It is 12:18 a.m. on Friday, June 29 and I cannot sleep. The day prior, five people, Rob Hiaasen, 59, Wendi Winters, 65, Gerald Fischman, 61, John McNamara, 56 and Rebecca Smith, 34, were shot and killed in the offices of the Capital Gazette, a newspaper based in Annapolis, Maryland. Two others were injured in the shooting.
The suspect, 38-year-old Jarrod Ramos, has been apprehended. He is accused of using a shotgun and also carried either smoke grenades or flash-bangs grenades. A twitter account matching Ramos’ name has long railed against the Gazette, and he filed suit against the newspaper in July of 2012 for defamation. This was due to the newspaper’s reporting of a 2011 guilty plea Ramos handed in on a misdemeanor charge of harassment of a woman for months, including online harassment and calling her employer attempting to get her fired.
This was a bitter man trying to get “revenge” on an organization that accurately reported facts about a criminal activity he committed. What’s concerning about this act is not who did it, or the reason, but the fact that it escalated so much.
It is concerning that facts and articles of record are viewed as false or misleading because people don’t like what they say. It is concerning that we have a White House that started their term with the idea of “alternative facts.” It is concerning when the President of this country specifically targets news organizations and calls them our country’s biggest enemy. It is concerning when notorious extreme right winger Milo Yiannopoulos sends text messages to journalists saying “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.”
It’s time for the disclaimer. I am a registered Republican. I like to consider myself a moderate, what some people on the far end of the Republican spectrum would call a RINO, Republican In Name Only. This is because I don’t fall into their camp, lock, stock and barrel.
This letter is not a call for the removal of guns. It is an indictment of the extreme views that the far end of the spectrum bleats out in opposition of stuff they don’t like to hear. It’s not an issue the political right deals with alone, nor is it something that the majority of Americans – left or right – does.
It is the far ends of the spectrum, those loudest and least willing to listen, that are the problem. Unfortunately, as with the shooting at the Capital Gazette, it only takes one extremist to pull of acts of terrible violence. These acts of violence come when seemingly permitted, especially by people the extremists hold in high esteem, such as Yiannopoulos.
The far-right blowhard backtracked like the cowardly worm he is almost as soon as the first reports of shooting at the newspaper’s office starting coming out. Claiming he wasn’t serious, how it was just him being a troll. The fact is, he texted those words. The fact is, he is someone right wing extremists listen to. Like it or not, the fact is, people report on what he says. He should know better. There’s no doubting his intelligence, most people don’t get to be that influential without it.
This isn’t a recent problem though. Not when there are shirts for sale with the words printed on them, saying “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.” Since groups like Occupy Democrats, Forward Progressives, The Blaze and InfoWars have been spouting nonsense for years. They take facts and twist them to fit whatever narrative they want. They don’t seem to care who is damaged by that narrative, so long as it is somebody they don’t like.
It is the twisting of facts that start people on the path towards the violence that erupted at The Capital Gazette. Extremist loudmouths like Yiannopoulos give seeming permission when they make inflammatory statements and hardworking, honest people are being harmed because of it.
It won’t stop me. As long as I work for a newspaper, I will report the facts. Like them or not, facts will help inform our communities and allow people to make intelligent decisions. All of the journalists at the Hernando Sun are hardworking people, people of character and integrity. Despite not knowing them, it is safe to assume the journalists at Fox, CNN and MSNBC are the same. It is also clear that the journalists at The Capital Gazette share those characteristics. Journalists report on the news, report on facts. Let’s not let the opinions of the far ends of the spectrums cloud them.