Monday, July 6, 2009...1:14 pm

Spies, Facebook, Daily Mail, Nazis

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The Mail on Sunday‘s Facebook/MI6 revelations are something of a digital media wet dream, combining espionage, social networking and Nazi historians in a way that is almost the highbrow version of Friday’s midget/wrestling/hooker fest.
There’s a lot going on here of interest – and it’s worth coming back to. But for now, though, it’s enough to point out the Mail on Sunday is almost certainly fudging the facts.
The headline says:

MI6 chief blows his cover as wife’s Facebook account reveals family holidays, showbiz friends and links to David Irving

But at no point does the article really back up the claim that the link to David Irving was revealed through Facebook.
Yes, it says: “Lady Shelley Sawers’ extraordinary lapse […] revealed that the intelligence chief’s brother-in-law – who holidayed with him last month – is an associate of the controversial Right-wing historian David Irving.”
But actually it doesn’t substantiate this. When it comes to the TV and radio actors they know, Facebook photos are reproduced. But the Irving link seems second-hand. 
The Mail’s chain of association is this:

Among those featured in family photographs on the website is Lady Sawers’ half-brother Hugo Haig-Thomas, a former diplomat. 

So far, so good. Well, he’s a family member, so you’d kind of expect that.
Here’s the next link in the chain:

Mr Haig-Thomas is an associate and researcher for revisionist historian David Irving, who was jailed for three years in Austria in 2006 for ‘glorifying the Nazi Party’ because he questioned whether the Holocaust took place.

But the photo of Haig-Thomas at a garden party held by Irving actually comes from David Irving’s site (the Mail credits this in the story); while a quote about Haig-Thomas’s research work for Irving comes from Irving himself – which I doubt is featured on Lady Sawers’ Facebook Wall. 
So what’s going on here? 
I think it’s a bit of careless subbing coupled with wishful thinking. Sure, some material linking Lady Sawers’ half-brother with David Irving might have been on her Facebook page. But is it was, why wasn’t it reproduced? 
I suspect this is the usual Mail-style mix-up that conflates one story (careless management of sensitive digital personal information) with another (Nazi link to top UK spy boss) in a kind of journalistic mash-up.
Which is probably about as close as the Mail on Sunday will get to really grasping the world of social networking and web 2.0. 
More to come, probably – if anyone has any more details about the whole Facebook/Irving link, do share…
[HT: Jessica]

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