Weaponizing Death

Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness

Recently there has been a spate of horrific murders.

The killers, whether committing mass shootings or single homicides, are hard to stereotype.

They can be clearly either mentally ill or simply innately evil. They can kill for revenge, for ideological purposes, out of hatred, for notoriety—or for no known reason at all.

They are probably left-wing and right-wing, white, black, and brown, young, and old. While their weapons of choice are semiautomatic rifles, there are plenty of killers who favor handguns and even knives.

Unfortunately, these tragedies increasingly have become politicized.

Yet our media and politicians do not apply a common standard of reporting about either the victims, the killers, or the apparent motives and circumstances of the violence.

Instead, each horror is quickly analyzed for its political usefulness. Then its details are electively downplayed or emphasized, depending upon the political agenda at work.

A sad example was the terrible murder spree at the private Christian Covenant School in Nashville. A transgender male lethally shot six people, including three 9-year-old children.

Almost immediately, three media narratives emerged.

One, semiautomatic weapons, not the killer Audrey Hale, were mostly responsible for the massacre.

Two, the shooter’s transgender identity profile played no role in the killing whatsoever.

Three, the public had no need to know of the contents of the shooter’s “manifesto.”


The media and authorities apparently assumed Hale’s written rantings tried to justify the murders because of Christianity’s supposed disapproval of transgenderism.

That censored reaction to the Tennessee shooting was quite different from another mass murder committed nearly six weeks later in Allen, Texas by a former security guard Mauricio Garcia.

Within minutes of the identification of the shooter, the media blared that Garcia wore pro-Nazi insignia and was thus a “white supremacist.”

Apparently that narrative was deemed useful to promote the idea of white supremacist terrorists using their semiautomatic “assault” weapons to kill for right-wing agendas.

Yet second-generation Hispanic immigrants, whose parents do not speak English, are not likely “white supremacists.”

The strained effort to make violent “people of color” into white right-wing killers is reminiscent of Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012.

Then the media reinvented the shooter, half-Peruvian George Zimmerman, into a “white Hispanic.” He was transformed into a right-wing vigilante and racist who supposedly hunted down an innocent black teenager.

The media did not wish to portray Martin’s death as a fight between an Hispanic and black teen. Instead, it tried to refashion the shooting as “systemic racism”—to the point of doctoring the 911 tape and photoshopping Zimmerman’s police photo to fit its false narratives.

Recently, an African American man named Deion Patterson lethally shot one and wounded four others in an Atlanta medical waiting room. His own politics, race, and type of weapon were apparently of little interest. So he was simply described as suffering from mental illness.

The media also did not wish to sensationalize either the profile or circumstances of another contemporaneous mass shooter Francisco Oropeza. He executed five of his neighbors, including a young boy and two women.

Only later did we learn that Oropeza was in fact an illegal alien who had been deported four times previously and returned each time through an open border.

Most recently, outrage grew over the homicide of Jordan Neely, a homeless man who frequented the subway and often threatened and occasionally attacked bystanders.

When a would-be good Samaritan and ex-Marine determined Neely’s latest threats to passengers were serious, he subdued him with a choke hold. Tragically Neely died while being restrained.

A media circus followed. Neely was black. The former Marine who held him down was white. So activists and the media immediately cited the death as yet more proof of systemic racism.

The public was lectured that Neely was a talented impersonator, who did professional street imitations of Michael Jackson.

The violent death of his mother, we were told, had traumatized him.

Released subway videos showed him on the floor of the subway, thrashing about while the white Marine held him in a headlock.

Protests and demands for a murder indictment followed.

Then later the inevitable skipped details trickled out, despite, not because of, media coverage.

Neely had been arrested 42 times, including for lewd conduct, with three convictions for violent assaults.

His forte was brutally punching random victims in the face, including a 67-year old woman, and a 68-year-old Hispanic male.

The news stories also neglected to mention that a black passenger helped subdue Neely.

The public learned there might be other, as yet unreleased, videos of Neely earlier threatening commuters.

Death is traumatic enough, without searching for ways to gain political traction from it.

It is eerie how each tragedy prompts a desperate effort to spin narratives of a racist America, where only right-wing killers and vigilantes prey on marginalized people of color and the transgendered.

Once these fables become “facts,” then the media runs with their fables.


