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If the facts don’t fit, make up some shit

Posted on November 24, 2013 by

We apologise both for the slightly uncouth language in that headline and the mangling of an infamous phrase from the 1995 OJ Simpson murder trial.


But it’s hard to reasonably appraise the conduct of Scotland’s two supposed “quality” newspapers this weekend with regard to the Yes Scotland email hacking incident without using expletives, and that’s just about the mildest level of comment we could muster about the naked lies both have told the Scottish public.

Here, for example, is the opening paragraph from the piece in yesterday’s Scotsman reporting the preliminary findings of the police investigation:

“Police investigating claims that the Yes campaign had been the victims of an IT security breach have concluded that accessing the organisation’s material was “not the primary motive of the culprit”.”

You’ll notice that that extract appears to contain a quote from the police. But read a little further and you’ll find the ACTUAL quote has been subtly edited:

“Detective Superintendent Steven Wilson said: “Police Scotland has investigated a complaint regarding unauthorised access to a private email account where communications with Yes Scotland were illegally accessed.

Inquiries to date have revealed no indication the access of this material was the primary motive of the culprit.””

Our emphasis both times. Did you spot it, readers? In the blink of an eye, the police’s opinion – which was that they had no proof either way about the main motives of the unidentified culprit – has somehow become a categorical statement, presented in quotation marks, that their purpose definitely WASN’T trying to hack Yes Scotland.

We normally try to couch our analysis in more detached terms, but there’s no way of describing that as anything but complete fabrication and misrepresentation by the paper. It’s the equivalent of reporting a Not Proven verdict in a Scottish court case as a Not Guilty finding – it’s simply not true, and it’s seriously not true at that. If they did it about an actual court case they’d be rightly pilloried.

But shockingly, the piece – which carries no byline – merely apes an equally untruthful report in the Herald by Robbie Dinwoodie on the same day.

“Three-month probe fails to find evidence Yes Scotland emails were hacked”, runs the Herald’s headline, and bizarrely it opens with a totally different, yet every bit as false, report of the police findings.

“Police have found no evidence that Yes Scotland’s emails were illegally hacked following a probe into the allegations.

The national force made the announcement yesterday, three months after its officers were called in by Blair Jenkins, the pro-independence group’s chief executive, to investigate.

Which would be all very well, except it then goes on to quote the exact same statement from Detective Superintendent Steven Wilson the Scotsman used, which doesn’t say that at all.

“Detective Superintendent Steven Wilson said in a statement: “Police ­Scotland has investigated a complaint regarding unauthorised access to a private email account where communications with Yes Scotland were illegally accessed.

Inquiries to date have revealed no indication the access of this material was the primary motive of the culprit.””

Correct us if we’re wrong, but that isn’t “failing to find evidence that Yes Scotland emails were hacked”. Indeed, it appears to be the exact opposite – it seems to state quite explicitly that the emails WERE hacked, but that the police haven’t yet identified the offender or their motivation.

The two articles aren’t absolutely identical, but they’re very similar – Scotland On Sunday actually cites the Herald as the source of the quote from a “Better Together” spokesman. We suspect both are fluffed-up expansions of something taken from a newswire. What’s completely bewildering is that both have independently spun the story into something that’s unequivocally untrue.

Having that happen once, in one publication, could have been dismissed as a sloppy hack in a hurry. Having two different newspapers tell completely different lies based on the same source material on the same day… well, we’ve said enough already.

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    61 to “If the facts don’t fit, make up some shit”

    1. Andrew Morton says:

      They along with the rest of the Better Together cohorts have obviously been reading this book:

    2. Bugger (the Panda) says:

      Tell me the published version hasn’t been written by a No hack and circulated for adaptation by individual journalists.

      Either lazy or overloaded journalism and either way it saves more time for the boozer.

      Just finished reading Damian McBride’s version of his life as Gordon Brown’s press manipulator and attack dog. Very revealing in that he was regularly writing the hacks pieces for them, sometimes only for one or more often from them generally, so they only needed to change wee bits here and there, if they wanted to.

