The gunman who slaughtered six innocent people and wounded many more at a community outreach event in Tucson, Arizona January 8 may well be out of his mind. Certainly his actions are beyond comprehension, and off the scale of human reason.
But the truth is that we don't yet know what moves in the head of the accused man, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner.
There seems to be no doubt that Loughner is in fact the gunman. Judging from press accounts, there are many eyewitnesses to the crime, and Loughner was immediately captured with a weapon still warm from use.
I have no sympathy for him. I hope he evades the death penalty and is incarcerated for the rest of his life.
Like it or not, though, he is, under our system of law, innocent until proven guilty. But the media has not only convicted Loughner, they have also evaluated his mental state and concluded he is insane.
I submit that there is not a single reporter working in America today who is qualified to render such an opinion.
The print media is by no means innocent, but TV news has, as usual, been the worst offender. I have been appalled by some of what I have seen.
The nadir came a few nights ago, when a reporter on CNN referred to Loughner as "crazy." This on a national, probably international, broadcast. It's bad enough this reporter used the colloquialism "crazy." That he would offer any comment at all on Loughner's mental capacity is indefensible.
Anecdotal evidence is not competent evaluation. This reporter was no more qualified to comment on the soundness of Loughner's mind than I am qualified to call the reporter an idiot. My background, however, includes broadcast news, so I am qualified to say this reporter committed an egregious violation of journalistic ethics.
The reporter should be tarred and feathered. He'll probably win an Emmy.
The events in Tucson were an enormous human tragedy, and while the media's response has at times been admirable, its failings have cheapened its meaning, and dulled our ability to understand it.