Muslim University Student Falsely Accused of School Stabbings; Islamophobes Continue to Run With the Claim
Whether or not Lindsay Souvannarath, Randall Shepherd, or James Gamble actually subscribed to the Nazi ideology who’s symbols were found on their Facebook and Tumblr accounts or merely were attracted to the darkness associated with symbols is yet to be determined. But there is one person who is certain what was responsible.
We wrote about Ms. Walsh in relation to Ron Banerjee’s “Rise Canada” where she was listed as the Atlantic Regional Leader (she did not respond to our query concerning the factual nature of the claim). What became abundantly clear though through our research is that she loves the Conservative Party and Ezra Levant and really hated the Trudeau Liberals, the CBC, and Muslims.
And when the news about the Halifax murder plot broke, Ms. Walsh was convinced, despite the lack of any evidence to support her claim, that the suspects were motivated by Islamic extremism:
Anyone familiar with mindset shouldn’t be surprised. In the Islamophobic echo chamber where real journalism is dismissed in favour of fringe “news” that supports the preexisting prejudicial narrative, there is always a way to spin a story to implicate the hated “Other.”
So, when these fringe websites suggest that Trudeau is a Muslim convert and thus a traitor who needs to be (a) removed from office, (b) executed, (c) both, or that ISIS is coming across the Mexican border, or that Obama is funding ISIS, or that Muslim-Canadians all subsist on welfare, or there is an effort to implement sharia law in Canada, or any other insane conspiracy theory where Muslims are front and center as the villain, these people believe those stories because they are already inclined to believe them. When mainstream news publications proved evidence which disputes the conspiracies, that evidence is dismissed and the mainstream journalists are accused of being, “in the bag for the jihadis”
Which brings us the sad story of Dunbarton High School in Pickering.
On Tuesday, a 14 year old girl with a history of mental illness slashed a number of students with a knife before being stopped by a teacher. Thankfully none of the injuries, described as “Band-Aid-type cuts,” were very serious. It was later learned that the young woman taken into custody was suffering serious depression and was suicidal based on posts found on her Tumblr account. It seems that she had been crying out for help for some time:
The students, earlier angry and scared, were full of sympathy for the 14-year-old girl police accused of the crime. Even one of the students slashed at – none of the seven people who were cut were seriously injured – later began changing his tone, said a family friend of his, Zahra Vaid, who texted with him later.
“He started feeling really, really bad for this young girl,” said Ms. Vaid, 21, whose sister goes to a school near Pickering’s Dunbarton High School, where the stabbings occurred.
What changed? The discovery of the suspect’s Tumblr blog, and then an intense debate over its contents among her peers in texts and on Twitter, Facebook and other social media….
….After the 8:30 a.m. stabbing, which ended when a teacher tackled the suspect, Ms. Vaid, her 16-year-old sister and many of their friends joined a group chat on texting service WhatsApp.
Students were furious at the suspect, who was known at school as quiet, calling her “crazy,” Ms. Vaid said.
When they discovered her Tumblr account and began to tweet the link, Ms. Vaid posted photos of the girl’s writing on her own Facebook account, and nearly 50 friends shared them.
“The fact that there was a lack of response to her cry for attention … I think that kind of resonated with people,” she told The Globe and Mail.
We’re emphasizing this part of the article for a reason. Zahra Vaid is a 21 year old university student who’s sister attends a nearby school. One of the victims of the slashing is a family friend.
The original wording of the article was a bit muddled before the “Globe and Mail” reporter modified it to be a little more clear, but it wasn’t so muddled that anyone with basic reading comprehension abilities would be able to easily comprehend the intent.
But in the Islamophobic echo chamber, all one person read was what appeared to be a Middle Eastern name (it is actually Pakistani) associated with a stabbing. And unfortunately that one person was Gateway Pundit‘s Jim Hoft:
But despite all this stiff competition, Jim Hoft (aka Gateway Pundit) stands out as uniquely incompetent. Hoft runs with (or spawns) almost every inane story that bubbles up in the conservative blogosphere, has proven that he has absolutely no vetting process for the sources he cites, and apparently has a hard time with basic reading comprehension.
