The Few, The Proud, the Falsified News Story
There's a story that's going around (and around, and around) that's so full of crap, I thought it was time to set the record straight -- it has turned into an urban legend. It also has some profound implications on how someone is trying to manipulate you.
Weekly Weird News
First, the fake story, which I've seen variously attributed to the Associated Press, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and others:
Well Written Police Report
Notice how poorly written it is: ellipses ("...") thrown in here and there, spaces before commas, "police" is improperly capitalized, and the whole thing is not at all in newspaper style (example: AP would have abbreviated Georgia as "Ga.") While it's true that the AP's standards have been slipping for a long time, they're not that bad! Anyone with common sense should smell a rat just from the poor writing quality alone.
Nothing But the Truth
Here's the story as it appeared in This is True at the time. While most of the copies I've seen online have no date at all (which is another good clue that it's fake!), this did not happen last week. It happened 26 November 2010, and was in True's 26 December 2010 issue:
He Went Attaway
Best Buy store sales manager Orvin Smith said Tracey Attaway, 39, was shoplifting in his Augusta, Ga., store. When confronted by staff, Attaway "pulled out a knife so he could make sure he could get out the front door." Outside were four Marines collecting donations for Toys for Tots. Marine Cpl. Phillip Duggan "clotheslined" Attaway as he tried to run by, Smith said, but Attaway "got up and started swinging a knife around." Attaway ended up behind Duggan and stabbed him in the back, witnesses say, and then ran. The other Marines chased Attaway down, and held him for police. Investigators say Attaway tried to steal merchandise valued at $1,365, plus a laptop computer he left behind when he ran from store staff. Duggan was released from the hospital the next day, but a judge didn't allow Attaway to post bail because of his extensive criminal record. (JW/Augusta Chronicle) ...That's OK. The Marines are patient.
("JW" in the source area means it was written by Jennifer Weiner, who was True's first outside contributor. The tagline is my riff on what she submitted, which was "...I know a few Marines were probably wishing he had been bailed.")
Now, it's totally possible that the fake story is True's "fault" in that the tagline implies that the Marines would like to really beat the guy up. (Um, he "fell off a curb" to get those injuries! Really! nudge-nudge, wink-wink.) And indeed, I didn't see the fake story until several weeks after True's version came out, so perhaps one of my readers embellished it to be "How I wish it had happened."
OK, It's Fake. So What?
If you're paying attention, you'll notice the fake story is wrong from its very first word: the store manager's name is Orvin Smith, not "Orville". That's not the only changed name: the suspect isn't "Tyrone Jackson" but rather Tracey Attaway. I have little doubt the name was changed because "Tracey Attaway" didn't sound black enough. "Everyone" knows what race "Tyrone Jackson" is, eh? Very similar to the subtle racial slurs in the previous urban legend I wrote about, on the Medal of Honor recipient Ed Freeman, and how his story was manipulated for political slander (yeah, that's the way to honor a war hero!) The pattern I wrote about there holds: it's actually a racist propaganda screed. Yes, it's an amusing story, but those who just buy into it without critical thought are playing right into the hands of the racists who purposefully doctored this story.
I originally thought maybe "Orville" was just a lazy error, until I considered that Orville sounds more white than Orvin. Can't very well tsk-tsk over black-on-black crime, right? Let's make the manager sound more white! It's them darkies that are the problem! Why, that po' white store manager was just mindin' his own business, and tryin' to support those brave Marines out front!
Pretty much, not a scratch on him. And that's exactly what I would expect from a number of trained warriors who are in good shape: they used only the force necessary to stop a violent attack and subdue the perpetrator. Seriously: would you want your military forces to decide to dole out severe beatings to citizens? Is this what you want of your police? Or would you prefer criminals were simply subdued, arrested, tried, and sentenced according to law? That's what I want out of the people we pay to protect us. That's how a democracy works.
This is True is definitely not a "debunk the urban legends" web site, but this story just isn't going away. And with the holidays coming up, I can see it's is just going to go around more with that lovely "Toys for Tots" tie-in, so it's getting more important to set the record straight.
Oh, and before someone dismisses this with the canard that I'm "just a bleeding-heart liberal," consider I'm the one who wrote this. This essay isn't about conservative vs. liberal, it's about seeing an obvious pattern and crying foul, and such ad hominem tactics will fall on deaf ears.
When you get an urban legend passed on to you, think: is it simply funny, or is there a hidden agenda behind it?
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