The Media Finally Gets The Mass Shooter It Always Wanted

J. Arthur Bloom Deputy Editor
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The problem with mass murderers is it’s so hard to make them fit a narrative.

Remember the corrections from people like The Nation’s Eric Alterman and HuffPo’s Elise Foley after a DHS report tying Jared Loughner to a white advocacy website turned out to be just “brainstorming”?

Then when even the Anti-Defamation League had trouble claiming Loughner was an anti-Semite, we blamed Sarah Palin, because what kind of adult wouldn’t fly into a homicidal rage at the sight of bullseyes on a map?

Then when even that strained credulity, the culprit became “anti-government, pro-gun, xenophobic populism.” You know, the stuff all those hayseeds in flyover country believe. Nevermind that one of his childhood friends claimed that Loughner’s politics were left-wing, he smoked pot, and at one time listened to the radical anti-capitalist band Anti-Flag.

This is not an isolated incident. Remember when ABC reported falsely that James Holmes was a tea party member? Or Robert Wright ignoring Joseph Stack’s admiration for communism so he could claim in The New York Times that he was the first “Tea Party Terrorist.”

It’s almost as if they were hoping for something.

Not only does the media systematically inflate any connection between violent people and right-wing politics, it also downplays things like Elliot Rodger being a “fairness”-obsessed fan of “The Young Turks” or Christopher Dorner’s admiration for MSNBC stars. For example, as CNN’s Peter Bergen and David Sterman informed us in a whopper of a parenthetical back in April, there is no such thing as a left-wing terrorist:

Although a variety of left-wing militants and environmental extremists have carried out violent attacks for political reasons against property and individuals since 9/11, none have been linked to a lethal attack, according to research by the New America Foundation.

This is in a piece claiming right-wing domestic terrorism is more dangerous than Islamic Jihad, which makes sense if you’re the sort of person who can believe the Fort Hood shooting was an act of workplace violence.

Yet bless his little hirsute heart, Greg Mitchell at The Nation just can’t seem to figure out why the television won’t call them terrorists just yet. Given all the above, I’m wondering the same thing, but I’m guessing it’s roughly for the same reason the papers call the recently-released Volkert van der Graaf — who assassinated a Dutch politician for his anti-immigration views —  an “animal rights activist.”

For Sunday morning’s shooting in Las Vegas, in which Jerad and Amanda Miller allegedly shot two police officers and a bystander before the latter took both of their lives, no such dissembling is required. We appear to have on our hands a pair of bona fide right-wing terrorists — cosplaying Cliven Bundy supportersMickey and Mallory with a head full of meth and Alex Jones. Amanda Miller even claimed on her Facebook that she worked for Hobby Lobby. They’re just perfect:

The shooters then stripped the officers of their weapons and ammunition and badges, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. They then covered the officers with something that featured the Gadsden flag, a yellow banner with a coiled snake above the words, “Don’t tread on Me.”

The flag is named for Christopher Gadsden, a Revolutionary War general who designed it. It has recently come back in vogue as an adopted symbol of the American tea party movement…

The rest of the media seems to have decided the pair were white supremacists, which is fair enough given the alleged swastika stamp on the still-unreleased manifesto they left on one of the bodies. JM Berger doubts that label fits, and that they were “starting to look like Patriot Movement to me.”

The evidence from Jerad Miller’s Facebook rants and bizarre YouTube videos seems to bear that out. He “liked” the III Percenter Facebook page — so named after the alleged percentage of colonial Americans who took up arms against the British — and wrote on his wall that, “We can hope for peace. We must, however, prepare for war.”

Violence aside, The New York Times finds the Millers’ lack of faith disturbing, putting the pair’s “embrace” of “anti-government ideology” right there in the headline. And I’ll bet you can guess who they gave the last word of their story to:

“That these people would target police officers is not surprising given that they had associations with the anti-government movement,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project.

Of course, this is what the South Poverty Law Center would say — insinuating that behind every Republican voter is a cop killer must be great for fundraising. But what sticks out from the pair’s Facebook pages is what appears to be a peculiar obsession with the notion of suicide-by-cop — fame and martyrdom — not ideological warfare in the style of a European partisan during World War II.

AlterNet sums up the message we’re supposed to get from all of this:

“Jared” and “Amanda” placed the Gadsden flag, what is now a Tea Party icon, on the body of one of their victims; the shooters yelled “this is a revolution!” while committing murder, a seditious slogan that echoes within the Right-wing echo chamber; Nazi paraphernalia was found in their home; and the Las Vegas shooters sought out a natural alliance with Cliven Bundy and his thugs.

Let’s humor our thought-shaping betters and leave aside for the moment that someone waving around a gun yelling “this is a revolution” is the very definition of a leftist. We’re talking rednecks with guns here, which is prima facie evidence, at least to a coastal reporter, that the person in question is aligned with the right.

Yet it’s that Gadsden flag detail that really clinches it, isn’t it? Here’s more:

David Mobilio of the Red Bluff Police Department was working the graveyard shift when he pulled his cruiser into a gas station in his quiet little farm town. As he stood beside the car, the 31-year-old husband and father of a toddler was shot three times, twice in the back and once in the head, at very close range.

Beside Mobilio’s dead body, someone left a handmade flag with a picture of a snake’s head and the words “Don’t Tread on Us.”

Oh, I’m sorry. My mistake, the above is actually from a murder committed in 2002. Reading further, this guy doesn’t seem like a right-winger:

[Andrew] Mickel explained that “prior to my action in Red Bluff, I formed a corporation under the name ‘Proud and Insolent Youth Incorporated,’ so that I could use the destructive immunity of corporations and turn it on something that actually should be destroyed.” The name is a reference to the novel “Peter Pan.” “Just before their final duel and Capt. Hook’s demise, Hook said to Peter, ‘Proud and Insolent Youth, prepare to meet thy doom,'” Mickel wrote.

A cheeky “direct action” to subvert the notion of corporate personhood? A Peter Pan reference? What on Earth is going on here? This guy doesn’t seem like a patriot-movement-sovereign-citizen-oathkeeper-militiaman. In fact, it’s almost as if this person should be counted in Messrs. Bergen and Sterman’s list! But then it wouldn’t provide the sweet, sweet absolution that a big fat zero for left-wing violence does.

Something tells me it’s going to be people like the Millers, rather than the Mickels, that the Department of Justice’s newly revamped Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee is going to be focusing on. Attorney General Eric Holder is quite concerned about “anti-government animus.”