Update September 6, 2012: Erotic Vancouver was informed by a source at the CBC that there was a picture that of Corporal Brown that was similar to the description Ian Mulgrew provided that this piece takes issue with. That picture has not been produced, despite requests to see it, and no other source at the CBC or with any other news outlet has supported that claim. The Vancouver Sun has declined to comment.
Questions have arisen surrounding many aspects of the story of Corporal Jim Brown and his BDSM photographs that have appeared on the web. Perhaps most significant is the fact that the photos that have caused the most stir in the media do not, in fact, depict Brown, a story first broken here on Erotic Vancouver. But they’re not the only questions that have arisen.
It appears that description of a photograph that appears in the second paragraph of the original Sun story by reporter Ian Mulgrew may have been fabricated. The paragraph reads: “In some of the graphic pictures obtained by The Vancouver Sun, Coquitlam Cpl. Jim Brown appears to wear only his regulation-issue Mountie boots and an erection as he wields a huge knife and a bound naked woman cringes in terror.”
The description of the knife and the bound naked woman seems to suggest it is part of the series causing quite a stir, a series that does not in fact depict Corporal Brown. The only problem? The individuals who appear in that series of photos assure me that at no point did the man appear pantless. When asked about this Mr. Mulgrew indicated that he did not have that photo in his possession, that it was one that had been shown to him on a computer screen by a source, and that subsequently another, anonymous source who he has never met, had about 60 photos delivered to him.
I’ve been speaking to Mr. Mulgrew, the Vancouver Sun reporter who broke the story, via email and by phone, to ask about how he broke it, and the nature of his sources. Mr. Mulgrew is an excellent reporter. I’ve read his reporting in the Vancouver Sun for years. And I accept that this may not have been an intentional fabrication, that it may have been an unintentional composite description of various images that he had seen – but unfortunately it was irresponsible to provide such a graphic and evocative description of an image not in his possession. An image whose existence is now called into question.
Mr. Mulgrew repeatedly stated that his issues were not with the sexuality aspect of this story and BDSM as a whole. He believes that what people do within the confines of their bedroom, and what they might engage with only consensually with others in public, is perfect okay with him. “I’m hip with that,” he said.
Mr. Mulgrew stated that his concern was that the photos that were represented to him as being of Corporal Brown called the officers judgement into question, and gave weight to previously made allegations that Corporal Brown had attended parties at Piggies Palace, the after hours club that was on the Pickton farm, and there that he had engaged in acts degrading to women.
In my phone call to Mr. Mulgrew he said, “What’s been troubling me is not you getting up this morning and saying there are other people out there. What’s been troubling me is the Mounties have had knowledge of this for a week or more, so when I asked why wouldn’t they send something back to me saying we talked to Corporal Brown and he says it’s not him. I described it to them and they didn’t say bring it over and let us look at them. That’s what’s troubling me.”
Unfortunately my conversations with Mr. Mulgrew leave me troubled by more than just that. And I’m left with a series of questions of the two media outlets that first covered this story, the CBC and the Vancovuer Sun, and of the RCMP.
Who are the sources at the heart of this story, and what is their relationship to Corporal Brown? Was there adequate vetting of them and the information they provided? (In the case of Mr. Mulgrew’s story the answer is clearly no, in that the source providing the pictures to him is still anonymous to him.)
Why did the RCMP not ask to see the images in Mr. Mulgrew’s possession?
Would the press have felt there was a story here minus the abduction series of photos? Would that story have been very different from the one that has appeared in the media yesterday and today?
And I would specifically ask Mr. Mulgrew why, with 60 photographs in his possession, he chose to describe in print one that he does not have and cannot produce? Why does he describe that image as obtained rather than as one just seen? And how can we now believe that due diligence was done every step of the way when, intentional or not, it appears that description may be a fabrication.
To his credit it appears that Mr. Mulgrew did his best to contact the RCMP and get some confirmation from them. They indicated they were aware of the issue, and provided many of the quotes in his story, but at no time did they look at the photographs in his possession. Mr. Mulgrew, it appears, went forward with his story in all good faith.
Fabricated description included.