How the media created Christopher Dorner

The question that the media have chosen not to address, at least not honestly, is how a seemingly reluctant Dorner became a cop-killer. Photo: Media and Chris Dorner

WASHINGTON, February 15, 2012 – “No one grows up and wants to be a cop killer. It was against everything I’ve (sic) ever was,” so wrote the late accused cop-killer Christopher Dorner in the angry manifesto http://bit.ly/VGwg6T that helped transform him from failed cop to cult hero. 

The question that the media have chosen not to address, at least not honestly, is how a seemingly reluctant Dorner became a cop-killer. In the past, the media have desperately sought to blame mass violence directly on the right, as they did after the shootings in Tucson and Aurora, Colorado, or to blame the right indirectly by focusing on guns, as they did after the Sandy Hook school shooting. 

That doesn’t work here.  As the saner among the media elite know, the blame circles back upon themselves.  They endowed the emotionally unstable Dorner with his sense of moral superiority, and he acted it out.  As Dorner saw it, he was not some lone wing nut, but rather a leader in a larger cause, the modern day “Django Unchained,” a movie he saw and admired. 

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” Dorner told us, quoting Jefferson.  Like Timothy McVeigh, who, when arrested, wore a T-shirt with that same quote, Dorner saw himself as the patriot.  Unlike McVeigh, however, Dorner won the open support of many of our aggrieved masses and at least a few of our media pundits. 

The media began to nurture Dorner’s grudges as early as March 1991 when Los Angeles TV station KTLA premiered

George Holliday’s amateur video of Rodney King’s arrest. 

The national media quickly followed suit, crushing the LAPD and police departments everywhere with what Dorner might have called “unconventional and asymmetrical warfare.” 

It is “asymmetrical” because in 1991 citizen journalists lacked the means to fight back.  There was no viable Internet, no social media, no Fox News.  The mainstream media effectively controlled all visual imagery.  They selectively edited and presented the visuals to reinforce its favorite template: evil white racists oppress innocent minority. 

Television viewers never got to see or hear the evidence that persuaded a Ventura County jury to acquit three of the cops on trial and fail to convict a fourth.  Those viewers included everyone from Dorner, then an 11 year-old Angeleno already nursing a deep sense of racial grievance, to the president of the United States. “Viewed from outside the trial,” said the first President Bush in arguably his lowest moment as president, “it was hard to understand how the verdict could possibly square with the video.”

At Bush’s urging, hoping to appease the rioting masses, the federal government tried the four cops all over again in a federal court, double jeopardy in everything but name.  The sentencing judge decided that the police handled the case appropriately, save for the final six baton strikes.  Those six extra blows out of maybe sixty sent two of the cops to federal prison for thirty months. 

As a result of the media’s handling of the King case, the LAPD has had to labor under the most oppressive race and gender regime America has ever witnessed.  As far as Dorner could see, that regime had no effect. Dorner’s LAPD was chock-a-block with whites whose “sole intent” was to “victimize minorities who are uneducated, and unaware of criminal law, civil law, and civil rights.”  Somehow, he concluded, “The department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days.  It has gotten worse.”

The state of America had not gotten much better either.  The election of President Obama served only to aggravate Dorner’s sense of grievance.  “You,” by which Dorner meant all of traditional America, “call [Obama’s] supporters, whether black, brown, yellow, or white, leeches, FSA, welfare recipients, and ni$&er (sic) lovers. You say this openly without any discretion.”

The mainstream media had taught him to believe this hateful nonsense.  Dorner proudly cited as sources for his madness not Marx or Mao but the likes of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and CNN’s Piers Morgan.  What he absorbed from these news people was less a political philosophy than a generalized sense of moral hauteur.

With few exceptions, Dorner liked what CNN and MSNBC told him he could like.  He “shed a tear” the night Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, but he also liked Chris Christie, Colin Powell, Bill Cosby, and the “honorable President George H.W. Bush.” Although an Obama fan, Dorner claimed to have sat out the 2012 election because the ultimate moderate candidate, the equally smug Jon Huntsman, did not prevail in the Republican primaries.

Unfortunately, the media also told Dorner whom to hate. This included supporters of traditional marriage. “Why the f*** do you care who your neighbor marries. Hypocritical pieces of s***,” he wrote, unmindful of the fact that the president was one of those supporters until 2012.

Fully sensitive to media cues, Dorner registered a powerful hatred for Second Amendment advocates. “Wayne LaPierre, President of the NRA, you’re a vile and inhumane piece of s***,” Dorner wrote. “You are a failure of a human being. May all of your immediate and distant family die horrific deaths in front of you.”

We do not have to wonder where Dorner learned who the acceptable targets were.  He told us. “Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough, Pat Harvey, Brian Williams, Soledad Obrien, Wolf Blitzer, Meredith Viera, Tavis Smiley, and Anderson Cooper, keep up the great work and follow Cronkite’s lead.”  

As Dorner proved in those last few weeks of his life, smugness can kill.  An everyday liberal, when trained, weaponized and sufficiently outraged, can be every bit as dangerous as the most wild-eyed radical. The media were quick to blame Limbaugh for McVeigh.  When, one wonders, will they accept at least some responsibility for Dorner?


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Jack Cashill

Jack Cashill is an independent writer and producer.  Within the last decade Jack has written seven books of non-fiction, most recently Deconstructing Obama; The Life, Loves, and Letters of America's First Postmodern President.  Jack has produced a score of documentaries for regional PBS and national cable channels, including the Emmy Award-winning, The Royal Years.  He has a Ph.D. from Purdue University in American studies, has taught media and literature at Purdue and at Kansas City area universities, and served as a Fulbright professor in France.

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