On the evening of November 7, 2018, a country-western bar in Thousand Oaks, California, was the scene of another mass shooting. Using a legally-owned .45-caliber Glock with an illegal high-capacity magazine, the perpetrator committed suicide after murdering twelve people and injuring at least ten others.
One of the victims of this undeniably appalling act was 27-year old Telemachus Orfanos, who was also a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting in October of 2017. The day after the attack in Thousand Oaks, an ABC7 News correspondent interviewed his mother, Susan Orfanos. In a state of understandable and unimaginable grief, anger, and shock, her message was clear:
I hope to God no one sends me anymore prayers. I want gun control. No more guns!
All individuals, whether victims or not, have the right to voice their opinions on policy. However, if the supposedly objective media decide to promote these viewpoints in an attempt to support policy, then they have a duty to critically analyze these opinions. Journalists could acknowledge that the concept of “no more guns” is widely debated for reasons such as constitutional law, efficacy, or practicality.
The media, however, reject this need for objective analysis by assigning authority on policy based upon victimhood alone. Masking their biased opinions under the guise of objective news journalism, they carefully curate their sources of victimhood. With politically aligned victims, they promote their subjective political agenda by manipulating their audience through emotional arguments.
This was demonstrated after Susan Orfanos’ interview. CNN host Chris Cuomo lambasted those who offer “thoughts and prayers,” stating that they are simply mocking victims of gun violence, and that people must agree with his view on gun control if they truly care about the victims. His arrogant and illogical argument was based on nothing more than an emotional appeal.
During his emotional tirade, Cuomo actively marginalized and smeared Americans who offer prayers in times of tragedy as a sign of condolence, as well as supporters of The Second Amendment, in an attempt to silence dissenting viewpoints.
This same strategy applies to the selection of victims. The personal opinions of victims such as Susan Orfanos are promoted as foundational arguments in support of gun control. Similarly, Parkland survivors David Hogg and Emma González were elevated as quasi-thought leaders on gun control policy, with victimhood replacing the need for logical arguments. Another Parkland survivor, Kyle Kashuv, was ignored by the mainstream media, despite his equally-vocal advocacy for gun policy. The difference? Kashuv is an outspoken advocate of the Second Amendment.
The role of objective news media is to respect the full breadth of subjective debate, not to cherry-pick political viewpoints based on the pursuit of a biased agenda. The media show the depth of their hypocrisy when they fail to apply their flawed logic to victims of other tragedies. Many advocates for immigration control reference cases such as Kate Steinle, who was killed by an illegal immigrant, as a reason for stricter immigration control. When discussing Steinle, Cuomo stated:
…Kate Steinle has always been a gross misappropriation of the tragedy that ended her life. It doesn’t meet with the facts of the situation.
Cuomo fails to practice what he preaches when it comes to tragedies such as Thousand Oaks. This only demonstrates that the misappropriation of tragedy is only permissible in the pursuit of certain policies, and the facts of the situation are only relevant when they support their biased political agenda.
Those who stand on the wreckage of tragedy by hijacking the opinions of carefully-selected victims and elevate them to support a deeper political agenda are nothing short of manipulative bullies. Their emotional and irrational tirade against logic and reason must end.