The Lynching of Tony Stewart

by Ron Thornton On Wed, Aug. 13, 2014

Photo Credit: Ed Coombs

When I was 19, I worked for a small newspaper and briefly hosted a half-hour cable television program while in college, before taking a job at a radio station in a small Saskatchewan town. I loved the profession of being a journalist, of reporting the news in what I hoped was an unbiased fashion. Those days are nearly 40 years in the past, and I have long sensed my ideals were not necessarily shared by my compatriots.

Some are fiction writers, propagandists or just plain bullshit artists. Take the recent events surrounding Tony Stewart. The references to the “hot head” Tony Stewart really burn me, as though his past demonstrations of temperament have any more to do with the events of last weekend than whether or not he takes a morning tinkle upon awakening or if his facial stubble is the result of a poor razor. What reason did Stewart have to be angry that night? If anything, you would think that rattling the cage of a young man would have put a smile on his face.

Some speculate that Stewart was sending a message to the lad, gunning his engine to spray mud over him as he passsed by. Even worse, some claim this was a deliberate act. All this ignores the fact that there is no movement in the car, no revving of an engine (from him or anyone else) until the moment of impact. Not before the accident, but instantaneous. The much seen video plainly shows this, but that would not do for the narrative some wish to paint, facts be damned.

Unless there is proof showing otherwise, we must accept that Kevin Ward Jr., in his anger and bravado, simply forgot himself and stepped too close to Stewart’s passing car and got caught by the rear wheel. His family and friends might see it differently, and to be honest I firmly believe I would not react any differently than they have. They have earned the right to feel as they do in order to deal with this loss.

There are those no more connected to the events at Canandaigua Motorsports Park than myself who have viewed the same video, yet come to a completely opposite opinion to the one I hold. That also is their right, though I firmly believe they are wrong. I would like to think that if we viewed it together in the same room we might reach a consensus, but I doubt it. You get the feeling that if some had been characters in the Henry Fonda classic “12 Angry Men” it would have been a very short movie.

No, my problem is with the supposed unbiased members of the Fourth Estate who forget, or just ignore, that their job is to concentrate on the facts, of what we know, and not to embellish their reports with unrelated labeling, speculation or distortion. In doing so, they cheapen their profession and come across as no better, if not worse, than any untrained, unseasoned amateur blogger.

If Tony Stewart is to be hanged by public opinion, we should at least expect it to be done based on facts and available evidence, not misleading, contrived and irresponsible misinformation. That former 19 year old journalist still holds on to his ideals, but has long realized to not expect everyone to share them. Maybe it is time that he, and you, start demanding that those expectations be met. That is, unless lynching is something you can embrace.

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