Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Daily Mail in "made up story" shock

Let's start this episode at the end. The Daily Mail story alleging a Saudi angle to the information on the Tsarnaev brothers has the following credit --

Richard Miniter contributed the American Media Institute’s reporting for this story.

If you're wondering why a 501(c)(3) organization is getting a journalism credit on a Daily Mail story, read on. Or read on anyway.

Statement via Saudi Press Agency --

Riyadh, Jumada II 21, 1434, May 1, 2013, SPA -- The Security Spokesman at the Ministry of Interior, dismissed here today, the British Daily Mail claims that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had rejected to give an entry visa to (Tamerlan Tsarnaev), one of the culprits behind Boston Marathon bombings. He also denied the London-based newspaper claim that the competent authorities in Saudi Arabia had any information, related to the culprit's intentions to carry out a terrorist act in the United States of America or that it had warned the U.S. authorities, in this regard. The Ministry of Interior Security Spokesman also asserted that no official within the ministry of interior, had been interviewed by this paper or made statements to it, in this regard or otherwise, and that the ministry has the right to take appropriate action against such baseless and unfounded news. --SPA

Now you might ask whether you have to choose between believing the Daily Mail or the Saudi Ministry of Interior. Except that the Saudi Ministry of Interior has surely calculated that at least two intelligence services (the FBI and the FSB) know an awful lot about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, so why would they risk denying an easily provable fact? Signs therefore indicate that the Daily Mail story is false, and it is being updated during the day to reflect the denials while keeping its original claims in the text.

So what's going on? What's going on is that the Mail went deep into the Obama-hating cesspit for "news" (which is what happens when you're chasing the same audience as Matt Drudge) when about two seconds Googling would have warned any editor to be careful. Unless appealing to the audience that he brings was part of the plan.

There is progress of a sort. In the Clinton-hating days, the trick was to give the dubious material to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard at the Sunday Telegraph, and then use the line "London's Sunday Telegraph is reporting that ..." to launder it back into the American news cycle. Now the haters are just given the explicit credit for the story. It's the other media outlets that run with the Mail story who need to validate the material.

UPDATE: There's something about Saudi Arabia that seems to attract journalistic fiction.