    3. muttley79 says:

      I am not surprised at all with the Scotsman’s coverage, lets be honest it is not a newspaper anymore, it is existing purely to support the No campaign and the British state.  It is a propaganda sheet.  I am surprised at Robbie Dinwoodie though.  What has happened to him?  I thought he used to be a respected reporter. 

    4. Juteman says:

      I was pretty shocked when I read that story in The Herald yesterday. It’s one of the worst cases i’ve seen of the headline bearing no resemblance to the story.

      OBE seemed to like it though.

    5. Roboscot says:

       I am surprised at Robbie Dinwoodie though.  What has happened to him?  I thought he used to be a respected reporter.’ 
      Mutley – As I understand it, reporters don’t tend to write the headlines of their articles, so Dinwoodie might not be too happy with the headline either.

    6. Geoff Huijer says:

      Isn’t it time newspapers were pulled up on blatant untruths?
      It’s all very well Stu having to do it all the time (patience of a Saint btw),
      but some official watchdog. Oops how niaive of me! How would we get
      our ‘Unionist’ propaganda if there were a watchdog?

    7. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “As I understand it, reporters don’t tend to write the headlines of their articles, so Dinwoodie might not be too happy with the headline either.”

      That doesn’t get him out of responsibility for the opening line:

      “Police have found no evidence that Yes Scotland’s emails were illegally hacked following a probe into the allegations.”

    8. Barontorc says:

      So it’s the subs and the editor who paint the colour of the paper’s opinion door and the poor hacks just cry into their coffee? I thought these journo guys were pretty tough hombres?
      Must be interesting at morning meetings.

    9. benarmine says:

      I read these yesterday and was equally confused, especially as both specifically quote that mail WAS illegally accessed. Only if and when the police find who it was will we know how malicious or not it was.

    10. Les Wilson says:

      As they are are not representing the Police correctly, is it not for the Police to put this right? By making what they said Publicly repeated making it abundantly clear that the account WAS hacked. To be quiet about it is sinister.

    11. Graeme Purves says:

      If the police consider that there was a “culprit” then some sort of unauthorised access took place.  That makes The Herald’s headline and Dinwoodie’s opening line plain wrong.

      Whether deliberately or carelessly misleading, it reflects very badly on the paper.

    12. mogabee says:

       Lie or hack, seems that newspaper journos don’t much care anymore.

    13. Jimmuckmc says:

      I don’t see much of a future for these so called Scottish newspapers
      post independence their conduct has been disgraceful
      thank god for social media and sites like yours

    14. Triangular Ears says:

      By stating the exact opposite of what the police have actually said, could this not be argued as obstructing the police?  It could stop people coming forward if they think that the police no longer regard the incident as being a crime.
      Maybe they should be made aware of how they are being misrepresented.

    15. Gray says:

      The Scottish MSM .. Serving Scotland .. to Westminster in handy bite size pieces

    16. Iain says:

      New Panelbase out, pretty static I think.

    17. Ken500 says:

      The culprit has been named.

    18. Bunter says:

      Why do the papers try kid themselves that they still live in a time pre internet and social media. Have they not grasped that things have changed and that they can’t get away with misinformation such as above. Get a grip MSM, this isn’t Westminster yah boo politics, it’s a debate on the future of Scotland and the direction of travel. Give  us facts or face  the consequences when more and more people realise whats going on.

    19. gordoz says:

      O/T – Anyone know the score about a certain ProudScot cllr Bert Thomson / Blantyre ?
      Doug Daniel – maybe this is the journey to No ?

    20. Stuart Black says:

      The culprit has been named.

    21. Ken500 says:

      In an industry where phone and e-mail hacking was commonplace. Denial is expected.

    22. annie says:

      Am I being a bit thick or couldn’t the police go to the reporter who let the cat out of the bag in the first place – he must know where the info came from.  Surely protecting sources doesn’t come into it when a crime is being investigated.

    23. gordoz says:

      Where has the culprit been named ?

    24. annie says:

      People are believing these stories Jackson Carlaw has been quoted in the Post as saying Yes Scotland should be apologising for wasting 3 months of police time.

    25. thorbor says:

      Whats more interesting is project fears response to this
      They have read and understood the police’s statement but they still respond in a desperate it wisnae me it wis him thought projection type of response that sanwar would have been proud of
      Unless they just respond like this automatically  but I think theirs more to come

    26. Famous15 says:

      The full press release is sitting in the press book at Police Scotland HQ. Could someone phone and get it please. For personal reasons I prefer not to!

