In "honor" of King's legacy, the AP scolds Arizona

While I am accustomed to scoldings from the left (especially on Sundays), it surprised even the jaded me to see a Sunday scolding in the form of an Associated Press news report titled "Nation ponders King in wake of Arizona shootings":

ATLANTA (AP) -- The federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. has taken on added meaning for most Americans this year, as they try to make sense of the violence in Arizona that left six people dead and a member of Congress fighting for her life.

Added meaning? A mentally ill man who thinks he is being brainwashed by grammar goes on a shooting rampage, and that has to do with the federal holiday a week later?  

Yes, because according to the AP, the shooting happened in Arizona, which was slow to adopt the King holiday:

A state that once resisted the notion of a federal King holiday - and last year was the setting for a sharp-tongued debate on immigration - now finds itself in search of solace after the Jan. 8 attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the throng of people around her outside a grocery store in Tucson. The balm of choice is King, a pacifist Southern preacher whose own life was cut short by gun violence.

Wait a minute. Since when is one of the most harmful and malicious political murders in our history to be reduced simply to "gun violence"? That phrase implies that no human agency or evil is required; the guns either just do it all by themselves, or else they inspire evil men to shoot people. I would love to hear the "reporter" explain exactly how James Earl Ray's Remington .30-06 rifle made him look down that Redfield 2x7 telescopic sight, draw a bead on King as he came out of the balcony of his motel, and then place an accurate fatal shot.

Not only does calling Ray's actions "gun violence" trivialize one of the most serious crimes in U.S. history, but imagine if the standard was applied uniformly, to all crimes which happened to be committed with the use of firearms. The Einsatzgruppen murdered at least a million Jews by lining them up and shooting them. The Jews who died in the Holocaust were victims of the Nazis, and it would be a disservice to their memory to call them victims of "gun violence" -- just as it would be to call the Rwandan Tutsis victims of "machete violence." None of these people were the victims of the weapons that were used to kill them, but of the evil humans who used the weapons to kill them. And what about the Jews gassed at Auschwitz? Are they to be seen as victims of cyanide? This strikes me as so basic as to not require serious discussion, but apparently it is not at all clear to the AP.

According to the logic of association advanced in the AP piece, the Arizona tragedy is now related to the King holiday for the fortuitous reason that it happened in a state considered worthy of a scolding for reasons having nothing to do with the shooting:

"Dr. King's message was about inclusion and the recognition of human dignity, of human rights and making sure that all of our voices are heard," said Imani Perry, an African-American studies professor at Princeton University. "I hope people in Arizona, in particular, embrace that part of his message. The politics in Arizona recently have often seemed to revolve around excluding people."

To be fair to the professor, I suspect the "excluding" he is referring to consists of Arizona's immigration policies, and not Jared Loughner's feeling that he had been snubbed by Congresswoman Giffords.

But if that is the case, what has the shooting to do with Arizona's immigration policies? None that I can determine. 

Remember, folks, this is supposed to be "news."

Anyway, the AP thinks it is relevant and newsworthy that Arizona didn't adopt the King holday until 1992. 

Arizona established, then rescinded, a King holiday in the 1980s, but finally joined the federal observance in 1992. New Hampshire was the last state to honor King, in 1999.

OK, let us assume that Arizona is "bad" because of foot-dragging over the King holiday two decades ago. And let us further assume that it continues to be "bad" because it has immigration policies of which the Associated Press disapproves. How does it follow that a tragic massacre committed by a mentally ill man is related in any way to the state's "badness" -- and therefore, that the state is all the more to blame because it's the King holiday? 

Can the AP be sure that Dr. King would approve of his name being used to opportunisically scold a state in the wake of an awful tragedy under the pretext of news? 

posted by Eric on 01.16.11 at 02:27 PM


I lived in Virginia 1985-1989. Upon this day, the state of Virginia celebrated Lee-Jackson day. You can look it up.

Bill Johnson   ·  January 17, 2011 9:15 PM

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