Media to blame for paranoia

Thursday, Sept. 13 was a worrisome day for Floridians. First, the Florida Highway Patrol shut down Alligator Alley, a main thoroughfare from Naples to Miami. Two cars were stopped and searched, and three men were detained for 17 hours due to a potential terrorist threat. And it was all a hoax.

The entire incident was the result of too many Americans seeing too much of the wrong kind of media attention on Sept. 11. After an entire day of news reports, televised memorials and heart-wrenching documentaries, a lot of Americans, sadly, let their imaginations run wild, and a few might have taken it a bit too far.

The National Post reported Saturday, before they knew both sides of the story, that three young men of Middle-Eastern decent had been detained after a tip came in about a conversation they had in a Georgia diner. Kambiz Butt, Ayman Gheith and Omar Choudhary were allegedly overheard saying, “They think they were sad on Sept. 11. Wait till Sept. 13,” and, “If we don’t have enough, I have contacts. We can get enough to bring it down.” Considering that they were all over 23 years of age, and obviously well educated, them saying these things seems difficult to believe. But Eunice Stone says that is indeed what she heard, and the reason why she wrote down their license plate numbers and contacted the Sheriff’s office.

With reports like this one, it’s not difficult to see why Stone and the others in the diner glared at the Middle-Eastern men when they walked in the door. The nation is on Orange alert after all. Can’t be too careful.

Giving Sept. 11 it’s due is a good thing, but going over and over the events of the day, reporting on other possible threats and milking the tragedy for all it’s worth has negative effects. That kind of reporting is what brings terrorists satisfaction, because it makes some Americans react before they have a chance to think. Frivolous reporting is a serious business, one the media would do well to stay away from.