....LMB: "Everyone Gets It Wrong"....

September 16, 2002

As you probably heard, there was a terrorism scare in Florida this weekend, which ended up amounting to nothing. Heavy "breaking news" coverage of the event blew things way out of proportion, but then so did just about everyone involved with the situation. Remember folks, the facts you hear in "breaking news" type stories usually turn out to be about 80% false. Truth doesn't fully reveal itself till the dust has settled.

The story is this: a woman in a restaurant in northern Georgia overheard the conversations of three men sitting near her. She claims she heard one man say "Do you think we have enough to bring it down?" and another reply "If we don't have enough to bring it down, I have contacts and we can get enough to bring it down." She also claims that one of them said "if Americans were sad on 9/11, wait until 9/13." All three men were Muslims, at least two of them were of Arabic descent (I haven't been able to ascertain the third man's ethnicity).

The woman called the police, thinking that she'd just heard three Muslim terrorists discussing their plans to blow up Miami (I presume she overheard them mention their travel destination, but I haven't seen it explicitly mentioned in news articles). The police came and detained the men, handcuffing them and keeping all three in separate police cars overnight. They searched the men's car, and closed down 20 miles of a major Florida highway. They found nothing. The police then began to hypothesize that this was a hoax planned by the three men, or that they had been playing a trick on the woman at the restaurant. Then, realizing that there wasn't even evidence of that, let the men go.

The fuller story now coming out is that three Muslim medical students were driving to Miami to begin internships at a hospital there. The students claim that their "bring it down" conversation at the restaurant was about having a car shipped down to Miami for the length of the internship. The men deny that they said anything about 9/11.

Sadly, the students' internships have been cancelled. The hospital claims that they have received a number of racist, threatening phone calls and emails since the news stories hit.

So there you go, one woman's paranoia has fucked up the careers of three innocent men. I guess I can't blame her too much, she was acting out of fear. But unfortunately, fear destroys common sense. Common sense might've said "why would three terrorists sit here in a public restaurant and discuss their plans to blow up Miami in English?" Or "the phrase 'bring it down' can mean a whole lot of different things?"

Well, what's done is done, and the men claim that they bear no ill will towards the woman.

Posted by Jake at 10:27 AM

Thank you for pointing out the obvious--that a CROWDED Shoney's in Calhoum, GA, is an unlikely plAce for group of terrorists to discuss their future plans to blow up Miami--and discuss it in English, yet.

I don't think Stone lied or even exaggerated. I spent 6 years in the area, and I am familiar with the mentality. Anyone who isn't White or Christian (and it better be conservative Christianity at that; none of those Catholics, mind you) or Southern sticks out like a sore thumb, and is automatically suspect. Toss in a heightened alert status and the timing, and her paranoia was on overdrive. She saw dark-skinned Middle Eastern men, and was immediateley suspicious.

And NONE of the numerous newspaper accounts I've read bothered to point out that terrorists aren't very likely to discuss a coming mission in a crowded reataurant in English. A FEW did mention that she claimed all 3 spoke in Arabic, despite the fact that only 1 of them speaks the language.

A bad day for civil rights, media accuracy, and common sense.

Posted by: irishfey at September 28, 2002 02:46 PM
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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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