By Their Own Logic, the Press Bears Responsibility for the Jacksonville Shooting

(Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union via AP)

To start off, I have no pleasure whatsoever in delving into the political side of a matter regarding the violent loss of life. Yes, anytime there is a tragedy, there is a reason to look into causes in order to work on preventing future episodes. But the knee-jerk reactions to assess blame in these instances are rarely about seeking functional solutions and almost always about either forwarding an agenda or gaining a political foothold.


For days now, the press has been energetic in their collective accusation that Ron DeSantis and his policies in Florida are responsible for a racist slaying in Jacksonville, Florida. Yet when we look at the rationale being used, if it is applied accurately, then the culpability would actually come to rest on those who were falsely delivering information that led to racial strife -- that would be the media.

First, we have to look at the approach.

When the news broke last Saturday about a gunman entering a Dollar General store and killing three individuals because of their race, it took the media little to no time at all to jump in with accusations. One name was instantly brought forward – Ron DeSantis. The manner in which the governor has been invoked and blame placed squarely at his feet has been disturbing to watch on just the basis of common decency. But the level of falsehoods needed to make these charges elevates the disturbing nature of it all.

On CNN that same day, Jim Acosta convened a panel, and the pundits were not shy about dredging up DeSantis' name; already, there was accusatory speculation about whether he would break away from his campaign and fly to the city. It had been mere hours since the bodies were felled, and instantly, DeSantis was being criticized over inactivity regarding this event, despite him putting out a comment on video right away condemning all aspects of this crime.


The amazement, of course, is that this not only comes directly after President Biden dragged his sand-covered feet getting to Hawaii following the massive tragedy there, but CNN literally was covering his vacations warmly while DeSantis was barely given time to react. On Sunday morning, CNN's Kevin Liptak delivered coverage of all of Biden’s time off this month, with passing mention of his Hawaii visit and none of the scathing criticism about taking two weeks to get there or his uttering “no comment” when asked about it while on the beach.

You could see the fix was in when Governor DeSantis was facing a Catch-22 scenario repeatedly on this shooting incident. After being scolded for not going (or not going fast enough, we have to guess), he arrived on Sunday to speak and lead a prayer vigil...and he was criticized for showing up. He also was hit over not rebuking the shooter and the racism behind the murders, yet he did…and he was criticized for doing so

One of the more disturbing examples came from Steve Peoples at the Associated Press. He made little effort to hide his blatant partisanship, using black leaders' quotes accusing DeSantis of racism and of fostering the environment of racism -- supposedly making this act permissible. Even as he provided responses from the DeSantis camp, Peoples had to inject his bias by caustically describing them as “ever defiant,” as they commented, as if the guilt of the governor was evident. In a similar fashion, we have Amanda Marcotte at Slate also leveling charges of guilt at DeSantis as a racist.


All of these accusations hinge on the spurious details surrounding the Florida education system and its teachings of black history. The first controversy was over the rejection of the AP African American Studies course. The second involved the claim that Florida schools were teaching that slavery was beneficial to blacks. Both of these have been held up as examples of Ron DeSantis showing outward hostility towards blacks. Both of these explanations are completely false, and it will take some effort for the truth to get its pants on regarding these matters.

When the Florida Department of Education (DOE) rejected the inclusion of the AP AAS course guidelines, it was reported as the state eliminating the teaching of black history in schools. That explanation is so patently false as to be laughable, but it was the prevailing talking point in the press. The AP course was a newly introduced studies guide, and the state rejected its use for a number of reasons that violated DOE regulations. (Items in the course included Critical Race Theory and other non-historical elements, such as pushing for reparations, gender studies, and promoting communism.) This was the revising of a new course to be introduced. Current curriculums on black history would still be taught, so this claim was farcical in nature.

The other detail the press has elected to largely avoid is that in the state of Florida, schools are required by law to teach black history, slavery, and the Holocaust. This was first introduced in 1994, and DeSantis signed two laws that established these standards further in the state. Yet, the false claim of Florida rejecting black history is still trotted out today in the press.


The other controversy that flared up this summer was that schools were telling students that slavery was a good thing that benefitted blacks. Kamala Harris flew to Florida to give scathing speeches on this, and numerous politicians – including some duped Republicans – weighed in with opposition. This was all based on a solitary sentence found in the 200+-page, updated middle school curriculum guide for the upcoming year. The entirety of the history of slavery is, in fact, taught, but the press was describing this sweeping curriculum, with hundreds of modules, based on this lone sentence — a complete lie.

And to completely unravel this hysterical lie, that very sentiment — that some slaves learned skills they were able to apply later in life as freed individuals — was also found as part of that AP African American Studies curriculum that these same hectoring voices wanted to have the state adopt. On page 87, under the Essential Knowlege module EK-2.8.A.4, you see this entry that practically mirrors the sentence that has the press in a racial uproar:

In addition to agricultural work, enslaved people learned specialized trades and worked as painters, carpenters, tailors, musicians and healers in the North and South. Once free, African Americans used these skills to provide for themselves and others.

Further, when you look at these two arguments, the idiocy is compounded once you realize one cancels the other out. That AP AAS controversy took place in January. The current upheaval is over this summer’s updated curriculum. You cannot claim Florida blocked the teaching of slavery while complaining about how it teaches about slavery. Either the courses were eliminated, or they are being taught incorrectly; it cannot be both. Choose the lie you want to run with; then you’ll at least look less ridiculous.


But this is where the press has now hung themselves on the rope of culpability. The argument goes today that the shooting in Jacksonville is rooted in the racism displayed in the school policies directed by DeSantis. This perceived hostility has created racial divisions and this inspired the shooting last weekend. Except, as seen above, the governor has not eliminated black history, and the school courses are not telling students slavery was a good thing. Those are purely manufactured narratives.

This means that if the shooting was inspired by the racial controversies welling up from the school standards, those telling the lies about the school standards created those controversies. That would be the media of this country, which means the press — judging by their own claims — are the ones culpable for the Jacksonville shooting.

Now, nobody, especially in the media, wants to go as far as to blame the press for these murders. But when that same press is leaping to make accusations about who is responsible, we need to look soberly at the facts. That is something else the press is unwilling to do, so it will serve them best to drop the subject entirely.



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