From Niagara Falls to Texas to Gaza, a horrifying look into the abyss of a post-truth future (Will Bunch, Nov. 26th, 2023, Philadelphia Inquirer)
No one can fault the FBI or other agencies for investigating whether this was some type of terror attack, given the location of the accident at a key border crossing, the timing — perhaps the busiest travel day of the year — and the spectacular nature of the explosion. What’s inexcusable, however, was the rapid reporting of the most extreme speculation as fact, and the large number of supposedly responsible politicians willing to run with those untruths.
“What I’ve been told is that this was an attempted terrorist attack,” said Alexis McAdams, a correspondent for Fox News, the right-slanted network that despite a series of scandals and mishaps is still the most-watched cable news channel. Reporting just two and a half hours after the crash, McAdams added that her law enforcement sources believed that the motorists — in reality, remember, two middle-aged KISS fans — “have packed that car full of explosives.”
Thus, the “reputable” Fox News was adding the meat of confirmation to what a frothing right-wing echo chamber on social media was already proclaiming: The “blast” mean a network of terrorists is poised to enter America not only from the south but from the north, thus proving — in their minds — the inherent weakness of President Joe Biden’s border policies. And there was an army of political demagogues eager to run with a false meme.
“We need to lock down the borders immediately,” GOP Rep. Anna Paulina Luna of Florida posed on X/Twitter Wednesday. “Full deportation efforts need to begin. The U.S. does not need to be the world’s hospitality suite any longer.” Added another Florida Republican, Rep. Byron Donalds, in a now deleted tweet: “Open borders, soft-on-crime policies and bending a knee to the woke P.C. mob is an inevitable threat to our nation and its people. Today’s apparent terrorist attack must be a wake-up call to all Americans.”
The website Meidas Touch published a list of more than 30 Republican officials or right-wing luminaries who tweeted similar sentiments and occasionally embellished their posts with new made-up details, like the discovery of an Iranian passport at the crash site. Some of these posts are still up, days after it became clear that the Niagara Falls crash was just a horrific tragedy and not the far-right’s fever dream of Islamic jihad to justify a repressive response. Others, including Fox News, have ripped yet another page from George Orwell’s 1984 — tossing their initial reporting down a memory hole.
Unfortunately, their mission had already been accomplished.