Sun. Sep 15, 2002
More on Alligator Alley
More on Alligator Alley – It’s stunning how quickly one simple event/non-event can snowball into a big controversy that goes on for days. Maybe even weeks.
By the time authorities stopped the three medical students in Florida due to the reported conversation, small indicators kept escalating concerns. "The three men initially refused to consent to a search. ’It was probably not the right time for them to be copping an attitude with police,’ said one federal law enforcement source who was up all night monitoring the investigation. ’But that’s exactly what happened.’ "
"Then, two police dogs signaled the presence of explosives in the cars. Authorities were also suspicious because at first they thought one of the license tags on the car didn’t belong. It turned out to be confusion over a temporary tag."
By the end of that day, those misleading indicators had been cleared, right down to the fact one car paid for the two that went through the toll booth. But law enforcement officials had separated the three men, then intensively interviewed them independently, at extensive length. In the end, those "authorities say the frustrated students, responding to the perceived ethnic slight, did make some off-color remarks designed to inflame the suspicions," yet the three medical students deny they said anything offensive at all.
In addition to that core issue of conflicting stories, much of America didn’t even get the facts that were known, thanks to the media frenzy that inevitably erupted up and down 700 miles of I-75. Via Instapundit, we get an article titled "TV dots airwaves with inaccuracies"
"Friday’s coverage was the source of a staggering amount of misinformation. Among the inaccurate reports:
· Several stations reported that a woman in Georgia told police three Middle Easterners were coming to Miami to blow something up. (That’s not what she said.)
· Several also said cops spotted the men after they roared past a tollbooth on I-75. (One car rolled by at a normal rate of speed; the other stopped and paid the tolls for both.)
· The cops used explosives to detonate a suspicious knapsack found in one car. (They didn’t.) Channel 7 reported that explosive ’triggers’ were found in one of the cars. (There were no ’triggers’ or anything else to do with explosives.)
· Channel 7 also reported that cops were searching for a third car. (They weren’t.)
"The worst parody of journalism Friday was actually on CNN, where the high-paid-low-rated anchor Paula Zahn speculated, without a jot or tittle of evidence, that the three men were coming to Florida to blow up the Turkey Point nuclear reactor."
Given the spectrum of possibilities, the fact that a day of conflicting threat signals, media malpractice, and general confusion ended up with no one in the hospital and no one in jail would seem like a pretty good ending.
But unfortunately, that’s not the end. "Larkin Community Hospital president Dr. Jack Michel [...] said his hospital has received an overwhelming amount of ’threatening, ethnic, racial e-mails (and phone calls) directed at Muslim-Americans.’ "
Since I’m not on the receiving end, I guess I don’t know for sure, but I think that sudden uptick in such ugly messages is ”directed” at the three medical students. Maybe not. Regardless, it’s an overreaction I find regrettable. Direct threats are not appropriate, by anyone, for any reason.
In all ways, I find it regrettable that this story is far from over: "The three students scheduled a news conference Sunday afternoon with their attorneys and the Council on American-Islamic Relations."