Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Why Journalists Are No Better Than Bloggers

There's been a lot of fuss about Annie Jacobsen's recent article in the Women's Wall Street Journal.

In this article, Jacobsen describes the terror she felt on a recent plane flight, when half a dozen Middle Eastern men were talking amonst themselves and visiting the bathrooms.  Despite Jacobsen's concerns, nothing occurs until after the flight, when the FBI questioned the men and released them.  After the flight, Jacobsen was told that the men were musicians, and were travelling to play a show at a casino.  Jacobsen uses the incident to criticize the FAA for its prohibition of racial profiling, which prevented the airlines from questioning the musicians before they boarded the plane.

Various pundits lined up to alternately excoriate Jacobsen to overreacting, or blame the FAA for endangering passengers to be politically correct.

Only Clinton Taylor, a Ph.D. student at Stanford University, bothered to try confirming the musicians' identity.  Within an hour, he had located the Sycuan casino in San Diego, which had booked Nour Mehana (the Syrian Wayne Newton) and a backup band to perform on July 1, and confirmed that they had been on the flight in question.

The most terrifying thing about them?

"And then I noticed something that was truly terrifying, something linking Nour Mehana to a figure of such repulsive evil that I felt a rush of prickly fear not unlike Jacobsen's: Just one week later, the same company that arranged Mehana's performance, also booked Carrot Top!"

Why is it that some of the world's biggest publications couldn't spend one hour to check the most important part of a story on terrorism?

While there is no doubt that we should be worried about the potential for racial profiling to endanger our skies, we should also be worried about the validity of mainstream journalism.

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