Horror spread quickly across America as the story unfolded: An Army psychiatrist went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas, killing 13 and wounding 30. But as more information emerged, clearly pointing to an act of terrorism, many in the "news" media simply chose not to report news.
By late afternoon, it emerged that the shooter's name was Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. But that night, CBS and NBC completely avoided mentioning that the shooter was a Muslim. ABC's Charles Gibson suggested he was a "Muslim convert," which wasn't right, but at least he wasn't playing hide-and-seek with the facts. ABC reporter Martha Raddatz spoke for the media in choosing this tidbit: "As for the suspect, Nidal Hasan, as one officer's wife told me, 'I wish his name was Smith.'"
The coverage grew more factual the next morning, with all the networks noting Hasan was Muslim, and that he shouted "Allahu akbar" (God is great) as he opened fire. ABC's Diane Sawyer, though, repeated Raddatz: "We heard Martha Raddatz say last night that the wife of a soldier said, 'I wish his name had been Smith,' so no one would have a reflexive question about that."
A reflexive question, as in "If a Muslim extremist attacks an Army base shouting 'Allahu akbar!' while spraying semi-automatic fire, killing and wounding dozens, is it terrorism?" Ms. Sawyer had nothing to worry about. Here's how her colleagues covered it.
THEME: The shooting wasn't just tragic because it killed patriotic Americans who were serving their country. The shooting was "much worse" because it gins up fear-mongering right-wingers.
Newsweek's Evan Thomas: "I cringe that he's a Muslim. I mean, because it inflames all the fears. I think he's probably just a nut case. But with that label attached to him, it will get the right wing going and it just -- I mean these things are tragic, but that makes it much worse."
THEME: In the Age of Obama (as opposed to those Bush years), Americans can be expected to behave after terrorist attacks and not overreact.
From USA Today: "'We haven't heard of anything violent, which is a good thing,' said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group. 'It shows our society has matured in how it responds to these incidents.'"
THEME: Let's not be too quick to judge these Muslims. After all, we have our Christian nut cases, too.
A Boston Globe op-ed by Harvard professor Harvey Cox: "If some seem ready to die for faith, others are ready to kill for it, gunning down abortion doctors in church, hijacking planes, and exploding bombs at weddings." On CBS, Bob Schieffer energetically sought full moral equivalence: "And you know Islam doesn't have a majority -- or the Christian religion has its full, you know, full helping of nuts, too."
THEME: Blame someone other than the shooter for shooting.
Schieffer grew much more annoying, suggesting that this killing was all the Army's fault, that "this shows the Army still does not take protecting soldiers' mental health as seriously as it does training them to shoot." It was the Army's fault for not seeing that this was a radical Muslim who could be a danger to others. This kind of arrogance -- sitting on a throne of 20-20 hindsight and demeaning our military -- explains why the media's favorability ratings have gone into the toilet.
If the Army had removed Hasan before his mass murder, Bob Schieffer and the other anchors would have been standing shoulder to shoulder with the ACLU people and the CAIR crowd suggesting anti-Muslim bigotry. These anchormen thought the Constitution was being shredded when the Bush administration attempted to intercept messages between bad guys here and al-Qaida abroad. That was unhealthy "domestic spying." They have forfeited their right to question the military now. In their idealistic vision, we would have all remained ignorant of Hasan's phone calls, and completely vulnerable to his rampages.
Even now, some media liberals were astonishing in the aftermath of this Islamic terrorism -- and that is precisely what it was. Jaws dropped at the idiocy of Chris Matthews on MSNBC when he proclaimed, "Apparently, he tried to contact al-Qaida. Is that the point at which you say, 'This guy is dangerous?' That's not a crime to call up al-Qaida, is it? Is it? I mean, where do you stop the guy?"
Answer to the well-paid idiot: Before he kills Americans on a military base.