Seeing past the truth to get to the truth

Google “Dearborn Christians” sometime and click on some links. You’ll find that they’re mostly blog posts with some variation of “Muslims stone Christians” as their headlines. There was an incident at a festival in Dearborn, Mich., earlier this month where, if you believe the blog headlines, a group of peacefully protesting Christians was grievously assaulted with verbal insults and lots of flying debris by Muslims in attendance at Dearborn’s Muslim Festival. There’s a 19-minute video associated with the posts showing the alleged attack.

The accompanying video was sent to me via email today, and while I usually just instantly delete most of this stuff, for some reason I decided to watch this one in its entirety. It shows what it claims to show — a bunch of white guys with signs getting absolutely assaulted with insults and flying debris from a group of people at the festival, a huge event that by some reports I read today draws about 300,000 people to the community.

But it also doesn’t show a lot of things that, when included, shed an entirely different light on the story. There were three things that jumped out at me as I watched the video:
• the video starts when the trouble starts. There’s no context leading up to what happened. This is usually not a good sign that a video will tell the entire story.
• the people getting attacked are seen to be carrying large blue picket signs. However, great care is taken to make sure the signs are not in the shot. Every time one gets into the shot, the camera quickly pulls away, or the shot comes from a low enough angle that the signs are off the top of the frame. This is also not a good sign, as it seems pretty clear that they’re intentionally trying to hide what the signs say. What you can see includes parts of phrases like “one true God” and references to being sent to hell. Based on what you can see, you can infer what you cannot see, and it’s not good.
• the protesters are wearing shirts with things written in Arabic, and there’s no translation provided for what the shirts say. Also probably not a good sign.

There’s also other video on YouTube, taken from the side of people at the festival, that shows the signs clearly (more on what they said in a bit; warning sign #2, totally legit) and also shows the “innocent protesters” with a severed pig’s head on a stick.

This is a perfect example of the dangers of getting caught up in “but we have it right here on video” mindset. Yes, they have things on video. However what they have is heavily edited, and every piece of footage, every shot, is specifically included to reinforce the agenda of the people who made it. At the same time, every piece of footage, every shot that they left out of the video serves the same purpose. What they showed was the truth — but it was a heavily edited fragment of the truth that did not remotely show the entire picture. And it was a portion of the truth that was specifically engineered to deceive the viewer about what really happened.

The Detroit Free Press ran a story about this on the 16th, so whatever claims you read about “the mainstream media not covering this story” simply aren’t true — the Freep is about as mainstream as you get. It talks about the things you don’t see on the video — like the protesters yelling at the festival participants “you’re going to burn in hell,” and the text on some of the signs that the video producers so cleverly left out of their video, including things like “Islam is a religion of blood and murder” and “Muhammad is a … liar, false prophet, murderer, child molesting pervert.”

Was what happened to the protesters right? No, of course not. They were treated horribly, and for them to be treated the way they were in the video by children was doubly sad. But, to pretend that the people who got attacked were somehow just innocent bystanders who got blindsided for no reason is simply incorrect. They’re a hate group hiding behind religion, and they went to the festival to provoke the crowd. Unfortunately, the crowd played right into their hands.

It bothers me that people see this garbage and take it a face value without taking some sort of effort to make sure what they’re seeing is what really happened. In this instance, what was left out of the video is significantly more important than what was included.

Andy Bartlett

By day, I am the executive director of communications and marketing at Bemidji State University. The rest of the time, I'm a husband, father of three, and proponent of super heroes, lasers, space ships and explosions.

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