Fox News’s suicide bomb breast implant hysteria
The Fox News Channel puts its political biases front-and-center. At the same time, it is generally considered a credible news source. So what happens when FNC promotes a dubious story that terrorists with exploding breast implants will take down airplanes?
According to the Rhodri Phillips penned-piece, “female suicide bombers are being fitted with exploding breast implants which are almost impossible to detect, British spies have reportedly discovered.”
The piece is reprinted verbatim from The Sun, with the only difference being that “suicide bombers” was rephrased as “homicide bombers” in line with internal Fox News style. The article goes on to say:
It is believed the doctors have been trained at some of Britain’s leading teaching hospitals before returning to their own countries to perform the surgical procedures.
MI5 has also discovered that extremists are inserting the explosives into the buttocks of some male suicide bombers.
Terrorist expert Joseph Farah claims: “Women suicide bombers recruited by al-Qaeda are known to have had the explosives inserted in their breasts under techniques similar to breast enhancing surgery.”
The lethal explosives called PETN are inserted inside plastic shapes during the operation, before the breast is then sewn up.
The discovery of these methods was made after London-educated Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab came close to blowing up an airliner in the US on Christmas Day. [...] A hand-picked team investigated the threat which was described as “one that can circumvent our defence”.
The only problem? The story appears to be mostly bunk.
1. The lone source cited by name, Joseph Farah, is the EIC of arch-conservative website WorldNetDaily and a prominent advocate of the “birther” Barack Obama theory. Although there is no doubt Farah has government and intelligence sources, “terrorist expert” stretches it more than a bit. Rather, the most interesting thing about Farah is that he is of Syrian and Lebanese ancestry himself – proving that Arab-Americans can be every bit as jingoist as their European-American cousins.
2. PETN is a poor substance for exploding breast implant bombs. Pentaerythritol tetranitrate is known for two things: its relatively thick density/appearance/feel in solid form and for its extremely high brisance. The first means that any that any suicide bomber with breast implants large enough to detonate a hole in a plane would be walking in an odd manner that would likely invite scrutiny. The second means that a dedicated detonation device would be required to blow up the breast bombs — subcutaneous explosive detonation is not an easy task. A collorary of this is that any detonator the suspected breast bomber would have in their posession would have mechanical or electronic parts. That might not be so easy to hide in the carry-on.
3. The “explosives in the buttocks of some male suicide bombers” did not work at all. This author has written about al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s love of rectal suicide bombs before. It turns out that planting explosive charges in the body effectively turns the body of the bomber into a shield protecting the intended target from harm: Instead of the target being blown up or seriously damaged, the bulk of the blast is absorbed by the suicide bomber’s body. It’s a perfect tribute to the laws of physics.
But we can understand how, as journalists, it has to be tempting to print a story about exploding terrorist breast implants as doom. However, this is real life — not the Weekly World News.