Monday, June 15, 2009

Politicizing Random Violence

I have read four different columnists (or blog columnists) for the New York Times in the past week connecting the shooting of Dr. George Tiller with the Holocaust Museum shooting, citing both as evidence of far-right domestic terrorism. I think the connection is more spurious than factual, a coincidence of the calendar rather than a movement. (Not to mention that there isn't really much ideological ground the two shooters shared, other than that they probably didn't vote for Obama.) Where was this speculation when a pastor was shot in the pulpit in Illinois this past May? Note that Tiller was shot in church as well, but rightfully, no connection is made on those grounds. There was another church shooting in Tennessee last July, and before that the December 2007 shootings in Colorado. Were those shootings evidence of disturbed, violent individuals, or a connection to a wider societal trend?

Well, of course it was both. But I think it's telling that not a single NYT columnist mentioned any of those incidents that I can recall, and definitely there was no "connect-the-dots" type reasoning.

I'm going to keep reading the NYT daily, but every time something like this happens I'll have to correct for the ideological blinders of those columnists. I mean, the point of columnists is that they write with ideological blinders on, and it's the reader's responsibility to account for them. But they lose credibility with this reader when they don't at least try to consider other points of view.

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