Nidal Hasan, Specious Reporting, And Islam

The murders at Ft Hood yesterday were horrible. The subsequent coverage by major newspapers was deplorable.

I did not hear about the killings until later in the evening. When I went around the the web checking the major news outlets, one thing stuck out for me. Most, in having found some information about the shooter, had begun to create some causation between Nadil Hasan, the shooter and his religion, Islam.

There was no clear evidence at this point as to Hasan’s motivations behind the shootings yet, once they found out his name and that he came from an immigrant Muslim family, the papers seemed to run with it.

The New York Times, in their profile of Hasan, mentioned pure speculation rather than doing actual reporting:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation earlier became aware of Internet postings by a man calling himself Nidal Hasan, a law enforcement official said. The postings discussed suicide bombings favorably, but the investigators were not clear whether the writer was Major Hasan.

In one posting on the Web site Scribd, a man named Nidal Hasan compared the heroism of a soldier who throws himself on a grenade to protect fellow soldiers to suicide bombers who sacrifice themselves to protect Muslims.

“If one suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off guard that would be considered a strategic victory,” the man wrote. It could not be confirmed, however, that the writer was Major Hasan.

If it could not be confirmed, why are you giving us three possibly untrue paragraphs? If we the public are supposed to sorry for the vaunted and professional journalists at the ‘dying’ newspapers why are you participating in conjecture.

Another alluring headline on the part of the media was produced by the Washington Post last night:

WaPo Headline

WaPo Headline

Seriously?

Whenever a Christian goes on a shooting rampage, be it at work, school, or just local multiple homicides, I have never seen a headline that read “Shooter is Native of North Carolina” then subheader “John Johnston, the shooter of ten people, is a Christian”.

Why, when there was very little information coming out about what happened and the man in general, is the point that the news organizations wanted to make that he is a Muslim? Did the editors think this would scare up more views online? It would definitely set the right wing blogosphere afire and drive traffic to their sites.

It is possible that Hasan’s beliefs had something to do with the shootings – he had reported being harassed by soldiers about being a Muslim in years past and, from what reports say, was actively trying to get out of service. Religion though, is used as an excuse to cover other problems many times.

What the news organizations should be asking is what could drive a middle-aged, well-educated, and long-serving officer of the military to do something like this before deployment. Would his working with PTSD cases on a daily basis have anything to do with it? Would the general environment of Ft Hood have anything to do with it?

The Guardian, a UK newspaper, is the only one seeming to bring up these topics. There is an article about ten suicides at Ft Hood this year as well as one about officials in Washington that had been discussing the possibility of such an incident this week.

Whatever happened at Fort Hood goes further than the simplistic suppositions that the papers are putting forward creating causation where none exists between his religion and the shootings. When Eric Rudolph was committing his atrocities, the papers did not slap ‘Christian’ on the headlines despite family links to supremacist Christian movements or being a Catholic.

How about the ‘professional’ news organizations stick to the facts that they can confirm.

2 Comments

  1. Daimao

    I naturally expected Hasan’s religion to be the topic of the news media’s reporting when I first heard the story. It shouldn’t come as a surprise when you have a Muslim officer shooting up a US military base. However, I hope you’re trying to hint at a larger point with those mentions of Christian rampages, because I think it goes without saying that you wouldn’t see their religions in a headline.

  2. Jordan

    I am. It just struck me as odd how headlines for this spree killer automatically came out with his religious affiliation. If it had been a non-Muslim it would have been framed as a ‘crazed killer’ (like the man in Orlando today).