Airplane laser incident fingers patrons at gay clubs – or does itAirplane laser incident fingers patrons at gay clubs – or does it

by Griffin Davis
News Writer

Urban legend often creeps into the media when a rumor goes unchecked. Human nature says it’s only logical that something read by one but repeated by many will eventually become the truth.

We’re all wired that way, even us skeptics.

On the Internet, you’ve got your fill of news sources and so-called “blogs,” serving as personal journals posted online by anyone who can type. So, it’s easy for perception to be reality. That is, unless reality involves the FBI and a gay blogger.

In January, you might recall an incident involving a Southwest aircraft coming in for a landing at Nashville International Airport when, all of a sudden, a piercing green light from a laser pointer beamed through the sky. Reportedly, it was an attempt to temporarily blind the pilot.

The FBI had been warning about Al Quida and others using lasers as ground-based weapons as early as 1996. But as quick as the incident itself, Nashville media moved on to another story.

Laser pointers have become a symbol of dance club culture for a while now. Relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain, the lasers are used on the dance floor to heighten the senses and “point out hotties,” as one Web logger testified when the laser story surfaced. So, it was a logical conclusion to draw that the FBI would look first where lasers pointers are more prevalent…classrooms, conference rooms and clubs.

A few bloggers even backed the idea up that some pack of angry gay clubbers has it out for American interests; arming themselves with lasers and taking to airport property en masse.’

“More Aircraft Laser Incidents Pinned on Gay Club-Goers,” read the headline on the Swift Report, a popular blog that adds a twist of satire and humor to the daily news, much like the more popular “The Onion” Web site.

And so began the rumor.

The piece quoted supposed club patrons who were arrested by the FBI… “Suddenly all these black SUVs surrounded our MiniCoop,” says Garcia. “Next thing we knew, we were in the back seat of a Ford Explorer wearing handcuffs.”

Author Todd Fox updated his original posting on February 15 to tell readers that more gay club patrons had been interviewed around the country, including those at The Hide and Seek Complex in Colorado Springs; Bricks Club in Salt Lake City and The Tool Box here in Nashville (now DeVill’s — A sure tip-off, at least locally, that the piece was a farce).

In a fast-paced, one-minute-news-cycle world full of search engines, for all their convenience, Google wasn’t built to decipher between news and nonsense. Trouble with these bloggers and slap-stick Web sites is that the FBI isn’t laughing. And neither is the Metro Nashville Airport Authority (MNAA).

“We are continuing to investigate this incident and ask that the public to help us by coming forth with any information they may have,” said Keith Bryers, head of the FBI’s Nashville office’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. “We are following a number of leads, but we cannot comment on the specifics of the investigation.”

The Airport Authority spokesperson reports no further incidents of laser pointings, but mentions that the incident demonstrates something more than just a crime.

“Our mission is to create a safe, pleasant and efficient environment for our travelers, and I think this illustrates that you can commit a crime without actually being on airport property,” said Lynne Lowrence, Manager of Corporate Communications for the MNAA. “There have been no more incidents, and we have turned the investigation over to the FBI.”

Bryers encourages anyone who knows anything about this incident to contact the Nashville FBI office at (615) 292-5159.

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