    27. gordoz says:

      O/T Jesus –
      Anyone wishing to interact with BT stormtroopers go here on facebook
      Vote NO to Scottish independence and protect the union
      Not a lot of brain cells going spare, lot of bile ( great deal of bile in fact ).
      Classy site

    28. Andy-B says:

      The key words here are enquires to date they (The press) may well be saying as far they know, their has been no indication of the accessing of material.
      Did Detective Superintendent, Steve Wilson actually say the words no indication or was it spun to make it look so.
      As you frequently point out Rev, reports of this nature, can’t be trusted, especially at first glance, interpretation is the key word here.

    29. Ken500 says:

      Named? Peterkins column ‘S’ ?

      Comments have been removed.

    30. Andrew Morton says:

      If you read the Herald headline, “Three-month probe fails to find evidence Yes Scotland emails were hacked”, it is strictly true. But highly misleading.
      It’s as though X stabbed and then bludgeoned Y to death. “No evidence that X stabbed Y to death!” says the Herald. Also true.

    31. Andrew Morton says:

      Could you stop speaking in riddles? For instance, I have no idea who or what Peterkin is.

    32. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “If you read the Herald headline, “Three-month probe fails to find evidence Yes Scotland emails were hacked”, it is strictly true.”

      I’m not at all sure that it is. The police statement seems to clearly and unambiguosly state that the offence took place, so presumably there’s evidence that it did. The fact that they haven’t established the perpetrator or motive doesn’t change that fact.

    33. Vronsky says:

      O/T but bothering me. I attended the Radical Independence Conference yesterday. Primary impression: if that’s the left, it’s waaaaay to the right.  One or two of the speeches would not have been out of place at a Better Together meeting.
      They even had some witless tits arguing about Rangers/Celtic, one of said tits being the chair of the session, holding the microphone, and ranting about all sorts of shit.  Scary.
      I won’t be back.

    34. Malc says:

      Think newspaper , think politics and you have him

    35. Jon D says:

      So we’re not talking about Tom Peterkin,
      Scottish Political Editor Scotland on Sunday/Scotsman. 

    36. Vincent McDee says:

      Vronsky, are you sure that tits can speak? Last time I checked they twittered.

      Oh! I see. You were just being misogynistic…or maybe titsogynistic, of course.

    37. proudscot says:

      Annie, Jackson Carlaw should be apologising to the Scottish taxpayers for taking their money in the form of his Holyrood salary and expenses under false pretences of being an effective MSP. Re this article, I see the pro-indy support is up to 38%, only 9 points behind the NO lot. Personally I think, given the attendance at the recent Radical turnout at their meeting, the pollsters must be centred around the Ibrox area and thus polling mainly the likes of the bigoted amoebas who featured in the video of the orange anti-SNP, anti-Salmond, anti independence neaderthals, whose most informed comments were “Ireland’s skint mate, that’s why they’re aw sleepin’ on the streets in Dublin mate!” and the classical political comment “Alex Salmond’s a granny shagger!”

    38. Ken500 says:

      No not Peterkin..

      It was a comment on a column. Can’t find it. The comments have been removed on Peterkin’s aka Jackson Carlaw story.

      If the Rev says it’s OK will give the name. It could be false. Just speculation. There is an Internet technology company under the name.

      Don’t want to get Wings in trouble.

      The journo’s could be involved, one phoned Yes Scotland with the information.

      Newsnetscotland has a story the culprit was threatening more leaked information,unless the investigation was drop. A nutter?

    39. gfaetheblock says:

      Whatever the truth of this, be it hack, leak or something else, there is something slightly amateurish about a senior figure in Yes using a personal email for campaign business. Unless I am  mistaken, are we not at the point of saying that no official Yes account was illegally accessed?

    40. Bugger (the Panda) says:

      nothing wrong with being A Granny Shagger, I do it often, not as often as I used to but, so far, no complaints.