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37 thoughts on “Weaponizing Death”

  1. My dad back in the 50s told me that the New York Times is “the greatest newspaper in the world” and that I should read it. That I did for many years. But given the blatant narrative-driven distortions you so ably describe, I finally had to give up on the Times a few years ago. Nothing’s perfect, but I get my news/analysis now from the Wall Street Journal and essays/podcasts such as yours.

    1. anna willhide

      Yes, the “Times” was a Sunday treat in my house. A book could be written on how it came to change so much.

    2. Podcasts, Epoch Times, Daily Wire…
      Even though the theory of lead pipes and drinking vessels adding to the decline of the Roman Empire has been subject to scrutiny, the theory of getting your news from major media and tech outlets leading to the demise of America is certainly not in doubt.

  2. Here I will admit to something that just about everybody else is guilty of doing. Including me.

    When I hear of a newsworthy killing, the first thing I do is try to determine if the perp was from the left or right. However, I also realize that the killer was likely a bit crazy, no matter what “side” they came from. In fact, crazy almost always trumps political affiliation. But no matter. The press wants to, needs to, paint the murderer in a way that supports their chosen narrative – the story that they want to tell their readers. The fable that they want their readers to believe. The myth that they feel obligated to perpetuate in order to keep their people in charge.

    Whew! I hope that was an understandable paragraph!

    As VDH states, the press, no matter the facts, will go about portraying the murderer in their chosen way by excluding some facts, overplaying others, and making up supporting stories. If that becomes impossible to do, they just drop it.

    If their attempts to call the color green red and the color red green fail, they will just stop reporting on the story. By keeping track of all the stories that the press does not cover (many in the Biden era) you can easily see where the truth is being hidden from us. They are showing us the play book. It is obvious. The readers of these pages can easily see that. Most cannot.

    Best to regard the “news” as anything but. Has this always been the case?

  3. As has been said, Bad news will travel round the world while good news is just getting out of bed. When you drive up U Highway 287 and turn on the radio several things strike you as you listen to what few stations you can find and select. The first are the number of religious broadcast stations where you are treated to bible studies programs and modern religious music that now apes the more modern country and western mixed in with, dare I say it, religious Hip Hop and Rap, give me that old time religion is no longer good enough for the youth and early adult listeners.

    The second most striking thing are the crop and stock reports, typical farm and ranch news by which farmers and ranchers keep abreast of news important to their business and welfare. Of course the close one gets to Denver the more the radio scape changes to the modern city drama of modern music, Tex-Mex country, Spanish speaking programing, and NPR oozing sophisticated upper class intelligentsia.

    Each audience displays its own interests and crassness (NPR may be the upper class sophisticated but still crass in its own way) and the affluent urban dweller is as much of a bumkin as his country cousin. When you’re out on the farm you really don’t care about the murders in the city and when you live in the city you don’t care who is stealing water. The point being is that drama dances into our lives on a daily basis, the amplitude is the more important part of our concern.

  4. To continue, the myth that our various media outlets should show taste and restraint ought to be demolished. Hurst had it right, if you want to make money in the news business then sensationalism is the first order of the day. People want drama in their lives, but only in bits and pieces. If you have ever watched the reality shows, and much of what we may watch is based on drama, then one takes the ordinary, such as real estate, pawn shop operations, cooking shows, knife making competitions, and the like and watch as the producers, directors, and writers add in drama to the ordinary. There is money to be made however briefly in drama. As if you must, go to any meeting of elected representatives and sit through hours of boring talk until it’s showtime and the drama queens emerge to put on their show.

    Imagine a world without war, strife, or envy and wonder if we could ever let the peace and quiet alone or would we want to introduce more drama into our world because it is so boring?

    1. Good stuff. I’ll add the corollary that the more we “plug-in” to the news and podcast cycle, the more apocalyptic the situation seems. This has the positive of rousing us from our complacency and the negatives of increasing our readiness to demand extreme solutions and/or fall into despair and cease taking what positive actions we could take.

    2. anna willhide

      People were happy, and happier; with the shows of the last century, from early to later century. Detailed tortures in crime shows began coming in the later part of the 20th; accompanied by more actual criminality. Studies have shown that people can become addicted to adrenaline. I read about how the people in a Mormon breakaway bigamist cult grew up believing their standards. Humans once believed in virgin sacrifice; some still eat one another. “Crazy” is too often a catch all imo.

