This evening, Kellyanne Conway talked about a “Bowling Green Massacre” in an interview with Chris Matthews. Here’s what she said as quoted by The Daily Beast:
“I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre,” Conway said during an exchange on the program. “Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”
When I heard that, I got really confused, because if there’s anything that our news outlets here in America will cover, it’s a massacre or any kind of mayhem. So I thought that was off. At the same time, it seemed such an unusual thing to make up out of whole cloth. Bowling Green? I’m sure it’s a lovely place (actually every place I’ve been to in Kentucky is beautiful) but it’s not a metro area that pops to the front of your mind.
So I went digging.
If you search Google for “Bowling Green Massacre” you will find odd pointers in online discussion forums and an apparent haunted house. I did not find any news stories. So I started gathering.
If you read my book Web Search Garage, you know it’s a collection of principles for better searching. One of them is called The Principle of Every Scrap; you can read about it here a little bit; unfortunately I think it’s out of print but I’d probably still get in trouble if I tried to post it.
Anyway, the Principle of Every Scrap states that you hang on to all the little bits of information that you come across as you’re putting a search together, because you never know what’s going to steer you in the right direction.
What was I finding? Mentions of 1998 in discussion boards. “Bowling Green State University” being mentioned far more often than “Bowling Green”. Haunted houses. Halloween?
I started taking these bits of data and trying them in different combinations along with Google’s full-word wildcard, which doesn’t work like it used to but still comes in handy. And eventually I found an article from the Kent State University student newspaper archive.
So there was a rumor of a Halloween massacre at Bowling Green State University along with other universities, and that was it. A rumor.
But it didn’t make sense. Why Bowling Green? I restarted my search, left out “massacre” and put in Iraqis. And almost immediately found this article from 2011, in which two Iraqis were arrested in Bowling Green for plotting terrorist attacks.
So two Iraqis were arrested in Bowling Green for plotting attacks. I thought maybe Ms. Conway got confused and mixed up an urban legend from 1998 with an incident that occurred much later.
But that doesn’t really work either, because this is what Ms. Conway said:
“two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre”
And here is what the article says:
There is an urban legend of a “Bowling Green State University Massacre” that goes back to at least 1998.
Two Iraqis were arrested in Bowling Green in 2011 for plotting terrorist activities.
They were not charged with plotting attacks on American soil, and as the article notes, the charges were about things they did while in Iraq.
Ms. Conway is very busy and has a lot to do, but if there are additional news stories to be considered that I did not find during my searches and she cares to bring them to my attention, I will be happy to update this post.
Update: Ms. Conway is indicating she misspoke. She was referring to the two Iraqis who were arrested and meant “terrorists” when she said “massacre”.