Journalists tend to get especially animated when reporting on and pontificating about gun violence tragedies. Most journalists are human beings, so in many ways this is just a normal human response to tragic circumstances. There's also an undercurrent of professional self-importance: That these tragic moments underscore the indispensable role of journalists in our society; That they must rise to the occasion, and live up to the noble responsibility inherent to their privileged role as Guardians of Truth; That a perfectly crafted tweet could make a difference.
No one likes the media, and that's fair enough.
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In the wake of deadly shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, the journalists are at it again, shaming politicians who offer "thoughts and prayers," appealing for a federal ban on "automatic weapons" (which already exists), posting absurd firearms graphics, making definitive pronouncements as to whether a crazed gunman's political views are "relevant," and discussing whether or not a pair of deadly shootings could offer a flailing presidential candidate "a chance…to gain momentum." Mostly, however, they've been arguing with other journalists about journalism — specifically, about whether or not it's okay to cancel your subscription to the New York Times after the paper wrote a problematic headline about Trump. You know, the sort of thing most normal, well-adjusted Americans really care about.
As it turns out, journalists are adept at finding the "journalism angle" to just about any story.
As I write in "The Enemy of the People," Trump did not like that I pressed him on his false and racially loaded assertion that migrants heading toward the border amounted to an "invasion," an expression the El Paso gunman would later use. Trump interrupted me repeatedly. pic.twitter.com/io6Ree7NMy
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) August 6, 2019
Speaking of which, some journalists have been attacking CNN for reporting on the Dayton gunman's political views.
A Twitter account that appears to belong to the Dayton mass shooter retweeted extreme left-wing and anti-police posts, as well as tweets supporting Antifa protesters. https://t.co/axFXvK0svP
— CNN (@CNN) August 6, 2019
Some, including an editor at the Daily Beast, which recently published a piece revealing the identity of a private citizen who shared a video making fun of Nancy Pelosi, were upset because the Dayton shooter's political views " have zero relevancy," and accused CNN of "recklessly" speculating.
Right-wing ghouls immediately seized on the Dayton killer's Twitter account in the hours after and used it to harass, even blame, journalists he followed who cover the far-right. That was pumped into the mainstream and a day later, CNN ate it up.
— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) August 6, 2019
You know, because those details aren't relevant. Not always.
The Gilroy shooter was a far-right extremist https://t.co/heFmK5wlKX
— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) July 29, 2019
School shooter wore a pro-Trump hat, student says https://t.co/IjHBrsfcOa
— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) February 15, 2018
As all of this was playing out in the minimally relevant confines of Twitter, a federal appeals court ruled that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's defamation lawsuit against the New York Times could proceed. Palin sued the paper after a 2017 editorial suggested, without evidence, that Palin had motivated the actions of the gunman who killed six people and wounded Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords at a Safeway parking lot in Tucson, Ariz.
Whether or not Palin's case ultimately succeeds is not especially relevant. The Times editorial, which prompted a correction, is just another example of the media running afoul of its own standards. More often than not, these transgressions are injurious to the right-leaning half of the political spectrum, to which few journalists themselves belong. They could probably be dismissed as gaffes if they weren't so annoyingly consistent.
For example, when former ABC News correspondent Brian Ross recklessly speculated in 2012 that the gunman who shot up a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., might have been a Tea Party member because his (relatively common) name, Jim Holmes, appeared on a local Tea Party website.
ABC News' Brian Ross had to apologize for suggesting that Aurora theater shooter James Holmes was a member of Colorado Tea Party. pic.twitter.com/MThgHQ7I99
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) December 2, 2017
Or the time NBC's Pete Williams said the motivations of the former Bernie Sanders volunteer and left-wing political activist who targeted Republican lawmakers at a baseball practice in Arlington, Va., remained "a puzzle."
In the media's defense, the people who consume their products can be just as annoying. Our increasingly politicized society insists on viewing everything through a political lens, a dynamic fueled by media consumption. Every story, even (or perhaps especially) the tragic ones, requires a villain to blame, or at least an angle that casts our political opponents in an unfavorable light. We get increasingly agitated when the media fails to sufficiently reinforce our worldview, and eventually no one likes the media anymore, and we end up with the media we deserve. Fair enough.
A liberal backlash against the news media’s coverage of Donald Trump and the 2020 race was already brewing when the NYT published a headline Monday night summarizing the president’s reaction to the mass shootings: "Trump Urges Unity Vs. Racism" https://t.co/VYprG8N2Xi
— POLITICO (@politico) August 6, 2019