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Jumping To Partisan Conclusions

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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.