San Bernardino Massacre: Perception and Propaganda

The reaction to the San Bernardino shooting in which 14 people were killed
and several more wounded is a textbook case of confirmation bias. The first
reactions came from the liberal wing of the Twittersphere, heavily represented
by “mainstream” journalists, who immediately took the incident to be a classic
“mass shooting” of the Sandy Hook-Columbine variety, and it didn’t take long
for the finger-wagging
to begin. At once pro-gun control and anti-religious, the meme went
out into cyberspace: “thoughts and prayers” aren’t enough, we need to crack
down on gun ownership in this country. The front page
of the New York Daily News expressed the left-liberal party line: “GOD
ISN’T FIXING THIS: As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools
of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless

As it turned out, however, the guns used by Syed Farook and Tashveen Malik,
the two perpetrators, were bought legally — and their weaponry consisted of
a lot more than mere guns. The editors of the Daily News didn’t wait
for the facts because they didn’t care about the facts. They just wanted to
make a point — one which turned out to be not only wrong but also completely
beside the point.

In the same city, in the offices of a very similar — if ideologically opposite
— tabloid, the editors of the New York Post were jumping the gun in an
entirely different direction. As the ethnicity and religious affiliation of
the attackers came out, they ran with a simple two-word headline: “MUSLIM KILLERS,”
with a modifying qualifier: “Terror eyed as couple slaughters 14 in Calif.”
As more information came out, however, the editors pulled back, and the final
edition was quite different: “MURDER MISSION,” read the headline, with a neutral
supplementary: “Shooters slaughter 14 in Calif.” These two editions were published
hours after the incident, and only a few hours apart — a testament to the dangers
of jumping to conclusions.


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