Aurora Slaughter and the Enthralled Tribes of America


Via

How overly-enthralled we are becoming to our ideological tribes? Enough, perhaps, to wonder if our too-passionate engagement with ideas is poisoning our communal well, and robbing us of our humanity. At a moment when we should be united as a people responding to evil in our midst — and a mass murder is not a “tragedy”, it is evil on legs — it’s disheartening to realize that while the dead were not yet cold, the injured were still dying or being treated, the people who are charged with the public trust of telling the nation its stories, (and to do it factually, without passion or prejudice) were so quick to abandon that charge with a smiling possibility that political hay could be made.

On ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday morning, in a segment with host George Stephanopoulos, Ross said James Holmes, the man who allegedly murdered 12 people in the Aurora movie theater, appeared to be a member of the tea party movement based on information from Facebook, which Stephanopoulos said “might be significant.”

ABC News has since apologized for that. Some are calling for Brian Ross to be fired. I’m not sure about that; on one hand, he was likely only repeating what some producer told him. On the other, he’s an experienced journalist and he should have, perhaps, had the common sense, discretion and maturity to both wait for confirmation and — here’s a crazy idea — consider whether it was the moment to inject politics into the story, in any case.

Worse, it seems his recklessness has resulted in threats against the incorrectly identified man.

Over at Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds has some links about that, and he writes:

They know how to be exquisitely sensitive and non-prejudgey when it might be a Muslim or some other protected minority, so maybe the only way to encourage them to show better judgment the rest of the time is to cost some people their jobs. Who was the producer? Meanwhile, I look forward to the libel suit. . . .

He’s not the only one to make the fair point that, during the Fort Hood shootings, the press and politicians went out of their way to repeat, ad nauseum, “we do not know anything about this shooter; we should not assume anything.” It’s a sound policy, and it’s one that should not be one-sided — only put into place when it suits the script.

ABC News’ error has revealed to us, though, something of how the press operates in the 21st Century: violence and evil occur; people are dying; “quick, go check the registration rolls of political opponents and see if there is any way we can associate this shooter with them…”

We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” Lincoln’s Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862.

The expression, the smile, on Brian Ross’ face said it all. Enthrallment to ideological passions rules the day for the press, and it appears to be toxic.

And just so, on social media we quickly saw this weird imprematur come forward from Time’s Michael Grunwald, who said, “Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with politicizing a tragedy”. Even, apparently before the blood has been washed away, and the first thing about the shooter, or his deranged thinking has been discovered. For some, it’s never too early to sneer, or even to opine with a too-clever-by-half pun.

Very quickly, and predictably, the issue of gun-control has been brought up on social media, and on the tube. MSNBC apparently had such a passionately anti-gun prepared that it even made Dan Abrams — no gun-lover, he — uncomfortable. He tweeted:

I’ve written extensively on 2nd Amendment NOT guaranteeing individual’s right to own guns but MSNBC segment on this now feels wrong.

At TNR, Amy Sullivan has called for an “honest debate” about guns. Meanwhile, at Slate Dave Weigel wondered if a movie patron carrying a gun could have stopped the attack and decides “no” but demonstrates open-minded consideration on his twitter feed, where folks are offering stuff like this in response.

Lest anyone think I am only picking on the mainstream media that is very clearly aligned with the Democrat party, only accusing folks on “the left” of enthrallment, I stipulate that it is not a one-way phenomenon. On any given day, with any story, the enthrallment to ideology that has made us tribes perpetually at war can easily be found on “all sides”, all over social media, and in print and television — it’s everywhere; it is us; it is you and me.

But the mainstream media has a public trust, and they are abusing it.

More importantly: sometimes, just once in a while — like when human blood is still being cleaned and wounds bandaged, and shocked parents are clinging a little tighter to their children — it might behoove us all, and perhaps even make better people of us, if we can just resist the urge to score a cheap political point or exploit emotions, and give a bit of respectful silence to the grief in our midst; to acknowledge that sometimes, the only appropriate words are offerings of sympathy and prayers, and that anything further is just rampant ego, giving always-divisive evil yet another assist.

