Saturday, August 6, 2016



Suicide Squad review time, and there will be blood.

I'm going to warn you up front. I'm kind of pissed... and there will be spoilers here. I just don't care, this movie was a goddamn mess.

It's so bad, I really don't know where to begin.

The first act is an unmitigated disaster. Every single character introduction is severely botched. It's some of the clumsiest, worst writing I've ever seen in any film. It's so lazy, in fact, that writer/director David Ayer just created a template and used exactly the same system for everyone.

It's the epitome of formulaic.

We meet Deadshot in his prison cell. Cue cliched pop music. Amanda Waller literally tells us what he can do. We cut to a flashback of him doing what he does. We cut back to Waller explaining his weak-ass "emotional" backstory. Then we see another flashback of him getting arrested by Batman and sent to the prison he's in now.

We meet Harley Quinn in her prison cell. Cue cliched pop music. Amanda Waller literally tells us what she can do. We cut to a flashback of her doing what she does. We cut back to Waller explaining more backstory. Then we see another flashback of her getting arrested by batman and sent to the prison she's in now.

We meet Killer Croc in his prison cell. Cue cliched pop music... You get the idea.

There's zero finesse. No artfulness. No thoughtfulness. It's all just ineptly stated exposition followed immediately by a visualization of that exposition in a sequence that serves no purpose other than to repeat what we just heard. It happens for almost every character we meet and there are a lot of characters in this movie.

It's one of the worst violations of the "show, don't tell" principle in film-making I've ever seen.

And what's even more frustrating is that the movie misses every major opportunity to use these character introductions to build suspense or actually lay the groundwork for what could have been dramatic reveals later on.

For example, as Amanda Waller is explaining Diablo to her Department of Defense dinner guests, she references his fire-controlling abilities by saying something to the effect of:
"You should see the security footage, it's incredible."
Now... Smarter and better film-makers might have just left a line like that as a tease - suggestively letting us know that he is a character capable of amazing things that we haven't seen yet. That way, those amazing abilities could be revealed to us later in the film - perhaps in the third act when more firepower (pun intended) is actually called for.

Inexplicably, this movie doesn't do that kind of thing at all.

Instead, Ayer follows Waller's little joke by immediately cutting to the aforementioned security footage which shows us exactly what he can do. So when it's finally time for him to show the extent of his raw power to the the rest of the group in the key moment, it falls completely flat... Because it's not a surprise or spectacle to marvel at.

This is particularly a shame because Diablo is one of the most interesting characters in the movie - a superhuman gangland king turned pacifist, satisfied with spending his remaining life in prison as atonement.

But ya know what? That's not even the worst character introduction.

Not 10 seconds after Katana - a fundamentally useless character whose role could have been cut out entirely with no impact on the film - first appears on screen, we're treated to a ludicrously irrelevant flashback of her battling the Yakuza in Japan as an explanation for why she's a little late to the mission, and when we return to the scene from that trip down memory lane, Rick Flag follows that up with some poorly worded line about how her husband was killed and his soul lives in her sword to explain even more of her backstory to everyone else.

It's all just straight-out spoken exposition that doesn't even serve a purpose to the overall story.

And I get it... It's hard to introduce so many characters. There are a ton in this movie. The actual "Suicide Squad" (which, by the way, is a phrase literally used in the film) itself consists of:
  • Deadshot (Will Smith)
  • Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie)
  • Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje)
  • Diablo (Jay Hernandez)
  • Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney)
  • Slipknot (Adam Beach)
  • Katana (Karen Fukuhara)
  • Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman)
  • and Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) before she goes off the chain
Plus we have Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), Batman (mainly played by Ben Affleck's stunt double), Enchantress's brother Incubus (Alain Chanoine), and a shockingly forgettable Joker (Jared Leto).

These characters aren't all necessary, but I get why some of their stories would need to be rushed. That's not the problem. The problem is that it doesn't seem like anybody at DC even bothered to try to deal with introducing these characters intelligently.

And it doesn't really get any better.

Once we meet them, their motivations are incredibly inconsistent and none of them is particularly believable as a villain or a bad guy. Keep in mind that this is supposed to be a movie about murderers and thieves whose only connection to each other is a ruthless government agent who has them all by the balls. They're only working together because Waller will literally blow their heads off if they don't. At the very least, what this should mean is that the core tension (and even the comedy) in the film should come from the fact that these people can't get it together as a team. But strangely, that never seems to be a big problem for them.

