Talk for Article "Difficulty verifying chemical attack amplified by pro-Assad misinformation"

Talk about this Article

  1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

    Just wanted to mark it as bias as well and also to give you some more info about White Helmets. Just check the information, I don’t think the sources themselves are important here as the information can be confirmed from other sources. Just in case you want to say that you don’t trust the links given as ‘reputable enough’ because they are conspiracy theorist etc. – it doesn’t matter if a source has a record of so called ‘conspiracy theories’ or not – they give facts and proofs (more than you do with ‘Lucas said’) and they need to be addressed instead of just discrediting the source itself (casting doubt, as you like to say). Are the UK and US funding as well as photos and videos of white helmets (as well as witnesses saying they are always working with exrtimists) participating in all kinds of stuff fake? How about the founder of White Helmets, is his identity also false? What about US not giving VISA to the leader of White Helmets? Did you care much to search through the ‘negative’ info about White Helmets and analyze it as well as describe in a balanced way in your article? Or does the opinion of Lucas means more to you than facts that need to be checked and either proved or dismissed with counter proofs? What’s the poitn of such journalism when it has no critical thinking and only reiterates an opinion of some ‘expert’ (Lucas) instead of giving facts for the WT reader to make his/her own opinion?

    As for western media uncritically excepting staged videos as genuine:

    And finally, do you even realize how many times you ended your sentences with ‘he said’ / ‘Lucas said’? Almost the whole article is comprised of what Lucas (why should I trust that Lucas’s opinion that it is given such a broad coverage???!!!) thinks.
    It’s nice that you and Lucas have the same opinion, but don’t force it on the readers please.

    1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

      I appreciate that my inherent bias shaped this article, but honestly the origin of this piece was my own scepticism towards how much credibility is given to different sources, particularly when it has been so difficult to report on the ground. So this started as an attempt to discuss where everyone is getting their information, and because that is so difficult to verify I tried to back it up with other considerations such as the track record for accuracy of the source. I take your point that I may have leaned too heavily on the interview with Lucas, as I was trying not to write my own assertions. I also see what you mean about how this was difficult for Community involvement, as it appeared as a “finished” piece. I do stand by the accuracy of this article but I agree that there could be a better way for WikiTribune to approach subjects such as these. I think we will be using the Community model as a way to get into these stories from the beginning more in future, which will hopefully address some of the concerns a lot of Community members have had with this piece. Jack

      1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

        Jack, the bias starts with the article title….While I have really enjoyed reading some of your other articles – ex. the push by the NSA for certain encryption algorithms – the one we are discussing here is way too biased…The goal should be to stay neutral. It is a challenge, as some people BELIEVE that one side is right and that the other side is talking rubbish, but that should be the goal.

      2. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

        Hi Jack, thanks for your reply (really – I do realize my comment was a bit harsh, so thanks for staying professional). It’s just that it really doesn’t feel like fact-based reporting when it’s based on opinions and it’s difficult to rewrite/edit an article like that. The community model might be a good option to consider indeed, as sometimes it’s just diffifcult for any of us to see the full spectrum of views and data available on a certain subject, so having all the info before the article is finished could be helpful. In any case, I’d still ask to avoid building articles on opinions, whoever those opinions belong to (they may appear as a part of the article, but not comprise the main part of it, I believe), especially when they are not official representatives of one side or the other. There’s just too much speculation in this.

  2. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

    I agree with the other comments that the author’s bias is clear throughout the whole article. Basically, he trusts the government version of the events and distrusts the alternative versions or attempts to highlight inconsistencies as being “conspiracy theories”. At the same time, to the best of my knowledge the governments have not presented any substantial proof to support their positions. They also seem to rely extensively on “open sources” and their “partners on the ground”. Both could easily be falsified and can be considered as biased. Despite that, such cricism is only applied to the alternative theories.

    The author made an attempt to avoid the criticism of a bias by including a large number of quotes from other people (Ex. Lucas) to push the reader in the direction of his bias.

