Diane Dimond

Words matter. So does equal treatment. So when The New York Times recently devoted a three-column article on the top of the front page equating the actions and words of the El Paso mass murderer to those of "right-wing media," I was curious, to say the least. Was The Gray Lady saying conservatives somehow convinced someone to commit mass murder?

Extensively quoting (mostly) Fox News hosts and their guests, The Times concluded that when speaking about the nation's immigration crisis at the southwestern border, the words "invaders" or invasion" were used unashamedly and all too frequently by those they labeled "right wing pundits." The Times also reported that those same people regularly used the word "replace" while discussing immigration. The paper quoted Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson as saying, "I'm not against the immigrants. I'm just -- I'm for Americans, and nobody cares about them. It's like, shut up, you're dying. We're going to replace you."

The Times quoted the confessed killer's 2,300-word internet manifesto in which he said he was simply defending his country "from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion." The paper added in a cryptic tone, "There is a striking degree of overlap between the words of right-wing media personalities and the language used by the Texas man who confessed to killing 22 people at a Walmart."

Wow. That seemed like a stretch to me, especially since deeper into the story, The Times writers admitted it was unclear what had shaped the warped mind of Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old Walmart killer. There was no proof that Crusius even watched Fox News or listened to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who was also quoted.

The article was striking for what it didn't mention, namely other catalysts that might have influenced Crusius. Like the widely reported statistic that between January and July of this year, nearly 700,000 migrants were either deemed "inadmissible" or apprehended trying to cross into the southwestern United States. Maybe that  influenced the Texas native to go on his killing spree? The Times didn't quote any friends or relatives of the gunman who might have given some insight into his actual mindset. No, the liberal-leaning newspaper went straight for the "right-wing media" comparison. It's no surprise, really, that the day after the deadly Aug. 3 Walmart shooting, The Times' headline read, "El Paso Shooting Suspect's Manifesto Echoes Trump's Language." Obviously, there is an agenda at play here.

What the media at large lacks these days is fair and equal perspective on issues and events. It seems every news story is now cast in a political light negative toward the party the news organization doesn't align with. Notice that there wasn't nearly as much coverage devoted to the other mass shooter making news around the same time. Connor Betts, 24, committed mass murder in Dayton, Ohio, after having long spewed a hate-filled liberal agenda. Online, Betts praised Satan, the antifa street protests and violence against conservatives. He was reportedly suspended from school after being found with a "kill list" and a "rape list" of boys and girls he planned to harm at his high school. I haven't found one news outlet making the leap between the now-deceased Betts' radical politics and his mass murder spree, which left nine innocents dead, including his own sister. No New York Times analysis can be found comparing what Betts might have heard on MSNBC or CNN that could have catapulted him to embark on his deadly spree. Yet Betts was known as an ardent supporter of presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, two senators who enjoy ample coverage on those cable channels.

That any news organization wants to analyze a mass murderer's mindset is commendable. We need to try to understand what triggers these killings. But to only study gunmen on one side of the political spectrum smacks of opportunistic and biased journalism.

In this era when newsroom staffs nationwide are down to bare bones, it is liberal-leaning newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post that set the tone for copycat news coverage across the country. For those who got their news about the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings by going through Google, an audit by the independent site AllSides.com showed readers were steered toward liberal news providers -- like The Times, The Washington Post and CNN -- a vast majority of the time. You are simply not getting a balanced news diet. Period.

Yes, words matter, and the media collectively send out millions of them every day. Their oftentimes-biased phrases and stories have helped create and perpetuate the gigantic ideological schism we live with today. There is so much dissension and hate on both sides of the political divide it leaves one wondering when the mutual implosion will occur.

It's a good bet that this kind of reporting will live through 2020, at least. So, it is up to citizens to digest this kind of coverage while simultaneously drinking from the cup of critical thinking.

Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist and television reporter of high-profile court cases.

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