    3. you cannot have drama without conflict…

      …notice how much of our movie/tv entertainment is concocted conflict. formulaic junk.

      do humans ‘need’ conflict? would a world without it make us Eloi (from THE TIME MACHINE) who are good for nothing grazers? someone wrote about the ‘men with red cheeks,’ the men with chests that breathe in and out like a furnace when he sees something he wants, and goes to take it.

      and wrote about the roots of aristocracy when some men ‘showed contempt for their lives’ and engaged in mortal conflict gaining a freedom the rest of us will never know, as we are the slaves who thought too rationally on the opportunity and cowered, and thereafter we drive all progress in our urge to show the aristocrats that we’re not chopped liver.

      a need to prove ourselves may represent an internal conflict men have (or had). it seems likely to be built in.

      also, culture trumps civilization or education, so there’s little hope in living without irrational conflict going forward.

      anyway, for quality conflict, read books.

  5. Probably it is obvious to many, nevertheless, it seems that media places a much higher value on agenda than on principle or objective facts and truth and thus it is left to the reader to discern the message behind the noise. There was no firearm to blame in either Moscow Idaho or with the Manhattan handyman last year so the messages came through much faster and more clear: perversely sick minds that create horrific, heinous, barbaric acts must not be allowed in a civilized society. It was the mind, not the tool, yet media turns its back on truth.

  6. George Sprague

    Thank you, Mr. Hanson you’ve always been a voice of reason. My father passed 16 years ago and you remind me of him in many ways. Other than not reacting irrational way, what would you recommend being quiet, speaking calmly, and truthfully? Thanks again.
    Of course, would never hold you liable for your suggestions. Not many of us left, but I am accountable for myself.

  7. Really sad are the incidents of violence not reported. Chicago daily body count is the first to come to mind. The annual body counts due to drugs equals two Vietnam’s a year. Then the the missing 85,000 children which is probably a low count. Evil has always been present in the world but now has harnessed the corrupt politicians for high productivity. Oh I forgot the genocide due to Covid inoculations.

  8. Victor – Thanks for your detailed reporting showing how murders are distorted by the media to promote political agendas. Dishonest reporters seem intent upon manipulating the public to do their will. As a society, with have lost the sacredness of truth and are intent upon achieving our own will. May God give us grace to honor him.

  9. I have noticed that certain minority groups are given license to commit violent assaults and robberies with impunity. Yet, when these criminal acts do take place, there seems to be a media scramble to tag such acts as somehow related to fabled white supremacy. There seems to be a palpable hatred for white people in general amongst these media types. I often feel afraid to engage in activities that would place me within a crowd of people such as going to the mall or concert or even a movie theatre. Hollywood and the media have demonized Caucasians to the point of inspiring a deep hatred amongst minority groups. How are we going to get out of this mess? Has so much damage been done that we are beyond a point of no return? Will we eventually recognize the true villains and deliver to them true social justice? Or have we at long last come face to face with that rough beast who slouched toward Bethlehem to be born?

    1. Nice Yeats quote! -just remember that he thought we were on the edge of a magical re-awakening that would lead to a “Golden Dawn” for humanity. Even his gloomiest poetry emerges from that context.

      Like Victor, I live in an area where White people are in the minority. The best remedy to the desire to isolate that I’ve found is to get to know your neighbors and start picking up on the subtle cultural differences that build those perceived walls. Smiling can be good, but it’s better to nod at a person when they’re 10 feet away and great them when they’re 5 feet away. That got me started at least. Next was figuring out that every community has their unofficial “ambassadors” who will both vouch for outsiders and help them understand how to fit in. Be on the look out for those people, and forge friendships with them if at all possible. After that, you begin to learn who you can trust and your neighbors know that they can trust you. If you know any foreign languages, be ready to use them. You can make friends by using even broken Spanish or French when attempting to communicate with non-English speakers. If you’re around Africans, learning “The King’s English” and the importance of ritual greetings each time you see each other helps too. That’s my 2 cents. It’s helped me.

    2. By luck, mostly, I reside in the most White county in my state.

      Not bragging. That’s just how it turned out after several personal migrations across the span of a lifetime.

      When I go to the supermarket, all I see is “people like me”. I feel comfortable around my neighbors. I am confident that we have similar family backgrounds, similar ideals, and comparable goals in life. These are my people, imperfect as we all are. Most are not looking for a handout from the government.

