Something tragic happened in Chicopee, Massachusetts last week.
Three drunk teenagers approached a private house, and one of them, a 15-year-old boy, began banging on the door. The homeowner tried to speak with him through the closed door, but the boy’s behavior caused someone within the house to call the police and report an attempted breaking and entering. Eventually the boy smashed a pane of glass, after which the homeowner, who had members of his family within the house, ended the assault on his home by firing one shot through the door, striking the drunken teenager, who later died.
This much we learn after reading to the end of the Post article, and the report provided by the local police department, hosted, oddly, on Facebook. But here is how the Post account begins:
Two [sic] teenagers were drinking in Chicopee, Mass., Saturday afternoon when they set off to find a friend, according to authorities. Whether it was the booze or the sheer similarity of the neighborhood’s low-slung homes, the teens somehow ended up at the wrong house.
One of the teenagers, a 15-year-old boy, banged on the door.Suddenly, a gunshot rang out from inside the house, and the boy slumped on the porch with a bullet to his belly.
After this, the Post dwells for a while on these ominous details: the shooter was fond of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution, particularly the Second Amendment; and his Facebook page actually displays a picture of him aiming a gun.
After the terrifying portrait of this madman is complete, the Post article provides the salient details of the case: the smashed window, the call for help to the police, the family that the shooter was trying to protect.
These details are sandwiched between longer paragraphs quoting various people talking about the dangers of guns, etc.
The Washington Post knows what it’s doing, and what it is doing is not very attractive.
It is well known that most people, if they venture beyond a newspaper article’s headline, do not read past the first or second paragraph. The headline?
A teenager knocked on the wrong door. Now he’s dead, and the homeowner is accused of murder.
He “knocked” on the “wrong door”: the door belonging to someone so deranged and violent that he not only owns a gun, but is not ashamed of it, and thinks that other people might have the right to own guns, too.
The effect of the headline and the opening salvo of carefully edited information is to paint a picture of another gun nut who has wantonly murdered an innocent boy; of another death caused by the mere existence of guns in private hands. The Washington Post has twisted the details of this tragic event into a stealth editorial, in line with their overt editorial position on the politics of guns.
I wasn’t there, and do not know if the shooter had a legitimate fear for his life and the safety of his family. I also don’t take an absolutist position on either side of the gun issue.
But I think that anyone should object to being manipulated this way, regardless of their position on Second Amendment issues. And we should object, especially, to the Post’s eagerness to turn reporting on a tragedy into a crude piece of propaganda in support of its editorial position.