The power of the Blog

Most of us in the Indian blogosphere have been up in arms to what some scum have been doing to our fellow bloggers. The collective power of bloggers spread over the world and united by their medium and their connection to India, was a very heatening feature. A lot can be achieved collectively, and this was just an example. By no means is the battle over. The legal notices (of dubious authenticity) served havent been retracted and someone is still out of a job.

In all this I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal of October 13 which touches upon the power of the blogs. The article touches various issues …..mainstream media VS. blogs, mainstream media drawing from blogs, racial profiling, etc…

Student’s Suicide Sets Off Explosion Of Theories by Blogs

“When a junior at the University of Oklahoma blew himself up 100 yards away from a packed football stadium on Oct. 1, the 85,000 fans inside remained calm despite the loud explosion.

But the calm has given way to anxiety, as the college town of Norman, Okla., has struggled to separate fact from fiction in the apparent suicide of Joel Henry Hinrichs III.

Several bloggers have jumped to try to connect the dots in the case and speculate that the 21-year-old Mr. Hinrichs was a suicide bomber under the influence of Islam. The blog reports, in turn, have influenced local news coverage of the young man’s violent death.”

Another very interesting point the article notes is

“Bloggers haven’t been put off by any disputing of their claims. Among the bloggers who have weighed in on the event are Michelle Malkin, a conservative syndicated newspaper columnist and author of a book “In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror”; Power Line, the blog known for discrediting documents that CBS News relied on for a report questioning President Bush’s military record, and the blog Tapscott’s Copy Desk, written by Mark Tapscott, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Media and Public Policy.”

The article is a paid subscription, so I am posting the whole article below. I cannot seem to find the URL too.


Student’s Suicide Sets Off Explosion

Of Theories by Blogs

By RYAN CHITTUM and JOE HAGAN

Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL October 13, 2005; Page B1

When a junior at the University of Oklahoma blew himself up 100 yards away from a packed football stadium on Oct. 1, the 85,000 fans inside remained calm despite the loud explosion.

But the calm has given way to anxiety, as the college town of Norman, Okla., has struggled to separate fact from fiction in the apparent suicide of Joel Henry Hinrichs III.

Several bloggers have jumped to try to connect the dots in the case and speculate that the 21-year-old Mr. Hinrichs was a suicide bomber under the influence of Islam. The blog reports, in turn, have influenced local news coverage of the young man’s violent death.

>From the start, the case was prime territory for bloggers. The

conservative blog Little Green Footballs titled one post “Jihad at the University of Oklahoma?” and wrote, “The story of the suicide bomber at the University of Oklahoma football stadium, determinedly ignored by mainstream media, is beginning to get interesting….”

Several facts about the case fed the speculation: Suicides committed with bombs are rare, as are those committed in public near a crowded event. Mr. Hinrichs (pronounced HIN-ricks) had a Pakistani roommate.

They shared an apartment one block away from the only mosque in Norman

— the same mosque attended in 2001 by Zacarias Moussaoui, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to helping plan the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In some photographs, Mr. Hinrichs can be seen with a scraggly beard.

Adding to community concern was the revelation that two days before he blew himself up, Mr. Hinrichs visited a feed store and inquired about buying ammonium nitrate — the same chemical Timothy McVeigh put in the bomb he used in 1995 to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, 20 miles to the north. An off-duty Norman police officer, overhearing Mr. Hinrichs’s conversation in the store, ran a check on his license plate and found no cause for alarm.

To that unsettling set of facts, blogs and local Oklahoma TV stations added several apparent inaccuracies, including: that Mr. Hinrichs was a Muslim and visited the mosque frequently; that he tried to enter the stadium twice but was rebuffed; that he had a one-way airplane ticket to Algeria; that there were nails in the bomb and that Islamic extremist literature was found in his apartment.

None of these claims are true: Mr. Hinrichs’s family, university officials and the Federal Bureau of Investigation say Mr. Hinrichs suffered from depression, and the explosion was an isolated event.

