"Canadian Admits Fabricating Terrorism Tale Detailed in New York Times Podcast"

"In exchange for the admission of the man, Shehroze Chaudhry, Canada dropped criminal charges against him."


From the New York Times (Ian Austen) last week:

The man, Shehroze Chaudhry, had spread fabricated stories of life as a terrorist in Syria on social media beginning in 2016, according to an agreed statement of facts between prosecutors and the defense. He then repeated them to several news outlets, including The New York Times, which then amplified his tales, the statement said.

Mr. Chaudhry, who is now 26, had come to regret giving interviews to the news media and "wanted to finish school and turn his life around," the statement said.

Prosecutors agreed to drop the charges because Mr. Chaudhry's tales "were mistakes borne out of immaturity — not sinister intent and certainly not criminal intent," his lawyer, Nader R. Hasan, wrote in an email….

After his arrest, The Times re-examined the [award-winning] 'Caliphate' series and found "a history of misrepresentations by Mr. Chaudhry and no corroboration that he committed the atrocities he described in the 'Caliphate' podcast." The podcast did not hold up, The Times said.

The re-examination of the series found that "Times journalists were too credulous about the verification steps that were undertaken and dismissive of the lack of corroboration of essential aspects of Mr. Chaudhry's account," said Danielle Rhoades Ha, the spokeswoman for The Times. "Since that time, we've introduced new practices to prevent similar lapses," she said.

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  1. He admitted, bragged about in fact, being a terrorist.

    He should have been treated as a terrorist.

    1. Neither admitting being a terrorist nor bragging about being a terrorist is a crime. (At least not in the U.S.; who knows about those wacky Canadians?)

  2. Another creditable story about the NYT, and its conscientious treatment of the news. Of course, this one too will shortly elicit attacks on the NYT, by fools who never give a moment's thought to the question of where things they believe about public life are sourced. Nor do they have any clue what processes are necessary to gather news, and assure that it is credible.

    It is apparent that EV baits such attacks. Why he does that is the one useful question raised by this series of threads. Perhaps it is an amusement for him.

    1. I think the time to not publish fiction as fact is before publication, not after.

    2. After his arrest, The Times re-examined the [award-winning] 'Caliphate' series and found "a history of misrepresentations by Mr. Chaudhry and no corroboration that he committed the atrocities he described in the 'Caliphate' podcast." The podcast did not hold up, The Times said.

      In other words, the NYT only tried to verify his story long after the horse had left the barn.

      And in other other words, Stephen Lathrop takes this as proof the NYT is credible.

    3. Life in the big leagues, Mr. Lathrop. From the movie Shattered Glass, the editor of the New Republic commenting on the fabulist stories the magazine published by Glass:

      "Do you have any idea how much shit we're about to eat? Every competitor that we took a shot there gonna pounce and they should. Because we blew it. He handed us fiction after fiction and we printed them all as fact. All because we found him entertaining. It's indefensible don't you know that?"

      1. WillDD, what's your point? Do you suppose I am saying good journalism never gets it wrong? Are you suggesting, "Who cares, the allegedly good journals are no better than the others?" I genuinely do not understand what you mean.

        1. The point is, you are screeching for everyone to cut the NYT some slack for all the uncorrected mistakes it has made and will make, because sometimes they correct some of their mistakes. Yet you are not willing to give anyone to their right any slack whatsoever, even if they also correct some of their mistakes some of the time.

          No, it doesn't work that way.

          1. You have no idea how it works. For a brief explanation see my comment below, at 7:30 am.

    4. "this series of threads"

      I'm not sure what you mean by "this series of threads." The New York Times only made *one* error, not a *series* of them.

      So, like a first offender, we should give the New York Times some consideration because this is the first time they've ever published fake news.

  3. EV, does this website automatically note any corrections to an article, or is that up to the author of any given article? I'm just curious so that I can know if and when things have been corrected here in the event of an error or otherwise.

    1. I'm sorry this post put your Holy Book in a bad light.

      1. Surprised you haven't realized that I'm Jewish considering that I post about it all the time!

  4. And the legal issue here is? Perhaps Prof. Volokh would like to write a squib on all the lies Josh Blackman has told. Just a suggestion.

