November 6, 2009

(h/t Heather at VideoCafe)

Dear 24 Hour Cable News Channels:

I understand your dilemma, I really do. You have 44 minutes on the hour to fill with content. And it has to be compelling stuff, so that the viewer isn't tempted to channel surf to your rivals. In the situation like the Fort Hood shootings, where news is coming scattershot and conflicting, it's even more difficult.

See? I get it.

But having said that--and I say this with love and respect--PLEASE, SHUT. THE. F#@K. UP. Don't spend time guessing on motivations when there is so little information available. Don't surmise terrorist intent when you can't possibly know. And for the love of everything holy, don't go to criminal profiler Cliff "A Hammer Sees Everything As A Nail" Van Zandt (a crime of which Keith Olbermann is also guilty) to make up utter bovine excrement.

At the time that Van Zandt was waxing rhapsodic over possible terrorist inclinations, remember, the news was that there were two or three shooters, one of whom was dead (Hasan, the single shooter, was alive and being treated at the time). That Maj. Nadil Hasan was of Jordanian, Arab, or Palestinian birth (he was born in Virginia of Palestinian immigrant parents), that he was a recent Muslim convert (he had been a practicing Muslim his whole life), that he was suffering from PTSD, or secondary PTSD from his work with returning vets in Virginia, that he was sympathetic with suicide bombers, angry at bad evaluations, upset at being deployed to Iraq, frustrated by the Army's dismissal of the harassment he got at Ft. Hood about his faith and/or desperate to get out of his upcoming deployment.

Bottom line: we didn't know enough. It was irresponsible of you to try to make suppositions when the information (including the fact that he was alive) was so sketchy.

And to focus on the one known of his name and then presuming his faith (A lot of 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants don't necessarily practice the religions of their grandparents, yet still have Middle Eastern names, and I will reiterate, in those early hours, WE DIDN'T KNOW) to then suggest jihadist and/or terrorist sympathies was to give legitimacy to all those hate-mongers like Michelle Malkin and Fox & Friends anchors Doocy and not-Doocy to once again, call into question ALL Muslims.

Don't you get it? "Terrorism" is not defined as "any violence by any Muslim anywhere at any time for any reason." If it's true that Hasan had been the victim of harassment because of his religion and that contributed to his state of mind, then those who create and foster an environment that makes it acceptable to demonize and dehumanize Muslims were right there with him, pulling the trigger. To focus on Hasan's faith as you did in those early hours was the lazy approach and avoids the deeper reasons:

(T)here’s nothing all that ground-breaking about (Hasan's shooting spree). Happens all the time, it’s just that we’re a nation of amnesiacs who forget all the unpleasantries, and refuse to learn the valuable lessons.

For starters, Fort Hood is located in Killeen, Texas -- where one of the deadliest rampage shootings in American history took place in 1991, when an unemployed ex-Navy enlistee, George Hennard Jr., crashed his pickup into a popular cafeteria, pulled out two handguns (Hasan also used two handguns), and murdered 23 people before taking his own life. The day before the massacre, Hennard was eating a hamburger in a local restaurant watching the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings and, according to the manager, “When an interview with Anita Hill came on, he just went off. He started screaming, ‘You dumb bitch! You bastards opened the door for all the women!'” [..]

But in what may seem like a strange coincidence, Maj. Hasan and Killeen are connected to another American shooting rampage. Killeen held the record for America’s worst shooting massacre until 2007, when Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 33 fellow students. And Malik Nadal Hasan graduated from Virginia Tech in 1997. Both Hasan and Cho were bullied and harassed -- Hasan’s cousin told reporters that after 9/11, his military comrades regularly abused him, calling him “camel jockey.” But the cousin insisted that Hasan’s opposition to the war didn’t grow out of the bullying, but rather from the stories he heard while interning as a psychiatric counselor to veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Hasan even hired an attorney to try to come to a settlement with the US government and leave the service, but they wouldn’t settle for a deal and instead forced him to deploy. He apparently fought it up to the day before his deployment -- and instead of going to the war, he brought the war to the US military.[..]

So Hasan, whose parents came to the US from Palestine, had plenty of personal connections to “Made in the USA” violence and massacres; and yet there’s a frantic attempt to make him out to be a crazy Muslim monster hell-bent on killing Americans. Why would he need to take inspiration just from them, when Americans already provided so many excellent examples of how to mass-murder fellow Americans?

There was another incident of a soldier opening fire on his comrades this year. Sgt. John Russell shot and killed 5 others at a mental stress clinic in Baghdad in May. Pretty sure he wasn't a Muslim, and maybe that's why so few have discussed this horrible act of violence.

When I was Managing Editor of this site, I had to sit down and decide what content was appropriate for the site. I had to think about how responsible we were being and whether a post might hurt our credibility. I admit, I didn't succeed every time. But we did succeed more than we didn't, and this site grew and was cited and linked to by other sites as well as traditional media. It bothers me to no end that just weeks after that ludicrous Balloon Boy debacle (and seriously, have none of you ever bought a mylar balloon for your child before? Anyone could see that dumb saucer wasn't powerful enough to lift a 50 pound child) that no lessons were learned about rushing to judgment.

There are some valuable and needed discussions that should be had about Maj. Hasan's actions. But Sweet Jesus, why do you have to poison the well before all facts are known?

Again, with all due respect, just STFU. Report the facts as they become known. Talk to eyewitnesses. Tamron Hall actually reached out to families at Ft. Hood via Facebook, what a great way to use social/new media. Look back at historical acts of violence at Ft. Hood (and other bases). There is a wealth of discussion that could have been had, instead of the irresponsible, non-journalistic and hate-mongering approach you took.

Shame on you,

Nicole Belle.

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