Using 800 Dead Babies as Clickbait

Recently, a newspaper reported that 800 dead babies were found “dumped” in a septic tank in a Catholic Home for Unwed Mothers. That kind of article is know as “clickbait”, because people will click the link to read more details, generating more page views and thus money from advertisers. People, for what ever reason, can seldom resist reading about horrible things and “800 dead babies” would definitely generate page views.

Sure enough, if you read the story it is lurid with atrocities:

“The bodies of nearly 800 babies are believed to have been interred in a concrete tank beside a former home for unmarried mothers. The dead babies are thought to have been secretly buried beside a home for single mothers and their children in County Galway, Ireland, over a period of 36 years. It is suspected that 796 children were interred on unconsecrated ground without headstones or coffins next to the home run by the Bon Secours nuns in Tuam between 1925 and 1961. Newly unearthed reports show that they suffered malnutrition and neglect, which caused the deaths of many, while others died of measles, convulsions, TB, gastroenteritis and pneumonia.”

Lots and lots of other news sources ran amok with the story as well. It’s a good job the news spread, too. This kind of thing is simply appalling and deserves to be called out into the light of accountability, right?

Well, if it were true it certainly would be. Good thing that it 99.9% hoax then.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are again looking a sensationalist distortion of what an historian has said and the the sloppy fact checking of todays news media. Even NPR, a usually relievable source of journalism, fell for it.

The Irish Times has the decency to contact the source of the story for accurate information:

I never used that word ‘dumped’,” Catherine Corless, a local historian in Co Galway, tells The Irish Times. “I never said to anyone that 800 bodies were dumped in a septic tank. That did not come from me at any point. They are not my words.” … The children’s names, ages, places of birth and causes of death were recorded. The average number of deaths over the 36-year period was just over 22 a year. The information recorded on these State- issued certificates has been seen by The Irish Times; the children are marked as having died variously of tuberculosis, convulsions, measles, whooping cough, influenza, bronchitis and meningitis, among other illnesses … The deaths of these 796 children are not in doubt. Their numbers are a stark reflection of a period in Ireland when infant mortality in general was very much higher than today, particularly in institutions, where infection spread rapidly. At times during those 36 years the Tuam home housed more than 200 children and 100 mothers, plus those who worked there, according to records Corless has found.”

In a nutshell, babies died of diseases at a truly revolting rate until relatively recently. Some of the babies that were born in a Catholic home for unwed mothers died, just as did the children in private married families. However, nuns weren’t callously chucking their little bodies into a septic tank. That is malarkey.

Was the system of “punishing” unwed mothers and keeping their babies and raising the children in huge state homes a good thing? No. No. No. No.

Nevertheless, that could be reported on without the surrounding poppycock, distortions, and outright lies.

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