Doing the devil’s work

According to STV and Glasgow Live, there are “mass gatherings” planned for Glasgow this weekend to protest against the lockdown.

The story is interesting for all the wrong reasons.

Reason number one is that it isn’t true. A couple of far-right yahoos [update: their group is a front for the racist Britain First] have shared their drawing of a “come to our demo” leaflet – they don’t even have a real leaflet, just a drawing of one – on Facebook. Describing this as “plans” for “mass gatherings” is rather like saying I have “plans” to marry the actor Emma Stone or to be a size 8.

And reason number two is that this kind of credulous reporting runs the risk of creating something from nothing. The coverage could encourage people who’d otherwise be unaware of the yahoos to wander down to the proposed meeting either to support it or demonstrate against it – thereby turning a couple of yahoos in a park into a much bigger thing.

This is happening far too often with far too many publications, not just here but in the US too: again and again one or two clowns come up with a social media account, a snappy name and a logo and they’re immediately taken seriously by reporters who don’t do even the most basic checking.

This is what happens when you chase traffic, not accuracy; when you pay your reporters not because of the quality of their work, but the quantity of content they produce; when your publication encourages churnalism, not journalism. It’s easy to exploit, and there’s no shortage of bad actors happy to exploit it.



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