The following is an email sent to Jordan Schachtel of Breitbart, regarding his piece about the «Ring of Peace» around the Oslo synagogue. If he wishes to reply, I’ll publish his reply as well.
You might also be interested in my eyewitness account of the event, which has been translated into English, here. I should add, since there is some disagreement about the number of participants that the numbers I give in this piece are slightly too high, my estimate was that there were about 1.800 people, police say 1.300.
As you probably got from the tenor of my tweets, I was intensely dismayed reading your reporting on the ring of peace in Oslo today.
Where I’m coming from: I was there, so were roughly a hundred representatives of the media, members of Parliament and ministers of government, Jews, Muslims and ethnic Norwegians. The whole seance was also live-streamed nationally at the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation website, as well as that of several other major news outlets. So when I say your piece is more or less one long factual error, I speak both from personal experience and extensive reporting done by the Norwegian and international media.
Lets enumerate your errors.
According to a local eyewitness, only about 20 or so Muslims formed the “ring of peace” around the Oslo synagogue.
First off, no, the ring itself was made up of somewhat more than twenty. But more to the point: there were many, many more muslims in attendance. Your whole piece was clearly trying to convey the sense that this was not a mass event, that Muslims were not engaged by this event. This is not true. Some muslims were in the front line, the «ring of peace», most were scattered throughout the crowd. The scene was in my estimation, from my vantage point at the top of the street, overlooking the rest of the assembly, that there was a roughly 40/60 % ethnic Norwegians to non-ethnic Norwegian spread. Based on my own estimation of about 1.800 or more people there (I suspect the police count of 1.300 may be a bit low, but I could be wrong), that puts the number of Muslims in the several hundred. So either your «local eyewitness» is grossly distorting the facts, or you are not reporting them clearly. When you claim this as a «hoax» you are generating images of malicious intent rather than of the minor mixup in the reporting this is. And of all the reporting done on this meeting, while factually shoddy, yours was clearly the furthest from the truth, so I wouldn’t be throwing around accusations of hoaxery.
there wasn’t enough people to form a ring, so the locals instead formed a horizontal line in front of the synagogue.
This is the one that really exasperates me. It would have been so easy to check with just ONE person who was actually there — or even the Google Maps page for the building! The synagogue is a part of a city block. It is not a freestanding building. It is impossible to form a ring around it. So the youth chose to form a symbolic «ring» instead, creating a human wall. The reason they formed a line is reported wrong in your piece, in other words. The kids had chosen to call it that to symbolize something. And if they had wished, many more people could easily have joined the line.
… “No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia,” conflating criticism of Islam and hatred of Jews.
Not conflating, saying that hatred of Muslims is analogue to hatred of Jews. That Jews & Muslims stand together against hatred and violence. That was the clear message of the speech and the chant.
In even worse news, it appears as if the organizer of the Muslim “peace ring” is a virulent anti-Semite, 9/11 truther, a gay-basher, and an Israel-hater.
His main message in the speech — the reason he gave the speech — is why he had changed his mind and how wrong he had been. He helped arrange the march to atone for his earlier attitudes. Which, again, you could have asked anyone there about. There were literally a minimum of 1.300 possible people you could have called to confirm this. Even your eyewitness who, I must assume, was there during the speeches.
Jordan, I’ve been an activist journalist myself. I get that you want to report news that tells the conservative side of the story. But as a an activist reporter, especially as an activist reporter, your job is both to report your point of view and the truth. You can’t compromise basic journalistic methods like this without sliding into propaganda. While I am always deeply disappointed by bad reporting, your piece, about an event that was moving and charged with hope to many of us, felt almost like a kind of violation.
I expect a revision and correction of the piece. I hope you will also forward this email to your editor. I will publish this email on my website, and I’d be happy to print any response you make along with it.