UPDATE: Instapundit links here (thanks Glenn) and also links to more reactions to ABC News.

More:
What if the penalty for such a crime were certain anonymity?
“Half-assed media speculation”
Quiet, Please
Shut up, Please
Colorado Shooting: Guns and Cameras
A Tragedy Not the Time for Political Opportunism
Where is God in Wicked Times?
Is Batman to Blame?
Time to “curtail violence in film”?
Praying For, With and Through Colorado
Living in the shadow of the Tower

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://www.NancyFrench.com Nancy French

    Amen.

  • http://egregioustwaddle.blogspot.com/ Joanne K McPortland

    Thank you. This is the post I was struggling to write all morning, but better.

  • kelleyb

    Yes, Amen. Thank you Elizabeth.

  • Peggy R

    Amen. I had a bit of a PC crash. Maybe that’s a hint.

  • Adam

    I do want to correct this statement:

    “He’s not the only one to make the fair point that, during the Fort Hood shootings, the press and politicians went out of their way to repeat, ad nauseum, “we do not know anything about this shooter; we should not assume anything.” It’s a sound policy, and it’s one that should not be one-sided — only put into place when it suits the script.”

    I distinctly remember that on the day of the Fort Hood shootings, CNN (I think, and I can’t speak for the other networks) immediately started mentioning that Fort Hood has a lot of deployers and, IIRC, a lot of mental health treatment. They didn’t QUITE make the connection, but I pretty much got them dropping the hint that the shooter was probably some kind of PTSD-victim-of-too-much-war deal.

    Then when it came out that he was a Muslim extremist–oh, gee, we need to back off of this guy’s motives.

  • http://jscafenette.com Manny

    Yes, very well said, the entire piece on every point.

  • http://bantiques.com nadine

    Even better, when it came out that Major Hassan had never been deployed overseas, CNN started floating the idea that this was the result of pre-deployment PTSD, anticipatory PTSD if you will. Nobody asked where Major Hassan got the idea to stand on a table and shout “Allahu Akhbar” before he started shooting. That was not a fit subject for speculation.

  • Oregon Catholic

    “to acknowledge that sometimes, the only appropriate words are offerings of sympathy and prayers, and that anything further is just rampant ego, giving always-divisive evil yet another assist.”

    I’m not disagreeing with what you’ve written but I can’t help asking – Does the irony of this comment in your blog post escape you?

    [No, it didn't. I realized it when I wrote it, but I had already included myself in the whole toxic ball. I have always said I am a monster of ego. Do you think I'm giving evil an assist, here? I tried very hard to be balanced. -admin]

  • gunnar myrdal

    What about all the reports surfacing on the Google search about Holmes being a member of Occupy Black Bloc, of being a former Occupy San Diego and dropped out due to not radical enough……what about his support for Obama? Will any of this surface? Ever?

    [If you read my post, you see that I make a point of acknowledging that this stuff goes both ways. But are you really equating stuff on social media, seen by a couple thousand people, with the mainstream press going all "he's a tea-partier", based on nothing, to the whole nation? REALLY? You think that's equivalent? -admin]

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  • Mandy P.

    Thank you for this. Ace linked you, BTW.

    When I got up this morning, the first thing I saw on the news was about what happened and the first thoughts through my head were prayers for the dead and the injured and all their families. And the very next thing that I see on the tube is Bloomberg and his anti-gun garbage. I thought, “Really? Do you really have to do this *right now*?!” And then the next was Brian Ross’s nonsense. My thoughts on that are unprintable, but at least I managed to hold my tongue in front of my little ones. I just can’t believe that something this awful can happen and there are folks that are so obsessed with political ideology that they can’t even wait *a day* to inject their slant into things. And I’m a very political person, but it’s too much for even me! I’m not looking to score political points off of a tragedy and I find myself very ashamed of the (hopefully) small part of our nation that behaved this way today.

