CBC “Fact-Check” On Funding For University Encampments Makes A Mockery Of Investigative Journalism

On May 11, CBC News ran a segment entitled: “Fact-checking claims about who’s behind pro-Palestinian student protests,” (and a corresponding article on May 14) claiming that “some have claimed outsiders are backing pro-Palestinian student protests at campuses across the U.S. and Canada” and that they “fact-check those claims to find out what’s really happening.”

Watch the segment below:

Before even beginning their supposed “fact-check”, one has to take issue with the seriousness with which CBC is pursuing this endeavour. Referring to these encampments as “pro-Palestinian” is, in itself, not factual. After all, their stated goals have nothing to do with the lives of Palestinians on the ground, but rather about divestment from, and dismantling of, Israel. If they were genuinely concerned about the day to day wellbeing of Palestinians (or, “pro-Palestinian”) one would think they’d focus their demands on gaining better conditions for the people they claim to be concerned about. Certainly, they wouldn’t be glorifying martyrdom for the very people they claim to support and represent.

But that important detail aside, the segment began with the host, Ben Makuch, saying that one of the “narratives” about the encampments is that there is some shady, outside influence at play – some group that is organizing and funding these campus protests. The report then cut to a clip of New York Mayor Eric Adams, set to ominous music, wherein he shared the suspicious fact that all the tents seen at the encampments seem to be the same make and model – a perfectly rational thing for someone on the outside to notice and question, since it would seem to indicate they were purchased en masse. The report then cut back to Makuch and his skeptical, sardonic expression as he told the viewer that CBC has looked into whether the same thing might be happening on Canadian campuses.

Untold by the CBC and reporter Makuch, there are reports of China’s alleged links to Canadian anti-Israel protests which fit a subversive pattern, according to the National Post’s John Ivison.

Ivison reported: “But, if a new report into the funding of the anti-Israel movement in North America is to be believed, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is also linked to the wave of protests that are disrupting cities and campuses across the continent. The National Contagion Research Institute, an independent body that identifies cyber threats to civil society, says that a number of left-wing organizations that have united under the Shut It Down for Palestine (SID4P) banner are linked to Beijing through Communist Party associates, Neville Roy Singham and his wife, Jodie Evans.”

Makuch went on to say that the protests in Canada are mostly student-led, but count “alumni, faculty and community members among their ranks,” and that “outside protestors have bolstered numbers at times.” This is an interesting (and frankly dishonest) way of saying that while students are involved, there is also a large contingent of alumni, faculty and non-affiliated people present – exactly what those critical of the encampments have been saying.

To support the claim that this is a student-led movement, Makuch made his way to the University of Toronto encampment and spoke to (of course) a token Jewish professor. He reassured Makuch that there is “no evidence” that any funding is coming from groups like Hamas or that any “dark money” is involved in the organizing of these protests. He went on to say, however, that if you “wait at the gate, you see people from the community coming and donating.” Contrary to the framing attempted by CBC, this would seem to support the idea of outside involvement.

Further, Makuch said that several student groups are explicitly taking monetary donations, and that when asked, only two – groups from the University of Toronto and University of Ottawa – responded to say where those donations came from, and where they were going. In both cases, they were “primarily from community members” and were to “purchase supplies” for the encampments.

It is unclear how “community members” is different from “outside influences who are not students,” or how this fact-check proves the absence of outside influences as work. Indeed, even the students he interviewed acknowledge that they’re “broke” and that they aren’t the ones funding it, and that tents were purchased en masse at Walmart and Costco by “community supporters” and donated – the exact allegation that Makuch seems to think he’s undermining.

One wonders, since CBC and those interviewed appear confident that these donations are not suspect – are they doing a background check on the “community members” coming to make donations? Do they ask for bona fides from each person offering food or supplies? Of course not. Does he think groups like the Muslim Brotherhood (which has been linked in the past to campus groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, or SJP) drive up in a van marked ‘terrorist funding group’ or make public donations with giant novelty cheques that they share on their social media pages?

Did CBC really think that just asking if there was any link to suspicious groups was the same as ‘fact-checking’? Apparently so.

Makuch referenced the SJP as one of the groups that critics of the encampments have referred to when suggesting that there are unsavoury groups at work in this movement, because of past accusations of their connections with groups like Hamas.

There is no doubt that SJP is directly responsible for much of the organizing of the encampments, and they make no secret about it. Makuch quickly pointed out though, that while they’ve been “accused of direct links to Hamas”, no one in the US or Canada associated with SJP has ever been charged with supporting Hamas – a ridiculous point in this case, since the issue at hand is whether Hamas is supporting them, not the other way around. And indeed, it’s alleged that there is abundant evidence that SJP is directly funded by radical groups like American Muslims for Palestine, an organization that has been repeatedly alleged to have direct links to Hamas.

Indeed, this supposed CBC “fact-check” left out an awful lot of “facts” (and blatantly ignored others) when presenting their conclusions. For example, they don’t mention the statement issued earlier this month by the University of Alberta, wherein the university estimated that only 25 percent of those involved in their campus protests were students. Nor do they adequately address similar statements made by other schools all across North America.

Indeed, on many campuses in the U.S., the proportion of those unaffiliated with the university among those arrested or detained when police broke up the encampments was as high as 60%. More baffling, Makuch seemed to ignore even his own evidence gathered through speaking with students, who seem to support the idea that they aren’t the ones paying for any of this. One wonders, what does he think people mean when they say there are outside influences at work in the organizing of these protests, if not the monetary or logistical support of them?

Finally, for Canada’s national broadcaster to call this a “fact-check” is an insult to Canadians. Simply walking around asking if there was anything untoward happening is not the same thing as investigating it. As the old journalism adage says – if someone tells you it’s raining, it’s not your job to quote them. It’s your job to walk outside and check if it is. In this case, it’s evidently pouring.

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