Bullshit Prevention Protocol: Testing the Truth of Reports

Chaudhry's,  father and son
By Crosbie Walsh

Yesterday (Friday) I published several social media comments, most, but not all,  anti-Government. In my opinion all of them  should have been removed by the social media publishers because they were highly personal, racist, excessively intolerant —and most likely untrue.

Unfortunately, this is not going to happen unless there are laws in place to make social media publishers responsible for what is published, and unless progressively heavy fines, and even site closures, support the laws.  Until this happens,  I fear for the future of responsible reporting.

Meanwhile, internet users are left as the only ones able to assess the likely truth of what is published in the social media.

Here are some tips on how to check validity:

First, examine your own views. Do not dismiss an item  because you disagree with it. It could be true, or at least contain some truth. You should ferret it out.

Secondly, ask what you know about the media. How is its credibility record? What are its likely shortcomings and biases.

Thirdly, ask what you know of the writer. What does he know on the subject? What are his or her views and biases?  What does he hope to gain by writing the item?  How accurate is his credibility record? Try a Google search if the writer could be reasonably well know.

Fourthly, ask how the writer knows about the story he has published. Check this very carefully looking in particular for "a friend", a "friend of a friend" and otherwise anonymous undisclosed sources.

Fifthly, see if the story was also reported in other media over the next few days,which could give it more credibility, and ask, if not, why not? Note, however, that purportedly independent multiple reportings from the same source, or string of similar sources,  adds nothing to credibility. A falsehood or error repeated ten times is still an error or  falsehood.

Sixthly, look carefully at the construction of the story, especially if it is built on a number of claims.  Examine the plausibility of each claim. And ask if there are  any ways to check or test each of them.

Bullshit Prevention Protocol

Michelle Nijhuis calls checks on validity Bullshit Prevention Protocol. She says:

I am often wrong. I misunderstand; I misremember; I believe things I shouldn’t. I’m overly optimistic about the future quality of Downton Abbey and inexact in my recall of rock-star shenanigans. But I am not often—knock wood—wrong in print, and that’s because, as a journalist, I’ve had advanced training in Bullshit Prevention Protocol.

Preventing bullshit is time-consuming, and thoroughly fact-checking an entire article can feel like a particularly demented form of needlepoint. There’s a good reason why my Facebook posts and tweets are almost exclusively about my family and friends, certain TV shows, and articles written by me and people I know and trust. I don’t have a lot of time to practice BPP for free, and I don’t want to share bullshit.

Thanks for reading, and congratulations. You are now qualified to practice.

■ Testing your skills

Try testing your BPP skills on Rajendra Chaudhry's claim that I reported in Friday.

This is what he wrote on Facebook:

"From a friend: As we speaking message received Police ordered by PM to arrest Ro Teimumu for supporting Qarase's perceived comments. Police contacted RFMF n was told not to and also told in clear terms that there is a change of Command at QEB. Period!!!"

Check.
1 Your own views.  Are you already inclined to believe or disbelieve him?
2. Is Facebook a credible source, and if not, why not?
3. Is Rajendra a likely reliable source? What may he hope to gain by publishing this story?
4. What do we know about Rajendra's friend?
5. Has the story been repeated elsewhere?
6. What of the construction of the story?

He quotes a friend (claim 1) who says the police received a message (claim 2) ordered by the PM (claim 3), and goes on to say the police contacted the RFMF (claim 4), who said no, do not arrest Ro Teimumu (claim 5).

Ask why on earth Bainimarama should want to arrest Ro Teimumu who he leads decisively in the polls, when her arrest could backfire and generate a sympathy vote,  And ask why arrest Ro Teimumu and not Qarase  when it was Qarase who made the offending statements.

Finally, check to see if the story has been reported elsewhere.  Then on the basis of your answers, made your own call. This is all you can do.  Ro Teimumu was not arrested. It was a non-event that cannot be tested.

My own opinion is that this is the cleverest form of bullshit. It is a story that would have everyone denying any part of it, with no paper trail, and an outcome that cannot be tested because nothing happened.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Thank you Croz for this guideline which has been long overdue. The media is so full of BS that we have to test everything we read. I used your guideline on a very recent piece of news peddled by an Australian media outlet, the ABC:
"Fiji's military leader has been greeted by protesters in Sydney as he campaigns ahead of next month's post-coup elections.