      Should I feel guilty for enjoying the company of people who are like me? Isn’t that what we all would like? I’ve seen no evidence that diversity, by itself, is necessarily a good thing. Rings of propaganda.

      Maybe it’s just me, but I absolutely do not understand the thought processes of much of our current population, particularly WRT our relationship to local law enforcement.

      By the way, I am a fluent Spanish speaker, as well, so have no real problems with that segment.. We just don’t have a lot of lawns to mow or crops to pick up here in the mountains. No work = no migration here.

      However, I have tremendous respect for the work ethic of our Spanish-speaking bothers and sisters.

      Other minorities, not so much. Should I feel bad about that observation?

      1. Skipping perceptions of various minority groups, your post reminded me of the similar “white-wash” in the libertarian and liberal New England states. I think VT is the least diverse state in the Union. None of these states had found a way to truly integrate what non-white citizens they have. CT has a growing number of middle class and rich non-whites that mix with their caucasian peers, but most minorities remain locked-in in the inner cities since the great migration. Point being, the liberal states have no solutions. The conservative Southern States, in spite of very real racism, seem to be doing better with “celebrate cultural contributions of ethnic enclaves”, intermarry, assimilate, affirm together a common State and regional ethos. There’s all kinds of problems with that, but it seems to yield more genuine diversity and inclusion.

  10. Brian McKibben

    Agree with John Gibbs above. The mainstream media, including NYT, WaPo, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS have become completely amoral and self-serving in their efforts to promote sensational narratives that leave out the facts in ways that negatively excite the public and attract eyeballs and advertisers’ $ to their “news” media. Wall Street Journal is now the only consistently trustworthy news source.

    1. I respect the WSJ less since they put out a hit piece out on Tucker in an attempt to bolster their corporate interests. WSJ has no patent on righteousness and fair play. Board member Paul Ryan caused much damage in Trump’s first two years.

    2. I also go here, NRO, Hoover Podcasts, and The Megyn Kelly Podcast when I want commentary on what I’ve read.

        1. She lets her interviewees talk! Often she even gets guests from different camps! Reminds me of the “old days” of cable news.

  11. And don’t forget the Las Vegas mass shooting of a few years ago. Someone who plans that thoroughly to open fire on a country music concert is looking to kill patriotic Americans. He was a leftist murderer whose actions too openly gave away the whole agenda of the left. So the entire incident was rushed down the memory hole – about as successfully as any event in American history.

  12. Thomas O'Brien

    The NYT has a market cap of $6 billion. This is chump change compared to what Elon Musk paid for Twitter.

    Wouldn’t it be great if he, or some other multi-billionaire that believes it is essential that we preserve ntegrity in journalism, stepped-up and bought it outright.

    And wouldn’t that give the Left fits!

  13. David Tambornino

    “Death is traumatic enough, without searching for ways to gain political traction from it.”

    Victor Davis Hanson strikes again.

    David Tambornino

  14. anna willhide

    Absolutely nailed it. This should be reprinted, at least on Newsmax and Fox. The general public; on all sides, needs to see it. We are in a bad way.

  15. My view of one significant problem shown by the death of Mr. Neely on the New York City Transit F Train that day. Mr. Perry and the other passengers that intervened to restrain Mr. Neely’s threatening behavior had all paid their fares to enter and use the subway to travel to their destinations. Mr. Neely, most likely, was never required to pay his subway fare to enter and use the system. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority probably retains many hours of video showing Mr. Neely jumping the turnstiles in the presence of NYC Transit managers and security to go about his way in the subways of New York. Could the altercation and the death of Mr. Neely been avoided had Mr. Neely been made by the MTA and NYC Transit to follow the simple requirements of being a fare-paying passenger? How can this be anyway to run a railroad?

  16. Eleanor Rigby

    Every one of these is true, and the race issue is always prominent, but there are so many other issues that result from this horrific conclusion jumping that annoys me beyond words. With such little information people come up with the most ridiculous speculations that often go viral and become the “logical” conclusion. I have a very difficult time handling that.

  17. Thank You Victor…
    Baron Montesquieu is quoted, as follows: “When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person or body, there can be no liberty…Were the power of judging joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for the judge, would then be the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with all the violence of an oppressor. (
    (Emphasis as original)
    How prophetic….!

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