The FBI’s investigation is nearly complete. On Oct. 4, the FBI issued a statement saying, “At this time, there is no known link between Hinrichs and any terrorist or extremist organization(s) or activities.”

In an interview, David L. Boren, president of the University of Oklahoma and the former senator who was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that while most news reports have been responsible, there has been a “feeding frenzy of false rumors” on blogs and in some local TV stations. On Friday, he said in a letter to students and staff that investigators had found “no evidence of a conspiracy involving others which creates an ongoing threat to our OU community.”

Joe Hinrichs, Joel’s father, has appeared on TV and radio talk shows in an effort to clear his son’s name. In an interview, he said he is disgusted by what the bloggers and talk shows are saying. “They’re sensationalists by trade,” he said. “This blog stuff is just smoke.

It’s bilge.”

Mr. Hinrichs said he was aware that Joel, an engineering student from Colorado Springs, Colo., had sought counseling for depression. He said he didn’t know whether his son was taking any medication.

Joel wasn’t a Muslim and wasn’t under anyone’s sway, Mr. Hinrichs says. Raised by a Lutheran father and a mother who is a Jehovah’s Witness, Joel had no interest in either denomination, his father said.

“He was very curious,” Mr. Hinrichs said. “But he was very skeptical and about as impressionable as a tree stump.”

As for the beard, his father, who also is bearded, said, “He’s looked like Abe Lincoln since high school.”

Bloggers haven’t been put off by any disputing of their claims. Among the bloggers who have weighed in on the event are Michelle Malkin, a conservative syndicated newspaper columnist and author of a book “In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror”; Power Line, the blog known for discrediting documents that CBS News relied on for a report questioning President Bush’s military record, and the blog Tapscott’s Copy Desk, written by Mark Tapscott, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Media and Public Policy.

Mr. Tapscott maintains that Mr. Hinrichs’s death was more than a simple suicide. In an interview, he said, “To me, the more likely scenario, given the crucial pieces of evidence, is that he did indeed have some kind of link to some kind of terrorism deal.”

Ms. Malkin said blogs were doing the work that the mainstream media failed to do. “People are gathering information that they can’t find out from their local or national newspapers and bringing it to readers,” she said in an interview. “The mainstream media does us all a disservice when it bends over backward to whitewash radical Islam out of the news.”

Many of the bloggers who have commented on the case said they were made suspicious by the involvement of the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force in the investigation, as well as by the authorities’ swift dismissal of a terrorist connection. “It leads me to believe that there’s some sort of concerted effort to keep this quiet as long as possible,” says Jason Smith, a legal consultant outside Houston who blogs as Texas Rainmaker.

Conflicting official statements in the aftermath of the blast heightened anxiety in the shaken university town. Hours after the explosion, OU’s Mr. Boren issued a statement saying the university was “apparently dealing with an individual suicide.”

That same statement also said a second device had been found at the scene, but the university later rescinded that assertion. In fact, authorities did find, in Mr. Hinrichs’s bedroom, additional explosive material. They detonated them at the police firing range the next day, jolting the city again.

Local television news shows also were helping spread the bloggers’

theories. In one three-minute segment called “Blog Spot,” on the local CBS affiliate, News 9 KWTV, an anchor read several theories. “The blogs are also watching our coverage and asking questions about it,”

the anchor said.

On Wednesday, Oct. 5, KWTV correspondent Tamara Pratt reported that Mr. Hinrichs had spent “much of his time at the Norman mosque,” and that investigators had seized an airline ticket to Algeria in Hinrichs’s apartment.

Mr. Boren said that Mr. Hinrichs isn’t known ever to have visited the Norman mosque. And while investigators did find an airplane ticket to Algeria, it wasn’t in Mr. Hinrichs’s apartment, but rather in one belonging to an international student, Mr. Boren said.

Brian Eckert, News 9’s managing editor, said the channel doesn’t use blogs as sources in reporting and stands by Ms. Pratt’s report.

Write to Ryan Chittum at ryan.chittum@wsj.com and Joe Hagan at joe.hagan@wsj.com

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