Police in California are undertaking a massive manhunt for Christopher Dorner, a former cop believed to have murdered at least three people — cops and a family member of a cop — after posting online a long, insane rant about how he has been mistreated by the LAPD, and how he’s the victim of racism (Dorner is black), and listing the people he intended to hunt down and kill to have his revenge.
Naturally, The New York Times wonders on its front page if this homicidal maniac might have had a point. Maybe racism really did make him do it. Hey, you can’t bend over to far in giving spree killers a break, as long as you remember that certain spree killers are more entitled to this favored treatment than others.
Along those lines, did you know that Dorner, in his long, ranting manifesto, name-checked all kinds of media and politicians — liberals and moderate Republicans — who, in his view, were doing a great job? Charles C.W. Cooke noticed. He points out that MSM accounts of Dorner’s manifesto contain no mention of the political content of the thing:
There’s no mention of the extensive sections [of the manifesto] praising gun control, nor of the author’s appreciation for Piers Morgan, Dianne Feinstein, and President Obama. There’s nothing on his hatred for the NRA and Wayne LaPierre, whom Dorner calls a “a vile and inhumane piece of s***” whose defense of the right to bear arms justifies his “immediate and distant family” to “die horrific deaths in front of” him. There’s no reference to Dorner’s commendations of the “great work” of “Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough, Pat Harvey, Brian Williams, Soledad Obrien, Wolf Blitzer, Meredith Viera, Tavis Smiley, and Anderson Cooper,” nor of his lionizing Ellen DeGeneres for her work in changing “the perception of your gay community.” Readers would not know that “Prop 8 supporters,” per Dorner, are “pieces of s***.” They’d have no idea that moderate Republicans are praised: George H. W. Bush, Jon Huntsman, Colin Powell are all singled out.
None of the people that Dorner mentions are guilty of anything whatsoever. But let me ask an earnest question: Had the killer instead praised Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, President George W. Bush, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA, and Proposition 8, and slammed the collection of journalists that he praised, perhaps singling out Piers Morgan for particular attention on the basis of his gun-control advocacy, what do you think the media’s reaction would have been? Ignore your first response and dig deep. What do you think the media’s reaction would have been?
I’m almost certain that it would have been ridiculous. I’m almost certain that there would have been discussions of the “far right,” of “talk radio,” and of the dangers inherent in “conservative media.” I’m almost certain that, as the New York Times reported after the Giffords shooting, “Democrats” would have “denounced the fierce partisan atmosphere.” I’m almost certain that the shootings would have been used to tie defenders of the Second Amendment to violence — however tendentiously. I’m almost certain that the manifesto would have been grafted onto everyone to the right of Arlen Specter and taken as a tacit list of their views. Neither that this would have been utterly ridiculous nor that it is a welcome change that nobody made such a poor argument this time around changes the fact that there is an obvious difference in the way in which political rhetoric and violence are treated when they originate on the Left. Who will deny it?
Oh, they’ll deny it, but they won’t have any ground to stand on. Cooke makes it clear in his essay that it’s stupid to blame Limbaugh, or the Southern Poverty Law Center, or any other advocate or advocacy group for the actions of a murderer or attempted murderer. But as Cooke shows with example after example, when a murderer can be tied in any way to right-wing politics (and even when he can’t, as in Loughner’s case), the media are very quick to do so. When the gun is in the other hand, so to speak, the media have a different set of standards. And in the Times‘s case, the story becomes a question of wondering whether or not the political killer had a point — an outrageous “courtesy” that they didn’t extend to murderers who killed out of stated right-wing grievance.
I know liberals get tired of hearing it, but this has a lot to do with why many Americans don’t believe the mainstream media, and aren’t willing to support it with their viewership or subscription money. Liberals love to tell themselves that right-of-center Americans will hear only what they want to hear, and are afraid to hear anything that counters what they want to believe. And there’s something to that, absolutely (though it’s also true of the left). But some news stories (the FRC shooting is another) bring out a media bias so clear that it compels disgust.
And you know, some in the media wear that disgust as a badge of honor and a sign that they are on the side of good, because they have made the right enemies. True story: I once observed a senior editor in a newsroom who, upon learning that 80 percent of a key demographic told researchers they had no trust in the paper, remarked on how sad it was that people would only believe what they wanted to believe. Can you imagine a leader in any other industry who, upon hearing that four out of five customers had no confidence in his product, would blame the customer’s poor judgment, versus asking, “What are we doing wrong?”
UPDATE: And by the way, Diana West’s column about the attempted murder of Lars Hedegaard is rather apropos.