Gabrielle Giffords, John Roll, and the Valley of Misinformation

Gabrielle Giffords: Her shooting became a rabbit hole of confusion for the vaunted Fourth Estate.
Gabrielle Giffords: Her shooting became a rabbit hole of confusion for the vaunted Fourth Estate.

Morning news flash: Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has been shot, and is in critical condition. Five more are dead, including a child. The shooting occurred as the Congresswoman held a meet-and-greet with constituents in Tucson. So saith National Public Radio.

Now Giffords is dead, according to CNN and FOX News, having succumbed to her injuries. Talking heads begin to discuss her in the past tense.

Reports are that John Roll, Chief Judge of the United States District Court in Arizona and an appointee of President George Herbert Walker Bush, is dead as well.

But wait, no, Giffords is alive and undergoing surgery. Reports are she is responding to commands.

Now CNN and Fox News are showing a press conference at Tucson's University Medical Center, where an unnamed surgeon is confirming that Giffords is alive, and out of surgery. He is optimistic for her recovery, despite the bullet wound being "through-and-through." 

The surgeon, still in his scrubs, explains the hospital has received 10 patients, only one of whom is dead.

He says the only deceased person is a child. There's no mention of Judge John Roll. Is he dead or alive?

Next, comes President Barack Obama, he offers condolences, and mentions Roll as being one of those murdered. So Roll must be dead if the President said it, right?

The AP is reporting that the alleged shooter's name is "Jared Laughner."

Now Facebook is abuzz. There are links to pics from a supposedly scrubbed MySpace page. There's another link to someone who claims to have known him, and a yearbook photo.

Weird YouTube videos surface under the account of "Jared Lee Loughner." Later news reports say this is the correct spelling of the alleged killer's name. They identify him as an Afghan War vet.

And so the confusion rolls on. I've been watching the madness from Los Angeles, where I've been for the weekend.

I know it's blasphemy to criticize the global village, our World Wide Web of technology, not to mention Facebook, hallowed be its name.

But am I the only one who is now looking longingly back at the days of three Television networks? Back when you had to wait 12 hours for the next day's paper, and for reporters and editors who checked and double-checked information?

Where now, they blog it and Tweet it on face value, before doing one ounce of due diligence. 

Brave new world and all that. As much confusion as followed the assassination of JFK, can you imagine the chaos of November 22, 1963 if there'd been Facebook and a thousand other outlets around? Not to mention, every Tom, Dick and newshound Harry who long to be part of the story.

I'm no Luddite. But too many chefs spoil the gumbo. And at this point, it seems like there are several million of them, at least.

Note: For breaking news that New Times can confirm, check Jim King's posts on Valley Fever.


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