Blankley: Tucson is a teaching moment for the media

posted at 10:55 am on January 14, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

In the aftermath of the shootings in Tucson, the media instructed us that we needed to have a series of national conversations — on “extreme rhetoric,” gun, and more appropriately on the handling of the mentally ill.  Tony Blankley, former editor in chief at the Washington Times, says that the conversation that needs to take place is about the media:

Because even though the Tucson shooting did not cause the media irresponsibility — this time — continued media misreporting and bias is now so ingrained that such dangerous behavior could be triggered by any number of future public events.

Now is the time for us all to pause, and consider how the working members of the media can live with their biased liberalism — yet not allow it to permeate their work and undercut the political dialogue and political process that is the foundation of our democracy.

Indeed, it may well be the case that the now institutional failure of the mainstream media to do its job with reasonable objectivity may itself be the cause of the incivility in political dialogue. Without an objective umpire in the political debate, the players are forced to shout louder and louder so that their interpretation of the state of play on the field can be heard by the fans. But political incivility is a topic for some future discussion. Now is the moment for the nation assembled to try to come to terms with the tragic failure of the media to report objectively about political incivility.

I’d say that Blankley has it right, at least to an extent, but that focusing on “incivility” is not necessarily all that important anyway.  The “incivility” that did actual damage in this case was the incivility of the media in rushing to find a convenient scapegoat for the tragedy.  No one really cares that Markos Moulitsas tossed out some vitriol on Twitter; what does matter was the way the national media framed the entire incident as a result of vehement political debate in absence of any evidence to support that contention.

Incivility itself will exist as long as civility does, and will be part of politics for as long as humans engage in it.  It’s worthy of criticism when it arises, but criticism should apply to all sides.  Otherwise, it’s just another partisan wiffle bat, and those wielding it partisan hypocrites.  The media exposed themselves as just that — while convincing no one at all but the partisans who benefited from the irresponsible criticism of conservatives.  The conversation the media really needs is one that might salvage their own credibility.

Update: In case the media misses this point, a new Quinnipiac poll shows that only 15% believe that “heated political rhetoric” had anything to do with the shooting — and only 9% think gun control would have helped:

Saturday’s shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in which six people were killed, could not have been prevented, 40 percent of American voters say in a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Another 23 percent blame the mental health system, while 15 percent say it was due to heated political rhetoric and 9 percent attribute the tragedy to lax gun control.

Update II: One reader points out that the Q-poll question is whether heated political rhetoric was the main reason for the attack, not whether it had anything to do with it.  Good point.


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“…— continued media misreporting and bias is now so ingrained that such dangerous behavior could be triggered by any number of future public events.”

Future events…?

What about all the damage they have done in the past?

How much longer was the Iraqi war prolonged and our enemies aided by the media bias…?

… If the true breakdown of the local and state government during Katrina was properly reported, how do you think that would have changed the meme?

What about the global economical damage due to the global warming HOAX…?

… As gas prices sky rocket, I just can’t find a story linking the economical effect and the reason why we are not drilling for our own oil?

Anyone seen the results of liberal policies in the central valley of California and the resulting increase in your local food prices…?

…. What about our failed economy, and the failed social engineering liberal Democrat policies that caused it, along with the failed liberal Democrat policies that have failed to fix it?

Oh, no, we can’t have THAT

… Sarah Palin drinks blood and eats kittens!

Seven Percent Solution on January 14, 2011 at 1:36 PM

Yep. There were two big stories out of Saturday: the shooting itself, and the media pile-on to blame it all on conservatives. There were two major speeches made. The one everyone wanted to praise didn’t even hint that the media overreacted, just that everyone else needed to calm down.

The other speech roundly defended free political speech and condemned the attempt to blame violence on political disagreement. That, of course, was Palin’s speech.

And the media didn’t like it one bit.

tom on January 14, 2011 at 1:38 PM

Sarah Palin drinks blood and eats sea kittens!

Seven Percent Solution on January 14, 2011 at 1:36 PM

Couldn’t resist. :-)

coldwarrior on January 14, 2011 at 1:42 PM

“This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg’s book. I’d like to kill everyone in the mainstream media.”

Williams says he planned to kill 11 people at Tides, a San Francisco-based foundation that supports progressive causes… Williams believes the BP disaster was part of a conspiracy between BP, billionaire George Soros, the Halliburton Corporation, and the Obama administration. Williams, along with FOX host Glenn Beck and others have said that the Tides Foundation is funded by Soros

sesquipedalian on January 14, 2011 at 11:51 AM

Trying to shift the discussion away to a differnt story, I see. F-

But Williams was correct.

Immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Tides formed a “9/11 Fund” to advocate a “peaceful national response.” Tides later replaced the 9/11 Fund with the “Democratic Justice Fund,” which was financed in large measure by the Open Society Institute of George Soros, who has donated more than $7 million to Tides over the years. Reciprocally, the Tides Foundation is a major funder of the Shadow Party, a George Soros-conceived nationwide network of several dozen unions, non-profit activist groups, and think tanks whose agendas are ideologically to the left, and which are engaged in campaigning for the Democrats.

BTW, another major Tides person is “Mama T”, whose gigolo, Elmer Fudd, was the 2004 Democrat Party “candidate” for President.

Del Dolemonte on January 14, 2011 at 1:46 PM

Baxter Greene on January 14, 2011 at 12:04 PM

so you, too, have come to believe that heated political rhetoric drives unstable people to commit violence? did you spend all this time feverishly collecting references to agree with me?

sesquipedalian on January 14, 2011 at 12:30 PM

Translated: “Baxter just cleaned my clock”

Del Dolemonte on January 14, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Update: In case the media misses this point, a new Quinnipiac poll shows that

44. Do you think heated political rhetoric drives unstable people to commit violence or don’t you think so?

Yes, think so – 52
No, don’t think so – 41

oh my.

sesquipedalian on January 14, 2011 at 11:18 AM

You’re embarrassing yourself. The number of people who think overheated political rhetoric drives unstable people to violence is not the same as the number of people who believe it did in this instance.

That’s not a contradiction. It just says that rhetoric did not cause this shooting. As pretty much everyone except liberal nutcases has already figured out. Unfortunately, a lot of liberal nutcases work in the media, so they’re not so good at the whole reasoning thing.

tom on January 14, 2011 at 1:51 PM

The new media have shrunk the cash flow of the old media. The old media has cut staff. The staff left is lazy and relies on press releases to fill pages. Newsweek sold for one dollar yet is still cited as being important.
Politicians want to CLING to office because in most cases they are unemployable in the real world and there is a surplus of really talented lobbyists.
So in the desire to cling to power the political class has consultants who are really hired guns paid to win at any cost. Both parties use hired guns to flack the lazy press, the more bizarre the story and the more money,free drinks or hookers they get the press the more the BS gets printed. Hit replay and it is in the news cycle until we have massive new disaster for the next all day news orgy.
Funny thing happened this year,the old tricks did not work. Lincoln Davis tried a hit ad on a Doctor about his divorce,allegations. The Doctors answer was that the “judge gave me my guns”. Davis whole ad blew up in his face and he is now a former member of congress living large on a pension most could only dream about.
Cling to power use hired guns AKA political consultants.
Doing this is the root cause of the incivility. Politicians desire to remain in office is to blame.They hire these punks and now we have finally said enough.
The problem is DC has been, will be, until more career politicians are unemployed.

Col.John Wm. Reed on January 14, 2011 at 2:29 PM

Here’s an article explaining that the UofA bought the t-shirts. I’m wondering where they got the money?!?

Many Americans were startled to see University of Arizona students distributing t-shirts at the memorial service in Tucson yesterday. On the front of the shirts, “Together We Thrive” was printed, along with a trendy logo.

University spokeswoman Jennifer Fitzenberger told FoxNation.com “it was our idea to do the t-shirts.” She said distributing merchandise at a memorial was appropriate and rejected the charge that the University over-commercialized the service. “Our intention was to have something to remember after the event…something that symbolizes our community’s spirit…which would live on.” When asked if the University had worked with the White House or any partisan groups on any level regarding the t-shirts she said “no.”

Fitzenberger insisted the University made no money from the “Together We Thrive” t-shirts and they weren’t for sale. “We took the idea to University of Arizona BookStores and they contracted it out with a vendor.” Reports put the cost of the t-shirts at $60,000.

FoxNation.com spoke to representatives at University of Arizona BookStores who revealed the vendor they used….”Youth Monument,” a Los Angeles-based company specializing in “the hottest” college brands. “I don’t feel comfortable commenting on the story,” said Nick Ventura when contacted by FoxNation.com. Ventura called himself “a partner” at Youth Monument. When asked if the University of Arizona was a regular client and if there was any contact with the White House or any political group he responded “no comment.”

GrannySunni on January 14, 2011 at 3:24 PM

Here’s an article explaining that the UofA bought the t-shirts. I’m wondering where they got the money?!?