    41. Ian Brotherhood says:

      @BTP –
      Pandas AND grannies? Michty me…

    42. annie says:

      Proudscot – agree totally I watched that video clip too I guess that’s one of the drawbacks of being a tolerant nation, we can only hope they eventually see the error of their ways.

    43. Bugger (the Panda) says:

      Ian B
      You should read the story about how I was baptised Bugger, and Gordon Brown’s father too!

    44. Ian Brotherhood says:

      @BTP –
      Sounds like ideal fodder for a heartwarming post.

    45. Linda's back says:

      One of my earliest political memories was as a teenager attending a Tory candidate’s election hustings and asking about Scottish independence in early 1974 after oil had been discovered to be told by the Grandee that I should look at Ireland where folk are going around in bare feet.  
      At the time I didn’t realise that the weather was so much better. 

    46. callum says:

      There’s little to no chance that Police Scotland will get to the bottom of the hacked emails – my own business specialises in this kind of forensic investigation.  Whilst I don’t have the details of this individual case and we’re not contracted by Police Scotland on this job, one of the pertinent facts was that only one account had been “hacked”.
      I imagine that YES Scotland did not have very good security controls around access, potentially only secured with a username/password (with no second factor “keyfob”).  The normal attack vectors for this kind of attack are:
      1: An attack on a third party site reveals usernames (email address) and passwords in clear text and the person who was hacked used the same password for their YES Scotland email and the third party website.  (e.g. perhaps a newspaper website?)
      2: The Yes Scotland individual used an insecure public internet connection (e.g. WiFi) and the details were transmitted in the clear (i.e. not encrypted) when the email was being downloaded/viewed etc.
      3: The Yes Scotland individual was being watched whilst they entered their password, a la “Shoulder Surfing”
      4: the Yes Scotland individual had their account brute-forced by a password guesser – i.e. they hadn’t chosen a very good password and that the Yes Scotland email system didn’t have basic intrusion protection services running. 
      5: Compromised laptop/phone, were credentials were stored on the device and revealed by spyware, malware etc.
      Where (1) and (5) are by far the most likely.   All of these type of attacks are being carried out 24x7x365, one of my clients has a quarter of a million attacks like this every year and tracing each and every one of them typically leads to a black hole of “open proxy”, “ToR” and foreign servers.
      Following up on a case like this will be almost impossible of Yes Scotland were not recording access logs and had counter measures in place to detect such attacks.

    47. handclapping says:

      Reading Iain’s linked piece from the London Standard was interesting. I think it lacked something and I wonder if anybody else spotted the same thing missing?

    48. Bugger (the Panda) says:

      Which link?

    49. Alastair Naughton says:

      In the comments following the article in one of the above (better not mention which one!) I mentioned that the headline was “grossly misleading” in that the emails WERE in fact hacked, just that evidence had not been turned up of an organised plot, and that BT should be careful when issuing missives about wasting police time, given that 
      1: a crime had been committed, and
      2: BT themselves played pretty fast and loose with the law and were thus in no position to lecture anyone on who or what the police should investigate. 
      My comment got several votes up, and then suddenly disappeared. Shortly afterwards I got a “Final Warning” email from the moderator, saying that I had publicly criticised the brand in a public forum, which fell foul of the rules, which was a gross waste of the moderator’s time, and if I didn’t promise in writing to desist immediately he would simply close down my account.  Given how misleading the headline was, I replied, promised as required not to publicly criticise the brand again on a public forum, but stood by my complaint re. the headline as it was misleading, and wanted to know who I should address my complaint to. The moderator replied saying he had re-read the headline and the article 3 times and, although he was not ultimately responsible, found NO ISSUE WORTHY OF COMPLAINT (my emphasis). Can you believe it? He still hasn’t told me who I should complain to, and I figure for the sake of having a voice on the forum, I’d better just leave it at that. I re-posted my original response, simply omitting the bit about the misleading headline, and it is still there. Hey ho! 

    50. handclapping says:

      from 3:28

    51. Bugger (the Panda) says:

      @ handclapping
      I read it and thought I had done so before. Then I realised that it was templated throughout the inky fingers press.
      Tell me that the Better Together hired liars are not writing these articles for free and other favours?

