Friday, November 6, 2009


The main article in the NY Times on the Fort Hood shootings contains one of the more awkward examples of media bias I've ever personally come across.

Thirty-three paragraphs into a fifty-four paragraph article comes this:

"The Muslim Public Affairs Council, speaking for many American Muslims, condemned the shootings as a “heinous incident” and said, “We share the sentiment of our president.”

So why is that odd? Because nowhere in the article is the religion of the shooter mentioned. So why the non-sequitur of a condemnation from a Muslim group when the religion of the shooter is apparently not known or not important to mention? Why not include a condemnation from a Christian group, since it was Texas and Christianity is the majority religion of Texas? Why not a quote from a Jewish group, if we feel it's important to include minority religious reaction?

Oh, I learn about 80% of the way through the Wash. Post's main article on the shootings, the shooter is Muslim. Well, that explains the otherwise inexplicable reaction quote in the Times.

One must wonder, though, what is going through the minds of the NY Times. I think this is just the reflexive obedience to their pieties leading them into absurdity: linking Muslims to violence is wrong & bigoted & evil so you must not mention the religion of the shooter. But people are likely to find out anyway, so it's best to include something to show that Muslims are just as shocked and outraged as everyone else. Obeying these two dicta leads them to the curious position of leaving facts out of their story, implying that if you actually want to know all of the facts about a breaking story, you should go elsewhere than the Times.

Or learn to read their code, b/c clearly the random quote from a Muslim group indicated that the shooter was Muslim w/o the Times having to do the awkward, bigoted act of actually reporting news they would rather not.


Anonymous said...

The Times story says:

Military records indicated that Major Hasan was single, had been born in Virginia, had never served abroad and listed “no religious preference” on his personnel records.

So it seems more likely the Times couldn't say for sure whether he was a Muslim or not at the time they published the story.

You're paranoid.

blighter said...

Well if it's not my old friend the reading-comprehension-challenged Anonymous poster!

I'm sorry to see our time apart has done nothing for your reading skills.

First, just as a general point, you might want to look up the word "paranoid". Someone who is paranoid is extermely fearful & believes others are out to get him or her. I may or may not be paranoid, but this post would give no clue either way.

I didn't say & don't think the NY Times is out to get me. Nor am I afraid of them. (Bad journalism isn't actually literally scary, it just seems that way.) I do think the NY Times is more dedicated to their reality-denying ideology than they are to basic reporting standards or even hewing to simple logical presentations of the facts they are willing to admit to.

You may disagree and think it's obvious I'm wrong, you may even think I'm seeing things that aren't there, in which case I would be "delusional" but still not necessarily "paranoid". But I suppose I really shouldn't complain when someone with obvious problems understanding what he reads or making logical arguments also uses words incorrectly.

The entire point of my post was that the Muslim condemnation was completely unrelated to anything else in the article because the NY Times hadn't included any hints as to the shooter's Muslim faith. I even allowed as to how they might not have known:

"when the religion of the shooter is apparently not known or not important to mention"

I hypothesized that their reluctance to mention his faith was because they'd rather not acknowledge any connections between Islam & terrorism unless forced to. They'd rather keep any linkages limited to the ritual denunciations of violence from various Muslim groups of the sort that they did include.

You apparently believe that, while other media outlets had figured out the fellow was a Muslim, the NY Times had only his stated belief that he had "no religion" to rely on and so didn't know what faith he was.

Well, if that's the case, why include an out-of-the-blue response from a Muslim group?

If this was, say, a report on a subway mugging that had no connection to religion, would you not find it odd to read halfway through the article that "The Zoroastrian Defense League expressed sadness over the incident and reiterated that Zoroastrianism has no support for muggings."

You see my point now? I said: the NY Times doesn't mention his religion but does include a non-sequitur (look it up) response from a Muslim group. How odd!

You respond: not true! They said he had no religious preference!

So, following your logic, this means the response from a Muslim group makes sense? Why?

Nope, sorry. Bringing up facts that I had already alluded to in my post does not actually disprove the post.

Casting incorrectly used ad hominems also doesn't disprove my point, though it does reinforce my impression of you as someone incapable of the level of thought necessary to support the various popular prejudices you've adopted.

As ever, thanks so much for reading!

Anonymous said...

Rather than your crack-pot rube goldberg machine of a theory, they probably suspected he was a muslim and wanted to say so. But the best piece of evidence about his religion they had -- his response on that form -- suggested he was not. What to do?

