First the news media tried to tie Jared Loughner to the Tea Party. Even though they were provably wrong, some still insisted on pushing the story, no matter the mental twists it required.
Next, ABC tried to tie James Holmes to the Tea Party and later had to apologize.
Then, this week, some news outlets, with no reliable information, speculated that the Boston bombing was the work of “right wing” anti-tax terrorists. David Axelrod floated the idea on MSNBC with Chuck Todd. Chris Matthews was more explicit, slurring,
So many iconic days — it’s Patriots Day, it’s the Marathon Day, it’s the Kennedy Library always up there. […] [I]t’s filing day for the federal income tax, which does cause some emotions around the country, sometimes in the wrong parts of the brain.
(Note, it was a Congressman William Keating that prompted the speculation.)
However, the award for the worst speculation from a major news outlet has to go to Dina Temple-Raston of NPR, who actually said,
The thinking, as we’ve been reporting, is that this is a domestic or extremist attack. Again, this is not because – this has got to be this because officials can’t get away from this idea of timing.
April is a big month for anti-government, right-wing folks. There’s the Columbine anniversary. There’s Hitler’s birthday. There’s the Oklahoma City bombing. There’s the assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco.
That’s right folks. If you voted for Mitt Romney and don’t like high taxes, not only do you celebrate Adolph Hitler’s birthday, but you’re also big fans of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
People are making a lot of hay on Twitter about David Sirota (link goes to Ace of Spades,) but Sirota is really only engaging in the kind of critical theory gobbledygook that I endured in college (and still endure every time I open Facebook.) In other words, annoying but not dangerous.
The danger in the media trying to speculate on these issues, and always speculating that the culprit is a group that they don’t like, is that it puts the false meme out there that people who don’t like big government, high taxes and burdensome regulations are potential terrorists. And once the meme gets out there, it doesn’t go away. Note that even though Jared Loughner had nothing to do with the Tea Party, and was in fact a fan of both Noam Chomsky and Ayn Rand, Slate still insisted that violent rhetoric from the right was partially responsible for his crime. Also, I recall a few months ago, a caller on Hugh Hewitt’s show insisted repeatedly that a YouTube video was responsible for Benghazi. In other words, long after a bad story has been debunked, people will still believe it.
MSNBC and NPR are aimed toward liberal Democrats, and when your average pudgy, balding man with a ponytail was driving around and heard Dina Temple-Raston say that authorities were looking at domestic anti-tax groups, he no doubt nodded his head. Same with the union guy or the unemployed LGBT Studies major watching Chris Matthews. This kind of disinformation gets into a segment of the culture, and the error isn’t acknowledged in any meaningful way, because it flatters both the people in the media and reinforces prejudices against an out-group.
And now our two terrorists are white Russian immigrants.