Late Saturday night CP24 published a compelling clickbait article about a Nazis
hiding under the bed selling handmade Christmas decorations on Craigslist Toronto. The story was simultaneously posted on CTV News’ website, both organizations are divisions of Bell Media.
“An online seller is peddling Christmas balls carrying the Nazi swastika,” Chris Herhalt wrote with conviction. He went on to explain that the “seller” claimed the decorations were “custom made” and were listed for sale for $50 in the arts and crafts section of Craigslist Toronto. Two of the seven paragraphs made obligatory references to Donald Trump and Charlottesville, one gave an ethnocentric explanation on the legality of displaying swastikas.
It would be a story in-and-of-itself that CP24’s editors approved such a weak article based on an anonymously posted Craigslist ad. One might argue it’s more about Trump than Christmas balls, but it’s worse than that. CP24’s intrepid editors and writer were so eager to get out their story they appear to have fallen for a hoax- a stumble they could have avoided with just 5 seconds of research.
At first glance, there are things about the accompanying photograph that would lead an enquiring mind to question the ad’s authenticity. Take the box, for example. It’s a very old style we don’t see very often this century, and the writing on the side appears to be in German. The balls appear to be faded and aging, one is missing the hook to hang it on the tree with.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to identify fake news or a Craigslist hoax is to do a quick search on Google Images. Google Chrome users can simply right-click and hit the “Search Google for image” option, users of other browsers might have to drag-and-drop the image onto the Google Images page. In this case, we find that the picture is connected to a 2015 Washington Post story by Georgia State University professor Joe Perry.
Had the writer taken the time to search “swastika Christmas balls”, Google would have sent them to articles from a 2014 story about stunningly similar (but differently packed) balls offered for sale on a Czech Republic auction website. The seller claimed they were over 70-years-old, and like the Craigslist balls, they looked that old too.
Do you think it’s possible the hoaxster read the 2014 stories and made a copycat Craigslist posting? And, sad to ask, but is Bell Media so desperate for clicks (or to attack Trump) they’ve lost sight of their duty to authenticate their stories? Or even worse, is it because they are so desperate to scare the public about Nazis and Donald Trump?
It took less than five minutes to research this story, they could have done the same. Bell Media’s readers and viewers deserve better- this article is an insult to their intelligence.