By William K. Black
January 30, 2017 Bloomington, MN
How far have Fox “News” and the self-described “Deplorables” fallen? They rushed after a lethal terror attack on Muslims in Quebec City to declare that Muslims must have committed the attack.
“So, I retweeted the wrong pics, but I was right about the #QuebecShooters being freaking Muslims!!
Close, if the Deplorable meant by his phrase “I was right” “I was wrong.”
For purposes of what I am about to write, I am channeling my experience and expertise as a criminologist and a former leader of investigative teams. Breaking news about a major crime, an emergency, or a battle is invariably incomplete and typically inaccurate in important ways. Eyewitness accounts of a life-threatening situation are notoriously inaccurate. The number of shooters is typically overestimated. Initial reports of statements during the attack are often inaccurate. The best way to screw up grandly is to jump to conclusions based on what is essentially rumors.
First responders such as SWAT and hostage rescue teams have to make initial deployment and tactical decisions based on what they know are incomplete and reliable initial reports, but television viewers and newspaper readers have no need to base anything on unreliable initial reports. All they have to do is wait for the police to have time to investigate the facts. In the case of the attack on the Muslims in the mosque in Quebec City it was known within a few hours that the police would likely be able to identify the perpetrator(s) within 24 hours. All people had to do was wait and read the reports of what the police found.
That simple task – wait and get the facts – proved to be beyond the capacity of Fox News and a raft of trolls. They knew that the attackers were Muslims. They also knew that they had a duty to spread to the widest possible audience the trolls’ hate for Muslims – with anti-Muslim rumors treated (and retweeted) as revealed truths. The trolls, bots, bigots, and Fox News reported that Arabs had committed the attack on the mosque.
In the small hours of Monday morning, false information presented as facts about the tragic mosque shooting in Quebec rapidly engulfed Twitter.
Fabricated details about the horrendous crime in Quebec City, which left six worshipers dead and more than a dozen others wounded, were promoted by an army of bots and high-profile right-wing commentators.
The shooter, they claimed, was a Muslim. First, a Syrian refugee; then, a man of “Moroccan origin,” as Fox News claimed in an article it quietly deleted around noon without correction. (A Moroccan man interviewed by police was actually a worshipper at the Cultural Islamic Center of Québec.)
The terrorist, in fact, was a single shooter. He is an ultra-right wing Trump and le Pen supporter who hated Muslim immigrants to Canada.
We know that the trolls and bots revel in their hatred and lies. The scandal is that the Trump administration cited a terrorist attack against unarmed Muslims praying in a place of worship committed by a Christian anti-immigrant bigot armed with an assault rifle as justifying the administration’s anti-Muslim refugee program. Trump’s press flack, Sean Spicer, said that the terrorist attack in Canada was:
[A] terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the president is taking steps to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security.
Lincoln urged us to heed the better angels of our nature. Trump encourages his worst followers to heed the worst demons of their natures. Trump’s trolls are doing exactly that in their modern caves – mom’s basement.