No smoke without fire

Not dead. (At time of writing.)

Here’s a little insight into how easy it is difficult it is to subvert international news organisations.

Somebody created a twitter account that looked very much like an official Sky News account. It had the Sky News logo as a picture. (I’m not linking to it.) Then they tweeted that Margaret Thatcher had died.

Oh dear.

Cue big excitement behind the scenes of news organisations.

It’s a prime example of how much more important it is to be right than to be first. (Sky News has had ascribed to it the motto “Never wrong for long” i.e. might not be dead now, but will be sometime. Or wrong news now, but we can correct it and then it’ll be fine. To be clear though, Sky wasn’t the culprit in this case. The twitter account was fake.)

Was the incorrect news of Margaret Thatcher’s death broadcast on the BBC?


It did get into the internal system though. But thanks to luck the BBC’s high calibre staff and rigorous checking it never made it on air.

Other news organisations were not so lucky rigorous,  were fooled by the fake Twitter account and evidently did not bother verifying the story with other sources.

News organisations like Swedish newspaper Skövde Nyhete and Sean Hannity (no Sean, Sky wasn’t hacked, you just didn’t check). ABC reporters too. Other Twitter users, some famous, also retweeted the fake news – only to retract it later.

Social networks are all the rage these days. News spreads fast. It circumvents official channels. It makes a mockery of Iranian government efforts to suppress news of the recent earthquake. The Arab Spring benefited from it. Rioters in England used it to mobilise mobs this time a year ago. It’s an alternative to the mainstream “lamestream” managed flow of information through the traditional news organisations.

And yet…

And yet, sometimes the news according to Twitter/Facebook/Whatever is a load of old rubbish. The sort of unsourced, unattributed nonsense one might slam a tabloid newspaper for indulging in.

So perhaps there’s still a role for old hacks for a while yet? Those that haven’t been arrested by the Met Police, that is. (Hey… I didn’t say the old school was all good.) And it’s not as though the mainstream media has seen through every hoax that has come its way. Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? The Hitler Diaries?

Anyway, here’s a rumour for you. Apparently if you scroll down the right hand side of the screen, you’ll find the rest of the Loose Bloggers Consortium who are far more on fire then I am. At least that’s what’s I’ve heard. Though you can’t believe all you read.

On the subject of Margaret Thatcher’s demise, whenever it does comes, here’s a wee song… (Warning: The singer swears in his introduction to the song.)

Now that’s what I call an Iron lady – Katie Taylor, Olympic gold medal winner from Bray.

By the way, I’ve been rubbish commenting on other people’s blogs recently. Sorry. (Though I have been reading the many updates that come to my email inbox.) I’ll be much better very soon. Apologies again.

Meanwhile – also not dead despite the rumours – Nelson Mandela. Jon Bon Jovi and Lady Gaga. And if you do want to keep track of the Iron Lady’s longevity, stay tuned… or click here.



Filed under D - Loose Bloggers Consortium, media

23 responses to “No smoke without fire

  1. The thing is, Thatcher’s death (or Mandela’s or Prince Phil’s) won’t really be a news story per se – it’ll just be a chance to roll out the obits and retrospectives and think pieces that have been on standby for years, so no real thinking is required. Whereas if Cameron or Obama or Putin keels over, it will actually change things; anybody writing a story will have to work it out as they go, taking account of the current circumstances, which will allow time for a certain scepticism to kick in. (I know that all the news orgs have obits of Cameron etc ready and waiting, but it would still be a big surprise if one of them died today.)

  2. Some of your more ancient readers may remember the Paddy Hillery sex scandal. The rumour was that Paddy Hillery, then President of Ireland, had a mistress stashed away, variously reported as in Killiney or Brussels or even the Áras itself, and that he was about to announce his resignation as this had been found out by the media and was about to hit the headlines.

    I even bought a copy of the Irish Times on the way to work that day in spite of a free copy waiting for me on my desk in the office.

    The Irish Times had devoted a good proportion of the front page and two full inside pages to the the story, and it was clear they used up every bit of their accumulated obit material.

    The rumour was denied, the President did not resign, and presumably the Irish Times mortuary had to be fumigated and preparations start anew for the eventual death of an honourable man.

    The Wikipedia version of the story does not accord with my own recollection. You can see my report of Paddy’s eventual funeral here – click on this link – .

    • blackwatertown

      Thanks for the reference ad the link to the Hillery post.
      I have a funny story about the accidental outing of Charlie Haughey’s mistress situation which I may share with you anon.

  3. 29

    “There is no such thing as society”. What would Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table have thought of Maggie’s assertion? Greed glorified, I admit to being greedy but to see it sanctioned officially was not right. However, though not a fan of Maggie’s, I think that this clip of Elvis is inappropriate in itself and inappropriate in your blog.

  4. Back in the day news print was gospel, accuracy was without question. No more!
    Blessings – Maxi

  5. There are still too many journalists who think there’s no need to check the facts, even something as dramatic as Mrs Thatcher’s supposed death. They still think it’s okay if it comes from a “reliable source” or it’s already appeared in other media outlets. About time Britain adopted the US convention of fact-checkers.

  6. These days you can wear yourself out trying to get the straight scoop on anything. The spin is in. Great song.

  7. The “Never wrong for long” line reminded of one mammy regularly used “I am not always right, but I am never wrong!”

  8. Between spin and lack of fact checking and the drive for sensationalism to sell media truth seems to have flown out the window.
    PS Am I the only one in the whole world who can’t stand Costello?

    • blackwatertown

      It sometimes does – but not always.
      And I guess that makes it two against the music v. one for it now (not counting me).

  9. Have you had an opportunity to Watch Newroom on Showtime? I think it covers the problems of the media today rather well. Too much greed, sensationalizing, ratings, and ofcourse the influence of millionaires who want their own special spin on everything.
    The F word used occasionally is not the end of the world so I ignored it and listened to the song. Make that one more who enjoyed the message in the sonlg.

    • blackwatertown

      Welcome Maria. I haven’t seen that programme – though I’ve read some reviews. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

  10. There is plenty of smoke and plenty of fire right now in India with some major role being played by the social media and the circulation of clips by hand set phones. Watch for news from India.

  11. Outstanding article.
    Cheers for sharing it.

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