The Race to Be Wrong First about Annapolis

A copy of the Capital Gazette is displayed in a newspaper box the day after a gunman killed five people and injured several others at the publication’s offices in Annapolis, Maryland, June 29, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
The shooter’s identity had not even been released when many prominent voices on the left began blaming Trump for the attack.

If you’re at all normal, which is to say not hysterically progressive, your reaction to initial reports of a horrific newsroom shooting in Annapolis, Md., was probably to assume it was the act of a disgruntled ex-employee. That is, after all, the usual back story to workplace massacres. Or your mind might have turned to other common motivators for such acts — psychosis, unrequited male affection. If you’re conversant with local newspapering specifically, you might have considered the special worry that accompanies this job: the danger of one of your readers being enraged by your coverage of a micro-feud involving zoning permits or construction detours or school-board composition or some other niche matter in which passions run inversely proportional to historical importance.

On the #Resist left, though, a faction increasingly prone to put emotions before reason, indeed to mistake the former for the latter, the immediate response was: This is on President Trump. Trump is up to his wrists in blood. Hasn’t Trump been railing at the press this week and for three solid years since he first announced his presidential candidacy? Did he not dub the media the “enemy of the people” on Monday night in South Carolina?

The shooter’s identity had not even been released when many prominent voices on the left began blaming Trump for either directly or indirectly inspiring the attack. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten tweeted, “The demonization of the press leading to a shooting of the Press . . . Just horrible!!!!” Feminist writer Lauren Duca said on the same medium, “The shooting . . . cannot reasonably be separated from the President’s mission to villainize [sic] the press.” Reuters editor Rob Cox wrote, “This is what happens when @RealDonaldTrump calls journalists the enemy of the people. Blood is on your hands, Mr. President.” The Wire mastermind David Simon, a longtime Maryland newspaperman, tweeted at the president, “Blood today in an American newsroom. Aren’t you proud, you vile, fascist son of a bitch,” adding later that “Trump’s direct language was to blame.” Leftist commentators Jessica Valenti and Shaun King expressed similar sentiments. (Trump’s “enemy of the people” crack Monday was such a glancing aside that Chris Cillizza of CNN didn’t even include it in his exhaustive retrospective piece, “The 55 most over-the-top lines from Donald Trump’s South Carolina Speech.” Nor did the New York Times writeup of the rally mention it.)

Within just a few hours these observers found themselves humiliated by facts. Few of them apologized; instead they tried haplessly to argue that Trump still kinda-sorta bore some responsibility for the mindset of the shooter, who by 2012 had been labeled by the then-publisher of the paper attacked as someone inclined to come to the newsroom and “blow us all away.” Such is Trumpism that it has the capability to turn back time and retroactively make people enraged about matters completely unaffiliated with national politics. That Trump is at the bottom of nearly any given horrible event is an unfalsifiable proposition to the Left.

So as news of the shooting broke late Thursday there was, as Jonah Goldberg has dubbed the phenomenon, a race to be the first to be wrong. There was a desperate sprint to break the tape at the fools’ finish line. The air crackled sickly with the sound of ankles being shattered in the group jump to conclusions. None of these great minds troubled themselves to wonder why a Trump-inspired attacker would go after a local paper, not a national one, that has no especial reputation for any political stance or for antagonizing the president in the first place.

Why do so many bright people risk looking silly when they could just wait for some facts to emerge? Waiting is easy, and in the case of interpreting the meaning of breaking news events, waiting is wise. If their suspicions had proven correct, they would have had plenty of time to make their points afterwards. It appears that they just couldn’t help themselves.

I have all due sympathy for people who have actually lost control of their behavior and their thoughts — addicts, the suicidal, schizophrenics. But I couldn’t help thinking that many of these self-misguiding people are probably perfectly functional in every other area of their lives except when it comes to Trump. Trump is the bucket of water on the Left’s circuit board. He is the mind Ebola that has caused mass viral cerebral malfunction, again and again and again. Trump delights in being the cause of error, and yet nearly every week brings another instance of paid-up members of the national thought leadership club going cognitively spastic as if doing his bidding.

Do David Simon, Jessica Valenti, Randi Weingarten, et al. actually think that an otherwise normal, law-abiding citizen would be driven to mass murder by Trump’s half-serious jibes at the press? If so, why did they not also raise the alarm when Hillary Clinton, asked during a debate viewed by millions which enemy she was proudest of making, replied “the Republicans”? Why did they shrug (or cheer) in 2012 when President Obama called upon Americans to “punish our enemies,” meaning, presumably, Republicans? There are a lot more Republicans than journalists in this country. If publicly denouncing a group as “enemies” constitutes incitement to violence, should you not be more disturbed the larger that group is? Most people, after all, don’t normally encounter a journalist every day. There are only a few tens of thousands of them in the entire country. But almost everyone regularly crosses the path of a Republican or one of the 60 million Trump voters. Should I have felt threatened when both Obama and Clinton dubbed me an enemy of their people, the ones who outnumber mine in my county by a factor of nine to one?

I didn’t. As for Donald Trump, he mocked me by name in his book Crippled America (page 143). Fair enough; I’d written a column predicting he’d never run for president. If anyone should feel threatened by his rhetoric, it’s journalists like me whom he has personally heckled, not random small-market newspaper journalists with whom he has never interacted. I don’t feel particularly endangered. I think America takes Trump’s various ventures in trolling in the spirit they are offered — insult comedy, stray voltage, bloviation for the fans to jeer along with from the cheap seats. Is it presidential? Of course not. But it isn’t Hitlerian either. It’s more Vince McMahonian.

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