Altamont in Argentina! “Impressive images: Stabbed at a music festival! Last Thursday, there were noteworthy incidents at the Personal Fest. A Channel 26 viewer sent in a video showing the moment when they stabbed a young man and uploaded it to Channel 26’s Web site, the Web 2.0 Web site in which the video goes out over the air live and users can share their recordings with all Internauts.”
Moral crusades advance claims about both the gravity and incidence of a particular problem. They typically rely on horror stories and “atrocity tales” about victims in which the most shocking exemplars of victimization are described and typified. Casting the problem in highly dramatic terms by recounting the plight of highly traumatized victims is intended to alarm the public and policy makers and justify draconian solutions. At the same time, inflated claims are made about the magnitude of the problem. A key feature of many moral crusades is that the imputed scale of a problem … far exceeds what is warranted by the available evidence.
“If you get your hands on a rumor, pass it on to someone else as quickly as you can. After all, it might be a lie.” –Millôr Fernandes
Global Voices Online » Argentina: What the Media Didn’t Say About Personal Fest: Harvard Law’s prestigious prize-winner for “innovations in journalism” demonstrates once again that its principal innovation is moral panic. See also
The narrative of heroic resistance there was that “noise created by the blogosphere” deserved credit for stopping a draconian Internet bill in the Brazilian congress! Which was utter nonsense.
Compare the “heroic resistance” narrative according to which the Venezuelan exiles of ORVEX prevented the planned election fraud in the December 2 referendum in Hugoland! See
- Chávez Defeat: “Could the Absence of a Plot Itself Be a Plot?”
- O Globo: “Chávez Won the Referendum Because He Manipulated the System!”
Why did the major media try to “hide” a stabbing incident at a Snoop Doog concert in Argentina? What sinister interests are at work beneath the surface of this murky conspiracy? [Cue spooky theremin music.]
GVO describes the reaction to a quarrel in the mosh pit in which a knife was pulled and a young man stabbed:
Many people ran way causing a stampede and many were trampled on and injured, not too seriously, fortunately. Many of the people who went to the Personal Fest affirmed that it was a miracle that the incident did not end in a massacre. Scared by this incide, and despite there still were a few more show left, many people decided to leave the place where the festival was taking place.
How many is “many”?
No one was seriously hurt, but this was only due to divine intervention, “many” say! “Many” people were terrified! But the shocking thing is that the news media did not report on the terror felt by “many”!
Shock! Terror! Injury! Existence! Practical nonexistence! Notorious hiding!
The most shocking fact was that, despite the existence of injured people, practically no media covered the incidents, not even the local cable news stations, who are prone to those “last minute” newsflashes. This particular silence towards a serious issue in an event sponsored by one of the largest advertisers in Argentina, started a real furious reaction among blogs and forums. In a certain way, the fact itself was left in the background, and the big subject was the notorious hiding that the media made of the facts. And when they did bring it up, they did so in a casual way, playing down its importance.
The post goes on to state a non-existent fact of its own.
The journalist Eduardo Fabregat, from Pagina /12, the only news media that informed about these issues, made an early summary report on his blog Pan y Circo [es].
“The only news media” to report on this story?”
This is simply not true.
Iraqi Information Minister: “There areno American tanks in Baghdad!” [It is difficult to hear him over the roar of main battle tanks rolling past.]
A quick Google News search indicates that Rolling Stone Argentina, Urgente24, and Channel 26 all covered the incident pretty extensively, at least.
And quite a bit of the coverage in the metro and regional dailies did register the stabbing as part of their coverage, as far as I can see, though they did not report extensively on what led to the incident.
Which was two young guys elbowing one another in the mosh pit, according to the guy who got stabbed, who was interviewed on his death bed (he is in stable condition) by the Stone.
An unfortunate, but not unprecedented incident in the history of the world. Young men get rowdy and go after one another.
I was involved in such incidents myself back in the day when my hormones were really raging — though in my day, we did not have knives, much less .38 revolvers. We just beat the snot out of one another with our fists.
It was better that way: No one died.
Rolling Stone Argentine interviewed the alleged stabbing victim, one Edisson Boudiwan, in his hospital bed, at length, and defended the supposed “cover-up” of the incident on its part as prudent journalism: It said it did not wish to contribute to the rumor-mill that quickly grew up around the incident.
