In the space of about five minutes this morning, Fox News turned a shutdown of the Brooklyn Bridge over a suspicious flashlight into an international terrorist threat before dismissing the whole thing like it never happened. It’s a classic example of Fox News fear-mongering — in this case, based on Fox’s own fear-mongery “scoop” that’s been a central narrative of the network’s broadcast day.
Here’s what actually happened, according to reports. The bridge was closed around 9:40 AM after a pedestrian notified police of a flashlight with copper wire sticking out of it on the pedestrian walkway. (The iconic landmark is currently undergoing renovations, which may explain the construction equipment lying around.)
Both sides of the bridge and the walkway were shut down for about an hour while police investigated. The suspicious flashlight turned out to be just a normal flashlight.
On Fox, however, you can go from zero to “be afraid, be very afraid” to zero again in the space of seconds.Here’s a montage of Fox News from 10:38 AM to 10:44 AM today:
What’s that you say? You haven’t heard about the imminent Taliban attack on the US — the one that could very possibly have been realized this morning on the Brooklyn Bridge, according to the Fox host? You must be living under a rock — or missed yesterday’s Fox News scoop about the plot. Here’s what that sounded like:
Any possible threat, however, does not seem to be imminent, with a senior counterterrorism official saying he was “unaware” of any “imminent threats” against the U.S. homeland.
Fox says “senior” officials in the government are “concerned” that the Pakistani Taliban “may have successfully placed another operative inside the United States.” It’s “unclear exactly when or how the intelligence was obtained,” Fox reports, “but one source said it was ‘corroborated’ by authorities. Others were unable to say the intelligence had been corroborated.”
Despite the vagueness of the report, Fox seems to think it’s driving counterterror authorities across the country today, and especially those in New York. They plan to show a second big special on it tonight at 6 PM, according to teases throughout the day.
Sure, it was just a flashlight today. And sure, there was no notification by anyone that it was a suspected terrorist attack. But on Fox, the dots between “routine police investigation of suspicious package” and “Taliban attack on U.S., everybody panic” were very easy to connect.
Late this afternoon, Fox News announced that the part of the basis for the network’s nebulous heightened terror watch — an FBI informant’s claim that a Pakistani Taliban agent was preparing to strike from inside the U.S — was false. According to Fox, the FBI has now filed a criminal complaint against him for making the false statements. (Fox did note, however, that this was only one of five “threat streams” the FBI is currently pursuing. The other four, presumably, could still crop up anytime, anywhere.)