Thursday, April 23, 2009

How to dissect a deceptive news report?

Pure logic. It helps. Really does.

Atleast in matters of courts and Committees formed by Judges, newspapers dont want to publish blatant lies. So they impart their own spin that makes the article look like a proper rebuttal to a casual reader of the paper, but without violating what essentially is the truth.

Here is an example of how to spot such an innocuous, yet malicious article, and dissect it--

The article itself appeared in Hindustan Times. Follow the link to the article and give it only a cursory read for the full effect, and come back to this page.

A blog reader and avid commenter 'Incognito' performs the honour on Sandeep's blog with precision as follows:

Came across the report in Hindustan Times linked by Sudhir above on another blog. This was my comment-

Surprising that it took them one full week to cook up this.

First they lay the ground work by pasting this -
“The Special Investigation Team (SIT), probing major cases of 2002 anti-Muslim Gujarat riots on Tuesday slammed reports that riots witnesses were tutored to give false evidence for exaggeration of the situation, by activists and organisations helping the victims. ”

1. The word they use is - “anti-Muslim Gujarat riots”.

How does then one account for the death of around 300 Hindus if riots were ‘anti-Muslim’ ?

2. Then ‘Gujarat riots’. Attempt to tie Gujarat to riots.

So a phrase ‘riots that occured in Gujarat in 2002‘ that would have conveyed the correct meaning was manipulated to “2002 anti-Muslim Gujarat riots ” to implant in the mind of the reader that -

(a) riots of 2002 were anti-Muslim.
(b) There was no ’cause’ to the riots. It spontaneously happened. No relation to Godhra incident.
(c) Gujarat and riots go together.

3. Next- ‘SIT… slammed reports…’
Whereas rest of the report show that SIT members have not denied what was reported earlier.

So ’slammed’ is meant to give a wrong impression that SIT themselves have denied what was reported earlier as findings of the team.

4. And they conclude with- “…by activists and organisations helping the victims. ”

Whatever else you read, mind you, these activists and their organisations were helping the victims.

With this introductory paragraph implanting plenty of contrary-to-truth suggestions in the minds of the reader, they start their report.

Then comes - “The SIT rebuttal followed the alleged leak of its report recently, …”

5. The ‘SIT rebuttal’.

In case the ‘SIT …slammed reports…’ phrase of first para failed to make an impression on you, to reinforce it, is “SIT rebuttal”.

However, in the rest of the report one does not find SIT rebutting anything, only attempting to deflect the reporter.

6. Further, “alleged leak”.

It is only ‘alleged’, implying that truth is something different.
Second, ‘leak’. conveying the idea of untrustworthiness of source.

Thus the ‘reports’ in the first line becomes ‘alleged leaks’ in the second.

Next, this is the best that they could find among what SIT told them- ““The findings of the report have concentrated on the investigations into the cases and it was not our business to indulge in the blame game and level allegations,” a senior SIT official said.”

7. Far from denying what was reported earlier, far from ‘rebutting’, far from ’slamming’, SIT makes a neutral statement, indicating that it was not their business to blame anyone.

No negation of what was reported earlier as findings of the team.

This is what is trumpeted as ’slamming’ ‘rebuttal’ .

Next- “The SIT response to the reported leak came on a day, when the Supreme Court termed the leak as a “betrayal of the faith reposed in those to whom the report was allowed access”.”

So, that was not, after all, an ‘alleged’ or even a ‘reported’ leak.
For the Supreme Court to make such an observation, the leak had to be true.

8. So here we have these fellows attempting to suggest that the earlier report was not based on facts by adding ‘alleged’ and ‘reported’ to ‘leaks’ knowing fully well that the earlier report was based on authentic information.

9. Despite this, the next para tries again to cast aspersions on the veracity of the earlier report by using the words- ‘claimed’, ‘alleged’.

And then- “Asked about the leaked contents of the report, the SIT chief, R. K. Raghavan told Hindustan Times that he could not confirm whether the leaked contents were true.”

10. So where Court and SIT chief is involved, it is straight- the reports were based on leaked contents. not ‘allegedly’ , not ‘claimed’, not ‘reported’, but exactly on ‘leaked contents’.

11. This is the second quote from SIT that they have given which again does not deny the truth in the earlier report.

Is this what is trumpeted as ’slamming’, rebuttal’ ?

The third quote from SIT goes- ““I am answerable only to the Supreme Court. The alleged reported leaks appear to be inspired by dubious motives. I cannot confirm such claims. The act is highly condemnable,” Raghavan said. ”

Again, no denial of what was reported.

Further, by saying “I am answerable only to the Supreme Court.”, Raghavan tells the reporter that he is not intereseted in answering any question put by the reporter.

The rest of the quote reveals discontinuity, as when number of replies are clubbed together. It indicates the possibility that the quote is a contructed one from replies to different questions.

And then one more attempt to cast aspersion of the report-”The SIT sources said the alleged leaks appear to have been based on statements of state police officials and “cannot be termed as findings of the report.” ”

It is ‘SIT sources’ this time, not Raghavan. It could be anyone from the guy who supplied tea to the SIT to the sweeper who cleaned SIT office premises, since the ’source’ is able to only speculate that the ‘leaks appear to have been based on statements of police officials’.

And what all of this unequivocally confirms is that the earlier report was very much based on the SIT report.

Despite this and contrary to facts, the Hindustan Times headlines claim- “Gujarat riots witnesses not tutored: SIT”

When did SIT say that or anything at all to that effect ?

The intention behind this is that a person who casually glances through the news headlines will get the totally wrong impression that ‘Gujarat riots witnesses were not tutored’. And that SIT itself says so.

Next, if he glances at the first two paras, he will only reinforce this wrong impression.

The rest of the report is more of suggestions and insinuations rather than honest reporting.

As many people have the habit of glancing through the headlines, and maybe the first two paras, these tactics are very succesful in spreading misinformation and lies.

The headline, first para and the first line of the second para that cathces the eye of the casual glancer is carefully designed to mislead and misinform.

No wonder these master liars as are found in editorial dens indulge freely in such detestable tactics.

The question is, how does a newspaper such as this that has rather decent circulation get away with this kind of blatant deception ?

Don’t its subscribers deserve truthful reports ?

Why should the newspaper misinform its subscriber who pays him ?

Isn’t it akin to ‘biting the hand that feeds’ ?

Ok. Maybe, there is another ‘hand’ that is feeding these deceptive monsters more than what the subscribers can.

That would explain.

Nevertheless, there are sufficient grounds to file a case of ‘Cheating’ and make these monsters and the ‘hand’s behind them pay for their crimes.

Aah! So that is how it is done. I must confess that this sort of thing is new to me.

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