Coming as it did on the weekend of the one-year anniversary of the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting that killed 26, plus the killer, and wounded two more, it is not surprising that the media downplayed or ignored aspects of the Friday the 13th school shooting in Centennial, Colorado, just miles away from both Columbine and Aurora, the scenes of two other horrific mass shootings.
But this latest incident offered a couple of narratives that the media preferred to ignore. The shooter was Karl Pierson, an 18-year-old, described as very bright, and an excellent debater, who had had run-ins with his debate coach. Early stories said he had been kicked off the debate team, later that he had only been disciplined. But either way, he was no longer an active participant on the team.
He arrived at the school on Friday well-armed, with what was described as a “bandolier of ammunition,” “a backpack filled with three Molotov cocktails,” as well as a machete and a shotgun, which he used to shoot two of his classmates at Arapahoe High School. “His intent was evil, and his intent was to injure multiple people,” said Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson on Saturday.
The entire event, from the time he walked into the school, until he shot and killed himself, was estimated to be about 80 seconds. And why did he kill himself? Because an armed deputy who was assigned to the school came running immediately after hearing the first shot. What if there had been an armed deputy at Sandy Hook school in Newtown? How many lives might have been saved? How many injuries prevented?
Sheriff Robinson, who briefed the press, “praised the deputy’s response as ‘a critical element to the shooter’s decision’ to kill himself, and lauded his response to hearing gunshots. ‘He went to the thunder,’ he said. ‘He heard the noise of gunshot and, when many would run away from it, he ran toward it to make other people safe.’” Arapahoe was not a gun-free zone, and, as a result, many lives were likely saved.
NBC News on Saturday called Pierson “someone who voiced strong political opinions,” but failed to say what those opinions were. Some of his views, however, were reported in The Denver Post.
In one Facebook post, Pierson attacks the philosophies of economist Adam Smith, who through his invisible-hand theory pushed the notion that the free market was self-regulating. In another post, he describes himself as ‘Keynesian.’
‘I was wondering to all the neoclassicals and neoliberals, why isn’t the market correcting itself?’ he wrote. ‘If the invisible hand is so strong, shouldn’t it be able to overpower regulations?’
Pierson also appears to mock Republicans on another Facebook post, writing ‘you republicans are so cute’ and posting an image that reads: ‘The Republican Party: Health Care: Let ‘em Die, Climate Change: Let ‘em Die, Gun Violence: Let ‘em Die, Women’s Rights: Let ‘em Die, More War: Let ‘em Die. Is this really the side you want to be on?’
The New York Daily News reported that Pierson was “described by students as having communist views,” and “hinted he felt strongly about curbing gun violence.”
The silence about Pierson’s political views stands in contrast to the liberal media’s immediate reaction to the shooting in Tucson, Arizona in 2011 by Jared Lee Loughner, who shot and killed six people, and wounded 13 others including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). Many in the media suspected he harbored conservative views, which turned out to be false, and it led, for example, Paul Krugman of The New York Times to write, just hours after the incident:
We don’t have proof yet that this was political, but the odds are that it was. She’s been the target of violence before…You know that Republicans will yell about the evils of partisanship whenever anyone tries to make a connection between the rhetoric of Beck, Limbaugh, etc. and the violence I fear we’re going to see in the months and years ahead. But violent acts are what happen when you create a climate of hate. And it’s long past time for the GOP’s leaders to take a stand against the hate-mongers.
And there were many other such examples, as I documented at the time. But the fact that this latest shooting in Colorado does not neatly comport to the media’s depiction of such events, and thus to their supposed solutions, will make little difference in terms of lessons learned.
Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.