They all seem to like each other right away, and they actually have far fewer problems with team dynamics than The Avengers.

In fact, I would argue that Suicide Squad actually goes way out of its way to paint each of these characters as sympathetic. Even Killer Croc - who, in the comics is a brutal, monstrous cannibal who tears people apart - is mostly shown as a misunderstood misfit who got abused by people calling him a freak as a child. Waller claims that these are the "worst of the worst", but I've personally met people I was more afraid of.

Meanwhile, the plot makes absolutely no sense.

It's genuinely not worth going into much detail about that. You already know what you really need to know anyway - imprisoned bad guys are recruited by a nefarious government operative to undertake an insane mission and save the world.

The big unsurprising twist (again, spoilers) is that Enchantress - an archeologist named June, possessed by an evil 6,000 year old witch - is only "good" because her magical heart is controlled by Waller, who threatens to destroy the witch if she doesn't work for her. When that goes predictably awry, Enchantress reanimates her brother Incubus by releasing his soul from a bottle and having him possess some random businessman in a train-station and together, they shoot a mysterious blue light of the variety we've now seen a hundred times up into the sky that opens a portal to some other dimension which will do........ something.

WoooooOOOooo... Bluuuuue liiiiiiiights!
I honestly still have no idea what the actual threat is.

When Incubus comes back to life, Enchantress tells him that humans no longer worship them as gods and that now, they worship machines. So, she says, they will build a machine... But as far as I can tell, at no point during the rest of the film do they attempt to build anything remotely resembling a "machine".

Even if they had done what they said they were going to do, I find it hard to imagine a more boring premise.

Worse still, while the villains' powers and motivation are thin and poorly established, it is at least clear that Enchantress and Incubus are wildly more powerful than the entire Suicide Squad team. So much so, that the only way they actually lose is by completely forgetting to use most of their abilities for no reason at all.

What if all the characters just showed up like this? Then
we could learn more about them throughout the rest of the
In a better movie, we'd have seen two hours of bad guys struggling to work together, trying to escape and abandon the mission, and fighting amongst themselves. We'd have seen a group of selfish people who have no interest in saving the world fail to execute their mission and find themselves in an increasingly dangerous meat grinder. They would have to make the impossible choice between getting obliterated by the villain, getting their heads blown off by Waller, or killing each other. We should be entering the third act with a disjointed group whose only hope is to use their individual skills as part of a team to win.

In a better movie, the characters would just wake up in a creepy room like Carey Elwes in Saw - all mystery and no context. Then we'd get to know who they are by their own actions, slowly and subtly throughout the rest of the story. They would build relationships with each other over time, not just decide randomly that they're one big family for no reason.

In a better movie, complex themes about the nature of good and evil, the humanity of criminals, and the nefariousness of secret government agencies might be explored.

But we didn't get a better movie. We got a frustratingly terrible movie which I was genuinely tempted to walk out of several times.

Just watch this. It's actually good.
When I got home, I put on DC's excellent animated Suicide Squad movie, "Assault on Arkham", just to wash the taste out of my mouth - and sure enough, every aspect of that film is superior to this one at half the run-time. If this movie had just been a live-action version of that script, it would have been an infinitely higher quality film to what I just saw.

What DC is doing with their cinematic universe is completely unconscionable at this point.

Like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad is a movie that (mostly) looks good. It's got a fantastic core cast who all seem really well suited to their various roles. There are good beats and moments here and there - including a couple in this film where I actually chuckled or smiled. It's even got an overall premise that few other movies and certainly no recent comic book movies have had, which should make it a fresh take on the genre in the same way that Guardians of the Galaxy or Deadpool offered more originality.

There was so much potential here and yet again, DC has squandered their opportunity with terrible writing and poor direction.

I'm done. The next one does not get the benefit of the doubt.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Five Suggestions for Better Creative Media

The following is a short speech that I was invited to give yesterday at Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform coalition meeting at FreedomFest in Las Vegas. I only had three minutes on stage, and a lot of this had to be cut on the fly for time, so I wanted to share what I intended to present in its more complete form here:

For those who don't know me, my name is Sean Malone.

I have a Bachelors degree in music composition from the University of Nebraska, and a Master of Arts in composition for film & media from New York University, and I worked as a professional in the entertainment industry in New York and Los Angeles for five years, before shifting my career goals to advancing libertarian ideas.

