Monday, April 15, 2013

How Not To Report a National Bombing Attack

By Josh Swanner

Another act of senseless violence is currently impacting the nation, coming through on the news waves. And with it, another chance for hate mongers to spew their hate, and continue to contribute to a false, ignorant fear of the other.  Today, that “other” is people of Middle Eastern descent.

After hearing about the bombings, which took place during the Boston Marathon, I immediately went to the Internet to see what I could find. So I clicked through various blogs until I happened upon this headline on Drudge in bright red—“NY POST: Suspect apprehended… Saudi national under guard at hospital…”

I immediately smelled a rat. The NY Post is known for being a bombastic news rag, leaning to the right (owned by Mr. Rupert Murdoch since 1976). And right before reading this I had just watched President Obama on CNN live at 6:10 PM, and on the bottom of the screen I read no suspect had been apprehended. Wait, what?

The article goes on to say, “Investigators have a suspect — a Saudi Arabian national” who is a “20-year-old … under guard at an undisclosed Boston hospital.” And of course, like magic, “Fox News reported that the suspect suffered severe burns.”

I searched on Google to see what other news outlets were saying. Sure enough, many articles appeared citing the New York Post—here is one local Boston outlet.*

It also seems like I’m not the only one smelling a rat. Eric Wemple at the Washington Post blogged “Boston explosions: New York Post better have good sources.” He posted pictures of headlines of major news outlets, closing with the NY Post’s headlines, adding, “Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Boston Police Department is saying that authoritieshaven’t been notified of any arrests or anyone apprehended.’”  

In the wake of a tragedy, the impulse to believe “they” did it is strong for those already pre-disposed to being Islamaphobic.

Naturally, then, “news” outlets leaning to the right are spreading signals to those who are primed to give into their hate—here the signal being the word “Saudi.”

"Saudi" implies Muslims, who have become the “other” in American society since 9/11. That “other-ness” has peaked since President Barack Obama’s rise to power in 2008.**

That’s truly disgusting. And what’s more so is the belief that being Islamaphoic is OK, evident through the rise of violence against Muslims in America. These strong beliefs are caused by a myriad of sources, but it sure as heck should not be from “news” reports. Media reports such as the one presented by the New York Post only further cake on layers of unconscious hate towards the “other” in our society. They do us no good.

Stop it New York Post, stop it Fox News. In America we have the luxury of having a free press. Stop being the engines of hate, and start being the purveyors of facts. You call yourselves journalists, don’t you?

*As of 10:40 PM the news article now reads, "Federal officials told NBC News that Boston police were guarding a 'possible suspect' who had been wounded in the blasts, but they cautioned that there was no information at the federal level to consider that person a suspect." This was not what I read earlier, which tells me that in a rush to get a story online, news people tend to put up what they have, then go back later and clean up their tracks after getting all the facts.

**My theory on that phenomenon? Racists in this country cannot be outright racists against Obama, but they sure as heck can be Islamaphobic. So, if the President isn’t a Christian, but a Muslim, eureka! He’s a bad man. But that's a blog post for another day. 


  1. this was really good!

  2. Great job Josh. When you demonize the many for the evils of a few, you are no better than those you criticize as having hate in their hearts. -Jess Emerson

  3. I think there is a difference between "racists" and sterotyping. If you look at all the acts of terriorism conducted against the country in the last twenty years, other Timothy McVie they were all performed by middle eastern males between the age of 20-40yrs old. I think the reporter from the Post is quilty more of being lazy than a racists.
    I dont remember reading anything in the article about President Obama or Fox News is this fact or your personel view, or could you be sterotyping? Hmmm!
    Brillant Mike! Really?

    Tom Robson

  4. Statement from the FBI about yet (another) reported arrest: “Contrary to widespread reporting, there have been no arrests made in connection with the Boston Marathon attack,” the FBI said in a statement. “Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate. Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting.”

    I agree, while the public has a strong desire to know what is going on, the news media needs to be more careful about the veracity of what they're reporting on.

  5. I do believe the FBI questioned the suspect while he was in a hospital.. surely this could be considered a custodial interrogation. While this isn't an arrest per se, I bet many non-lawyers would consider this a form of selective questioning as a type of custody. Though the NY Post should not have posted without all the information, I doubt the FBI gave much information other than they were looking into a suspect. I would like some empirics on why "That “other-ness” has peaked since President Barack Obama’s rise to power in 2008." is true.

  6. One more thing - today CNN reported that the identify of the suspect may be know or unknown. I think overall, all our media is at fault.

  7. Tom wrote, "If you look at all the acts of terriorism conducted against the country in the last twenty years, other Timothy McVie they were all performed by middle eastern males between the age of 20-40yrs old."

    There have been more than just Timothy McVey--white people--who have committed terrorists acts. White privilege, however, makes us think of them as aberrations, rather than cut from the same cloth as other extremists, see the list here.

    As for CNN, you're right Dean that reporting is bad too. However, that is a report from a day later than the NY Post report which specifically pointed to "Saudi National." Had CNN made their report when I initially wrote this, I'd chalk them up to the same standard, are they journalists, or hyper-active gossipers?

  8. What a turd of an article. But like you said, "another chance for hate mongers to spew their hate."