The reports WE QUOTED HERE from a website saying that there are reports in Egypt to destroy the pyramids have turned out to be a hoax. This underscores an inherent weakness in blogging. But first, here’s this report from the Egypt Daily News:
Calls from a Bahraini Sunni cleric urging President Mohamed Morsy to destroy the Giza
Pyramids were issued from a parody Twitter account online, the Daily News Egypt has learned.
Several right wing online portals ran with the controversial news as a means to raise alarms over the rise of an Islamist-led government in Egypt and its threat to rich historical sites. According to the rumours, Shiek Abd Al-Latif Al-Mahmoud denounced the pyramids as idolatry and asked President Morsy to destroy them.
Following a pattern of news based on hoaxes meant to incite panic about Islamists, this latest item suggests the method is effective in garnering media widesoread interest.
The parody Twitter account of Al-Mahmoud tweeted the statement on the same day Morsy was announced president of Egypt. The reports are coupled with reports that Salafists are demanding Morsy to enforce the Hijab (veil) on women.
While the ultra-conservatives in Alexandria did in fact cover up a mermaid statue last year, it is not the first time of reports that have flooded news have caused panic about the rise of Islamism in the Middle East and North Africa following popular uprisings to dethrone largely ‘secular’ dictators.
Actually, this isn’t a matter of right left or center. It underscores a fundamental weakness in the new media.
Most blogs and many news sites on the Internet either reproduce copy reported on by others or comment on it. Very FEW weblogs re-report news reports. Go to the right of this page and go down the list of TMV’s extensive weblog. You may find a site or two that does original reporting, but most don’t.
So stories that are out there — and particularly those with multiple listings on Good News — are assumed to be accurate. And, yes, “assume” makes an “ass” of “u” and “me” but it is a fact that much of the way the news media — including the mainstream media — operates is going on the assumption that reports are accurate. A poll? Few sites repoll voters. A story on a scandal? Blogs don’t re-report it.
This weakness is most pronounced in foreign stories. So one story will lead to it being picked up by another news outlet, or another weblog, etc.
And does a story such as this one seem way out there? Hardly.
In the case of weblogs, weblogs hyperlink, then block quote, showing that it is quoted from somewhere.
The original story didn’t mention Tweets — but it was picked up and reported, index on Google News.
Can it happen again? It can – and it will. Even a story that appears on a large number of news outlets can wind up being a fake if it’s been picked up and reported, then generated a report about a report.
Here at TMV, we ran a report about a report that was hyperlinked but the report about the report was not a report. It was a hoax.
We regret the error. But don’t expect hoaxes being picked up by news outlets that trust a report as a source report to go away.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.