Monday, February 18, 2013

Agenda Journalism

Just as the Sandy Hook tragedy gave a heretofore unexcelled opportunity for gun confiscators to capitalize on hysteria in order to potentially reach ends otherwise unobtainable, it has also shone a light on the intellectual and moral failures of collectivists — the tribe to which all confiscators belong.

These failings are two, and endemic to collectivists: demonizing those who disagree, and agenda journalism. No matter the issue which holds collectivists in thrall of their own intellectual and moral superiority — gun control, global warming, name it — what should be straight, factual, stories are littered with questionable assertions and unsurprising elisions.

A recent WSJ article, Why our Gun Debate Is Off Target raises these points. The author is writing from the perspective of what we now call an embedded reporter.
[At the firing range I] did my best to avoid gun politics, the subject came up constantly. What came through loudest of all was that gun guys feel insulted. The caustic and routine dismissal of "gun culture" is only part of it. Gun guys look at the most strident advocates of gun control and say, "You know nothing about what it means to handle guns, but you presume to make judgments about my ability to do so."



A parks-and-recreation worker in Wisconsin told me he was offended by the Democrats' view "that guns are for the unwashed, the yokels." It's hard to think of a better organizing tool for the right than the left's tribal antipathy to guns.

For examples of the confiscators demonizing gun owners, the NYT in the weeks following Sandy Hook is a rich hunting ground. But why go so far as that Fort Knox of unexamined ideas when we have our own Harry Eagar and his Restating the Obvious? In a recent piece, The Infantilization of Firearms, the entire demonization menagerie, so characteristic of collectivist rhetoric, is on display:

Today, you can go to Uncle Jesse's on Maui and buy “tactical” anything. Camo underwear, for example.

How weird is that?

Silly, but a sign of a more profound delusion. Camo underwear is, in fact, the gun nut version of the Batman underwear that 5-year-olds wear.



I have not addressed the issue of sexual anxiety. The Bushmaster ads confirm the idea that guns are substitute penises for men who are worried their natural equipment is substandard.

A writer engaging in this kind of invective cannot be trusted to provide rigorous analysis, as the penultimate sentence demonstrates: "… disarming the population would cut out the slaughter of millions of our fellow citizens."

Going with far less antagonism, but no more forgivable for that, is a recent offering from the New York Times, To Reduce Suicide Rates, New Focus Turns to Guns, which turns a truism, guns are good at killing things, into a tendentious conclusion: the U.S. suicide rate is substantially higher than it would be without guns.

Let me demonstrate:

Suicidal acts with guns are fatal in 85 percent of cases, while those with pills are fatal in just 2 percent of cases, according to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.



The national map of suicide lights up in states with the highest gun ownership rates. Wyoming, Montana and Alaska, the states with the three highest suicide rates, are also the top gun-owning states …

This is either intentional deck-stacking, or profound ignorance. How so? There is something completely germane, yet wholly unmentioned throughout this entire article: gender. Males attempt suicide mush less often than females, but are far more frequently successful. Indeed, the second sentence begs examining that possibility. After all, besides guns, the other thing that lights up in states with the highest gun ownership are also the highest Male to Female ratios; the three states listed are among only nine that have more men than women. At 108.5 and 104.1 men per 100 women, Alaska and Wyoming are the two highest, by a fair distance. Beyond that rather glaring omission, the article is also completely silent on how much higher the suicide rates are in those states.

So, the fact that suicide rates are higher in these states must be, at least in part, due solely to one of the myriad differences between men and women. Consequently, the obvious fact that guns are lethal 85% of the time is at least plausibly due to the fact that males, who intend to die, use guns and females, whose intent must be less directed, use pills. Certainly, I doubt anyone would make the case that pills, taken with real intent, are any less fatal than guns.

Nor does this article even attempt to compare and contrast the suicide rates in countries economically similar to the US. As it happens, and is quickly revealed to anyone with the search skills of a grade schooler, the UK has both very stringent hand gun restrictions, and a suicide rate practically indistinguishable from ours.

The glaring absence of these seemingly obvious considerations makes this piece, like Harry's, an unalloyed example of agenda journalism. Although, the sins here are far less forgivable than in Harry's case, because he was engaged more in opinion writing than straight reporting.

