The Consequences of Media Misinformation

(Umair Mohsin)

(Umair Mohsin)

The horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut yesterday has shocked the country. Words cannot describe the emotions felt upon learning that 20 children had been brutally massacred by the killer.

Naturally, we all struggle to understand what to say and how to analyze this occurrence. The media, struggling to be the first to “break” new events, often make tragic factual mistakes. We, in turn, can perpetuate media misinformation for years to come.

In this case, perhaps the most damaging piece of misinformation was the name of the shooter. Initially identified as 24-year-old Ryan Lanza, it was soon revealed that the shooter was in fact Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old brother of Ryan. This false announcement undoubtedly caused a stream of unfounded accusations against Ryan.

Reports also indicated that Lanza was let into the school through an intercom system, prompting speculation about the school’s lax security – until that report was corrected as well.

The shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza, was also purported to be a teacher or employee at the school; however, reports are now indicating otherwise.

This media misinformation is dangerous. Innocent lives are damaged when fact-checking procedures are foregone in an effort to lead the news cycle. Unfortunately, this misinformation is common in shooting tragedies. Recall the Colorado shooting just a few months ago, when ABC falsely identified an unrelated “James Holmes” through Facebook.

One of the most alarming stories of misinformation is described in the book Columbine, by Dave Cullen. In this thoroughly researched report, Cullen details the blatantly false descriptions of the Columbine shooting that persist to this day. He is quoted in the New York Times,

“I ran with the journalistic pack that created the myths we are still living with. We created those myths for one reason: we were trying to answer the burning question of why, and we were trying to answer it way too soon. I spent 10 years studying Columbine, and we all know what happened there, right? Two outcast loners exacted revenge against the jocks for relentlessly bullying them.

Not one bit of that turned out to be true.”

How do we avoid exacerbating the problem of media misinformation? In a previous post this summer after the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, I quoted some advice from Eric Golub of Washington Times Communities that rings true again today:

“The right thing to do is the one thing that normal Americans know how to do that the chattering classes have not mastered. We need to all be quiet, talk less, and listen more.”

My deepest prayers go out to the families and friends of those affected by this indescribable tragedy.

18 responses to “The Consequences of Media Misinformation

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  4. @Don Yes, if you actually read what Morgan had been writing and had worked within proximity of him then the facts might be presented differently to suit your flavor. The facts stand. Again, thank you for supporting the whole post with your dissent.

        • I don’t think we ought to combat incivility with incivility. Then we lower ourselves to the very level of those we are criticizing. Piers Morgan was definitely out of line in that you tube video. However, Larry Pratt also called Piers a ‘prick.’ Incivility breeds incivility. We who are Christian need to model something better.

          • True, I always try to do that. But I just wanted you to realize the statements Piers was making.

            I don’t blame Pratt much, as he was getting insulted on national television. The sarcastic “thanks for the high level debate” was one of the most powerful and necessary quotes in my opinion.

  5. Agreed!
    Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” ― George Orwell, 1984 Media Hypocrisy: Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

    One of the most flagrant hypocrites to take to social media yesterday was Piers Morgan.


    Morgan with the precision and expertise of any charlatan preyed on people’s fear and emotions to push an agenda, to stay relevant in a world where MSM is dying and media personalities along with it.

    Morgan is a media entertainer, hosts his program on CNN a media outlet where Saudi Arabia pays for content and applies censorship Benevolent Government Style.

    Mr. Morgan, One does not have the luxury of feigning moral outrage on murder to salvage ones media career, to stay relevant. Either you are outraged by murder or you are not. Your record is clear on this matter at hand.

    Mr. Morgan, for all the innocent Mexicans slaughtered by US Government Gun Running where is your moral outrage? Is it acceptable for Benevolent Government to slaughter people? For all the innocent children slaughtered in their mother’s womb, left to die in garbage dumpsters, where is your moral outrage?

    Mr. Morgan your highly selective usage of the spilled Blood of Innocents to fit your agenda is…Unmistakable as is your lack of knowledge in regards to U.S. Constitutional Law, the protections it affords us against the tyranny of Benevolent Government.

    • Please ‘consider again.’ I’m concerned about the civility of these statements. Piers Morgan, as a public persona with access to a large audience, has an extraordinary moral responsibility to be honest, respectful, and fair. Yes, He may be a hypocrite and have other glaring faults. However, we must remember that other public personalities and we ourselves share that fault. I’d like to see more measured rhetoric, avoiding terms such as ‘charlatan’, ‘feigning’, or implying he is a puppet of Saudi Arabia. Thank you for your kind considering again.

        • My intent was, as kindly as possible, to suggest a more respectful tone. With all due respect I must say that, for me, the tone of the piece reduces, if not reverses, any enthusiasm for supporting the post.

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