Imagine if they had told the world he was muslim, then it turned out he wasn't and they were wrong and on top of that it came out that they had had evidence he wasn't a muslim all along and ignored it?

I agree that when they included the response from the muslim group they should have made it clearer why they thought it was relevant.

But it's not hard to see why it was: People were going to connect him to muslim terrorists in their minds even if it turned out later that his name just sounded muslim or, say, his grandparents were muslim and he was secular.

But you seem to think the inclusion of the statement all but proves they knew he was muslim and were just hiding it.

That the facts about him were complicated and contradictory and the great hurry they must have been in is a much more likely explanation than the idea that they were willfully concealing information.

blighter said...

Blogger, crappy system that it is, apparently limits comments to a letter count too low to encompass all that I wish to say in response. So I'll be breaking my reposne to your latest comment, my Anonymous friend, into the next two comments...

blighter said...

Part I of II:

Wow, you’re so close to overcoming your own prejudices and engaging in rational thought here! Just a little further and you’ll be all the way there.

I agree that when they included the response from the Muslim group they should have made it clearer why they thought it was relevant.

So you now acknowledge that the Muslim condemnation included in the piece was a complete non sequitur with no logical relation to anything else included in the piece, wonderful. That was the main thrust of my post; glad we can at least agree on that point.

We still differ somewhat on why they would abandon adherence to rudimentary logic in order to include this out-of-the-blue Muslim response. Here’s your take:

But it's not hard to see why it was: People were going to connect him to Muslim terrorists in their minds even if it turned out later that his name just sounded muslim or, say, his grandparents were Muslim and he was secular.

So we partially agree here too! This would be the second of the pieties to which I felt they were bowing, that of having to always reinforce that Muslims condemn terrorism so that the ignorant bigots who the Times (and you, apparently) feel populate our country will have no excuse to unleash their hateful wishes.

Now, I feel they left out the fact that he was a Muslim not because they weren’t aware because, poor, underprivileged folk that they are they just didn’t have access to the same reporting resources as all the other major media outlets, all of whom managed to discover that the fellow was a Muslim through contacts with his family, mosque, neighbors, coworkers, etc., etc.

No, I felt they were just as capable as the other reporters covering the case but more dedicated to their piety of ignoring as much as possible any link between Islam and terrorism. So they go out of their way to either not mention it or, perhaps, not discover it in the first place. They see the “no religion” indication and figure that’s good enough for them since it says exactly what they want it to. Why go out of your way to find out facts that just make you uncomfortable, right?

blighter said...

Part II of II:

So, to sum up, we agree that the Muslim condemnation was totally out-of-the-blue from the perspective of the article as reported. We agree that the reason it is included is because the Times feels it necessary to do its part to educate the bigoted masses teeming throughout this country. I think they are just as good at reporting as other major media outlets and left out the Muslim fact (either through omission or intentionally not trying to discover it) because of a related piety. In contrast, you feel that they NY Times is just incapable of performing the same level of reporting as other media. They are limited to just the bare facts from the guy’s work file and don’t have the resources, gumption or skill to chase down additional facts in a timely manner, as other media outlets did.

And this difference you chalk up to me having a “crack-pot rube goldberg machine of a theory”.

You know, here again we run into your troubles with English. Perhaps it’s not your first language, I don’t know. Regardless, you should maybe take a bit more time to learn the meanings of words and phrases before you try to use them against others. A Rube Goldberg machine is a deliberately overly-elaborate contraption designed to perform a relatively simple, straightforward task. So my theory, which suggests that the ideological preferences of the Times employees leads them to both omit pertinent facts that others easily find and include facts that don’t fit the narrative they’ve chosen involves one explanation for a set of observations. Which, to my mind, doesn’t fit the “overly elaborate” essence of the Rube Goldberg-esque designation.

Yours, on the other hand, posits that the Times reporters ideological preferences lead them to include information that does not fit the narrative they’ve chosen to present but, at the same time, a lack of reporting resources or ability leaves them unable to discover pertinent facts that would a) help with the logical flow of the non-sequitur they’ve chosen to include and that b) every other media outlet managed to discover. So your explanation involves both an ideological explanation & a set of unlikely coincidences to explain the same observations as my more streamlined model.

I’m not sure that your rather convoluted “logic” (for lack of a better word) rises to the level Rube Goldberg but it’s definitely closer than mine.

As always, thanks ever so much for reading!