On Thursday, the New York Times published an op-ed blaming President Trump’s brutish and often incendiary rhetoric for the spate of explosive devices mailed this week to Democratic officials.
“[W]ords have consequences, especially when they are stated repeatedly by influential figures and sound distinctly like dog whistles to extremists who might well feel emboldened to act on them,” read the submission. “Now more than ever, no one should feign surprise or innocence about this.”
Earlier, in June 2017, the Times’ editorial board repeated the long-ago debunked lie that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's political activism had inspired the 2011 Tucson, Ariz., mass shooting in which Rep. Gabby Giffords, a Democrat, was gravely wounded. Times columnist Paul Krugman was largely responsible for mainstreaming this myth.
One year earlier, in 2016, the paper’s editorial board argued Trump’s campaign rhetoric had “emboldened and even encouraged those who have been looking for a license to lash out against immigrants, refugees, minorities and anyone else they find threatening.”
Taken together, these articles and op-eds show the paper and its staff adhere sincerely to the idea that violent rhetoric begets violent actions.
So here's something interesting: On Tuesday, the Times’ Book Review section published a fictional short story fantasizing about the assassination of the president.
I guess the takeaway here is that dangerous rhetoric is dangerous unless they're the ones publishing it.
The author of the Trump assassination story, Zoe Sharp, was one of five writers asked by the Times to submit a fictional response to the question: “What might happen next” to the “Mueller investigation and the relationship between Trump and Putin?" Sharp’s contribution to the Times’ query concludes with these lines:
When it was time, he went downstairs, took his place in the lobby before the entourage appeared. The hotel staff had been lined up to see their boss, the president, go by. A few of them applauded. Most did not.
The president didn’t seem to notice. He waved, in his desultory fashion. The Secret Service agents clustered around him, ushered him toward the armored limo idling outside at the curb.
The Russian waited until they were a few steps past before he drew the gun. He sighted on the center of the president’s back, and squeezed the trigger.
The Makarov misfired.
The Secret Service agent at the president’s shoulder heard the click, spun into a crouch. He registered the scene instantly, drawing his own weapon with razor-edge reflexes. The Russian tasted failure. He closed his eyes and waited to pay the cost.
It did not come.
He opened his eyes. The Secret Service agent stood before him, presenting his Glock, butt first.
“Here,” the agent said politely. “Use mine. …”
They really picked a great week for this, didn't they?