On CNN’s Factchecking

Our post on the Savoie case opened up a pretty fierce discussion about the facts of the case and the background, with many of us taking issue with the liberal reporting of “facts” by CNN’s correspondents. I was even further perplexed by CNN’s story on a US father caring for his disabled child in Okazaki, Japan, as asking the most rudimentary questions about the story result in a pretty clear conclusion that the facts are just wrong (which I wrote about here).

It turns out that the mistakes on the Savoie story are not a result (or at least not the sole result) of institutional Orientalism. CNN apparently has a problem at the core of its information management when it comes to checking facts, and has a habit of reporting anything heard as fact without double checking anything. This was the subject of a brutal evisceration of the network by the Daily Show that I thought was worth sharing with readers — I think it helps understand why the Savoie case turned into such a media circus and a scapegoat for Japan’s antiquated family laws. The relevant section starts at 1:05.

CNN Leaves It There

25 thoughts on “On CNN’s Factchecking”

  1. Isn’t one of the issues that you can’t trust any information you get as all media outlets will distort the “facts” to reflect their particular take on the situation?

    I’m not even sure where people are going to get the straight story on this from either Japan or the U.S.

    The one point about this which I don’t understand is why Mr. Savoie has anything to do with the U.S. government at this point. He’s a naturalized Japanese citizen (this isn’t in dispute) and should no longer be offered the protection of U.S. law. It’s all very strange. I do wonder though if his being arrested when he and his wife are legally married in Japan was actually something Japanese law permitted. Can a father be arrested for kidnapping his own kids in Japan?

  2. “Can a father be arrested for kidnapping his own kids in Japan?”

    It could have been due to the allegation that some measure of violence was involved. Perhaps the concern was also that he wasn’t just taking them for a ride, but making a run for the proverbial border. It seems as though the Japanese police have been quite reasonable in not charging him, however.

    “I’m not even sure where people are going to get the straight story on this from either Japan or the U.S.”

    While the Japanese coverage has its flaws, the last piece that Aceface posted on the long thread is quite good and presents US outrage as a legitimate point of view. I think that there is a big difference in tone from the US reportage which has frequently mentioned Chris’ efforts to “rescue” his children, dismissed Japan as completely backward in areas like care for disabled children (this is a problem seen frequently in the US press lately and something that we talked about here before – comparing the undeniably fantastic coverage offered in some contexts in the US with the “good enough” coverage of socialized medicine without mention of flatout horrible circumstances in other contexts stateside) and, among other things, turned Noriko’s head into a giant rising sun battle flag.

  3. I stopped watching any and all American TV news several years ago. A couple of years ago I stopped watching BBC World when it became clear that they have an anti-American/Israeli bias. The CBC is too anti-Conservative even for this liberal.Now I just look at tea leaves and goat entrails and stuff, and watch YouTube clips…

  4. BBC has an Anti Israeli Bias ?
    You have GOT to be joking.
    BBC is practically run by the Jews,
    including Alan Yentnob.

    Look at their coverage and language used for
    Israeli atrocities – euphemistically called
    “operations in Gaza”
    and that is just the skin of the custard.

    Rick, you need to do some research bro.

    But true about all Murdoch media.

    And then you have Alex Jones on the other side.

    Means that you need to rely on your imagination and instinct
    now more than ever before, when information is for sale,
    infotainment sells, and there’s a war on for your mind !!!

  5. I think I posted two posts on Japan Probe now got an e-mail from father of disabled child in Okazaki yet somehow not showing up.Problems?

    There Craig Morrey was writing while he is thankful to Kyng Lah for “trying to help”.He
    “would have preferred not to be linked to the Savoie situation because it is completely different. As sad as it seems, our story would probably not have been considered newsworthy without it though”.

    My opinion is,there’s good reports and bad reports.And there are LOTS of bad reports on Japan in English media.

  6. Alan,
    I was only half-serious/half-joking with my comment, but yeah, until I stopped watching a couple of years ago, I thought the BBC was a bit biased towards the Palestinians, etc. That’s not why I stopped watching (I’ve basically given up on TV news for anything other than “there was an earthquake today” type stuff).

