DANIEL VAUGHAN: The media’s ‘otherization’ of the right

August 10, 2019

A common argument is that America’s political parties are at their weakest, and other entities are stepping in to enforce party lines. Think tanks, activists, and political pundits are the new creators of party orthodoxy. And media outlets go through the process of vetting party ideas and candidates. This is why Democrats are falling over themselves to get on networks like CNN and MSNBC — these outlets function as defacto vetting arms of the Democratic Party primary process.

I think this view is mostly accurate. And so it matters what party lines media outlets are enforcing. Sometimes media outlets are merely pushing whatever their audiences demand, but other times journalists take stances to set the moral agenda for their “side.”

That brings us to the media coverage of the most recent mass shooting tragedies. There were two shootings last weekend. In El Paso, Texas, an anti-immigrant domestic terrorist murdered innocent shoppers in the belief he was advancing his political cause. It’s the sort of ideology and action that deserves versions of the death penalty we now deem unconstitutional.

The media has amply covered this point. But as I said, there were two shootings.

The Dayton, Ohio shooting was committed by an avowed leftist who was an armed counter-protester at rallies and frequently posted violent messages and memes against anyone on the right. An editorial in the New York Post went so far as to call the Dayton attack the first mass shooting by an Antifa member. I wouldn’t go that far, primarily because his specific motive for shooting up the Oregon District isn’t yet clear, and he appears to have been a deeply disturbed person.

That said — I know this going to this level of nuance in separating the motives of two different shooters is something the media only does for the left. Had this person happened to be a Trump voter, yet committed criminal acts with no clear political motivation, the press would still tie it to Trump.

I know this for a fact because the media has mostly memory-holed the Congressional baseball game shooting where a Bernie Sanders supporter tried to kill Republican politicians. That violence is quickly forgotten because it doesn’t support the narrative that hatred only exists on the right. When that shooting happened, the Washington Post ran a bizarre story implying that the shooter wasn’t motivated by left-wing politics, but rather by right-wing talk radio hosts — that the shooter never listened to — and all the hate was from the right.

The media only quietly covered an attack on an ICE detention facility by a socialist who had a manifesto, just like the El Paso shooter. The socialist’s manifesto echoed the “concentration camps” rhetoric of Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.

If the rhetoric of politicians matters — only one side is getting attention.

None of this bias is new, of course. A few years back, the New York Times ran an editorial blaming right-wing hate in Dallas, Texas for the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Democrats at the time of the murder repeated that same mantra. Never mind that the assassin was a committed communist, who actively wanted to join the Soviets and hated Kennedy’s anti-communism. It’s not the killer. It’s the culture of hate created by the right that allows these killers to exist — according to the media.

When hatred arrives, and killings occur, the media vets the left and continually finds it free of sin. They can’t have moral wrong-doers on their side, you see, they’re the good guys of the official narrative, always pushing for progress.

That brings me back to the current moment. There were two shootings, only one of which is being condemned. The El Paso mass shooting has everything they need for their narrative — the Dayton massacre does not. And as they try to vet Democratic candidates for the left, the media isn’t making any of these candidates answer for their own rhetoric or that of anyone else in the party. No one is asking them if AOC is turning up the heated rhetoric so much that it’s inciting violence.

No one is asking if Democratic politicians are responsible for encouraging Antifa violence. When a Democrat doxxes private citizens who donated to Trump, some of them just retirees, the media brushes it off as “publicly-available information” — no biggie. If Donald Trump started posting the personal information of AOC’s supporters, the press would immediately pivot to condemn Trump for targeting private individuals.

Heads they win, tails you lose.

A common theme the media enjoys employing is to say that Trump is “otherizing” non-white people. That is, treating people who aren’t part of “the group” differently, to encourage ostracization and worse.

What we’re learning from these mass shootings is that the media increasingly does not care if a left-wing nutjob kills people. They only care if that person leans right and did so for political reasons — and if that person did not express a political motivation, the media would still find it. In this way, they’re doing the thing they accuse Trump of doing. They’re treading dangerously close to the proposition that every single Trump voter should be “otherized” and dehumanized.

And in a culture where the media cheers on restaurants for mistreating Trump officials, they’re the ones turning up the rhetoric. And in a world where we know mass shootings are contagious, the media isn’t trying to stop them — they’re pouring on the accelerant.

That’s a dangerous position for the new vetting arms of the party system. It’s dangerous because there’s no reason for the media to stop, and they’re driving the country further apart by themselves. Trump will eventually leave office — but we’re stuck with the media. And the media is starting to agree with Trump — they are an enemy of the people. I hope things cool down instead, but I’m not optimistic.

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Daniel Vaughan

Daniel Vaughan is a columnist for the Conservative Institute and lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Regent University School of Law. His work can be found on the Conservative Institute's website, or you can receive his columns and free weekly newsletter at The Beltway Outsiders. Connect with him on Twitter at @dvaughanCI.