January 22, 2015
CNN’s ‘Agent Orange’ Turkey Shoot
I’m sure many of you have heard about what’s been happening in Turkey as of late: one of the largest anti-government riots in the past decade began on Friday, May 31st, after a peaceful sit-in at Istanubul’s Taksim Square against a proposed redevelopment plan turned violent when police came in to break up the encampment. Hundreds were arrested or injured and several people were killed in clashes with the police, who are reported to have been firing tear gas cannisters, rubber bullets, and high-pressure water cannons directly at the heads of protesters. By Saturday afternoon, protesters had managed to beat back the police and reclaim Taksim Square, allowing tens of thousands of fellow demonstrators to flood back into the plaza. Tensions have subsided somewhat, but not likely for long. “Police were there [Taksim Square] yesterday; they’ll be on duty today and also tomorrow because Taksim Square cannot be an area where extremists are running wild,” claimed Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a televised speech on Saturday afternoon. This situation is likely to get a helluva lot worse before it gets any better. For a brief, yet shockingly powerful photographic timeline of the situation, click here.
Unsurprisingly, the riots in Turkey have received little coverage by the mainstream press, and what little they have provided is, in typical fashion, rather off-base. CNN, not to be outdone by their own gross inaccuracies surrounding the network’s reporting of April’s Boston Bombing, has a report on their iReport page that Turkish riot police have been using Agent Orange, the infamous herbicide used in Vietnam, against the protestors. Shocking, right? What’s even more shocking is the editor’s note at the top of the article, which reads as follows:
“This iReport claims that police in Istanbul have been using Agent Orange against protesters. CNN reporters there have seen no indication this is the case. Police in Istanbul today have been using a colored substance, according to protesters, which may be the source of the confusion.”
Once again, CNN shoots from the hip and misses the mark entirely. More troubling than the disclaimer is the simple fact that the article wasn’t removed completely as soon as the error was discovered. It has now been viewed nearly two hundred thousand times, with who knows how many views before the correction was made. The headline– “Turkish Riot Police Starts Using Agent Orange”–is more than enough to inflame the passions of concerned citizens, generating a vitriolic response that renders any actual reading of the article (and therefore the editor’s note) unnecessary. It’s perfectly Twitter-sized, and unsurprisingly the site is ablaze over the ‘controversy':
As you can see, debunking the misinformation surrounding the mysterious “orange gas” used by Turkish riot police has been the province of very few. We live in a post-fact society, where truth is determined by a consensus of views, clicks, and shares. Once a piece of information hits the masses through major channels, it becomes reality, regardless of its accuracy.
The truth of the matter is, yes: Agent Orange was indeed colored orange when it was used in Vietnam; hence its namesake. But that doesn’t mean that the gas being used in Turkey is indeed Agent Orange. Only reports of side effects consistent with its usage would be able to determine as such, which would not be discovered until some time has passed.
So why keep the article posted, even though it’s an obvious falsehood? To stir up further support for more direct U.S. action in Syria, perhaps? A recent report in The Atlantic describes Turkey as a key ally of Syrian opposition forces fighting Bashar Al-Assad’s regime, and with rumors flying of chemical weapons usage by both sides in the conflict, any possibility of their deployment in Turkey provides excellent support for the claim that Syrian rebel groups–including many with links to Al-Qaeda–do indeed have access to chemical weapons. Given President Obama’s recent speech about winding down the War On Terror, resurrecting the spectre of WMDs couldn’t come at a more perfect time for those who wish to see that war prolonged ad infinitum.
Agent Orange is actually not an orange-colored gas, as was originally written in this article. According to Wikipedia, the compound derived its name from the orange bands printed upon the 55 gallon barrels in which it was shipped. Thanks to TWiB commenter ‘Charlie’ for the clarification.
(cross-posted at www.soapboxmagazine.blogspot.com)