July 07, 2015

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The Muslim burnout and the carved queer. Many similarities: implied connections to larger current events; pure-as-snow victims; “€œintolerant”€ Utah small towns; “€œevil”€ white Christians. So why didn”€™t the press take the bait in the carving case as enthusiastically and zealously as it did in the arson case? Integrity? Of course not. Most journalists don”€™t know the meaning of the word. Prudence? Nonsense. That word is even more foreign to journalists, especially now with the Internet and its 24-hour news cycle.

No, I think it’s fear. Fear of looking bad. Journalists are finally coming around to understanding that the odds are always that these types of stories are hoaxes, and they”€™re getting tired of looking stupid and gullible. Remember a couple of years ago how trendy it was for the mainstream media to cover stories of waiters and waitresses who claimed that customers wrote hateful and bigoted comments on checks? And how, one by one by one, those stories were debunked as fakes? Notice the dramatic slowdown in those types of stories. And I don”€™t think it’s because attention-seeking “€œvictim group”€ waitresses aren”€™t still producing falsified checks and receipts with phony hate messages scribbled on them. I think, instead, that the media got tired of looking like idiots.

In fact, the Daily Beast’s M.L. Nestel, one of the few “€œmainstream”€ journalists (that should have been in quotes too, I guess) who lunged at the “€œcarved guy”€ bait with the speed of a hungry, brain-damaged bluegill, refuses (as of this writing) to update his original, irresponsibly overwrought panic piece with the appropriate “€œit was all a hoax”€ coda. The Beast did post a small story about the hoax revelation, but no update or postscript has been added to Nestel’s original. Nestel refused to reply to an email asking why, but I think I already know why. He knows how credulous, reckless, and irresponsible he”€™ll look if readers have the opportunity to compare, side by side, his over-the-top, hysterical coverage of the “€œcrime”€ with the sobering and totally predictable outcome of the investigation. Frankly, he”€™ll look like a wide-eyed sucker unsuited for his profession. And I think it was the fear of exactly this kind of public humiliation that stopped most of Nestel’s colleagues from following his lead on this story. 

In the grand arc of modern cause célèbre hate-crime hoaxes, a glorious rainbow of deceit and stupidity that ranges from Tawana Brawley writing “€œnigger”€ on her body in charcoal and feces, to Morton Downey Jr. scrawling a backward swastika on his face in a public restroom, to the guy who carved “€œdie fag”€ into his arm, the esteemed members of the media are, if not wising up, at least proceeding with caution for selfish reasons. And that’s better than nothing.


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