Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lesbian Bloggers and Phantom Murders

I feel I have to be up front here and come clean - I'm not a lesbian blogger from Syria. I thought that I'd better make that clear for the benefit of any members of the press who might be reading this blog. Journalists do seem to have great difficulty in grasping the fact that here, online, you can't take anything at face value. It's amazing how outraged they become when they find that they've been duped. I mean, it's not as if they ever lie, or use duplicitous methods in their work, is it? In truth, of course, the press effectively duped itself by running with the supposed Syrian lesbian blogger's alleged detention by the authorities without bothering to properly check it out. Personally, I'm always suspicious of just about anything I read online, particularly this kind of blog, which purports to be written by someone at the centre of some unfolding crisis. But, journalists do seem to be a credulous bunch, not only do they seem to have difficulty in grasping that people aren't necessarily who, or what, they claim to be online, but they aren't even where they claim to be. There seems to be as much consternation over the fact that the 'lesbian' blogger wasn't really in Syria, but actually in Edinburgh, as there was over the fact that they were really a man. And not a lesbian.

But then again, there are plenty of people who think that films and TV series are actually filmed in the locations they are set in. Many, many years ago, an episode of Bergerac was filmed in Salisbury. Whilst most of the episode was set there, one scene was set in Winchester. However, for those of us who know Salisbury (I grew up there), it was quite obvious that 'Winchester' was actually Queen Ann's Street in Salisbury. Clearly, shifting the entire crew to Winchester for just one scene simply wouldn't have been cost effective. The BBC relied upon the fact that, apart from those of us who actually knew either, or both, of the cities, the overwhelming majority of viewers simply wouldn't know enough about the locations to be able to tell the difference. So it is with blogging. But more so. I could tell you that I'm writing this blog from a Portuguese fishing village and you wouldn't be able to contradict me. If I really wanted to convince readers of this fake location, I could throw in a few details about the brightly painted fishing boats - some with symbols such as eyes painted on the prows - many of which use blocks of concrete as anchors, (I got all of that from reading Len Deighton's Horse Under Water). I could even source a few photos of such a location from the web and stick them on the blog, But the fact remains that I haven't moved an inch from my sofa in Crapchester.

It isn't just pseudonymous blogs which seem to cause the media problems. The other week, for about an hour, the top story on the websites of several news outlets, including the BBC, Sky News and several newspapers, was about the 'discovery' of up to thirty dismembered bodies, possibly of children, at a house in the US. It was also the lead story on the BBC News Channel and Sky News. Unfortunately, it proved to have little substance. The police had found no bodies, nobody was arrested, no major investigation ensued. As the story unravelled, we were at first told that the police had been working on a tip off. Then they were acting on information from a psychic. Finally, it seemed that they were acting on an anonymous phone tip from someone who said that they were a psychic. The use of the term 'psychic' should have set alarm bells ringing from the outset, surely? But again, the press was so eager to jump on what seemed like a sensational story that they couldn't be bothered to hold fire long enough to check out even a few basic facts. As it all unravelled, the story plummeted down the listings on the websites and news channel running orders. By the next morning, it had vanished completely, with the media acting as if it had never happened. Which will probably be the fate of the Syrian lesbian blogger story - buried to avoid further embarrassment.



Blogger squatlo said...

Yeah, I started my blog with the intention of telling the truth, that I'm a goddess of unfathomable beauty and wealth living in Barbados in my island villa... but then thought, no, why not invent a character who worked thirty-five years in a mind-numbingly dull factory job, then took an early retirement buyout to start his own photography bidness instead? Seemed like a lot more fun. So now I make up stories about suburban lawn maintenance and local issues about a place called Murfreesboro, Tennessee... and people believe I'm really this retired factory drone living south of Nashville! It's hilarious.

7:08 pm  

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