We are left in shock when it happens at a nightclub. Devastated when it happens at a high school.
Thursday’s shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, however, left us absolutely, utterly shattered.
Among the five people murdered in the Gazette newsroom was Rob Hiaasen, 59, beloved brother of Herald columnist and best-selling author Carl Hiaasen. Rob, who grew up with his brother in Fort Lauderdale. A veteran of the Palm Beach Post, Rob had worked at the Gazette since 2010, when he was hired as the newspaper’s assistant editor. He, too was a columnist.
The Hiaasens are part of a long-time newspaper family, with other former and current members employed by the Herald.
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Authorities in Maryland are calling the massacre a “targeted attack.”
Apparently, the gunman had a long-running beef with the newspaper. Police named the suspect late Thursday: Jarrod Ramos. They say that Ramos carried a shotgun and smoke canisters into the Gazette newsroom and began firing, injuring, killing.
The nation has seen this before and, infuriatingly, will again. And again we will ask, How did the shooter get the gun? Was he mentally ill? What, exactly, was his motive? We all know the drill.
But here’s what’s different. Hatred for the media, the most responsible of which tell uncomfortable truths, and question authority. But journalists are excoriated as enemies of the people — to use President Trump’s hateful words. Mainstream media traffics in “fake news,” misguided haters say. And, yes, our deaths — our murders — are actively encouraged. Remember that T-shirt? The one that said, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required?”
This week, white nationalist/alt-righter/provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos said Thursday that he was only joking about “gunning down journalists,” a comment he made earlier in the week.
But it’s far too late for him to play coy. Authorities might yet find a link, a cause and effect between Yiannopoulos’ “suggestion” and what Ramos allegedly did. Or they might not. Either way, the stench of hostility for the media has been in the air for too long.
“This was a targeted attack,” said Lt. Ryan Frashure, an Anne Arundel County police spokesman, said of the shooting Thursday night. “He went in there to kill people.” And he walked through the first floor of the Capital Gazette picking off targeted victims.
“This person was going after editors; editors died,” staff writer Selene San Felice told Anderson Cooper on CNN, hours after surviving the attack.
And once again this year, South Florida is touched by tragedy and loss.