October 29, 2002

LOOKING FOR AN ANGRY WHITE MALE? Here’s one:

The media lapsed into the same denial mode the last time a forty-year-old radical Muslim called Mohamed opened fire on U.S. soil. July the Fourth, LAX, the El Al counter, two dead. CNN and The Associated Press all but stampeded to report a “witness” who described the shooter as a fat white guy in a ponytail who kept yelling “Artie took my job.” But, alas, it was — surprise! — a Muslim called Hesham Mohamed Modayet.

Broadly speaking, in these interesting times, when something unusual and unprecedented happens, there are those who think on balance it’s more likely to be a fellow called Mohammed than, say, Bud, and there are those who climb into the metaphorical burqa, close up the grille and insist, despite all the evidence, that we should be looking for some angry white male. I’m in the former camp and, apropos the sniper, said as much in The Chicago Sun-Times. I had a bet with both my wife and my assistant that the perp would be an Islamic terrorist. The gals, unfortunately, had made the mistake of reading The New York Times, whose experts concluded it would be a “macho hunter” or an “icy loner.”

Speaking as a macho hunter and an icy loner myself, I’m beginning to think the media would be better off turning their psychological profilers loose on America’s newsrooms.

I think the Hadayet case cost the media, and the authorities, a lot of credibility. I don’t think they’ve gotten it back this time around.