In 2010, I worked full time as a hired gun, producing media for non-profit advocacy groups.

In 2011, I built the first media production capability at the news website, The Daily Caller. For the last four and a half years, I worked for the Charles Koch Institute, building a media production capability and growing a creative team inside the organization.

I've won several awards for documentary film-making and have had my work screened all over the United States. My work has generated millions of views, and in a couple weeks, I will be moving to Atlanta, Georgia to take on a new role as Director of Media for the Foundation for Economic Education.

But today, I'm only here to speak for myself.

After more than 6 years working to create compelling media geared toward advancing a more free society, one thing I've been truly surprised by while working within this network is how frequently economists and political analysts are actually the ones writing scripts and leading the development of creative content instead of people with training and experience in the creative arts and communication.

Far too often, decision-makers throughout the liberty movement - many of the people in this room - use creative media not to reach new audiences, but to preach to the choir.

I believe that as a direct result, the organizations dedicated to promoting a more libertarian future wind up producing a lot of videos, podcasts, memes, and other types of content that appeal mainly to ourselves - and worse, often only to the most wonky, academically sophisticated among us. Meanwhile, we struggle to reach the mainstream audiences that we need to reach if we hope for our ideas to shape culture and politics in this country and around the world.

We have to do better, and I think we can.

In the spirit of offering solutions, I have 5 suggestions to improve creative media in the liberty movement that I've learned from doing the work:


Recognize that the folks in this room don't always have the same interests and preferences as everyone else in America.
You are usually not your audience - and that's good.

But it means we can't keep making stuff that appeals only to our own preferences as people who have often read dozens (hundreds?) of books on philosophy, economics, and political theory and expect it to be liked by everyone else.

Videos should rarely be expected to explain everything in detail or go into the pedantic trivia of names and vocabulary libertarians are often excited by.

Praxeology. Marginal benefits. Opportunity costs. Calculation problem. 

These aren't phrases most people know... And they don't need to know them in order to understand and value individual liberty.

Videos aren't academic white papers. Nor should they be.

What they should be doing is connecting people to your ideas on an emotional level. Get people to care first. Once they do, they will want to learn more.


If your organization is publicly facing, please consider trying to hire people with a legitimate background in creative fields - film, music, art, advertising, etc. - and then trust them to do their jobs.
As people with a good understanding of economics, I'm sure most of you understand the ideas of decentralized knowledge and comparative advantage. Don't underestimate the value of other people's expertise. Economists, professors, philosophers, policy analysts, lawyers -- they're all crucial to the work we do in this movement. But they don't understand audiences or conveying emotion through art the way people who have spent their lives doing this kind of work do.

And by the way, always ask to see applicants' portfolios of previous work, and make sure you know exactly what they contributed to those projects. That's far more important than any on-paper resume.

If you don't know what to look for, bring in a consultant like me, or my friends at Taliesin Nexus, the Moving Picture Institute, or from production companies in your area.


In order to attract and keep creative talent, one of the best things you can do is try to cultivate an environment that rewards creativity.
This means being willing to play, to experiment, to set aside time and space to brainstorm ideas, and allow those ideas to play out before shutting them down.

Be prepared to embrace some risks.

There are no guarantees that anything will be a huge hit, but one sure-fire way to fail is to play it safe.

Usually, the worst thing that will ever happen to a bad bit of creative content is that people won't watch it or share it. It won't burn the building down.

So live a little and don't be afraid to do something interesting.


Be yourselves, and allow your content to have its own voice.
Authenticity is the currency of online media especially, and viewers can spot something overly message-tested a mile away.

In the paraphrased words of David Mamet, what comes from the heart goes to the heart -- but what comes from the head, goes to the head and is ultimately perceived as manipulation.


Lastly… Be positive.
I can't stress this enough.

We spend far too much time telling people they're wrong, and talking only about problems we see with the world. And while it's true that you can get people's attention with shocking negativity, you can't keep it unless you offer them a way forward.

As soon-to-be Director of Media at the Foundation for Economic Education, I plan to employ every one of these lessons in the work we'll be doing over the next few years. I hope that you will all join me in improving the culture of creative media within the liberty movement.

Thank you.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

On Charleston, Race, and Violence in America

I haven't posted on this blog in quite a while. In fact, since I've been periodically writing about art & culture at, I've all but abandoned this platform except when something terrible (like getting detained by the Port Authority Police in New York for no reason) happens.

