August 15, 2013

MARK HEMINGWAY: The Media’s Double Standard: Some hate crimes are less hateful than others.

The Family Research Council shooting is one of the few inarguable examples of politically motivated violence in recent years, yet looking back a year later, the incident has garnered comparatively little attention. Corkins openly admits he selected the Family Research Council because the Christian organization is one of the leading opponents of gay marriage in the country. He had Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack because the CEO of the fast-food chain was under fire for publicly supporting a biblical definition of marriage. Corkins said he planned to “smother Chick-fil-A sandwiches in [the] faces” of his victims as a political statement. And in case that didn’t make his motivations transparent, right before Corkins shot Leo Johnson, he told him, “I don’t like your politics.”

There are some illuminating contrasts between the media’s handling of the political dimensions of the Family Research Council shooting and the shooting of Representative Giffords. In the latter case, the media rushed to assume political motivations and were quick to blame, of all people, Sarah Palin. The former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate had put out a map with crosshairs over Giffords’s congressional district as part of a list of Democratic-held seats “targeted” for defeat. But Giffords’s shooter, Jared Loughner, appears to have serious mental problems. And there is no evidence whatsoever Loughner saw this map or that allegedly violent political rhetoric—even “campaign” is a term borrowed from war—was in any way a cause of the Giffords shooting. That didn’t stop serious news organizations from lending institutional credibility to the irresponsible allegations. The Washington Post ran a story headlined “Palin caught in crosshairs map controversy after Tucson shootings.” And though Giffords was shot in January 2011, as recently as this year in an article on gun violence the New York Times saw fit to remind readers that “many criticized Sarah Palin, the former vice-presidential nominee, for using cross hairs on her Web site to identify Democrats like Ms. Giffords.”

By contrast, the media handled awkwardly the revelation that Corkins admitted to plotting mass murder as a means of furthering a popular liberal cause. . . . The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was once a laudable civil rights organization that sued racists and violent extremists. Now it regularly demonizes anyone who runs afoul of its knee-jerk liberal politics, and despite this it is still regularly cited by the media as a “nonpartisan” watchdog. Some of the SPLC’s newly targeted “hate groups,” such as pickup artists, are merely kooky or distasteful. Others singled out by the SPLC, including Catholics who go to Latin mass or Christian organizations similar to the Family Research Council, are well within the mainstream. Tellingly, the SPLC doesn’t just name the Family Research Council on its website—it posts the council’s address on a “hate map.” That map is still on SPLC’s website, and the organization refused calls to take it down after the Family Research Council shooting.

Why should they? It’s doing what they want, and it’s not costing them anything.

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