By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
It started with a Tweet here, a blog posting there.
Then, on Wednesday, a blogger for a Saskatchewan newspaper reposted the Wikileaks hoax about Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan’s imagined diary and things went a little crazy.
The original posting was made by The First Perspective, a First Nations news website, on Friday. It was titled “What the Wikileaks says about the Minister and Indians” and written by “Obidiah, Investigative Reporter.”
The posting claimed that Wikileaks, the whistle-blower website, had uncovered Duncan’s diary and proceeded to list the entries in an obvious tongue-in-cheek tone, but without any indication it was a joke.
“Aug. 9, 2010: It was bad enough being secretary under (former Indian Affairs minister Chuck) Strahl, now I gotta suck up to all those chiefs…Some of whom make a hell of a lot more than I’m gonna make on this job,” the posting said. “The annual pow wow at Black Sun Dog is coming up. I really don’t look forward to sitting cross-legged for an hour….”
A search on The First Perspective website showed that Obidiah is classified under “humour, satire,” but it seems the joke was lost as it started to spread.
On Monday, a user named Nanauq Tweeted, “anyone else read this about INAC Minister John Duncan?”
At least one blogger, Little Miss Kwe, wrote a point by point analysis of the faux-Wikileaks story.
“I think the writer deserves a big credit for sharing the ‘leak,’” wrote Miss Kwe. “Thank you First Perspective.”
It may have faded into background cyber noise if not for Chris Tyrone Ross, blogger for the Regina Leader-Post blog RezXtra, which republished the original item Wednesday morning as a straight news story.
Suddenly, mass emails began flying, some forwarded to reporters, and Facebook users began sharing it on their pages. Outrage spewed from comment strings.
While the buzz began to grow, The First Perspective pulled its original posting. Shortly after 9 a.m. local time Wednesday, the website said it had removed the item “at the request of the Minister of Indian Affairs.”
One Facebook user, Cal Amyotte, claimed it was a censorship.
“Canada is a fascist police state. Ordering an article removed that reveals the truth,” wrote Amyotte.
The story was then a click away from going nuclear.
Kevin Blevins, deputy editor of the Leader-Post, said the Duncan diary story was in line to get cycled to the front of the newspaper’s website when he received a call from an APTN National News reporter.
“It was on a list to be put on our homepage this afternoon, and then I got another call from a person at APTN,” he said.
The story remained online, but was amended with a large editor’s note indicating the piece was meant to be humorous.
Ross blamed The First Perspective for not being clearer about its intent. He also issued an apology to Duncan.
“I ran it on-line only because I believed The First Perspective was a legitimate newspaper and in that original article it didn’t mention anywhere it was a satirical article,” wrote Ross, in an email to APTN National News. “My apologies to Mr. Duncan.”
Despite numerous attempts, The First Perspective publisher James Wastasecoot did not return phone calls.
Prominent alternative media website Censored News also posted the item briefly before pulling it, according to its publisher Brenda Norrell.
“I got it sent to me through a contact who saw it from an email list they are on,” wrote Norrell, in a Facebook message. “So this is all over the place now… Many times, with the Internet, people never read the rest of the story. Some people will go on thinking forever that he said these things.”
Duncan’s office issued a statement Wednesday saying the “article in no way reflects the thoughts or feelings of Minister Duncan.”
Spokeswoman Michelle Yao said “the article is completely incorrect and not true…I have written the site administrator to clarify to its readership that the article is pure fiction.”
Duncan underwent heart surgery in December and was briefly replaced by Heritage Minister James Moore.
Duncan is recovering well and has assumed his responsibilities, said Yao.