Moments after the suspect’s name became known in Friday’s theater massacre in Colorado, Brian Ross of ABC News reported to a national audience that someone by the same name had signed on to a Tea Party website in 2011. James Holmes — the name of the alleged shooter — is a very common name, shared by at least 2,900 Americans, according to the website HowManyofMe.com. And as it turns out, James Holmes of the Tea Party is a Hispanic man, not related to the suspect and more than twice his age.
Ross had to issue an apology, but it’s easy to see why he found the story irresistible. Here was a possible connection that bore out all of his worst prejudices — groundless prejudices that many others share.
In February 2010, a man named Joseph Stack committed suicide by flying his small airplane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas. New York Magazine, after reading his online suicide note, immediately declared that “a lot of his rhetoric could have been taken directly from a handwritten sign at a tea party rally.” The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart added that “his alienation is similar to that we’re hearing from the extreme elements of the Tea Party movement.” Neither mentioned that Stack had approvingly quoted “The Communist Manifesto” and denounced capitalism in his last message to the world. That may be a relevant detail if you’re trying to blame his crime on a movement that believes the opposite.
Months later, right after the famous attempt to bomb Times Square, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested it had been carried out by someone “with a political agenda who doesn’t like the health care bill or something.” The would-be bomber, a Pakistani immigrant, later said in court: “If I’m given a thousand lives, I will sacrifice them all for the life of Allah.”