Yesterday’s horrific and senseless shooting of more than a dozen people in Tucson, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, provided a look into the biases of much of the American media — and it was not just an ugly sight, but a shamefully hypocritical peek as well, as Byron York points out. In the last public mass-murder shooting fourteen months ago at Fort Hood, the media spent the first few hours scolding anyone who suggested that it might be an act of terror or that Major Nidal Hasan’s religious beliefs might be relevant before every last fact was exposed:
“The important thing is for everyone not to jump to conclusions,” said retired Gen. Wesley Clark on CNN the night of the shootings.
“We cannot jump to conclusions,” said CNN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell that same evening. “We have to make sure that we do not jump to any conclusions whatsoever.”
“I’m on Pentagon chat room,” said former CIA operative Robert Baer on CNN, also the night of the shooting. “Right now, there’s messages going back and forth, saying do not jump to the conclusion this had anything to do with Islam.”
The next day, President Obama underscored the rapidly-forming conventional wisdom when he told the country, “I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts.” In the days that followed, CNN jouralists and guests repeatedly echoed the president’s remarks.
“We can’t jump to conclusions,” Army Gen. George Casey said on CNN November 8. The next day, political analyst Mark Halperin urged a “transparent” investigation into the shootings “so the American people don’t jump to conclusions.” And when Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, then the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, suggested that the Ft. Hood attack was terrorism, CNN’s John Roberts was quick to intervene. “Now, President Obama has asked people to be very cautious here and to not jump to conclusions,” Roberts said to Hoekstra. “By saying that you believe this is an act of terror, are you jumping to a conclusion?”
That, in fact, was good advice at the time. In most of these cases, the shooter turns out to be so mentally ill that no particular rational motivation can be determined. In the rare case where one can be found, rushing to that conclusion doesn’t make it any more or less true. There is almost no upside in rushing to speculate in absence of any evidence or with uncertain anecdotal evidence except for potential bragging rights in case one manages to luck into the truth — or in scoring cheap attacks on political opponents through smearing them with blame.
But in this instance, as York notes, the same people who insisted in November 2009 that people should not rush to judgment about the potential connection of radical Islam to the Fort Hood shooting practically broke legs trying to tie an apparent paranoid schizophrenic who hailed Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto to Sarah Palin: