Sandy Hook families given too much deference
Deference to the families of the schoolchildren and educators murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in 2012 has gone much too far.
The latest manifestation of this deference was the decision of Connecticut’s only NBC television affiliate, WVIT-TV30 in West Hartford, not to broadcast Megyn Kelly’s Sunday night interview with Alex Jones, provocateur of Infowars and promoter of the allegation that the school massacre was a hoax. The families of the victims had urged both NBC and WVIT to cancel the broadcast, and according to an internal memorandum obtained by other news organizations, the station chose not to air the interview because “the wounds” of the massacre “have yet to heal.”
But wounds so profound never heal.
It would be something else if the TV station decided not to broadcast the interview because Jones is just a huckster and, in interviewing him, Kelly became just a huckster too, or because publicizing Jones even to debunk him would only glorify him with the perpetually deluded. But instead the station decided that the Sandy Hook families should hold a veto on journalism and political discourse in Connecticut, or that the station should give them such a veto rather than risk criticism for offending them.
Of course nobody had to watch the interview, but the station denied most of Connecticut any choice.
Canceling the broadcast, the station essentially decided that the school massacre was and remains proprietary, the exclusive property of the relatives of the victims. But the massacre was and is not proprietary at all. To the contrary, it was the worst thing that has happened in Connecticut since the Hartford circus fire in 1944, or, since the fire was an accident rather than a deliberate act, maybe the worst thing that has happened in Connecticut since the massacre of the Pequot tribe in Groton in 1637. The school massacre horrified and pained everyone in the state, and still pains everyone, even if no one can be pained as much as those who lost a loved one by it.
But no amount of pain necessarily vindicates the politics of the pained, and the politics of the Sandy Hook families has often been questionable. They persuaded the General Assembly and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to weaken Connecticut’s freedom-of-information law by obstructing access to official photos and videos of homicide victims, thereby facilitating official mistakes and misconduct and enabling hoaxers like Jones. The litigation the families have brought to hold firearms manufacturers responsible for abuse of their products contradicts federal law and would nullify the right to bear arms.
Now they want the appropriateness of journalism to be determined by hurt feelings, and a weak-kneed news organization has capitulated. Where does that end?
Maybe something good apart from more civil political discourse will come from the shootings at the Republican congressional baseball team’s practice in Alexandria, Virginia. For the incident demonstrated the shortcomings of even the most compelling gun-control proposals, like requiring background checks for all gun purchases and exchanges, proposals that would have had no bearing on what happened in Alexandria.
So what policy response would be relevant here when guns are so pervasive in society and likely to remain so?
How about that “well-regulated militia” cited by the Second Amendment — trained and tested civilians to be armed in their everyday life and prepared to defend the innocent just as the Capitol police officers on duty in Alexandria were?
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.
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