Ben and I discussed last night how rapidly the various media, with the support and encouragement of all of us, rapidly tries to find the one point of focus for every tragedy. The shooting in Charleston has coalesced around discussion of the Confederate flag. Obama tried to make it about gun control right out of the gate, but it didn't stick. I saw various attempts to tie it to a discussion of white supremacist groups, of gun-free zones, the shooter's complaint that there weren't enough racists nearby to get together with, and some less-likely ideas, but the Stars and Bars decoration has taken center stage. It isn't the most logically solid connection, but ideas have their time.
Personally, the very quick decision of the congregation to engage in public forgiveness was the stunner. I would have been impressed by an ability to mouth platitudes and talk about refusal to be defeated in The Struggle. They left that miles behind. Only by grace, only by grace. I hope someone makes a movie about the discussions leading up to that decision. Done well, that could be the longer legacy. The Amish did something similar a few years ago, and I was similarly humbled.
I wondered how many people are sincere in their sorrow and reaction, and how many are calculating, waiting cynically for the next tragedy in order to manipulate opinion and advance their political agenda. Rahm Emanuel makes no bones about belonging to the latter group. Most people I meet belong to the former. (However, I don't think their unwillingness to believe that Emanuel, Jonathan Gruber, and Eric Holder are A) really that dishonest and B) really that representative of those they work for/with is just naivete, trying to think the best of others.)
There is a social sense of journalists and public figures, able to sense early where the trend is going to go. Those who guess right get to be early-adopters, and might also get to put their weight behind those ideas if they pick their spots well. This part of why mainstream media is liberal, and always will be. The profession selects for that quality quite competitively. They get burned, of course, by the inevitable groundswell phenomenon of conservatives, who they do not sense well. When something new comes up they at first find it impossible and ridiculous. As it gains steam they can only demonise. Eventually they are able to partly isolate it and relegate it to a corner of the political discussion, even if it a large corner. They quarantine it. Ronald Reagan, Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Party come to mind.
I will declare that there is nothing similar on the Right, because it has different problems: fighting the wrong battles, making arrogant declarations, and shooting their wounded for lack of Conservative Purity, variously defined. However, having said that, I expect someone will come up with an immediate counterexample. And that's fine. Glad to be wrong on this one.
Back to the original point: has anyone read anything reasonable on how these questions narrow to single symbolic issues so quickly, and how they go away? It seems like a phenomenon that must apply to more than just 21st C America.