Of Bubbles and Bias
Twice the Rupert Murdoch-owned has announced that police have identified the primary suspects in Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings. Twice it has indicated that or pictured these purported “suspects” as persons of Arab descent or persons who appear to be of Arab descent. Twice these stories have been poorly sourced. Twice these stories have resulted in explicit and extraordinarily rapid denials by investigators. Twice the New York Post’s reporting of these “suspects” has gone viral amongst conservative blogs. Twice these “suspects” have seen their lives opened up for widespread scrutiny and harassment as a result. Zero times has the New York Post retracted or apologized for its reporting.
We still do not know, at this moment, who the primary suspects are – if anyone – nor have the police identified an image of any primary suspects to the public. The widely disseminated – and wildly inconsistent – reports in the television media yesterday to the contrary displayed an appalling lack of interest in getting the story right. But as appalling as those reports were, they were merely exemplary of why we need a better press corps. The Post’s errors, and the manner in which they so quickly and unquestioningly went viral in certain corridors, are indicative both of poor journalism and something even more nefarious. I can only hope that the exposure of these errors forces a lot of people to reexamine their prejudices, no matter who the culprit turns out to be. I do not expect my hope to be satisfied.
[Ed. note – I updated this post after publication to add the second-to-last sentence of the first paragraph]