Saudi Muslims Fine Bikini-Clad Italians $3500? Nope: It’s a Hoax
by Nathan Lean, NathanLean.com
Here’s a classic example of how anti-Muslim hate grows on the Internet:
One week ago, the Internet was abuzz over reports that Saudi Arabia fined three Italian tourists $3500 for wearing bikinis in the presence of Muslims. The story was circulated on an obscure Italian-language news site, which referenced an earlier story published on April 28, 2014 at Giornale de Corrriere.
Here’s a screenshot of the original piece:
The sensational headline was too good for Muslim-baiters. Though not one single Western news source mentioned the story (which in today’s world should have sent up major red flags), they rushed forward without taking a moment to verify the source and reproduced it on their blogs. Off it went, zipping through the web and social media.
Daniel Greenfield, a notorious anti-Muslim blogger for Front Page, a dark media outfit operated and funded by David Horowitz, slapped the piece up on his website:
Greenfield spent several days Tweeting about the piece, even insisting to readers who suspected this was too wild to be true that whether it was true or not, he would not take the article down until he had proof. Admirable standards of journalism, huh?
The story began to grow. Check out the results that this Google search of the story produced, with Greenfield’s post at the very top:
The website Jews News, which two weeks ago came under fire for publishing a fake story about a Muslim man that killed, mutilated, and hung a Christian man, also posted the story on their site. — without a singe source or link. It generated 5.6K shares on Facebook:
Notice in the Google search image above, that Robert Spencer’s hate blog Jihad Watch also pops up. Spencer (unsurprisingly) believed the fake news and posted a story about it, adding to the original headline the words “Sharia Italy.”
Here is a screenshot of the piece on Spencer’s site, which remains live at the time this post was written:
Spencer takes great pride in touting himself as a “scholar” of Islam, but notice the website he cites as his source: Blazing Cat Fur, which posted the piece and linked back to the Italian satire. What kind of serious scholar would cite a website called “blazing cat fur” as an authoritative source? This source wouldn’t be even accepted in the footnotes of a high school term paper.
Interestingly, Blazing Cat Fur writers later noticed this important point at the bottom of the Italian site:
Catch that? “Gorinale del Corrierre `e un sito satirico…” It is a satirical website, much like The Onion, which pokes fun at societal oddities by running obnoxious headlines that are untrue.
Learning this, Blazing Cat Fur admitted in an update post that the story was, indeed, fake:
As news began to get out that this story was a fake, Daniel Greenfield over at Front Page backed down from claims that it was true, and, to his everlasting credit, removed the story:
Even the loud mouth bigot Pamela Geller, who would never miss an opportunity to publish something on her blog that trashes Muslims, took down the story from her site:
The Twitter world, though, didn’t seem to care. The outrageous story produced these kinds of Tweets:
Nearly all of those Tweets (and hundreds of others like them) link back to Deacon Robert Spencer’s online diary, Jihad Watch. Despite the fact that overwhelming evidence has shown that this story is fake — and despite the fact that his source, along with Front Page and Pamela Geller, took the piece down, Spencer refuses.
Even readers of his blog were intelligent enough to do a simple 3-minute Google search and discover this was a fake:
But let’s look at some of the other reactions to this story from readers of Robert Spencer’s “scholarly” blog:
The point of this story: don’t believe the wild anti-Muslim tales you read on the Internet.
Are some of them true? Sadly so. Are all of them? Absolutely not. It’s always best to insist on the sources. If a story shows up on a site that references the fur of blazing cats, is written on a foreign language blog without a link or any other form of corroboration, or is bandied about by hate group leaders that have a history of spreading fake news, it’s probably suspicious.
Robert Spencer spent the afternoon on Twitter contesting the above claims. He has accused me of lying, and insists that he took down this blog post “days ago:”
Fumbling for a more articulate response than the pedestrian cry of “Liar!” he proceeded to teach me about the computer cache, arguing that I had not cleared mine, thus the reason for the hoax storystill appearing on his website (I found his lesson odd since he routinely admits that he has a “tech guy” that handles all of the things he can’t).
I gave Robert the benefit of the doubt, and since I was away from the computer at the time, I grabbed my iPhone and checked the website from its browser. Here is what I found:
Could it be that both my iPhone cache and computer cache needed resetting? Surely Spencer would try to trot out that argument.
Once I had a moment to sit down at the computer, I cleared the cache in Firefox and Safari. Lo and behold, the page still came up in both browsers. But Spencer said he took it down “days ago.” That’s funny, since multiple web data analyzers that process site data and build reports about page activity show the exact opposite.
Spencer now says his “tech guy” is investigating it and he is assembling evidence that all of the above is a grand lie — a scheme on my part to hoodwink readers. It is very obvious, though, that Spencer is not interested in telling the truth.
Alas, after having made an example of Robert Spencer by pointing out that he was, indeed, not telling the truth and that the hoax story remained on his web page, after nearly holding his hand while explaining that the web analytic tools in the screenshots above showed an active page, and after pressure on Twitter mounted against him, he found it in his heart to do what he should have done last week: last night he removed the piece. Here is the shot of that:
Good for you, Robert. Next time, don’t cite obscure blogs like “blazing cat fur” as your authoritative source. Also, do some basic homework if you want people to take you seriously. And tell the truth when you realize that you made an error and people call you out on it. It’s far more noble to say, “I’m sorry, my bad” and remove the piece than to persist in nasty untruths, all the while fomenting hatred of Muslims within the infected bowels of the Internet, where your online diary Jihad Watch lives.
