The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The #FakeNews champion of Winnipeg mimics the Master

Sometimes stories for The Black Rod get loaded and ready to go, only to be sidetracked by server problems. Since timing is everything, unless the problem is solved quickly, the stories get dumped.

But sometimes, we get lucky.  And we can salvage one of those stories. Like today. 

 Winnipeg columnist Dan Lett's latest screed against Donald Trump  ended with this snippet of Lett wisdom:

"There is so much fake news floating around the interweb that it is becoming more and more difficult to discern real, professionally produced news from that which seeks to debase and derail democratic exercises and institutions."

We can't resist. 
 Back in November we addressed another of Lett's hare-brained columns but he's now made what we wrote more relevant than ever:
(originally written Nov. 20, 2016)
Amazing. Simply amazing.

With media circles throughout North America awash with debate and commentary over the role that so-called 'fake news' played in electing Donald Trump as President, the Winnipeg Free Press decided it was a perfect time to---wait for it---publish some fake news.

FP writer Dan Lett, wearing his 'Make the NDP Great Again' cap, cobbled together an attack on the new Progressive Conservative government for---wait for it--- making the NDP look bad.

"PCs love scandals so much they make them up" screamed the headline reflecting Lett's wild claim that the Tories got officials from the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission to lie to a Legislature committee to put the blame on the NDP for forcing the LCC to sign a lease, before the election they knew they would lose, to build the largest liquor store in the entire country in downtown Winnipeg.

You read that right.  Under the NDP's watch, the LC signed a binding lease for a 55,000 square foot "flagship" liquor mart , the largest in all of Canada, in the mega-million-dollar development known as True North Square.  Imagine a space that's 4 1/2 times the size of the Grant Park liquor store.

Liquor board chairwoman Polly Craik and CEO Peter Hak said the NDP "directed" the board to sign the lease and that they could find no documentation to support the decision - like a business plan.

Liar, liar pants on fire, said Dan Lett.  The Free Press had obtained "documents" as well as "additional information" from "sources close to the deal" which "confirm that planning for the new Liquor Mart was robust and completely out in the open."  

* The first sign of fake news is when the writer cites "documents" but fails to say what documents they are, to quote from the alleged documents, or to link to the supposed documents.  

*  The second sign is using anonymous sources to support the alleged information in the alleged documents. 

Uh, oh.

Now, everybody in town knows who the "sources close to the deal" are. They're undoubtedly the same 
"with intimate knowledge of the project" that Lett cites later in his story.  

We may not know them by name, but everyone knows Lett's sources are NDP hacks using him to discredit the Conservatives and forestall this and future NDP scandals.  

The immediate suspects are  Ron Lemieux, former Minister responsible for the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation;  Winston Hodgins, former President, Business Development, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries and Susan Olynik, former Vice President, Corporate Communications & Social Responsibility.

But back to the alleged documents.  Sadly, Lett tipped his hand when he wrote too transparently:

"Remarkably, when he was asked about the story, Pallister decided to double-down on the deception. He claimed the documentation obtained by the Free Press was not related to the True North project. Sources with intimate knowledge of the project said the concept outlined in the document described exactly what was agreed to between True North and MLL."

The "document" in question turns out to be an RFP -- request for proposal -- issued in January of 2015 seeking a consultant to (as described by an internet commenter in the know who calls himself CLLEW)  
" study the "feasibility" of a new liquor mart concept called "Liquor Mart Occasions", a store that incorporates a liquor store, along with space devoted to specialty foods, a brewery, lotto tickets and a conference room available for rental or special promotion."

The consultant studied the "feasibility" of the concept and Lett's 'sources with intimate knowledge' said the flagship liquor mart was the concept applied. 

Lett wrote that  the planning was "completely out in the open." 

He expects readers to believe that everybody knew that leased space would be a "multi-faceted food-and drink hub with a large grocery store component."

Except that the True North news release mentioned nothing of the sort, only that the LC was on board for a "flagship liquor mart", whatever that was supposed to mean.  The Convention Centre knew more and told reporters  "Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries is expected to open a flagship liquor/food mart."  

There was talk of a grocery store planned for True North Square, but never in connection with the liquor mart. So even the, er, claim that everybody knew the details of the NDP's plan is fake.

Fake news supported by fake documents buffered by fake sources. 

Are we talking Dan Lett or Dan Rather?

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