Bender: Sometimes silence is golden

"41-year-old Shannon Brandt confessed to running down 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson after a street dance earlier this month. Was it really the case of a blood-thirsty Leftist fueled by Joe Biden's

Tony Bender
Tony Bender
We are part of The Trust Project.

I didn't imagine while watching Larry Kudlow on Fox Business last week that I'd hear a screed from a woman — I missed her name — about the liberal massacre of Republicans in North Dakota.

Check that. I'm not surprised. I remain unsure, however, how a tragedy in McHenry affects the stock market. Although the commentator was blonde and therefore presumably qualified (I think all you need is a bottle of peroxide to work for Fox), I'm not sure anyone can make an informed judgment at this point.

It's called an investigation, something we entrust law enforcement and our system of checks and balances to perform. Real journalists don't go into a story thinking they know what it is. Fevered commentary accompanying an event is almost always inaccurate. Speculation isn't news.

This much we know: 41-year-old Shannon Brandt confessed to running down 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson after a street dance earlier this month. Was it really the case of a blood-thirsty Leftist fueled by Joe Biden's recent anti-MAGA rhetoric? Too soon to tell, but not too soon to exploit the tragedy for political advantage. Kimberly-Clark should be pitching Depends ads to Fox. Last week, they peed their pants with excitement.

In a better sort of world, where politicians and activists and social media rubberneckers were capable of a modicum of empathy and rational thought, we might have waited for facts that might support

Allow me a brief detour ... I believe the concept of “advocacy journalism,” conservative or liberal, is the scourge of our times. Along with ripped jeans. “Advocacy” and “journalism” don't belong in the same sentence. Oh, you may get verifiable facts. And convenient omissions. Sadly, most Americans are inept news consumers, at discerning the difference between fact and opinion, so you get what we have, politicians taking advantage of the uninformed.


Some politicians fervently believe Pillow Guy conspiracies, and we have them in North Dakota, too. I'm not sure what's more destructive though, being a dunce in a position of power or knowing better and cynically exploiting constituents' inflamed emotions and gridlocked synapses.

My deadline arrived before Ellingson's funeral on Monday, but I wonder if Doug Burgum led the parade of mourners and “walks these hills in a long black veil.” Apologies to Johnny Cash. Ellingson's family's due an apology, too, for being dragged into this political scrum amid profound sorrow.

Burgum's statement? “Violence is never the answer to disagreements of any kind, including political, and those who perpetrate it must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.” Deep. And unnecessary. Unless you're compelled to appease the MAGA crowd. Let's trot that pablum out for the next Jan. 6 trial.

Folks, occasionally the dignity of the office demands silence and eschewing political opportunism.

Sometimes silence is, indeed, golden.

For the record, I'd criticize North Dakota Democrats doling out similar political gruel if we had any. No party's guiltless when it comes to portraying isolated incidents as evidence of a trend. When a white guy dies in custody, Righties say, “See! They kill white guys, too! There is justice in America!”

And, hey, sometimes a deadly mugging's just that, even if the victim is gay.

Unless we're talking about verifiable organized violence, cases should be investigated in isolation.


That requires patience. And time. But unscrupulous politicians abhor a vacuum — it's science — so in they swoop looking for Brownie points. When he's not sporting a veil, Burgum may well don Girl Scout green.

Some folks sell cookies. Others sell their souls. I'll bet his favorite is Tagalongs.

Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column for Forum News Service. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of this publication, nor Forum Communications ownership.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA
Opinion by Tony Bender
Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column from North Dakota for Forum News Service.
What to read next
When we talk about North Dakota's general fund spending, we talk about less than half of the dollars state lawmakers appropriated. We need a better way to measure state spending.
"You love who you love."
North Dakota judges are already required to report deviations to minimum sentencing guidelines, and there have been just two since 2016.
If there's some red line that Trump could cross, some depth he could stoop to in words or action, that would cost him the support of North Dakota's delegation, he doesn't seem to have crossed it