Sunday, February 19, 2006

Back to the Future

An e-mail is again circulating on the Internet about the sentencing of shoe-bomber Richard Reid. It is directed at conservative netizens and is intended to stoke outrage over the liberal media's alleged lack of coverage of the event. What is odd about the e-mail is that the media did cover the sentencing and even quoted extensively from Judge Young's remarks, as websites for CNN, The New York Times, and many other news outlets demonstrate. Effective reception for this message depends on a form of news amnesia that real political junkies following terrorism prosecutions generally wouldn't share.

In 2003 this e-mail was identified as an eRumor. By 2004 it was characterized as a chain letter. It was reclassified as an urban legend in 2005, by which time the focus was back on the existence of the judge's "stinging rebuke" not on the interpretation of media strategy that also framed it. The same e-mail, almost verbatim, is still frequently forwarded in 2006.

The email begins:

Remember the guy who got on a plane with a bomb built into his shoe and tried to light it?

Did you know his trial is over?
Did you know he was sentenced?
Did you see/hear any of the judge's comments on TV/Radio?
Didn't think so. Our liberal press don't care about these things.

Everyone should hear what the judge had to say.

It then prints the comments of the sentencing judge in which Reid is excoriated. It concludes thus:

So, how much of this Judge's comments did we hear on our TV sets? We need more judges like Judge Young, but that's another subject. Pass this around. Everyone should and needs to hear what this fine judge had to say.

Powerful words that strike home....

On the rare occasions when I turn on a television set, I don't really hear anyone in the media praising terrorist operatives like Reid, so it seems particularly strange to assert that such opinions would be suppressed. Furthermore, the judge's comments about how Reid isn't an "enemy combatant" may also be read against the grain as a possible judicial critique of Executive Branch policies.

This month, liberal blogs, such as This Modern World, are expressing surprise over the non-coverage of the 2003 "Bag Incident" at Sulaymaniyah in which Turkish Special Forces operatives were accidentally detained as possible Iraqi insurgents and were subjected to humiliating treatment by U.S. soldiers. The Bag Incident is now the subject of an incendiary popular film that is reaching wide audiences and is potentially destabilizing to our Muslim NATO ally. Although it occured during the same year as the Reid sentencing, according to my searches on news outlets with the keywords "Bag Incident," "Sulaymaniyah," or "Turkish Special Forces," the diplomatically scandalous event was not in fact covered by the "liberal" New York Times or CNN at the time. Chain e-mail, anyone?

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