'Hoaxmap' hits back at newspaper myths about refugees

by Jane Whyatt
In Germany online readers who spot misleading articles are creating their own coverage on social media. A Twitter user named only as ‘Karolin’ is creating a ‘hoaxmap’ of inaccurate reports about refugees and asylum seekers being involved in crimes such as rape and shoplifting. A hoax is a deliberately misleading or false news report, created and placed in order to suit a particular political viewpoint.

Hoaxmap Hoaxmap shows where the inaccurate reports about refugees and asylum seekers come from (Screenshot:

‘Karolin’s’ map was published in the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Questioned by the newspaper’s reporter, Karolin said she started the map to counter the ‘lying press (Lügenpresse)’ narrative. This is a political view - widespread in Germany - that the mainstream media lie and cover up negative stories about refugees in order to support the government’s immigration policy. It is the subject of ECPMF’s fact-finding mission about
threats to journalists and press freedom in Germany. “Lügenpresse” is a deeply offensive term coined by Hitler’s propaganda chief Goebbels in the 1930s to describe the Nazi regime’s conspiracy theory about Jewish media owners.

Since the events of New Year’s Eve 2016 in Cologne, when a crowd of young men of Arab origin sexually assaulted women who were out celebrating, dozens of similar news stories have appeared in the German press. But according to the hoaxmap creator, many are not based in fact.

Political correctness blamed in English cases

The exact opposite of the hoaxmap project is currently at work in the British press, where journalists are seeking to reveal the true extent of real crimes committed by groups of men with Muslim and Pakistani heritage.

Over the past two years English newspapers and police forces have been accused of covering up sexual crimes against teenage white girls and women by men from Asian communities. Now court cases and independent inquiries in Rotherham (link to pdf) and Oxford (link to pdf) have revealed the extent of the abuse and the cover-ups. Some commentators, for example Chris Boycott writing in the Daily Express about the latest child sex trial in Keighley, blame ‘political correctness’ - in other words the desire of editors and police forces to appear positive about ethnic minorities and to avoid any potential allegation of racism (more).

The English press is also under fire from supporters of the new leader of the opposition, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. A veteran left-wing MP, he has been accused in newspapers including the Sun and the Daily Mail of extremism, disrespect to the Queen and scruffy appearance.

Corbyn’s response has been to use social media and email to contact  Labour voters, rather than talking to newspaper and TV journalists. Since the latest YouGov survey reveals that the UK media is the most right-wing in Europe, this is a logical move.

One of his supporters, dubbed ‘Corbynistas’ by the right-wing papers, is Declan Seachoy. He runs Corbyn Media Watch, a Facebook community that shares alternative coverage of the Labour leader.

It is devoted to the leader of the Opposition, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn but Seachoy says it is not connected to the party nor to Corbyn’s political staff.

Interviewed by ECPMF, Seachoy said he started the posts when Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader. “Corbyn was speaking at a rally that was completely packed out, and there were hundreds of people outside the hall who couldn’t get in. I can’t remember when any politician has attracted that level of support in recent times. Yet it wasn’t reported in the mainstream press” he says.

Declan Seachoy created a meme to show Facebook followers how Labour party membership has tripled under Corbyn. He posts videos of the leader in action in the House of Commons.

And he also reports stories which – he claims – are suppressed by editors because they reflect badly on the Conservative government.

An example is the case of a mother, Frances McCormack, whose son hanged himself in his bedroom. This meant that she had an empty bedroom and was therefore obliged to pay the ‘bedroom tax’, a fee charged to social housing tenants who have more bedrooms in their homes than residents.

Under-reported in the right-wing media. Share to ensure her story is more widely known:

Posted by Corbyn: Media Watch on Samstag, 23. Januar 2016

In despair, she took her own life in the same way, addressing her suicide note to the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron whose government introduced the new tax..

Seachoy says he takes care to check all his facts, using research skills he acquired in his recent studies in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Manchester University. And if he posts anything inaccurate, his followers are quick to point it out  “I used a picture of a man who had been shot by police in a drugs raid, and his sister-in-law got in touch right away to correct the story, saying that no drugs were found.” With 18,000 Fb followers he gets plenty of corrections and suggestions, and admits that taking care of the accuracy of his posts is becoming almost at full-time job.

The Corbyn Media Watch curator hopes that he is helping the Labour leader he admires. He insists that he tries to post responsibly so as to avoid causing the party any embarrassment. But he admits that  - although they met briefly during the leadership election – Jeremy Corbyn probably does not even know he exists.