“Who killed Freddie Gray? The criminal justice system failed him.”
“Trump doesn’t care about illegal immigrants.”
Rise in murder rate from your surprise list of reasons to blame the Democrats?
Those are just a few of the responses President Donald Trump and his allies have made, since two deadly church shootings happened in the county surrounding Baltimore last weekend. Like most political responses to isolated incidents, however, they tend to over-saturate the subject matter with details. As the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel noted, responding to shootings and slaughters with broad political “blame the liberals” themes from the beginning may backfire. These rhetoric-fueled byleys become fodder for satire on late-night shows and the like.
Democratic strategists have embraced “blame the party” rhetoric as a means of engaging ideologically liberal voters after a terror attack or the like, which gives politicians a cover story to call out a nationalist, populist wave. But American politics is inherently color-blind, so the GOP isn’t confined to conservative theories about murder and immigration. Proponents of the party’s brand often latch onto evidence of mass shootings or other such tragedies, drawing analogies between the crimes and ideas that the party favors. It’s not rational; more often than not, it’s for political purposes.
As a journalist, I’ve interviewed people who use that rhetoric and observed firsthand the way the discourse seems more empty than substantive. People simply aren’t sure why they’re supposed to, and probably can’t, take these claims seriously because people are breaking their own minds telling them to.
Another way of approaching it is this: Blame the murder rate on the country’s indifference to gun control.
I’ve talked to editors and reporters at prominent news outlets about this topic. They worry about social-media users talking over them, talking over their explanations about the dangerousness of gun violence, drawing incorrect conclusions from anecdotes. They often grumble about how hard it is to do even minimal investigative reporting.
It doesn’t matter what ideas or candidates their editors favor — if they’re published by a party, or by someone who wants them to appear so, it’s supposed to be taken seriously.
As conservative commentator Erick Erickson recently wrote, “The left media, who get their facts wrong much more often than they get them right, would have you believe that our incredible innovation in American intelligence and law enforcement, enabled by generations of concentrated wealth and power, has killed tens of thousands of Islamic extremists in the U.S. in recent years. They would have you believe that our great national security apparatus has had zero role in 9/11 attacks, that bin Laden was killed a year later, that Snowden is only a leaker and was never an operative, and that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was never in control of ISIS. They would have you believe in total certainty that just 0.02 percent of people in this country are racist. But they don’t ever think they have an opportunity to prove that anyone false. They refuse to be debased by debate.”
I used to be at Fox News as a contributor, and I heard a lot of nonsense from Republican talking heads, who inarguably support Trump. Never once was any of it remotely accurate.