Which brings WSJ article back into view. It, too, while posing under the guise of moderation, is yet another agenda item. Granted, since it is an essay, it is bound to have a point of view. However, that is no excuse to simply sidestep the inconvenient.

To the legislatures of 27 states and the District of Columbia, the solution to both problems seems obvious: Require guns to be locked up, trigger-locked, stored separately from their ammunition, or some combination of the three. A lot of gun guys hate these laws. They argue that a gun separated from its ammunition, disabled or locked away is useless in an emergency.

Not true. I keep my handgun loaded in the bedroom, in a metal safe the size of a toaster that pops open the second I punch in a three-digit code. I bought it on eBay for $25. The gun is secure but instantly available—to me only. Many gun guys use such safes. They just don't want to be told to use them.

Neither do they want to be ordered to report a stolen gun to the police. Lots of gun guys consider it tyranny to have to tell the police anything about their guns, and they have kept most jurisdictions from passing stolen-gun laws. Only seven states and the District of Columbia make reporting a stolen gun mandatory.

The problem here is, or at least should be, breathtakingly obvious to even the scarcely sentient. How, exactly, is a requirement to lock guns up supposed to work? How, precisely, are those seven states and DC to enforce their reporting laws?

The answer is simple: either it won't and they can't, or the government must rigorously register and track all guns. And, as we all know, the government will never abuse, or lose, that information. What could possibly go wrong?

By now, the real explanation should be clear. Confiscationists are Progressives, a self-flattering term that should always be replaced with "Collectivists". Much gun violence, and all manner of other mayhem has alcohol as the primary cause. Surely, then, the answer is to eliminate alcohol. But Collectivists will not suggest that for two equally important reasons: it didn't work, and Collectivists like alcohol.

But Collectivists don't like guns, and demonize the "bitter clinger" owners. Therefore, take away the guns.

That it won't work is no deterrent to collectivism.

12 Comments:

Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Good luck on getting Eagar to admit to making stuff up :-).

I thought the most interesting omitted deduction from his article was, back before the debate became "childish", there wasn't a debate. It didn't even occur to people that it should be an issue because the "gun nut" views so dominated the zeitgeist. So what changed? People like Eagar started making it an issue and voila, it becomes childish and dangerous. Not a coincidence in my view.

February 18, 2013 8:25 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

So there's apparently 2 Restating the Obvious blogs with identical posts (by Harry of course) but completely independent comment threads.

I've been visiting http://restatingtheobviousmaui.blogspot.com/ with the post you're referring to at http://restatingtheobviousmaui.blogspot.com/2013/02/infantilization-of-firearms.html while your link was to http://www.mauinews.com/page/blogs.detail/display/4163.html .

I've been aware of both sites but have been visiting the blogspot one because the commenting mechanism at mauinews is ususable, at least by me. Can I suggest that you switch so we can debate with Harry at the same time?

February 18, 2013 9:45 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Hey Skipper wrote: "I doubt anyone would make the case that pills, taken with real intent, are any less fatal than guns."

My understanding is that many more people with real intent to commit suicide fail with pills, at least the first time, than with a gun. They simply overestimate the potency and lethality of the pills.

I mean 85% versus 2%! Some of that discrepancy is likely due to pills actually being less lethal than guns to a potential suicide victim.

Hey Skipper wrote: "How, exactly, is a requirement to lock guns up supposed to work?"

What's been explained to me is that if a gun accident occurs AND evidence is compelling that the guns weren't locked up as required, it bumps up the penalties substantially. So if nothing happens with the gun, then no problem. If someone gets shot accidentally, it goes from accident to criminal negligence. Etc.

Do I like the concept? No, but it may well be workable.

February 18, 2013 10:08 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Bret:

I've been visiting http://restatingtheobviousmaui.blogspot.com/ …

I had no idea there was any other location than the one at Maui News, about which I have complained frequently and vociferously. Harry never clued me in.

It's uselessness is only part of the reason I cited his post here; the main one is the pervasiveness of the attitudes his writing on this subject embodies.

Hey Skipper wrote: "How, exactly, is a requirement to lock guns up supposed to work?"

What's been explained to me is that if a gun accident occurs AND evidence is compelling that the guns weren't locked up as required, it bumps up the penalties substantially. So if nothing happens with the gun, then no problem. If someone gets shot accidentally, it goes from accident to criminal negligence. Etc.