And indeed... Here I am, writing because something terrible happened.

In this case, it's the horrific shooting in Charlston, SC. For the sake of posterity, and possibly those living under a rock, at about 8pm, on July 17th, 2015, a disaffected 21-year-old high school dropout named Dylann Storm Roof walked into the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and killed nine people.

I don't think it's an understatement to call it one of the most despicable crimes to happen within my lifetime.

According to current reporting, Roof hoped to start a race-based civil war in the United States, and explicitly targeted a black church because, according to his former friends, "...blacks were taking over the world," and, "Someone needed to do something about it for the white race."j

This, to me, seems like the embodiment of the literal definition of "terrorism", whether legally defined as such or not.

From my reading of the Daily Beast's synopsis of what we know of Roof, I described him as a heavy alcohol user into hard drugs, a racist with grand dreams of inciting a civil war, a loner but not conforming to any narrative of the bullied teen lashing out. This description shows him as complex in a compounding number of awful ways... Every person who seems to have known him could likely have known what he would do, but at the same time might not have wanted to believe it. I would like to believe none would have supported it. Roof certainly seems to have had a number of psychological issues, but he also seems to have adopted one bad and wrong idea after the next.

And those ideas and bad choices ultimately led him to kill nine innocent people.

Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd (54); Susie Jackson (87); Ethel Lee Lance (70); Depayne Middleton-Doctor (49); Clementa C. Pinckney (41); Tywanza Sanders (26); Daniel Simmons (74); Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45); and Myra Thompson (59).

I should note here that I don't know any of these people.

I simply cannot know the pain their families are experiencing right now, and in no way do I pretend to have any concept of what anyone in that part of the country is feeling today.

Moreover, I am an atheist. I'm also a white guy who grew up in the Midwest/Pacific Northwest and I don't think I know anyone who's been murdered. I have no direct tie to this community or this experience at all.

However, through my work as a film producer, I've come to be rather close with the founders and pastors of a church in Tupelo, Mississippi that's probably not altogether that different from the one in Charleston. Through them, I've seen a lot of love and kindness, and a ton of hard work put in to make their community a better place, and if the folks at the Emmanuel AME Church were anything like my friends, I think I might begin to understand a tiny bit of the loss a lot of people in Charleston are feeling right now.

But even still, I recognize that I can't really know what they're going through.

And for me, that makes the massacre itself very difficult to comment on. I've stayed out of most (not quite all) of the discussions I've seen on social media so far and I've not written much of anything about it until right now.

I'm heartbroken, incredulous, angry and sad.

Like most people, I wish this kind of stuff didn't happen. There is simply nothing to be said about the shooting except that it was evil, horrifying, and that I have nothing but sympathy for the families of the victims - who, given their response, are some of the finest people imaginable.

Apart from saying things, I do also think it's important to help the people of Charleston recover and showing our support in more tangible ways... Currently, it seems like the best way of doing that online is through the Pinckney Fund (, but I'll try to go back and update this if more information becomes available.


In spite of all the legitimate outrage I feel about this, what I don't want to do at this point is rush to judgments about people and situations I have just admitted I know very little about.

From the reports I've read so far, it seems like Dylann Roof had family and friends at one point, and it's tempting to point a finger at them and claim that they could have seen this coming, and could have done more to reach him. It's tempting to ask why a father would give a .45 caliber pistol to an angry teenager.

It's tempting, but probably wrong.

I don't know any of those people and I don't know what they did or did not do to help Dylann Roof before it came to this. It's not for me to pass judgment in that way.

I also think it's extremely unwise to try to jam this event into any pre-existing narrative you want to fit it into.

So far, I've seen people within just hours of the first reports of the shooting blame the supposed lack of gun control legislation, too much gun control (the church was essentially a gun-free zone), the state flag of South Carolina, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, Dylann Roof's parents & family, the mental-health system, and a whole culture of racism - conveniently all conforming perfectly to what they would have said before the shooting.

Note: Eric Garner's case is still 100% insane.
One of the worst things I saw were questions about why Dylann Roof wasn't immediately shot and killed by the police like (supposedly) a black person obviously would have been, as if the goal should be for police in America to kill more suspects. Ugh. Notably, Roof didn't get shot by police during the arrest because he immediately surrendered, and I'm actually glad he did as I want him to have to look his victims' families in the eye during his trial.

