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Foiled Terror Plot

A Case Study in Slanted News Reporting

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As in other countries, news reporting by the mainstream media in the United States is often slanted—sometimes heavily so. There is often an agenda at work in the way certain stories are presented. That probably comes as no surprise, but it’s nevertheless disturbing when a clear incident occurs. Following is an example—and some lessons to take away.

On September 28, 2011, a glance at the headlines on Yahoo! revealed a story from the Associated Press about a U.S. citizen arrested for a terror plot against the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol. Clicking on the headline brought up the story, which explained in the first paragraph that the alleged perpetrator had planned to use large, remote-controlled model airplanes filled with explosives.

Curiously, the man’s name was not mentioned up front. It did not appear until the third paragraph: Rezwan Ferdaus. This seemed to be a Muslim name, so the mystery of its prior absence was becoming clearer. Yet it wasn’t until paragraph four that the man was actually identified as Muslim—supposedly inspired to act by a website for jihad. Thus the Islamist connection was central to the story. So why was it buried in the fourth paragraph?

An immediate search on Google for the man’s name yielded a large number of news reports. Yet alarmingly, for the first nearly two pages of search results, nothing came up identifying him as Muslim. Many article titles referred to him as a “U.S. man” or something similarly generic. The second story that came up on Google, from CBS News, was titled “Mass. Musician Accused of D.C. Terrorist Plot.” That’s right: Massachusetts musician! While accurate, it’s misleading—completely overlooking his alleged connection to radical Islam. The claim of U.S. officials that he was an aspiring jihadi was clearly being intentionally obscured or hidden on a wide scale.

What makes the deliberateness even more obvious is that not putting central elements of the story up front is contrary to proper news reporting. In journalism, there are two basic writing formats. One is feature writing, in which an article is essentially organized like a speech—with an introduction, a thesis, a body of supporting points and a conclusion. (This is typical for our publications.) The other writing format is reporting, wherein the most important elements of a story are typically crammed into the first few sentences of the article as the lead, which is followed by details of decreasing importance. This allows readers to skim the beginning of each news item to get the gist of the story. It’s also done for the sake of copy fitting by editors. If a story is too long, an editor can just chop off the bottom since all the important details appear up front.

Which brings us back to the jihad connection not appearing up front. After all, what’s more important—that an alleged terror plotter is a musician or that law enforcement has tied him to radical Islam? While Mr. Ferdaus is to be regarded under the law as innocent until proven guilty, the religious aspect of this story ought to have been reported at the outset, according to normal reporting standards.

We might also consider that had the man been a “right-wing Christian,” that fact would likely have been trumpeted in headlines and article leads. Yet when it comes to Islamic extremism, the media has been willing to keep quiet. While they may be attempting to prevent the spread of Islamophobia, hiding the truth is no way to successfully do this. (It could even be that the agenda here is a political one—in part, painting conservative Christians as the real threat to America and playing down fears against Islam, as such fears can rally support for conservative political candidates and causes.)

What can we take away from this? We must learn to read the news critically. Why is information being presented the way it is? Is it following a natural progression? Or are important facts being buried—or left out? Consider that there is often an agenda at work—and strive to not be taken in. Just reading the whole story from a source is not enough. For if a story shows evidence of being slanted, should its reporting really be trusted? In controversial stories, always look to multiple sources—including those outside the mainstream media. And even be wary in reading stories that don’t seem controversial. An agenda, or at least a wrong perspective, may be widespread.

As we follow Jesus’ instruction to watch world events (Luke 21:36 Luke 21:36Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×
), let’s make sure to watch not only what’s going on, but how we’re being informed about what’s going on as well. (Sources: Associated Press, Google, CBS News.)

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  • dust_i_am

    What we have here is a fuss over three paragraphs. The sentence declaring the suspect Muslim was there - simply not soon enough for your liking.

    I called up the original Justice Department news release on the indictment at Huffington Post. That four-page statement actually never calls the suspect “Muslim” at all. (Admittedly, it also never calls him a “musician.”)

    The document has clear indications to suggest the suspect is Muslim - but to out-and-out call him Muslim based on the news release would be presumptuous. And the Bible warns against such an approach.

    If the news media really wanted to “hide the truth” about this case, why was there a “large number of news reports” on the indictment in the first place?

    And are you saying the religious beliefs of news subjects should be mentioned up-front in all stories? Should U.S. Presidential candidates be listed as Baptist, Mormon, Presbyterian, etc.?

  • Dr Colin D Locke

    Very interesting comment left by “dust_i_am” above for the simple reason that this person may not be aware that the US, England, and Australia, all have what is known as a “Constitution”. In every case they are a “Contractual Constitution” with…and only with…”Almighty God” and ONLY with the God of the Christian Scriptures/Bible…for any that care to check it out. This being the case the answer to the above question is most assuredly YES every political candidate running for office SHOULD and MUST have their name AND their Christian Faith belief listed. Other’s should also be made to list their faiths so they can be eliminated by the Christians who wish to follow “Almighty God” according to OUR Constitution. It is now clear that the above person either does not know this (Which is very unlikely) or wishes to not have the Christian God’s “Constitutional Contract” of the US, England and Australia made clearly public. It is illegal, YES that’s right I said ILLEGAL and this is written into OUR Constitution that it is ILLEGAL, for any other person other than a Christian to hold office in ANY department of any of the above countries. How many people bothered to read the…”Pre-amble to OUR Christian Constitutional Law in conjunction with their Scriptures/Bible well enough to known that. Not many if one looks around in these countries. So the above person as I said is ignorant or deceptive…I believe said person is educated and is therefore deceptive to boot. All Candidates in all elections must give their faith as far as OUR CONSTITUTION IS CONCERNEDLIKE IT OR LUMP IT. Those that don’t declare their faith are “ALIEN IN THIS LAND BELONGING TO THE CHRISTIANALMIGHTY GODOF OUR CONSTITUTION”. How do you like the truth of them apples folks. So stand up and be counted as Christians under the “Almighty God for OUR Constitution”. For those who do not agree with OUR Constitution you have our blessing to get out of this land belonging to “Almighty God” and go to a country that suits your taste and leave us alone under “Almighty God”. If anyone disagrees with the above the OZZIE language is precis and to the point….If you don’t like it Bugger OFF cobba.

