‘Breaking news’ has emanated from the newsroom. The killing of five professionals ~ four journalists and a sales assistant ~ in the office of Capital Gazette in Annapolis, capital of Maryland, is the deadliest attack yet on free press in the so-called fountainhead of libertarian democracy. The mayhem has deviated beyond racist killings, which have been endemic in the America of Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
The targeted strike of the assassin, Jarrod Ramos, turns out to be the outcome of the vendetta that he had nursed against the paper for the past six years. It was radically different from the killing of innocents by whites because of the colour of their skin and the counter-mobilisation by the blacks.
Particularly galling has been the decidedly dodgy response of President Trump who is reported to have walked silently past reporters at the White House as they asked him for “any words about the dead”. More accurately, he had no words that could soothe the sentiments of the bereaved ~ an almost muted response that is of a piece with his debunking of the media in course of his election campaign.
Mr Trump’s silence was greeted with condemnation by American journalists on Twitter. So horrendous a massacre ought to have ignited a robust response from the country’s chief executive. Far from it. It is hard not to wonder if he feared questions about whether his anti-media rhetoric has influenced his rather muted response.
The killer, Ramos, lost a defamation lawsuit against the paper in 2012 after it reported his campaign of harassment against a woman he went to school with. Is there a thread somewhere that links the assassin to the anti-media bias of this administration? The killings have prompted renewed scrutiny of the President’s frequent verbal attacks on the media, who he has repeatedly referred to as “the enemy of the people”.
The withers of the President remain unwrung as five of those “enemies” have perished in their workplace. Vitriol towards journalists was also a recurring theme of Mr Trump’s presidential campaign. “I would never kill them, but I do hate them,” he told an audience in December 2015. “Some of them are such lying, disgusting people. It’s true.”
Was that weird perception taken a step further by Jarrod Ramos? Presidential prejudice has given way to the macabre. The broadcaster has been a regular target of the President’s attacks. Last July he tweeted a video depicting himself body-slamming the CNN logo in a wrestling ring.
The outrage on the media in Maryland has thrown up the equally critical issue of the intrinsic presidential prejudice. Small wonder that Mr Trump’s occasionally dangerous attitude has often been compared to the stance of Josef Stalin, not least by the Democratic Senator, Jeff Blake. The assassin appears to have been driven by an extreme form of mental aberration. The evasiveness of Mr Trump is seemingly a matter of policy. Of course, gun culture is at the core of this calculated malevolence.