    Since the only “Murdoch media” I know is Fox, the notion that it’s anti-Israel seems a bit rich to me.

    Seriously bro, I can tell shit from shinola.

  7. I’ve always interpreted BBC’s coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict as a result not of anti-Semetism of any kind, but of British post-colonial guilt. After all, their imperial fuckups are responsible for a fair chunk of the situation, and it’s pretty easy to see the modern Israeli state as a continuation of British imperialism even if the situation is WAY more complicated than that.

    I don’t even have a TV now and just download whatever TV shows I want to watch, but I saw many hours of Al Jazheera’s English channel when I was staying in hotels while traveling earlier in the year, and I was really enjoying their coverage of the the third world. The documentary type programs were great, and on the new shows they managed to get people with different opinions to debate each other without much shouting. In fact, I even saw some of their live coverage of the Israeli elections, and it was FAR more informed than any of the American media I’ve ever seen. Sure, I assume they have a strong pro-Palestine bias when reporting on that conflict, but every news organization has strengths and weaknesses.

    It’s also remembering that CNN International isn’t nearly as crappy as CNN America, although unsurprisingly Fox only has the one, uber-crappy edition.

  8. Roy,
    Thank you for bringing it up–I never meant to imply that I saw any kind of anti-Semitism in BBC World. Your take on it seems reasonable/plausible to me. I also agree with you about CNN’s international version, and I’ve seen several Al-Jazeera broadcasts that were interesting and enlightening.

  9. I don’t have a TV either, and I specifically don’t have a TV because I can’t stand the TV news here in America. Aside from the guy who eats crazy shit on the travel channel the rest of the offerings are simply not attractive enough to prompt me to get one.* The 24 hour news cycle has killed television journalism in this country. If every 15 minutes there is breaking news about some minor incident that has been blown up into a major issue, it is hard to tell when “real” news actually happens.

    “The News Hour.”

    Word. And you don’t even have to own a TV to get it. It’s on NPR, which shows that television is probably not the best medium for real news coverage. I’m not sure looking at Ray Suarez frown seriously while he talks adds anything to the TV edition.

    I think the Japanese actually have the right approach to television. It’s a box in the corner of the room to be on all the time in the background. Content is useful as a conversation starter, but not to be taken seriously.** The Yomiuri polls on the media consistently show that Japanese people rely on the TV to point them in the direction of news stories, but generally don’t trust it for content (NHK excluded, but even here there are problems) or in-depth coverage. That’s what newspapers are for. I would be surprised if most Americans don’t actually get their “news” from TV, and that’s a problem.

    *Though, there was this one season of “the bachelor”….

    ** For this, America, and Japan, for that matter, have baseball.

  10. “Sorry, videos are not available in your country.”

    So much for the Berne Convention on Copyright’s provision for “Fair Use” for criticism and review.

  11. Yeah, I get nothing but a link to the local channel that shows The Daily Show and they only have a limited amount of comment. Bummer.

  12. I watch pretty much every episode of Daily Show and Colbert on their website, without using any proxy server tricks or anything. Other sites like Hulu give me similar error messages though.

  13. Man, I thought I could live out the second half of the Bush years here in Japan and return to a new enlightened America under a new president. A country where the national discourse had come back from the uber-patriotic uncritical bog that it was stuck in since 9/11. Now we have a failed CNN and Glen Beck.


  14. I think us folks in Japan are fine because most Comedy Central shows are not distributed here. If you are in Europe, Israel, the Antipodes or other areas where US comedy shows are popular, it’s likely that Comedy Central has licensed out exclusive distribution rights in your country to another company, which is why content would be blocked.

  15. I’m not sure if it’s still on, but CNN International in Japan (and worldwide?) used to show an edited version of the best of the Daily Show for that week.