“Respecto de la herida sobre la que se informó, repetimos, ya a las 3 de la mañana — con otra actualización a las 5 AM, tras información obtenida en el mismo hospital Rivadavia en que se destacaba su estado de salud estable — este medio no ofreció confirmaciones acerca de que se trataba de una herida cortante porque eso no fue precisado por ninguna fuente médica ni policial. En ese momento la confusión era mucha y los rumores también. Si bien fue un colaborador de esta revista quien acompañó la camilla hasta el puesto de la Cruz Roja con una visible mancha de sangre y que parte de este equipo vio escenas del incidente en las cámaras de circuito cerrado que había en la oficina de prensa (en las que sólo se veía un tumulto y el joven caído), no había hasta ahí más que rumores acerca de que era una herida cortante. Afirmar cómo se había producido la herida en ese momento, hubiera sido tan imprudente e irresponsable como hacerse eco de rumores más graves.”
“As to the wound, which was reported, we repeat, at 3 am, with an update at 5 am, adding information obtained at the hospital, including the fact that the young man was in stable condition — this magazine did not confirm any reports to the effect that the wound was from an edged weapon because that information was not yet confirmed by any medical or police source. At that moment there was great confusion, and rumors abounded. Although a reporter from this publication did accompany the gurney to the Red Cross medical station with a visible bloodstain and some of our team did watch scenes of the incident on the closed-circuit TV system in the press office (in which only the confused melee, and the young man lying on the ground, were visible), there were nothing but rumors at that point to confirm the man was stabbed. To report on how the wound was produced at that point would have been as imprudent and irresponsible as it would have been to echo more serious rumors.
What more can you ask of a major infotainment publication like Rolling Stone than to interview the man on the receiving end of the 8cm-10cm blade in question about what happened? And quote him extensively? Along with interviews with corroborating witnesses?
Cordoba.net summarized the incident as follows:
Ambos números estuvieron a la altura de sus respectivas leyendas y los hip hoperos alucinaron, aunque se debieron bancar una demora de hora y media por parte de Snoop Dogg. Demora que alteró nervios, generó corridas y terminó con un chico herido en el Hospital Rivadavia.
Both artists [Snoop and Cypress Hill, I think] were up to their respective legends, and the hip hoppers were thrilled, although they had to suffer through a delay of an hour and a half before Snoop Dog appeared. A delay that caused nerves, led to stampedes and wound up with a kid wounded in the Rivadavia Hospital.
Heroes of Soviet citizen journalism or a rumor-amplifying echo chamber? A legitimate debate.
Naturally, hip hop fans will want more detail on the incident than general-interest readers. But it does seem Rolling Stone actually did make a credible effort to provide that for its readers, taking due precautions against reporting nonexistent facts.
Did the citizen journalists manage? You will have to go read bloggers’ accounts of the incident for yourself. If you have time for such things.
In any event, the citizen metajournalist here has certainly reported a nonexistent fact. Which is something of a PR disaster for the proposition that “Journalism 1.0 is obsolete in an era when (mis)information travels at Internet speed!”
In any event, I mean, claiming that NO news organizations covered the incident in depth, in order to extol “citizen journalism”, seems like the very sort of baseless exaggeration that represents a principal risk of the phenomenon the GVO is celebrating here with the usual “innovation”: Exaggeration, omission, mispresentation, rumor-mongering, emotional ventriloquism, and the commedia dell’arte of due diligence.
Here in São Paulo, for example, after the TAM air disaster, the UOL news portal prominently and proudly displayed a “citizen journalism” photo showing someone leaping from a burning building struck by the malfunctioning jetliner. This shocking, amazing photo was accompanied by many of the same claims made here. A triumph of citizen journalism!
But not only was the “citzen journalism” photo a Photoshop montage, it was an extremely CRUDE Photoshop montage, one that an awful lot of crude Photoshop montage artists (I am one, although I do most of my crude montage work using the GIMP these days,and try to use my powers for good, not evil) recognized as such almost immediately.
The portal’s ombudsman issued a very stern warning to its “content managers” to exercise some professional due diligence next time. It is bad for business for a news organization to brand as fact what is actually fiction, she noted.
On which see also
The portal is owned by one of Brazil’s most prestigious newspapers, with a (not consistently deserved) reputation for reliability, which does not need its brand associated with the act of uncritically passing along unfiltered rumors and fabrications.
It is also an interesting case to consider next to coverage of a similar incident here in São Paulo, during a performance by Racionais MC during the Virada Cultural festival.
