Journalistic integrity and Arabic on a plane

Journalistic integrity and Arabic on a plane

That sounds like a really bad Samuel L Jackson movie.  Or a really good one.

Yesterday in the news, a hilarious YouTube prankster by name of Adam Saleh claimed that he was kicked off a Delta Airlines flight because he was speaking to his mom on the phone in Arabic.  Shit-flippery ensued, and lo and behold it quickly came out that this dude gets his jolliez off of going onto airplanes and acting suspiciously.  He then records people’s reactions to that and posts that on YouTube, I guess to point out anti-Muslim sentiment or something.    I haven’t watched them.  I have a data cap and a lot of stuff to bingewatch.

When this isn’t exciting enough for Mr. Saleh, it seems that he actually makes stuff up to post.  He posted a video where he was seemingly harassed by the NYPD for his religion, except for that it was really a paid actor impersonating the NYPD.   Last week, he posted a video where he claimed to have stuffed himself into a suitcase and fly from Melbourne to Sydney.  Except for that he didn’t and security cameras show him simply boarding the plane and that the whole thing was a hoax.  He’s also said some pretty heinous things and videotaped himself verbally abusing people to goad them into physical altercations.  But let’s set that aside for now and focus on the pranking and the response to that.

in all honesty, I don’t think these things are that huge a deal.  There are tons of similar douchenozzle pranksters on YouTube, of varying ethnic backgrounds, running all kinds of different pranks on unsuspecting people.  While Saleh is clearly just another punk, I kind of admire his spirit.  I think it’s kind of cool that Westernized Islam has produced a comical prankster dyed-hair brah guy out there getting in people’s faces, making a gross amount of money on YouTube and showing everyone just how awesome livin’ large in a non-caliphate can be,  My problem is not with Adam Saleh per se. My problem is how this story was reported without question in the press.

Ok.  So we have a guy with a history of pranks and fake videos, many of which were actually done on airplanes, but the mainstream media reports that he was kicked off a plane for speaking Arabic, as a fact, with ZERO checking.  Literally no checking.  LITERALLY NO CHECKING.  A 30 second Google search would have given any rational, responsible reporter more than enough reason to pause and investigate further before running this story.   Yet some mainstream media sources are STILL running this story as fact today, a day later.


Forget Journalism 101.  I learned this shit in HIGH SCHOOL journalism.  You don’t just run a story, you verify it first.  And if you can’t verify it, you don’t run it.

I recently watched a really great movie called Spotlight, about the Boston Globe’s investigation into Catholic priests and sex abuse.  This investigation took place between 2001 and 2003.   The most remarkable thing is the lengths that the journalists went to, to confirm and back up the allegations of molestation before they made them.  They worked for 2 YEARS to confirm these allegations.  Children were in legitimate danger and they didn’t run the story until they had confirmation.  Because that is what good reporters should do.  It’s journalistic integrity.  Wait to run the story until you have confirmation.

Not any more.  We apparently have a new law of journalism.  It used to be “if it bleeds, it leads”.  But now, the law is – if it fits the liberal narrative, running it immediately is imperative.  (I worked really hard on that BTW.)

Now, some might argue that journalists have a responsibility to run stories on things like, let’s say, a sudden rash of racist graffiti.  And sometimes those things cannot BE confirmed.  But they’re still news and should be reported upon.  Ok.  That’s a story, I agree, and difficult or impossible to confirm who was responsible.   Just like how journalists have a responsibility to report when a dead body is found.  They don’t wait around to find out the circumstances under which a living body turned into a dead one, they report that a body was found.  Right away.  It’s news.

But you know what they don’t do, is this: “MURDER!!  Murder bloody murder!  Murder most foul has been committed by gangs of murdering murderers that are very likely outside your window right now, plotting more murder!  Maybe they’re gonna murder you next!!   Who knows!!”   They wait until they’ve talked to witnesses, or the police, to find out if it was really a murder, or if it was a suicide, or someone died of illness or old age or the cold or a car accident.   They don’t report something was a murder FIRST and then backtrack, they report that an incident has occurred and then wait to fill in the blanks.  “A body has been found.”

The press could have gone either way with the Adam Saleh story.  They could have done the Boston Globe thing, and after 30 seconds of Googling decided to maybe wait and confirm the facts with witnesses before running it.  Or, they could have taken a neutral, impartial approach and chosen their words carefully, to indicate that an incident had occurred, but that not all the facts were in yet.   “A YouTube prankster claims…”

But, that didn’t happen.  Journalists in 2016 are the lapdogs of the status quo and have so little self-awareness that they can’t even change up their rhetoric the teensiest bit to try and trick people into believing that they’re not totally slanted.   What happened between 2003 and today, guys?  That was less than 2 decades ago!  You used to be scrappy go-getters willing to do anything to get that story, dedicated to truth, justice, the American way and all that bullshit.  Now too many of you stay ensconced in your ivory tower shaking a fist at the Internetz while desperately attempting to manipulate reality to promote a certain political and cultural worldview, armed with nothing but a tattered copy of Strunk and White and a Twitter account.

Expecting anyone to worry about “fake news” in this midst of this journalistic perfect storm is like analyzing about what’s on the menu while the restaurant is burning down around you.   It’s what happens when the lunatics are put in charge of the asylum.   Stop this mutual suicide pact you’ve all apparently entered into, get that picture of Ernie Pyle out of mothballs and put it on your desk, and really think about what it means to have the privilege and the responsibility of being a journalist.  It means something.  Live up to it.

2 thoughts on “Journalistic integrity and Arabic on a plane

  1. Hi! I know NPR is liberally/progressively biased & Dave rails vs. them. But I tell him – you have to listen as much as I do to know that they are excellent researchers/reporters w/ integrity who do really try to tell different sides of the same story. Dave watches CNBC a lot (business news) & Fox News sometimes – & I don’t know that I could say the same for either of them. What gets my goat are the promulgators of totally one-sided views & absolutely ridiculous or fake stories that are aimed at denigrating a person or party or viewpoint. Those I ignore & think that other folks should too!!! xoxo


    1. ah I finally figured out how to respond to this!! I never watch Fox News. I actually like both NPR and PBS News but get most of my news from pretty left-slanted sources like the Atlantic and Salon. My main concern has been the sources that are traditionally so solid and reliable, like the New York Times and Washington Post – I feel like they’ve literally gone mad lately. It’s really concerning. Many people aren’t wise enough to ignore the ridiculous any more, it seems like. :/


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