The above excerpt was published in September 2010. Nothing seems to have changed as Hoft named Ms. Vaid as the 14 year old school slashing assailant. His rabid followers replied with such comments as these:
Now, if one were to go this article now, one would find no mention of the girl’s religion since Mr. Holt “updated” the article (though he never apologized). And there are some who have left comments critical of Mr. Holt’s propensity for playing fast and loose with the vetting of his information. Still, the damage has been done:
Zahra Vaid falsely ID’d as accused in Pickering school stabbing by U.S. blog
American blog Gateway Pundit made error based on Globe and Mail story
CBC News Posted: Feb 26, 2016 11:23 PM ET Last Updated: Feb 27, 2016 6:41 AM ET
A Toronto university student is speaking out after a right-wing American blog falsely identified her as the teen who went on a stabbing spree at a Pickering high school earlier this week, and insinuated religion was behind the attack.
Zahra Vaid posted on Facebook after Tuesday’s stabbing at Dunbarton High School, where her sister’s friends go to school. Vaid, who attends the University of Toronto, said after reading the 14-year-old accused’s blog, it was clear she’d been suffering.
“We need to take better care of our children and understand the complexities of these issues, particularly around mental health,” she told CBC News.
”This young girl was going through so many difficult things in her life … whether it was mental health, bullying, things around her identity. So it was quite alarming.”
Vaid provided comment to The Globe and Mail newspaper, expressing similar ideas. But from there, an American blog, citing the Globe’s report, identified Vaid as the accused in the stabbing.
A barrage of hateful comments
Gateway Pundit, a right-wing blog, made the error in a post called “Canadian Muslim Girl Goes on Mass Stabbing Spree – 8 Injured => Authorities Baffled on Motive Behind Attack.”
The blog — written by Jim Hoft, who is active in the Tea Party movement — has since been updated to remove the inaccuracy.
Vaid was shocked when she saw the initial version of the blog late Thursday. What concerned her even more was that the headline mentioned she is Muslim. That, she says, led to a barrage of hateful comments online.
“It was misinterpreted in such a dramatic, almost violent way against me,” she said.
After that, Vaid took to Facebook to complain about the blog and to clear her name. She also asked the Globe and Mail to rework its story to distance her comments further away from the details about the accused.
“It’s obviously frustrating for me as a reporter,” said Selena Ross, who wrote the Globe story.
“You write a story and you can’t anticipate the way it will be twisted.”
Originally, Ross’ story read: “The students, earlier angry and scared, were full of sympathy for the 14-year-old girl police accused of the crime. Zahra Vaid, as she texted with one of seven people slashed — none were seriously injured — found that victim, a family friend, changing his tone.”
Ross said the newspaper rearranged the sentence to make sure there was no further misunderstanding, even though she believes it was clear.
“I think that’s incredibly irresponsible amount of attention for a blogger to read it that way,” she said.
In 2013, Hoft was awarded an honour from a self-described news watchdog group called ‘Accuracy in Media’, along with Fox News journalist Catherine Herridge. Identifying a minor accused of a crime is unlawful in Canada under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Not long after Holt published his fear-mongering, anti-Muslim, and erroneous, article falsely implicating Ms. Vaid in the Pickering incident, other online far right “news” blogs and aggregates started republishing his story. And those stories soon made it to some of the Facebook sites we’ve been covering here:
Eventually, some of the members of these groups began to question the claim that the young woman was a Muslim (again, she wasn’t). The exchanges that took place as a result were equally fascinating and horrifying and indicate that for some (and in line with what we stated at the start of this article) is that no amount of evidence will dissuade some from rejecting he preexisting prejudicial narrative that they paradoxically fear and take comfort in.
We begin with Canadians Against Justin Trudeau:
Next, WCAI (Worldwide Coalition Against Islam, a Canadian-created group):
By February 27, when this final set were posted to Canadians Against Justin Trudeau were posted, there should have been no doubt that the incident in Pickering had nothing to do with Islam. But it wasn’t certain to the folks posting many of whom were still convinced that the girl was a Muslim:
And since he seems to be all over the place, Lawrence Witko throws in his $0.02:
The final screen shot we grabbed succinctly sums up the view of many of those who continue to insist that the discredited right-wing blogger is more trustworthy than vetted media:
Welcome to the Islamophobic echo chamber.
Scary, ain’t it?