COLORADO SPRINGS, July 22, 2012 — Words cannot describe the horror of learning that a son or daughter, friend or acquaintance was involved in violence such as we all learned abou on Friday morning.
Violence encountered when simply going to see a movie. A fun event turned into a life and death situation. Reflecting on the events and reporting of the last two days, there are many lessons to be learned, not all of them completely obvious.
I learned of the tragedy early on Friday morning when the radio reported the basic facts of what had happened and the numbers of people killed or injured. Not long after, ABC broadcast that the shooter might possibly be James Holmes, a Hispanic member of the Tea Party. They were wrong.
Here is the first lesson.
Brian Ross and George Stephanopoulos, after what seems like superficial research, made the call based on something they found on “social media,” as their apology later claimed. As responsible journalists, they should have vetted their information more carefully.
Verify your sources; be certain of your information. It’s what I had to do as an intelligence analyst, what detectives and other investigators do, and what responsible journalists do. It’s not what they did. Mark Levin has called for their firing. He’s right.
Unfortunately, this highlights much of what is wrong with journalism today. They weren’t so much reporting the news as looking for a way to advance an agenda.
Why, for example, did they highlight the fact that this man was associated with the Tea Party but not that he was a former police officer? And what does his ethnicity have to do with it?
In their apology, ABC shifted the blame to the social media—a cowardly move. As any investigator knows, some sources are more reliable than others. Seasoned reporters like these have no excuse for not understanding that the raw information coming off the Twitter feed or being posted on blogs can be highly variable in its quality and veracity.
Their actions caused a lot of anxiety to an innocent man; in short, they made the tragedy only worse. Further—although they may not realize it—they have damaged rather than advanced their agenda. Like the little boy who cried wolf, who is going to believe them next time? Who is going to believe their narrative that the Tea Party is evil or that guns should be banned if they need to go to these lengths to support their argument?
Meanwhile, more facts have come to light. The correct James Holmes turns out to be a former Phi Beta Kappa graduate student in neuroscience from San Diego who is associated with the Occupy movement. Florida investigator Bill Warner has more information on his site, as well as more information about the “Black Bloc” OWS terrorists whose actions and style he seems to have imitated.
The use of the word terrorist is deliberate.
When someone deliberately shoots a theater full of innocent people, it is the very definition of terrorism. We in America now know first-hand what Israelis have been living with for more than forty years. That is the second lesson.
The media have since reported the number and variety of weapons the shooter had—that supports their gun ban agenda. But what they have not yet asked is: Where did he get all of the tactical gear? Where does a graduate student get the money—estimated at $20,000—to buy all of the guns, ammunition, and other gear he had both on his person and in his apartment? Where does he get the expertise to rig his apartment the way he did? He is portrayed as a “lone gunman,” but although it is pretty clear that he acted alone, did he have help planning? There are many questions yet to be answered. The facts that come out immediately are almost never completely right or complete. And that’s the third lesson. The media is in the habit of jumping to conclusions that fit their preconceived notions and then running with their false—or to be more accurate, preliminary—conclusions to justify pre-determined policy solutions.
Why do these things happen? It was a common question on Twitter. They happen because we have lost sight of common sense, because actions don’t have consequences. He is caught in the parking lot in tactical gear and we call him the “alleged” shooter. Major Nidal Hassan performs an act of Islamic terrorism and we call it “workplace violence.” Instead of assigning blame to the perpetrator, we blame his weapons of choice. Instead of recognizing him for the evil person he is, we say he is insane. We blame the theater for banning concealed carry, the parents for allowing their children to be out at midnight. Hogwash.
Let me write this as clearly as possible: No one is to blame for this tragedy but James Holmes. He planned it carefully. He is not insane; he is evil. He should be tried and when found guilty, he should be executed. If there is any clear case for the death penalty, this is it. If he had help in the planning stages, his accomplices should be brought to justice as well.
We owe that to victims, their families and the good people of Aurora.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.