My Response to the "Dayton Daily News"
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 03:57:18 PM EST
An October 3 article from the Dayton Daily News, titled "Bloggers call mosque attack hate crime," not only continues the paper's attempts to minimize the attack that occurred on September 26 at the Islamic Center of Greater Dayton, but singles me out as a blogger who sparked the characterization of this hate crime as ... well ... a hate crime.

After my September 28 post about the attack, Dayton Daily News reporter Lucas Sullivan, who wrote a follow up article for his paper on September 29, contacted Huffington Post, saying he was "working on a story about the attention this received on the Web." HuffPo contacted me and asked if I would speak to Sullivan, which I did on October 1.

By the time I spoke to Sullivan, the Dayton Daily News had scrubbed an earlier article on the mosque attack, dated September 27, from its website, an action that did not go unnoticed by the many bloggers who had linked to that article, as I had in my post. Anyone clicking on what were by then hundreds of links on blogs and websites to this September 27 article, titled "Chemical irritant empties Islamic Society of Greater Dayton's mosque," was redirected to Sullivan's September 29 article, "Police: No evidence of hate crime at local mosque." The stark difference between the earlier article, written by Kyle Nagel, and Sullivan's article led many people clicking on what were supposed to be links to Nagel's article, but getting Sullivan's article, to question why the bloggers were calling the incident a hate crime. A second Dayton Daily News article, "Islamic Society baffled by incident at worship service," written by Doug Page on September 28, was scrubbed as well, with links to that article also being redirected to Sullivan's September 29 article. If the Dayton Daily News can come up with any reason for their actions other than to make it appear that a bunch of bloggers were overreacting and blowing the story out of proportion, I'd really love to hear it.

As shown by the screen grab below of the hits from a search on the word "mosque" on the paper's website, Sullivan's "Police: No evidence of hate crime at local mosque" is listed for all three dates -- September 27, 28, and 29 -- although the key words for September 27 and 28 still list the authors of the actual articles from those dates, Kyle Nagel and Doug Page. And, since the paper's format for the URLs of its articles contain the dates of the articles, in order for Sullivan's article to come up when people click on links to the earlier articles, his article, although not written until September 29, comes up with URLs that say "/2008/09/27/" and "/2008/09/28/," something that tipped off some astute bloggers to the paper's article scrubbing.

During my conversation with Sullivan, I questioned him about this replacement of these earlier articles with his article. His ridiculously far-fetched explanation was that this was the standard practice of the paper when follow-up articles are written on a story.

Dayton Daily News screen grab

The last article listed in this screen grab, "Probe continues into chemicals at mosque," written by Kelli Wynn on September 27, is still available if you search for it on the Dayton Daily News website, although I'm guessing that this one might also be scrubbed if too many people start linking to it. Wynn's article, which was actually the paper's online report from September 26, does contain some of the details found in the two scrubbed articles, such as the fact that two people were in serious enough condition to be taken to the hospital, that firefighters and HAZMAT personnel did notice a "bad odor" in the building, and that people in the audience of the prayer service "began to cough and experience breathing troubles."

The two articles that were scrubbed, of course, were the ones that most of the bloggers had linked to.

Kyle Nagel's September 27 article, the one that was most linked to, not only reported that the mosque's secretary said that people in the prayer service audience were coughing and having trouble breathing, but contained a statement from one of the worshippers:

"Baboucarr Njie was preparing for his prayer session Friday night, Sept. 26, when he heard children in the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton coughing. Soon, Njie himself was overcome with fits of coughing and, like the rest of those in the building, headed for the doors.

"I would stay outside for a minute, then go back in, there were a lot of kids," Njie said. "My throat is still itchy, I need to get some milk."

Nagel's article also stated that two people were taken to the hospital, and an unknown number treated at the scene:

"The 300 or so inside were celebrating the last 10 days of Ramadan with dinner and a prayer session, but the prayer session was interrupted so those suffering from tearing, coughing and shortness of breath could receive treatment.

"[Dayton fire District Chief] Wiley said an adult and juvenile were taken to area hospitals and others had their eyes or faces washed on the scene. He did not know how many people were treated at the scene."

Doug Page's September 28 article, also widely linked to, again indicates, with a quote from the mosque's secretary, Ismail Gula -- "We were in the midst of the Fifth Prayer when people started coughing" -- that the chemical did spread beyond the single room where the children were being kept, and repeats that the emergency personnel did smell an odor in the building. More importantly, however, Page's article brings up the recent distribution of the Obsession DVD in the Dayton area, noting that a meeting of religious groups had already been scheduled to discuss the DVD prior to the attack at the mosque, and quotes a Christian minister raising the concern that the DVD had "the potential to inspire hate crimes."

From Doug Page's article:

"Also on Sunday, members of several Dayton religious groups were scheduled to view and discuss a DVD about Islamic radicalism mailed to some area homes and circulated with newspapers here and around the country.