Ask the parents of UofA students. I’m sure some of them would like to know if their son or daughters’ tuition will be going up next semester due to “unforseen expenses”.

BobMbx on January 14, 2011 at 3:34 PM

You’re embarrassing yourself. The number of people who think overheated political rhetoric drives unstable people to violence is not the same as the number of people who believe it did in this instance.

tom on January 14, 2011 at 1:51 PM

thanks for your concern, but all i did was to highlight another interesting result from the poll.

sesquipedalian on January 14, 2011 at 4:06 PM

Baxter Greene on January 14, 2011 at 12:04 PM

so you, too, have come to believe that heated political rhetoric drives unstable people to commit violence? did you spend all this time feverishly collecting references to agree with me?

sesquipedalian on January 14, 2011 at 12:30 PM

Where did I say that????
Quit sitting around listening for “dog whistles” and imaginary conclusions.
If I agreed with the idiotic “It’s Palin’s fault because she made a map with cross hairs on it” theme….
……then my post would have ended with “and it’s all Obama’s fault”.

Instead I agree with Palin….who I might add….Obama agrees with also when he states that rhetoric was not responsible for the AZ. massacre.

The person who commits the crime is responsible for their actions.

The post shows:

1. That liberals are lying when they state that there is no violence coming from democrats.


2. That if the current liberal line of “vitriolic rhetoric”
is what causes violence…..
………then democrats are responsible for a tremendous amount of it.


3. That this violence has been going on for a long time and yet democrats not only excused it…..they called it “patriotic dissent”.

So tell us Sesequi……since you and much of the democratic party believe that “rhetoric” is responsible for violence….then when are you and your liberal friends going to take responsibility for the deaths and violence you have caused.

When will we see the calls for democratic elected officials and liberal groups like code pink,move on,answer and many others to be chastised for their accessory to murder and held accountable???????

How about you address the hate and vitriol in your own party before you start preaching to others about what they need to do.

Baxter Greene on January 14, 2011 at 4:06 PM

Yeah, loyalty cuts both ways.

coldwarrior on January 14, 2011 at 12:35 PM

Great letter.

Baxter Greene on January 14, 2011 at 4:09 PM

But Williams was correct.

Del Dolemonte on January 14, 2011 at 1:46 PM

he was correct to shoot cops?

also, no link?

sesquipedalian on January 14, 2011 at 4:12 PM

Baxter Greene on January 14, 2011 at 12:04 PM

so you, too, have come to believe that heated political rhetoric drives unstable people to commit violence? did you spend all this time feverishly collecting references to agree with me?

sesquipedalian on January 14, 2011 at 12:30 PM

Translated: “Baxter just cleaned my clock”

Del Dolemonte on January 14, 2011 at 1:48 PM

After all this time….not one shred of evidence has been brought forth to support the democratic accusation that “Palin and the Tea Party” are responsible for this.

Just the opposite of what they are claiming is the actual truth.The evidence has shown that Loughner had no connection nor listened to Palin,the Tea Party,or shared any Conservative values.

Liberals like Sesqui are so lost and clueless that they have essentially stated that Palin and the Tea Party are so powerful…that they can influence people to kill ..that don’t even listen to them.

Nothing but VooDoo rational coming from the “reality based community”.

Baxter Greene on January 14, 2011 at 4:17 PM

GrannySunni on January 14, 2011 at 3:24 PM

Then why on earth would they use a slogan from one of Obama’s campaign groups? Together We Thrive is from Organizing for America.

It’s really, really stinky at the UofA and the White House!

capejasmine on January 14, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Baxter Greene on January 14, 2011 at 4:06 PM

i never said plain or anyone other than loughner was responsible for the tucson tragedy.

you seem to believe that violent rhetoric leads to violence only when it’s from the left. that’s demonstrably untrue, and some of the cases you cited are outright lies, like gladney’s case. it was a scuffle, we had no proof that he suffered any injuries, and the video clearly shows that he wasn’t seriously hurt. also, all of your links are from unhinged people like jim hoft or malkin, whom no sane person would cite to buttress an argument.

sesquipedalian on January 14, 2011 at 4:24 PM

Hey, Blankley is right but he’s tilting at the ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, NYT, and WaPo windmills. The MSM simply finds their favorite distortion in the leftist web, like Daily Kos linking Palin to the Giffords shooting, and then “objectively” singles out and announces what that blog view is and pairs it with a corroborating stooge like Sheriff Dupnik. Only Fox News confronted Dupnik on his unfounded claims. It is so incredibly difficult to overcome the MSM power to lay out a distorted narrative (which consistently distorts in a pro-left way). Do we buy stock in Disney/ABC, Comcast/NBC, Viacom/CBS, WaPo and Time Warner to insist on less distorted reporting? That’s probably more tilting at windmills.

