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An Apology

Jim Burroway

July 7th, 2010

Sexual Minorities Uganda has issued a statement concerning the beheaded gay activist hoax. I’ve included the statement after the jump. To say that knowing that this web site helped to propagate that hoax is humiliating would be an understatement. We’ve worked hard at BTB in establishing our credibility, and I believe that a key component of that is also to maintain an atmosphere of transparency and accountability when we get it wrong. Along the way, I’ve learned that some sources on the Internet are trustworthy, and others are not worth the electricity it takes to power their servers. Until now, I hadn’t had the need to pass judgment on Changing Attitude, but I think you can probably guess where I stand now.

For every story we publish, there are countless others that we pass on for many reasons. Some of those reasons include not making it past the “sniff” test, that sense that there’s something wrong with it. Sure, I could brag about all of the stories that we rejected because they were bogus, but none of that matters when this story managed to make its way past our imperfect B.S. detectors. The fact that other blogs jumped on this story several hours before we did is also meaningless considering that most of the web sites that picked it up afterwards sourced BTB for their posts. I must, and do, accept full responsibility for that. It’s the reward for being a trusted source for LGBT issues; it’s also the pitfall to getting it wrong.

This hoax is damaging for many reasons. The least of those concerns is BTB’s credibility and my good name. In the larger picture, that is expendable when compared to the real damage it can cause. This hoax can provide ammunition to our opponents who would try to use it as proof that LGBT people are deliberately spreading rumors and falsehoods. It can be used as a “crying wolf” case to dismiss future reports in which LGBT people are really attacked and killed. Anger over labeling a  young dead man as “gay” in a country where such labels are an accusation could potentially lead to retaliatory attacks to defend his honor. The hoax’s existence could fuel unfounded suspicions over the young man’s “real killer.” The hoax can be used as an excuse to silence LGBT people, organizations, and news outlets. It can give someone an idea for a copycat crime. It can do so many other damaging things as well, and knowing that I was a part of its spread is something that I am deeply sorry for.

To all those who believed the hoax as much as I did, I offer my profound apology. And that apology goes out especially to the people of Uganda, and principally to Bishop Christopher Senyonjo and to the family and loved ones of the young man whose senseless murder was hijacked for the creation of this hoax.

July 7, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – UGANDA

Beheaded Ugandan NOT an LGBT Activist

This statement is in reference to the disturbing news reports that the Ugandan man who was found beheaded identified as Pasikali Kashusbe was a gay-rights activist working as a volunteer with Integrity Uganda.

SMUG nullifies these reports and we are not aware of any LGBTI activist who has been beheaded. However, details of the mutilated body are yet to be revealed by the Ugandan Police.

Speaking to the Chair of Integrity Uganda, Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo, “I have never worked with anyone who goes by the name Pasikali in my organization. I also did not make any comments as quoted in earlier statements made by Rev. Erich Kasirye, Rev. Erich Kasirye no longer has any legitimate connection to Integrity Uganda and the e-mail address integrityuganda@yahoo.com is no longer available as a link to the leadership of Integrity Uganda”.

SMUG stands in solidarity with Bishop Ssenyonjo, who has worked and supported SMUG and the entire Ugandan LGBTI community for a long period of time.

Integrity Uganda which is a member organization of Sexual Minorities Uganda is a faith-based LGBT organization which gives counseling and guidance to LGBT people.

SMUG disassociates the Ugandan LGBT community from these reports, until we have substantial information.

http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/category/international

http://www.back2stonewall.com/2010/07/shocking-news-uganda-gay-activist.html

Press contacts:
1. Frank Mugisha
Executive Director – SMUG
Tel: +256 772 616 062
frankmugisha@gmail.com

2. Bishop Ssenyoonjo
Chairperson – Integrity Uganda
Tel: +256 772 448 958

Comments

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Other Fred in the UK
July 7th, 2010 | LINK

Jim,

Don’t be to hard on yourself or BTB. Your swift and brutal honesty when you have made a mistake and your acknowledgement of sources in your posts is to your credit, and is in sharp contrast to, at least, the British media. Please continue the good work.

Karen
July 7th, 2010 | LINK

This whole episode has reminded me just why I trust this site. Stuff happens. What really matters is what happens after that. How you have handled this is to your credit. Keep up the good work.

Michael Bussee
July 7th, 2010 | LINK

I concur. The sign of an excellent journalist is one who swiftly updates and corrects when information turns out to be faulty. I still give you an “A”.

RWG
July 7th, 2010 | LINK

I read BTB almost every day; I shall continue to do so with great interest and appreciation. Incidents like this happen regularly in journalism, even to the best in the profession. You are to be commended for your commitment journalistic service to your community and the country. You’re writing history here, please continue.