    I am also getting disappointed by all this, especially given that I made similar comments in the past. Clearly they have not been taken on board.

    Is it really that difficult to just state the facts, which are : the US / UK government have this positions and this is what they have put forward as proof ; The Russians / Syrians have this other position(s) and this is the proof they have advanced. These are the known biases of the sources of information – “white helmets” etc etc Let the reader make their own opinion!

    Here are a few specific issues with the article:

    * Reports from witnesses on the ground as well as open-source analysis by independent groups which have a solid record throughout the seven-year conflict in Syria have backed the initial claims that chemical weapons were used against civilians holed up in tunnels and buildings in a rebel-held area. – Who are the independent groups you are quoting? There are some witnesses on the ground who denied that there was a chemical weapon attack –

    * The OPCW said on April 16 that Russian and Syrian security forces had not allowed the investigators access to the site of the alleged attack. – The reasons for that were “security concerns”. “not allowed” is a little tendentious, but fits the tone of the article

    * “The attacks targeted suspected chemical weapons stocks and facilities apparently retained after Russia was supposed to have supervised the destruction of all chemical weapons in 2013.” – I don’t think that Russia was supposed to supervise the destruction of the weapons. OPCW had this role.

    * The World Health Organization has said its partners on the ground treated 500 patients “exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals” – Again, given the players on the ground, it will be good to clarify who are these partners?

    * “Open-source investigation site Bellingcat — which has a strong track record of getting to the bottom of attacks in Syria and in Ukraine” – Again, quoting these guys damages the seriousness of the article. These are amateur enthusiast looking at pictures provided by who knows who. Considering this to be a serious source of information is a joke.

    * “Having appeared to give credibility to give credibility to Russian doubts about the Western narrative on Syria, the academics immediately felt the need to give credibility to Russian disinformation in Salisbury, said Lucas.” – An example of the use of quotations to demonstrate author’s bias

    1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

      Link that describes the responsibilities with regard to the chemical weapons removal from Syria :

    2. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

      Good comment. There are more examples of bias as the article is just filled with it, even though it is done in a quite ‘objectively looking’ way that not everyone can see it at once.

      To Jack: I don’t think you are doing this on purpose, but when I see a biased anti-Russian (or Russian allies) article I already expect to see it signed by your name and in most cases my expectation comes true. You rely heavily on citing your preferred ‘experts’ while giving little to no voice to other experts, plus you describe all that comes from Russia or Russian allies in a very diminishing way without dwelling into details (so that it just looks like some crazy pro-Russian accusation or opinion without any grounds), always throwing counterarguments to that, while you don’t take the same approach to everything Western ‘experts’ or governments say or do, probably because they are by default ‘reliable’ in your opinion.

      All this makes such articles impossible to edit, I did suggest a couple of things in my previous comments and pointed to the bias, but whenever my suggestion is taken into account, it still cannot change the whole article because it is just written in a biased way, its whole structure and sources that are most heavily cited are chosen to suit your own perception of the situation, which is clear to everyone reading your articles.

      I just don’t see how such articles can be corrected by the community, I think WT needs to consider reestablishing the standards of reporting and eliminate the ‘Lucas said’ phenomenon (AKA ‘experts/think tank said’) that is used to draw biased conclusions that fit to the author’s view on the subject. Otherwise, there’s simply no difference between WT and a general western media, so why bother if we have a good number of them already with Reuters giving much less bias and biased ‘analysis’ in their articles then we get here.

  3. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

    The author’s stance on the official narrative vs alternatives is obvious throughout. Specifically, criticism of the White Helmets is vague and immediately countered by weak explanations, supporting the same narrative we get from the mainstream propaganda that I’m here to avoid.

    1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

      What “alternatives” would you like to see explored? We are trying to sift through the lies, deliberate misinformation and propaganda to get the most credible information from the sources with the most reliable record. The information from Bellingcat in the story is probably the most reliable so far. If you have suggestions of well-backed up information as opposed to conspiracy theories, please do add them here or in the story itself.

