Virginia man massacres family, commits suicide
On Sept. 27, Albert Peterson killed his wife of 25 years and two sons, aged 13 and 16, before committing suicide in their Herndon, VA home. Peterson, a defense contractor, massacred his family by inflicting gunshot wounds to their upper bodies before doing the same to himself mere hours after returning from a church service.
A family friend, "Maggie," cited Peterson's history of mental illness, grief caused by the suicide of an uncle and his father, and paranoia stemming from fears over President Obama winning a second term as the reasons why he committed the act. Peterson battled depression, weight gain, and suicidal thoughts throughout his life.
Paranoia over Obama re-election
Peterson's mental illness became more exacerbated in recent months; friends and family received paranoid e-mails regarding politics on a daily basis from Peterson until the week leading up to the 27th.
"He didn't like where the country was going," said Maggie. "He felt as if our God-given rights were being taken away [by Obama]."
Peterson was bothered by what he saw as erratic spending on the part of the federal government and believed that his office would face layoffs if they did not vote for Obama. He also believed that his sons would be forced to bear the weight of the government's supposed failures under the current administration.
Fairfax, VA police confirmed that Peterson's political beliefs were unusually strong but abstained from commenting about whether or not they were a factor in his murder-suicide.
The Universal Life Church's stance on this tragedy
Political paranoia to the degree found within the mind of people like Peterson is not created in a vacuum. There are significant forces within (and outside!) America that have the ability and clout to twist the hearts and minds of people who are susceptible to irrational fears and paranoia-induced acts of violence.
Perhaps the most germane of these forces in Peterson's case is the media. Organizations including but not limited to the Fox Broadcasting Company deserve a considerable share of the blame in matters concerning paranoid fears about the Obama administration. These media outlets' eagerness to detract from Obama and the policies of his administration is akin to the Yellow journalism of the late 19th century; sensational, low on facts and motivated by a poorly-disguised political agenda. How else could one explain Fox News' fixation on Obama's birthplace, religious affiliation, health care initiatives and foreign policy (especially concerning the Muslim world) without conceding that the above poor journalistic practices are involved?
Proof-positive of reporting sans facts and the implications thereof: Fox News' fixation on Obama "coming to take away our guns" has dramatically increased gun sales throughout the country; around 50% of U.S. homes now have guns within them. However, as PolitiFact has discovered, Obama has done nothing to restrict 2nd Amendment rights and has even passed laws expanding the list of places where it is acceptable to bring firearms. Additionally, many gun control activists, those who are keenly interested in keeping guns out of the hands of American citizens, have become entirely disillusioned with the Obama administration. The Brady Center, the self-described "largest national national, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence," published a scathing report in Jan. 2010 that gave Obama the worst possible grade ("F") in all seven categories of gun control. Obama drew further ire from gun control activists in 2011 when he did not work to pass anti-gun legislation after Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot during a rally.
Has this been reported by Fox News and similar media outlets? Not to our knowledge; continued lies(let us call them what they are) about the Obama administration has directly led to increased gun sales due to paranoia about the president's policies, potentially putting more weapons in the hands of deranged men like Albert Peterson.
Was Fox News responsible for Peterson's obvious struggle with mental illness? Of course not! Is Fox News (or organizations like it) to blame for irresponsibly reporting that subsequently gave Peterson the false impression that the country is in a far worse state than it is, fueling the fire that ultimately caused him to commit this tragedy? The ULC staff certainly thinks so.
It is important to note that the ULC staff is not trying to defend Obama. The Universal Life Church does not believe that there is anything wrong with pointing out the shortcomings or poor policy decisions of presidents or other political figures; one of America's strengths is its people's ability to frankly assess our leaders' talents. Subsequently, we recognize that people have the right to not like him as a politician and subsequently refuse to vote for him this fall. We will never tell our ministers who they should or should not vote for!
However, the motives of "news" companies are suspect when journalistic integrity is violated and all pretenses of being "fair and balanced" are thrown out the window. The fact that Peterson was reiterating many of the statements Fox News made about Obama before he massacred his family is particularly concerning; will Peterson be the last one to decide that he needs to take matters into their own hands after listening to sensational news reports of dubious factual accuracy? We do not think so, especially if Obama is re-elected.
The ULC staff is of the opinion that violations of journalistic integrity that result in violent, paranoid-driven acts show nothing short of negligence - perhaps even criminal negligence - on the parts of the news agencies that commit them. While it is impossible to point to one thing that is "wrong with this country," the Universal Life Church knows that "news" companies like Fox News are one of the entities that do more harm than good for America.
ADDENDUM: If Romney is elected this fall and ABC, MSNBC, etc. begin reporting sensational mis-truths about him that lead to left-leaning people talking about "2nd amendment remedies" to the politics of Romney and other conservatives then the ULC will happily denounce these news networks as we have done with Fox News in this post. We mean it when we say "Do only that which is right" and we will not tolerate the inciting of violence and flagrant abuse of journalistic integrity (i.e. actions that are not "right") from anyone, especially news networks that have the power to unduly influence the minds of Americans.