Mark30339 on January 14, 2011 at 4:28 PM

sesquipedalian on January 14, 2011 at 4:24 PM

you seem to believe that violent rhetoric leads to violence only when it’s from the left.

Once again….I never stated that “it only comes from the left”.
Conservatives are not the ones blaming private citizens and politicians for the acts of the deranged…that would be democrats and their liberal supporters like yourself.The fact that you are now moving the goal posts to say “well it contributed” is still not backed up by any evidence what so ever.
But the point still stands.
If you and your liberal friends believe that “violent Rhetoric” is responsible for the violent acts of individuals….then take responsibility for your actions and the violence that it has caused.

also, all of your links are from unhinged people like jim hoft or malkin, whom no sane person would cite to buttress an argument.

God you are pathetic.
You can’t refute any of the facts and examples I provided so it’s “those people don’t count”..
Well genius…
These stories are linked to the NY Times,Washington post,La Times,Cnn,MSNBC,AP,Reuters and many other National and international news agencies.

If you can refute them…then please do so.
“I don’t like your sources” is in no way shape or form a factual debunking.

some of the cases you cited are outright lies, like gladney’s case. it was a scuffle, we had no proof that he suffered any injuries, and the video clearly shows that he wasn’t seriously hurt.

Any Links to prove this ??????
you demand them from others….practice what you preach.

Gladney was attacked and beaten up by democratic SEIU members.It is on film.
He was treated at a hospital and then released.

You can’t possibly expect anyone to buy your assertion that Gladney was not hurt “I can tell from the video”…
……….what kind of an idiot are you?????
No doctor or anyone in the medical profession could base a diagnosis by watching a video.
BREAKING: CHARGES FILED IN KENNETH GLADNEY CASE!
Posted by Jim Hoft on Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 4:11 PM

Elston McCowan, 47, of St. Louis, and Perry Molens, 50, of De Soto, each were charged with assaulting a person and interfering with police. They are accused of scuffling with and injuring Kenneth Gladney,

Well how “seriously hurt” does an attack victim have to be for it to count genius??????

They beat on him…threw him to the ground while yelling racial slurs….
…….the same kind of racial slurs the NAACP hurled at him when they said “he was not black enough”.

Keep moving the goal posts genius.
You and your liberal friends are up in arms and accusing people of being an accessory to murder over a map and words like “reload”….
………but beating a blackman down in the street while yelling racial slurs because democrats don’t like his politics is no big deal…

Axelrod is really wasting his money if you are the best the democrats can come up with.

Baxter Greene on January 14, 2011 at 5:30 PM

Then why on earth would they use a slogan from one of Obama’s campaign groups? Together We Thrive is from Organizing for America.

It’s really, really stinky at the UofA and the White House!

capejasmine on January 14, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Yes, I read earlier comments about the OFA slogan and I’m curious how it came to be on the t-shirts handed out by the UofA. As far as I’m concerned, there are NO coincidences. Also, the UofA is a state university, receiving public funds. If they have excess $, such as to pay for the shirts, then perhaps they should decrease tuition fees. I’m still not convinced that my tax dollars did not pay for this. I doubt any of the media will investigate this so I’m thinking about writing to Gov Jan Brewer. I think the public has a right to know where the funds came from and if there is any connection to OFA.

GrannySunni on January 14, 2011 at 5:31 PM

sesquipedalian on January 14, 2011 at 11:18 AM

By definition “unstable people” are “unstable”.
This stat you post shows a lack of basic knowledge about physiology.

Might as well ask if “heated political rhetoric causes compressor stalls”.

If you repeat a mantra that “heated political rhetoric causes compressor stalls” often enough some people will believe its true, most have no idea what a “compressor” or “compressor stall” is.

The DHMO joke proved this.

Dihydrogen monoxide is a real chemical compound
Dihydrogen monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills uncounted thousands of people every year. Most of these deaths are caused by accidental ..
Dihydrogen Monoxide: The Invisible Killer Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide!Dihydrogen monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, …

You do know DHMO Dihydrogen monoxide is water, right?

DSchoen on January 14, 2011 at 10:01 PM

so you, too, have come to believe that heated political rhetoric drives unstable people to commit violence? did you spend all this time feverishly collecting references to agree with me?

sesquipedalian on January 14, 2011 at 12:30 PM

You want to talk rhetoric, let’s talk rhetoric. What you have here is a logical fallacy called “Affirming the Antecedent”: We have heated political rhetoric. An unstable person committed violence. Therefore heated political rhetoric causes unstable to commit violence. However, there are other things that drive people to commit violence.

