Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Can I have a little hysteria with that?

Well, it turns out that the whole "Boston Dirty Bomb" plot was a hoax. The Boston Herald reports that Mexican national Jose Ernesto Beltran Quinones has admitted that his call to the FBI was in fact a lie. I hate to act like a post hoc prognosticator, but when I first heard about this alleged plot my "spideysense" tingled that something wasn't Kosher about the whole thing. There were just too many holes in the story. Someone drops an anonymous tip via phone that four Chinese and two Iraqis entered the country illegally. When asked to "come in," the tipster provides pictures and details about four of the terrorists, but won't identify himself. If you are smuggling people into the U.S. do you take pictures for your scrap book and keep their personal information? If he didn't do the smuggling, how would he have gotten the info?

Despite these questions, the legacy media (or main-stream media) ran full speed with the story. Amid hysteric waving of arms and gnashing of teeth, the media screamed that there was a terrorist plot aimed at Boston. If the reporters, producers, editors and publishers could stop worrying about ratings and sales for a minute, maybe they could have handled this with a little more decorum. Instead, they ran it like Boston was already a smoking crater. The media needs to remember (or be reminded) they are not in the business of making news, but rather the business of reporting the news. This information could have been disseminated in a better fashion rather than sounding like the end was near.

Was the Department of Homeland Security right for releasing the information? In a word, yes. DHS has to take the threat seriously, but with the weight it deserved. Putting the information out there, and having a few million more eyes open for anything out of the ordinary is a good idea. But the media overreacted, yet again.