You got me there, I didn't even consider that angle.

Some of that discrepancy is likely due to pills actually being less lethal than guns to a potential suicide victim.

Given the gender based differences between attempts and successes, I'll bet the 2% rate is due to women consciously (if not self-admittedly) choosing a means they know in advance is not likely to work.

February 18, 2013 10:42 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

OK, explain to me the success of Bushmaster's Man Card ad campaign without invoking sexual anxiety.

The other RtO is, rarely, slightly different from The Maui News version, primarily when I write about religion. I have been careful, on the newspaper's dime, not to be overblunt about the evil of religion.

March 03, 2013 10:40 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

March 03, 2013 10:40 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

If you're not aware that "being a man" refers to things other than sexual, I can't.

As usual, you're also mixing the specific and the general. You don't seem to be able to imagine the possibility of diversity among gun owners, as your rhetorical question here presumes that if any gun owners are persuaded by appeals to sexual anxiety, all of them are. Perhaps you could explain to me why if your view is correct, the fastest growing demographic of gun owners are women.

March 03, 2013 11:33 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

OK, explain to me the success of Bushmaster's Man Card ad campaign without invoking sexual anxiety.

How can I? There is no link, so I can't view the ad campaign for myself. Nor can I consider the timing of the ad wrt Sandy Hook; after all, the recent surge in AR15 sales can far more readily be attributed to the clear goals of confiscationists than any sexual anxiety among AR15 purchasers.

But that obscures my original point. When the reflex to agenda journalism becomes pervasive (which, IMHO, is far more typical of collectivists than any other group), then credibility ends up in the dumpster.

With regard to the NYT article, are guns more lethal than ropes, bridges, or fourth story windows? Was that article written by an idiot or a liar? Or someone so wedded to an agenda that the answer is "both"?

So, when you cite some mythical Bushmaster ad campaign, without so much as a cite, then, given your blatant confiscationist agenda, should I give any credence to your interpretation?

No.

Granted, it might be true. But, given the description, I can't help but notice that sex sells many products. And, indeed, self deprecating humor is not unknown to marketeers.

Neither of which requires sexual anxiety.

Unlike agenda journalism that demonizes the opposition.

Just like a warmenist.

March 03, 2013 6:10 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Well, yes, guns are more lethal than ropes, and way more lethal than pills.

My understanding of suicide is just about opposite of yours.

Someone once went to the trouble of interviewing everyone who had jumped off the Golden Gate bridge (n=about 10), and every one said that on the way down, he thought, I really don't want to die.

With a success rate of 85% for gun suicides, the excess of men over women is easily explained: A large number of them didn't really want to kill themselves but by using a gun instead of razor blade or aspirin, they foreclosed regrets.

As well, with suicides, it is very, very hard to sort out cultural differences. As the person who interviewed the Golden Gate survivors noted, nobody ever jumps off the Bay bridge.

As for the supposed irony of the Man Card campaign, that depends on sexual anxiety, too.

But even if it didn't, the 'revoke your Man Card' campaign was sick. Very, very successful, but sick.

March 10, 2013 12:14 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Is the success of the "Man Card" campaign the cause of so many women buying guns?

March 10, 2013 1:44 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

With a success rate of 85% for gun suicides, the excess of men over women is easily explained:

Yes, and without agenda reasoning.

Which would take into account at least two things: the gender correlated difference in suicide attempt rates, and the difference rates at which men and women actually kill themselves. Neither of which you, nor the NYT bother to mention.

Nor does agenda journalism pester itself with mentioning, never mind explaining, such seemingly pertinent phenomena as the British suicide rates before and after they effectively eliminated handguns.

As the person who interviewed the Golden Gate survivors noted, nobody ever jumps off the Bay bridge.

As anyone who is not woefully ignorant, impenetrably stupid, and at least marginally curious would have discovered with less than 10 seconds of googling, the Bay bridge has no access for pedestrians or cyclists.

I know I'm going out on a limb here, but the lack of access and the scarcity of jumpers might, just might, be connected somehow.

Well, yes, guns are more lethal than ropes, and way more lethal than pills.

Nonsense.

I read somewhere a couple weeks ago that last year 38,000 people died due to drug overdoses.

8,000 more than via guns.



March 10, 2013 6:30 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

... or impenetrably ...

March 10, 2013 6:33 PM  

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