Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Blogging, Politics — Rick Moran @ 11:54 am

James Fallows sounds upset that bloggers jumped the gun in speculating that al-Qaeda or Islamic terrorists were responsible for the attack in Oslo yesterday:

No, this is a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too tedious to reserve judgment about horrifying events rather than instantly turning them into talking points for pre-conceived views. On a per capita basis, Norway lost twice as many people today as the U.S. did on 9/11. Imagine the political repercussions through the world if double-9/11-scale damage had been done by an al-Qaeda offshoot. The unbelievably sweeping damage is there in either case. For an example of a sober, dignified, shocked but resolute and democratic way to respond to national tragedy, see the moving and impressive speech by Norway’s Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, here. (Thanks to M. Fullilove.)

Seven Seventeen hours after the Post item went up, six sixteen hours after its claims were shown to be false and hysterical, it’s still there, with no correction or apology.

I don’t recall Fallows making a big deal out of the left’s snort-worthy attempt to capitalize politically on the Giffords’ shooting in Phoenix last January. Before the smell of gunpowder had dissipated, liberal blogs and commentators were blaming the tea party, Sarah Palin, a months-old “bullseye” map of targeted congressional districts, and “hate speech” by righties. This despite the fact that Jarold Loughner, the shooter, had a mind so broken and bereft of reason and logic that the idea he had any motivation for shooting the congresswoman beyond his own warped, paranoid imaginings was silly. And yet, the same “jumping the gun” on culprits and accessories to the crime occurred then as it happened yesterday in Oslo with the immediate blame for the attack being pinned on Islamists.

The same sort of nonsense occurred when Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll was released from her captivity in Iraq and right wing blogs piled on her statements that seemed to be solicitous of her captors. Without waiting to hear from Carroll about why she made those statements (she was coerced), several bloggers put out information hinting that she was a closet al-Qaeda sympathizer. At the time, I wrote:

In people’s haste to be first, or different, or just plain ornery and contrary (all the better to get links and readers) a culture of “shoot first and ask questions later” has arisen in the blogosphere that quite frankly, is proving every bad thing that the MSM has been saying about blogs from the beginning. Many of us - including myself - have been guilty in the past of hitting that “Publish” button when perhaps it would have been prudent and proper to take a beat or two to think about what we just wrote and the impact it might have beyond the small little world we inhabit in this corner of Blogland.

I wrote that in 2006 and, if anything, it has gotten worse on both sides of the political divide. On the left, blaming the right for the Giffords shooting had been proceeded by a similar exercise in stupidity when a shooter, hell bent on committing “police suicide,” murdered three policemen in Pittsburgh. Before anything was known about the perpetrator, the left was screaming about the telling news that a book by Sean Hannity had been found in the murderer’s home. Despite evidence that emerged later that his motivation was to draw down on police and die at their hands, no “apologies” as Mr. Fallows demands from Jen Rubin were forthcoming.

James Joyner doesn’t necessarily give those who jumped on the Muslim terrorist bandwagon a pass, but his explanation is logical:

When tragedies are unfolding and information is scant, however, the incentives are to get as much information out as fast as possible, even if much of it is inaccurate. And as much air time as possible is filled with “experts,” whose expertise is often tangentially related to the crisis and are hamstrung by the need for rampant speculation, to do instant analysis. The inevitable result is that they will fall into their comfort zone, analyzing by drawing analogies with past events that have some similarities.

We’ve now shifted from “this is Norway’s 9/11? to “this is Norway’s Oklahoma City.”

The investigators still don’t have complete information about this monstrous crime and they’re almost certainly not sharing everything they have with us. But, if the Oklahoma City analogy holds up, it would be fitting in one respect: The instant analysis in Oklahoma City was that it was the work of Islamist groups. While a natural assumption two years after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, it was completely wrong.

We can’t all write for The Atlantic and wallow in the luxury of being able to sit back, wait for events to sort themselves out, and then pontificate on how someone else who is paid to post and comment on breaking news got it wrong. The immediate speculation that it was a Muslim terrorist attack wasn’t widespread; it was universal. First reports of a Muslim terrorist group (that we now know doesn’t exist) claimed responsibility for the attack contributed to the notion that it was al-Qaeda or one of their murderous imitators who carried out the attack.

But was the promotion of a political agenda at work as well? As with previous instances where bloggers jumped the gun on assigning motives or intent to a fast breaking news story, trying to be first in order to garner links and readers took second place to advancing a particular political point of view. Speculation was unavoidable. But how much did our prejudices and pre-conceived ideas about terrorism lead most of us to get it so wrong?

It is the nature of the beast, as Joyner says. But perhaps the beast has learned a small lesson and next time, will reign in the natural desire to promote a particular agenda at the expense of the facts.

1 Comment

  1. [...] judgement might have to do with what we fear more than what it does with the facts on the ground.  Rick Moran takes some on the left to task for their righteous indignation today and their rush to judgement [...]

    Pingback by Jumping to Conclusions - Big Tent Revue — 7/23/2011 @ 9:52 pm

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