It was significant, indeed, that The New York Times chose for the first time in 95 years to publish a front-page editorial Saturday, and that the paper’s editors used that editorial to address the “national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.”
In the aftermath of the San Bernardino massacre, the Times acknowledged that “Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are searching for motivations, including the vital question of how the murderers might have been connected to international terrorism. That is right and proper.” “But,” the paper added, “motives do not matter to the dead in California, nor did they in Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut and far too many other places. The attention and anger of Americans should also be directed at the elected leaders whose job is to keep us safe but who place a higher premium on the money and political power of an industry dedicated to profiting from the unfettered spread of ever more powerful firearms.”
The point the Times addresses is a valid one. But if you want to see an illustration of how to direct anger, consider the front page of the sober national newspaper’s feisty rival, the New York Daily News.
The Daily News has, for months, been crusading against gun violence in general and the National Rifle Association in particular. But it was after the San Bernardino shootings that the Daily News delivered its most powerful punch.
God Isn’t Fixing This, shouted the street-smart tabloid’s headline. It was surrounded by screenshots of tweets from three Republican presidential candidates—Texas Senator Ted Cruz, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul—as well as House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. The tweets responded to the latest incident of mass gun violence—14 dead, 21 wounded in San Bernardino, California—with “our prayers,” “your prayers” and “thoughts and prayers.”
A subhead on the bottom of the front page explained that, “as the latest batch of innocent Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge, continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.”
Apologists for the NRA and the politicians who do the gun lobby’s bidding were, of course, were quick to decry the Daily News, claiming that the newspaper was engaging in “prayer shaming.”