Remember the ‘Jump to Conclusions’ mat from the movie ‘Office Space’? Remember how Tom Smykowski seemed so excited about this product idea which had the fatal flaw of just being terrible?
It was a “Jump to Conclusions” mat. You see, it would be this mat that you would put on the floor… and would have different CONCLUSIONS written on it that you could JUMP TO.
One of the problems with a sprawling, cacophonous media “industry” under the constant pressure of the 24-hour-news-cycle is its penchant for rampant speculation and “jumping to conclusions” when breaking news occurs. Beyond just reporting the rumors, to fill time, talking heads, anchorpersons and interview subjects of all kinds get to go on flights of fancy to fill the time before the full picture actually emerges.
Now, with the violence that struck so suddenly and shockingly in Oslo, Norway, plenty of folks in the news media decided to dust off their ‘conclusions’ mat.
We don’t know if al Qaeda was directly responsible for today’s events, but in all likelihood the attack was launched by part of the jihadist hydra. Prominent jihadists have already claimed online that the attack is payback for Norway’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan. — Thomas Jocelyn, The Weekly Standard
This is a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too expensive to wage a war against jihadists. I spoke to Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute, who has been critical of proposed cuts in defense and of President Obama’s Afghanistan withdrawal plan. “There has been a lot of talk over the past few months on how we’ve got al-Qaeda on the run and, compared with what it once was, it’s become a rump organization. But as the attack in Oslo reminds us, there are plenty of al-Qaeda allies still operating. No doubt cutting the head off a snake is important; the problem is, we’re dealing with global nest of snakes.” — Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post
In the ‘Back of the Book’ segment tonight, two deadly terror attacks in Norway, in what appears to be the work, once again, of Muslim extremists. — Laura Ingraham, The O’Reilly Factor, via Media Matters
Of course, for at least the suspect in custody from the shooting incident (apparently related to the bombing), it turns out he, Anders Behring Breivik, is not so much a Muslim extremist. He appears to be a native of Norway with no immediate ties to Islamic terrorism, in fact, seemingly anti-Islamic, possibly a fundamentalist Christian, in what information has been unearthed about him thus far.
I know that it’s tough to fill time on the air or online when so much confusion and conflicting reports filter into the newsroom. And of course, there were mitigating factors like the recent terrorism charges filed against Mullah Krekar merely 10 days prior to the bombing. But, some of the speculation as cited above was geared toward expectation of desired results, rather than rumination without a desired outcome.
It’s similar to what many conservative critics labeled as unwarranted speculation when pundits and media personalities made connections between the political rhetoric of the Tea Party and other right-wing public figures and the Tucson shootings earlier this year. In fact, Sarah Palin responded to such criticisms rather forcefully:
Within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible
While that statement got her into another controversy altogether, there is some merit to her displeasure. Speculation in lieu of facts because of the ‘fog of war’ is one thing, but to jump to conclusions and ‘next-steps’ after accepting an assertion like “what appears to be the work, once again, of Muslim extremists”, is a leap to far. Now, most outlets did seem to be tempering their their surmises with disclaimers of a lack of evidence, but doing a simple Internet search provided many well traveled web sites apparently putting up the boilerplate disclaimers while nearly going all in regarding their claims about the likelihood that the Oslo tragedies were perpetrated by extremist Muslims.
Surprisingly, one of the most even-handed responses to this story came from James Jay Carafano on FoxNews.com, a news organization that has often been zealous in reporting speculations about Islamic involvement in terrorist activities.
There are many essential tasks to be done in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Speculation is not one of them.