Goodman: The targeting of journalists has to end

At Least 5 Killed In Shooting At Annapolis Capital-Gazette Newspaper
ANNAPOLIS, MD: Today’s edition of the the Capital Gazette for sale on a newspaper stand. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

When I first heard reports of gunfire at a Maryland newsroom, my immediate thought was: all that journalist-hatred that’s going around. It’s caught up with us.

Admit it, you thought that, too.

The thundering from the president of the United States, calling journalists “the enemy of the people.” The finger-pointing at the writers and camera people in the pens at the back of his rallies, the crowd turning around to spew vitriol at the people who report the news.

The wish expressed, just days ago, by alt-right bad boy Milo Yiannopolous, in a text message: “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight” – which he’s now calling a joke.

It turned out that the man who killed five and wounded several others at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis was someone with a longstanding grudge against the paper. He had been convicted of harassing a woman who had been a high school classmate. When a Capital Gazette columnist wrote about the case, he unsuccessfully sued the paper for defamation and began harassing it – including making online threats to writers and editors.

Every newsperson can imagine this happening. Every newsroom has unbalanced people like this in its orbit. When I worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer in the 1980s and ‘90s, we called them “wackjobs” — almost affectionately, as if to kid away the latent threats they represented — and we had a long list of them.

What’s different now is, today’s wackjobs have the models of mass shooters to go by. The Annapolis shooter, if he didn’t think Parkland or Pulse sufficient, had the example of the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, where two brothers attached to an Al Qaeda group shot 12 people to death for the crime of satire.

And because mass shootings are a contagion, we must assume this will happen again. There cannot be a newsroom in America that, upon hearing word of shots fired at a newspaper, did not immediately begin reassessing its security. Yes, that includes our own.

An undated photo provided by the newspaper shows Rob Hiaasen, an editor and a features columnist for The Capital in Annapolis, Md.
Rob Hiaasen

And there cannot be a newspaper in America where it did not feel as though members of your family have died. At some important level, all of us in this business feel connected, especially those of us who have retained our love and commitment to it for some years. I did not know the Annapolis victims personally, although anyone who worked at The Palm Beach Post 20 years ago has fond memories of Rob Hiaasen, whose personality was brought to life Thursday in a beautiful, mournful column by an old friend, Frank Cerabino.

Yet these losses feel personal.

We have become so used to mass shootings in this country – we alone among advanced nations – that we usually feel little more than weariness when absorbing the news of yet another one. It’s different when the victims are much like you. Just as no student or parent feels the same degree of security after schools are turned to battlefields and children to casualties, so today does no American journalist feel as safe as we did before colleagues were slaughtered Thursday in their workplace.

And in the background, I keep hearing that hum: “Fake news.” “They lie.” “They make up sources.”

Today President Trump, in a show of sympathy for the Capital Gazette victims, said, “Journalists, like all Americans, should be free of the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job.”

The gall.

This is a man who, using the biggest podium in the world, tears relentlessly into the honesty and patriotism of the reporters and news outlets whose job is to fulfill the ideal of uncovering and telling the truth.

And because the truth is often unflattering and threatening to this man, he has waged a three-year war against the credibility of journalists, just as he attacks the credibility of an independent judiciary, the FBI and members of Congress he can’t bring to heel.

No one has inflamed the present atmosphere more than he, this man who occupies the highest office in our land. He has set a tone which he feeds at every rally and almost every day on Twitter.

I am not blaming him for Thursday’s tragedy in Annapolis. But I do charge him with injecting a sense of hatred into the soul of this nation that journalists do not deserve and which — in a country with more guns than people — may all too easily turn into bloodshed.

All over social media, journalists have been sharing their thoughts. Some of the best came from a Sun Sentinel reporter, Ben Crandell, a former colleague of mine. On Facebook he wrote:

“There is not much money to be made as a reporter at a daily newspaper such as the Capital Gazette. There is no glamour, no prestige. There is only the benefit of knowing that they helped inform their neighbors about things they need to know, entertained them with a story they hadn’t heard, made them chuckle, or shed some light on the pivotal play that won the big game at the high school.

“There is no fake news at a daily newspaper such as the Capital Gazette. It would take too much time. Reporters there are only good at what they’ve been trained to do: Ask the questions readers would want asked, collect information, confirm the facts, discard information that cannot be confirmed, snap the facts together into a story that fairly represents what they’ve seen and heard, and submit the story to an editor, maybe several, who reconfirms the facts before publication.

“If there has been a mistake in one of their stories, they write an explanation with the correct information so it can be published on the website and in a prominent spot in the next day’s paper.

“And then they go home to coach the volleyball team, care for an ailing loved one, do military reserve training, volunteer at the church, see a band, drink a beer, cut the grass. They are not just like you – they are you.”

Christie: Are the Parkland shooting teens fair game for conservative critics?

