Boing! Boing! Making Things Up About Church Fires Again

For some reason, when it comes to church fires Boing! Boing! can’t simply stick to the facts. Instead it has to distort reporting about such fires and, thereby, mislead its readers. Unfortunately, Cory Doctorow and crew can’t be bothered to ever correct the record–once facts emerge that don’t fit Boing! Boing!’s preferred narrative, the topic never gets revisited.

The most recent example is an April 6, 2019 post by Jacob Weisberger, Someone is setting fire to black churches in Louisiana. The post is largely just a copy and paste job of a New York Times article.

The problem is that the article itself indicates that no determination of arson has been made yet.

Three historically black churches have burned in less than two weeks in one south Louisiana parish, where officials said they had found “suspicious elements” in each case. The officials have not ruled out the possibility of arson, or the possibility that the fires are related.

“Suspicious elements” is not yet a determination of arson, and for Boing! Boing! to imply that it is by saying that “someone is setting fire to black churches” is both misleading and irresponsible. Why can’t Boing! Boing! just wait for the facts to emerge rather than jump to conclusions?

This wouldn’t be so bad if this was the first time Boing! Boing! had done this, but, in fact, it has done this before. Back in 2015, Boing! Boing! published an invented and irresponsible claim about another series of arsons to its readers. To this day, Boing! Boing has never bothered to correct the record.

In 2015, there were five church arsons in and around Baltimore. It was not unreasonable to wonder if there may have been a racial component to the arsons, but until a perpetrator was caught there was no way to determine what the motive was.

But the lack of facts didn’t stop Cory Doctorow who declared in the title of the only Boing! Boing! post on the issue, Terrorists torch five black Ferguson-area churches, nation yawns.

In the first paragraph of his post, Doctorow treats the motivation of the arsonists as settled, despite no suspect being identified when he wrote.

St. Louis Fire Department captain Garon Mosby calls the fires “arson,” but despite the shocking string of racist attacks, major media have hardly breathed a word about the fires.

And Cory was just getting started. He continued with a flourish.

It’s a stark contrast with the orgy of media coverage that attended last year’s burning of a CVS in Baltimore by protesters, which was a major news lead for several days, and was used to characterize the whole anti-racist movement as violent and out-of-control.

The attacks follow on from last summer’s wave of torchings of black churches across the south after the terrorist slaughter at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Black church burnings and bombings have been a favored tactic of white terrorists since the civil war era, a tactic for racists who call for pogroms, genocide or deportation of their fellow citizens.

. . .

This terrorist violence and the popular and official indifference to it is an important rebuttal to the bizarre idea that racism is a solved problem in America, because of Obama, or because of affirmative action, or because of some other irrelevance.

Nine days after publishing this, a suspect was arrested in for the arsons. The arsonist turned out to be the work of a single man, David Lopez Jackson, 35, an African American who was apparently a run-of-the-mill firebug. According to a Washington Post story announcing Jackson’s arrest,

Authorities said the fires don’t appear to be the result of a hate crime or the targeting of a particular Christian denomination of ethnic group. Several of the churches that were attacked were predominantly African American, but at least two were not. Jackson is black, according to police.

Dotson said the motive is still unclear.

Jackson plead guilty to the arsons in March 2017. The St. Louis Riverfront Times noted at the time that Jackson’s “court records paint a picture of a mentally ill man with a long criminal history.”

Neither Doctorow nor Boing! Boing! ever revisited the Ferguson church fires again, either to correct the falsehoods or simply update the post to indicate that the arsons were not, in fact, the work of terrorists.

The Ferguson church fires were only interesting to Doctorow to the extent that they were a symbol of a particular narrative he wanted to push. As soon as they no longer fit that particular narrative, the arsons were not worth revisiting.

That is pretty rich given that Doctorow’s post was fixated on how the mainstream media was ignoring the fires for its own ideological reasons.

Update 2019-04-11: Authorities announced today that they had arrested a suspect who presumably will be charged shortly with arson, and possibly other crimes, in connection to the Louisiana church fires.

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