There comes a time when every inflated or fabricated slice of clickbait dross gets its comeuppance, finally meets its moment of truth. For the rumour-peddling Murdoch-bankrolled Heat Street website, fronted by (thankfully) former Tory MP Louise Mensch, that moment of truth has now come, as my good friend Dan Waddell has exposed her claims about the massacre at Paris’ Bataclan theatre as worthless.
to substantially debunk her misguided defence of Tim Hunt over his unfortunate remarks recently, has distilled the flaws in the Heat Street coverage down to a series of Tweets, which tell you all you need to know about how clickbait is generated from wacko fringe websites and then passed off as the real article.
The Bataclan “torture” claims were not new, and certainly not “exclusive”. The allegations were first made on the InfoWars site, which is linked to Alex Jones, whose claim to fame is his pursuit of conspiracy theories, like claiming the moon landings were faked, or that the US Government was involved in the Oklahoma City bombing and the 11 September attacks. InfoWars made their claim a day before Heat Street.
Only after Ms Mensch had picked up on the claim made by InfoWars did Heat Street then run the same allegations, claiming an “exclusive” for them. As Dan Waddell has said, Heat Street claimed its article was based on a transcript from a French Government report, but that report is half a million words long, so how did the article get out there in a mere 50 minutes from the link to InfoWars being provided?
This would not, as Waddell says, be of much importance in the great scheme of things, except that a number of newspaper websites have picked up on the allegations and run their own versions of the story. It would also not be so important if so many in France were not horrified at the ability of a Murdoch-bankrolled site to do away with listening to anyone, or indeed to think just for a moment of the sensibilities of the victims’ families.
Samuel Laurent of Le Monde has protested that the Heat Street story is “totally false”, and asked “how can a journalist spread hoaxes like this?” Jérémy Maccaud of broadcaster BFMTV has tried to point out that hearing someone screaming in agony is not proof of torture. For his efforts, Laurent has been threatened by Ms Mensch that she will “fisk your lies and smears”. She has also conceded her only interest is clickbait.
You heard that right: to the question “Any comments on the paper you write for?” she replied “It was our best performing piece of all time I am glad to say”. It wasn’t an exclusive, it was recycled from a known conspiracy theory site, there was nothing more than supposition and rumour to back up the claims, an increasing number of real journalists have protested that it isn’t true, but it got lots of clicks, which is what matters.
After post-truth politics comes post-truth journalism - journalism without facts, and indeed without journalists. Just make it up, and think of the clicks.
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