Just the Facts: The shooting at Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, which killed 5 journalists, has been highlighted as a tragedy by both the left and right media outlets. The exact cause for the shooting is still unclear, as there is still much unknown about the shooter, a white middle-aged male named Jarrod W. Ramos who appears to have had a long-standing hostile relationship with the newspaper. The right and left media differ in their immediate judgement of the tragedy. Possible blame by both left and right include the media itself, the need for more stringent gun control, and Donald Trump. The sentiment surrounding the tragedy is made up of primarily sadness and disgust.
Left Narrative: Many of the articles from the left are highlight the loss of life for the victims themselves. But any of the headlines not directly addressing the victims are focusing on the character of Donald Trump and his relationship with the media, especially his continued portrayal of the media as an “enemy of the people”, which is seen as part of a larger trend of irresponsible staements that could incite violence against journalists. Donald Trump has used negative rhetoric on the campaign trail and in the Oval Office to attack the media he claims is attacking him.
Headlines by the left use inflammatory language to demean and demote him. The narrative also points a finger at the White House or the administration itself, its lack of gun control measures and overall “weak” response. The left takes notice of the right’s initial finger-pointing at Democratic political figure Maxine Waters and her inflammatory calls to action at recent speaking events, and sensitivity to the use of profanity by people frustrated by perceived lack of action to prevent further shootings and murders. The emotional sentiment is a mixture of sadness, for the loss of the victims, and disgust, from the current administration’s role and response.
Right Narrative: The right is reporting on the tragedy itself and at the same time defending itself against attacks that this tragedy is a direct result of “dangerous” rhetoric by Donald Trump and the right. Headlines highlight left-leaning political figures who have used similar rhetoric to attack the right, such as Maxine Waters, as well as leftist political pundits, who they believe project exaggerated fear or disgust at Donald Trump’s relationship with the media.
These political pundits are made to appear either overly aggressive or overly sensitive. Trump’s previous rhetoric, or language, is not directly addressed, except to point out the perceived hypocrisy of the left. The right also claims the left is politicizing the tragedy and were overly quick at rushing to judgement as part of their perceived ongoing anti-gun/anti Trump rhetoric.
Fact Checking: The shooter’s motive remains unknown, but he has been shown to have a long history of confrontation and even harassment of the Capital Gazette. It is not clear if the recent combative rhetoric from Trump, calling the press an “enemy of the people” and regularly accusing news outlets of reporting fake news, had any influence on the shooter. Donald Trump has since expressed sympathy for the victims and support for American journalism. He has not made a call for greater gun control in the aftermath, nor has he rescinded any of his previous comments towards media outlets.
The massacre comes after a recent comment made by Milo Yiannopoulos, a blogger for InfoWars who two days earlier had told reporters, “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.” There have also been a number of posts on social media and 4Chan that seemed to celebrate the attacks and encourage new ones. Whether posts like these influenced the Gazette shooter or not, they could influence the next one.
Fact Checking resources:
- Newspaper Shooting Suspect Had History of Harassment, by Snopes
- Media Bias Fact Check profile for Capital Gazette
- After the Capital Gazette Shooting: The Suspect, Victims, Rumors and False Flag Accusations, research by Poynter
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