Thursday, November 12, 2009


Inspiration for this post comes from a close friend, Lindsay at Majikthise, who questioned the journalistic integrity of one of our major news gatherers in: AP trafficks in innuendo over Ft. Hood shootings.

My interest in the Fort Hood story is more than causal. My daughter is a career military officer who was once stationed there, and it was from Fort Hood where she deployed on the first of four missions to the Middle East.

Years ago, I received one of those telephone calls that parents dread: “Dad, I am shipping out, and if you want to see me before I go, the time is now.” Immediately, I booked a flight to Dallas with a transfer to Killeen to spend what few precious days I could with my daughter. As the years passed, I would repeat this drama again and again.

Military life can be almost as hard on families as on soldiers. Holidays are less than festive when there is an empty place at the table. There is always the missing person at family milestone events … the succession of births and funerals that mark our days … and the skipped heartbeat before answering unexpected knocks on the door.

There were times when the telephone rang in the middle of the night, and it was the voice of my daughter who said: “Dad, in case you haven’t heard the news yet, there was a rocket attack but we are okay.

Lucky for me, my daughter always returned home, shaken by flashbacks never discussed, but otherwise unharmed. Thousands of other families have been less fortunate. To date, there have been 4,362 deaths in Iraq and 918 in Afghanistan … the sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles of someone, but not everyone.

I repeat “not everyone,” because less than a third of one percent of our citizenry has a family member in the military. Most Americans bear witness to war from afar … from the comforts of home in front of televisions that report frontline news from thousands of miles away. Flip the channel. On any given day, the voice of Wolf Blitzer hawking headlines segues into the voice of Billy Mays plugging OxyClean, which merge into one continuous deafening screech. Accounts of war interspersed with crass commercialism create an aura of banality that deadens the senses … until some strange act of violence takes place on native soil and shakes Americans from their stupor.

Mass murder has become so commonplace, we are almost too numb to be shocked. Scarcely a day after the Fort Hood massacre, a disgruntled ex-employee entered an office building in downtown Orlando and opened fire, killing one and wounding five. How quickly we forget the carnage at Virginia Tech that left 33 dead or this massacre at Fort Hood 18 years ago that left 23 dead.

What makes this bloodbath different from others? It occurred on a military base deep in the heart of Texas, and the shooter is an Army Major with a foreign name: Malik Nadal Hasan.

MSNBC: “At least three gunmen involved.
CNN: “One gunman “neutralized” and one cornered.
FOX: “Three gunmen dressed in fatigues.
CNN: “One shooter dead, two in custody.
FOX: “M-16s used.
ABC: “Gunman was a convert to Islam.
TWITTER: “Hasan handed out Korans before the shooting.

In retrospect, the headlines of the day were riddled with hearsay, and none of these accounts proved accurate or true. Have we grown so accustomed to junk journalism that we fail to notice anymore?

All too often, there are opinion makers willing to jump to conclusions and spin certitudes and platitudes before all facts are known. And all too often, there are bigots, demagogues, and political opportunists willing to spin false reports and half truths into inflammatory cants, such as the infamous Jerome Corsi, who writes:

Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged shooter in yesterday's massacre at Fort Hood, played a homeland security advisory role in President Barack Obama's transition into the White House, according to a key university policy institute document.”

This statement was so outrageously false, Frank Cilluffo, Director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, issued an immediate disclaimer:

"[Nidal Hasan] has no role on the task force, other than the fact that he attended these meetings as an audience member, as did hundreds of others."

The American Family Association, a conservative Christian group, posted a website article (caution: this link crashed my browser four times) calling for Muslims to be barred from military service. According to their spokesperson, Bryan Fischer:

“It is time, I suggest, to stop the practice of allowing Muslims to serve in the U.S. military (…) Yesterday’s massacre is living proof [sic].”

The infamous Islamaphobe, Dave Gaubatz said in this interview:

“ Politicians, Muslims, and law enforcement are concerned about a 'backlash' against Muslims. Now is the time for a professional and legal backlash against the Muslim community and their leaders. ”

Even more ominous and disturbing, four Republican members of Congress … Sue Myrick [R-NC], John Shadegg [R-AZ], Paul Broun [R-GA] and Trent Franks [R-AZ] … want to bypass a formal FBI inquiry and conduct their own investigation, an initiative supported by the undead Senator from Connecticut whose image no longer reflects in Democratic mirrors.

There are compelling reasons for conducting a non-politicized inquiry through proper channels. Is Malik Nadal Hasan really an Islamic terrorist (a forgone conclusion in the minds of Islamaphobes), or does he fit the profile of other criminally disturbed personalities who have committed past mass murders?

