This from the NY Times: “The parents of the first three victims of Elliot O. Rodger’s murderous rampage [re: the Santa Barbara killings on May 23, 2014] said they were frustrated by the authorities handling of the case. . . . It was not clear how the slight Mr. Rodger, 22, was able to over-power the three, who were stabbed to death [all young men, not women]. In a joint interview, the parents told The Washington Post that they had visited the crime scene and had seen no blood on the walls or ceiling. The police had removed a 6-by-5 foot piece of carpeting in one bedroom, and a swath of vinyl flooring around the toilet had been cut out. They said the limited amount of material removed from the apartment suggested the killings had been confined to a small space. They criticized the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s department for not telling them how it believed the killings had been carried out, and said they were angered by public health and legal systems that they said valued the rights of the mentally ill, including Mr. Rodger, over those who may become their victims.” New York Times, “Inquiry Vexes Parents of 3 Slain in Spree.”
The Article appeared on page 15 of the Sunday, June 22, 2014 edition of the N.Y. Times. What’s immediately evident, given a description of the knifing attack that killed three men, is that a knife is as useful a killing implement as a gun in the hands of a person who’s set on doing violence to another – in this case, to three others, all other men. That point, although evident to any sensible person, isn’t evident to the N.Y. Times. The paper demonstrates incredulity that “the slight Mr. Rodger, 22, was able to over-power the three, who were stabbed to death.”
So, we are to assume the New York Times would not have any reason to doubt Mr. Rodger’s ability to snuff the life out of the three young men had he done the proper thing and used a gun on them as he had on the young women whom next he killed. That would have made good copy for the paper and would certainly be consistent with the fanciful world the paper has created for its readers: (1) guns alone are the main vehicle of and hallmark of violence in America; (2) it is easy to kill with a gun, but not so easy to kill with any other object; (3) if a person is going on a killing rampage, it is best that he do so using a gun, for otherwise, how can the public be duped into going along with a complete gun ban if any other object can be utilized to kill another just as easily; and (4) killers have a decided preference for guns. Unfortunately, for the NY Times and the antigun zealots, Elliot Rodger didn’t go along with the game plan. Apparently, he wasn’t aware of the four axioms of antigun logic. Perhaps Rodger didn’t want to show he was prejudiced in his choice of killing implements. Be that as it may, the three young men Rodger killed with a knife, in lieu of a gun, are just as dead. No doubt the New York Times would’ve loved to interview both Rodger and his male victims to get a handle on just how the slight Elliot O. Rodger was able to kill three men in close quarters, with but a knife.
The last sentence of the N.Y. Times Article makes an important point although you might miss it at first glance: “Sheriff Bill Brown [of the Santa Barbara County sheriff’s department] has said the three men were stabbed repeatedly with sharp objects and [he] called the crime scene ‘pretty horrific.’” Did you catch it? Probably not; and that’s understandable – because what you missed wasn’t there to be found. It was a point that the New York Times never fails to make when reporting on horrific gun violence. But, nonetheless, the newspaper did fail to make the point here. For, curiously absent from that last sentence of the NY Times Article and – indeed – what is curiously and notably absent from the entirety of that June 22nd New York Times news article, is any remonstration against the horrors of knives and the need to get knives out of the hands of civilians.
Obviously, the New York Times didn’t choose to dwell on the lethality of knives. The New York Times didn’t, in fact, choose to make anything of it. The New York Times wished decidedly and decisively, to avoid any discussion about it. The New York Times isn’t interested in curbing ownership and possession of knives. The New York Times is interested in curbing ownership and possession of guns.
