Tuesday, October 11, 2005

If a suicide bomber blows up in Oklahoma, can the New York Times hear?

I've written on this topic before (and once I get WhatsAPundit up and independent again I'll update this link) but the recent "stealth bombing" in Oklahoma illustrates again how selective the media can be in hyping a story.

20 year old rumors of slacking by a Texas Air National Guardsman? Front page for weeks, driving putatively sane newspeople into serious lapses, either of intelligence, ethics, or both.

A young man commits jihad-style suicide outside a college football game? Bury it on page 32.

Now, the facts on the ground are slim (but compelling) and the links to radical Islam are disputed (but if you were a member of a radical mosque, would you admit this guy was one of your own?). Neither is a justification for ignoring this story, which the mainstream outlets (for the most part) are doing. Hints and allegations are the precursors to investigation, and there are enough of both, I'd think, to send Pulitzer-hungry journos into a feeding-frenzy.

But somehow, this doesn't seem to be on any menus right now.

Let's flip this. Say that the young man had been sitting outside an abortion clinic, and that he had been attending a fundamentalist Baptist Church which had a previous member take a potshot at a doctor who performs abortions. (There's a point to this analogy; follow the links, as DeepThroat might say today.)

Do you think maybe The New York Times runs that front page above the fold? I thought you might.

What's the difference between the real world and my fantasy scenario? The real world evidence leads to a story a lot of people don't want to believe (namely, that radical Islam is a threat to United States, in the United States.) The fantasy scenario is one that a lot of people would believe immediately, because it fits an accepted world view.

This, friends, Romans, countrymen, illustrates bias. I don't for a minute believe (in most cases) that it's a conscious decision to help or hinder a particular politician or party. People (in most cases) aren't evil, and burying a story like the Oklahoma Jihad-style Suicide Bomber just to support a political agenda would be evil. After all, if radical Islam is reaching out to the potential nutcases in this country, let's face it; there is plenty of squirrel-bait to be found. This strikes me as a potential hazard.

The problem with bias isn't that it's an evil impulse; the problem is that it's a lazy one, and more disturbing, a fearful one. Let's face it; a mad anti-abortionist is less of a threat to most people (workers at Planned Parenthood excepted) than a random post-adolescent psycho who decides that 72 virgins (and a chance to get even with all those assholes) sounds like a good deal.

It's kind of axiomatic that terror thrives in societies that capitulate to fear.

Let's not be one of those. Let's kindly ask the press to do it's job, and go after this story. A healthy society really depends upon it.

Update: Here's another story you don't need to know about....

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