Thursday, August 16, 2012

Media scorecard on "secret memo" fiasco (updated)

Here is a scorecard on how well different media outlets handled the fake "scoop" of supposed Israeli war plans that were revealed by the egomaniac serial liar and anti-Israel blogger Richard Silverstein:

Media outlet

Skepticism about story and Silverstein



What will an Israeli strike on Iran look like? American blogger Richard Silverstein on Wednesday published what he claimed is an Israeli briefing document outlining Israel’s war plans against Iran.




A prominent left-wing blogger has published what is claimed to be an outline of Israel’s attack plan against Iran. Richard Silverstein, on his blog Tikun Olam, has posted a report that is based, according to Silverstein, on a briefing document prepared by the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Silverstein’s blog is known for breaking news banned for publication in Israel due to military censorship.

Finds him very credible with a track record (!)



Any Israeli attack on Iran will open with a "coordinated strike, including an unprecedented cyber-attack which will totally paralyze the Iranian regime and its ability to know what is happening within its borders," American blogger Richard Silverstein wrote Wednesday.



Richard Silverstein told the BBC he had been given an internal briefing memo for Israel's eight-member security cabinet, which outlined what the Israeli military would do to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons. They did say they couldn't verify, but they gave him an interview

I don’t doubt that the document is real. I don’t doubt that it came from somewhere inside  the Israeli government. What I doubt is the veracity of Silverstein’s source’s claim that this document is being used to “persuade high-level Israeli officials.” Believes him completely

Christian Science Monitor

Is the document real? It would be a shocking security breach if so, and Silverstein offers no evidence of its accuracy beyond his anonymous sources and his own judgement. But there is plenty of strategic messaging, smoke, and mirrors to go around on Israel's war plans for Iran.

A little skepticism


Business Insider

While the validity of the report is seriously in question, it does outline a rather spectacular 21st century attack....The news of the "leak" is blossoming around the Web, but David Cenciotti at The Aviationist brings his experience to bear on the subject and offers some of the most unique insights that conclude with the likelihood it's all nothing more than speculation. 

Some followup, but only at the end


ABC News Radio
A U.S. blogger says he has been given leaked documents by a high-placed Israeli source that detail that country's plan for stopping Iran's rogue nuclear program. No skepticism

Jerusalem Post

The official, meanwhile, dismissed a report on a left-wing, anti-Netanyahu blog called Tikun Olam Wednesday purporting to have "an Israeli briefing document outlining Israel's war plans against Iran." ...One government official said there is "a lot of press speculation out there, and everyone has their 'secret source.' It is not the government's policy to comment on any piece of speculation."

Reasonable doubt but not enough to show the lies


Altogether, the media behaved abysmally. And none of the reports that gave the leak credibility have been updated to reflect the fact that virtually the same text was published as a "what-if" scenario days before Silverstein's posting. Similarly, none followed up with the evidence that Silverstein lied about the story, repeatedly, especially his attempts to claim that the virtually identical forum post was not similar at all to his "source." 

Anyone who reads Silverstein's pathetic excuses knows that he has no credibility. Too bad that the media is unwilling to change their initial enthusiasm for the story - because by choosing to ignore the new information, they show themselves to be hardly more credible than the liar who spread this fantasy around.

If this angers you, you should contact these media outlets and demand to know why they feature stories from  people who are not credible to begin with.

And the lion's share of the blame goes to the BBC, because their publication of the story and interview of the Israel-hater gave cover for many other outlets to run the story themselves, simply by quoting the Beeb.

See also The Algemeiner and Honest Reporting.

UPDATE: Fresh, the forum where the war scenario was first published, writes a withering attack on the Israeli media that fell for this.