Jumping To Partisan Conclusions

By Justin Gardner | Related entries in Blogging, Dumb Things Said By Smart People, Kitchen Sink, War

When I first read this story about a flag burning incident involving a family’s tribute to their fallen soldier son, my gut told me that it would be blamed on liberals.

Regrettably, I didn’t have to wait long to find out I was correct. The most popular blog I found that indulged in the “whodunit” guessing game was Captain’s Quarters, who is linked to by Instapundit on a very regular basis. In other words, they have a huge readership (nearly 1,000,000 page views this month alone).

Here’s what CQ wrote upon reading the story.

It doesn’t take Scotland Yard or Hercule Poirot to figure out that the arsonists had a problem with the American flags. Likely, the arsonist(s) knew nothing about the funeral, but got offended by the sight of so many American flags at one house. They probably presumed that the flags constituted a statement about support for the Iraq War, and America in general, and decided that the appropriate response was to burn the family to death, and failing that, at least get their car. (Maybe it was even an SUV — making it doubly satisfying for the arsonists.) Fortunately the car alarm went off before the fuel tank exploded and involved the entire house, or else the Wessels could have lost much more than a car and the flags that honored their son-in-law and his sacrifice to this country.

So the real culprits? Two teenage boys who were 15 and 13 respectively.

From the Sun Times:

Police said the boys apparently did not know the significance of the flags they took from the yard and set afire under a car belonging to the soldier’s sister-in-law. The vehicle was destroyed.

CQ’s response? Frankly, I think this is pretty lame, but you tell me.

To be honest, I’m not sure what’s worse — being wrong, or knowing that teenage boys consider the flag only suitable for kindling. It still sounds suspicious to me, as it hardly takes all twenty flags to set a car on fire. Like Glenn Reynolds, I think that the fact that every single one of the flags went into the flames meant something, even if it turns out that the Wessel home was just one stop on a night of destruction and debauchery for these two unsupervised morons.

Then the author of the blog, Ed Morrissey, actually goes on to apologize.

Libby says that a simple sorry from bloggers such as myself would suffice to correct the conclusion-jumping of last week. She’s right, and I am sorry for reaching that conclusion before all of the facts came in. I blew this one, and I do apologize.

Listen, I appreciate the fact that he apologized, but why can’t we just hear a simple “Yep, I messed up.” and have that be it? Why still “doubt” if this was really politically motivated or not? A 15 and 13 year old being politically motivated? Well, I guess stranger things have happened…

The point I’m trying to make is this sort of thing is exactly why Donklephant exists. When you’re on our site, when you read these stories, remember that words and influence can be used as weapons, and too often in our society today that’s the norm when it comes to political debate.

This type of situation and ad hominem attack needs to marginalized as much as possible and I hope you help us do just that in our comment sections and in your conversations with co-workers, family and friends. Because jumping to conclusions and blaming things on broad ideologies don’t ever help to get to the root of the problem. Hopefully we can all agree about that.


This entry was posted on Sunday, July 31st, 2005 and is filed under Blogging, Dumb Things Said By Smart People, Kitchen Sink, War. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Jumping To Partisan Conclusions”

  1. antimedia Says:

    I didn’t even blog about that story, but I do have one comment. You write, “A 15 and 13 year old being politically motivated? Well, I guess stranger things have happened…”

    Well, yeah, they most certainly can be. I recall reading about a female National Guardsman in the northeast (I think Vermont, but don’t recall for sure) who had rocks thrown at her by teenagers who also yelled “baby killer” at her. So, yes, it’s certainly possible for kids that age to be politically motivated, especially if their parents are.

    I’m not saying these two were. I don’t know that.

    But I do think that most teenagers who do things like this are more likely to be up to no good than making political statements.

  2. goy Says:

    Honestly. I’m not sure how much clearer Morrissey could have been.

    Perhaps if you offered the benefit of the doubt, i.e., considering the possibility that Ed was describing WHY he came to the conclusion that he did…??

    Oh, and one other thing. Was it just an accident that you didn’t link to the actual CQ post, where the retraction, correction, apology and regret are all clearly presented?

    http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/005090.php

    If you don’t think 15 and 13 year olds can be politically motivated, then perhaps you don’t have teenagers.

  3. Justin Gardner Says:

    Again…

    It still sounds suspicious to me, as it hardly takes all twenty flags to set a car on fire. Like Glenn Reynolds, I think that the fact that every single one of the flags went into the flames meant something, even if it turns out that the Wessel home was just one stop on a night of destruction and debauchery for these two unsupervised morons.

    He attempted an apology, yes, but he couldn’t help but turn it into a statement/guess about their political motivations. If you can’t see that from this, then I fear you might be apologizing for him yourself.

    Concerning political motivations, of course this could be politically motivated. And while I don’t have any kids of my own, I do have a 15 year old brother who is intelligent, but could care less about politics. I’m sure if you took a poll of his friends, you’d find the same mindset. And a poll of 13 year olds? Even less I’m sure.

    What bothers me about this story is it feels like the groundwork is already being laid for “Ah-ha! They were politically motivated” if their parents happen to turn out to be Democrats. And to do that inside of an “apology” seems pretty weak to me.

    But goy, thanks for linking to it. I’ve had a spotty internet connection all night so it fell through the cracks. I’ll put the link in after I post this comment. However, I obviously disagree with you about the apology being clearly presented.

  4. N. Mallory Says:

    First, I want to say that I agree with what you’ve written here.

    However, recently, I have seen some photos in the media of young children with their parents at rallies and even protesting at military funerals. They were actively participating with their signs and their hate-filled faces. This sort of behavior can be taught and aplauded by parents. It’s a shame but when you think that they make KKK outfits in Junior sizes, then maybe you’ll understand — or at least be horrified just like me.

    I don’t know what was going through those boys’ minds. Certainly I was raised to respect the flag, no matter who’s house it’s flying from.

    As an interesting note, someone stole my Support the Troops magnet that was next to my Kerry/Edwards sticker on my car…apparently I can’t have supported both last fall.

    The thoughtlessness isn’t all one-sided.

  5. Justin Gardner Says:

    As an interesting note, someone stole my Support the Troops magnet that was next to my Kerry/Edwards sticker on my car…apparently I can’t have supported both last fall.

    The thoughtlessness isn’t all one-sided.

    Agreed. I know of many instances in the KC area where Kerry/Edwards yard signs were taken from people’s yards…repeatedly. I’m talking about four or five times. Pretty ridiculous stuff. I never heard of this, but I’m sure the same thing happened to Bush/Cheney signs as well. There are idiots on both sides.

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