The hype and hysteria in the aftermath of the Fort Hood massacre concern me. There are thousands of Muslims serving in our military. Some are bullied, subjected to ridicule and scorn, called “towel heads” and “sand n***ers” by fellow soldiers. Muslim-Americans serve as soldiers, translators, and military liaisons with our allies in the Middle East, which include the Arab Emirate States, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, and Turkey, as examples. Muslim-American families make the same sacrifices and suffer the same anxieties as my family when their soldiers deploy overseas.

How does our country appear in the eyes of the world and our allies when bigots and hate-mongers insinuate themselves into the public debate? My question is more than rhetorical. These malevolent voices dishonor the service of our soldiers and sabotage their efforts.

A blogger who calls herself an American Black Chick in Europe puts this issue into proper perspective:

Why do some elements of American society attribute the actions of an individual to an entire group of people? I'm tired ... tired of generalisations thrown out at folks who have a different name, different religion, different skin color, different look, different ideas than what's considered "mainstream America.

I raised similar concerns at the blog of our esteemed colleague, Robert Stein of Connecting.The.Dots, when a fly-by troll steeped in Fuzzy Logic said this to me:

Well, thank goodness you spoke up and aligned yourself with the mass murderer at Fort Hood instead of with my comment.”

How smug and offensive! These days, hyper-partisanship respects no boundaries. Sometimes I feel as if we are at war on two fronts: The terrorists who attack us from abroad and the lunatic fringe that assails us at home. We have turned into a nation at war with ourselves when our most cherished beliefs and values, including civil liberties and the rule of law, are no longer considered sacred and sacrosanct, but must be defended on all fronts.


  1. Octopus:

    There has been a running battle going on over at Dispatches From The Culture Wars (here:

    and here:

    It is apparent that many people who will to the end deny that they are bigots are completely blind to their prejudicial behavior re: muslims (and not just those in the Army).

    It seems that for some folks, there always has to be an "other" for them to demonize.

  2. It is terribly sad, and scary, and shakes us (briefly) out of our consumeristic reverie when something like this happens.

    Two days ago, in my small suburb in Oregon, a man walked into a business and opened fire, killing his estranged wife, injuring two others, and then killed himself with a shotgun.

    I'm still shaken, because moments earlier my wife drove by this place.

  3. A really wonderful post, Octo. You encapsulate the idiocy that is us/US these days - hyper partisanship is a good way to put it.

    And, I think, hyper sensitive. It's almost as if we can't NOT make an issue of everything that happens. We see conspiracies everywhere and react with no proof. In fact, we feel no BURDEN of proof. Lieberman, as you say, would be a case in point.

    And, I think, our hyper sensitivity is primed by - as you point out - shoddy news reporting. Sound bite news. And the commercializing of a trade - journalism - whose very essence requires objectivity. Money and objectivity don't mix.

    Again - great post - heartfelt, thorough and painfully insightful.

  4. An excellent post, Octo. Thank you.

  5. The US Army is going to clean up this mess. Soldiers have no time for those who stop being soldiers and start killing Americans. Nobody brainwashed Hasan. He wanted a world of black and white (just like the people whipping up anti-Muslim hysteria) and he chose to believe the crazy, then to act on it. For that, he will burn, and righteously.

  6. Yes, great post and great comments too. Yes, there has to be an other and there always is and yes, we're being taught to think in Manichean terms: everything is this or that opposite. It's a tool and it works. We haven't had anything like journalism since the cable news networks became opinion shouters and the number of newspapers sank and the fairness doctrine was eliminated and more and more outlets are owned by the same sinister bastards.

  7. Great post, Octopus. Thanks for sharing your story.

    I guess they didn't have "Flat Daddies/Mommies" when your daughter was deployed.

    I think the greatest problem in America now is that our vigorous news media has withered. There's still some good journalism happening but sadly there's far too much of the sensationalistic, tabloiud-kind. Though in truth I wonder if this is any different from any other time in American history.

    I've also been giving some thought to our all-volunteer military. Chomsky says it's actually less just than the conscripted kind, because military service has become the only career option for the economically depressed classes. While I know that happens, I'd like to see some statistics on who serves in our military first before biting into that argument. I know plenty of people with a lot of career options who chose military service.

    Anyway, it bears remembering that despite the idiotic rantings of folks like the American Family Assn., the military is the most diverse field of service this country has. All races, religions, genders, yes even sexual orientations. It's not the military that needs to be changed but the bigots in the conservative movement.


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