      1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

        When you say “We are trying to sift through the lies…” who is the “we” in this sentence? The readers or writers of Wikitribune?

        “The information from Bellingcat in the story is probably the most reliable so far.” You may trust Bellingcat, but I don’t trust anyone. I decide for myself what is “probably the most reliable” information. Not you or anyone else. The purpose of this whole site is to facilitate this kind of relationship with truth, if I’m not mistaken.

        1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

          I feel I’m not making my point clearly. I am not commenting about an under-representation of “conspiracy theories,” I’m commenting about a clear bias in an article that claims to lay everything on the table and let the readers decide what is most credible.

  4. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

    This is nothing more than corporate mainstream media propaganda and disinformation. What a big disappointment Wikitribune is! I have a lot of respect for Wikipedia itself and had high hopes for wikitribune but after 4 months of receiving your newsletters I have become disgusted with the constant rehashing of government propaganda. As far as this latest alleged gas attack is concern the only fact worth considering is Mr. Fisk’s personal account of his visit where he casts SERIOUS doubt that there ever was a gas attack. But instead you disparage his report and repeat all the nonsense from the western state media and their lackey NGO’s. I have had enough and will now cancel my subscription to your MSM newsletter.

    1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

      Hi Gary, as I’m sure you’d expect, I have to disagree. The purpose of this article was to set out the different narratives going round and try to establish where they came from. I haven’t disparaged Fisk’s report, but I don’t think he actually argues the chlorine attack didn’t take place, or purport to have evidence that it didn’t.
      If you have any information that contradicts what I have reported in this article, or could point me to a news source that has evidence that is being ignored by mainstream media, I will be happy to look into it. Jack

      1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

        Thorough this piece, you assume that narratives provided by western establishment sources are “correct until proven false”. I don’t think this is the right approach to take with regard to the Syrian civil war, where the news environment is saturated with false information.

        1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

          I agree with that. You correctly mention that an information war is taking place. However you then assume that only the “alternative theories” have holes and are not based on specific evidence. You don’t apply the same filter to the information published by the UK / US governments. Citing a bunch of other organizations that have already been compromised, in terms of their independence, with people who don’t blindly follow what the government is saying, is of 0 interest to anyone. It is a difficult thing, as there are very few, if any, truly independent actors left in the world. They are all subject to pressure, propaganda and bias. Even the UN / OPCW reports are being criticized and disputed and when you look at the details, there is some ground for that criticism – ex. Blame assigned without a visit to the alleged site of the chemical attacks etc So, if you want to be innovative, you need to include all these details in the articles + caveats and let the user decide what to make out of it. For the moment, this article could appear in any mainstream media, which again, is not what I thought this initiative is about!

  5. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

    “Robert Fisk, a long-term Middle East correspondent for UK newspaper the Independent, is one of the few Western journalists to visit the site. ”
    Fisk is quoted in his report ““I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night, but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of [government] shelling and aircraft were always over Douma at night—but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived.”
    He wasn’t visiting but lives there and only a few blocks from the site of one of the bombings.
    He therefore didn’t just interview a random doctor but was an eye witness on the night himself.

    1. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

      Hi Del, Fisk never says he witnessed what happened, or to have seen the victims on that night and their symptoms – that’s why he does visit the site and look for doctors. He, unlike most journalists and the OPCW inspectors, was given access to the site of the alleged attack. He doesn’t report one way or the other whether there was a chlorine attack, but reports what he was told and the circumstances, which are inconclusive.

    2. [ This comment is from a user you have muted ] (show)

      Robert Fisk lives in Beirut.
      We are not disparaging his work on the ground, merely being clear that the people he is quoting – or some of them – did not actually see what they suspect. It is very much the fog of war which is not to say his report isn’t an important addition to the puzzle.
      Experience so far suggests that in these events the Bellingcat agency which we also quote has a strong record of independent verification. On the other hand, it is also the case that trying to verify the events is extremely difficult and then confused by determined efforts to obfuscate. Which is what this story is trying to report on.

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