In that case, it was principally the “mainstream media” promoting the moral panic, FUD, and “many were terrified,” “oh, the humanity” journalism — especially TV Globo and the Folha de S. Paulo, whose ombudsman took the newsroom severely to task for it. See
- The Battle of Cathedral Square: Mario Maintains the Standard
- Praças na Sé: What Xico Saw at Sampa Hip-Hop Beatdown
- NMM(-TV)SNBCNNBS: Oh Sé Can You See?
- São Paulo: Mayor Downplays Hip Hop Bust-up
There are also similarities with reporting the “violent protest” on the Av. Paulista earlier this year, too, in that the complaint here is that no one interviewed any eyewitnesses to the event in question. See
If “many” people at the event were “frightened” and “panicked,” as our intrepid citizen reporter tells us, none of them are interviewed about their experiences or feelings.
These emotions are attributed to concert-goers generally based on third-hand sources — including a heroic citizen journalist who happens to be on the payroll of the hated MSM.
There again, Azevedo assumes a heroically defiant stance against a straw-man: The proposition that President Squid will pull off a “coup” and stand for reelection to a third term.
This is a Quixotic tilting against windmills.
There is no credible evidence that there is a realistic risk of this occurring.
But when it does not occur, Veja will take credit for having averted it, no doubt.
(It might ought to consider, however, that in the battle between Don Quixote and the windmill, the windmill won.)
The similarities between the GVO and the Globo-Abril way of rumor-based “moral panic” journalism are striking, I find. (Hence the moniker “Hearing O Globo Voices Online.”)
Let me see, where did I put that rough list of characteristics?
There are several features that make this typical Globo moral-panic “journalism”:
- Ventiloquism: Attribution of strong emotions to subjects whose words, as quoted, or behavior, as observed, do not express such emotions … or whose words and behavior are not reproduced at all.
- The “one-sparrow spring” generalization: In the case observed, based on three consumer interviews, Globo announces a trend in public opinion. Credible reporting on this issue, meanwhile, tends to assume that, if sales are (measurably) down (as expected), that dip in sales might be due to some consumer anxiety or uncertainty. A really thorough test of that hypothesis — which seems reasonable enough — would be to do some valid market research on consumer attitudes toward UHT milk at this point. Lacking that, it might be credibly inferred that sales volumes reflect the degree of avoidance behavioron the part of consumers. In this case, the “smurfs” or personagens are the bloggers it cites, presumably, but what is notable is the inistence on the vague generalization, “many ran, many were frightened.”
- Empty didacticism (”appearing helpful”): Checking the appearance, flavor and odor of the product is useless; the problem cannot be detected this way. What matters is that the viewer feel that Globo identifies with them emotionally, and wants to help them. Even if the gesture is an empty one, even omitting important information.
- Emotionalism: Interview subjects are asked about their feelings, not their knowledge or reasoning. If the feelings expressed are not sufficiently hysterical, they are exaggerated through the use of (1) ventriloquism.
- Rumor-mongering language, such as “the suspicion is.”
- The Commedia Dell’arte of Journalistic Diligence: the journalist is shown at length, behaving very diligently, but no newsworthy information is actually uncovered conveyed.
My favorite example of (6) was a Televisa report in which the reporter goes to a Mexico City address linked to Zhenli “The Man Behind The Meth” and asks everyone in sight the same question: “Have you ever seen any Chinese people hanging around here?”
The segment drags on for 10 minutes. The answer is invariably “no.”
“And there you have it: No one knows anything — and now our viewers know nothing, too. Back to you, Wolf Blitzer.”
Well, this is really a case of beating a dead horse, isn’t it? Once I read a journalist, citizen or professional, reporting a nonexistent fact, without isssuing a correction — whether out of gross carelessness or bad faith, it really does not matter — I tend not to read them anymore.
In this case, a two-second Google News search turns up a major entertainment publication that has reported in depth on the incident.
(There is a Rolling Stone Brasil as well. I find it unreadable. I did some freelancing once on some music titles HQ’d in Soho and learned that pop music journalism does not have to be vacuous and inane. But this glossy lookalike really, really is, I think.)
This story mentions another news organization as “the only news media reporting” on the incident.
Behold the omnicompetent omniscence of the emergent smart-mob hive mind!
Time is money. Life is short. More signal. Less noise.
“Seizing of the Nanking Palace.” See also “Spontaneous Joy as the Free Iraqi Forces Seize Firdaus Square” and “A grass-roots groundswell of podcasters rise up to bum rush Billboard Magazine!”