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VICTOR JOECKS: El Paso, Dayton highlight media’s double standard on incitement

Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media have downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.

Unfortunately, there’s no need to wonder how differently news organizations would have acted if the shooter had spoken favorably of President Donald Trump. Just hours before the Dayton massacre, a vile piece of garbage killed more than 20 people in El Paso.

That dirtbag left a manifesto, filled with racist idiocy about the dangers of Hispanic immigration. He also complained about environmental destruction, large corporations and both political parties. He specifically stated that his racist views predated Trump. He supported Trump on his Twitter account, however, so the media leapt to their preferred narrative.

“After yet another mass murder, the question surrounding the president is no longer whether he will respond as other presidents once did, but whether his words contributed to the carnage,” The Washington Post wrote in a “news” story.

“If Mr. Trump did not originally inspire the gunman, he has brought into the mainstream polarizing ideas and people once consigned to the fringes of American society,” a New York Times news analysis read.

Democrat presidential candidates went further — blaming Trump specifically for the tragedy.

“Donald Trump is responsible for this,” Sen. Cory Booker said. “He’s responsible because he’s stoking fears and hatred and bigotry.”

Trump is “inciting racism and violence in this country,” Beto O’Rourke said.

“Donald Trump has created plenty of space for hate,” Warren said. “He is a racist. He has made one racist remark after another. He has put in place racist policies. And we’ve seen the consequences of it.”

If the standard for incitement is that the fan of a politician does something terrible, then Warren is as guilty as Trump. Just look at Dayton.

It would mean Sen. Bernie Sanders was responsible when one of his fans shot congressional Republicans at a baseball practice in 2017. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would be responsible for the Antifa member who attacked an ICE facility in Washington state spouting her rhetoric. Barack Obama would be responsible for the man who killed several Dallas police officers after the president accused the police of shooting too many black men.

But that’s not what incitement means. Politicians are responsible for inciting violence only if they call for violence. You can disagree with a politician’s rhetoric. You can argue that overly heated rhetoric is making it more likely that people on the fringes will act violently. But those are separate critiques from arguing that someone is responsible for the violence committed by another person.

When it comes to Democrats, the media properly understand and respect those distinctions. If the mainstream media weren’t so obviously biased against Republicans, they would apply that same standard to Trump.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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