SAN DIEGO, August 17, 2012 — As if there haven’t been enough shooting sprees in the news lately, another gunman joins the Venomous Nut Job Hall of Fame. This time the intended target was the headquarters of Family Research Council in Washington. Fortunately, the perpetrator was stopped and literally wrestled to the ground by a gutsy security guard (Leo Johnson) who ended up taking a bullet himself while saving the lives of many intended victims. Mr. Johnson survived the gun wound.
The gunman was identified as Floyd L. Corkins II, 28, of Herndon, Va. He was held on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon in what the FBI has called an act of domestic terrorism. A law-enforcement official said Corkins told Johnson, “I don’t like your politics” before shooting him. “Mr. Corkins had been a volunteer at the D.C. Center, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center in Washington,” said David Mariner, the center’s executive director.
According to the New York Times, “Mariner was a signatory to a letter that gay and lesbian rights groups released after the shooting that stated, ‘We utterly reject and condemn such violence.’ By late Wednesday, more than 40 organizations had signed on.”
Fox News adds an interesting wrinkle. The suspect told the security guard, “Don’t shoot me, it was not about you, it was what this place stands for.”
This story has gotten very little play from the mainstream media. That’s to be expected: Their responsibility is to emphasize important news such as Mitt Romney’s tax returns.
On the day of the shooting, ABC’s “World News” did mention the incident, keying in mostly on the brave security guard. On the other hand, “PBS News Hour” was as quiet as Harpo Marx
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was also silent. Who would have thought he could keep his mouth shut about anything? Rachel Maddow, said a little but very little. So did Brian Williams.
According to Newsbusters’ Brent Bozell, “On Thursday morning, the network pattern continued: ABC offered another full story (adding the LGBT volunteer connection). By contrast, NBC offered a tiny anchor-read update. CBS aired nothing, but did find the time for a story on the 40th anniversary of the movie “Deliverance.”
But while most networks only go home with consolation prizes, CNN wins the grand prize! The program “Early Start,” interviewed Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage. Brown complained about the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hate group” label for various Christian organizations, including FRC, and tried to draw a connection between such rhetoric and the shooting.
CNN anchor Zoraida Sambolin countered by insisting FRC deserved its “hate group” designation. As evidence, she offered a 1999 FRC pamphlet on the National Man-Boy Love Association and its relationship to gay activists. “It is spewing hate, isn’t it?” Sambolin said. “So it’s hate spewing hate.”
Sambolin offers us the ultimate lesson: As far as news is concerned, conservatives don’t make good victims, only good assassins.
Such is the response of our mainstream media to an evil shooting that might have been a massacre if not for one heroic security guard. Our news empires have covered other shootings with greater zeal, but in those cases there was at least a sporting chance of linking the gunslinger with conservatives.
The L.A. Times swiftly identified Sikh temple gunman Wade Michael Page as “a right-wing extremist” (Los Angeles Times, August 6, 2012). In fact he was a member of two racist skinhead groups, “End Apathy” and “Definite Hate.” Since the media are just as quick to label the Tea Party, Evangelical Christians, or conservatives in general as “extreme right-wing,” the implication is not exactly a subtle one.
Do not expect to see a lot of media pundits talk about the extreme left-wing politics of Floyd L. Corkins II. After all, today’s journalism doesn’t believe in an extreme left wing. You see, there’s the right wing on one side; the other side espouses moderate, sophisticated common-sense ideas, which any thinking person will embrace.
In cases where a gunman doesn’t have even a fringe right-wing group on his resume, people like ABC News reporter Brian Ross still plow ahead to quickly report that a certain James Holmes, (same name as the Colorado movie theater shooter) was a member of the Colorado Tea Party. Although he admitted up front that they had not yet established this individual as the same James Holmes, and admitted later that the Tea Party member was indeed a different man, Ross still drew the Tea Party casually into the discussion of violence like a post hypnotic suggestion.
And who can forget New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who wrote regarding last year’s Arizona shooting which killed several people and wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords:
“It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman’s act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But it is legitimate to hold Republicans and particularly their most virulent supporters in the media responsible for the gale of anger that has produced the vast majority of these threats, setting the nation on edge.”
Translation: “Even though we should not blame the Tea Party or the Republicans, I blame them anyway.”
Of course, there was no evidence that the Arizona tragedy had anything to do with Tea Parties or Republicans. In fact, it turned out that Jared Lee Loughner was a registered Independent who did not even vote in the 2010 election. He also owned a copy of The Communist Manifesto. Neither Republicans nor Tea Party members use the writings of Marx and Engels as Christmas morning stocking stuffers.
Don’t expect Krugman to write a sequel editorial, suggesting that groups like Human Rights Campaign or Southern Poverty Law Center are responsible for a “gale of anger that produces the vast majority of threats,” even though both organizations have labeled Family Research Council a “hate group.” Not that we would want Krugman or anyone else to connect such dots. In fact, HRC and SPLC are not responsible. Neither are other gay activists who loosely toss around the word “hate” when describing those who believe in traditional marriage. At the risk of making an outrageous understatement, the guy responsible for a gunshot is the guy who shoots off the gun. Corkins alone is responsible. But so was Loughner with the Arizona shooting. Why is the origin of blame so clear in one case and not with another?
In response to FRC President Tony Perkin’s assertion that Floyd Corkins, “was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center,” the Law Center released its own statement, a statement the media seems to like and freely distribute.
“Perkins’ accusation is outrageous. The SPLC has listed the FRC as a hate group since 2010 because it has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people — not, as some claim, because it opposes same-sex marriage. The FRC and its allies on the religious right are saying, in effect, that offering legitimate and fact-based criticism in a democratic society is tantamount to suggesting that the objects of criticism should be the targets of criminal violence.”
And yet, concern over violence inspired by hateful teaching is the heart and soul of SPLC’s very existence. It must all depend on how one defines “hate.” Many who reject same sex marriage would deny being motivated by hate and would instead offer what they consider to be “legitimate and fact-based criticism in a democratic society.” They would also ask if calling Christians “hateful” is itself a hateful practice.
It would be refreshing if our country held a calm, friendly, sensible debate on the issue of same-sex marriage, or any of the other emotionally charged issues. Such discussions will be fruitless unless all colorful adjectives are left at the door. It would probably be too docile a meeting for network news. Meanwhile, let us call upon both sides to be consistent. Conservatives cannot blame Human Rights Campaign or Southern Poverty Law Center for the most recent shooting. Neither should the entire Tea Party be blamed for violence should the day ever come when a Tea Party member actually does commit a violent crime without the mainstream media having to dream up the connection.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net
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