Sadly, it is clear that someone died horribly in that benighted land, Uganda. When we read of such things, it reminds us how truly thin is the veneer of civilization. May we progress as a species toward enlightenment.

Thank you Jim.

pax58
July 7th, 2010 | LINK

I check into this site at least once a day because of how hard you try to bring facts to what are trually emotional issues in the GLBT community. I am an Epicopalian and read this news on several church sites as well. It is just sad. Thanks for this post, but as others have said, it only points to how hard you try to pull truth from so much on the web, which is just opionion fed as truth.
I condemn those who started this hoax for obiviously personal gain. But we must remember in places like Africa GLBT persons face life/death issues on a daily basis, this hoax does nothing to address that issue and yes, the death of this young man straight/gay is not only sad but horrific in the year 2010.

Leslie Basden
July 7th, 2010 | LINK

I’m grateful that you care about the veracity of what you post here, and that you make it right immediately when the story collapses.

Guffey
July 7th, 2010 | LINK

Agreed. The fact that you exposed everything so quickly is a huge credit to you.

I read BTB everyday. Good work and thanks.

anteros
July 8th, 2010 | LINK

Jim, it turned out to be a hoax… but it was set up by some pretty smart people who most probably don’t mean well. They fooled all of us… until you cleared it up.

So, I’m not really comfortable with that apology… the people who created the hoax ought to apologize, not the rest of us who were tricked.

All I have is gratitude for your work. BTB’s credibility remains intact thanks to your thoroughness. This is still the best place for me to read up on suspect stories that are difficult to verify.

Always fresh, always honest, thorough, reliable, with the best analysis… great work! Please keep it up!

jake
July 8th, 2010 | LINK

It’s not like you lied us into war. And you began to express doubts pretty quickly. What I’m not understanding is what anyone would stand to gain from such a hoax. Did I miss something?

darkmoonman
July 8th, 2010 | LINK

The apology and clarification attest to the character of BTB and Mr. Burroway.

Rumor has always had a life of its own to which the internet has added incredible speed. Luckily, with diligence, that same internet speeds verification.

Priya Lynn
July 8th, 2010 | LINK

I agree, I don’t think Jim needs to apologize for not being omniscient. If the rumour had been that it was an anti-gay activist that had been murdered the anti-gay websites would have not only not corrected the story they’d still be repeating it as fact knowing full well it wasn’t.

paul canning
July 8th, 2010 | LINK

I don’t think you need to apologise, although the explanation of the basis on which you operate is probably a good idea as web publishers often have to confront issues on credibility.

However given how often I have seen the MSM repeat myths from Africa – eg the ‘gay marriage’ story from Kenya in March – and not even correct them when its proved they got it wrong, no apology is needed from you Jim.

Dave Rattigan
July 8th, 2010 | LINK

Mistakes happen. I’m sure the same thing has happened at least once to me.

I think this is unduly harsh, though:

“Until now, I hadn’t had the need to pass judgment on Changing Attitude, but I think you can probably guess where I stand now.”

I assume they were only doing exactly what you did: Repeating a story from a source they thought they could trust.

grantdale
July 8th, 2010 | LINK

Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to wait 16 months before apologising Jim? And spend the interval spewing denials?

No? Humph, obviously you’re never going to become anything important at Exodus. Wrong mindset, that’s your problem.

I do appreciate how quickly all the BTB people correct themselves, and do so fearlessly, when need be; and that’s not often. Far from calling your reputation for accuracy into question, your actions and your words are an object lesson about maintaining a reputation for accuracy. Nobody likes to be fooled, or to repeat falsehoods, but it’s not as if you created the hoax; and it’s not as if the hoax was too fantastic to have been believed in the first place.

Of course I shall not be holding my breath waiting for the perps of the hoax to come clean.

Don’t be too hard on yourself: a decent slice of humble pie every now and again is all part of a balanced diet. So I’m told.

ps: Changing Attitude has likewise made a rapid and public correction.

hb
July 9th, 2010 | LINK

What a nasty situation! Thank you for clearing it up so quickly. I still consider you a trusted source, and so do others. I saw a number of sites that linked to btb for information on the hoax.

MJ
July 9th, 2010 | LINK

I think the real deal here is the swift correction and apology. None of us can get it 100% correct all the time, no matter how we try. As to the harm possibly done to the LGBT cause, I think if we tally it up, this site does FAR more good than harm. This site has been a major source of gay news to me since I came out, and has had a large part to play in my just knowing that there are other people out there like me. Thanks so much for that, Jim! And don’t beat yourself up over this. As I said before, we none of us are perfect!

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