I also saw people immediately rush to criticize "the media" for not calling Dylann Roof a "thug" (insinuating a racist double-standard, although prominent people have used that term to describe him), and mere moments later, others asked why we're not calling him a "terrorist"... Which we basically all are at this point.

Except for this guy, Philip Bump, who advocates not calling him a terrorist because such language elevates his status in a way that he shouldn't warrant:
"To the extent that labeling his actions as racial terrorism helps America come to terms with the fact that the ideology he assumed is dangerous and urgent, fine. And to the extent that labeling his actions as legal terrorism results in a stiffer punishment, also fine. But each of these is predicated on our insistence that terrorism is somehow a higher order of evil than simply murdering elderly people for being black even as they held their Bibles in a church. It implies that his mass murder was one thing, but that his scaring us was [what] made things more problematic. Perhaps we should demonstrate to him -- and every other angry young man like him -- that we aren't scared of his dumb Internet rhetoric. Not in the least."
More seriously, though... If the news of a tragedy like this is less than 12 hours old, maybe we shouldn't expect newsrooms across the country to have a fully developed style guide on how to describe a tragedy like this or the people involved. These kinds of events are exceptionally rare and terrible, and everyone - especially in the early stages of reporting on it - is just doing the best they can to figure out how to do their jobs.

No... Actually.... Let me go one step further.

Not only should we not expect reporters to have perfect knowledge so early after a huge event, we should actively want them to demonstrate humility under these circumstances.

One of the biggest problems news media has in this country is a drive to instantaneous judgment and over-reporting on pure speculation. Within a few hours of this shooting, there were reports - rumors more than anything - that Dylann Roof targeted the church because he was a racist. But unless you were actually there, as a reporter, it would be extremely irresponsible of you to immediately judge a shooter's motivations before you even had so much as a confirmation of his identity.

We now know that he was not only there for that reason, but keep in mind that at that point, we didn't know anything about the situation other than the fact that 9 people were dead and the police were chasing a suspect.

Yet there were people on my feed who already seemed to have perfect knowledge of both the causes and solutions to this tragedy.


Making those kinds of assumptions has little positive value at all, and these kinds of hysterical public responses have a really detrimental effect not only on people's accuracy in understanding these situations, but also on people's long-term ability to carefully think through causes & effects. We forget or selectively remember all kinds of important events and details, and then we deliberately try to fit new information into a framework of our pre-existing ideas regardless of whether or not it actually makes any sense to do so.

On Facebook, one former colleague of mine said the Charleston massacre was, and I quote:
"...clearly a harbinger of a larger murderous anti-black ideological movement in this country."
Really? As horrifying as this shooting is, where is the evidence for that claim?

A couple years ago, investigative reporter Radley Balko, one of the leading voices on criminal justice reform, wrote a well-sourced piece called, "The Good News About Race & Crime in America".

Here's a key bit:
"Civil rights leaders and progressive activists have cited Zimmerman's acquittal and the proliferation of robust self-defense laws as evidence of a "war on black men" -- or, similarly, that it's now "open season on black men." Meanwhile, Zimmerman supporters and many on the political right have used the case to bring up old discussions of black-on-black murders in places like Chicago, and to argue that violence in black America is spiraling out of control. Both positions are cynical, and both tend to pit black and white America against one another.

But both are also wrong on the facts.

First, about the alleged "war on black men." The argument here is that laws like Florida's "Stand Your Ground" are encouraging white vigilantism, and moving white people to shoot and kill black people at the slightest provocation. But there just isn't any data to support the contention. Black homicides have been falling since the mid-1990s (as have all homicides). Moreover, according to a 2005 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, more than 90 percent of black murder victims are killed by other black people. And if we look at interracial murder, there are about twice as many black-on-white murders as the other way around, and that ratio has held steady for decades.