In fact, in cases where violence is politically motivated, the same thing is causing both the rhetoric and the violence, and that is anger. The guy who wanted to shoot up the Tides Foundation was really angry. People who are really angry both seek out bombastic media and commit violence. You’re just looking at two symptoms, not a cause and effect. This is the fallacy called “non sequitur”.

Similarly, Jared Loughner experienced a disorganized reality. He actively searched for and found Philip K. Dick novels. He then went off and murdered people. Did Philip K. Dick cause the murder? No. Jared chose both because they fit his perspective. Another non sequitur.

alwaysfiredup on January 14, 2011 at 10:32 PM

Williams, along with FOX host Glenn Beck and others have said that the Tides Foundation is funded by Soros
sesquipedalian on January 14, 2011 at 11:51 AM

ROFLMAO! Ah buckie, letters in bold just make you look like a fool. I will prove it.

The Tides Foundation IS funded by Soros, that is simply a fact, its a public record.

Glenn Beck said fire is hot! Williams said fire is hot! OMG! Someone call Pelosi! We need to investigate this strange coincidence!

OMG! I just found another undeniable link!

Williams said Ice is cold! Palin said Ice is cold And, wait for it, Beck says Ice is cold!

If Glenn Beck and others have said “water is wet” what in your mind does that prove?

It must mean something to you or you wouldn’t have stated it. So what does it prove?

DSchoen on January 14, 2011 at 11:14 PM

Regarding the Quinnipiac (or any other) poll, that really needs a little context.

Polls cannot ever successfully answer legitimate questions of causation, especially questions involving causation with regard to incidents at which very few (if any) of those surveyed were actually present. And, few of those surveyed even witnessed recordings of the incidents.

Polls suggesting where the needle may currently be on the “veracity to incredulity scale” associated with accusations of this sort, are mere unfocused snapshots of public opinion at a very finite point in time. They really tell us very little about how much Americans may ultimately buy into this nonsense accusational narrative coming from the left.

History informs that, during an era of growing mass media influence, persistent and sustained left wing attacks of this sort can indeed succeed in the long run.

Take the nurturing of such a narrative during early to mid 60s. Lyndon Johnson’s successful presidential race in ’64, was a very good measure of the left’s ability to convince a sufficient number of Americans that too many of those on the right were really nothing but a bunch of reckless political extremists, and they succeeded in laying a foundation for the general belief that politicians on the right actually constituted a rather clear threat to the national welfare (no pun intended). Even with the left turning on LBJ over Viet-Nam, and widespread concern over the growing welfare state, the “new” Nixon won by only a whisker in ’68.

But we now live in a different time, one in which credible and viable views of the state of our national politics are far more decentralized. The influence of the mainstream media has been significantly cropped. And in a number of significant instances, their openly partisan motivation has been embarrassingly laid bare.

So at this point, these polls seem most useful to the Democrats, primarily as an indicator of how successful or unsuccessful their attempt to poison the wellspring of public opinion has been.

They know they tactically failed in their sustained attacks on the Tea Party over the past year and a half. It played a huge role in costing them politically — not only in control of the House, but they suffered an historic State and local political realignment as well.

This poll tells them that they still have their work cut out in branding the “extremist” rhetoric they claim exists on the right. The general attack on Tea Party participants and protesters failed miserably because it was seen essentially as an ugly and baseless attack on ordinary citizens themselves, ones who were trying to participate in the democratic process.

Their new tactic, however, is to shift the attack to one or more of the leaders of the movement, by trying to brand her as a reckless firebrand who is fomenting violence through her rhetoric.

The response from the right in framing that has been focused and sustained, and, so far , successful.

And yet, the left really has no choice but to double down on their false accusations. One thing about Democrats — they will NEVER concede the point. They may quiet down, or change the subject — “Hey, how about those Packers, huh?”

But they will never, ever say:

“Uhhhh, we wuz wrong . . . sorry!”

The closest any of them will come, was in the tone of the Obama speech.

Following that, the Fuller incident really constituted a serious crack in their windshield. Suddenly, one of their freshly-branded heros is now in the dock for doing exactly what they were falsely accusing the right of doing!

The “rank and vile” Democrats across this country must literally be in their cups!

So . . . so far so good. But it is not over!

Trochilus on January 16, 2011 at 3:01 PM

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