Conservative talk radio and television host Glen Beck gets so carried away with passion and sound-byte-seeking speech that it clouds his judgment.
When discussing the two USF students now facing terrorism charges, he relished in abuse of the English language by using phrases like “blood shoots out of my eyes,” and goes on to describe the judge’s hair as similar to “the lion king.”
As trivial as it may seem to take issue with Beck’s rhetorical voice, it’s important to point out the problem in the infotainment-style journalism he represents: He is sensationalizing a serious issue, and by doing so, making it harder to calmly – and logically –
analyze the case.
Granted, the evidence the US Attorney presented at Youssef Megahed’s bail hearing Friday hardly makes the pair look like a couple of lambs. After all, fuses, gasoline, bullets, pipes, a .22 caliber
rifle, an explosive mix of kitty litter, corn syrup, fertilizer and a terrorist-training video are hardly the bucket and pail required for a trip to the beach – which is why the pair claimed to be driving through South Carolina.
It cannot be said, however, that the pair necessarily represents an epidemic of Islamic terrorism in Tampa or at USF, as Beck implies.
“These guys were USF students,” he said on his CNN Headline News television show. “This is where Sami Al-Arian was. I mean, this is a hotbed of Islamic extremism down in Florida.”
Beck’s claim falls flat, though, when paired with sheer
USF has a total of over 45,000 students. Assuming that the two students recently arrested comprise the majority Beck’s three-person “terrorist hotbed,” that would mean the so-called hotbed really amounts to a 1/22,500
proportion of the student body.
And if Al-Arian’s link to terror is paired with the number of faculty and staff employed by USF over the years, it’s likely that number is pretty small too.
Apart from the mathematical problems of Beck’s assertion, it’s unclear how the missteps of a few members of the USF
community represent the whole.
Moreover, USF President Judy Genshaft handled the two students’ arrests rather quickly. Since becoming embroiled in the terrorism case, both students have been suspended. Al-Arian was also fired early on as well, so at any rate, it’s hard to make the case that the administration is soft on
Beck is wrong to cast USF or Tampa as a terror hotbed. That he would incorrectly do so, however, is no surprise given the true tenor of his journalistic ethos: that of a firebrand hack, not of an analytic seeker-of-truth.