Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Alpizar Killing Buried By Media

Free Market News | December 21 2005

The fallout from the shooting of a mentally distraught Rigoberto Alpizar by federal air marshals in Miami last week continues. An analysis by libertarian author James Bovard in Editor & Publisher concludes that neither the official government explanation (Alpizar made a "bomb threat"), nor the mainstream media's uncritical acceptance of such claims, has done much to improve public trust for either institution.

He first cites allegations by Dave Adams, a spokesman for the Federal Air Marshal Service, that Alpizar had shouted "I have a bomb in my bag" while running up and down the aisle of the plane as it sat on the runway, and notes that "the vast majority of the media" have simply repeated this contention without further examination. Yet within a day of the incident there were already counterclaims being aired from the actual passengers on that plane, that no such shouts occurred, and that, in fact, "Alpizar was silent as he ran past them on his way to the exit." Bovard finds it significant that the original story "did not even survive two daily news cycles."

Only a day later, he says, "the conservative press rushed to exonerate." He cites both Investors Business Daily and the Washington Times as deriding "second-guessing" and glossing over the issue with praise for the "bravery" of the air marshals. Even the allegedly liberal press outlets "raced to take the government's word," from the Washington Post to the Boston Herald, although, as Bovard notes, "The Herald did see one risk from the killing: 'Members of Congress ought not use the excuse of the Miami incident to stick their noses into a layer of security that is clearly the most effective defense we have against future hijackings.' But oversight has been an unnatural act for members of Congress since at least 9/11, so the Herald has little to fear."

Further pro-marshal coverage, Bovard notes, came from Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma City, among other places, while even "the Brahmins at PBS NewsHour" proclaimed, in an online article on Dec. 12, that "No serious questions have been raised about the actions of the air marshals who killed the passenger last week." Bovard finds this quite telling: "Apparently, it is not serious if federal officials apparently make false claims in a case in which an American citizen is killed," he declares. He concludes the analysis with the hope that "jurisdictional conflicts between the Federal Air Marshal Service and the FBI or Miami police" might yet result in some truth emerging, but noted sadly that "If the media continue acting like the cop on South Park - 'Nothing to see here, folks, just move along!' the odds of any such revelation go from slim to none."


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