Hundreds of Fijian citizens attended a rally in Sydney's south-west to coincide with a visit by Frank Bainimarama. Supporters of Mr Bainimarama and others approved by his government were allowed inside Canterbury Town Hall for a question-and-answer session. However, other members of the Fijian community, including those in the Fiji Democracy Freedom Movement, were not allowed in and protested outside. A line of police stopped the protesters from entering the hall. The protesters said the election process favoured Mr Bainimarama's party, Fiji First. They also condemned Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop for allowing Mr Bainimarama to visit.


Now lets check this:
1.My own view: This message is not credible as our PM has 100% support from Fijians inside and outside the country. The ABC therefore spreads lies.
2. Credibility: Unlike fair and unbiased blogs like yours, the ABC is known to have a huge agenda against Fiji which they consider to be ruled by human rights abusing thugs. Everybody knows that this is not true. Fiji is democratically government by an intelligent, benign and compassionate civilian who rightfully campaigns to win all seats in a free and fair election. So no credibility for ABC.
3. The writer is not a professional journalist but a campaigner who is allowed by a very inadequate regulatory framework for media in Australia. Such reporting would never be allowed in Fiji where a modern legislation is in place that commits journalists to be professional and constructive.
4. The writer had no first hand knowledge of what happened and got her information from the anti-government blog C4.5. The picture shown on ABC is a fake and shows protesters in Ferguson USA.
5. The story was only reported on anti-government blogs and has therefore no credibility at all. If there was even the slightest kernel of truth, Croz would have picked the story up and reported it in a truly unbiased fashion.
6. The story is based on false claims and shaky assumptions. There is no resistance against Fiji's leadership as dozens of polls by the Fiji Sun (the only credible newspaper) have shown.

To sum up, the ABC article fails the BS test on all six counts. It should be immediately removed from the ABC website and the journalist should be punished in line with the Fijian Media Decree. Unfortunately, there is no agreed regional standard for the media and the culprit will go unpunished.
junta jerkoff said…
Gaddafi used to gloat as well - the weed that he was - he ended up in a ditch unless I read the news incorrectly?
There was no 2006 coup said…
Croz
Do you think we should pretend there was no 2006 coup? Do you think we should pretend that unarmed and bound CRW patriots were not brutally murdered by those you drool over? Do you think we should pretend that FIJIAN patriots and those who value democracy were not taken to the military barracks and bashed by cowards? Or are you and your junta cowards just full of bullshit?
Anonymous said…
Indeed, it was determined by numerous high profile legal eagles and His Excellency the Honourable Khaiyum that in 2006 under the "doctrine of necessity" a racist, corrupt and incompetent regime had to be removed by democratic RFMF forces. Under the leadership of one of the most competent, intelligent, compassionate and generally wonderful of all Rear Admirals, a bunch of human rights abusing thugs were send to drink home-brew under the mango trees. Since then, we have seen hundreds of reforms that have transformed Fiji from a medieval Christian state into a modern industrial society with a booming sugar industry and freedom of speech and assembly that Fiji never had before. An independent judiciary guided by our beloved AG makes sure that the even the government can be challenges in the courts. An independent police investigate every single case of wrongdoing and does not hesitate to investigate torture and murder committed by its own officers. The perpetrator of the Whippy killing has been jailed for live and the misfits who have sodomised the escapee will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
Anonymous said…
You have forgotten that our dear leader is a very fast runner who will never suffer the same faith as Gaddafi or Saddam. Those lazy slugs missed out on proper fitness training and got whacked. Our beloved PM in contrast knows how to very quickly navigate a cassava patch and the only harm that came to him was dirty knickers.
Crosbie Walsh said…
I'm pleased all you people found the BPP article useful
Anonymous said…
Yes Croz, your advise has helped a lot. Are we allowed to use your BPP on Minfo releases?
Anonymous said…
At the end of the day, I will stick by my men, by the police officers or anyone else that might be named in this investigation. We cannot discard them just because they’ve done their duty in looking after the security of this nation and making sure we sleep peacefully at night
Anonymous said…
This idiot racist blog is like the Fiji illegal regime elections - a total farce!
Anonymous said…
BPP cuts both ways. It saddens me to see that many of your articles are now rather biased themselves which is a reaction, so you've written in the past, to biased articles that you read.

