Fear-Gasm, Part Deux: Always Check The Source
This is an update to my earlier article about corporate media’s orgasmic joy at presenting China’s current COVID outbreak as the mother of all plagues.
In the short time since I wrote that article, innumerable articles have appeared from a variety of corporate media (and some presumably alt-media) sources highlighting the seeming factoid that China recorded 37 million COVID cases in one single day.
Why is this newsworthy? Because virtually all of the articles I have pulled up source a single Bloomberg news report which is based on a single document of dubious provenance—which even Bloomberg acknowledged was not confirmed independently. Bloomberg was also unable to ascertain from the document (or any other source, as of this writing) how the 37 million number was obtained.
The Bloomberg article in question was a part of my previous article on this topic.
One article I found referenced a report in the South China Morning Post—which I also included in my previous article, and which acknowledged that the document (the same document referenced by Bloomberg) in question could not be positively confirmed as legitimate.
To appreciate the significance of what is unfolding here, consider media outlets promoting this “story”:
All of these articles are based on the Bloomberg story which could not verify the source document and which could not ascertain how the 37 million number was obtained by the author of the document.
How the Chinese health regulator came up with its estimate is unclear, as the country shut down its once ubiquitous network of PCR testing booths earlier this month. Precise infection rates have been difficult to establish in other countries during the pandemic, as hard-to-get laboratory tests were supplanted by home testing with results that weren’t centrally collected.
The NHC didn’t respond to a request for comment faxed by Bloomberg News. The commission’s newly founded National Disease Control Bureau, which overseas the Covid response, also didn’t respond to phone calls and faxes on Friday.
India Today sourced their reporting from the South China Morning Post.
The South China Morning Post did not rely on the Bloomberg story, having sourced the document to Internet social media.
However, according to a memo purportedly from a National Health Commission meeting on Wednesday, there were nearly 37 million new infections nationwide on Tuesday.
The document was circulated online and cannot be independently verified. The official report of the meeting did not mention government projections, but the estimates in the memo tallied with those of other experts.
Note the phrase “cannot be independently verified.”
India.com sourced the story to an article published by Radio Free Asia.
Radio Free Asia made some effort to verify the document, although the verification it obtained was not from any “official” source.
Nearly 250 million people may now be infected with COVID-19 following the lifting of control measures in China, according to a leaked government document circulating on social media.
The document, which appeared to be the leaked minutes of a Dec. 20 meeting of the country's National Health Commission, estimated that some 248 million people became infected with COVID-19 from Dec. 1-20, or 17.65 percent of China's population.
New cases on Dec. 20 alone were estimated at around 37 million, in stark contrast to the mere thousands of cases detailed by official government figures for that day.
A senior Chinese journalist who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals told Radio Free Asia on Thursday that the document was genuine, and had been leaked by someone who attended the meeting who was acting deliberately and in the public interest.
Consider what is happening here. Multiple media outlets—most of which are corporate media mainstays, with staffs and editors and the resources to fact check any story under the sun (and I mean legitimately fact check, not perform CNN’s classic “does it match the narrative?” version)—are reporting as fact a statistic that comes from one single document of uncertain provenance, which has not been verified by the originating organization nor any identified official attached to that organization. Multiple media outlets are reporting as fact a statistic about which the originating sources—Bloomberg, South China Morning Post, and Radio Free Asia—openly acknowledge their inability to definitively confirm either the primary source document or the statistic in question.
These media outlets are reporting this 37 million number as fact and justifying that reporting by saying, in effect, that “Bloomberg/South China Morning Post/Radio Free Asia said it, and that’s good enough for us.”
Only it’s not good enough.
Perhaps this statistic is accurate. Perhaps China truly did document 37 million new COVID cases in a single day. Perhaps some 248 million Chinese have already contracted the disease during this latest wave. While I do not consider the statistic to be especially probable—for reasons I laid out in my previous article—I freely acknowledge that the statistic is not impossible.
Or perhaps the statistic is wrong. Perhaps the case tally for that day is only 3.7 million instead of 37 million—a simple accidental shift of a decimal point might explain everything.
Or perhaps the document is a forgery—released for whatever reason by some Internet bad actor with just enough of the right visual elements to look “official.”
Or perhaps the numbers are real.
With the information presented in the Bloomberg, South China Morning Post, or Radio Free Asia articles, we cannot say conclusively whether the 37 million number is or is not legitimate.
With the information presented in the Bloomberg, South China Morning Post, or Radio Free Asia articles, we cannot say conclusively whether the source material is authentic or a fraud.
What we can say conclusively is that corporate media has gone a good deal farther out on the credibility limb than they likely realize, and have no awareness of whether that limb will break or no. Corporate media did not check the source half as well as they likely think they did, and their reliance on a single problematic source proves that in abundance.
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After three years there is still no distinction made by “expert sources” between being INFECTED with the sarsCov-2 VIRUS and having the DISEASE of COVID-19. These are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS!!!
makes me crazy.
It is a huge distinction when reporting “cases”.