Cloaked Website Blames Hispanic Group for California Wildfires

(This is a reblog from Thinking at the Interface.)


Linda Beyerstein at Majikthise (and via Alternet) and Katherine Zeleski at The Huffington Post are bringing attention to a website that they are referring to as a “hoax” site, but that I would argue is a “cloaked” site. And, I would argue that this is one of the prime examples of why the term “hoax” is inadequate and less accurate than “cloaked.” Let me explain the story in question and then make I’ll make my case for the term “cloaked.” Here’s the story, first reported by Zeleski (Oct.26):

At first look, “Separatists Claim Responsibility For California Wildfires” appears to be like any other story on CNN.com. The article claims that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger confirmed a radical Hispanic organization has taken responsibility for the fires that raged through southern California this week. The article even says there’s photographic proof “of individuals holding Molotov cocktails, then throwing them into dry brush.”


After the initial shock of the report, it then becomes obvious that it’s a hoax. To start with, the site’s URL is http://www.cnnheadlienews.com (note the headlie instead of headline). CNN’s url is cnn.com and the url for its sister network, Headline News, is http://www.cnn.com/HLN/.


Anti-immigrant websites picked up on the story and ran it as fact (follow this url). Before realizing it was a hoax, the author of the site “Americanandproud” declared, “I am going to wait until all the facts are in, but it appears the first major shot of the next Mexican/American war has just been fired.”


A domain name search for “cnnheadlienews” shows the site is registered to a company with a Nashville, Tennessee address called Bleachboy Heavy Manufacturing Concern. The website associated with Bleachboy, BBoy.net, is a homepage that cycles through four different logos. There’s no other information on the site except for a warning on sweatshop products, a note that says “thank you for the traffic,” and the ever-banal phrase, “spring is in the air.”



While this story, like Beyerstein’s, is useful for tipping off the unsuspecting to the disguised URL and the untruth of the story there, by calling it a “hoax” it relegates it to the universe of “fake news” and “truthiness” created by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and misses the hidden political agenda of such a site. As I’ve defined it, a cloaked website is:

“published by individuals or groups who conceal authorship in order to deliberately disguise a hidden political agenda.”



Although it’s not clear who the owner of “Bleachboy” and the fake “cnn” site, by choosing to target MECHA, a Hispanic group, I would argue that the creators of the site had a hidden white supremacist agenda. Using the term “hoax” doesn’t adequately describe this kind of deception, and therefore I think “cloaked” is a better, more accurate term.


These kinds of sites are even more disturbing when you look at them in light of some of the cognitive research on how people remember (or misremember) facts. Researchers found that false claims, if repeated, are remembered as true. (While there is some difference in this by age, the overall pattern seems to hold up.) This has tremendous implications for studying cloaked sites such as this one that publish false claims that are then repeated through the reverb chamber that is the blogosphere.

Comments

  1. Funny, You use my “Wait until the facts are in…” and call it racism.
    I put up a post, said I was duped, called it a hoax, but no mention of that little detail…Oh that’s right you are liberals, the facts don’t ever get in the way of a good story.

    Just call folks racist, then thats the end of it… Not here clowns, I couldn’t care less if you call me a racist, I am ANTI-ILLEGAL border jumping, ruining our already dismal education system, and filling our streets full of street thugs Immigrants… Call it what you will, but if you think YOUR view is prevailing, just wait till election day, there is a HUGE tidal wave coming and you folks are going to drown.

  2. Jessie Author

    Robert, you are mistaken. I did not call you a ‘racist.’ And, you are mistaken again that I didn’t include your hedge, “I’m going to wait until all the facts are in,” before you went on to say “but it looks it appears the first major shot of the next Mexican/American war has just been fired” (quoted above from your site). I did include it, it’s up there if you’ll read the passage quoted from Zeleski again.

    As for the border, Robert you should really read some books that take a critical look at colonialism and the practices particularly along the Texas-Mexico border to see who is actually “illegal” here. The place where I grew up, South Texas, was originally the home of people who were Native American and Mexican. It wasn’t until very late historically, the 1800s or so, that white people – my ancestors – came to South Texas and “settled” there. To do that, they had to displace people who already lived there. Given that context, I think it’s the “border” that’s illegal in many ways, not the people who give their lives, literally, to come here to work.

    And, sadly, I think you are probably right about my view not prevailing on election day, but I don’t think that makes my view wrong, just because lots of people would vote against it.

    Robert, I encourage you to read Howard Zinn’s _A People’s History of the United States_ to learn more about the history of the country you profess to love and about the people you are so quick to label as “thugs” and “border jumpers” who are “ruining” our country.

  3. Read a book? You gotta be kidding…. I lived near the border for a while, I saw the damage and destruction the illegal traffic brings across, I also realized first hand the criminal element…

    Don’t tell me about the “Original occupants” of the area or the Aztlan BS, It was SOLD, now you want to give it back?

    I am sick of paying for the Illegal’s welfare…I’ll tell you what, those that are supportive of OPEN borders pay for educating and health care of the Invaders, those of us opposed won’t… the well would be dry in a week and the Illegals would move back home.

    Why must we pay? why won’t you put the pressure on the invaders to work as hard at fixing their own nation?

    I never said ALL were thugs, but the ones I am pissed off about are BORDER JUMPERS. Ask Mexico how they handle invaders? any nation without control of their borders in not a nation….

    I am not suggesting MASS DEPORTATION, I am suggesting a secure border, and deporting ALL criminals, if the kids of Illegal invaders are criminals, then the parents go TOO… I am suggesting stiff penalties for businesses hiring ILLEGAL Workers, and if you don’t agree with that, tell me how many “border jumpers” you are housing?
    The intellectual level in which you make your argument is based on an unlimited resources to cover the cost of social programs…Flawed.

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