Journalists, at least the good ones, have a certain impression of themselves. It is informed by one hundred Hollywood movies in which the enterprising writer, with his shirt slightly untucked and his tie askew, risks it all to get the scoop. Within the limited world of Journalism Drama, there is no direct analog to the detective who must be suspended without pay before he can make a breakthrough on his case, but that doesn’t stop the impression of the virtuous cyber-newspaperman from flowering.
Nevertheless, like the Secret Service agents whose well co-ordinated plans go straight out of the window the moment that a shot is fired, it is fair to say that when the issue has anything to do with gun control the press loses all sense of perspective and discipline. Today was a perfect example. It was just too damn tempting to link the unconfirmed shooting to the other major story of the day, the fight over the continuing resolution — and, eventually, to the debt ceiling. And that is exactly what happened. Nobody could wait for the facts. Someone had tried to “ram” the White House; then somebody had opened fire on cops; then maybe not, but this must have something to do with the debate, right? No circumspection, no calm reporting of what was known, just unalloyed fear and collective panic.
The New York Times apaprently thought that the incident, which turns out not to have been a “shooting” at all, was a reaction to the political impasse – willing, perhaps, as the new Wilsonians do, for the American system to break down into the violence that presidential democracies in all other countries sadly have:
Fiscal Crisis: Reports of Shooter Outside Capitol http://t.co/rKed1iE8mg
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 3, 2013
Meanwhile, as John Ekdahl has documented on Twitter, the usual suspects lined up to blame the NRA.
Honestly, is there any time during which the media is so happy to report unconfirmed nonsense as in the midst of an active shooting? I suspect not.