However, it also isn't true that black America is growing increasingly violent. Again, black homicides, like all homicides, are in a steep, 20-year decline. In fact, the rates at which blacks both commit and are victims of homicide have shown sharper declines than those of whites. It's true that Chicago has had an unusually violent last few years, but this is an anomaly among big American cities. The 2012 murder rate in Washington, D.C., for example, hit a 50-year low. Violent crime in New York and Los Angeles is also falling to levels we haven't seen in decades."
In the article, Radley also references a Scripps Howard study that talks about these crime rate trends:
"The Scripps Howard piece also takes a regional approach: 'Contrary to popular stereotypes, interracial killings are relatively rare in rural Deep South states, occurring at a rate well below the national average. Several crime experts agreed this rise reflects increasing social contact between Americans of different races occurring in many, but not all, communities.'"
[Sidenote: The above is an important quote in context, but read Radley's full article to understand more about the Scripps Howard study's flaws]

Anyway... In addition to those fantastic trends on violence, it's also true that more people than ever - currently 87% according to Gallup - think interracial marriages are just fine. This is just the kind of thing you'd expect not to see if there was a growing, murderous trend of white supremacy in the United States.


There are clearly still a lot of problems with racism in this country, and I don't want to sugarcoat anything here. Allow me to repeat that:

There are still a lot of problems with racism in America. 

Apart from the measurable disparities in income, education, crime rates, and experiences with the criminal justice system, Gallup polls are now showing an increasing trend of people worried about race relations in America. Trust for the police is understandably on the decline, and far more so among blacks than whites.

Here's the thing, though... I honestly have to wonder how much of those trends are driven by the media and by sensationalist claims like the one I boldly quoted above?

The truth is, most of the media reports on violence in very, very different ways depending on the narrative they want to portray, and what if a lot of those narratives are just... well... wrong?

My dear friend Mary Katharine Ham (and her buddy, Guy Benson) have an excellent new book out right now called "End of Discussion" that actually gets into this problem in some depth.

Chapter 7 of their book is titled, "(Different) Rules for 'Radicals': Double Standards on Violence and Rhetoric", and it begins by telling the story of a shooting in 2012 that to be honest, I knew next to nothing about. I suspect most people know little about it, even though it's actually quite similar to this one in a lot of ways.

The beats are eerily familiar:

A young man with a gun and a political agenda entered a religious organization with the goal of murdering as many people as possible to prove to the world that their existence would not be tolerated.

The difference? The organization in this story was the Family Research Council, a social conservative group who opposed gay marriage; and the shooter a gay-rights activist named Floyd Lee Corkins II, who brought with him a hundred rounds of ammunition and 15 Chik-Fil-A sandwiches that he intended to stuff in the mouths of all his victims. He was, fortunately, stopped by the building manager Leo Johnson, before he could murder anyone.

Also wrong, and by the standard definition, a terrorist.
Leo Johnson took a bullet in the arm for his trouble, but no "national conversation" was started about the violence-inciting rhetoric of the left - even though Corkins literally selected his target due to the Southern Poverty Law Center having labeled FRC as a "hate group" for their opposition to gay marriage, yet they've never advocated or participated in any kind of violence against gay people.

I figure there are two big reasons why most people probably don't remember this.

The first is simply that Corkins' plans failed. He didn't kill a dozen people and stuff sandwiches into their mouths, and thus, as macabre as this really is, there were no bodies to show on the nightly news. However, I also suspect that had the roles been reversed and a conservative extremist working off a list supplied by the Family Research Council attacked an gay organization, it would have dominated national news for a week regardless of whether or not he'd actually succeeded.

And turns out, Mary Katharine's book supplies an awful lot of evidence that this would, in fact, have been the case.

From their book:
 "Gabriel Malor, a lawyer and blogger in Washington, D.C., has spent several years cataloging the various violent incidents attributed to the political Right during President Obama’s term in office that later turned out to be either apolitical or inspired in part by liberal politics:

“Media assumptions that violence is right-wing are routine—and routinely wrong,”he wrote in a 2012 New York Post column precipitated by the occasion of ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross’s speculation in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting that killed twelve that accused shooter James Holmes was a member of the Tea Party. He was not, but Ross’s casual association of the two with no verification is representative of the media’s reactions to such incidents.

