The Contemporary Mob

We don’t ask much from our journalists these days, but even by contemporary low standards, ABC’s Brian Ross should have been suspended for his misidentification of a James Holmes (one of many in the Aurora area) as a possible mass murderer suspect on the basis of no other evidence than a similar name and apparently a tea-party identification. It’s as if the journalistic ethos prompts one to hear the name of a shooting suspect, then google it with “tea party” to find a match, and, presto, to go on the air to sort of, kind of float the possibility that some deranged conservative activist was the killer — all in a climate where there is very bad history of trying instantaneously to politically massage the horror and tragedy of rampage killings. Ross’s unprofessionalism in turning our attention to the wrong James Holmes at a time of national crisis reminds us of the similar mob-like pursuit of Shakespeare’s Cinna the Poet, who in Julius Caesar likewise shared an unfortunate name:

First Citizen

Tear him to pieces; he’s a conspirator.

CINNA THE POET

I am Cinna the poet, I am Cinna the poet.

Fourth Citizen

Tear him for his bad verses, tear him for his bad verses.

CINNA THE POET

I am not Cinna the conspirator.

Fourth Citizen

It is no matter, his name’s Cinna; pluck but his

name out of his heart, and turn him going.

Victor Davis Hanson — Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won. © 2018 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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