How the Media Politicizes Crime Coverage
Words matter. So does equal treatment. So, when the New York Times recently devoted a top-of-the-front-page, three column wide article equating the actions and words of the El Paso mass murderer to those of “right wing pundits”* I was curious to say the least. Was The Gray Lady saying conservatives somehow convinced someone to commit mass murder?
Extensively quoting (mostly) Fox News hosts and their guests the Times concluded that when speaking about the nation’s immigration crisis at the Southwestern border the words “invaders” or invasion” were used unashamedly and all too frequently by those they labeled “right wing pundits.” Also, the Times reported that those same people regularly used the word “replace” while discussing immigration. The paper quoted Fox News prime time host Tucker Carlson as saying, “I’m not against the immigrants. I’m just – I’m for Americans, and nobody cares about them. It’s like, shut up, you’re dying. We’re going to replace you.”
The Times quoted the killer’s 2,300-word internet manifesto in which he said he was simply defending his country “from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion,” adding in a cryptic tone, “There is a striking degree of overlap between the words of right-wing media personalities and the language used by the Texas man who confessed to killing 22 people at a Walmart.”
Wow. That seemed like a stretch to me, especially since deeper into the story the Times’ writers admitted it was unclear what had shaped the warped mind of Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old Walmart killer. There was no proof that Crusius even watched Fox News or listened to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who was also quoted.
The article was striking for what it didn’t mention, namely other catalysts that might have influenced Crusius. Like the widely reported statistic that between January and July of this year nearly 700,000 migrants were either deemed “inadmissible” or apprehended trying to cross the into the Southwestern United States. Maybe that is what influenced the Texas native to go on his killing spree?
The Times didn’t quote any friends or relatives of the gunman who might have given some insight into his actual mindset. No, the liberal leaning newspaper went straight for the “right wing pundit” comparison. No surprise really, the day after the deadly August 3rd Walmart shooting the Time’s headline read: “El Paso Shooting Suspect’s Manifesto Echoes Trump’s Language.” Obviously, there is an agenda at play here.
What the media-at-large lacks these days is fair and equal perspective on issues and events. It seems every news story is now cast in a political light negative to the party the news organization doesn’t align itself with.
Notice that there wasn’t nearly as much coverage devoted to the other mass shooter making news around the same time. Connor Betts, 24, committed mass murder in Dayton, Ohio after long spewing a hate filled liberal agenda. Online Betts praised Satan, the Antifa street protests and violence against conservatives. Police had intervened when Betts was found with a “kill” and “rape” list of boys and girls he planned to harm at his high school.
I haven’t found one news outlet making the leap between the now deceased Connor’s radical politics and his mass murder spree which left 9 innocents dead, including his own sister. No New York Times analysis can be found comparing what Betts might have heard on MSNBC or CNN that could have catapulted him to embark on his deadly spree. Yet Betts was known as an ardent supporter of presidential candidates Sanders and Warren, two Senators who enjoy ample coverage on those two cable channels.
That any news organization wants to analyze a mass murderer’s mindset is commendable. We need to try to understand what triggers these killings. But to only study gunmen on one side of the political spectrum smacks of opportunistic and biased journalism.
In this era when newsroom staffs, nationwide, are down to bare bones it is liberal leaning newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post that set the tone for copycat news coverage across the country. For those who got their news about the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings by going through Google, an audit by the independent site AllSides.com showed readers were steered to liberal news providers — like the Times, the Washington Post and CNN — a vast majority of the time. You are simply not getting a balance news diet. Period.
Yes, words matter and, collectively, the media sends out millions of them every day. Their oftentimes biased phrases and slanted stories have helped create and perpetuate the gigantic ideological schism we live with today. There is so much dissension and hate on both sides of the political divide it leaves one wondering when the mutual implosion will occur.
It’s a good bet that this kind of reporting will live through, at least, 2020. So, it is up to citizens to digest this kind of coverage while simultaneously drinking from the cup of critical thinking.