"'Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West,' was a paid advertising insert in the Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun, Hamilton JournalNews and Middletown Journal, all owned by Cox Ohio Publishing, on Monday, Sept. 22. It appeared in more than 70 other newspapers nationwide.

"The Rev. Gary Percesepe, executive director of Greater Dayton Christian Connections, characterized the DVD as 'fanning the flames of fear and prejudice against Muslims, with the potential to inspire hate crimes.'"

Of course, when myself and other bloggers were so bold as to note the coincidence of the Obsession DVD being distributed in Ohio just days before the attack at the mosque ... well ... that was just crazy talk from bloggers.

The article by Lucas Sullivan that replaced these articles omits that anyone was taken to the hospital, omits that the emergency personnel did smell a chemical in the building, and downplays both the number of people affected by the chemical and their symptoms. In Sullivan's article, nobody was coughing or having trouble breathing, as was reported in the earlier articles. There were just "a few" people "treated for eye irritation at the scene." The people affected were only a "10-year-old girl and the woman who was in the room with her" and some of the other children. The very first sentence of Sullivan's article is: "A 10-year-old girl sprayed in the face with a chemical Friday, Sept. 26, while at a local Islamic mosque was not the victim of a hate crime, police Chief Richard Biehl said." The fact that the girl is 10 years old is repeated two other times in this short article. I may be being overly cynical here, but I can't help but suspect that the repeated emphasis of the age of the girl is a way of implying that she might not be a reliable witness because of her age.

What I know from one of my sources, a Dayton woman who has been helping the Iraqi refugees who attend this mosque since they arrived in our country, is that an adult, a woman who was in a kitchen near the room where the children were, said she could see a cloud of something in the air. This woman entered the room after the chemical was sprayed, and was one of the two people taken to the hospital.

On September 30, Sullivan wrote another article, reporting that a pepper spray can had been found near the mosque. This article furthered the impression that the effects of the chemical were extremely limited, saying that "a girl inside was sprayed with a chemical irritant," that another woman in the room merely "felt nauseous," and that a few people had eye irritation. It also says, again giving the impression that the attack was really just on that one 10-year-old girl, that "there is no evidence the 10-year-old girl was the victim of a hate crime."

As I said at the beginning of this post, the latest from the Dayton Daily News, an October 3 article by Lucas Sullivan and Khalid Moss titled "Bloggers call mosque attack hate crime," singles me out by name, so I guess I should respond to what was written about me.

The article begins:

"When Chris Rodda saw the story about a 10-year-old girl at a local mosque was sprayed in the face by a stranger, she expresed her outrage through her journal, or blog, on the World Wide Web."

No, it wasn't when I "saw the story about a 10-year-old girl." It was when I received an email written by a woman who was with one of the mosque's families -- a widowed mother and her two small children, recent Iraqi refugees who were so terrorized by the attack that they wanted to go back to Syria rather than remain in America. The receipt of that email led me to look for reports of the incident in the news, and to my amazement, I found nothing except the (now scrubbed) report from the Dayton Daily News. I'm sure I made this quite clear to Sullivan.

The article also quotes me as saying "I was mad, so I sort of shot from the hip." Now, this is an expression I often use, so I'm sure I did say that at some point. Although I don't remember the exact context in which I said it, the article couples that quote with me telling Sullivan that I had gotten my information from friends of the people who were at the mosque, but hadn't spoken to law enforcement or hospital officials. I'm certain (having a fairly good knowledge of how my mind works and what I would most likely have said) that I used this expression in the context of saying that I considered my sources credible, and was so outraged by the lack of reporting on the attack, that, to bring attention to the story as quickly as possible, I went ahead and posted it with what information I had. If Sullivan's intent in quoting me saying "I shot from the hip" was to imply that I had some sort of misgivings about what I wrote, nothing could be farther from the truth. I had no misgivings at the time that I talked to Sullivan, and now, a week later, I still wouldn't change a word.

The article also says I called myself a "novice blogger." I do remember Sullivan asking me how long I had been a blogger, and telling him that I started blogging about a year and a half ago on Talk2Action, when, because of a book I had released a few months earlier on American history revisionism, I was invited to start writing there on that subject. I think I said something to the effect of a year and a half not being a long time compared to the other bloggers I know who have been at it a lot longer. This is what was translated into me calling myself a "novice blogger," a description that I can't imagine was included in the article for any reason other than to imply that it was my inexperience that led me to "shoot from the hip" and characterize the attack as a hate crime. Well, I guess one thing I definitely am a novice at is talking to reporters, because it certainly didn't occur to me that I should carefully consider my words when asked questions about how I started blogging. As I remember it, Sullivan asked me these questions at the beginning of our conversation, which started out on a friendly, chatty tone. The tone changed, however, when I started questioning Sullivan about the scrubbing of the articles by his paper, so I guess anything I said before that point was fair game for him to distort, which brings us to the final comment from Sullivan about me.

"Rodda said she 'sensationalized' the headline on her blog to draw attention."