    1. This is not The All Legal Issues All The Times Conspiracy.

      You are presumably capable of founding that if you wish. You could even write all the (damp) squibs that you think should be written.

  5. Does anyone really expect the Times (or WAPO) to corroborate stories that fit their narrative? Run them on the front page, and issue a correction a month later on the Obituaries page.

    1. Jerry, serious question. How would you know if a story regarding the so-called Capitol insurrection was true or not? By what process would the information to make that judgment get into your head? Think it through all the way back to a source you could point to.

      1. because they are internally inconsistent, they are inconsistent with basic logic, and they are contradicted by their own later reports, all without any corrections.

        1. Also contradicted by the earlier reports and behavior.

          Mass riots, widespread looting, and uncontrolled arson: "Fiery but mostly peaceful"

          Disorderly tour group: "IN SIR ECTION!!!"

        2. Á àß äẞç ãþÇđ âÞ¢Đæ ǎB€Ðëf ảhf — Internal inconsistencies often reflect accurate reporting of inputs from different sources who provide mutually inconsistent information. They may indicate a confused situation, which an intelligent reader ought to take note of, and react to by withholding judgment. If the reporting is accurate, it does not indicate error.

          Such less-than-satisfying reports may be followed up in a later story, perhaps after resolution of the inconsistency enables a precise report without need of a correction. Sometimes, especially when inaccuracy is not due to differences among sources, but instead a reporter gets a story wrong, a correction is useful not only to clarify a story, but also, and especially, to do justice to a source. In such cases, the implied reprimand to the reporter is also useful.

          Other times, especially when differing information was accurately reported, it is unwise to republish in a correction whatever later proves incorrect, lest the error be inadvertently reinforced in the minds of careless readers. Instead, the best way to serve the public interest in accurate news may be simply to publish what proved accurate, along with sufficient newly reported corroborative information to prove the accuracy. That way, folks who remember an earlier ambiguous story and withheld judgment will have their doubts resolved. Folks who did not see the earlier story will be given no opportunity to be newly misinformed by mis-reading a correction which republishes an inaccuracy.

          So sometimes story inconsistencies rightly get corrected, and sometimes they rightly get bypassed. Publishers learn by experience which practices gratuitously sow confusion, and try to avoid doing it. Foolish people may be angered by that, but that is no fault of the publisher.

          Basic logic, of course, may be a useful guide, even an indispensable guide, for how to go about reporting a story; it may be a useful guide for withholding publication on an inadequately researched story, until more is known; it is never a reason to withhold an accurately reported story based on accounts from presumably reliable sources, no matter how illogical the information may seem.

          Facts about what actually happens cannot be deduced by logical principles. In the news business, you have to let the evidence discipline the logic; you can't do it the other way around—no matter how much that upsets ideologues accustomed to thinking that starting from axioms and thinking logically can tell you what the facts must be.

          Also, it is an important principle of news reporting that illogical-seeming news findings may point the way to important stories not yet understood. Good publishers rely on good readers to get that, and sometimes, if a reader knows something, even clear up the confusion with a tip to a reporter. Of course, less-capable readers, or readers poorly equipped to recognize the field marks of accurate reporting, may become frustrated in such cases, and fulminate.

          Hope that clears it up for you, and gives you something to be cheerful about.

      2. Are you suggesting that there are no news sources other than the New York Times or the Washington Post?

        1. Toranth, I am asking on what basis you would resolve differences between differently-covered news from differing news sources.

  6. "Times journalists were too credulous about the verification steps that were undertaken and dismissive of the lack of corroboration of essential aspects of Mr. Chaudhry's account,"

    I understand that if you want to work for the NYT, you need to have graduated from an 'elite' university. Name and shame, please. I mean the universities. Most of the best reporters of the 20th century were high school graduates - no more.

  7. I would not have let this guy walk. Granted that his stories were made up, they were an attempt to recruit others to join terrorist activities and probably succeeded.

    I would similarly judge people sharing the Koran or the Antifa manual if the same intent can be shown.

    1. You're pretty bad at the First Amendment.

      Also....the Antifa manual?

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