Media: Got integrity?

Jedediah Bila Contributor
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January 8 marked a terrible tragedy in Tucson, Arizona. Twenty-two-year-old Jared Loughner, whose incoherent, rambling YouTube clips indicate serious psychological problems, opened fire at a “Congress on Your Corner” event, killing six and injuring fourteen. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was among those seriously injured.

The immediate reaction by many was to pray — to put their differences aside, come together, and hope that the power of collective prayer could help comfort those who lost loved ones and protect the lives of the critically injured. However, some in the media decided to take a different route and engage in a cruel, twisted blame-game based on unfounded assumptions.

Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas tweeted, “Mission accomplished, Sarah Palin,” with a link to an image of Palin’s “Take Back the 20” March 2010 chart, which featured surveyor symbols over the districts of twenty House members. (For those on the Left having hissy fits because you think Palin deleted all traces of the chart — click this link, geniuses.) Interestingly enough, the Daily Kos featured a post last week by a resident of Giffords’ district titled “My CongressWOMAN voted against Nancy Pelosi! And is now DEAD to me!” (The post was deleted by the hypocritical Daily Kos staff, but you can find it here).

The New York Times’ Paul Krugman wrote, “We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was.” He felt compelled to mention that Giffords “was on Sarah Palin’s infamous ‘crosshairs’ list” and added, “You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead.”

CNN.com felt inclined to write the headline, “Giffords had history with Palin, Tea Party,” followed by, “As of Saturday, Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ name appeared on a website titled ‘take back the 20’ as part of a list originally issued by Sarah Palin of vulnerable House Democrats. A map on the site showed crosshairs over the contested Democratic districts.”

At NYDailyNews.com, columnist Michael Daly wrote, “And, now that Palin may have the blood of more than some poor caribou on her hands, I wonder if she will continue putting people in cross hairs and calling on folks to RELOAD!”

Keith Olbermann chimed in with advice that if Sarah Palin “does not repudiate her own part in amplifying violence and violent imagery in politics, she must be dismissed from politics — she must be repudiated by the members of her own party … ” He also took swipes at Congressman Allen West, Sharron Angle, Glenn Beck, and others.

Anti-American Jane Fonda joined the blame game on Twitter with “@SarahPalinUSA holds responsibility. As does the violence-provoking rhetoric of the Tea Party.”

On CBS’s Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer declared, “When she [Giffords] showed up on Sarah Palin’s political action committee website as one of those who had been targeted for defeat, it shows her in the crosshairs there. She warned herself that this kind of thing could have serious repercussions.”

And I could go on and on. Many leftists on Twitter picked up the outrageous media irresponsibility and sent thousands of vicious messages to Sarah Palin, who had already responded to the tragedy via Facebook with, “My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today’s tragic shooting in Arizona. On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice.”

Any member of the media who deemed it appropriate to speak about Sarah Palin’s map or the Tea Party in the context of the Loughner tragedy has no business holding the jobs that they do. They created a phony link with no basis in reality. If they were so consumed with political motivation, why didn’t such “journalists” refer to maps similar to that of SarahPAC that were constructed by the Democratic Leadership Committee in 2004 or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2009? Why did they not post a screenshot of the “My CongressWOMAN voted against Nancy Pelosi! And is now DEAD to me!” entry from the Daily Kos?

Because Sarah Palin has become their favorite figurative punching bag. Frankly, anyone who infers an incitement of violence on the part of SarahPAC, the DLC, or the DCCC from those maps needs a psychological evaluation of their own. As a side note, I wonder how many of those same media voices ignored Barack Obama’s June 2008 statement, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

The reality is that Loughner was focused on Rep. Giffords since 2007, when he attended a prior “Congress on your Corner” event in Tucson. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Loughner had complained to a friend about how he was treated by the Arizona lawmaker during an event several years ago, which aggravated Mr. Loughner.” Reuters revealed on January 9 that “An envelope in a safe in the residence of Jared Loughner contained handwriting stating ‘I planned ahead’ and ‘My assassination’ and the name ‘Giffords’ along with what appears to be Loughner’s signature, according to charges filed in U.S. court in Phoenix.”

The Wall Street Journal also revealed that, “Math instructor Ben McGahee said Mr. Loughner’s frequent off-topic outbursts during a summer algebra course frightened other students.” According to the AP, friends of Loughner say he became increasingly alienated from them during college. He would sit in unlocked cars at night, often drank heavily, and believed the U.S. government was behind 9/11. Loughner’s MySpace profile’s reading list included Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto. Caitie Parker, who went to high school and college with Loughner, tweeted, “As I knew him he was left wing, quite liberal. & oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy.” (For the record, I do not blame any left-wing tendencies Loughner may have had for what he did. Nor do I blame Mein Kampf or The Communist Manifesto. I blame Loughner and Loughner alone for his actions.)

What we have here thus far is a pre-meditated act of violence by a young man with significant mental problems. What we don’t have is any link whatsoever to Sarah Palin or the Tea Party. Hey, I wonder if Sarah Palin’s March 2010 chart inspired Loughner to become obsessed with Giffords in 2007.

That’s the kind of twisted sickness that has pervaded our media.

Perhaps they took a page out of the book of Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who first irresponsibly suggested that the shootings were caused by “vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.” When asked to back up his speculation, Dupnik admitted, “If your question is specific, I have to be specific and say I don’t have that information yet.” Self-proclaimed Democrat Dupnik also said, “We see one party trying to block the attempts of another party to make this a better country.”

According to Politico, “One veteran Democratic operative, who blames overheated rhetoric for the shooting, said President Barack Obama should carefully but forcefully do what his predecessor did. ‘They need to deftly pin this on the tea partiers,’ said the Democrat. ‘Just like the Clinton White House deftly pinned the Oklahoma City bombing on the militia and anti-government people.’”

Saturday was a tragic day. The fact that any member of the media chose to politicize what happened in an attempt to blame Sarah Palin and/or the Tea Party is repugnant. I’ve always known that our media is a sad state of affairs, but this went above and beyond that description.

Thank you to those on the Left and Right who nobly stuck to the facts and condemned any efforts to politicize the tragedy for personal and/or professional gain.

My thoughts and prayers continue to reside with those suffering in Tucson as a result of Saturday’s horrific act.

And to those in media who played dirty and/or nodded your heads in silence because speaking out against unfounded, outrageous links was just too hard, shame on you.

Jedediah Bila is a conservative columnist and commentator living in New York City. For more information on Jedediah, please visit jedediahbila.com.