US media silent following months of sensationalism
But as the trial of the first former Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani – charged with the 1998 bombing of two US embassies in Africa – officially starts in the Big Apple, the media frenzy is nowhere to be seen.
There was a shockingly relaxed atmosphere outside the Federal Courthouse in Lower Manhattan, especially when a case of such significance was being heard. The Manhattan court has seen some of the most publicized scandals of the last two years. It’s where Bernard Madoff was sentenced for over a century and where the curious case of the Russian special agents unraveled.
Pearl Street – where the court stands – became packed with TV satellites trucks and dozens of television crews ready to bring their viewers all of the latest.
But as for the first time a Guantanamo detainee was being tried in a criminal court of justice in the US, none of the media hype was seen.
As the decision whether or not to try terror suspects on US soil was being made, the US media was out of control with outrage. They called it unacceptable, saying terror suspects should be tried in military tribunals. But on the first day of the trial, no one continued this line of thought during the court hearings. Only a couple of lonely journalists were to be seen outside the courtroom.
Traditionally, when a big case is being heard at the Federal Courthouse, there are often protesters nearby. The media was saying for months that as this latest trial unravels, the case would become no exception, falsely predicting that hundreds would come out onto the streets to express their outrage.
But on October 12th, no such action was taking place in New York.
Another big concern of the media oracles was that thousands of policemen that would be needed to provide security in the area, and that billions of dollars would be wasted on safety measures. But that did not occur, with only a couple of policemen serving regular duty.
One more prediction of the media pundits was that there would be a great deal of traffic, but the streets were no more packed than on a regular day for downtown Manhattan. Some analysts said that the locals in the neighborhood would be concerned, worried and bothered.
RT asked a number of locals whether they knew the terror suspect trial was even being held just steps away. Not one person said they were aware of it or that they were disturbed by the fact.
Uninfluenced by the attempts to hype them up with fears, the locals were going about business as usual.
“The juries, when they hear terrorism, they press the convict button,” he said.
However, Americans have less of an emotional attachment to this case because it is not a 9/11 case. It is the case of a 1998 embassy bombing in Tanzania, an incident far fewer Americans are aware of.
This first case may be a bad case for the US to begin its civil prosecutions of terror cases with.
“The judge has already decided that the key whiteness against him cannot be heard, there are legitimate questions of torture and so-called enhanced interrogation that he’s gone through. So, the government could come out of this not looking very good,” said Schechter.
Major US media outlets prior to the trial were blowing the situation of proportion, and now have been ignoring it almost all together.
“There’s other news that seems to have priority and this is sort of being buried,” he added. “It’s an important case but it’s not being given the kind of attention one would expect given the rhetoric, given the hype on these trials.”
Most people in New York across the country were unaware the trial was ongoing and didn’t really care when they found out.
“It’s kind of a ho-hummer,” said Schechter.