A curious thing happened to me the other day when I was reading through the days’ news. I came across a story about several people being stabbed at a bus stop in Detroit. Now that in and of itself is not strange, (sadly) but the part that confused me was the title of the article.
I put the story on the list of things I needed to read and went about reading several other articles first. When I finally came back to it, I was in for a bit of s surprise. See, I thought the article was about someone in Detroit looking for Muslim people to harass. But that was not even close to what actually transpired.
The story was actually about a Muslim man in Detroit who stabbed several other bus passengers once he learned that they WERE NOT MUSLIM.
See, what happened was that Saturday evening at a bus stop near Detroit, a group of would be bus-passengers were standing around waiting for the bus, when a Muslim man, Terrence Lavaron Thomas, walked up to the group. He then asked if any of the folks waiting for the bus were Muslim, which is when all hell broke loose.
“A couple of the people there, who turned out to be victims, said they were not” Muslim, Southfield Police Chief Eric Hawkins said. “He made some statements that he was Muslim and he did not think it was acceptable that they were not.”
After a little “back and forth” conversation the Muslim man attacked one of the non-Muslims with a knife – apparently without provocation. He stabbed the first victim five times; in the face, neck and back. He also stabbed a second man, who was trying to stop the attack. Neither victim’s injuries were life-threatening, and the attacker was arrested a short while later.
So instead of being an Islamophobia story (which is what I had assumed from the title), it was actually a story about Muslim violence in America!
I kind of just figured it was me misreading the title that was the problem – but since the story came out, there was a pretty intense Internet backlash against the Washington Post for running the misleading headline. (I was glad to see it wasn’t just me who’d been confused – misery does love company.)
“How can we give this a PC storyline?” “Mislead the reader with a vague hed and lede.” “Good idea. Go!” – http://t.co/6noA6PgKFM
— Timothy P Carney (@TPCarney) February 17, 2015
Even the liberals at the LA Times noticed that some news outlets had misled their readers with their headlines for the story.
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) February 18, 2015
Here’s what the LA Times mentioned in their piece.
Many social-media users spreading a Detroit Free-Press version of the story Tuesday misinterpreted the story to mean the suspect was trying to attack Muslims.
In fact, backlash across the Internet (and in other corners of the media) was so severe that the Washington Post finally changed their headline. Now it says,
“Police: Man stabs two after asking about their religious beliefs.” It still doesn’t tell the actual story, but it’s better than the previous headline. (You can still see the previous headline in the URL.)
The real question is … what is the media’s problem with dealing honestly with stories that feature an Islamic component? Why can’t they just say what is actually going on?
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