Wall Street Journal reporter James Taranto had to know he'd be courting controversy when he took to Twitter last night to comment on the theater shooting. Taranto's tweet about the girlfriends of the men who died trying to shield them in an Aurora, Colorado theater asked if the women were "worthy" of such sacrifice.
Perhaps he thought he was starting an interesting conversation about how we all hope that our loved ones don't die in vain. But he failed. In saying he hopes these living, breathing women are "worthy" of having been saved, Taranto came off as a self-righteous jerk at best, as a cruel, callous one at worst.
Here's exactly what he had to say:
I hope the girls whose boyfriends died to save them were worthy of the sacrifice.
Set aside the ridiculous question of how to measure the "worth" of a person, and let's look at the timing of Taranto's tweet. Did it have to be now? I can't imagine in total what life is like right now for the women who lost their loved ones in that theater. So I'll just go with a few facts.
Jansen Young, Samantha Yowler, Amanda Lindgren, and Julia Vojtsek (whose name was not reported in the initial round-up of women whose boyfriends paid the ultimate sacrifice) are grieving. They lost the men they cared for, Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn, Navy Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer, and Alex Teves.
At the same time, these four women are survivors of one of the most horrific tragedies our country has faced. They went to see a movie, and their lives changed forever.
Their troubles are numerous. Grief. Fear. Despair. Perhaps even a little guilt -- not because they did anything wrong, but because the psychologists have told us over and over in recent days that this is what survivors deal with, a tendency to blame themselves, to question themselves. This even though the men who loved them chose to do something honorable and beautiful for them.
And James Taranto chose now, chose these women as, what, a conversation starter? He never clarified what, exactly, he meant by the tweet, only decided to retweet some of his detractors in what could be taken as a form of lackluster apology.
It should be a good thing that the media has turned its attention toward the survivors of the Dark Knight Rises massacre. These people are the bright symbols of hope that shine out against the darkness of alleged shooter James Holmes' story.
But we need to weigh our needs for hope and happiness, our need to talk about this tragedy, with the much greater needs of the survivors and their families, as well as the families and friends of the victims. They don't need reporters piling on the guilt and despair. They have enough going around as it is.
What do you think of Taranto's Tweet? Was it inappropriate or perfectly OK?
Image via the_toe_stubber/Flickr