23 June 2011 Politics

Like headless chickens

It was a painful experience, watching the media frenzy amid today’s detainee document dump. The pre-dump anticipation was building on Twitter. Everyone wanted their hot little hands on one of those USB keys, packed with 4,200 pages of mostly-still-redacted documents. Tweets started to stream in with snippets of information, sensational, attention-grabbing, and out of context. justin_ling: “Most security detainees appear to have their legs shackled…at all times. This is inconsistent with international standards.” #afdocs No references. No further explanation. Just a stream of the most headline-ready phrases that could be found while skimming the documents. Which, to be honest, is to be expected from Twitter. I flip to CTV’s PowerPlay, where two journalists are squaring off on a debate about the significance of the just-released documents. Which is all fine and good, except neither of them had even read the documents. It’s not like they had the chance; 4,200 pages takes a little while to sift through. Nevertheless, Malorie Beauchemin made the bold comment that there’s still a lot of black marker in these documents. Robert Fife, not to be outdone, wisely reminds viewers that we can all have faith in the decisionmaking skills of former Supreme Court Justices. As can be expected, the lack of substance forces these journalists to get into a debate about what they think might have happened in Afghanistan - which is to say, not much of a debate at all. It’s stories like these that make the age of instant communication frustrating. There’s nothing to communicate yet, but that won’t stop the media from spewing whatever nonsense it can! With the fit of madness mostly over now, I think Kady O’Malley put it best: kady: Alright, that’s it for the #afdocs briefing — I’ll recap of what we learned when I get back to my desk. Spoiler Alert: Not much more. But hey, at least they didn’t take the Sarah Palin route and release the 4,200 pages of documents in hardcopy only. Sam Nabi

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