The Corner

Politics & Policy

Coverage of the Florida Tragedy is Driven by Anger, Not by Race

Former John McCain advisors Mark Salter (left), Nicolle Wallace (center) and Brooke Buchanan listen as U.S. Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) makes a statement to reporters in West Des Moines, Iowa, September 29,2008. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

I’ve largely stayed out of the latest frenzy of commentary about the shooting in Florida, because as I’ve written many times before, I hate the post tragedy argle-bargle (how much I hate it is on full display in today’s G-File). Everything has been said before – itself an indicator of how depressingly common these horror shows have become – but it appears the media must make sure that everybody says it again, only louder.

Still, I found Nicolle Wallace’s statement today to be particularly galling, which is saying something given the riot of galling commentary out there. Newsbusters has the full write-up but the gist is this mass murder is getting so much attention because the victims were white. “We’re talking about this because, let’s be honest, 17 white kids were [killed].”

First of all, I have a hard time believing that MSNBC wouldn’t have saturation coverage of the mass-murder of 17 black kids. If Wallace’s indictment of the media reaction is to be taken seriously, it has to include not only her show, but her networks (both NBC and MSNBC). Does she really mean to say such a thing? If the charge of institutional racism has merit, then this is a classic example of self-owning.

Second, I find this argument hard to square with another prominent line of media criticism. Fox News and other conservative outlets have been harshly criticized for hyping the death toll of African Americans from gun crimes in Chicago in recent years. I’ve thought some of that criticism had merit, and still do. But if we’re to take this argument at face value, then Fox should be praised for shining a light on an issue that other networks – presumably because of their institutional racism – were comparatively uninterested in.

This horror show is bad enough. There’s no need to leach the attendant passion and pathos in order to advance other grievances not in play. I wish these events got less wall-to-wall coverage because I think it encourages copycats. But I think the coverage is understandable. People are rightly interested in, and horrified by, the wanton murder of children, full stop. Race has nothing to do with it.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now. @jonahnro

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