December 26, 2009

And Don't Get Me Started On The Moon Landing...

I have to admit, without wanting to sound too much like a conspiracy theorist, that I'm slightly troubled by how swiftly almost every news outlet seems to have fallen into the official line on this Detroit plane brouhaha.

So, the plane lands around noon EST, and as late as almost five p.m. EST the story is still that some fool set off firecrackers on the plane:

Then all of a sudden the story changes, to a terrorist with alleged al Qaeda links trying to set off a bomb made from an unidentified powder and liquid combination. This seems fair enough — get new information, update articles — but what strikes me as weird is how thoroughly that change seeped through the web. Now even the pages in my browser history from when the story was still about firecrackers redirect to the story about terrorism; the above was one of only two news sources I could find that even mentioned firecrackers.

Anyway, again, I don't want to come off like a conspiracy nut. But why the monolithic terrorism narrative, all of a sudden? Why so decisively wipe the firecracker story from memory? After all, it still happened. So why do none of the updated stories contain even a sentence along the lines of: "It was initially thought that the incident involved firecrackers"; why do none of them attempt to explain why firecrackers was the initial story when the guy clearly had third-degree burns; why do none of them attempt to explain why and what point the story changed? Why, ultimately, is it so important to present this seamless story about terrorism?

I know I'm being a little incoherent, here, and that's because I can't really put my finger on anything that is clearly wrong with any of this. And yet it seems troublesome to me that five full hours of coverage have been effectively erased; it's a particularly vivid example of the news media effortlessly dictating the "reality" of events. After all, people only seeing the story this morning might never know that anybody ever thought it was firecrackers. And maybe they don't really need to, and I can understand that line of reasoning, but still — slightly disturbing, no?

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