Opinion

Ben Shapiro: Don't Politicize Mollie Tibbetts’s Tragic Death | Opinion

This week, the horrifying case of Mollie Tibbetts has taken over the airwaves. A 20-year-old Iowa college student, Tibbets was jogging when she was allegedly accosted by an illegal immigrant, 24-year-old Cristhian Bahena Rivera. Rivera allegedly killed her and then dumped her in a cornfield.

This prompted national media attention, thanks in large part to conservatives who used the situation to point out the costs of illegal immigration that are all-too-often ignored by the mainstream media. President Donald Trump led the way, releasing two separate videos to discuss Tibbetts's death, and commenting, “You heard about today with the illegal alien coming in, very sadly, from Mexico, and you saw what happened to that incredible, beautiful young woman. Should’ve never happened….The laws are so bad, the immigration laws are such a disgrace. We’re getting it changed, but we have to get more Republicans.”

Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich stated, “If Mollie Tibbetts is a household name by October, Democrats will be in deep trouble. If we can be blocked by [Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen]. Etc., then GOP could lose badly.”

Meanwhile, Democrats seemingly downplayed Tibbetts's death. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) coolly explained, “I’m so sorry for the family here and I know this is hard not only for her family but for the people in her community…But one of the things we have to remember is we need an immigration system that is effective, that focuses on where the real problems are.”

Symone Sanders of CNN stated that Tibbetts wasn’t killed because of illegal immigration, but because of “toxic masculinity.”

Now, we can have a rational debate over immigration policy. And that debate can be heated and passionate, as it always is. But the focus on the Tibbetts incident does raise a serious question: When should we focus in on single instances of evil in order to promote public policy outcomes?

mollie-tibbetts-3 The body of Mollie Tibbetts was found more than one month after she was reported missing in Brooklyn, Iowa. Donald Trump said her murder was why "we need the wall, we need our immigration laws changed.” IOWA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY

This question usually arises in the context of mass shootings. After every mass shooting, before the facts are known, Democrats and members of the media immediately leap to bold calls for gun control. Republicans usually respond by stating that such conversations are inappropriate in the aftermath of a tragedy, and that the unsubtle implication that those who disagree with gun control don’t care about dead children is morally gross.

So, when is it appropriate to use individual instances as the basis for public policy discussion? Only when three factors have been fulfilled: First, when we know the actual circumstances of a given incident; second, when those circumstances are representative of a broader trend; third, when the policy recommended logically concerns that trend and would have stopped the incident in question.

So, for example, a school shooting should be used as the basis for a public policy discussion if we know what happened (i.e. where the gun came from, what the circumstances of the shooter were); we’re experiencing a spate of such shootings; and the policy being promoted would have curbed both the trend and stopped the incident.

Do we meet those criteria in Mollie Tibbetts's case? We know that Tibbetts's killer was in the country illegally; there is open debate over whether a trend of illegal immigrant crime is taking place, but our laws are not currently being enforced; but we don’t actually know the policy being promoted by President Trump, and whether it would stop instances like this. That means that we ought to take a breath before immediately politicizing the situation.

There’s no question Tibbetts deserves media attention; the right isn’t wrong to point out the discrepancy between media attention for Tibbetts and media attention for school shootings or Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin. The right should also ask serious questions about whether there is indeed a trend of illegal immigrant crime.

But as Bethany Mandel points out, bad policy usually arises from knee-jerk reactions to emotionally driven events. If we wish to have a rational discussion about illegal immigration, we should remember Mollie Tibbetts's case, but take the time to actually craft intelligent policy responses to prevent deaths like hers, rather than immediately racing to the cameras to claim that those who disagree don’t care enough about dead college students.

Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and host of The Ben Shapiro Show, available on iTunes and syndicated across America.​

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​

Editor's Pick