By Dele Collins
In African cosmology, and in communities where the practice of voodooism is predominant and worshipped, the dance of the spirits is dreaded. On the night spirits decide to stage their festival in the world of darkness, those who have wronged the gods or committed abominable acts in the community relish the whole day in drabby mood. The carnival of dance of the spirits spares no culprit. It has no empathy for those who have incurred her wrath.
Therefore, the Lekki Toll Gate incident and its aftermath has invited the dance of the spirits. The action is already on course and the spirits are spiritedly haunting for the crafters, purveyors, promoters and disseminators of fake news on an imagined shooting and “massacre” of #EndSARS protesters at Lekki by soldiers. The spirits are after the masterminds of conjured and publicized offensive tales, wails and howls over imaginary bloodbath in the land, whilst the gods sighted none.
Apostles of fake news or junk journalism in Nigeria are the god’s greatest offenders. In 1996, a columnist with Washington Post, Robert J. Samuelson wrote a fascinating article on junk journalism titled “Junk Journalism 101.” In it, he aptly knocked junk journalism’s de-esteeming professional aura “… because it fails the basic test of journalistic integrity and competence: It does not strive for truthfulness, however impossible that ideal is to attain….”
Yet, in local parlance, others brand it as “Jakara” journalism, which entails the media’s repetition of fresh lies to cover old deceptions in a running story. The Cable News Network (CNN), the American based, international cable news station has consciously fallen into the pit of junk journalism while plying its trade in Nigeria.
Ideally, one would think, the CNN is peopled by hard-core professionals based on its international clout. Outwardly, one is tempted to believe there is every reason for the egghead media professionals in CNN to strive to heal the world with its reportage of global events, rather than render itself as powerful instruments of human destruction or weapons in the hands of subverts.
But such noble assumptions on CNN have proven to be misdirected, or wrongly super-imposed on the medium, particularly, in the latest instance of soldiers alleged shooting incident at the Lekki Toll Gate in Nigeria. CNN has disgracefully and dishonorably entered its name on the inglorious list of media houses around the world, which tell new lies to justify previous lies.
It’s recent investigative report in its edition of November 18, 2020, on the alleged Lekki “massacre” has regrettably ingrained CNN’s identity in the dishonorable “Hall of Fame,” as merchants of fake news and agents of global mercantile journalism. Therefore, when the FGN touted CNN for “irresponsible reporting” on the sloppy and jaundiced latest investigative report, the CNN retorted on its website through a spokesperson and insisted standing by the contents of its report.
The CNN’s spokesman e-mailed that “Our reporting was carefully and meticulously researched, and we stand by it.” It resists wisdom that the CNN’s report fraught with such shameful professional errors, vile propaganda, inconsistencies and inaccuracies could be described by authors as “carefully and meticulously researched.” Such corporate assertion in the face of grave official malfeasance is laughable in every sense. It was by every indication a mere posture of grandstanding to save face and embarrassment.
The managers of the CNN cannot dispute the embarrassingly obvious lacunas and influenced defects in the report. CNN claimed it had interviewed a dozen or multiple eyewitness to the Lekki incident. However, the latest report indicated that CNN spoke to only 12 persons in all; six of them were not eye witnesses, but either third parties who retold the story or government officials far detached from the scene of the incident; so, could not have qualified under any categorization as eyewitnesses.
In truth, CNN played out the disjointed accounts of a mere six eyewitnesses, and some, with very vague identities, which by every stretch of imagination is also not what semantically qualified it as a dozen eye witnesses. The antics by CNN is to create the impression that it did a thorough work to compel a tricked public believability in its report and very -similitude of truth.
And the tenor of the CNN report overly indicated that the news agency dabbled into the local partisanship in Nigeria. While it mentioned two names of the eyewitnesses, CNN decided to conceal the identity or full identities of the other four under the guise of their safety; but not because the eye witnesses demanded for anonymity. Does it mean, the CNN’s exposed full identities are not threatened by Government or the Government has penciled down names of those to threaten or overlook?
CNN stretched the malicious propaganda against Government, its targeted villain further by saying, “Several eyewitnesses have fled the country, while others are living in safe houses. Some told CNN they were offered money to recant their initial testimonies. CNN has seen some of the messages received, though it is unclear who is sending them.”
It is surprising that an international news medium condescended into petty local politics and sentiments in reporting a sensitive or controversial incident by clearly taking sides. These aspects of the report only blend with the vague imaginations of the CNN correspondents.