The N.Y. Times, like any other mainstream newspaper, often distorts facts when writing about horrendous events – namely and particularly, when writing about horrific events involving the misuse of firearms. But, this June 22nd Times article also shows that a mainstream newspaper can, when it so chooses, refrain from distorting facts. You can see, from a perusal of the June 22nd article, that the newspaper happened not to interject opinions – if indeed the newspaper had any – about knives and the use of knives to commit violent acts, apart from the Times singularly odd statement pertaining to its incredulity about a slight man killing three other men with a knife. Mainstream newspapers and their outlets – as a rule, though – aren’t interested in stating facts and permitting the public to draw its own conclusions from unbiased, unfiltered reporting of the facts. These newspapers all too often feel a need to shape public opinion and to direct it or redirect it to a desired end – at odds with the public’s own best interests. So, what are we getting at here? Just this:
The New York Times, like other mainstream newspapers has an agenda. And, that agenda isn’t one focused on knives and the misuse of knives — at least at this point in time. It’s an agenda that’s focused squarely on guns and their use and misuse — indeed, on the mere fact of the gun’s existence. So, when a horrific act occurs through misuse of an implement other than the misuse of a gun, the horrific act of violence only serves to deflect criticism away from the single-minded pursuit of the antigun crowd and of its allies in the U.S. Congress and in the State Legislatures and in the mainstream media who wish first and foremost to ban guns — all guns — from the hands of the civilian citizenry. Moreover, when a horrific act occurs through use of an implement other than a gun, the public becomes aware that the entire issue of violence in society isn’t, rationally, one that is properly centered around guns — which are but inanimate objects devoid of sentience — but, rather, the issue of violence in society is one that, rationally and properly, is centered on the perpetrators of the violence, namely, the individuals who perpetrate the violence: criminal psychopaths and psychotics. Thus, the answer to violence in society must perforce begin and end by dealing with the root cause of that violence, namely, the individual perpetrator of it, and not with the object or objects the perpetrator happens to use to effectuate that violence, be that object a gun, knife, club or any other object.
So, suppose Elliot O. Rodger hadn’t used a knife in any of the attacks. Imagine if you will that Elliot O. Rodger had killed all his victims with a gun. Do you honestly think the N.Y. Times Article would have plainly and succinctly set forth the anguish of the parents of the three men Elliot Rodger had murdered, without also addressing the matter of the implement used in the horrific attack and the need to regulate the ownership and possession of that destructive implement by civilians? Do you honestly think the N.Y. Times would so easily dismiss the use of a gun by Rodger – that the paper would be content merely to set forth the fact of the murders, perhaps referring to use of a gun in the murders and leave the matter at that, without drawing upon antigun sentiment and interjecting comments about the evils of guns? Of course not. The N.Y. Times would talk about the evils of guns in order to foment public outrage toward guns, rather than toward the perpetrator of the violent act or acts, as if to suggest that the existence of evil were a property of the object — the gun — rather than of the individual who committed the horrific act. And, that’s absolutely absurd. But, the N.Y Times is less interested on focusing attention on the individual who commits the horrific act and more interested on focusing attention on the object the perpetrator uses to commit the horrific act when the object is a gun. At that point the newspaper at once digresses from reporting the facts pertaining to the horrific act, and propagandizes about the supposed evils attendant to guns. And that misuse of reporting bespeaks an agenda and a wish that, if a horrific act occurs, it’s best the object utilized be a gun, rather than any other object. For then the horrific act becomes a useful statistic — one that might be used by antigun groups to support a call for a ban on gun ownership and possession. If, however, an object other than a gun — such as a knife — is used by a perpetrator of a horrific act, the use of such a non-gun object to commit a horrific act only dilutes the argument against guns as sources of evil. For such act of violence tends to divert one’s attention away from guns. And, in fact, such act of violence tends to divert one’s attention away from any implement used in the commission of a violent act — whether the object is a gun, knife, club or any other inanimate object and compels — truly forces — one to look deep and hard at the individual perpetrator of violence — at the perpetrator’s incongruous rationalizations for committing a horrific act of violence, which is where one’s attention ought to be focused and should have been focused all along. That focus should not be directed on the implement of violence. For to place such focus and emphasis on an implement — such as a gun — rather than on the individual serves to minimize, to diminish, the individual’s personal and sole responsibility and accountability for his actions. The individual who commits the horrific act with a gun becomes, then, not the central participant, but, rather, the abettor of the criminal act. And the object used to commit the crime — the object used to perpetrate the horrific act — the gun — becomes, itself, the salient and principal participant in the criminal act. It is as if the N.Y. Times and other similar mainstream newspapers wish, then, “to jail” the miscreant gun, arguing that we, the American public, should agree to do just that and that we, the American public, may be able to do just that — through the device of a total ban on civilian ownership and possession of guns. Such, of course, is not an action the N.Y. Times and other similar mainstream newspapers would wish to see realized — at least at this moment in time — for knives.
