Get the facts out

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, is shown in a 2003 file photo from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Hasan may be paralyzed from the waist down according to a statement by his attorney on November 13, 2009. Hasan has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder stemming from the killings at Ft. Hood. UPI Photo via Newscom

We’ve looked at the Daily Caller stories about the Journolist list-serv. Most of them have little to do with religion news but some of them might be of interest to GetReligion readers.

Today’s story looks at what the Daily Caller calls the “heroes” on Journolist — those whose “postings reflected admirable integrity or civility.” The write-up of the New Yorker‘s James Surowiecki was particularly interesting:

When Nidal Hasan murdered 13 people at Ft. Hood, Texas, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” before opening fire, members of Journolist debated whether the media should report on Hasan’s apparent ties to Islamic extremism.

Luke Mitchell, then of Harper’s magazine, said doing so “points the way to things that are actually alarmingly dangerous, such as the idea that there is a large conspiracy of Islamists at work in the United States, that we need to ‘do something’ about this conspiracy.”

Surowiecki replied to Mitchell and others that the truth was worth pursuing.

“I find it bizarre that anyone would argue that an accurate description of what happened is somehow pointless,” Surowiecki said. “That is, that it’s not useful to offer up an accurate picture of Hasan’s actions because nothing obvious follows from it. We want, as much as possible, to have a clear picture of what’s actually going on in the world. Describing Hasan as a violent Islamist terrorist is much closer to the truth than describing him as a disturbed individual.”

This is probably a good example of how discussions on Journolist mirrored or resulted in mainstream coverage. We all remember that there was the odd attempt to turn Hasan’s violent outburst into more a story of a “disturbed individual” than a violent terrorist. On the other hand, those attempts failed pretty quickly because of the quality reporting done by the Washington Post and other media outlets that worked to serve the truth rather than a preconceived agenda.

This exchange reveals how difficult it can be for journalists to report the truth even about something as newsworthy as a mass shooting at a U.S. Army base. And it’s nice to see that at least one of the 400 folks on Journolist was able to see the importance in reporting news over unfounded speculation about mental health.

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  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    But what if he is neither a “disturbed individual” nor a bona fide “violent terrorist” but just a normal Moslem acting out what many Moslems consider are mainstream teachings of their faith.
    Take for example this story that was on many international religious sites, but as far as I could see was reported nowhere in the American secular press sources I regularly read:
    “Pakistani Christian Brothers Shot Dead in Court.”
    In Faisalabad, Pakistan two brothers were charged with publishing and distributing a blasphemous, anti-Islamic pamphlet (the very common way used to persecute Christians in many Moslem countries) When the brothers showed up in court, they were gunned down. Following this a Catholic Church was ransacked and destroyed.
    According to accounts it was not “disturbed individuals” or known terrorists–just mobs of plain Moslem believers–doing all the bloodshed and violence.
    But chilling stories like this–commonly reported elsewhere–rarely make it into the American mainstream secular media.

  • Julia

    The BBC had a report on the incident mentioned by the Deacon. No mention of “disturbed individuals” or “violent terrorists”. I’m sure I never saw this reported in the US in newspapers or TV news.

    The report does mention that several hundred demonstrators marched to the Christian part of town to demand the death penalty the week before somebody shot the men on the way to trial. The report also notes that nobody has ever been executed under the law, but many have been killed or flee the country before trial.