Aurora, Colorado: Politicizing a Tragedy
by PAM MEISTER
July 23, 2012
The horrific attack by (alleged) gunman James Holmes at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater last week was naturally big news - and naturally, media outlets rushed to cover the tragedy as it unfolded. As of this writing, 12 people are dead, including several children, and 59 were wounded, many in critical condition.
Most Americans hadn't even had time to absorb the shock before many rushed to politicize the tragedy. Rush Limbaugh was blamed by some Twitter users because just two days before the attack, he inferred that the movie Dark Knight Rises (the movie being shown in the theater where the shootings took place) was some sort of dig at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Comments on Twitter ranged from "Rush Limbaugh, you are an evil man" to "I'm curious to know if this was triggered by Rush Limbaugh's insanity."
Police have said this attack took weeks of planning - but nothing deters complete ideologues from making total fools of themselves in their hurry to demonize their favorite target.
Michael Moore, to whom no one pays much attention these days, had to grab the opportunity to get his share of the massive media coverage by tweeting, "9:30 am today from American Rifleman, the official journal of the NRA RT @NRA_Rifleman Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?" Very tasteful, Mr. Moore - about as tasteful as your claim that Cuban healthcare is better than that in America. However, if ObamaCare isn't repealed, you may end up being right about something after all.
Then there were the inevitable cries of "we need to do something about that darned Second Amendment" from the usual suspects, including New York Mayor Michael "No Soda for You" Bloomberg and Piers "I'm Not an American but I'm Getting Rich on American TV" Morgan. Of course, those who call for harsher gun control laws conveniently ignore the fact that criminals - by their very nature - don't pay attention to laws. These naysayers also ignore statistics like those in the UK, where gun violence went up 40% in the first two years after a handgun ban went into effect, and was up 89% a decade later. And here in America, the recently struck-down gun ban in Chicago wasn't terribly successful in keeping violent crime down either.
I guess guns are only acceptable when they are used to protect big shot politicians and bigmouthed celebrities.
Potty mouth Bill Maher tweeted, "Rt wingers luv to tout American Exceptionalism - today is a reminder that so many of the things that make us exceptional these days are bad." Yes, like cable channels that allow so-called comedians to say any crude thing they'd like about anyone and anything in the name of "entertainment."
President Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney also made sure they addressed the incident - something I have mixed feelings about because, as I've been mentioning all along, I don't like the politicizing of a tragedy like this one. However, I realize that either one of them would have been called insensitive - or worse - had they failed to say anything. But did Obama really have to say, "What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater?" (Shades of, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.") Did he really have to refer to himself nearly 20 times during his speech?
Even worse than Obama's pandering, though, was the response by an atheist group offended by Obama saying, "May the Lord bring them comfort and healing in the hard days to come." Center for Secular Humanity director Tom Flynn complained, "By the very act of praying, that's a message of exclusion. If I'm a public official, I think I'm going to look around in the morning and conclude that, ‘hey, this religion thing is just too hot to handle, I should stay away from it in my official capacity.'" Really? For something you don't believe in, you obviously spend a lot of time worrying about people who do. And, did Obama command everyone to pray? No? Then what's to worry about?
But when it comes to political pandering, the blue ribbon goes to Brian Ross and ABC News. Reporting on location during Good Morning America, Brian Ross related this gem to show host George Stephanopoulos:
"There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well, talking about him joining the tea party last year. Now, we don't know if this is the same Jim Holmes - but this is Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado."
Way to do your research, Brian - look on the Internet for a guy with the same name who happens to belong to the Tea Party, a group many in the media are known for disdaining. My own quick search on Switchboard.com came up with six James Holmeses in Aurora. Would that have been enough to suggest one of them may have been responsible for the shooting? Obviously not. But if one of them had been a known Tea Party member? Pulitzer Prize material!
What gets me is that so many "professional journalists" criticize bloggers because they have no journalistic experience and no filters (i.e. editors). Yet here we have an experienced reporter working for a long-established television news source, blurting out unsubstantiated information about a private citizen related to a highly charged story - but we're supposed to "trust" the pros, and meekly accept their apologies for errors when given. And they wonder why distrust in media continues to rise.
Speaking of apologies, ABC news quickly apologized for the gaffe and Ross apologized on Twitter, but as of this writing two days later, no one from ABC has contacted the incorrectly identified James Holmes to apologize directly. Why should they worry? It wasn't their home phones that started ringing off the hook, the caller ID displaying unknown area codes from around the nation. It wasn't their personal safety at risk. But this 52-year-old retired law enforcement officer obviously knows something "seasoned reporter" Brian Ross does not:
His message to reporters: "I do understand what making a mistake means... But is it really worth the person's reputation, the potential ruining of the person's reputation?"
He added that he knows from his law enforcement experience that one should "never, ever, ever bring somebody's name or association into an accusation into the public eye until I know the truth."
What we do know about the (alleged) shooter, 24-year-old James Holmes, is that he is considered to be a "generally pleasant guy," "introverted" and "really smart." Out of those who were interviewed, no one thought he would be capable of such an act. In 2011 he was enrolled in a graduate neuroscience program at the University of Colorado but withdrew in June. He had difficulty in finding work after graduating from college. When he was arrested, he told police he was The Joker.
For the record, Holmes (allegedly) used an AR-15 assault rifle, which is a semi-automatic weapon - meaning that he had to pull the trigger each time he fired, not just once and a spray of bullets come out, as in a fully automatic machine gun. This is not brought up to minimize what happened, but to counter the usual images conjured up when the term "military-style assault weapon" is used - images that the anti-gun lobbies are eager to perpetuate.
We must not lose sight of the fact that guns don't kill people, people kill people. Yes, murderers can kill more people in a shorter amount of time by firing a gun than, say, wielding a knife. Yet we have also found out that airplanes can be used to murder large amounts of people. They haven't been banned - yet. Newt Gingrich is right: we need to penalize the perpetrators of these evil acts quickly and decisively, as a deterrent to others. We need to punish the criminal, not coddle him.
I'll close, risking the ire of Tom Flynn of the Center for Secular Humanism, by saying that anyone immediately affected by these tragic events are in my prayers and, as is always, the future of our society.
Pam Meister's current interest in politics and world events goes back to the events of 9/11, when she made a conscious decision to contribute to the ongoing debate surrounding America's soverignty and foreign policy. Other samples of her writing can be seen at American Thinker and Pajamas Media. Pam is also a former radio broadcaster, and has worked in both the publishing and healthcare industries. Her debut novel, Only Son, is available on Amazon.