Politics & Policy

Deadly Impressions

It's always about the media.

The press prides itself on its sympathy for the underdog, but its reaction to the recent killing of New York Times reporter David E. Rosenbaum shows the limits of its imagination.

Street thugs robbed Rosenbaum of his wallet outside his home in Washington, D.C., last Friday night and bludgeoned him to death. Understandably and properly, tributes to the reporter have poured in from his colleagues and from politicians across Washington. But the following statement from pundit Cokie Roberts takes an unexpected turn that illustrates the media’s blind spot. “You hear so many scandals out of Washington,” said Roberts on National Public Radio, “that you forget the good parts, people who are here working every day to serve the public . . . “

At that point, my ear was expecting a tribute to the police, to the officers who put themselves in harm’s way every day to try to protect the public against the type of scum who killed Rosenbaum. But Cokie Roberts’s thinking didn’t travel in that direction. For again understandable reasons, her focus remained on Rosenbaum–but also on the press itself! The “good parts” she had in mind were the people “who explain the people who are serving the public, and David absolutely did that.”

When a liberal or someone he knows gets mugged not by reality but by an actual mugger, one always wonders whether any light will dawn about the uncomplicated evil of criminals and the costs of the liberal war on the police. After all, Rosenbaum’s tragic fate was suffered by nearly 200 other victims last year in Washington, D.C., most of them inner-city residents killed by other inner-city residents. Few of those homicides triggered much coverage or public condolences such as the one issued by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press stating that it was “shocked and saddened” by Rosenbaum’s death. Such commiseration is appropriate. But it must be observed that despite the media’s furious campaign against classism and racism, reporters and other members of the liberal elite demonstrate a hierarchy of concern towards people who look most like themselves.

The next time a police department finds itself facing incipient controversy over a shooting of a criminal or its allegedly biased stop rates, the media might remember David Rosenbaum’s untimely death and ponder whether the public interest really lies in whipping up hatred against the police, if for no other reason than the fact that ghetto criminals don’t always respect their place in life.

Heather Mac Donald is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

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