Alas, after promising to assemble evidence that he took down the post, Robert Spencer summoned his “tech guy,” Marc, to scrap together some (shoddy) claims.
Marc first posts a screenshot (below) of an apparent email exchange where Spencer believed that he had deleted the blog, but apparently had not, and begged Marc’s help to scrub it:
In the piece, Marc claims that I somehow manipulated the screenshot that I took, insisting that the “Login to Comment” and “Sign Up for Our Daily Digest” links on the far right sidebar were changed on May 13 to bold versions of their former self; in my screenshots they are not bold. He also adds that the scroll bar on the right side of the page is missing and that is prima facie evidence that I have altered the image.
Screenshots with Apple computers are taken using the Command + Shift + 4, which opens a cursor that can be dragged and adjusted to capture an image; on PC computers, there’s simply a PrtScn [Print Screen] button, which captures everything on the screen, leaving it up to the user to crop it as he/she likes. Presumably, Marc knows this because the image of the email above is cropped neatly around the edges, showing nothing else on the computer screen.
Let’s use Marc’s own logic against him, shall we?
First, notice the above email, which has been altered with black smudges in Photoshop or some other program to conceal the email address. Also note that there is no scroll bar in the image. Further, Spencer’s first message to Marc came at 6:29PM on May 11, 2014. Marc’s reply comes at 6:13PM, which is 16 minutes earlier. Even if he was in a different time zone, the hour would change, (for instance, PST is 3 hours earlier that EST), but the minutes would not. In the UK, now (a country that Robert is banned from entering) it is 3:20PM, while it’s 10:20AM on the east coast of the United States. Hour changes, minutes don’t. In the event that someone sent me an email from the UK and the time read “3:20PM,” it would be obvious that they were +5 hours ahead.
More: Notice how there is NO space after the phrase “On 14-05-11 06:29 PM, Robert Spencer wrote” and the link that he posts in his initial email. Now, scroll up to Marc’s reply: “On May 11, 2014, at 6:13PM…” Suddenly a space pops up before the text in his email message. Why is this? Is it a sloppy Photoshop job, or was text deleted? Also, why is the wording about the time and date that the email messages were written different in the same Chrome browser? “On May 11, 2014″ and “On 14-05-11.”
So — who is the one doing the manipulating here?
Does it seem odd to you that “weeks ago,” Spencer would SUDDENLY decide to bold the words “Login to Comment” and “Sign Up for Our Daily Digest” in his sidebar? And doesn’t it seem fishy that “weeks” after his alleged request, Marc FINALLY got around to doing it EXACTLY during the period that this fishy story started to unravel as a fraud?
If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, chances are that it’s a duck.
Next: Marc claims that the fact that the comments on the piece in question suddenly stop on May 11 proves that the piece was inactive. But that assumes that the comments on Robert Spencer’s diary site are published automatically, without an approval process by the moderator. They are not. Could it be the case that Spencer, who upon learning that the story was true, stopped approving the barrage of comments that likely came his way when the social media world became aware that it was fake? It really would be wonderful if Spencer would open up his comments section.
Also, anyone can look at previous pieces published by Spencer (that are active on the site) and see that the comments eventually die off and people move on to the next piece. Why would this be any different? Marc’s logic (the word logic is a REAL stretch here) would suggest that any piece that is not actively receiving comments after a given date is “inactive.” We know that’s not true.
Now: Why does Marc not address ANY of the statistical web data I showed? If the page was indeed taken down, why did web analytics show an active page, per the screenshots I have above? Surely they would not be able to pull up information for a page that did not exist and thus was not receiving an influx on bandwidth, views, or other traffic hits.
And what about the fact that the page appeared on my iPhone? Where is Marc’s explanation for that? Will he say, also, that my phone was showing a cached version of the site? Is every computer that inconveniently displayed the story before their eyes all of a sudden showing a cached version?
Lastly, and most importantly, Spencer has not answered why he ever posted this story in the first place — why he didn’t do thorough research, why he ever thought it was plausible to cite a website called “Blazing Cat Fur,” why he didn’t take 3 minutes to verify its accuracy, or confer with other news media sources to verify that it indeed happened.
Imagine if a university professor cited “Blazing Cat Fur” in the endnotes of a book manuscript or an academic paper? Imagine, for that matter, if a high school student cited it in a term paper. Would it be accepted? The answer is: No.
There’s a reason for this: Robert Spencer swallows up anything that represents Muslims in a possibly negative light, and his uncontrollable urge to garble up this hoax and run it on his site without evidence demonstrates that clearly.
I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me earlier to use the EXACT same damning piece of evidence that Marc, Robert’s “tech guy,” coughed up: Google cache. I typed the web address for the article in question into Google Cache and received this:
This is a full-page screenshot using a PC. Note that the date in the bottom right reads: “5/19/2014″ and the time is “4:44PM.” Note that in the cache description at the TOP of the image above, the following text appears:
“It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on May 18, 2014 02:43:16 GMT”
Contrary to Robert and Marc’s claims, the “Login to Comment” and “Sign Up For Our Daily Digest” do NOT appear bold, and there IS a faint line that divides them. This means that yesterday, the page looked exactly as it did above. This clearly indicates that Robert and/or Marc adjusted the sidebar in an effort to conceal the fact that Spencer lied about not removing the page.
It’s always wonderful when tactics of Islamophobes give you good ideas for evidence to use against them. Thank you, Marc, for the Google Cache tip. It really was the final nail in the coffin!