On Nashville murders and transgenderism, can’t anyone wait for the facts?

Nashville School Shooting
People pay their respects at an entry to The Covenant School that has become a memorial for victims, Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. Six people were fatally shot at the school the day before. (AP Photo/John Amis) John Amis/AP

On Nashville murders and transgenderism, can’t anyone wait for the facts?

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Many conservative media outlets transgressed just as badly as liberal establishment media did in covering Monday’s school shooting in Nashville.

I blasted the establishment media yesterday before I saw the conservative journalistic sins. Fairness requires that both sides be held to account.

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The establishment media violated journalistic ethics by flagrantly abandoning its own published standards when the standards conflicted with its favored narrative. Outlet after outlet shrouded or completely ignored the gender confusion of the shooter, which was at least relevant and perhaps a highly significant detail in an attack on a Christian school.

Conservative outlets, if anything, were worse. Completely ignoring their own frequent complaints about unfair group scapegoating by the Left, they hyped the “transgender” (more precisely, recently transvestite) aspect of the shooting far beyond what existing information warranted. Yesterday afternoon, all my various in-boxes and social media feeds were full of conservative outlets not just reporting in context that the shooter was trans-something but making the trans aspect the headlined focus.

I’m generally a fan of the New York Post, but its cover yesterday was the most egregious example. It blared out that “Transgender killer targets Christian school.” Its subhead was “‘Manifesto’ leads to 6 dead, including three young kids.”

That hype makes it appear as if the killer’s trans nature was central to her motive. But we still don’t know that. Nor do we know what was in this “manifesto” she left behind. Nor do we know that she targeted the school specifically because it was Christian. It was the school she had attended 18 years earlier, but police also say it was only one of two sites she targeted — she reportedly abandoned the other site because security there was too stringent.

Maybe she really did hate the school because its Christian focus made her ashamed of her now-announced gender choice. Or maybe she held another grudge against it because a teacher was mean to her. Or maybe she chose it because she wanted to kill children, and it just happened to be the place with the layout she knew best.

Dammit, we don’t yet know. And when you don’t know, you shouldn’t hype transgenderism and Christian victimhood any more than the establishment media should ignore those possible factors.

If the shoe were on the other foot, conservatives would be outraged. It doesn’t take much imagination, considering establishment-media bias, to posit the liberal outlets’ coverage of a situation in which someone professing on social media an unusually devout Christianity opened fire at a school that happened to have a “hide the pronouns from the parents” policy.

If the New York Times used its front page, before any motive had been definitively established, to blare out that “Christian killer targets trans-friendly school,” conservatives would yell their heads off about the unfounded, outlandish bias. And rightly so.

Inordinate concentration on a person’s group or category, without solid evidence that the group identity was central to her actions, has the tendency and often the deliberate intent of associating the larger group with the action. Conservatives are correct to rail against groupthink. We should not apply it against those whom some conservatives disfavor.

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In reporting on the Nashville horror, the killer’s gender confusion so far is a known and relevant fact but not necessarily the central fact. It is a fact that should be neither hidden nor hyped. Good journalism sometimes requires editorial restraint.

Six innocent people are dead. It dishonors those six to jump to assign blame, in effect, to a larger group whose individuals had nothing to do, nothing at all, with their tragic, inexcusable deaths.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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