After the shooting deaths of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller last month and security guard Stephen T. Johns at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum last week, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would receive an e-mail like one sent from Ann Pinkerton of Oakland: "Several weeks ago, I wrote you because I thought you dismissed the Homeland Security Report on right-wing extremism unfairly. Since then, Dr. George Tiller has been shot and killed, and a security guard at the Holocaust Museum has been shot and killed. Both of these acts were acts of right-wing terrorism on domestic soil. Have you reassessed your opinions in light of these attacks?"
The short answer is no. For one thing, Pinkerton didn't mention the Monday shooting that killed Pvt. William Andrew Long, a military recruiter, and wounded Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula outside the Army-Navy Career Center in Little Rock, Ark. The man charged in the shooting, Abdulhakim Muhammad, told the Associated Press, "I do feel I'm not guilty.
"I don't think it was murder, because murder is when a person kills another person without justified reason." The former Carlos Bledsoe defined the shooting as an "act, for the sake of God, for the sake of Allah, the Lord of all the world, and also retaliation on U.S. military."
Now I understand why Pinkerton might have missed the left-wing shooting of a military recruiter. The Tiller assassination garnered three stories, an editorial and a column (mine) over the following two days, and a week later a front-page story, whereas The Chronicle ran two national briefs about the military-recruiter attack, on Page A5 one day, and Page A6 the next. Other media underplayed the domestic terrorist attack as well.
For me, the reason is pretty obvious: Stories that reinforce journalists' political beliefs rate the front page or top of their newscasts; stories that do not are not considered big news. Chronicle Managing Editor Steve Proctor told me he disagrees: "People do not make decisions like that based on their political beliefs."
Oh, and when shooters -- take convicted Beltway snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo -- espouse anti-American, pro-terrorist politics, news stories focus on their mental health or personal issues, not their destructive political philosophy. When the feds arrest Islamic extremists, the press reports that an informer may have entrapped the would-be bombers, rather than explore the twisted thinking that motivated fledgling terrorists.