Evidence, sources, and hoaxes
February 25, 2006

Sometimes a really really good story comes along which is maybe, possibly, just too good to be true. Or maybe it isn't! So you go looking for evidence, corroboration, proof. And you just can't find it. Have you been hoaxed?

In fall 2005 a group of globalism activists circulated a carefully forged press release, announcing that George H. W. Bush would be attending the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Sydney, Australia and purporting to come from the Forbes companies. It included verification phone numbers, and a website. The Australian Associated Press ran the story after calling for verification. Much hilarity ensued, no doubt, and Wikinews was among the many who published the story. And the story about the hoax.

News can be that way. Someone publishes something, everyone believes they've checked their facts so they expand on it. Soon people are citing each other's articles circularly, reporter A says it because reporter B says it and reporter B says it because reporter A said it.

Feb. 6, 2006 a great story popped up on Wikinews, a child custody case with everything. Single divorced mum, sends child to visit father for the holidays, father doesn't send kid back. Court scene with dramatic video of mum involved in parody religion, catholic judge delivering a diatribe from the bench calling the mother mentally deranged, awards sole custody to the father. A clear and disgusting case of religious discrimination.

Except we're only hearing one side, the mum's. Well, and a friend of the mum's.

Dig a little deeper. There's a fair number of links included in the story. They all lead back to the parody religion, or the mum's blog. The blog lays it on pretty thick; it's well written, and I'm sure the author is sincere, and is reasonably freaked out by having her kid legally kidnapped. But... well, not at all unbiased in the review or reporting of the facts.

Now my bias comes out: I think the church of the SubGenius is bunch of forthright loons. They simply and politely tell you they're scamming you, and that'll be $30 please. And of course they have the requisite fake leader, disappearances, yadda yadda. In short, don't believe us or anyone else who claims to know the truth.

I don't.

I'm looking for when this story started breaking. On Wikipedia it was posted to the Church of the SubGenius article at 0740 on the 21st by an anonymous IP. An anonymous IP who went on to vandalize other articles. Elsewhere on the web, everything is rehashing the original blog posting by the mum. And then there is one "fact", a scan of the court order.

There's data there. I can read a docket number, and the lawyers involved in the case. The court house will not confirm or unconfirm the existence of the case. The lawyers really do exist, and they will neither confirm nor unconfirm they have have these clients. And the order is a temporary custody order.

So, what facts do we have? We have a mum, in Texas, who says she had a terrible time in a child custody hearing in New York, and believes the judge made a religious-discrimination-based decision to deny her custody of her child. And she has posted a document which may be a court order which had four verifiable facts: the names of the judge and the three lawyers.

It's just not enough to support an article.

So, we may be behind the times when the story is told. We may have utterly offended the Church of the SubGenius. But on this occasion, unlike the one last fall, we haven't published an article without examining the sources critically. My gut feeling is the story is accurate. But Wikinews requires sources for factual statements, and my gut doesn't get to have a say in the matter.

Posted by Amgine | 2:48 AM | Permalink | 0 comments


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