A war is raging for control of the narrative between left and right leaning media outlets after a shooter opened fire Wednesday on the Republican congressional baseball team.
The barrel of attacker John Hodgkinson’s rifle was barely given the chance to cool before some in the media were hastily blaming a lack of gun control for the attack. The Atlantic’s senior editor, David Frum, was quick to finger Virginia’s lack of “background checks” and concealed carry permits for “long guns.”
Many living in Virginia know Frum’s quibbles are misleading, as background checks are required if buying a firearm from a licensed dealer, and it’d be awfully difficult to conceal carry a rifle that consists of a stock and barrel.
U.S. News used the opportunity to publish a piece lamenting a lack of gun control legislation passed in the wake of former congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ shooting in 2011. The author, Joseph P. Williams, writes “perhaps the biggest indicator” that this attack will not spur new legislation on gun control is because Scalise’s armed security detail — in successfully stopping the shooter — “became indisputable evidence” for the NRA’s main argument against limiting access to guns.
The The New York Times editorial board’s piece smartly pointed out that Hodgkinson’s “derangement” found it’s “fuel in politics” but ventured far astray from the claim later in the piece.
The NYTimes later analogized the ballpark shooting to the Giffords’ shooting, falsely declaring her shooter was politically motivated by a map Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated, depicting crosshairs as markers for districts the GOP sought to win. It has long been established that Gifford’s shooter was mentally disturbed and not motivated by politics. The following outcry forced the Times to issue a retraction.
The Times concluded by declaring it is “indisputable” that Hodgkinson’s attack is “evidence” of how “readily available” firearms are in the U.S. MSNBC followed suit with contributor Malcolm Nance saying that “[the shooting] is to be expected” when you have an “over-proliferation” of guns.
Hodgkinson’s political motives were treated as a footnote to his mental state of mind and the glaring lack of appropriate gun control. Conversely, conservative outlets were not immune from creating a narrative of their own, laying the entirety of the blame on Democrats and their rhetoric.
Jesse Watters of Fox News’ program “The Five” questioned what responsibility the liberal “producers” of “fake news… hoaxes” and “slanderous rhetoric” should bear. He oddly prefaced the statement by saying that Hodgekinson “bears full responsibility,” then proceeded to contradict himself.
Conservative radio host, Rush Limbaugh, was more explicit, calling the shooter “a mainstream Democrat voter.” He ruled out mental illness as a contributing factor, saying that the shooter is not a “loony tune kook burger.” Another radio host, Michael Savage tweeted that he “warned” Americans that Democratic rhetoric would lead to “violence.” These claims would make sense if rhetoric alone could aim and pull the trigger of a rifle.
Right-wing website Infowars circulated videos of Loretta Lynch and Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine seemingly calling for revolt with a headline claiming both “Called For Blood & Death In Streets.” The videos circulated in conservative social media as proof liberal rhetoric was the impetus for a mad man to target Republican politicians. Upon inspection of the videos and their full context, The Daily Caller News Foundation’s fact check team rated Infowars claims about the videos false.
Until the investigation into Hodgkinson is concluded, speculation on auxiliary factors contributing to the shooting is premature, yet the battle for control of the narrative in the media wages on.
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