November 5th’s tragic scene at Fort Hood, TX, left many of us in shock. Soldiers everywhere were undoubtedly shaken by the events, and people with friends and/or family in the military (like myself) spent much of that day looking for answers. Questions as to the motivation of Major Nidal Malik Hasan arose as soon as the event hit the news, and as soon as the culprit’s name was released, it seemed that some made the immediate determination that Hasan’ Muslim faith was at the root of his motive.
Less than twenty-four hours after the shooting, “news” outlets were already attempting to politicize the event. WorldNetDaily, a staunch right-wing media site, made (and repeated) the claim that Major Hasan had been an advisor to the Obama transition team. In actuality, the only connection to the President’s transition and Hasan is that the Major signed up for (and did not attend) some events hosted by the Homeland Security Policy Institute, which played no official role in the transition but only attempted to advise. These claims were easily disproven by mediamatters.org, but the damage, and the connection of Hasan to Obama in the minds of many right-wingers, was already done.
In addition, FOX News contributor Michelle Malkin has decided that Hasan’s rampage was all too predictable because of his Muslim faith, seemingly trying to connect these heinous acts with the religion of Islam itself. She’s not the only one. Popular right-wing blogger and Republican operative Debbie Schlussel has gone so far as to prod us to “think of Major Malik Nadal Hasan (and all of the other Muslim American traitorous soldiers in the U.S. military who’ve shot their fellow soldiers up and killed them or otherwise helped the enemy), whenever you hear about how Muslims serve their country in the U.S. military.”
Let me remind you that these hateful, fearmongering claims were made less than tewnty-four hours after the shooting occurred.
It wasn’t only the right, though, that proved its indecency by politicizing this tragedy as soon as it took place. Blogger Andrew Blast wrote Friday morning in newsweek.com that Hasan’s behavior was a symptom that “the U.S. military could well be reaching a breaking point as the president decides to send more troops into Afghanistan.” Could they? Certainly. There are many soldiers for whom the two wars in which we are currently engaged lead to serious mental health issues. This tragedy, however, is not the jumping-off point for such a conversation only about fifteen hours after it happened. The dead and wounded, as well as their families, deserve time to grieve before becoming fodder in an anti-war campaign (regardless of how justified anti-war campaigns might be).
The shootings at Fort Hood on November 5th were a national tragedy that affected the entire country. I know that such news events can be highly lucrative to a media industry that has grown increasingly cynical and insensitive to the victims of such events. We all want to know what is going on in the world, and we understand that the bad news is much more marketable than the good. The “if it bleeds, it leads” attitude of the news media is something to which the American people have become accustomed. But please, please, stop trying to make political points using the still-warm bodies of the victims. To all of you who would do so: you should be ashamed of yourselves. You have now officially hit rock bottom in your quest to stir up ratings. You are controversy junkies who have indulged in your addiction for far too long. You need to take a break and learn to control yourselves. You need to know when to say when.