plastic turkey?" Odd thing is that it was an erroneous report from the New York Times that was retracted the next day. However, like all dis-information, it gets stuck in certain areas and repeated over and over again until it is considered "fact." Then, since momentum has been built on this "fact", no matter how hard one argues against it, the story is glued to the societal concious. Since your average person is no longer taught to view items critically (nor really taught the scientific method, thanks liberal education!) they are easily persuaded that white is black because enough websites and blogs say so. They aren't trained to seek the source of information and verify it.

While this case is probably just one of journalistic oversight (notice, I am being very forgiving), one would hope that people would do more research on such items in the future.
A Republican in San Francisco (Yes, he's under deep cover) relays his tales of interest... ...ok, "interest" is a strong and subjective word but you get the point.
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