NYT: Planned Parenthood shooter “a gentle loner who occasionally unleashed violent acts”

Not such a gentle man
Not such a gentle man

Here’s a question that would seem to have a simple, obvious answer: When is it ok to describe an alleged multiple murderer with a history of violence as a “gentle” man?

The correct answer is of course “never,” but the New York Times managed to get this question wrong in a profile of alleged Planned Parenthood killer Robert Lewis Dear over the weekend.

Here’s the opening of the story, preserved for posterity by journalist Jack Mirkinson:

Yep. A “a gentle loner,” except for all that violence and murdering. It’s a bit like calling someone a “Good Samaritan — who sometimes throws babies into traffic.”

After assorted folks on Twitter pointed out that “gentle” was perhaps not such a good adjective, describing-an-alleged-violent-murderer-wise, the editors quietly removed “gentle,” ultimately replacing it with “itinerant.”

But as Jim Naureckas of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) points out, this was not the only way in which the Times seemed to be weirdly giving a pass to Dear. Times writer Richard Faucett managed to work some strangely exculpatory descriptions of Dear into a profile of the shooter, as remembered by his ex-wife.

As Naureckas notes, we find the word “gentle” once again applied to a man who was, by all accounts, anything but gentle.

She recalled a big man, well-groomed, gentle and pleasant, but not much for chitchat.

The original headline to the piece,

Ex-Wife Recalls Colorado Gunman as Imperfect but a Good Man

And then there was this bit, echoing one of the standard ways in which people try to excuse domestic violence:

Mr. Dear could be angry at times, she said, sometimes angry with her. But he was the kind who usually followed a flash of anger with an apology.

Yeah, because THAT’S HOW ABUSE WORKS. Phony remorse is one of the primary ways abusers hold onto those they abuse. Hell, it’s one of the freaking stages in the Cycle of Violence:

Cycle-of-ViolenceWhile the Times has changed the headline of this piece, the rest of this language remains in the story, unchanged.

Naureckas makes the obvious but necessary point:

Needless to say, the New York Times is not in the habit of going to the family members of people accused of committing terror in the name of Islam and reprinting their fond recollections. Nor is that the treatment given to African-American men accused of killing cops. In fact, African-Americans killed by cops are more likely to get the “he’s no angel” treatment from the cops.



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6 years ago

Antie Alias,

The Onion, as always, said it best: “College Basketball Star Heroically Overcomes Tragic Rape He Committed”


Last week’s Onion headline: “Frustrated Gunman Can’t Believe How Far He Has To Drive To Find Nearest Planned Parenthood Clinic”

6 years ago

And… we’ve got another shooting. San Bernadino, CA, at Inland Regional Center, a help facility for the disabled. So, caregivers and clients are going to constitute most of the victims, most likely. Current as of this post says 14 dead.

6 years ago

BBC story on San Bernadino (physical distance seems to help BBC cover American shootings with a little less sensationalism and hype):

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ Orion

It seems to me that over the years Onion stories have become more reflective of the real world and supposed ‘proper’ news sites have turned into the Onion.

Virtually Out of Touch
Virtually Out of Touch
6 years ago

“The white supremacy of anti-abortion extremism goes deeper than this gunman’s deferential treatment by police, or politicians’ reluctance to speak plainly about what we can all see, or the mainstream media’s white framing of these acts of terrorism.

What I foWhiteLies_coverund in my early research of six different white supremacist organizations’ literature is that abortion is viewed as a form of racial treason (White Lies, Routledge, 1997, p.67-8). I analyzed hundreds of newsletters from these organizations over two decades (1970s-1990s) and found a consistent set of beliefs about abortion, anti-Blackness and anti-Semitism.

For white supremacists, the decline in the number of white births is directly tied to their fear of a decline in white dominance in the U.S. In this worldview, fewer white births is due to two factors. First, they contend there are fewer white women are who are willing to become pregnant and give birth to white children. Second, they believe that white women are quick to have abortions (or easily persuaded to do so) and are nonchalant about them afterwards.

The apparent willingness of white women to have abortions is counterposed against both anti-Blackness and anti-Semitism. For white supremacists are convinced that white women are having too many abortions, but Black women are having too few. And, they believe that Jewish men (mostly as doctors) and Jewish women (as feminists and champions of abortion) are behind this as a form of racial annihilation. I saw this again and again in the text of the publications I analyzed, as well as in the illustrations.
Anti-Blackness and Anti-Abortion

A drawing from white supremacist publication Racial Loyalty (published by Ben Klassen) highlights the anti-Blackness of their anti-abortion stance. The illustration is a series of four panels, in each one a woman enters a clinic. In the first three panels, the women are all global-majority women, and each enters a clinic designated as a “Birth Clinic,” while her numerous children wait outside. In the fourth panel, a white woman enters an “Abortion Clinic,” and the caption below the (Jewish) doctor reads, “In a moment, we’ll dispose of the child to be.”(from Racial Loyalty, no.59, 1990, p.12, cited in Daniels, 1997, p.68).

The message in this crude drawing is clear: the wrong people – white people – are having abortions. Anti-abortion extremism here is not about the protection of “all life” but rather about the protection of the white race.”

Read the rest here;

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

For those who like legal stuff:

In short, the anti-choice lot have lost an appeal which basically means they now have to provide details of who their supporters are.

[Edited for typo]

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