Saturday, November 24, 2007

Play Fantasy Journalism With El Mundo

Thousands of cash prizes must not be won! The objective of Fantasy Journalism is not to report the news, that’s too boring, the aim of the game is to invent the news. Just to give you all an idea of how this works I provide a couple of helpful examples. It would of course be possible to take almost anything El Mundo has published on the Madrid bombings as an example of how to play the game, but I have a couple of fresher cases.

El Mundo began this week with a potentially huge story, claiming that they had evidence of a meeting between the PSE (Basque section of the governing PSOE) and members of ETA. The meeting was alleged to have been held somewhere on the frontier between Germany and Austria. With today’s anti government demonstration already on the horizon, the drums started beating and you could almost imagine the shouts of “Zapatero, traitor” that would be heard. Just what the “civic rebellion” needed, continuing evidence of collusion between the government and ETA, the perfect issue to mobilise the angry ones in their thousands. The Partido Popular (PP) would surely pick up the ball and run with it, pressurising the government to come clean.

However, something strange happened in the following couple of days, and instead of dominating the headlines the story has almost disappeared. Perhaps the reason for this disappearance has something to do with an account in El País of how the tale emerged in the first place. According to El País the claim about the meeting with ETA was first aired in October by the Madrid radio station City FM, well known already for its enthusiastic participation in spreading the conspiracy theories on the Madrid bombings. Still according to the El País version of events, the story was then relayed to a member of a police intelligence unit by someone who is a member of the Asociación de Victimas de Terrorismo, sponsors of today’s demonstration and also very keen conspiranoicos. The police officer concerned duly prepared an informative note on the claim and the note was subsequently filed in the big box where they put all claims unsupported by any evidence. Then came El Mundo’s report, placing great emphasis on the fact that a police “report” authenticated the existence of the meeting, and making no reference at all to the police dismissal of the claim as lacking any credibility. Master conspiracy theorist Luis del Pino believes that El Mundo was trapped with this story by the evil doers, but as any decent Fantasy Journalism player can tell you, fact checking is for wimps. Especially if it might get in the way of publication!

Case study number two. The crucial political confrontation currently taking place in the Constitutional Court was coming to a head. The government had challenged the eligibility of two conservative members of the court to decide on an issue because they had already publicly pronounced on it. The PP was looking for a way to respond to a challenge that could leave their side in a minority on the court. Hear that bugle? That’s El Mundo riding to the rescue. A story miraculously appeared in the paper concerning three members of the court and things they were alleged to have said in a meeting of the tribunal’s members. The PP challenged their eligibility to form part of the court’s deliberations, basing their challenge on El Mundo’s conveniently timed report. Sadly for the PP, even some of the conservatives on the court have objected to El Mundo’s version of events and have publicly repudiated it. The PP, rather than accept that the story was invented to allow them to make their challenge, has instead accused several members of the court of being liars; something which seems unlikely to help their case.

Always remember, it is not just that truth is the first casualty of Fantasy Journalism, it is more a case of it being battered to death with a heavy, blunt instrument. Let the game continue.


Lenox said...

S'funny - in all the years I've lived here - I've never read El País!
Good - is it?

Graeme said...

Well it won't blow up in your hands! In fact, if you look around in bars or cafes you'll probably even find a free copy so you don't even need to invest the 1 euro that it will cost you to buy it.