Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

There's "Fake News," And Then There's "Flat Out Lying"

This weekend saw the release of the movie The Post, a film that went from principle photography to theatrical release in under a year.  Chronicling the publication of The Pentagon Papers and exposing underhanded acts involving Vietnam, the movie depicts reporters as crusaders and bastions of truth and morality, digging and risking all to inform and educate the public and hold nefarious people accountable for the evil that they do.  It's a Valentine to the Fourth Estate, and basically asks, "How can you possibly think such a noble profession would manipulate public perception by creating 'fake news?'"

Well, I'm gonna tell you how.

Ironically, the very weekend this movie came out, the Jimquisition broke a story that paints a picture of sensationalism and exploitation in news, appearing to be a hit piece by The Establishment against medium they just don't like for no defensible reason.  I'm not a Trump supporter, but when the guy talks about "fake news," stories like this prove he actually has a point.  This story comes from Australia.  I can hear some of you now -- "What?!?  People from an ex-prison colony doing something shady?!?"  I know, but it's sadly true.

The whole thing starts sometime around early 2015.  A Aussie indie game developer named Liam Keenan decided he was going to make a video game based on his city of Adelaide, the capital city of the South Australia state.  He began playing around with the Unreal 3 engine, which comes with stuff to make first person shooter games.  An architecture student, he began using the UDK to create a virtual version of Adelaide.  The test showed things from a first person point of view, one armed with a rifle.  While showing off his pre-alpha build, he emphasized that the gun mechanics were NOT representative of what he was attempting to do with the game -- in fact, at the moment (almost three years later), it's barely more than a walking and driving sim in a recreation of Adelaide.  It is heavily emphasized that the present build of the game, previous builds of the game, and all subsequent builds of the game up to and including final release, will have no violence whatsoever.  Keenan, in fact, was using the project to show his architecture skills to his professors at university, earning high marks.  The game's official title is P Platers, named after the placard that adorns cars driven by people with provisional driver's licenses.

And then, April 2, 2017.

Early in the day, an ad ran for 9 News Adelaide, purporting to talk about police taking a stand against a Grand Theft Auto "variation."  This variation would be set in the city of Adelaide, enabling people to steal cars, shoot cops, and all the stuff GTA is known for set in a real world city.  Now, right away, this sounded fishy to people like me familiar with GTA.  Rockstar Games, the creators, feature cities that resemble real world cities, but aren't actually them.  Liberty City is NYC, San Andreas is LA, Vice City is Las Vegas, and so on.  So the idea of setting a chapter in Adelaide sounded fishy.  But that was nothing compared to the actual news report.

The report features "preliminary footage" of the game's world and activities, stuff that, frankly, would get you laughed out of the Rockstar offices.  It specifically mentions that this was "uncovered" just a few days after the London terrorist attack.  It features Police Minister Peter Malinauskas talking about terrorism and the public perception of the police, but nothing that specifically cites the game in question -- it's oddly non-committal.  But the worst was the game footage.  The "preliminary footage" was from that P Platers pre-alpha from over two years prior that Keenan said wasn't representative of the game.  The report also featured stills of game settings reflecting Adelaide, but no footage showing the player walking around and, you know, not shooting anything.  Not only that, but Keenan, his associates, and the game itself weren't affiliated with Rockstar and GTA had nothing to do with the project.  Shortly after the report, he contacted 9 News Adelaide by Facebook Messanger and told them he had no connection to Rockstar and they should try contacting Rockstar about their concerns over GTA.

9 News' response?  "Who are rockstar games (sic)?"

They broadcast an segment on GTA and have no clue who the creator of the game is.  You cannot convince me this wasn't a hit piece made to stir up and capitalize on public outrage.

Below is the original segment, skimmed off 9 News Adelaide's Facebook page.  I want to point out that it ends saying that they tried contacting the game creator but he choose to make no comment.  According to Keenan, this is outright false.  Keenan said, when the person from 9 News called him, he stressed that the game had no violence whatsoever in it and that early footage was just a test build, it was not what he was creating.  But not only was 9 News not interested in what he was saying, but according to Jim Sterling at the Jimquisition, it turns out the police had made requests for certain things to not be featured in the story, like the title P Platers, and 9 News honored that request.  Check this out:

In my opinion, this isn't "fake news."  In my opinion, this is a lie.  A blantant, fabricated, outright lie with questionable motivations and carefully chosen wording to protect from accusations of playing fast and loose with the facts.

And this is why people don't trust the media.

And what's really sad is that this is from last April.  This should have people screaming about how a news station was willing to gin up a story to be sensationalist.  And yet, other than people who follow P Platers on social media, no one knew what was really going on.  Hell, the first I heard of it was when I was watching The Jimquisition on lunch and Jim Sterling made it his topic for today.  There's been no condemnation, no other reporters taking 9 News to task, nothing.  People are searching for outrages to cover except those of their bretheren, giving them a pass on accountability and implying permission to do it again.

Don't tell us you are moral and upstanding.  Be moral and upstanding.  We will figure out what you are, one way or the other.
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