Opinion: Jumping to Conclusions

Opinion: Jumping to Conclusions

When a Norwegian terrorist set off bombs against government offices and then murdered dozens of teenagers, the media first assumed the perpetrator was a Muslim. So did I, much as I did when terrorists blew up a Belarus metro station. And for good reason: Europe has seen various mass terror attacks in recent years, and 99% of them were committed by Muslims.

In both cases, though, I was wrong. In the case of Breivik, I started suspecting this wasn't a Muslim attack when I realized all targets were related to the Labour Party. A far-right attack like that was so unexpected, though, that I didn't hazard to guess otherwise before the attacker was caught.

After a Muslim terrorist opened fire in a French Jewish school, the media assumed the perpetrator was far-right. Though I doubt we'll see too many media articles beating themselves up about jumping to conclusions, as they did when they discovered their 'Muslim terrorist' was Norwegian far-right. I'll be posting whatever such articles I find on my 'in other news' page.

It's only human to jump to conclusions, especially when those conclusions are based on facts, such as Islamic terrorism. Instead of criticizing the media, I'd like to share with you what went through my head over the past couple of weeks as this story developed.

Last week I saw news reports about the murder of French soldiers, in two separate incidents. This sounded to me like an Islamic terror attack, and so I checked the news both in English and French to see whether there were any leads in that direction.

I found this AFP article: Scooter-riding gunman kills two French soldiers
The motive was not immediately clear but officials said they believed the shooter had acted alone and described the attack as a "criminal act".


"All avenues and motives of a very different nature must be considered, from an individual act to something that was collective and organised. We don't know," Defence Minister Gerard Longuet told reporters after arriving at the base.

Asked if he thought the attack targeted the military itself, Longuet said: "I don't think so, I hope not... But for the moment there is nothing that rules out this or that theory."

It sounded to me like investigators thought this was an anti-French crime. I assumed Muslim, but it was still possible this was far-left, and so I did not post it on my blog. I figured when they catch the guy, we'll know either way. Instead I posted it to my 'in other news' feed (which, unbeknownst to me, was malfunctioning at the time), highlighting the last paragraph.

Sunday I posted another article on the story to the 'in other news' feed: French paratrooper killings prompt large police man-hunt
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe meanwhile said there was as yet no evidence to suggest the soldiers had been killed because of their service in Afghanistan.

The article still suggested that the soldiers were killed in an anti-French attack. By denying it.

The next day, the shooter attacked a Jewish school. Besides my personal interest, an attack like that - whether it be Muslim or far-right - is of interest to my blog matter, and so I posted it: Toulouse: Gunman opens fire at Jewish school. Though simply based on past history, it sounded to me like this was a Muslim attacker.

Police quickly linked it to the paratrooper murders. Somebody attacking French soldiers and Jewish children? By now I figured it had to be a Muslim. But why speculate? They'll catch the guy soon enough.

Following a French news report that the police were looking at Neo-Nazi former soldiers, worldwide media started pointing the finger at the far right. This was the first time I realized that the French paratroopers who were attacked were all Muslim: Toulouse: Muslim paratroopers targeted in shootings

I added this note:
The French Le Point reports that the police think the shooter might be a neo-Nazi ex-soldier. However, since the only response to the previous shootings was an order for soldiers not to wear their uniforms outside their barracks, it seems that wasn't the line of investigation until now.

For some reason, the idea that 'minorities were targeted' made the worldwide media speculate this was the work of the far right. I could see why, though I didn't see any reason yet to come to any definite conclusion either way. You have to be completely blind to think that Muslims don't attack Muslims. Just the previous week a Muslim committed a terror attack against a Belgian mosque.

Besides, the attacker did not attack Muslim schoolchildren, he attacked Muslim French soldiers. And Jewish schoolchildren. I was leaning Muslim more than far right.

Wednesday morning, police finally found their suspect, resulting in a shootout: BREAKING: Police officers injured in Toulouse shoot-out, radical Islamists apparent suspects. Early reports were not conclusive, therefore the 'apparent' in the headline. It quickly turned out the shooter was indeed Muslim, but I was offline for most of the day and was unable to update the article.

When I did finally get around to posting an update, the facts were already well known.