Why are Republicans being blamed for some mass shootings, but Democrats are not being blamed for any shootings at all? Does the answer have anything to do with party or media bias?
Since the mass murders in El Paso and Dayton last week, Democrats and the media have spent a lot of time and energy trying to pin the blame for the El Paso atrocity on President Trump. They note that the alleged murderer was a racist bigot who published an ideological manifesto expressing views on Hispanic immigrants similar to those expressed by the President. Therefore, he must have been incited by the President’s rhetoric. Therefore, the El Paso murders were the President’s fault.
But there’s been relative silence on who’s to blame for the Dayton murders. Perhaps that’s because an analysis of the social media accounts of the murderer (whom the police fortunately killed) show that he was an atheist, a Satanist, and a supporter of Antifa, gun control—and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. But nobody’s blaming her for inspiring the murders. Can we begin to detect a pattern?
Let’s look at a few other cases: in 2017, the New York Times said that Sarah Palin’s rhetoric helped provoke the 2011 massacre wherein a monster seriously wounded then-Representative Gabby Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona, and eighteen others, while murdering an additional six victims, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl. Also in 2017, a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders shot and seriously wounded one Republican Congressman while attempting a mass assassination of a group of GOP lawmakers. To date, nobody has tried to link Bernie to the attempted murders. Pattern, anyone?
Now it could be argued that the reason nobody blames Warren or Sanders for the violence of their supporters is because there’s no provable link between their rhetoric and their supporters’ actions. Therefore, they should be considered blameless. Their party has nothing to do with their absolution. But if that’s the case, why would a Democrat who could be credibly linked to violence also be absolved of responsibility for actions taken by his supporters following his words?
Consider the case of “The Reverend” Al Sharpton, one of the most prominent African American activists in the Democratic Party. He first emerged as a major political figure in 1987 when he enthusiastically supported the now-discredited claims of African American teenager Tawana Brawley, who falsely charged white law enforcement figures with kidnapping and raping her, and then smearing her with excrement. Sharpton was subsequently found liable for defamation of character in a suit brought by one of the men Brawley smeared. His supporters ponied up $50,000 to settle the judgment after he refused to pay up himself. Since then, Jews and others have been murdered following Sharpton-led rallies featuring anti-Semitic remarks—he has called Jews “blood-suckers”—yet nobody in the Democratic Party seems to blame him, notwithstanding the following of his rhetoric with violence. To the contrary, his support has been avidly sought by Democratic presidential candidates past and present. Does that mean blame is reserved for Republicans only, regardless of facts?
However bad matters seem now, there’s plenty of time—about 15 months—before the 2020 election for things to get worse. Democratic rhetoric blaming the President for promoting white supremacy and nationalism is escalating, and at least one Congressman, Juaquin Castro of El Paso, presidential candidate Julian’s twin brother, has begun to encourage public attacks on private citizens supporting President Trump by “doxing” their private contact information. Will the Democrats shame the President’s supporters into silent apathy, or will they inflame them with comments that make Hillary’s remarks about “deplorables” seem tame by comparison? Will Democrats who seek to blame Republicans for the current violence ever accept any responsibility for the increase in tensions as well? And could anything happen to reverse this current trend? Only time will tell.
But there are a few glimmers of hope. No less a figure than former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile has said that President Trump “had nothing to do” with the mass shootings. She’s said that the “so-called blame game” is “unbecoming of a country.”
And there could be another development as well. Federal appellate court judges have ruled that a libel suit brought by Sarah Palin again the New York Times following its 2017 accusation could proceed. Under American law, for a public figure to win a libel suit he must do more than show that what was written about him was false. He must also show that the defendant acted out of actual malice, and either new that the comments were false or acted with reckless disregard for the truth. The judges have noted that the New York Times had first charged Sarah Palin with encouraging the Giffords shooter in 2011 and had then retracted the claims following the failure to find any actual link between her rhetoric and the shooter’s beliefs and actions. Since the Times had put itself on record in 2011 as absolving Palin of blame, the decision of one of its editors to renew the charge in 2017 raises issues of malice and reckless disregard of the facts. Whether Sarah Palin will ultimately win, like whether anyone will take Donna Brazille seriously, remains to be seen. Perhaps, however, if she does, the willingness of the media to repeat incendiary rhetoric may diminish, even if the willingness to make incendiary charges in the first place does not. I hope she wins her case and gets money from the Times—lots and lots of money—and that the blame game stops.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.