  • Oregon Catholic

    “Do you think I’m giving evil an assist, here? I tried very hard to be balanced. -admin]”

    Not necessarily IMO, and I wasn’t questioning your balance. But you wrote those closing words that your actions didn’t match, so I think you are the only one who can answer the question as to whether you deserve the same criticism you handed out.

    I actually think the far greater evil of the media is the saturation publicity given to these shooters, not the politics of it. I think it encourages copycats but the drive for money and ratings and material to keep the 24/7 timeslot interesting is seen by the media as much more important than any harm to society the constant coverage might cause. The way I protest it is not to watch the news coverage or read article after article but only skim the headlines.

    [Happen to agree with you re the media saturation, too, particularly the habit of the cable news shows, which will broadcast endless clips of the same scenes. I remember my younger son turning off the tv after Columbine saying, "they make it into a porn for wallowing". He hasn't looked at a single minute of todays' news. As to rest, I told you I was aware of the irony when I wrote it, and wondered how we encourage people to let go of the political stuff and the sputtering and accusing for a day without saying it. I thought it was enough to accuse myself along with everyone else, but I guess I should have made it clearer, by noting "and yes, I see the irony" as well -admin]

  • Sherlock

    Funny how Holmes’ politics was so newsworthy when ABC had the WRONG guy, but now that they have the RIGHT guy, it is apparently completely un-newsworthy.

  • Kevin

    This is an example of mysterium iniquitatis.

  • kevin

    The Demonic is very much present in this situation. The media have no capacity to understand or analyze it, having no real understanding of Christianity or religion in general. You get the sense of the demonic talking over the head of the media in a way.

    The shooter says “I am the joker” and anyone who has seen the film knows what that means. Someone who loves evil for the sake of evil. A permutation of human freedom, as frightening as it is.

  • http://2012.ak4mc.us/ McGehee

    Dan Abrams:

    “I’ve written extensively on 2nd Amendment NOT guaranteeing individual’s right to own guns…”

    I think what he meant to tweet was, “I’ve written extensively on how the phrase ‘the right of the people’ in the 2nd Amendment does NOT mean what it means everywhere else it occurs in the Constitution…”

  • Adam

    “The Demonic is very much present in this situation. The media have no capacity to understand or analyze it, having no real understanding of Christianity or religion in general. You get the sense of the demonic talking over the head of the media in a way.

    The shooter says “I am the joker” and anyone who has seen the film knows what that means. Someone who loves evil for the sake of evil. A permutation of human freedom, as frightening as it is.”

    Thanks for mentioning this one. I saw a discussion on Fox News today with a psychologist who was trying to explain that anyone who does this has to have some serious mental health problems. There was no discussion of evil or motive, just “this guy has to have something wrong with him”

    These commentators, unfortunately and ironically, probably missed this exchange in the last Christopher Nolan Batman film regarding the Joker’s motives:

    Alfred Pennyworth: With respect Master Wayne, perhaps this is a man that *you* don’t fully understand, either. A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So, we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anybody who traded with him. One day, I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.

    Bruce Wayne: So why steal them?

    Alfred Pennyworth: Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

  • Joseph

    “…it’s disheartening to realize that while the dead were not yet cold, the injured were still dying or being treated, the people who are charged with the public trust of telling the nation its stories, (and to do it factually, without passion or prejudice) were so quick to abandon that charge with a smiling possibility that political hay could be made.” Indeed, a horrible moment such as this should bring us together- and there was a time when such a moment did- but, as with Tucson in January 2011, it is instead used to divide us. As Rahm Emanuel once famously said, never let a tragedy go to waste.

    With regard to the Brian Ross report, a good conscientious reporter would make sure before reporting on the identity of a suspect. This also raises a few questions. What exactly led Ross to this false information in the first place? How is it that he came upon the website of the Jim Holmes who is a Tea Party member? There are others living in and around Aurora with that name. Why single this one out? In any case, it suggests an eagerness to link the Tea Party, and conservatives in general, to a violent act. The left has been trying to paint the Tea Party movement as a subversive organization by connecting them to an act of violence ever since its founding and, as with Tucson, thought they hit pay dirt with this. Heads definitely need to roll.

