Shoes are piled outside the scene of a mass shooting including Ned Peppers bar, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. Several people in Ohio have been killed in the second mass shooting in the U.S. in less than 24 hours, and the suspected shooter is also deceased, police said. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
As we’ve learned in the past week, the political ideologies of mass shooters are deeply important unless they are on the far left. Then it’s irrelevant and it’s journalistic malpractice to even report on it. That’s the contrast that’s been drawn between the shooting in El Paso and the one that took place in Dayton, OH early the next morning.
I’ve been assured on social media that the difference is that the El Paso shooter left a manifesto (which has still not been technically confirmed) and that the Dayton shooter didn’t. Therefore, I’m told, it’s completely out of bounds to draw any speculation from the latter’s calls to violence against “fascists,” his repeating of Antifa rhetoric, or his support for socialism.
The weird thing about that standard is that it didn’t apply just a week earlier. There was a shooting in Gilroy, CA where a murderer cut through a fence at a garlic festival and killed three people, injuring 12 others in the process.
Almost immediately after the shooting, the media begin to report on an Instagram post where the shooter encouraged people to read a 19th century book entitled “Might Is Right.” This was all the hook they needed to proclaim the killer a white supremacist and tie him to the right at large.
You can find various mainstream media outlets rushing to print that detail here, here, and here. To date, NBC News, Newsweek, and The Daily Beast have not reported on much more pervasive evidence of left-wing radicalization present with the Dayton shooter.
The double standard is simply brazen. How brazen? Here’s The Daily Beast’s Justin Miller providing the shot and chaser.
Miller made that statement with essentially no evidence except a vague Instagram post recommending a book. That was the extent of evidence that the Gilroy shooter was a white supremacist, yet The Daily Beast had no issues jumping to conclusions.
Less than a week later, Miller had done a complete flip-flop on what’s appropriate to report about shooters though. What changed?
CNN recklessly speculates the Dayton shooter may have been politically motivated. The shooter's tweets or politics have zero relevancy so far because he killed indiscriminately. https://t.co/nROLRcURVt
— Justin Miller (@justinjm1) August 6, 2019
Worse, the FBI has come out and chastised the media for wrongly reporting that the Gilroy shooter was a white supremacist based on a single social media post.
Many spread the claim the Gilroy, Calif. shooter was a “white supremacist.” FBI has come out against this. According to special agent in charge of the FBI San Francisco, the shooter compiled a target list that included federal buildings & courthouses. https://t.co/NX1wuqPcyD
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) August 6, 2019
FBI officials called media reports characterizing the Gilroy festival gunman’s ideology “wrong” after outlets referenced a social media post and literature associated with white supremacists.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday outside the festival grounds — where three were killed and 12 injured Sunday — John Bennett, FBI special agent in charge, said investigators still do not know what the ideology was of the 19-year-old shooter, Santino William Legan.
“We’re looking at multiple threads of conversations that he’s had,” Bennett told reporters, according to footage from KTVU. “However, we’re still not comfortable in saying it’s an ideology, one way or another.”
Now, perhaps the Gilroy shooter is a white supremacist? The point here is not to argue he is or isn’t. It’s to argue that we have no real evidence of that and to point out the incredibly blatant double standard that exists in the media when it comes to reporting on a shooter’s background.
If it can be tied to the right, the media run with every detail on a social media account with no question. They speculate, they connect dots, and they draw conclusions, as we saw in dozens of headlines about the Gilroy shooter. Yet, when it’s a leftist with an incredibly clear radical ideology calling for violence, suddenly they learn what caution is. That’s not accidental.
Even now, the FBI hasn’t reached any conclusions in the shooting. In fact, it appears that whatever ideology he had adopted didn’t follow the common trends found in white supremacist shootings.
A list of organizations found on the shooter’s digital media, which Bennett says may have been potential targets, includes “religious institutions, federal buildings, courthouses, political organizations from both major political parties, and the Gilroy Garlic Festival.”
If the religious institutions mentioned here were synagogues, that would provide some clarity, but the fact that the FBI aren’t citing that as anything conclusive probably means it was a mixture, including Christian targets. He was targeting both political parties on the list as well. Targeting government buildings could lend itself to more of an anarchist ideology.
As I’ve said before, I’d love to live in a world where neither side rushes to blame their political opponents for things deranged, evil individuals do. The problem is that the double standard is so obvious that sitting idly by isn’t much of an option. If the press are going to rush and try to tie every shooter with a hint of white supremacist ideology to the right, why should right leaning outlets be expected to show more restraint than “journalists” when it comes to mass shooter’s with left-wing ideology?
Maybe one day everyone can take a deep breath and we stop this madness. I don’t foresee that day coming anytime soon though in our current media environment.
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