New York’s Daily News used to play it pretty straight–a flashy tabloid, to be sure, but one that kept its opinions on the editorial page.
Yesterday’s taunting cover, aimed at blaming the Republicans in the wake of the San Bernardino massacre, shows how far it’s moved left.
And it kickstarted yet another round of media finger-pointing in the wake of tragedy, just as we saw last week after the killings at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. As disturbingly commonplace as these mass shootings have become, so is the media and political blame game that now begins even before the death toll is final.
The paper’s screaming front-page headline: “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.” There were photos of Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham and Paul Ryan tweeting prayers for the victims. “As latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.”
It’s pretty standard, of course, for politicians to offer thoughts and prayers for the victims after a tragedy. Democrats did it as well, including President Obama.
But to declare that prayers are an empty substitute for stronger gun control is to demonize the other side on ideological grounds. The gun debate is worth having, but even proponents recognize that stricter background checks wouldn’t prevent many or most of these shootings. The problem, which includes mental health issues, goes much deeper.
An incendiary cover like that of the Daily News is guaranteed to trigger a strong reaction, and it did. Conservative commentators ripped the paper as being anti-prayer. They also went after Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who tweeted: “Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing—again.”
And here we are, with the same old blame-shifting that does precisely nothing to alleviate these problems. Delightful.
People get shot and killed. Liberals push gun control, where even modest steps with majority public support are blocked by the NRA. Conservatives push a war on radical Islam, which had resonance after San Bernardino given that the couple had become radicalized. The more conservative New York Post changed its banner headline to “MUSLIM KILLERS.”
When mass killings were less frequent—think back to Columbine, or even Newtown—there was a sense of the country coming together to grieve. Now the country, as reflected by the media, only seems to become more polarized.
After last Friday’s Colorado shootings, the media focused on whether Republican rhetoric against abortion in general and Planned Parenthood in particular was fueling this kind of violence. It is horribly unfair for those on the left to try to link those who oppose abortion as a matter of conscience to the violence. When Ben Carson had the temerity to say that both sides should tone down their rhetoric, he was attacked by several pro-life leaders.
And as I’ve said, it is equally wrong for conservatives to blame President Obama or other Democrats when police officers are killed because they don’t like their tone on law-enforcement issues.
Everyone I talk to is depressed about the rising tide of shootings. Too bad the media are helping to divide us at a very difficult time.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.