  • Ed Snyder

    “How overly-enthralled we are becoming to our ideological tribes? Enough, perhaps, to wonder if our too-passionate engagement with ideas is poisoning our communal well, and robbing us of our humanity.”

    I’m pretty sure it’s past wondering that that horse is out of the barn and well down the road already. And right up there with that enthrallment is the one that suggest that these horrors are the product of mental illness and not, as you correctly note, of evil. Coincidence? I think not.

  • http://Pathos Wild Bill

    The really sad part of all of this outside of the victims of course is that the NEWS MEDIA for God or Satan only know long they are going to keep up pushing this in everyone’s face and not letting the victims family’s have a chance to understand what happened without someone spouting off with a load of MANURE!

  • http://bastionofliberty.blogspot.com Francis W. Porretto

    To refrain from citing some awful event in support of one’s own, fervent beliefs about what’s right is one of the hardest non-physical tasks I know.

    I have great respect for anyone who’s succeeded in doing so in the wake of Aurora. And I’m straining not to say…no, Fran, don’t! Be strong!…aw, what the hey, everyone else is doing it…so far, all such persons I’ve found on the Web have been conservatives or libertarians.

    See? Told you it’s hard.

  • ahem

    Ross should be fired summarily. It’s not incompetence; it’s malice. Truth is whatever the Leftist media decides it is in the interests of furthering the Left’s agenda. Newspeople who do that should be held responsible for their lies. We cannot preserve our freedom or culture if we are daily bombarded with propaganda; look what’s it’s done to our country. It’s time for the Ministry of Truth to be torn down.

    No, it’s not time to have a ‘thoughtful discussion’ about guns; if someone drives a car through a crowd of people, no one calls for the abolition of cars. The only thing gun laws accomplish is to take them away from law-abiding citizens so they can’t defend themselves. Criminals—who, by definition, ignore the law—will acquire them regardless of what the law says. Law-abiding citizens–the ones who get training, and licenses, and do everything aboveboard—should not be punished or put at a disadvantage. A 71 year-old man prevented god-knows-what at a crowded internet cafe the other day by chasing off a couple of armed punks.

    The Left would dearly love for the population to be disarmed–the easier to enforce its freedom-robbing social agenda. That’s why the Japanese never tried to attack America during WWII; they knew a warm welcome awaited.

  • http://smalldeadanimals.com Robert W. (Vancouver)

    This is the best summary of the media aftermath of the mass murder in Colorado. Thank you for writing and posting it.

    Incidentally, the fact that Brian Ross hasn’t resigned or been fired yet is the greatest indictment of the sorry state of the mainstream media in recent memory. To illustrate how deeply in denial the journalists class is, one need go no further than the bio page of Ross on ABC News:

    “Brian Ross is one of the most honored and respected journalists in the country….”

  • http://www.patheos.com Amy

    Were not Brian Ross’s words the equivilent of shouting, “FIRE” in a crowded theater?

  • http://TheCatholicBeat.com Gail Finke

    I was flipping through my radio dial yesterday and heard Glenn Beck and his guys on this. I hadn’t heard the Brian Ross thing yet, so I kept listening to find out what htey were talking about. They had, apparently, Googled the name “Brian Ross” and various types of crimes, and then they were doing pretend news updates saying, “This just in — we’ve learned that a Brian Ross was convicted in (some city) for the murder of a woman (date)… We can’t confirm that it’s the SAME Brian Ross who’s the lead investigative reporter for ABC News. It would be strange if it were, but we just don’t know. It may not be significant at all, at this point WE JUST DON’T KNOW…” They were very funny. I think that they’re on to something at the Glenn Beck program, at least the radio program (I’ve never seen his cable or, now, his internet program). They do a lot of laughing at people like this. They need to be laughed at.


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