So, CNN employed sensitive clickbaits in the report carefully crafted to enliven public anger and possibly, re-energize the violently destructive protests by pro-#EndSARS campaigners. It is a message it cleverly passed through narrations like; “The videos capturing some of those 101 minutes tell a story of terror and chaos. They show graphic injuries and people bleeding on the ground.”
But none of the videos it released showed anything near the gores CNN has painted in the narrations. It is a deliberately false report, devoid of distinction between verified factual information and partisan commentaries of protagonists of the #EndSARS protesters.
And CNN’s self-contradictions and inconsistencies continued “In several of the videos, reviewed and verified by CNN, some of the protesters can be seen carrying bodies, the flashlights on their phones, the only thing illuminating the darkness as the sound of ambulance sirens wail in the background. It is not known whether these were dead or injured protesters.”
Ironically, the multiple eyewitnesses CNN claimed to have interviewed suddenly lost retentive memories to clearly intimate the medium on whether it was dead bodies or those who sustained gunshots wounds that were ferried away by the ambulances and to what location in the city.
And in another breathe, the report’s inconsistency says; Multiple eyewitnesses told CNN that ambulances were prevented from reaching the scene by the authorities.” The gist of ambulances ferrying some persons CNN could not identify through eyewitnesses whether it is dead or the injured; suddenly, morphed into the dry narration that ambulances were prevented from “reaching the scene by the authorities?”
Undeterred, CNN which was desperate to complete the assignment borrowed the discredited narrative of Amnesty International (AI) by proclaiming that “However, about 10 days into the protests, the demonstrations were hijacked by “thugs and sponsored hoodlums” who attacked protesters, causing deaths and injuries.” It sounded as if either AI or CNN registered the identities of the genuine #EndSARS protesters with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Nigeria and therefore, could detect its infiltration with hoodlums and miscreants.
For the promoters of fictitious tales of “massacre” at Lekki Tool Gate, with CNN report as the worthiest evidence, Bala Ibrahim, a public affairs commentator has provided interesting analytical insights, where he pooh-poohed CNN’s so-called investigative documentary; “Using some unproven and “miraculous” methodology, Nima (Elbagir) said they (protesters) were able to see shots, long before the bullets were fired. She said, “we could see shots, and at exactly 6.43pm, we started hearing gun fire”. It’s either Nima is in concert with those firing the shots, or there is something sinister she is not sharing out.”
It added; “Nima or the CNN relied on the accuracy of their camera to get the time, but they couldn’t avail the public with reliable pictures of the multiple casualties from those bizarre bullets. Without giving any evidence of geolocation, showing the tracking or the movements of the bullets with respect to the exact location of the protesters, Nima disputed the position of the military, that said they only fired blank bullets into the air to disperse the crowd. Nima simply flashed the pictures of some fireworks, as proof of direct shooting at the crowd by the military, relying, ridiculously on the live streaming of “DJ Switch”, a Nigerian celebrity, activist and co-sponsor of the protest.”
Like the title of Nigeria’s prolific novelist, Chinua Achebe’s essay, “The Trouble With Nigeria, ” the real trouble with most Nigerians today is the gullibility and penchant of accepting the least subs-standard foreign things as perfect. It should trouble every Nigerian that CNN should package this sort of garbage in a report and still adamantly classify it as meticulous and professional.
But a foundation had been laid by the CNN in its October 23, 2020 report on same Lekki shootings. In the report, CNN claimed soldiers shot and killed 38 protestors at Lekki. But in its return trip, it can’t even justify death of three persons in the report. Yes, initially, they sold contaminated rice to Nigerians, but on one complained; rather, some Nigerians rapaciously ate it because of the passion for everything foreign. Today, CNN is out in a mercantile manner to force on Nigeria another narrative even when the eyes cannot sight something different from the subsisting reality.
But unfortunately, the dance of the spirits which torments those that have wronged the gods is tormenting CNN because of its past roles in nations where it used fake report to destabilize countries. In Iraq, Libya, and scores of other countries in Africa have felt the fangs of CNN. Africa appears to be its most fertile ground and CNN is desperate to add Nigeria on the list. Quite obviously, the blood of the innocent is chasing CNN. It is because CNN has lost its professionalism and credibility by enlisting into the league of Jakara journalism.
Collins wrote this piece from Yale College, USA.