Yesterday evening a large lorry drove into a crowd of Christmas market visitors in Bremen. Latest reports say that twelve people died and about fifty were injured. I followed the news live on Twitter, and especially the news coming from those people so far away from the course of events that they could have no idea of what was actually happening, could only speculate. This is how fake news gets out, through those people who only wish to push up their circulation, get clicks on their web sites and claim an exclusive story.
It went so far that Donald Trump sent out another misguided Tweet about terrorists, and that politically and socially blind English idiot Nigel Farage – not content with lying to his own country and bringing it to the brink of disaster – began throwing accusations about. Countless journalists began reporting things which the Berlin police had not said, as if they were facts, shouting out about a terrorist act being confirmed, when the official version, from police and government, was that a terrorist action could not be ruled out.
And then we had the reports from some less than clear-sighted reporters that the whole thing had been cleared up and the guilty person arrested in Berlin’s Tiergarten. Judge and jury, as far as some were concerned, had sat, brought their evidence, and convicted without the suspect even coming before them, without him even being questioned by the police, and most certainly without a shred of proof.
Screenshot Source: Twitter / Stuart Millar
I gave up sending out Tweets last night, telling people to check their sources, to wait until official confirmation came out, not to jump the gun with their wild speculation. I can’t expect any of these professional people to listen to someone like me, even though I am here and probably thousands of miles closer than they will ever be. I can’t expect them to follow their own demands that sources are required, that facts should be verified before writing and publishing. They sense a story – even a false one – and are like vampire bats on an open wound. No checking, no verification, just write and publish, the truth be damned.
So today we see the one suspect being released as there is no evidence to hold him. The furore over a twenty-three year old asylum-seeker from Pakistan as being the terrorist is out of the window for the time being, and there should be many, many red faces and humble apologies on the Internet right now.
Dear Journalists: if you’re going to claim that fake news must be fought and good journalism requires expertise and fact checking, live up to it, do it yourselves rather than just blowing out hot air and accusing everyone else of not doing their job or of misleading the public. It’s better to have the right story, with all the facts verified than an exclusive based on speculation which doesn’t hold water five minutes after it’s been published.
- Viktoria Michaelis.