Articles

Media Fallibility and OBL

In Specific Discussion on May 18, 2011 by tinfoilturban Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Bismillah iRahmen iRaheem

Asalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmetullahi Wa Bareketahu đŸ˜€
Waking for dhuhr on the Monday of the 2nd of May, I was witness to the unfolding news barrage that surrounded the killing of Osama bin Laden. I then began to brace myself for the coming onslaught.

One of the things that I have learnt is that the birthing place of many a conspiracy is the early coverage of an event. The speculations flew left and right, on Facebook, forums and the blogosphere. As we know, speculation and conspiracy stand hand in hand.

If one asks a Muslim what one of our most common sins are, they are likely to answer that backbiting and slander are pretty high up on the list. I have lost count of the number of talks I have attended upon which ‘guarding one’s tongue’ is the primary focus. One of the many wisdoms behind the prohibition of speculative speech about another person is that if you hear something from somebody else, about somebody else, it is probably wrong. The same is true of much of that which follows a breaking news story.

One can find that as the story progressed, the reports swung wildly, first Osama bin Laden was killed while hiding behind his wife, then he was hiding behind a woman, then another man was killed using a woman as a human shield and finally a woman was killed in the cross fire. Especially in the early moments of a story, information is scarce, and the news media are far from above speculation. Unfortunately, this gives rise to many reports which are later shown to be wildly inaccurate. The sceptical mind looks upon such things as a natural function of the media, who are after all, not God, and more than capable of error. It is in this error and wild inaccuracies lay the roots of many a conspiracy theory.

A prime example of this would be the oft cited 9/11 conspiracy theory that one of the hijackers was alive and well, days after the 9/11 attacks. This is based upon a news report focussing upon a single person, who shared a name with one of the people identified as a hijacker. Despite the article being later corrected, and the story being shown to be a mistake, the misconception remains.

The same is often true of other conspiracies, things like UFO reports and other strange phenomena are reported uncritically by some sources, and then later adopted by conspiracy theorists as proof. What this all highlights is that the sceptic must be wary of the dangers of uncritically accepting news reports, especially when they occur moments after an event. A proper evaluation of an incident only comes with time. The best approach is to remain patient and reserve judgement until more is known about an incident. It is an unwise person who jumps to conclusions before all the facts are known.

My apologies for the short post and the lateness in posting, I have been busy over the last few weeks and I thought I should type something up before motivation departs entirely. Keep well insha’Allah.

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