  • dust_i_am

    Dr. Locke, I apologize to you for being ignorant. And I admit your comment has me a bit confused about which “constitution(s)” you mean.

    But in the U.S. Constitution (I assume you mean the one ratified by the states), Article II, Sect. 1 Para. 5 lists the qualifications for becoming President – and it has nothing there about being a Christian.

    In fact, Article VI Para. 3 says: “No religious test shall EVER be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (I admittedly was ignorant in not having that memorized - I’m quoting it from an almanac.)

    And a text of the Aussie Constitution at the “Australian Politics” website says in Chapter V Point 116: “… no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”

    So I guess I’m asking - which Constitutions do you mean? Or is your comment all a reference to the Bible, not national laws written by men?

  • Sabrina Peabody

    Hi All,

    The purpose of the comment section is to ask on-topic questions, provide feedback and encourage other readers who may choose to comment. Please remember to post comments that are respectful and edifying (even if you disagree).

    Sabrina Peabody Web Team

  • Ivan Veller

    Thank you, Mrs. Peabody.

  • Dr Colin D Locke

    Hi Ivan great to chat with you,

    Thank you for your reply and I will do my best to answer your query as to what constitution is involved and trust I do it right. Answer:- When I look at the “Pre-amble” to the Australian Constitution which is right at the beginning and prior to everything that follows it states that this Constitution is between ALL the different states, plus the Queen as being Part A of this “Legally Binding Contractual Constitution”. Interestingly the other party to said Constitution is….”Almighty God”. Now I could be wrong so help me out if this that follows is not correct But:- Our Ozzy Constitution originates out of the English Law/Constitution. The English Law/Constitution, if I read it correctly, also states that their Constitution also binds them to “God”. Although I must admit I have not got the exact words here at present. I understand the American Constitution was also framed after taking a look at many other Constitutions that were about at the time at that the American Constitution, help out here, you call it…”The Declaration of Independence”. Would that be more correct??? assuming I have this right this is what mentions God as the other party to said Contractual agreement between God and all sigher’s to said contract. I trust I have this clear enough Ivan. This is not always an easy matter to write about without going into some detail I agree. So I trust we will have some time to enjoy chatting as God is such a wonderful Creator to put up with us stumblers. Thank you again for you r nice email Ivan. Most Kindest regards Dr col

  • Ivan Veller

    Thank you, Mr. Robinson, for an incisive critique of liberal editorial bias in terrorism news reporting.

    Astoundingly skewed reporting on the 2001 al-Qaeda-trained al-Faris jihadist, Yemeni-American suicide bombers, and the shoe bomber; along with the 2002 Los Angeles airport shooter, airline shoelace strangler, Chicago’s dirty bomber, Moscow theater terrorists, and the Beltway snipers, is detailed by Ann Coulter in her (2003) book “Treason” (pp. 273-283). Regardless of political persuasion, her analysis of the reporting is intriguing.

    Comparatively, I am glad to give credit where credit is due for the New York Times’ patriotic (2005) article “Professor Talked of Understanding But Now Reveals Ties to Terrorists” (one of my alma mater’s adjunct professors assumed leadership of Islamic Jihad) and well-composed (2006) article “19 Months More in Prison for Professor in Terror Case” (another of our professors who played “a substantial role in international terrorism,” according to Attorney General John Ashcroft).

  • carolyn davis

    put your fear to rest, trust in your Savior, and humble yourselves before the LORD and you will hear from Heaven. whom shall i fear when God is for me? NO ONE! The battle is the LORDS and WE have VICTORY through the blood of JESUS CHRIST. Death has been defeated!

  • carolyn davis

    If the facts are to be brought forth, let the facts be more than circumstantial. While there has been prejudice since before time began, look at the details more closely if you will…..people are profiled, misjudged, and yes even imprisoned or put through torture and death for all the wrong reasons which man will swear is “the right thing to do”. But then , arent those acts the very same of those who are being accused? There is a way which seems right to man, but leads to death and destruction…In the garden of Gessemanee, before Jesus was arrested,there was a confrontation. A guards ear was severed by one of those trying to protect Jesus. Upon that act, Jesus healed the guards ear, and said “enough is enough! there has been enough violence! No more!!!!!!! why do you think He said that ? because He is the Prince of Peace !!!! God said do not judge lest you be judged! For the way you judge others is the way He will judge you! If this offends any of you…Good! I do not say to offend, I say this to wake you up! Do not falsely accuse ! Do not murder ! Love and pray for your enemies! we will ALL stand before the throne someday. we will ALL be accountable! May Gods mercy shine on you greatly.

  • KARS

    Isn’t television all about sensationalism anyway? So no matter if it’s news (which is actually history), loud obnoxious commericals, or live reporting, it’s all based on what sells.
    So how can anyone believe what one sees?

    Another thing, when do they actually report on the good happenings and things in life? Hardly ever.

    I do agree though, it is good to go to several resources for information.

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