What I said to Sullivan was that with everyone focused on the Wall Street bailout last Sunday night, I knew that my headline had to be a bit sensationalized to get the story noticed, which is why I decided to give my post the headline that I did -- "Muslim Children Gassed at Dayton Mosque After Obsession DVD Hits Ohio." Also, Sullivan and Moss, (who appear to have acquired their knowledge of the internets from the John McCain/Ted Stevens version of "Video Professor"), refer to where I posted this piece as "her journal, or blog, on the World Wide Web." It wasn't my blog. I don't even have my own blog. The first place I posted it was Daily Kos, as a diary, and, as anyone familiar with Daily Kos knows, it often does take a sensationalized headline to get a diary noticed, particularly at a time when everyone and their mother are rapidly posting diaries about some major story, which, at the time, was the bailout. Because of my diary's sensationalized headline, it immediately hit the rec list, was then front paged by kos, and this heinous attack did get noticed. So, I don't regret for a minute my decision to use the headline that I did. And, when I crossposted the piece at HuffPo and here at Talk2Action, I didn't change that headline because, unlike the Dayton Daily News, once I write something, I don't take it back.

It's good you backed things up so we could see the cover-up in progress. Gannett covered up hate crimes and other felonies of social movement entrepreneurs affiliated with the militias in the 1990s, who were also coincidentally generous advertisers. With the consolidation of right-wing media, we should anticipate and prepare for battling both the Religious Right and a hostile media.

by Jay Taber on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 04:49:38 PM EST

I rarely hear anything except "How Great Palin Is!!!" in the news around here- and this makes me wonder just how steeplejacked the news media is.

I've been trying to get the information out about the incident- and it seems to fall into a black hole.

My own research has shown that with the exception of NPR, most of the news services are quite racist in their reporting.  Could we be seeing more racism in action, or something connected with the Dominionists/fundamentalists/Religious Right?

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 08:28:23 PM EST

It seems rather than call for a community's self examination the local press is seeking to excuse/sweep under the carpet a bad situation. Someone committed a hate crime. Maybe it was a foolish teen, maybe it was a mean adult. Perpetrator(s), motive(s), etc. should be pursued by the local authorities and the local press. Part of the tragedy is that a refugee from Iraq came to the U.S. with hope, with faith that we offered asylum and instead found ignorant and cruel neighbors. She and her babies were not welcomed by the "liberators". I'm wondering what the local Christian community did to reach out in Love and compassion and dialogue after this tragedy.

by cantweall on Tue Oct 07, 2008 at 11:42:03 PM EST

Thank you for your writing about this.  This is an INCREDIBLY important story that says much about our American attitudes toward Muslims.

by Steven D. Martin on Wed Oct 08, 2008 at 06:00:49 AM EST

The philosopher's question, if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear the sound, does it still make a sound? If there is no one to tell the story, is it really a hate crime? Can we simply allow it hide in the shadows. Thank you for telling the story. Perhaps some of the good people who are viewing this video, will ask the question of themselves, Does my fascination with this propoganda really contribute to radicals doing hate crimes in my name? Until enough light reaches into the Christian right that they question the effects of their prejudice we will seek increasing violent actions by their less noble followers.

by chaplain on Wed Oct 08, 2008 at 10:15:37 AM EST
and Digged this article. We must use every tool available, as we can't compete with the moneyed folks who fund the two videos, Obsession and Third Jihad. These groups are inciting hatred and fear into the US, and they must be stopped.

by trog69 on Fri Oct 10, 2008 at 05:07:26 AM EST

Chris, Thanks so much (as I echo a prior post) for being on top of this. Sadly, your explanation of what's happened to the stories and how you've been mischaracterized will only be read by those who spend their time reading progressive posts. As you're well aware, that's how the right-wing media (which is most all of it) operates... innuendo & character assassination. Regarding the incident itself: It seems pretty clear that this was an episode of domestic terrorism akin to the racial hate-crimes of the "old" South and the Dayton Daily Press' coverage of the event is similarly in line with the press' coverage of those events 'back in the day'. Had the events been different, say... a gas attack on a synagogue during Yom Kippur services, I think it improbable that any police force would find 'no evidence of a hate-crime' or that the local press would be as blase` about it as the Dayton paper is about the mosque attack. Too sad...

by Marshalldoc on Sun Oct 12, 2008 at 05:58:51 PM EST
The Jena Six situation is another case of misreporting and so on.  That's only a couple of years ago.

For instance, the only adult eyewitness to the "beating" of the racist brat (who was using the N word and taunting the black youths according to several witnesses) said that Michal Bell wasn't even involved.  You don't hear things like that in the news.

Several really disturbing aspects of that situation didn't even get mentioned on NPR, which I found to be the most accurate as far as reporting.

The eyewitness accounts, official documents, and so on are available, although a bit hard to find.

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Oct 12, 2008 at 07:43:25 PM EST

I've just realized that one of the missing articles Chris referenced is mirrored at "Chemical Irritant Empties Islamic Society of Greater Dayton's Mosque" (

by Marshalldoc on Sun Oct 12, 2008 at 07:43:06 PM EST

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