The loss of those twelve innocent lives at Fort Hood yesterday due to a man’s betrayal of his fellow serviceman is both shocking and tragic. This tragedy has shined a light on the the irresponsibility of all these cable news channels, something that I have become disgusted with more and more as the years pass. Yesterday, they reported as “facts” that there were three shooters (when there was only one) and that one of the three had been shot dead (he was indeed shot, but he is still alive in a coma). That was the least offensive part of the coverage though, as it was almost immediate that the commentators began their prejudiced speculations without having all of the facts. Granted, I haven’t been able to follow this as closely as I have liked, since I’ve been busy these past twenty-four hours, but here is a little bit of what I heard on the news yesterday almost immediately in the aftermath of the shootings:
1) This was a possibly terrorist related – sorry, but violence committed by a Muslim does not equate terrorism. Why report this without any sort of base for the allegations? The focus on his Muslim faith in these early hours (especially when they were just assuming he was a Muslim because of his name without actually knowing for sure) was detestable.
2) He was born in the Middle East – but he was actually born in Virginia to Palestinian immigrants.
3) His motives – again, pure speculation by these “news” outlets. I heard speculations of him being a terrorist sympathizer, being pissed about his upcoming deployment to Iraq, and being angry about people mocking his faith on base. All of this baseless speculation has been an embarrassing excuse for “reporting.”
I understand that these news channels are in a war for the highest ratings, but didn’t they ever take a class on journalism ethics? Report the facts as they come in, talk to people who knew the man or were on the scene, but don’t go spreading this water cooler gossip. I don’t know the facts, I don’t know what his reasons for committing this atrocity were – so until those involved in the investigation release that sort of information, your job is to say, “Sorry folks, we don’t know why he did this, but we’ll release the information as soon as the investigation uncovers more facts.” And maybe we’ll never know and people can come to their own conclusions on their own, but it is not the job of the media to push their speculative beliefs onto their viewers, especially ones so tainted with ignorance.
As Obama said yesterday when speaking of the incident: “We don’t know all the answers yet. And I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts.” Apparently, that isn’t common sense.