News Media Propaganda

by Thomas Sowell

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Since so many
in the media cannot resist turning every tragedy into a political
talking point, it was perhaps inevitable that (1) someone would
try to link the shooting rampage at the Batman movie in Colorado
to the Tea Party, and that (2) some would try to make it a reason
to impose more gun control laws.

Too many people
in the media cannot seem to tell the difference between reporting
the news and creating propaganda.

NBC News apparently
could not resist doctoring the transcript of the conversation between
George Zimmerman and the police after the Trayvon Martin shooting.
Now ABC News took the fact that the man arrested for the shooting
in Colorado was named James Holmes to broadcast to the world the
fact that there is a James Holmes who is a member of the Tea Party
in Colorado.

The fact has
since come out that these are two different men, one in his 20s
and the other in his 50s. But corrections never catch up with irresponsible
news broadcasts. The James Holmes who belongs to the Tea Party has
been deluged with phone calls. I hope he sues ABC News for every
dime they have.

This is not
the first time that the mainstream media have tried to create a
link between conservatives and violence. Years ago, the Oklahoma
City bombing was blamed on Rush Limbaugh, despite the absence of
any evidence that the bomber was inspired by Rush Limbaugh.

Similar things
have happened repeatedly, going all the way back to the assassination
of President John F. Kennedy, which was blamed on a hostile right-wing
atmosphere in Dallas, even though the assassin had a long history
of being on the far left fringe.

But, where
the shoe is on the other foot – as when the Unabomber had a much
marked-up copy of an environmentalist book by Al Gore – the media
heard no evil, saw no evil and spoke no evil. If people in the media
cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news
or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the
public understand that difference, and choose their news sources

As for gun
control advocates, I have no hope whatever that any facts whatever
will make the slightest dent in their thinking – or lack of thinking.
New York’s Mayor Bloomberg and CNN’s Piers Morgan were on the air
within hours of the shooting, pushing the case for gun control laws.

You might never
know, from what they and other gun control advocates have said,
that there is a mountain of evidence that gun control laws not only
fail to control guns but are often counterproductive. However, for
those other people who still think facts matter, it is worth presenting
some of those facts.

Do countries
with strong gun control laws have lower murder rates? Only if you
cherry-pick the data.

Britain is
a country with stronger gun control laws than the United States,
and lower murder rates. But Mexico, Russia and Brazil are also countries
with stronger gun control laws than the United States – and their
murder rates are much higher than ours. Israel and Switzerland have
even higher rates of gun ownership than the United States, and much
lower murder rates than ours.

Even the British
example does not stand up very well under scrutiny. The murder rate
in New York has been several times that in London for more than
two centuries – and, for most of that time, neither place had strong
gun control laws. New York had strong gun control laws years before
London did, but New York still had several times the murder rate
of London.

was in the later decades of the 20th century that the British government
clamped down with severe gun control laws, disarming virtually the
entire law-abiding citizenry. Gun crimes, including murder, rose
as the public was disarmed.

murder rates in the United States declined during the same years
when murder rates in Britain were rising, which were also years
when Americans were buying millions more guns per year.

The real problem,
both in discussions of mass shootings and in discussions of gun
control, is that too many people are too committed to a vision to
allow mere facts to interfere with their beliefs, and the sense
of superiority that those beliefs give them.

Any discussion
of facts is futile when directed at such people. All anyone can
do is warn others about the propaganda.

2, 2012

Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford
University. His Web site is
To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other
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2012 Creators Syndicate