10 Oct 2017

The terrorist attack that wasn't

When a foreigner killed a Slovak man in Bratislava last weekend, an unstoppable rumor mill whipped the country into an ill-informed frenzy.

Ria Gehrerová
Ria Gehrerová Denník N, Slovakia
Source: Denník N
The terrorist attack that wasn't - NewsMavens
A bloodied knife. Maarten Van Damme/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Why this story matters:

A foreigner killed a Slovak man in Bratislava last weekend.

Two of three men, having had too much to drink, had a row over a taxi when a foreign man took out a knife and stabbed a Slovak man in the neck.

When the story ran in a tabloid, it repeated rumors that witnesses said the attacker was Arab. Immediately, media suggested it could be a possible terrorist incident and a social media storm ensued.

Conspiracy sites started to spew anti-immigration, racist hysteria. Slovak police tried to fight the fake news that was emerging by releasing all new information about the attack. But the rumor mill was unstoppable.

The truth is: the attacker was an Indian man who married a Slovak woman in 2004. He moved to Slovakia 4 years later, got his Slovak citizenship a few years ago and was working as a project manager in an IT company.

Meanwhile, a day before this attack, in a Slovak village, a Slovak woman and her 3 kids were stabbed to death by a 26 year old Slovak man. And social media barely noticed.

Details from the story:

  • A naturalized Indian man killed a Slovak man after arguing about a taxi
  • Witnesses said the murderer was Arab and huge anti-immigrant hysteria began
  • Police took to Facebook to refute the false claim
  • Only a day earlier a woman was stabbed to death by a Slovak man and it was barely mentioned in the media
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