Flight 924 and alleged bombs

Yesterday, Time Magazine online published an article regarding the airport shooting on Flight 924 by federal air marshals which contradicted what had been characterized by television news reports, as the incident unfolded, of a man with a bomb who threatened to blow up the plane. TIME reported in part that a passenger by the name of John McAlhany disputed earlier reports that Alpizar, the man shot dead by federal air marshals, claimed to have had a bomb:

“I never heard the word ‘bomb’ on the plane,” McAlhany told TIME in a telephone interview. “I never heard the word bomb until the FBI asked me did you hear the word bomb. That is ridiculous.” Even the authorities didn’t come out and say bomb, McAlhany says. “They asked, ‘Did you hear anything about the b-word?'” he says. “That’s what they called it.”

This morning, KGTV10 San Diego claims “passengers” confirm that Alpizar said “bomb”:

But passengers of American Airlines flight 924 saw a much different behavior. They say Alpizar claimed to have a bomb in carry-on luggage and ran towad the cockpit. His wife ran after him.

“She was crying, ‘my husband my husband’ when he ran up there. I know there was a scuttlebutt, some kind of intensity happening in the front and those poor people in first class saw everything. There were children there and I know that was horrifying for them,” said witness Mary Gardner.

KGTV’s article has no reporter or author attribution that I can find right now. Further, the paragraph that claims passengers said Alpizar had a bomb doesn’t include witness names or their direct quotes. KGTV then follows the first paragraph quoted above with another one that might imply or suggest that witness Mary Gardner said it. But did she?

According to Curt Anderson, Associated Press writer:

Added another passenger, Mary Gardner: “I did not hear him say that he had a bomb.”

Further, AP reporter Anderson writes that police held guns to other passengers on the plane after passenger Alpizar was shot and killed.

I remember having the TV on while the incident unfolded, and it distracted me for a time from some other tasks. Not once did I see any video of Alpizar acting agitated, or saying he was going to blow up the plane, or any video of him in the alleged incident whatsoever, but an audible narrative was fed to the viewer that claimed those facts. All I could see was a plane parked on the tarmac, and over time, a growing presence of emergency vehicles surrounding it. Who fed the alleged facts to the broadcasters on the day of the shooting? Who fed this morning’s story to KGTV that the dead man, Alpizar, claimed to have a bomb?

In the same way there’s been a saying, “buyer beware,” perhaps news viewers should repeat to themselves, “viewer beware.”

With the buyer beware warning, one at least knows that the seller is going to benefit from a transaction and what the seller tells us prior to then is likely biased by the profit motive: what is sometimes in question is how much the purchaser will benefit from what is purchased.

However, with viewer beware, we can only wonder who and in what ways some shadowy, and what appears deliberately-obfuscated, entity benefits. Viewers en-masse likely come away with widely divergent views depending upon which version of the story they heard or read. Perhaps it is precisely this effect the shadowy entity desires—to keep us arguing amongst ourselves—and so wrapped up in current serial crises, that we don’t look up and see the bigger, long-term picture.

5 thoughts on “Flight 924 and alleged bombs

  1. I’ve had uncomfortable moments on airliners when I felt claustrophobic. You’re so stuck on one of those things, and they’re cramped and crowded. Other passengers are sometimes inconsiderate and the seats are far too close together. If someone reclines their seat in front of me on some of those planes, their head is practically in my lap. I’ve had someone refuse to let me by to use the lavatory, or hog the armrest. My only recourse when I had to travel was to take a good novel and lose myself in the story, in effect tuning out the experience. I can see how someone who’s already a little unstable might have a real problem with that, and I can empathize with the potential for outburst.

    I don’t know what really happened on that flight, but the inconsistency of the stories bothers me. So who’s the terrorist, anyway? Are we so terrorized that we’ll kill anyone just on the off chance they may be a terrorist? Is there no other way the authorities can subdue someone acting out on an airplane? Is your life expendable if you’re mentally ill? Seems to me when we get to this point maybe the real terrorists have won.

  2. Another fair-use news snippet relating to the incident. The following link is to the Orlando Sentinel, anyone interested in witness reports should read it. While the reporter doesn’t quote and name seven witnesses, that is the number of witnesses this report claimed to confirm that Alpizar wasn’t heard saying much of anything as he ran up the airliner’s aisle.

    A Miami-Dade police spokeswoman said Thursday that multiple witnesses reported that the 44-year-old was yelling that he had a bomb as he made his way down the aisle with a backpack slung across his chest. Later, the agency’s chief of investigations insisted that Alpizar was yelling about a bomb but declined to say whether he was on the plane at the time.

    “I can tell you, he never said a thing in that airplane. He never called out he had a bomb,” said Orlando architect Jorge A. Borrelli, who helped comfort Alpizar’s wife after the gunfire. “He never said a word from the point he passed me at Row 9. . . . He did not say a word to anybody.”

    I notice that “police spokeswoman” and “chief of investigations” are unnamed.

  3. I believe a registry network should be invoked to notify airline agencies prior to the boarding of any aircraft of potential passengers suffering from mental afflictions, or the requirement of medications for said state. This would alleviate the suspicion that a spouse, knowing the state of aggitation which exists in the airline industry, could knowingly restrict access to medication prior to boarding, after previously securing a large insurance policy. Plus, the airline marshals’ would have specific knowledge and focus ahead of time on said individual.

  4. Hi Jan: I’m sure that anyone with medical insurance with prescription coverage has correlating commercial database entries somewhere detailing any medicines purchased under the plan.

    Cracking medical privacy open to “airline agencies” seems a real can of worms of questionable benefit with lots of unintentional consequences.

  5. I was referring to a “voluntary ” data base to protect the truly disabled from the functuly disabled (I.E. an air marshall who apparrenty hears things other passengers do not).

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