Lefty SOP: The Elevation of the Particular to the General, or, Tar Everyone With the Same Brush

Remember how, following the Fort Hood massacre, Americans were cautioned by pundits and politicians alike not to blame Islam for the actions of one Muslim? A typical mainstream media narrative went something like this excerpt from Sally Quinn‘s Washington Post column:

Hasan’s actions seems to have had much to do with his personal religious beliefs, but we cannot indict an entire faith for the distorted and disturbed thoughts and actions of one individual.

You’ll be happy to know that the MSM requires no such burden of proof when it comes to passing judgment on conservative groups, particularly the Tea Party. Case in point: A handful of Congressional Democrats claimed that Tea Party protesters screamed racist and anti-gay taunts during Saturday’s D.C. protest against the health care bill. “I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus,” said Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.). Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) said he heard the “N-word” at least 15 times. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) stated that he was called a “faggot.” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., talked of being spat upon.

fire hose

And the mainstream media, salivating at the prospect of finally having enough rope to hang the Tea Party with, commenced its own Old West-style necktie party:

Even across the Atlantic, the righteous wrath in leftist media was palpable. “I am not calling and would never call all or even most individual tea partiers racists,” wrote Michael Tomasky of the U.K.’s Guardian. “But…a mass political movement that’s 98% (or probably more) white, and is created in opposition to the policies of a black president, is just bound to be on some level a racist movement.”

Lost amid the feeding frenzy were a few simple questions that wouldn’t likely have eluded the members of a Basic Reporting class–namely:

  1. Other than the claims of a few Congressmen, all from the same party and all on the receiving end of the Tea Party protests, what incontrovertible evidence do we have that any demonstrators yelled racist or anti-gay slurs?
  2. Even if we can prove that one or more people in the crowd screamed such epithets, how do we know they had anything to do with the Tea Party? If they exist, has even one of them been identified? Isn’t it also possible, given the white-hot nature of the ObamaCare controversy, that protesters in favor of the bill infiltrated the crowd and shouted slurs in a Saul Alinsky-style attempt to stigmatize the Tea Party?
  3. Even if we can prove that several Tea Party protesters yelled slurs, why do the actions of a few members speak for the motives of thousands more, not to mention the movement itself?

Why indeed, especially when the MSM’s First Rule of Covering Islamic Terrorism is that the actions of a few extremists never define the group as a whole?

Moreover, a YouTube video contains no apparent evidence of racial epithets aimed at the black Congressmen as they walk through a throng of Tea Party protesters. In another video of the same event, posted on Politico, columnist Ben Smith asserts that “it sounds like you can hear the n-word at the 9-second mark…though it’s not totally clear.” But even if it were clear, that still wouldn’t answer the question of who said it, which side (if any) he represents, and why we should define an entire movement or political party by the actions of one individual.


Then there’s the matter of an arrest that apparently never was. The Associated Press quoted a Cleaver staffer as saying the man who spat on the legislator was arrested, but as even The Huffington Post admits, Capitol Police say no such arrest occurred.

Unfortunately–or rather, fortunately for the mainstream media and Democrats (pardon the redundancy)–leaders of both the Republican Party and the Tea Party took the bait and did a spot-on impression of the cow in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” that actually wanted to be eaten. In so doing, they ignored the wry science fiction book’s key advice: “Don’t panic.”

Rather than coolly put off the hostile media by declining comment until the entire story (or non-story) came out, Republicans such as RNC Chairman Michael Steele and House Minority Leader John Boehner, as well as a Tea Party Express coordinator, were quick to employ terms like “reprehensible” and “isolated” and “not a reflection of the movement” in major media interviews.

But to condemn is to confirm. To give the MSM any reaction to an unsubstantiated report is to give the story credibility and legs, because it pushes the focus beyond whether the incident even happened in the first place and gives reporters license to make flat assumptions.

Republican Party officials and Tea Party protest organizers Sunday condemned health care demonstrators who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at black and gay lawmakers Saturday at the Capitol.

Still another glaring hypocrisy involves the media’s kid-gloves treatment of leftist protesters who do considerably more than scream bad words. Last September, for instance, The New York Times donned full cheerleader regalia in reporting from Pittsburgh: “Thousands Hold Peaceful March at G-20 Summit.” Not until the fourth paragraph, well beyond the attaboys, did we learn this:

The People’s March, as it was called, was sponsored by the Thomas Merton Center, a Pittsburgh peace organization. It came a day after raucous confrontations between the police and protesters resulted in 66 arrests. At least five people needed medical attention, and about 19 businesses sustained damage.


Got it, Pinch: When someone in a crowd of conservative protesters might have shouted racial insults, your paper spends the bulk of the article discussing the “ugly tone to comments made by some demonstrators.”

But when dozens of liberal protesters get arrested after causing $50,000 in damage to local businesses, you whitewash the destruction with a headline about a “peaceful march.”

In her aforementioned Washington Post column about Major Hasan, Sally Quinn asks: “Why …are so many people blaming or even questioning Islam itself for the actions of one disturbed individual? … Clearly the truth is more complicated than that.”

Unless, of course, the story pertains to a conservative organization. Then it’s neither truthful nor complicated.


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