Reading article critical of Fox News over coffee triggers FBI investigation.

Marc Schultz was reading a print-out of an article headlined Weapons of Mass Stupidity in a coffee shop one Saturday morning.

Three days later, he’s got the FBI knocking on his door.

Now, judging from the article, Marc seems to be characterizing this as an example of abuse of state powers.

This seems slightly hysterical, (although understandably so when you find the FBI inexplicably inserted into your life,) but it also seems plain that hysteria is at the root of this situation.

It’s fairly obvious what happened here. The content of the article has no bearing on the situation at all-- it’s not like the Solid Citizen who dropped the dime on young Marc was likely to have been able to determine at a distance that it was media criticism. If anything was legible, maybe it was just the the word “Weapons…” At any rate, that shouldn’t raise any alarms, since you can’t move an inch-and-a-half in any direction lately without tripping over a certain seven-syllable phrase these days. No, as you can see from the photograph at the top-right of the article, young Mr. Schultz’s suspicious behavior amounted to possession of a dark complexion and a beard-and-mustache.

Not too hard to reconstruct the thought-process: “Oh my god! A beard! Muslims wear beards! What’s that guy up to? He’s reading something- and not the Weekly World News, either-- it looks like it’s been printed out offuh the interweb! I’ve heard you can download plans for a nuclear bomb offuh the interweb! Golly, he’s finished his coffee. Better not let him get away. Hmmm… he’s getting into a newish car. I’ll bet his ‘handlers’’ supplied him with that. I’ll just jot the license plate number down and get it to the FBI before he blows himself up in the WalMart.”

For Christ’s sake, people, CALM THE FUCK DOWN.

And FBI folks, while it’s important to give the appearance of following up every lead, it doesn’t take too much discretion to be able to discern when someone’s activities are truly suspicious and when you’re just dealing with an excitable bigot. Or is the FBI obliged to allocate resources to follow up an investigation when they receive a tip that a large-nosed fellow was spotted listening to headphones on public transit? “I think he may have been receiving secret instructions from the Learned Elders of Zion!” “We’ll get right on it, sir.”

Whoops, I bungled the link to the article.

Oh, hell, he works in a book shop, fa chrissake. Anybody who ever saw a movie knows that subversives always use book shops as fronts.

Sheesh. :smiley:

So that’s Fox’s secret for increased popularity. Don’t watch Fox → go to jail! :wink:

I agree with your analysis, Mudd: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. The FBI was conned by a moron and wound up on a wild goose chase after someone who looked vaguely like what a bigot would consider to be a terrorist.

(Am I the only one who’s thinking of Frank Burns and Col. Flagg here?)

The FBI does have to be more discerning in what leads it’s following up. We do not have the resources for wild goose chases or satisfying bigotry, and we never have. While the FBI does need to be vigilant, it cannot be paranoid.

And finally, I’d love to be able to bitchslap … er, confront … my accuser in this instance. On a related note, I think it should be a federal felony to falsely accuse someone of a federal felony, punishable by $50,000 or 15 years in a federal penitentiary.

Oh well, that was a pretty good country we had once.

What do you guys think of the Bahamas? I bet an American ex-pat could live pretty sweet there, eh?

It’s always fun when I’m at a demo, or testifying against some cops, or writing a letter to the editor, or something, and I get a little frisson that says, “Your CSIS file just expanded by another centimetre.”

That kid was one misunderstanding away from being detained as a material witness. What happened to him could happen to any one of us.

Had I been in his shoes, when it became obvious that they were asking about me, I would have stopped the interview and said I wouldn’t answer any more questions without a lawyer present. There’s no way in hell the FBI guy would have gotten a look in my car without a warrant. Either one of those things would probably have gotten me detained. That’s scary to me.

I’d let the FBI look in my car. It’d serve’em right for being such idiots. :smiley:

IANAFBIA, but I used to wear a dark suit and do unpleasant things I didn’t necessarily agree with to people.

How about a bit of sympathy for the cogs in the machinery of stupidity?

I can’t help but think that there was some eye rolling and muttering when the assignment was given out.

I know, it’s not the point, but somehow I don’t imagine this is what the agent had in mind when he was working his butt off to get through Quantico.

So that was you?! When I quit and went to work somewhere else I hope you didn’t take it personally even though you tried to tell me the best way to open folders on my PC to be more productive, and forced me to remove my desktop background of Janeane Garofalo because it wasn’t “company approved”, and @#%# (taking deep breath) I’m all better now.

Wow, an Administrator responds to one of my posts, and I didn’t even have to use the word “Nazi”. Oh, and it didn’t contain the word “Banned”. My happiness knows no bounds!

That said, bite your tongue. For all you know I was a Mafia enforcer

Okay, it wasn’t anything that moral, I was a lawyer, but while I might garnish a single mother’s welfare cheque I would never stoop to the level of making someone remove a Garofalo desktop.

I do have some limits.

Is this the part where I start a pit thread and have a meltdown?

My two cents is, I sort of pity the agents who had to track this down. Imagine if some terrorist act took place and it later came out that a suspect was reported and the agents didn’t do anything. The agents would become the easy scapegoats.
Not that I’m condoning people getting way too jumpy.
I don’t think that most terrorists with sensitive materials are going to sit down in a coffee shop and leaf through them.
Then again, Zacarias Moussaoui told a flight school he wanted to learn how to fly a plan without learning how to land it. So nobody has cornered the market on stupidity here.

Psst, people. 2trew said “meltdown.”

Tough choice. . . .


Jesus! If the FBI came and asked me what I was reading in a coffeeshop, I’d tell them the Anarchist’s Cookbook and what the F@#$ are they gonna do about it? It’s not against the law…

:o …actually, I would cooperate and they would be quite certain that it was indeed a wild goose chase after all.