The State of Democratic Discourse, Part 952

In response to a Kicker post I wrote yesterday evening—which warned against making assumptions about the as-yet-unknown motivations of the Fort Hood gunman sheerly by virtue of his Muslim-sounding name—I received (in addition to reactions both thoughtful and non- in the post’s comments thread) the following e-mail:

Megan, ‘stories’ such as yours clearly demonstrate why liberal media is in the sewer. What a warped mind you have. Grow up and discover that your leftist mind is muddled. I laugh to think that some minds like your yours believe that Sharia would be good for this country. Where do you think that homosexuals and abortionists would stand under any moslim justice system? They would be executed. When you reach the enlightened understanding that ALL of the islam world is the enemy of Christianity and any other belief system other than islam, you will have a better understanding or the requirements to protect God-fearing Americans against Islam and the wonks who believe they are “peaceful”.

Of course, I never said or suggested that “Sharia would be good for this country.” The post was about Islamic law only in the broadest of cultural contexts; had the email’s author read it closely (or: at all?), he would have seen that I was merely warning against the press’s tendency, in a hectic, breaking-news situation, to draw conclusions based on insufficient evidence, thus skewing the first rough draft of history. But E-mail Author managed to do exactly what I was hoping the media wouldn’t: wantonly assume, then wantonly assail. He read what he wanted to into my words—either willfully or blindly, and frankly I’m not sure which is worse—and then unfurled ideology-driven invective based on that misreading.

Seems a nicely apt metaphor for the state of our National Conversation, does it not? Sigh.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.