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Posted by on Feb 19, 2010 in International, Media, Politics, Science & Technology | 1 comment

The Fort Jackson Muslim Soldiers News Scoop That Apparently Wasn’t

Marc Ambinder reports that a news scoop that started making the rounds like wildfire in the blogosphere turned out to be a nonstory — because it apparently was inaccurate:

CBN says it has a major exclusive: ” CBN News has learned exclusively that five Muslim soldiers at Fort Jackson in South Carolina were arrested just before Christmas and are in custody. The five men were part of the Arabic Translation program at the base.”

Huge — if true. Damaging and politically sensitive. Evidence of extensive infiltration of the U.S. Army by jihadists.

But the Army says it’s not true. No one has been arrested. The National Security Council was not aware of any arrests, a spokesperson said.

He has some more details about some aspects of what’s going on at Fort Jackson:

After the Ft. Hood massacre, the Army increased its counterintelligence presence at Ft. Jackson, a training base, because it is home a large number of non-citizen Muslims recruited under the Army’s “09-Lima” translation program.

A few months ago, special agents from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division opened an investigation after receiving a tip that some Muslims at the base had communicated with others overseas, and that a group of Muslim non-citizens had tried to poison other soldiers. That investigation is open — but no evidence has been found to support the tips, according to the Army.

This incident of a report that looks as if it’s wrong taking hold on the Internet points out two facts about how weblogs have evolved. Originally there was hope that the Internet and weblogs would spawn a network of “citizen journalists” who’d be out there interviewing, getting original information, and presenting it to readers. In reality, it has evolved into a network of citizen op-ed writers, except that most blog posts would not run on most newspapers since they are done more hurriedly.

The second aspect of this is that many weblog writers blast and/or belittle mainstream media or reporters when in reality if you took away weblog’s key source material — reports written and researched by reporters and not re-reported or fact checked by weblogs writers sitting at their home computers (this includes us at TMV) — most weblogs would be very thin, indeed.

The media is apparently only untrustworthy and biased when they run a piece someone disagrees with but if they support some writer’s positions, then they’re authorative indeed. Both left and right at times selectively go after the media.

Of course, it could still turn out that the CBN story is indeed true and that there is an effort to cover something up. But don’t hold your breath:

Ambinder is one of the BEST reporters who has a weblog page (very fast, very accurate and well sourced). And in the current 24/7 media scramble there is a premium on getting something that someone else doesn’t have which probably means CBN didn’t use the rule editors insisted on when I was a reporter on Knight Ridder and Copley papers on stories with major revelations: getting three independent sources to make sure the “fact” is indeed a “fact.”

FOOTNOTE: If you go to the link, Ambinder’s link now doesn’t take you to the story. It is gone and the page now says are doing maintenance on that “feature.” Like deleting or rewriting it, perhaps?

If it turned out to be false will there be an error correction? The blogs that reported it really can’t be faulted for commenting on it since that is now how the blogosphere reports. But these sites might note that the source material turned out to be wrong. Here’s a polite way to phrase it:

“The story turned out to be at variance with the established facts.”

(Hey, I can write spin for media types, Republicans, Democrats, and I do bar mitzvahs, birthday parties and brisses, too..)

Now you can follow Joe Gandelman on Twitter.