Through the media looking-glass

The terrorism trial in progress before Judge Davis is important and interesting, but is difficult to understand through a media filter. The national media have mostly shied away from the trial. A couple of recent articles, however, offer exhibits A and B in the imposition of a gauzy filter over the case.

The Los Angeles Times’s Matt Pearce took a detour from his trip to Minneapolis on the Prince beat to check in on the opening of the trial. He made it through opening statements and then had to go out to the hall to file a report via his cell phone to meet a 5:00 p.m. (Central) deadline. Pearce now reports to Times readers: “I was just another reporter sent to cover radicalization in Minneapolis. Then 2 local Somalis took me on a tour.”

On the tour pretty much everything is beautiful, except this:

Yusuf has been in Minnesota almost six years after spending 17 in Georgia. He lamented how some of the community’s younger members had grown attracted to radical groups like Islamic State. “We cannot ignore — the issue is there,” Yusuf said. “We try to advise the younger kids not to go down that road. Younger kids, they are lost in the wind.”

And for Yusuf, another issue is lack of jobs or opportunity. “ISIS is like, ‘Hey, we have a job for you.’ … I hope government people, they understand and can help.”

To hear the locals tell it, the challenges are particularly acute for young Somali men. The young women seem more directed — they find work, go to college, raise families. But the “boys,” as one of Yusuf’s customers called them, seem lost.

Unfortunately, Pearce couldn’t stick around to hear the evidence in the case. He would have found that the attraction to ISIS among the young men in the case has nothing to do with a shortage of jobs or opportunity. On the contrary, defendants had no trouble attending college and finding whatever employment they sought. Jobs afforded them the opportunity to fund their dream of joining ISIS. Islam fueled their contempt for the United States and its pleasures.

The Washington Post’s Abigail Hauslohner stuck around two days longer than Pearce. She made it through the first week of trial. Her story, however, is even worse than Pearce’s: “Terror dragnet sweeps up Somali America’s sons: ‘Now everything is broken.'” Hauslohner’s article gives us the case from the point of view of the mother of two of the group of ISIS wannabes, one who has pleaded guilty and one who is on trial.

Somalis are presented as victims: “The prosecutions are stirring anxiety among American Muslims, who fear their communities are being targeted for federal entrapment.” The case is a study in injustice:

One of the government’s star witnesses is Abdirahman Bashir, who avoided prosecution and received more than $100,000 in direct payments and other expenses after he agreed to spy on his friends and record their conversations, defense attorneys say.

“The only reason they’re in that situation is because [the FBI] paid somebody,” said Burhan Mohumed, 26, a college student and local activist who has been attending the trial. “It’s known throughout the community that this kid, the informant, he provided everything — the contacts in Syria, the passports.”

Defense attorneys describe Bashir as an instigator who harassed anyone who wavered. “Every time an excuse is made to not leave, to back out, Mr. Bashir” found a way “to push the plan forward,” said Daud’s attorney, Bruce Nestor.

If Hauslohner had stuck around, she would have heard devastating evidence that belies Nestor’s opening statement. Indeed, the evidence renders it ludicrous. It’s a shame that readers who rely on the Washington Post for the news won’t have a chance to see the case plain. As is so frequently the case, the reporter is an obstacle to viewing.