An unruly crowd entered the US Capitol on Jan. 6, while then-President Donald Trump addressed a rally several blocks away. One member of that crowd, Ashli Babbitt, an unarmed woman and a veteran, was shot by the Capitol Police. The next day, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died in the hospital.
On Jan. 8, The New York Times reported that Officer Sicknick had died after being struck in the head with a fire extinguisher by violent Trump supporters. This story was quickly repeated by numerous other media outlets. Millions believed it.
The story was false.
Sicknick died of two strokes, which occurred many hours after the invasion of the Capitol. The blue-check-media fallback was that bear spray used by the Capitol invaders had caused the officer’s strokes.
That also turned out to be false. After a curiously long delay, the DC medical examiner’s office released its report this week, and it concludes that Sicknick suffered no injuries, internal or external. He didn’t have a reaction to bear spray, the chief medical examiner reported.
So the single most important “fact” about the events of Jan. 6 was false. That leaves some questions.
First, who were the Gray Lady’s sources? The Times story quoted two anonymous “law-enforcement officials,” but anyone associated with the Capitol Police, or any investigation, should have known that Sicknick wasn’t struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. Having been misled by its sources, will the Times tell us who they were?
Will the Times apologize for its error? It could have independently confirmed its claims by checking with Sicknick’s family or with the hospital. Or the paper could simply have waited until it had definitive confirmation of the facts and refrained from reporting a falsehood in the meanwhile.
As leftist journalist Glenn Greenwald notes, the Times didn’t check the facts because the paper needed the story to be true. It was essential to the Narrative its editors had settled upon: namely, that Trump and his supporters were “insurrectionists” posing a violent threat to democracy.
Says Greenwald: “The gruesome story of Sicknick’s ‘murder’ was too valuable to allow any questioning . . . because if Sicknick weren’t murdered by them, then nobody was (without Sicknick, the only ones killed were four pro-Trump supporters: two who died of a heart attack, one from an amphetamine overdose and the other, Ashli Babbitt, who was shot point blank in the neck by Capitol Police despite being unarmed.”
Democratic lawmakers even repeated the false story of Sicknick’s death at Trump’s impeachment.
For today’s media, it’s the Narrative above all. It doesn’t take a media-studies prof to tell that reporters and editors generally decide on the storyline before the facts are in; the reported facts are then massaged to make sure the public gets the right impression.
And the storyline is always, always designed to help liberals and hurt conservatives and to cast GOP politicians and their supporters in a bad light. Some of this is because the vast, vast majority of people working in newsrooms are now Democrats, and virulently partisan Democrats at that.
Some of it is because many outlets, the Times most definitely included, cater to the partisan leanings of their subscribers, who are far from representative of national opinion as a whole. So the outlets tell them what they want to hear, such as the bogus but undying notion that Team Trump “colluded” with Russia.
And some of it is simply because they can. There will be no significant consequences to the Times for spreading a lie that divided and inflamed the country at a dangerous time. For all the moralizing about people “spreading misinformation” on social media, the biggest spreaders of misinformation in America are the liberal media, the Times above all.
But while the press is happy to report things that advance the Narrative, its greatest tool is ignoring stories it doesn’t want talked about. With all the interest in police shootings in other settings, reporters have been steadfastly incurious about the shooting of Babbitt. She was an unarmed woman shot to death, whatever the justice of her cause (or lack thereof).
And we don’t even know who shot her. Unlike Brian Sicknick, whose name was shared everywhere as part of the Times’ misinformation-spreading, the name of the Capitol officer who shot Babbitt has been kept secret. And the press is fine with that.
It’s all about the Narrative.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee and founder of the InstaPundit.com blog.Read More