    52. handclapping says:

      No the thing that got me is there is no, NO, comment from Bitter n Twisted.
      I analyse it as figures, only 5%, other questions, Panelbase MD, Prof Poultice, BlairJ; now I could take that from our Scottish media. I might even buy/pay for it!

    53. cath says:

      “Having two different newspapers tell completely different lies based on the same source material on the same day… well, we’ve said enough already
      The image I immediately get in my head is of two kids with chocolate covered mouths standing by an empty cookie jar both similatniously saying “the dog ate them”!
      Can’t think why that image comes to mind at all.
      In an entirely unrelated question, if you think there’s a bit of “me thinks he doth protest too much” going on, would it be fair to conclude the person shouting most loudly and hysterically may have a reason?

    54. I highlighted the OJ trial previously, as similarities between Cochran’s defence and the ‘No’ campaign are spooky.
      Some of you may recognise the description of the ‘Chewbacca defence’.

    55. Doug Daniel says:

      The Scotsman story is just flat-out lies, but I think the Herald one is more a case of using the truth to create a false impression – the kind of thing McColm is such an expert at (it’s a wonder he didn’t pen it).
      The police are saying that it was a private email account communicating with Yes Scotland that was accessed. So it’s technically correct to say that Yes Scotland’s emails weren’t hacked, because they weren’t – it was a Gmail or Hotmail or something. In fact, their statement doesn’t even say it was the emails of a Yes Scotland employee, merely someone in communications with them. It could even have been Eliot Bulmer himself that was hacked for all we know.
      So Dinwoodie’s paragraph there would seem to be technically correct. But the overall tone of the article leads the reader to believe that no crime was actually committed here, which is wrong – the police are actually confirming that the unauthorised access of emails connected to Yes Scotland took place. It’s just a shame they’ve said it in such a way as to give the media an excuse to misrepresent the facts.
      Oh well, at least the Sunday edition is honest.

    56. Patrick Roden says:

      The story is no longer the fact that the ‘culprit’ hacked a computer, the story is that someone from the BT side hacked a computer and when he Yes found out they called the police.
      The culprit then attempted to blackmail senior members of Yes including Nichola Sturgeon that he would reveal information he had gleaned from the hack, if they/she did not tell the police to drop the police investigation.
      This is blackmail as well as ‘interfering in a police investigation.
      Very serious charges.
      When you consider just how many separate investigations and probes into the behaviour of Labour politicians and associates that are going on right now, it just leads to the overall impression of a party that’s completely out of control and that is willing to take part in criminal and illegal activity in pursuit of its goal of power (ie getting their snouts back in the trough.
      I despise the Labour Party, something I couldn’t have said at the beginning of the referendum campaign.  

    57. Ken500 says:

      Looks like it’s a disgruntled ex employee. The journo’s could be involved because they used the information, without checking how it was obtained. That’s why they are downplaying the story.

      The MSM want tb right to freedom of speech, but want to censor everyone else.

    58. Graham Ennis says:

      When the Hootsmon finally goes bust, after Independence, the old building HQ in Edinburgh should be turned into a Brothel.At least, that way, th public will be getting some satisfaction, and what they actually paid for, instead of British Imperialist propaganda…

    59. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

      “The culprit then attempted to blackmail senior members of Yes including Nichola Sturgeon that he would reveal information he had gleaned from the hack, if they/she did not tell the police to drop the police investigation.”

      Oh, is THAT what Kenny Farquharson was going on about on Twitter last night? I wondered.

    60. RoryD says:

      As an aside, I emailed the Herald editor last Friday with a complaint about Political Editor Magnus Gardham’s ongoing lack of impartiality/ lack of depth of scrutiny – as an editor rather than a columnist – as he is increasingly  spoiling The Herald for me.

      The editor Magnus Llewellin got back to me this evening (I’m impressed he did so) to explain that “our columnists are given a free rein to put their thoughts and observations down in print and I think Mr Gardham does this extremely well. As our Scottish Political Editor,, his primary role is to hold the current Scottish Government to account and this focus is, unsurprisingly, reflected in the column he writes“.

      So I now know i) there’s actually no difference between a columnist and an editor, and ii) that The Herald’s Scottish Political Editor has been given a very similar primary role to that of Labour in the Scottish Parliament.
      Keep up the good work, Wings.

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