So it is that, in the June 22nd N.Y. Times article, we see that the focus of the article was not on the evil of knives, as objects used in the commission of violent acts. The focus was on the perpetrator of the horrific act, Elliot O. Rodger. And the focus was on the Santa Barbara County sheriff’s department that had the responsibility to investigate the triple murder of the three young men. And the focus was on the parents of the three young men who Rodger murdered. And the focus of the N.Y. Times article was on the parents’ legitimate concern over the thoroughness of the investigation and on the failure of the legal and mental health systems that had failed to properly deal with an obviously very ill individual, Elliot O. Rodger. What the focus of the N.Y. Times article was not on were knives; nor should the focus of the N.Y. Times article have been on knives — inanimate, non-sentient objects.
The June 22nd article simply stuck to the facts. And, that’s all the N.Y. Times did in the June 22nd article – simply report the use of a knife by Rodger, to murder three men and to assert the anguish of the families who lost their loved ones. The N.Y. Times did not go into a tirade over the evil of knives. The N.Y. Times did not use the incident to call for regulations on knife possession and ownership. But, if Rodger had killed the young men with a gun, as he had the young women, then, most certainly, the N.Y. Times would’ve written a polemic on the evil of guns and would’ve argued long and hard, in that article, how those young men would most certainly not have died but for the presence of guns in American society. And, while such polemic might be posited in the op-ed section of the newspaper, the N.Y. Times would, invariably, place its opinions in the news section of the paper, wrongly suggesting to its readership that its views about guns aren’t mere opinions at all — but are hard, cold facts. We know the N.Y. Times myriad opinions about guns are invariably wrong. But, to proclaim opinions — false beliefs — to be hard, cold facts is ethically wrong and duplicitous — deceptive in the extreme.
The New York Times, as with all mainstream newspapers, no longer leaves opinions to the op-ed section of their respective papers, but constantly interjects opinions in the news sections of the papers. So, gun related murders require some discussion of the need to regulate guns. Gun related murders require some discussion of the so-called “gun lobby” and of gun manufacturers and of the need for so-called “common-sense gun laws.” But, you’d have to search long and hard – and it’s unlikely you’d meet with success – to find mainstream news media stories calling for “common-sense knife laws” or “knife laws we can live with” or the need to curb the “knife lobby” or the need to place restraints on knife manufacturers, whenever a lunatic or psychopathic gang member or your “run of the mill” homicidal killer murders an innocent person with a knife. Clearly, mainstream newspapers like the N.Y. Times aren’t interested in curbing knife ownership and possession. Those newspapers are interested in curbing gun ownership and possession. And, by expressing their personal wishes as to what ought to be done about gun ownership and possession in the news sections of their respective papers, they wrongly associate personal beliefs and wishes with facts. That journalistic practice must end!
Mainstream news organizations demonstrate callousness – or – perhaps it’s more appropriate to say, schizophrenia – when it comes to reporting stories involving violence. If the violent act involves anything other than the use of guns, the news story is confined to a discussion of the perpetrator and his victims and the events surrounding the violent act. However, if the violent act involves the use of a firearm, then, a distinct matter – one altogether unrelated to the people involved and time, place and circumstances of the crime – is added to the mix. It is one that invokes morality, philosophy, psychology and the politics of gun ownership and possession. The newspaper’s purpose and focus changes: from one limited to reporting the news to one attempting to make news – by shaping public opinion and driving public action. And, there is a phrase used to describe such newspapers that aim to provoke the public. It’s called “yellow journalism.”
Yellow journalism was much in vogue in the 19th Century. A relic of time, it has been used in the 20th Century, and it has become a veritable art form in the 21st. And it is indeed used with masterful success by mainstream newspapers, including the N.Y. Times. In stooping to politicking and provocation the newspaper discredits itself and discredits, as well, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. For, the paper misuses the very power the Founders gave to it – that is to say – the very power the Founders gave to the Press: the unfettered, fundamental right to inform the Public.
The founders perceived the Press as critical to the wellbeing of our Republic. The Press wasn’t to be relegated to the status of tool of those with a secret agenda – one embracing the very destruction of that Republic. But, to function as a tool of others who have a secret agenda, the N.Y. Times appears, most unfortunately, to be perfectly content.Copyright © 2014 Roger J Katz (Towne Criour) and Stephen L. D’Andrilli (Publius) All Rights Reserved.