Media Bias, Case No. 15239
Arapahoe High gunman held strong political beliefs, classmates said
That’s the headline of the Denver Post news story about Denver high school murderer Karl Pierson.
OK. He had strong political beliefs. Given that that’s the headline, wouldn’t a good reporter tell us up front what those political beliefs were? Perhaps he hated gun control. Perhaps he was a member of the religious right. That’s a sensible narrative, right?
Well, I’ve got to say that reporters Zahira Torres and Yesenia Robles do their darndest at trying to make you think that. Here are the first 5 paragraphs of their news story:
The teenage gunman who entered Arapahoe High School on Friday afternoon and shot two fellow students with a shotgun was outspoken about politics, was a gifted debater and might have been bullied for his beliefs, according to students who knew him.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson identified the gunman as Karl Pierson, an 18-year-old student.
“He had very strong beliefs about gun laws and stuff,” said junior Abbey Skoda, who was in a class with Pierson during her freshman year. “I also heard he was bullied a lot.”
Robinson said that his department was investigating reports that Pierson was seeking to settle a score with a teacher after a confrontation.
Even before authorities named the gunman, friends and neighbors were in shock as word spread that Pierson was a dedicated, bright student from a religious family that attends Bible study meetings.
But wait. The story doesn’t tell us what political issues he was outspoken about. And he had strong beliefs “about gun laws and stuff?” Well, what did he believe about gun laws and stuff?
The Denver Post story goes on for another 9 paragraphs before it gets to his actual beliefs. Then, finally, the next 3 paragraphs get around to telling us his beliefs. Are you ready? Here they are:
In one Facebook post, Pierson attacks the philosophies of economist Adam Smith, who through his invisible-hand theory pushed the notion that the free market was self-regulating. In another post, he describes himself as “Keynesian.”
“I was wondering to all the neoclassicals and neoliberals, why isn’t the market correcting itself?” he wrote. “If the invisible hand is so strong, shouldn’t it be able to overpower regulations?”
Pierson also appears to mock Republicans on another Facebook post, writing “you republicans are so cute” and posting an image that reads: “The Republican Party: Health Care: Let ’em Die, Climate Change: Let ’em Die, Gun Violence: Let ’em Die, Women’s Rights: Let ’em Die, More War: Let ’em Die. Is this really the side you want to be on?”
Is there really much doubt that had he liked Adam Smith or had he described himself as a member of the Tea Party, those facts would have been further up in the news story?