  16. It’s still on, but it’s technically a different program–kind of by necessity, since otherwise CNN would have to set up completely different program feeds for different countries in the same time zone in order to avoid competing with licensed distributors of the full program.

  17. Craig Morrey posts new comment on Japan Probe
    Would you feel comfortable leaving your daughter in the care of an entire family that abandoned all responsibility for your handicapped child and won’t even acknowledge there might be stress-related psychological issues that is either affecting your daughter now or will have severe consequences in the future?
    Despite being an American (my children are American- Brasilian dual nationals), I have been advised by several lawyers that I might be blocked from even boarding the plane should I try to go back without a written agreement from my wife or a court order. Especially now with the whole Savoie mess.
    I won’t go into all the legal complexities- CNN over-simplified for regrettable, but obvious reasons. We are technically still married in Brasil/ US and thus have joint custody. The courts here are not doing anything. They are aware of the situation and have not made any ruling in over a year. Ultimately, THEY claim since neither of us is Japanese, they have no jurisdiction in civil matters and Japanese law doesn’t apply. Brasil and America have no jurisdiction because we are in Japan. The Japanese courts have told me in no uncertain terms- if they rule, they must use Brasilian/ US law as the basis of their ruling. That is the only reason I, personally, have talked about “international” laws. My main argument has always been a mother that abandoned her child (disabled or not) should not retain custody of the other children nor should the system be dragging a decision out when the children’s welfare is so obviously at stake. Anyone that disagrees on the basis of nationality issues has clearly never been a parent (I am restraining my opinion here).
    Back to returning to America- If I were to travel internationally, I would be criminally liable for “kidnapping” in Brasil, possibly the US and under the Hague. I could be arrested or extradited to Brasil if/when I try to get my daughter through normal legal channels.
    So I have a choice- give up completely on ever seeing my daughter, leave her in an obviously unstable environment, and hope legal troubles never materialize if I can get on the plane or try to protect both of my children (and help their mother if she were willing), follow the prevailing laws, ask for help and try to make positive changes that affect people every day in Japan (legal or medical). Keep in mind- for every “foreign” case like mine, there are thousands of “domestic” cases that go unnoticed. If you noticed in my interview, I said “I want the Japanese family courts to place the welfare of the children above everything else”, not American, Brasilian, or even Japanese children. If a Japanese friend were in a situation like mine, I would be appalled and do every thing in my power to help. Most Japanese people I have spoken with are equally amazed/ appalled the court has not acted yet in my case (in my favor- most lawyers say I have no chance- a sad statement in itself).
    “Forcing” Japan to sign the Hague will have absolutely no effect for parents that lose access to their children while living in Japan- (probably 99% of cases, but they should still sign). Japanese courts would have internationally recognized jurisdiction. Cases like Savoie’s might make great headlines, but will do little to help solve the true problems and may even make them worse in the long run. Any system will only make lasting changes as a result of pressure from within.
    If going to the States (or anywhere) would miraculously cure Spencer, I would be there in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, that is not the nature of his condition. So legal issues aside- what would you do?
    Craig Morrey

  18. Here’s what the attorney says about Japanese divorces, at 5:16 of Part 1:

    “In Japan, the culture is such that when people get divorced, generally speaking, the children go with the mother and the money and property, everything goes with the father, and they don’t really have visitation like we have in the United States, it’s basically the children go with the mother, the money and property go with the father, and that’s it.”

    I think it’s more accurate to say that the children usually go with the mother, and the mother and father split the property either by agreement or court judgment. That is often it unless the mother and father cooperate on child support and visitation after the divorce, because divorce agreements and family court orders are very difficult to enforce.

    I think that financial incentives – perhaps delayed distribution of part of the divided property conditional on compliance with visitation – could be a way to ensure visitation.

    I don’t know if Japanese trust law would allow this, but why not set up a trust for this purpose? In this case, a trust for visitation travel and bicultural education, with the remainder going to the children or mother when the children reach adulthood, might work.

    This would’t have required the mother to invest her property award in Tennessee real estate at a time of real estate and dollar deflation.

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