December 6, 2016

SO THE WASHINGTON POST’S PETULA DVORAK WRITES ON “FAKE NEWS” AND COMMITS . . . FAKE NEWS:

Five years ago, it wasn’t fake news but an equally careless use of words that helped incite an equally terrible burst of violence.

Supporters of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin put out a map with crosshairs targeting the districts of 20 House Democrats and urging folks: “Don’t Retreat, Instead — RELOAD!”

Then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was on that map and criticized it as soon as it was posted online and her office was vandalized.

“We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is that the way she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district,” Giffords told MSNBC at the time. “When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that action.”

On Jan. 8, 2011, the consequences were chilling: Jared Loughner showed up with a gun outside a Tucson supermarket where Giffords was greeting constituents and killed six people and injured 20 more, including Giffords.

Still, as the funerals were being held and Giffords was in intensive care, Palin’s supporters insisted that crosshairs were never a reference to guns.

Words matter.

So do blood libels by established “mainstream” journalists pretending to write about “fake news.” This is a disgrace. Using the term “consequences” suggests that there was an actual connection between the events, that Jared Loughner was inspired to shoot by Palin’s map. As I wrote at the time in the Wall Street Journal:

The critics were a bit short on particulars as to what that meant. Mrs. Palin has used some martial metaphors—”lock and load”—and talked about “targeting” opponents. But as media writer Howard Kurtz noted in The Daily Beast, such metaphors are common in politics. Palin critic Markos Moulitsas, on his Daily Kos blog, had even included Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s district on a list of congressional districts “bullseyed” for primary challenges. When Democrats use language like this—or even harsher language like Mr. Obama’s famous remark, in Philadelphia during the 2008 campaign, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun”—it’s just evidence of high spirits, apparently. But if Republicans do it, it somehow creates a climate of hate.

There’s a climate of hate out there, all right, but it doesn’t derive from the innocuous use of political clichés. And former Gov. Palin and the tea party movement are more the targets than the source. . . .

So as the usual talking heads begin their “have you no decency?” routine aimed at talk radio and Republican politicians, perhaps we should turn the question around. Where is the decency in blood libel?

To paraphrase Justice Cardozo (“proof of negligence in the air, so to speak, will not do”), there is no such thing as responsibility in the air. Those who try to connect Sarah Palin and other political figures with whom they disagree to the shootings in Arizona use attacks on “rhetoric” and a “climate of hate” to obscure their own dishonesty in trying to imply responsibility where none exists. But the dishonesty remains.

To be clear, if you’re using this event to criticize the “rhetoric” of Mrs. Palin or others with whom you disagree, then you’re either: (a) asserting a connection between the “rhetoric” and the shooting, which based on evidence to date would be what we call a vicious lie; or (b) you’re not, in which case you’re just seizing on a tragedy to try to score unrelated political points, which is contemptible. Which is it?

And with her outrageous smear, Ms. Dvorak illustrates why the traditional media no longer have the moral authority, and resulting trust, to police the debate as she’d like them to. They’ve pulled this kind of dishonest stunt too many times. Though with WaPo already facing lawsuits you’d think they’d be a bit more careful.

UPDATE: So this seems to be some sort of organized media campaign: Earnest Forced To Cite First Amendment FOUR TIMES, As Press Corps Insists White House Censor News.

And journalists wonder why they’re not trusted or respected anymore . . . .