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From Hillary to QM PalSoc: Controversial emails & media bias

On November 14th, an article appeared on The Print’s website. It described the events that unfolded on the 10th of November, when the Friends of Palestine Society’s email was hacked, and a provocative, anti-Palestine message was sent out to its members, causing significant (political) disruption on our campus.

As the official student newspaper of QMSU, The Print reports on campus life as well as the broader student experience. Logically, a society getting hacked for political motives should be reported in such a paper. Needless to say, the hacking should be investigated, and preventive measures should be taken to ensure that this type of thing doesn’t reoccur. The tone of the article, however, should have been different.

Of course, the Jewish and Israel Society did not react “as swiftly” as the Friends of Palestine Society, since they had no idea this email was ever sent out; implying otherwise is unacceptable. We all know that the majority of readers merely skim headlines and statements of fact, without going into the analysis, especially online. When this article pops up on people’s phones, most people will think the Jewish Society did indeed hack the email, which is not what happened. This should have been specified from the very beginning: the Jewish and Israel Society immediately claimed to have no involvement in the ordeal.

‘Fake news’ is a term I avoid as much as possible because it is so inherently linked to Trump’s authoritarian tendencies, but it seems quite applicable here. My interpretation of fake news is not about making up stories, or discrediting headlines which do not please me, as Trump likes to do. Rather, it is about twisting news to your advantage, and that is exactly what the writer of the report has done. As such, I am not criticising the subject-matter of the article, justifying what has happened, or condoning the message; I am only appalled by the manner in which it was reported. For this, the article’s writer, editor and the Print as an institution bear collective responsibility, and they should be held accountable.

Sadly, this sounds all too familiar. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and by extension, its representatives on campus, is only one example of how media bias affects our interpretation of world affairs. This episode exemplifies what is happening with our news agencies, be it broadcast, print or online; local, national or global. News today has to be quick, catchy and in real-time. The question is at what cost. As it turns out, the price paid is often objective and adequate journalism.

As per usual, the rebuttal argument of ‘fake news’ is unlikely to get as much recognition or attention as the initial headline, even though it is just as, or even more, important. The lesson here is to always read and listen until the end, get your information from various sources, and be critical. In a perfect world, this would not be necessary, because reporting would be even-handed and fair. We didn’t need this relatively small-scale incident to remind us that unfortunately, reality functions differently.


Find the edited article referenced here:

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