Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Little Media Paranoia

Bexar County Courthouse
Earlier this week some young French-Moroccan Muslims broke into a San Antonio Courthouse and I found the news coverage  a little irritating. When first reported the news anchor announced that “a dangerous terrorist plot has been foiled in Texas”. The next time I heard about it they said that the men had broken into the courthouse, had entered the country on 9/11 and were not cooperating with authorities. The FBI and Homeland security had been called in. By evening the story had changed into: "the men were drunk, probably acting out a prank wearing sombreros while waving a gavel and dancing through the halls of the courthouse.” Plus, their non-cooperation turned out to be that they did not speak much English and had to wait for a translator after which they were cooperating fully.

I can understand the concern but I think the media jumps on the terrorist thing way too quickly. If these young men had been White or Asian or Hispanic, no one would have even thought about terrorism. But, let a young man from the Middle East do something out of the ordinary and –bam, you have “a major terrorist plot”. Frankly, I am getting tired of it. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying there is not a threat, nor that many terrorists these days are not radical Muslims –but there are one and a half billion Muslims in the world and only a tiny fraction of them are a threat.

This case is a perfect example of what I am talking about. There was more than enough to warrant checking these guys out and even calling in the FBI to be safe –but for the press to assume it was “a major terrorist plot” and for the San Antonio police to cordon off “several blocks of downtown San Antonio”, disrupt business, bring bomb-sniffing dogs to check out the streets and shops, and scare the daylights out of residents and tourists just shows the paranoia exacerbated by the media hype.

All I am saying is ‘take the time to get the facts before going crazy’. A good thing here was that the authorities would not release the names or pictures of the suspects until they had time to “check things out”. If they had released the photos, I am quite certain those names and pictures would have been all over the national news programs –and those kids, who appear to be guilty of nothing more than drunken stupidity (like many another college kid I have known, myself included), would have been labeled terrorists, a reputation that would have followed them where ever they went even when they were cleared.

This kind of paranoia and over-reaction is exactly what the real terrorists want. When we allow little incidents like this disrupt our lives and force us to change our ways –people like those in al Qaeda are very happy because they win that round. Our behavior has demonstrated to them that they have reached out and scared us and disprupted our lives –which exactly the point of 'terrorism'.

Live Long and Prosper....

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