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I was watching Up with Chris Hayes this morning. David Cullen, author of Columbine was talking about how people built up false narratives about the Columbine tragedy based on misinformation that circulated immediately after the shootings.

For example, people still believe that the Columbine shooters were "Goths", that they were retaliating against those who bullied them, and that they targeted athletes selectively.  According to Cullen, none of these is true.

Now we are witnessing the same creation of urban legends in the case of the Sandy Hook shooter.  

On local (ABC) affiliate news last night, on ABC network news, on MSNBC, I heard over and over that the the shooter targeted students in his mother's kindergarten class. Such a feast for the imagination. As the child of a teacher, who grew up eating tv dinners in front of the television set while my single mother graded papers, my mind took off on all kinds of scenarios.

Apparently these scenarios are as fascinating to the public and the news media as they were to me because they cannot let it go in spite of the fact that  a staff member at Sandy Hook says that Nancy Lanza was not a teacher at the school, a former school board member says that no one has ever heard of her, and the superintendent of the school district says that she is not in their employee database.

I am still hearing on MSNBC this morning that the killer shot up his mother's kindergarten class.  I guess if the fictional story is compelling enough, the facts have to be set aside.

According to a diary by Troubador currently on the rec list, "they" are also saying now that Adam Lanza had Asperger's.  I am not inclined to give any credence to anything I hear about this most egregious case of mass murder in a long string of mass murders. Perhaps storytelling in the face of tragedy is an atavistic response to a feeling of horror and helplessness that is as old as human language, but we don't have to give in to it.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The quote from Twain, IIRC, about a lie traveling (7+ / 0-)

    halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on seems to be literally true. In the age of worldwide tweets everyone thinks they know what happened before anyone actually knows a damn thing. Take the poor fellow Ryan Lazan who had a rather gloomy tweet about the Mayan prophecy turned into a confession by the twitterverse all because the "news" got the shooter's name wrong. I bet he'll be getting death threats for weeks after that.

    To me progress is not so much a goal as it is a process and I believe it will not follow a straight course. Remember, the drops of water that form the river may not take the shortest path but they will still reach the ocean.

    by ontheleftcoast on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 10:02:37 AM PST

  •  Much of This Is Now Being Denied on CNN & MSNBC (9+ / 0-)

    The shooter had brother's id so that's where the mistaken identity came from. Since late yesterday there's been steady news that they were not finding the mother's name on school records.

    While CNN just reported a family member describing the shooter as deeply disturbed, commentators are emphasizing that there's no link between violence and Asperger's even if that's part of his condition, something they're now trying to downplay.

    Early yesterday the news was that the father was found dead at a remote location, now it turns out it was the mother.

    The problem is that in the beginning there are no facts to set aside. At this moment the two legitimate cable news networks seem to be trying to establish the real facts.

    A better question I think is where do these mistaken early reports come from in such cases?

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 10:22:54 AM PST

    •  My son's an Aspie (4+ / 0-)

      When that claim came out last night my heart sank. He's never hurt a fly in his life. But he can get angry when people tease him and he's a big kid (6'4" at 14 years) so his anger can scare people. It doesn't happen often but I'm dreading the next time the principal calls us because he yelled at some kid. Many Aspie's are socially awkward and middle school/high school is the time and place were that is 100X worse than any other time in your life. You can't avoid the conflict and you don't have the skills to deal with it. We're trying to teach him those skills but it isn't easy.

      To me progress is not so much a goal as it is a process and I believe it will not follow a straight course. Remember, the drops of water that form the river may not take the shortest path but they will still reach the ocean.

      by ontheleftcoast on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 10:37:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have a good friend from college who has (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ontheleftcoast, houyhnhnm

        Asperger's.  I was just talking to him yesterday.

        He's about the mildest, shyest guy I've ever known, and very smart.  But one time in college, before I had any clue about his autism, I matter of factly asked him if he had a girlfriend.  

        His face turned red and he grabbed a glass quart beer bottle out of my hand and violently shattered it against the sidewalk.  That's the only time I've ever seen him express anger in any way.  And that's a topic I have been careful to avoid ever since.

  •  I don't think I've ever seen so much (7+ / 0-)

    misinformation presented as truth.

    1. He shot his father.

    2. He shot his brother.

    3. His brother did it.

    4. He was the father of a child at the school.

    5. He shot his mother and her entire kindergarten class.

    6. There were two shooters.

    Many more.

  •  Btw (6+ / 0-)

    David Cullen's book is outstanding.  The way the Columbine story was reported at the time has unfortunately become the narrative and much of it wasn't true at all.  

    you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

    by Dem Beans on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 10:39:15 AM PST

  •  Yesterday's media circus amplified the horror (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Timaeus, houyhnhnm, ontheleftcoast

    including the same sort of disregard for verifiable facts we've seen in every "big news story" since CBS News called the 2000 election for Gore -- a case in which verifiable facts, I might add, backed up CBS' News claim.

    It's important for a lot of reasons that we put a stop to the kind of media frenzy we saw yesterday. Making a celebrity out of somebody who murders children encourages copycats; rushing to be first with some information regardless of whether it's correct or not distorts the news more than informs the public.

    LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

    by BlackSheep1 on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 10:45:13 AM PST

    •  When news became a "for profit" enterprise (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Timaeus, houyhnhnm, BlackSheep1

      in the 80's this was the inevitable result. Virtually the entire 4th Estate is now paparazzi trying to scoop each other to trumpet "You saw/read/heard it here first!". Gone are the days of Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley when being the most trusted got people to watch. If you want to point to a singular event that precluded this then probably the creation of Turner's Headline News Network would be it. When the headline is the only thing that matters you can probably guess the truth isn't even required.

      To me progress is not so much a goal as it is a process and I believe it will not follow a straight course. Remember, the drops of water that form the river may not take the shortest path but they will still reach the ocean.

      by ontheleftcoast on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 11:13:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This diary should be on the reclist. (5+ / 0-)

    It's really important--and fascinating--to see the extent of the misinformation that was blithely reported as fact.

  •  It's all been corrected now by the NYTimes. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is a good diary to have on the record though.

    ❧To thine ownself be true

    by Agathena on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 09:25:15 PM PST

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