MISSILE LAUNCH!!!! We Alarm, You Decide

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I wrote yesterday about the collapse of all institutions of authority in America, especially the press. Well, here is another example of why. All day yesterday, cable news viewers–and online clickers–were treated to reports like the one above. Those who tuned into Glenn Beck’s ruminations about “puppetmaster” George Soros last night got treated to a full-blown news alert headline at the top of Special Report with Bret Baier, who even asked for listeners help on his blog to identify the mysterious missile. “They are saying they don’t know, whether they know or not,” Baier said of the Pentagon’s response, pushing those juicy conspiratorial anti-authority buttons. “Private rocketeer”? A secret submarine launch “to send a message”? (Fox News, of course, was not the only news organization to get caught in the contrail trap.) Good television. Bad journalism.

Physics, it turns out, can get in the way of a good story. After all, the earth is round, which can make horizontal contrails look vertical on the horizon. For an explanation of what actually appears to have happened, see here. This so-called “missile” was likely a flight from Honolulu to Phoenix, or a UPS cargo flight.