'Bias' is precisely that and justifying a rather one eyed position by protestations that it gives balance to the matter discussed isn't a credible or logical argument.

Still - it's your blog and you're obviously free to write how, and what, you feel. But for you to lobby for taking that right away from others under the guise of their 'racist' or 'intolerant' views is beyond the pale. Your academic training should nip that temptation in the bud
Anonymous said…
Come on give the old boy a break. You should know that Croz a world famous emeritus form one of the world's best universities (USP) and a renowned academic amongst the farmers in Horowenua. Wait until you get to his age, you won't be able to remember where you put your marbles.
Bill Carson said…
All of the posts with the name Anony Mouse should be consigned to the rubbish bin !!

Why dont they have the courage of their conviction and put their name to it !!!
Anonymous said…
Hey Bill have you read the papers recently. A Mr. Soko was sodomised to death while in custody of Fiji Police last week. Even the Police Commissioner seems to be a bit rattled by this. Please forgive us for being a bit lamusona, but key who wants a police baton up the arse until it comes out the other end.
Anonymous said…
Hey Billy govind
Why do you use a European name when you are obviously an indian?
Anonymous said…
Whu does most discussion have to end with what ethnic group you belong to? Debate the issue/question not the person.
Geez we Fijians have a long way to go.
Free & Fair said…
Hi Croz,

Apologies I am make comment out of context here - but this topic really needs some discussion. I'm stunned and dissappointed by what has happened over the weekend. It just makes no sense and will not help the perception that this election is free and fair.

Free and Fair election?

As the current situation stands we have a Labour candidate who legally should be able to run but can’t and a Fiji First candidate who legally cannot run but will anyway ? No matter the court rulings on time frames this does not sound free or fair.

How the hell can we end up in this situation? Surely the SOE would have been in regular contact with the EC and if 4pm was the deadline should they have not been ringing and saying “hey where are your findings?”. How on earth could the SOE think the best course of action would be to ignore the EC and just plough ahead ?
Its feels a lot like the SOE was very concerned his boss the AG might have been excluded along with other Fiji First candidates and that was not acceptable to him and certainly not his boss. Therefore he has held out the ECs view by a technicality. As it turns out the AG was probably never in doubt but now we have a complete injustice.

And who supports all this – the AG, minister for elections and surprise surprise secretary of Fiji First.
Unbelievable.
Anonymous said…
You and Whaleoil took free trips to Fiji to sell the wares - that puts you top of the BS scale
Anonymous said…
Eliminating opposition candidates is standard practice in any democratic system. Look what is happening in New Zealand right now: The ruling National Party has already thrown out seven opposition candidates and will continue to weed the fields further. Nobody accuses NZ of being a Banana Republic for this, but those with huge biases against Fiji constantly rant about unfair processes. Get a live and vote Fiji First, our great leader wants all seats in Parliament in order to ensure that Fiji is a truly democratic country.
Anonymous said…
What an embarrassment this racist old git is to his family? Or are they all bullshit artists as well?
Anonymous said…
thanks croz
I wiped my arse with it1
Anonymous said…
My friend, don't be jealous and petty, try to be smart. Support Khaiyum and you will rewarded as everybody else. What is wrong with a bit of opportunism? We all (including Croz) have to eke out a living.
Mrs Horowhenua where's my freebie said…
What is wrong with a little free trip here and there?
Anonymous said…
Debate the issue not take cheap shots. But then again, maybe scrapping the bottom of the pot here.
Anonymous said…
AnonymousMonday, August 25, 2014 at 10:23:00 PM GMT+12

You maybe in the wrong forum. You probably should have joined http://www.thechildrensforum.com/.
But then again they are expected to talk sense there too.
Bill Carson said…
Spot on Turaga.

Lets debate the issues, after all all the bread and butter issues affect all of us, regardless of race.

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