Monday, December 26, 2005

Last week, I commented on a story published in a New Bedford newspaper about a UMass Dartmouth student who was interrogated by the Department of Homeland Security after filing an interlibrary request for a book on Communism. This weekend, the Boston Globe reported that story was a hoax.

Two professors were interviewed for the original story. One of them, Brian Glyn Williams has now confirmed to the Globe that the student admitted making up the story. "I made it up," the student apparently confessed. "I'm sorry... I'm so relieved that it's over."

UMass Dartmouth said it had no record of any student requesting the book via an interlibrary loan. A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security said there was no record of any interview with a UMass Dartmouth student. It turns out that Homeland Security doesn't even have its own agents; so the Globe spoke with an FBI spokeswoman, who "expressed doubt" about the story's veracity.

Here's the paragraph that bugs me:
The student was not identified in any reports. The Globe interviewed him Thursday but decided not to write a story about his assertion, because of doubts about its veracity. The student could not be reached yesterday.
We're talking about a 22-year-old man with a college-education who lied to his professors and at least two newspapers. Why hasn't he been identified?

Newspapers regularly publish police blotters including the names and addresses of neighborhood vandals and teenaged trespassers. This guy tricked reporters and watched his story get picked up by national media outlets. Senator Kennedy even referenced the anecdote in an Op-Ed column for the Globe. By what deranged logic is the Globe protecting his identity?

When 19-year-old Katelyn Faber accused Kobe Bryant of raping her in 2003, her name was withheld by most media outlets. Every newspaper across the country printed Bryant's name beside the word "rape" for the better part of a year; and they protected Faber's identity, because she was a "victim." So much for the presumption of innocence. I have no idea whether Bryant raped her or not, but it's certainly getting easier to smear a man's good name, to spread vicious rumor and innuendo; and journalists are letting it be done anonymously.

Two independent newspapers claim to have identified this student, so there can be no argument about protecting an exclusive while they convince him to interview for the record. He's past the age of majority, and he deliberately fabricated a lie to attract attention and impress his professors -- a lie that was picked up by the national media and reported repeatedly without correction. His full name should be plastered on every correction notice. He's old enough to know that actions have consequences.


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