Sunday, August 29

Bea Arthur of "Golden Girls" TV show fame sparks Terrorist Alert?

Ok, this is just a sign that all the pressure of living as a "nation in fear" is starting to crack us up. What is "this"? Well we're all either cracking up because there's little to no truth to this and it's spreading like wildfire, or it really happened and the TSA is really harassing 81 year old ladies with pen-knives.
Bea Arthur sparked a security scare at Logan Airport in Boston this week when she tried to board a Cape Air flight with a pocketknife in her handbag.

The "Golden Girls" star, now 81, was flagged by a Transportation Security Administration agent, who discovered the knife - a strict no-no following 9/11.

"She started yelling that it wasn't hers and said 'The terrorists put it there,' " a fellow passenger said. "She kept yelling about the 'terrorists, the terrorists, the terrorists.' "From Philadelphia Daily News | 08/26/2004 | Howard Gensler | Could terrorists really Bea after her?
The Details — How bad news propagates.
Turn back now all those who are faint of heart.

I can't determine which is more screwed up the reporting or the actual incident. I can't find a single news source that credibly reports the facts. This is some sort of instant urban legend. Some sort of April fools joke gone terribly wrong. As an example I point to BoingBoing's coverage:
Bea Arthur's fight against the Transport Security Agency
Bea Arthur forgot to take her pocketknife out of her purse last week at Logan airport and when the TSA found it, she ran around screaming, "The terrorists! The terrorists put a knife in my purse! We're all doomed!" She was being funny -- it's what she does. She's the funniest of all the Golden Girls, that's for sure.

The TSA didn't take it well.From Boing Boing: Bea Arthur's fight against the Transport Security Agency
Now, as you know I love the BoingBoing blog, but Cory Doctorow reports that she screamed "We're all doomed!" and cites only the Philadelphia Daily News article which I posted the corresponding quote from above. At no point in the Philly article does it state that Bea SCREAMED "We're all doomed!", nor does the Philly use an exclamation point, nor are the quotes Cory used a series used in rapid progression or even in that order, nor are these exact quotes from Bea's mouth. These are actually in fact quotes different people have attributed to Bea at different times including a random lady near where security stopped her and TSA officials when she got on the plan.

I'm sure you could take the words I've written or said in the last half an hour and string them together like I was plotting a coup. Cory's post is completely misleading and completely untruthful. These words are taken out of context and in fact never necessarily came from Bea's mouth! It would appear that in the space of one person Cory Doctorow has completely recreated the whole story.

Moving on, the San Francisco Gates Coverage. — GOLDEN GIRL CAUSES TERRORIST SCARE IN BOSTON No need to quote it, this SF Gate article is the exact same as the Philly article. Neither of them credit any source, so I'm lead to believe that one of them or perhaps both of them are simply plagiarizing some other article without attribution or even checking the facts. With out attribution any future readers have no way to verify the authenticity or track sources either. It would be better had they not reported this incident at all rather than add to the misinformation.

We now move on to WABC-TV, New York.
'Golden Girls' Star's Comments Don't Get a Laugh at Airport
(NEW YORK - WABC, August 26, 2004) A security scare at the Boston airport involving a heretofore unknown terror threat: namely 'Golden Girl' Bea Arthur.

The 81-year-old actress reportedly left a pen-knife in her handbag, while boarding a 'Cape Air' flight.

Sure it happens, but where she went wrong was to tell security that she didn't put it there, a terrorist did.

Joking about such matters is illegal. But the TSA let the emmy-winning star board the plane anyway."
From "Golden Girls" Star's Comments Don't Get a Laugh at Airport
I believe it would not be out of order for me to call their coverage downright pathetic. While they have not included few detailed facts that could be wrong they're whole transcript is full of assumptions. Notice how the pocket knife is listed as a pen-knife. Notice how they shorten the article by making rapid generalizations and summarization. Notice the poor grammar and sentence structure. It's almost as bad as mine and I don't have an editor nor a budget. Bad news? "Sure it happens," it did with WABC-TV. ; )

Several sites such as the Seattle Post Intelligencer report the quotes and article as originating from, but I've been unable to find such information on IMDB.

In conclusion, NOT one of these sources bothered to verify there information so far as I can tell. They all have different facts, most of which are obviously wrong, and the only one who properly quoted their sources was the Seattle Post Intelligencer although I cannot verify even that. Not one of the articles includes verifiable sources. Not even the names of the TSA officials, not the name of the quoted bystander are included in any report. It's a mess of misinformation propagation. The tail wagging the dog.

Now, that said if Bea Arthur is running around airports screaming about terrorists and doom I think it's pretty important or at least pretty funny, but if this load of clown poop turns out to be nothing more than a bunch of misquotes and sloppy journalism I think every one of these sources owes their readership an apology.

Note: As of the time of this post, the above news sources represent nearly all the news articles available at

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