John Leo

The Unabomber was a disappointment -- white, but (alas) a killer from the far left. But the press rallied with let's-understand-the-Unabomber stories, pointing out that he had the courage of his convictions and was not out for personal gain (a press courtesy not extended to anti-abortion killers). In contrast, the Oklahoma City bombing was a pure pressroom delight: a white, right-wing bomber who could be tied to the anti-government "climate" represented by Newt Gingrich and other conservatives.

This time around, reporters peered through the conventional media prisms, blaming the murders on the lack of gun control, the evil effects of military training and a "sniper subculture." Even after Muhammad and Malvo were identified, The New York Times said authorities were exploring their possible connection to "skinhead militias." (This was deleted after the early editions of Oct. 24, perhaps when some alert Times editor figured out that black men are not likely to join skinhead groups.)

The press has seemed quite reluctant to pursue the Muslim angle, too, underplaying Muhammad's Farrakhan connection and his resentment about America's treatment of the world's Muslims. Police seemed to avoid announcing clues that the killers might be black or Muslim. "Mr. Policeman," on the tarot card, and "Mr. Police," on the letter, are thought to be Jamaican expressions. "Word is Bond" and the five stars were references to hip-hop music influenced by a black cultural group spun off from the Black Muslims: the Five Percent Nation of Gods and Earths.

In this group, black males are gods, black women are earths. The snipers said, "I am God" at least twice (on the Tarot card and to the Catholic priest), so presumably it must have occurred to somebody in Washington law enforcement that this might be a Five Percenter catchphrase and not just a delusional outburst. But no one in law enforcement was willing to say, Watch out for a black suspect or suspects.

There was no early mention of a possible Jamaican immigrant either. The NewsMax Web site noted that police didn't tell the public to watch for foreigners or recent immigrants, possibly because "that might have violated P.C. rules." Yes. Fear of political incorrectness spun the press in the wrong direction, impeded law enforcement, and may have cost the lives of a few sniper victims. The P.C. sensibility amuses a lot of people, but here it was no joke.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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