Roger Stockham and Bruce Edwards Ivins need attention

By Awais Bilal

Ted Turner, an American media tycoon who is known as founder of the cable newsnetwork CNNonce himself admitted, “the media is too concentrated, too few people own too much. There's really five companies that control 90 percent of what we read, see and hear. It's not healthy.”  

Well, it couldn’t have been said any better, as too few families own world’s media, which exists to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values. In today’s world perception is everything,Alan Autry once said perception of resurgence in crime can be enough to paralyze business momentum and destroy the sense of security that a vibrant and progressive city requires. Business tycoons and governments use media, which can be said to be a perception altering machine to achieve their materialistic goals without keeping in view general public.   

Lord Acton (1834 –1902), an English historian, politician, and writer once said, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  In the last three decades few media giants have become very powerful, and they are involved in extreme alteration of facts and news.

Resent story of Roger Stockham got my attention, a 63-year-old Southern California man who was traveling with his vehicle full of explosives like M-80. His intentions were to blow up one of the nation’s largest mosques where more than 500 mourners had gathered for a funeral. This story wasn’t fascinating enough for mainstream media to cover; hence Stockham didn’t get enough publicity. It was Stockholm’s bad luck, if he would have been a Muslim, just like Faisal Shehzad, he would have been all over the news. 

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Bruce Edwards Ivins(April 22, 1946 – July 29, 2008) who was a microbiologist, vaccinologist, senior biodefense researcher at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseaseswas also a victim of media racism.  Most of the readers of this article must have heard or read about ‘2001 anthrax attacks’, but very few have read or heard about Bruce Edwards Ivins.  One week after 9/11, letter with ‘anthrax viruses’ were posted to two DemocraticU.S. Senators, killing five people and infecting 17 others. This news was fascinating for media till 2008 when federal prosecutors declared Ivins to be the sole culprit of the crime. Before that, this news was a cash cow for media.

In early days of anthrax attacks, both President Bush and Vice President Cheney speculated about links between the anthrax attacks and Al Qaeda in different public gatherings. In early October 2001, it was reported in The Guardian that American scientists had implicated Iraq as the source of the anthrax.  Wall St. Journaleditorialized that Al Qaeda perpetrated the mailings. A few days later, John McCain suggested on the David Letterman Show that the anthrax may have come from Iraq. ABC‘s chief investigative correspondent Brian Rosslinked the anthrax sample to Saddam Husseinlate October 2001. Hence every major media channel contributed its bits to the story. A lot of people believe ‘2001 anthrax attacks’ generated a scenario which helped President Bush to attack Al- Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

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He committed suicideon July 29, 2008 by an overdoseof Tylenol  and on August 6, 2008, federal prosecutors declared Ivins to be the sole culprit of the crime. He died without getting famous, or without getting enough publicity.

Roger Stockham got caught, otherwise it may have been big news for world media and it would have been blamed on some Muslim extremist sect.  I believe as Stockholm is caught now, he should be given proper credit for his intentions of blowing up America’s biggest mosque; he should be given an opportunity to get famous over night just as Faisal Shehzad.

Awais Bilal was born and raised in Islamabad, Pakistan. He currently lives in the UK. He is a writer and a Marketing consultant. His articles have been published in several Pakistani news papers. His major area of research is ‘impacts of media on society’. He holds an MSc Advertising and Media degree from University of Hull, UK.