Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Jumped to Conclusions, Revised

Last week, I blogged about the blogosphere jumping to conclusions about something without having the essential facts in. Of course, such rushes to judgment aren't new to the blogs. The traditional media has always done it and the cable news networks, with a need to feed the 24-hour news cycle, are particularly apt to do it.

One good example of that happening, but being revised years after the fact, is the Columbine massacre, which took place nearly 10 years go this month. As this lengthy piece from USA Today explains, almost everything we thought we knew about the shooting and the shooters in the immediate aftermath has turned out not to be accurate:

They weren't goths or loners.

The two teenagers who killed 13 people and themselves at suburban Denver's Columbine High School 10 years ago next week weren't in the 'Trenchcoat Mafia,' disaffected videogamers who wore cowboy dusters. The killings ignited a national debate over bullying, but the record now shows Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold hadn't been bullied — in fact, they had bragged in diaries about picking on freshmen and 'fags.'

Their rampage put schools on alert for 'enemies lists' made by troubled students, but the enemies on their list had graduated from Columbine a year earlier. Contrary to early reports, Harris and Klebold weren't on antidepressant medication and didn't target jocks, blacks or Christians, police now say, citing the killers' journals and witness accounts. That story about a student being shot in the head after she said she believed in God? Never happened, the FBI says now.
As usual, truth is more complex than most people are willing to acknowledge. And it takes a lot longer to start getting near that truth. By the time somebody has a good idea of what actually happened, we've often moved on to our next tragedy or outrage.

So, next time something sensational happens and pundits and analysts breathlessly explain what really happened or what it all means, remember that they're talking out their asses. The truth will come along later, in it's good time.

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