Never believe the first news reports about terrorist attacks

One of my firm rules-of-thumb is to never, ever believe the first reports that emerge from a chaotic situation like a mass shooting or other attack. Authorities often use the fact that the public fixates on the first report to promote initial false news to serve their agenda, knowing that many fewer people pay attention to the later corrections. Other people seize upon wrong information and run with it to create wild scenarios.

Take the case of the horrific shooting that occurred at a mosque in Quebec, Canada that left six dead and eight wounded.

A MASS SHOOTING at a Quebec City mosque last night left six people dead and eight wounded. The targeted mosque, the Cultural Islamic Center of Quebec, was the same one at which a severed pig’s head was left during Ramadan last June. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the episode a “terrorist attack on Muslims.”

Almost immediately, various news outlets and political figures depicted the shooter as Muslim. Right-wing nationalist tabloids in the UK instantly linked it to Islamic violence. Fox News claimed that “witnesses said at least one gunman shouted ‘Allahu akbar!’,” and then added this about the shooter’s national origin:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer exploited the attack to justify President Trump’s ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. “It’s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant and why the President is taking steps to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security,” Spicer said at this afternoon’s briefing when speaking of the Quebec City attack.

But these assertions are utterly false. The suspect is neither Moroccan nor Muslim. The Moroccan individual, Mohamed Belkhadir, was actually one of the worshippers at the mosque and called 911 to summon the police, and played no role whatsoever in the shooting.

The actual shooting suspect is 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, a white French Canadian who is, by all appearances, a rabid anti-immigrant nationalist. A leader of a local immigration rights groups, François Deschamps, told a local paper he recognized his photo as an anti-immigrant far-right “troll” who has been hostile to the group online.

More information is emerging about Bissonnette.

The suspected shooter who carried out a massacre of Muslims praying at a mosque in Quebec, Canada is a strong supporter of far-right U.S. President Donald Trump and a right-wing extremist, according to his former classmates, acquaintances, and social media accounts.

During evening prayers on Sunday, January 29, a gunman opened fire in the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center, killing six worshipers and injuring 19 more. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the shooting as a “terrorist attack on Muslims.”

The suspected assailant, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, is a white Canadian who has expressed far-right, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-feminist, and pro-Israel views.

Now that the suspected shooter is a right wing, white supremacist and not a Muslim, expect this story to disappear from public consciousness. In fact, it already largely has, unlike the San Bernadino killings that served the agenda of the anti-Muslim bigots.


  1. Siobhan says

    Just like the neo-Nazi in Germany who shot Turks on the anniversary of Breivik’s massacre.

    It’s even more bizarre actually being over here in Canuckistan. Our news is usually conservative (as in cautious) with its initial reports on these things and issues corrections promptly. Meanwhile, Fox News was literally making shit up while local news was just iterating that the Moroccan arrestee was actually a witness and not a suspect.

    I compared it all in real time. I just… try not to think about Fox News viewers. How many of them now believe this was an attack carried out by Muslims.

  2. Silentbob says

    @ 1 Siobhan

    I don’t need to tell you, of course, but this reminds me of nothing so much as the usual, “trans woman assaults girls” story that always turns out to be a, “people make up bigoted shit about a trans woman” story.

  3. militantagnostic says

    The Morrocan man fled the scene when he spotted an armed man approaching, not realizing that it was a police officer. This of course resulted in the police pursuing. Here is a Global news article on Why there is almost never a second shooter.

    What I have read about the shooter is that he was a small guy who was bullied in school and had not expressed strong political opinions until recently when he began spouting the complete right wing troll misogynist xenophobic suite and defending Trumpigula.

  4. mary says

    My home is in Canada’s capital near the Quebec border. On Monday night, there was a vigil on Parliament Hill and a number of other locations throughout the city and across the country to honour the victims of the mosque shooting.

    I found it disgusting that Sean Spicer and Fox News would twist the truth and use this terrible event to justify Trump’s immigration ban and add fuel to their anti Muslim rhetoric. This is just another example of how facts are irrelevant to them.
    Our Prime Minister contacted Fox News and asked them to change their post.

  5. mnb0 says

    The first news reports I read -- from various Dutch sources -- said the shooter was a right wing guy. However most of those Dutch sources tried to downplay the thing by carefully avoiding the word “terrorist”.

  6. Trickster Goddess says

    Further to what militantagnostic reports, the Morrocan man says the police acted properly in pursuing and detaining him and that they treated him well: they loosened the cuffs when he complained they were too tight; they served him tea and food; and they even gave him a mattress to sleep on.

  7. says

    Among the terrorist’s Facebook likes were Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. I’m honestly surprised conservatives haven’t picked up on that and tried to blame the murders on militant atheism.

  8. coragyps says

    Wayback machine: The day of the Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City, the early reports were all about Muslim terrorists, and Muslim-looking folks were getting detained at the OKC airport for having cable TV components in their luggage. They probably would have searched your car, too, Mano, if you had been there. Okies tend to get pretty nervous about you furrin-lookin fellers…..

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