The tale of two altar boys in Spain who replaced incense with cannabis in the thurible at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela has no basis in truth, despite it being reported as news by the Labour Party’s channel One.
The piece entitled ‘Poġġew il-ħaxixa flok inċens fil-Knisja‘ (They placed hashish instead of incense in the church), reported that two altar boys had replaced the contents in the thurible (a vessel suspended by chains that is used to burn incense during Catholic services) that led to the congregation leaving the church stoned that day.
The Cathedral is home to the largest thurible in the world, known as the ‘Botafumeiro’ – it requires eight men to move it. The truth is that this vessel was never filled with cannabis.
One’s story stated the altar boys made the switch before mass. Shortly after the service had finished and the church was filled “with a rather different kind of aroma”, the boys were arrested by law enforcement authorities and taken into custody.
The report goes on to state that the altar boys were released without charge, but banned from being altar boys in any other church “ever again”.
Yet the story actually originated from a Spanish satire site, then translated into English before being published on a website called ‘8Shit’ on 18 February. It quickly went viral, attracting much attention, and the name did not raise any kind of alarm with reporters working for the Labour Party’s news outlets.
This was not the first time the portal of the Party in government published false information. It regularly twists facts to suit the government narrative and it also led the attack on MEP Ana Gomes – also used by Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar – based on news on a web site that has since been suspended by Facebook.
At the bottom of the page on which the cannabis story appears, 8Shit helpfully included a disclaimer for anyone who may get the wrong idea about the stories published there:
“8Shit is a satire news and humour website. All its content is fiction (except those posts under the ‘serious’ category) and shouldn’t be taken as real. All references, names and marks or institutions in this website are used as contextual elements, like in any novel or science fiction story.”
On another page, the site elaborates further: “8Shit is a satire and humour website. It contains cutting edge satire on a diverse range of topics. The website publishes fake news, shocking rumours and reports with incisive sarcasm, and humour.”
Those at One, waiting in line for the next wave of appointments to the communications departments of government ministries, thought this was news.