Emma Gonzalez, center, and the other student activists from Parkland cheer on stage at the end of the March for Our Lives rally in Washington. The attacks on the teenage survivors of the shooting have been fierce from the beginning, and have only continued since the students helped spearhead hundreds of protests last month. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

It’s been a month and half since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 students and school personnel dead at the hands of 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz.

RELATED: Depression is setting in, concerned Parkland students say at town hall

Thanks to the outspokenness and energy of surviving students like David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, the tragic shooting has sparked a movement against gun violence and for common-sense gun control laws. The constant rhetoric, rallies and TV appearances of Parkland shooting survivors moved a previously immovable Florida Legislature to enact in three weeks what it had refused to do in nearly three decades: stricter gun controls.

Though state lawmakers still have more work to do, long-time Tallahassee political observers marveled at what these well-spoken, impatient teens have already been able to accomplish.

RELATED: POINT OF VIEW: Politicians, put yourselves in Parkland survivors’ shoes

But those efforts, and the teens’ further demands for more stricter gun controls, have put them squarely in the sights of the powerful gun lobby led by the influential National Rifle Association.

As a result, they’ve been attacked repeatedly by regular folks, politicians, celebrities and even law-enforcement officers on radio, TV and in social media.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham apologized under pressure last week for taunting a survivor of the school shooting in Parkland as several companies confirmed they would pull advertising from her show. (Laura Segall/The New York Times)

Most recently:

  • Fox News host and conservative firebrand Laura Ingraham was forced to take a week off from her show after she was pilloried for criticizing Hogg on Twitter after he talked about his difficulties getting into the University of California.
  • Artist and musician Frank Stallone  was forced to apologize after a profanity-laced criticism of the Parkland survivors over the weekend.
Ted Nugent (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP, File)

But rocker and NRA board member Ted Nugent has been unapologetic. Nugent, who began his attack of the Parkland teens over the weekend, doubled down on WABC’s Curtis + Cosby show on Monday.

“(David Hogg) has been brainwashed, it’s tragic,” Nugent said. “I don’t think the guy can be fixed. … This guy is a lost cause. He is consumed with hate. He is part of the problem, not the solution.”

Nugent also said Hogg and the Douglas High School students are “not very educated” and “wouldn’t know an AR-15 from a pterodactyl.”

Pro-gun supporters and others argue that the teens stepped into a serious grown-up issue and thus relinquished the right to be treated with kid gloves. If you dance to the music, you’ve got to pay the piper, they say.

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But what do you think?

Do you agree with the criticisms being leveled against the student survivors of the Douglas High School shooting by right wing and NRA supporters? Or should there be a hands-off approach to these outspoken teens who suffered an unimaginable tragedy?

Take poll here:

Goodman: Rubio destroyed his own argument against gun control (Does he realize it?)

Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky asks Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), right, if he will continue to accept money from the NRA during a CNN town hall meeting on Wednesday at the BB&T Center. (Michael Laughlin/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

Marco Rubio provided much of the drama at Wednesday night’s remarkable town hall on gun violence.

First, simply by showing up in blue Broward County, and to face hundreds of grieving teenage survivors of the Parkland school shooting and their traumatized friends and parents.

There was the moment when Fred Guttenberg, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Jaime in the slaughter, told him: “Your comments this week, and those of our president, have been pathetically weak.”

The moment when student Cameron Kasky asked Rubio to refuse accepting any more money from the National Rifle Association (NRA) — and, perhaps mentally flashing on the $3.3 million he got from NRA in 2016, Rubio said no. “The answer to the question is that people buy into my agenda.”

But to me, the most important moment came when Chris Grady, a Douglas High senior, asked Rubio, “Would you agree that there is no place in our society for large capacity magazines capable of firing off — over — from 15 to 30 rounds and if not more?”

And Rubio said that “after this and some of the details I learned about it, I’m reconsidering that position, and I’ll tell you why… Because while it may not prevent an attack, it may save lives in an attack.”

With fewer bullets for the killer to fire, “three or four people might be alive today.”

“It wouldn’t have prevented the attack but it made it less lethal,” Rubio said.

Bingo! That’s exactly what people who urge banning semiautomatic weapons are saying.

Nothing is going to eliminate all gun deaths in America. And nothing is going to completely keep demented people from getting hold of firearms. But we can at least limit those guns’ lethality.

Guns like the AR-15, which fire with such force that they left victims of the Parkland school shooting “with only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet,” an emergency room radiologist tells us, via The Atlantic. “There was nothing left to repair.”

If you see the logic of making gun cartridges less lethal, then you must see the logic of  making guns themselves less lethal.

Rubio, possibly without knowing it, destroyed his own longstanding argument. The day after the Parkland shooting, Rubio took to the Senate floor to say gun-control measures don’t work. “Whether it is a political assassination of one person or the mass killing of many, if one person decides to do it and they are committed to that task, it is a very difficult thing to stop,” he said, before adding, “that does not mean we should not try to prevent as many of them as we can.”

