ON OCT. 1, a tragedy shocked the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman: 21-year-old engineering student Joel Henry Hinrichs III killed himself with a homemade bomb while sitting on a bench about 100 yards away from the university's football stadium, packed with 84,000 fans. Since then, this sad event has mushroomed into a story that touches on some important and controversial issues: vigilance and paranoia in the age of terrorism, and journalistic ethics in the age of the ''new media."
Within days of Hinrichs's death, a number of Internet websites were speculating that he had planned to blow himself up inside the stadium -- and that he was a radical Muslim terrorist. Blog headlines screamed, ''Jihad at the University of Oklahoma?" and ''The Oklahoma Suicide Bomber." Bloggers demanded to know why the mainstream media were ignoring the story, and some supplied a ready answer: The liberals in the media were afraid to ''offend the gods of political correctness" -- as syndicated columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin put it -- by calling attention to Islamic terrorism on US soil.
But was there any substance to the story? Apparently not. According to the authorities, there is no indication that Hinrichs was anything more than a depressed, troubled young man.
Author Young rightfully suggests that the left could just as well be susceptible to this sort of hysteria, but I have to assert that right-wing blogs are much extreme than their progressive counterparts. Rather than being about dissemination of information, they're all too often based on the Bush Republican strategy of fueling anger and hatred. It's much easier to get them to take action that way than through reasoned debate....