Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Run for the ... oh, stop that

And today's prize for hard- hitting investigative journalism goes to ... let's not always see the same hands, all right?

Presented for your consideration is the No. 3 Most Super-Important Story in the World. As you gaze on its strange unnatural beauty, ponder for a moment how it might have slipped past the Lamestream Media:
Female homicide bombers are being fitted with exploding breast implants which are almost impossible to detect, British spies have reportedly discovered.

The shocking new Al Qaeda tactic involves radical doctors inserting the explosives in women's breasts during plastic surgery — making them "virtually impossible to detect by the usual airport scanning machines."
OK. It is a truth universally acknowledged that the British press is generally more fun to read than the American press. One, the British press is less bound by fusty prudishness; if some foreign dignitary calls your PM a "dickhead," the Times is likely to run a hed on the order of "Blair is a 'dickhead' says Spanish critic." Two, the British assigning desk is -- oh, how to put this without offending the transmarine visitors? -- historically better at putting the old telescope to the old blind eye when a story comes along that looks screamingly false but is just way too cool to be subjected to a critical reading.

Such is what your threat radar ought to be gently suggesting when Fox picks up a story from its Murdoch stablemate the Sun: "Radical's deadly 'booby trap'." Let's have a look and see if we can figure out the tale's provenance:

It is believed the doctors have been trained at some of Britain's leading teaching hospitals before returning to their own countries to perform the surgical procedures.

MI5 has also discovered that extremists are inserting the explosives into the buttocks of some male bombers.

Notice something missing? News is recursive in specific ways; when you circle back to reinforce a point, you work in some message-quality signals along with the general-to-specific new information you're adding. One of those signals is how you know (or how well you know) what you claim to know. So far, we're all "reportedly" and "it is believed" and "MI5 has discovered." Can we get a little help here?

"Women suicide bombers recruited by Al Qaeda are known to have had the explosives inserted in their breasts under techniques similar to breast enhancing surgery," Terrorist expert Joseph Farah claims.

You mean the Joseph Farah? The Mr. Song of aluminum foil? Editor of WorldNetDaily? And he's now a "terrorist expert"?*

Well, sorta. As WorldNetDaily reported back on Feb. 1, "Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin" ("the premium, online intelligence news source edited and published by the founder of WND") was putting forth this claim:

Agents for Britain's MI5 intelligence service have discovered that Muslim doctors trained at some of Britain's leading teaching hospitals have returned to their own countries to fit surgical implants filled with explosives.

OK, but we still don't know how we know, do we? Back to Fox:

The discovery of these methods was made after London-educated Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab came close to blowing up an airliner in the U.S. on Christmas Day.

Fox is professional enough to credit the Sun -- which, on the other hand, is pretty much flat-out plagiarizing WND:

The discovery of these methods was made after the London-educated Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab came close to blowing up an airliner on Christmas Day with explosives he had stuffed inside his underpants.

But telling us when the discovery "was made" doesn't get any closer to telling us who it was made by or who passed it along to the press. Keep an eye on the pivot foot:

Hours after he had failed, Britain's intelligence services began to pick up "chatter" emanating from Pakistan and Yemen that alerted MI5 to the creation of the lethal implants.

A hand-picked team investigated the threat which was described as "one that can circumvent our defense."

Top surgeons have confirmed the feasibility of the explosive implants.

Explosive experts allegedly told MI5 that a sachet containing as little as five ounces of PETN could blow "a considerable hole" in an airline's skin, causing it to crash.

See? Attribution and experts, but they never get us to the point: Does anybody ever say the things that we claim are said?

It's not entirely a new trick; here's an example from three years ago that shows most of the same features. And as long as the British press keeps doing it, Fox will keep picking the stories up. Bear that in mind as you glance at your fellow citizens in the next lane during tomorrow morning's commute.

* Or a Terrorist expert; that's an editing error created when Fox moved the attribution to the end of the Sun's original graf. Fox also changed "suicide bomber" to "homicide bomber" in the lede. Glad to know they're paying attention on the desk.



Anonymous Jokes Messages said...

Thanks for sharing with us the very good article. its really informative..

4:37 AM, March 25, 2010  
Anonymous BobtheBuilder said...

The media is full of these 'so-called' terrorism experts....


Joseph Farah, whom the Sun inexplicably describes as "a terrorism expert". Farah is actually a rabid ("Christian") zionist who is also the founder and editor of the World Net Daily rag, whose only "expertise" is in disseminating outrageous defamation of Israel's enemies, and claims that Palestinian people do not exist, that Barack Obama "supports ethnic cleansing in the Middle East against Jews", and that Obama serves "the political disciples of Adolf Hitler's Nazis" (Ibid).

& of course there are more....
Rita Katz director of the SITE Institute (who always seems to come across Al Queda videos first...), Will Geddes, Evan Kohlmann

& in the UM: Frank Gardner, Peter Power, Glen Jenvey, Christopher Andrew etc....

It's a self serving industry...

5:53 AM, March 25, 2010  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Well, this is cool. And good news, kinda. Because if we can't detect the bombs at all, the what's the point of the elaborate, annoying, time-consuming TSA ritual dance anymore?

7:51 AM, March 25, 2010  
Anonymous raYb said...

What is it with these "explosive experts" running around free? Why doesn't anyone lock them up before they blow up? And these "terrorist experts" -- do they know about more than just the one terrorist? Such mistreatment of the mother tongue.

8:01 AM, March 25, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

between this and the recent post on Language Log (, it's like the whole world's just gone breast-crazy. Oh wait, it already was.

5:44 PM, March 25, 2010  
Anonymous Ed Latham said...

And check out the deliberately amateurish don't-take-this-too-seriously photoshopped 'pic' that goes with the story, as well - in the lexicon of the redtops, it's a clear signal that they know they don't really have the story.

The big trouble with the British media is that the broadsheets, who are never this deliberately cavalier, always feel an awkward sense of press solidarity with the tabloids, so we all march embarrassedly as one under the same banner of 'press freedom' No wonder we have such tough libel laws.

In the old days, the US media never suffered from that - no one at the Washington Post felt the need to defend or protect the National Enquirer.

4:29 AM, March 26, 2010  

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