Yes, stopping a determined killer is a hard thing to do. But once you’ve allowed that the lethality of the instrument is the determining factor in whether something should or shouldn’t be lawful, then why not be consistent? Why not concede that we should be making it much harder for would-be killers to get their hands on armaments that are essentially weapons of war?

Rubio should be applauded for changing his mind on high-capacity ammo magazines. It should be a short step to changing his mind on assault weapons, period.

Take it, Senator.

Christie: Other child victims also deserve President Trump’s attention, Post reader says

In this April 4 photo, Abdel Hameed Alyousef, 29, holds his twin babies who were killed during a suspected chemical weapons attack, in Khan Sheikhoun in the northern province of Idlib, Syria. France’s foreign minister says chemical analysis of samples taken from a deadly sarin gas attack in Syria shows that the nerve agent used “bears the signature” of President Bashar Assad’s government and shows it was responsible. (Alaa Alyousef via AP, File)

A few weeks ago President Trump, quickly reacting to 22 children being gassed, ordered a missile attack on a Syrian airfield. Because the use of gas is universally unacceptable, the president generally received bipartisan support for his action. Although the attack was somewhat knee jerk in nature, most people gave him a pass because children were involved.

A week later, 40 children were among the scores of people who died in Beirut while trying to find something to eat. A bomb explosion may not have the same visceral effect as gas, the carnage described in graphic detail. Unless I missed the coverage, there was no reaction from the White House, although, obviously, dead children are dead children, regardless of the cause.

With so many children dying in a relatively short period of time, I wonder whether anyone thought back to the tragic killings of 20 first-grade pupils in Newtown, Conn. One life is certainly as important as another. Yet all that was asked of our Congress was to pass more comprehensive regulations  on the sale of guns. Congress, or at least the Republicans in Congress, either have no conscience or have sold them to the NRA.

According to a Huffington Post article, “There Have Been Over 200 School Shooting Incidents Since The Sandy Hook Massacre,” (Dec. 14) and Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization of more than 3 million mayors, moms, cops, teachers, survivors, gun owners and everyday Americans working to end gun violence, there have been more than 200 school shootings since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, averaging about one shooting per week.

These shootings resulted in approximately 94 gun-related deaths and 156 injuries.

I find it difficult to comprehend why President Trump who campaigned for “America First” chooses as his first aggressive action an attack in Syria, rather than addressing the obvious problems at home. This is only one example of poor judgment our president has exhibited during his first 100 days in office.

BURT EDELCHICK, HOBE SOUND

Christie: Tell us: How do we stop these mass shootings?

People take cover at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport after a gunman killed 5 people and injured many more on January 6, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
People take cover at the Fort Lauderdale Airport after a gunman killed 5 people and injured many more on Jan. 6. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

What do we do now?

What do we do after another mass shooting by an alleged mentally ill individual takes the lives of so many.

Even more disturbing is how the Friday afternoon bloodbath at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport further exposes how our airport terminals are big, tempting — some say, soft — targets for armed individuals who want to terrorize or just kill other people.

In March, three coordinated suicide bombings in Brussels, Belgium – two at Brussels Airport and one at a metro station – killed 32 civilians and injured more than 300. The airport explosions were in a departure hall.

In October, three gunmen with automatic weapons and suicide bombs staged an attack at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, killing 45 people and injuring 230. Two of the attackers opened fire near a security checkpoint’s x-ray scanner, and detonated bombs when police returned fire. The third attacker set off a bomb in the parking lot across the street from the terminal.

And now, Fort Lauderdale. According to the latest reports, 26-year-old Esteban Santiago got off a Delta Airlines flight from Anchorage, Alaska, pulled his gun from his checked bag in the baggage area, loaded it in the bathroom and shot at least 13 people — killing five and sending eight people to nearby Broward Health Medical Center.

Santiago, who was discharged from the Army National Guard in August for “unsatisfactory performance,” served in Iraq for about a year starting in 2010. He was a combat engineer.

CNN reported that Santiago showed up at the Anchorage FBI office recently, and was checked into a mental facility after he said he heard voices telling him to join ISIS. And members of his family are now telling media outlets that Santiago “lost his mind in Iraq.”

Whatever his reason may be, our minds automatically go what we can do to prevent this from happening again on U.S. soil. A few ideas:

  1. Stop allowing passengers to carry guns and ammunition in their checked bags on airline flights.
  2. Beef up armed security at U.S. airports and ease restrictions on stop and frisk.
  3. Keep mentally ill people from owning and acquiring firearms in the first place.

But what freedoms would we be willing to give up as a result?

For example, American travelers are notorious for not wanting anything to slow down — read that, ruin — their vacations. We bristle, for example, every time we have to take off our shoes or belt at the airport security checkpoint.

What would you suggest? Tell us: How do we stop these mass shootings?