Media muddle: Journalism confusing facts with fiction

From ISIS released video

CHARLOTTE, N.C., September 3, 2014 – There are so many things happening on a daily basis throughout the world these days, it is impossible to focus on a single subject without digressing into another.

For example, the world just witnessed the second beheading of an American at the hands of the so-called Islamic State as part of their reign of terror to embarrass the West.

As Barack Obama, one of the primary targets for that embarrassment, was making his usual woefully toothless remarks about the incident, “CNN” was reporting that ISIS now has operatives in the U.S. who are capable of striking us at home.

At the same time, still other reports were coming out of Libya that at least 11 commercial airliners have gone missing and there is a potential for new 9/11 attacks during the upcoming anniversaries of 2001 and 2012.

In recent years there have been serious questions concerning media bias and journalistic integrity. But with each passing day, it seems that obtaining reliable information is becoming increasingly difficult despite our access to instantaneous news from around the world.

The overriding question is: What media reports can we really believe, and what “news” is nothing more than mere speculation? Sometimes the speculation is obvious, as it was for three weeks with the disappearance of the Malaysian airliner. In that case, no one knew what the real story was, and it still remains a mystery. But more often than not, the day’s speculations blend into a shade of gray that frequently substitutes for fact.

Suppose the story is true about 11 missing commercial airliners in Libya. There are other factors to be considered, and a properly skeptical media has the responsibility to report them.

Do terrorist organizations actually possess the technical capabilities to fly such planes? Yes, it happened in 2001. But those planes were already in the air. There are other factors involved in getting those planes aloft and heading for targets.

Considering that 9/11 awareness is at an all time high every year that fateful date rolls around, does it seem logical that terrorists would plan attacks in the glare of such a spotlight? If they do, then it goes against all traditional aspects of their SOP because it eliminates the element of surprise which is a key element in their methodology.

As for ISIS already being in the United States, they probably are. In fact, they have probably been here longer than we think.

But the key to understanding how extremists work is understand that they do not generally show their hand when they are in the minority. They may wreak havoc and cause destruction, but they do not attempt to dominate other societies until they are capable of such domination.

In that sense, awareness that ISIS is here is a good thing/ But terror attacks such as the one in Boston last year really don’t reflect their style. Further, scripted video beheadings do not happen until ISIS is certain they can get away with murdering infidels with impunity.

All of this means there should always be cause for concern and never a time for complacency. But at the same time, we must become more diligent about how we approach real threats as opposed to those of the imagination.

The overriding point to remember here is that while the news may be conceptually true, it is not necessarily the literal truth.

For a recent example, observe the ongoing media fright fest about the spread of the deadly Ebola virus that almost daily scares the bejeebers out of people. Ebola should be discussed, of course. But the way that speculation is often reported as settled fact has blown the story out of reasonable proportion. Just because three Americans have become victims of the disease does not mean that the Ebola virus is living next door and ready to attack like some science fiction creature that looms in the shadows in the middle of the night.

It is difficult to determine when and where the media’s constant arousal of international panic became so fashionable. It seems to have been an evolutionary process. As print newspapers have declined in circulation, due in large part to accessibility to information from other sources, the need to sensationalize news and grab short attention-span eyeballs has grown incrementally but steadily.

The time has come to return to a day of legitimate news gathering rather than putting out as legitimate reportage the kind of speculative mumbo-jumbo that does little else than promote anxiety among the public.

Given the volume of breaking news that surrounds us on any particular day, there are more than enough real stories to cover with hard facts and good information than there is a need to create controversy and concern over “potentialities” that don’t really exist.


Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (
Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News
Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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