The Mainstream Media �
Partisan, Prejudiced and Unprofessional
The tragedy in Tucson. Six people killed and a US Congresswoman marked for assassination fighting for her life and hopeful recovery. It touched the heart of all Americans, dominated our conversations and consumed the news media. In a compassionate nation such as ours this was by no means unusual. It touched us. It angered us. It made us pray for those struggling to survive and recover. It made us respond to nine year old Christina-Taylor Green as if she was one of our own and that tore at our hearts.
The other side of the story initially focused solely on the perpetrator, as one would expect. However, within just a couple hours, a media started reeling out of control and became oblivious to its obligation to report the facts, to quest for the truth and to withhold judgment pending a thorough analysis based on the facts and the truth.
Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist, was one of the first to react. Ignoring the mantra of his newspaper, "All the news that's fit to print" he proceeded to put the blame not on the killer but on the bogeyman embodied by conservative politicians, the Tea Party movement, talk radio hosts and those who strongly oppose President Obama's policies. Then the rest of the lemmings in the press followed suit. But it was not just the press. It was also people with agendas who let their politics replace their brains, principles and sense of justice. This included, shockingly, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik of Pima County who exemplified the most outrageous and reprehensible behavior of all when he blamed the rhetoric of the Republican Party, Tea Party activists and outspoken radio talk show personalities for creating the atmosphere that caused a mentally unstable person to go on a killing spree. Dupnik should have been quietly doing his job instead of providing Jared Loughner, the madman killer, with a legal defense for his actions. And, in the final analysis, we have the media reporting the politics of the angry left as facts, an action that caused the once proud Fourth Estate to lose its soul and its raison d'etre.
It was really hard to imagine that instead of allowing Americans of all political persuasions to grieve together, the media allowed a small group of hate mongers to define the tragedy and by focusing on their opinions in print, broadcast and the new electronic media, change us from a country united into a country divided.
The media repeated the charge that the killer was influenced by the extreme right, by opinionated talk radio hosts and by Sarah Palin. The media saw to it that those trying to smear the "conservative right" were actually able to put these so called opponents directly in the crosshairs of their venomous accusations and fire away hoping that their verbal bullets would find their targets. American citizens have the right to do that. But American journalists do not have the right to allow unsubstantiated propaganda to disguise itself as news. The media did not check their facts. The media did not verify whether the claims made were true or false. The media allowed the big lie to become an even bigger lie by disseminating these accounts without responsibly verifying their veracity. The media was complicit in hyping the lie, similar to the state run media in the worst tyrannical countries.
What were the facts?
Jared Loughner was found to be a mentally unstable person. Many people who had contact with him feared being around him. He was not a follower of talk radio. He did not pay attention to the policies or rhetoric of the Republican Party or the Tea Party movement. His influence came from Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto, not Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or conservative republicans. His obsession with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords appeared to go back to 2007. He attended one of her speeches and on her thank you note to him for coming he wrote, "Die Bitch". This, of course, was well before people ever heard of Sarah Palin. None of the accusations made or reported on for nearly a week were accurate. Shamefully, none of media, nor the accusers, nor any in the Democrat Party who echoed the falsehoods said they were mistaken, apologized or called for dialing down the vitriol.
When Sarah Palin, who had been skewered, unfairly it turned out, by the media, political foes and those who just hate her with a passion, decided to defend herself against the charge that she was an accessory to murder, the manner of her denial created a new firestorm of protest against her. Let us be very clear. She was libeled. The facts bear that out. The tragedy in Tucson resulted in murder and mayhem. There was blood on the hands of the killer. Some claimed there was blood on Palin's hands as well. In her defense she cited efforts to attribute blame for the shooting "reprehensible," saying that "especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn." Scores of Jewish organizations and spokespeople, instead of standing up for a person unfairly accused of the most dastardly acts, decided to condemn her for using the term "blood libel." "Blood libel" is a term associated with an anti-Semitic falsehood linked to the Passover holiday but historically has not been used exclusively in that manner. These Jewish groups could have said that while they empathize with her desire to set the record straight it would have been more sensitive of Palin to choose other words. They chose not to do that. The media as well only chose to attack Palin anew instead of justifying her outrage at being unfairly tied to six murders and an assassination attempt on a Congresswoman.
How is any person so unfairly accused supposed to react? Be silent? Say absolutely nothing? How would you or your family or friends react if placed in a similar situation?
Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law School Professor, defended Palin saying he had used the same term himself to defend Israel. He said, "There is nothing improper and certainly nothing anti-Semitic in Sarah Palin using the term to characterize what she reasonably believes are false accusations that her words or images may have caused a mentally disturbed individual to kill and maim."
At the memorial ceremony on January 12th, President Obama struck a positive and thoughtful tone as he called for a concerted effort for people with differing positions to still maintain respect and civility towards each other. The general public will be very attentive to how both parties in government will be able to deal with completely different views of what is best for America. Americans will be less tolerant of mudslinging, gross distortions and outright lies in order to sell legislative and executive agendas going forward.
It is also time for the media to finally step away from promoting any political position based on fantasy. We want our media to be a vigilant impartial watchdog that reports the news. Give us the facts and let us make our own decisions. Finally, not one of us can remain silent when people or organizations are unjustly accused and libeled or else the nation that we want to have will only exist in our imaginations.