Malor offers this troubling list and explains the tautology that leads to these repeated mistakes:

“Media figures sincerely believe the right wing is violent, so naturally they assume that violent people must be right-wing.”
  • September 2009: The discovery of hanged census-taker Bill Sparkman in rural Kentucky fueled media speculation that he’d been killed by anti-government Tea Partiers. In fact, he’d killed himself and staged his corpse to look like a homicide so his family could collect on life insurance.
  • February 2010: Joe Stack flew his small plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas. The media immediately suggested that the anti-tax rhetoric of the Tea Party led to the attack. In fact, Stack’s suicide note quoted the Communist Manifesto.
  • That same month, a professor at the University of Alabama, Amy Bishop, shot and killed three colleagues at a faculty meeting. The gun-loving Tea Party came under immediate suspicion. But Bishop was a lifelong Democrat and Obama donor.
  • March 2010: John Patrick Bedell shot two Pentagon security officers at close range. The media went wild with speculation that a right-wing extremist had reached the end of his rope. Bedell turned out to be a registered Democrat and 9/ 11 Truther.
  • May 2010: New York authorities disarmed a massive car bomb in Times Square. Mayor Bloomberg immediately speculated that the bomber was someone upset about the president’s new health-care law. The media trumpeted the idea that crazed conservatives had (again, they implied) turned to violence. In fact, the perp was Faisal Shahzad, an Islamic extremist.
  • August 2010: Amidst the debate over the Ground Zero Mosque, Michael Enright stabbed a Muslim cabdriver in the neck. It was immediately dubbed an “anti-Muslim stabbing,”with “rising Islamophobia”on the political right to blame. In fact, Enright, a left-leaning art student, had worked with a firm that produced a pro-mosque statement.
  • September 2010: James Lee, 43, took three hostages at the Discovery Channel’s headquarters in Maryland. The media speculation was unstoppable: Lee was surely a “climate-change denier”who’d resorted to violence. Oops: He was an environmentalist who viewed humans as parasites on the Earth.
  • January 2011: Jared Lee Loughner went on a rampage in Tucson, Ariz. Again the media knew just who to blame: the Tea Party and its extremist rhetoric. In fact, Loughner was mostly apolitical—a conspiracy theorist who, to date, has been judged too mentally incompetent to stand trial.
In 2013, Malor added the initial reaction to the Boston Marathon bombing to the list. Because it happened on April 15, many in the media immediately speculated it was a crime of antigovernment or tax protesters commemorating either Tax Day or Patriot’s Day. In fact, the date holds significance for Muslim Chechen separatists, whose cause the Tsarnaev brothers embraced.

We’ll add another instance you probably haven’t heard of: in the early morning hours of September 11, 2014, someone attempted to firebomb the district offices of Missouri congressman Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat.

An investigation determined that the perpetrator was a twenty-eight-year-old white male who held very intense political opinions, such as: "The Missouri congress has been a willing partner in the US governments [sic] capitalist war hungry agenda." Ah. The dude was a Far Left "Occupy" type. Rather than touching off a national civility emergency, the arrest of Eric King was met with ordinary, mostly local, news coverage."
To be clear, I don't share all this to make light of any of these cases, or to make light of Charleston in any way, shape or form. Nor is it to insinuate that (Ah ha!) all the truly violent people are leftists. I don't think that's the case at all. In reality, I don't think that mass murder of any kind fits neatly into those kinds of boxes. Reality is rarely so simple.

Most cases aren't even "about" anything specific. Most of the time, there's no political statement, no big social change goal, no grand scheme... Usually it's just an insane person.

But the media's double standard is fascinating to me.

I think it sort of gets to the heart of how a lot of people in America might ultimately think about Charleston. If all they've ever been led to believe is that violent crime against black people is on the rise (even though it's not), and that there are racist "hate groups" lurking around every corner (also not true), then the Dylann Roof shooting fits right into that narrative.

If all that is true, then he's not just a lone, deranged terrorist with delusions of grandeur, he's part of a rising pattern of evil.

It's not - at that point - just about him anymore, it's about "society". It's about racial disparities in education, and criminal justice. It's about Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray... It's about #blacklivesmatter.

Suddenly, Dylann Roof is emblematic of everything that's wrong with the United States.

And well...... Maybe I'm being too optimistic here, but I just don't think he is. Consider for a second that even in Roof's own demented "manifesto", he wrote:
"I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me."
I know this is going to sound nuts to a lot of people, but isn't this - in some way - a bizarre sign of progress? In one of the most historically segregated cities in America, Dylann Roof couldn't even find a community of racists big enough or active enough to carry out his insane plan.

That's the sliver of good buried inside a flood of terrible evil.

So maybe the lesson we should take away from all this is that when the dust settles, there are actually way fewer murderous racists out there than there are good people who want to live peacefully with all of our neighbors, regardless of our various differences. We're all in this together, and maybe now would be a good time to remember that.

At least... That's what I'd like to think.