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Friday, May 20, 2005

Newsweek and violence

I've said and written statements like the following many times: "I just don't trust the media - any of it." So it was completely unsurprising to me that Newsweek published a false report "claiming that US guards at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center desecrated the Koran, including an incident in which the Muslim holy book was flushed down a toilet, in order to provoke detainees into talking." Newsweek later retracted the statement saying:
"Based on what we know now, we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered Koran abuse at Guantanamo Bay."
The problem with the report (other than the fact that it was false), was that:
"Local Muslim leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan seized on the article and called for anti-U.S. demonstrations. Over a four day period last week at least 16 people died, a United Nations compound in Afghanistan was attacked and crowds burned American flags and effigies of U.S. president George W. Bush."
Many people, such as Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, are attributing a substantial part of the responsibility for the violence and deaths to Newsweek. I disagree completely. A magazine printed something in error. It then retracted it. Even if I loved the media and had a high degree of confidence in it, mistakes would still happen from time to time. There is nothing wrong with making a mistake and then fixing it. That is what Newsweek did.

On the other hand, there is something wrong with violence and murder. But I lay the responsibility for such actions directly at the feet of the perpetrators. That such people claim they were incited by some fact, mistaken or not, printed in a magazine half way around the world, in no way justifies their actions. We must not allow them to even think that we think it justifies the violence. Indeed, I think we need to desensitize these people. I personally am going to start flushing Korans down my toilet. Well, or at least I would, except for the minor detail that the Korans won't fit down my toilet. Nonetheless, I think the U.S. military should build a giant toilet and begin flushing Korans down it. Indeed, what a simple and gentle way to get the Guantanamo detainees to talk. That's not torture. I don't even think it qualifies as abuse.

At the same time, the message to the Muslim world is that if they're going to riot and murder because of such things, we're simply going to increase the occurrences of those actions until they learn to restrain themselves.

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