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Twisting the truth Toronto Star-style

The Toronto Star tried a drive-by smear of The Black Rod Saturday, but wound up shooting themselves in both feet.

The Star has invested a lot of capital in attacking the Conservatives for ejecting nonthreatening, non-partisan students from campaign rallies. The MSM has tagged it a bubble campaign and declared it demonstrates Stephen Harper's over-controlling personality.

Imagine the consternation at the Star when The Black Rod broke their bubble and exposed the poster boy of the tossed students, Izzy Hirji, as a lad with a past that would have interested anyone doing security for the Conservative Party leader.

He not only once posted a comment on Facebook that could be construed as a threat to Stephen Harper, saying he was ready to go to Ottawa "an take him down", but he later participated in a protest that harassed people attending a Conservative rally, and he regretted not having joined a politically motivated publicity stunt (a "strip mob") put on by the same people responsible for a get-out-the-youth "vote mob" just prior to Harper's speech.

Within 24 hours, another blogger uncovered an NDP link to the poster girl of the ejected students, Awish Aslam, who had insisted to reporters she belonged to no political party and was only listening to the party leaders before deciding who got her vote.

(She's since admitted she was an NDP volunteer in the last election.)

The media myth of mean security guards giving the bums rush to sweet, innocent students who were only looking to be engaged in the political process cracked like the ice on the Red River.

Toronto Star reporter Joanne Smith had written a story weaving the stories of Hirji and Aslam into a broader look at how young, often first-time, voters feel alienated from politics.

"Do they become more active — and angry — or do they withdraw, getting the message their engagement is not wanted?

“I think it’s very disheartening,” said Hirji."

She hadn't yet realized the irony of her words, that some of the students who were bumped, and the organizers of the "non-partisan" vote mob, were members of environmental groups that were just as political as political Parties even though they weren't running for office themselves.

She quoted Hirji heavily, and Green Party leader Elizabeth May, without mentioning (if she knew) that Hirji was a Green Party member.

With the political blogosphere chiding her for her failure to report the political backgrounds of Hirji and Aslam, Smith needed to resuscitate her story.

On Friday, Joanne Smith phoned the two thorns in her side, Small Dead Animals and The Black Rod. We don't know how the exchange went with Kate at SDA but here Smith spent a lot of energy defending her account of why Hirji got turfed.

The vote mob went to great pains to be non-partisan, she insisted. Nobody knew they were involved in the Strip Mob. Security personnel tossed Hirji because he was in the get-out-the-youth demo, not because they saw his Facebook comment or knew his involvement in an earlier protest against Harper, she argued.

Sez who, we asked. Do you know different, she said. Nope.

But any security detail worth its salt would know who was involved in the Vote Mob and would know they were behind the Strip Mob ... and might even run the rather unusual name of Izzy Hirji on the Internet to see what pops up.

You have no credibility, she said.

Google "Lesley Hughes black rod", we replied.

We earned all the political cred we need with our story during the last election of a long-forgotten (except by us) article that got Liberal candidate Hughes in dutch with leader Stephane Dion and created a one-day firestorm.

Including, we note, two stories in the Toronto Star following our story.

Joanne Smith's piece ran Saturday.
But it was later in the day that she hit the paydirt for the Star. She plopped this "revelation" into her blog.

UPDATE: Sean Ledwich, a freelance journalist in Winnipeg, notes the original Facebook post included an "lol" at the end, presumably to indicate Hirji was joking (which is an important bit of context). The Black Rod left that out, but McMillan included a screen shot in her post on the subject. It appeared Thursday night the original Facebook comment had been deleted, but Ledwich found it in a Google cache result on Friday.

Smith was obviously implying The Black Rod misled readers by selectively quoting Hirji out of context.

"The Black Rod left that out." she wrote.

Except that we didn't. Smith, we fear, had never bothered to actually read the story about Hirji in The Black Rod. Otherwise how could she get it so wrong?

We highlighted the most relevant part of Hirji's Facebook comment -- the part that could be considered as a threat. We then linked to the actual Facebook page where the comment appears, so people could read the entire comment in context. And then, in paragraph three, we specifically referenced to what readers would have seen for themselves on Facebook:

"Maybe 3 months ago, before Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head at a political rally by a schizophrenic gunman, you would see the "lol" at the end of the comment and the date (2006) and put it in the crank file."

There was no attempt to hide the "lol". We deliberately drew attention to it.

We even returned to it four paragraphs before the end:
"How serious to take his threat to "go to Ottawa myself an take him down...", "lol" notwithstanding?"

The Black Rod left that out? No, we cited it TWICE.

Smith writes that the Facebook comment has been deleted "but Ledwich found it in a Google cache result on Friday." Was that a cheap shot at The Black Rod for allegedly sending people to a site that wasn't there? We had nothing to do with deleting the Facebook comment in question.

And why would an innocuous comment be deleted, anyway?

If it was innocuous.

And you should be more careful of your sources.

Sean Ledwich would do better picking up chicks by calling himself a freelance astronaut or freelance firefighter. His byline has appeared once in a while, here and there, but he's known more as an environmental activist (now, where have we heard that term before?) who once argued that all the roofs in Winnipeg should be painted white to reflect the sun.

You got snookered by a "green", again, Toronto Star.

And for the record...

The third non-partisan student cited prominently for getting the heave-ho from a Harper rally was Joanna MacDonald, a fourth-year environmental sciences student at Guelph University.

“I was told the RCMP had done a screening and that perhaps my name was affiliated with something on Facebook or the Internet,” MacDonald told the Star. “Something that made me unfit to enter. They wouldn’t say what it was.”

MacDonald says she has never been affiliated with any political party. Nor has she participated in any anti-government or anti-Conservative rallies.

“I was shocked. This had never happened to me before, so I didn’t really know how to deal with it.”

When she pressed officials further, she was asked if she had ever been involved with any on-campus clubs. When MacDonald replied that she had been involved with various environmental groups — including one advocating for the removal of bottled water from the university grounds — she said the official responded, saying: “Well, that’s probably why.”


It was more likely participating in the sit-in at Copenhagen in 2009.
"December 16, 2009
Copenhagen, Denmark – At 5:00pm today, during the opening of the high level segment of this year’s international climate change negotiations, a group of approximately 30 international youth staged a sit-in, refusing to leave the talks until a fair, ambitious, and legally binding treaty was reached. The group included young people from both developed and developing nations, including 10 Canadians."

Concurrently protesters occupied Stephen Harper's constituency office in Calgary, demanding he either agree to clamp down on global warming or resign.

Joanna MacDonald was inspired by Cophenhagen protests and she wrote about it.
From Copenhagen to Cancun: Words can hurt
Posted on December 1, 2010 by joannamacdonald08
Joanna MacDonald


If that statement wasn’t enough, the claim that Canada’s 17% target is “ambitious” was like a bullet to the chest. Honestly? Do you actually believe that Mr. St. Jacques? Speaking of understanding, I have yet to understand how our negotiator can say that a death sentence is ambitious. It is also nothing new… this behaviour is extremely predictable and consistent. It’s words like this that remind me why I’m here… to push back when nonsense spouts out the mouth of those who represent me!

Joanna Macdonald is a member of the executive committee of the Sierra Youth Coalition, the youth arm of the Sierra Club of Canada.

On their Facebook site you will find a poll on "What issue is the most important for you this election."

There are a dozen choices. The top three vote-getters:
Get Rid of Harper
Net Neutrality

Nope, nobody would think they were political. Would they?

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