Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why has so much of the media ignored this story? Why have many who have covered it failed to make the connection to gun control?

First, many “mainstream media” outlets, including CBS, NPR, CNN, the LA Times (which has provided extensive coverage), AP, and Fox News have provided coverage. Fox News has covered the story extensively – including two prime time specials. The Washington Times and The New York Post have also printed stories. Even the NY Times and the Washington Post have covered the story – very selectively.

Still, this story began in, and has largely been carried by, the “new media”. It began on the forum cleanupatf.org – where the first whistle blowing agents made contact with two members of the “gun rights media”, who eventually were able to get reporters from the wider media to cover the story. Examiner.com, The Daily Caller, C-Span, YouTube and many other online outlets have carried the bulk of the news on this scandal – often reporting breaking news ahead of outlets like Fox and CBS. Another new media angle on the story is that most of the coverage by local Arizona TV stations and newspapers (which has been extensive) is available nationwide via the Internet. The House Oversight Committee has posted many videos on their YouTube channel and even created their own website - www.FastAndFuriousInvestigation.com to get the word out. Of course, talk radio has been all over the story too.

From an historical perspective, one might say that this scandal marks the end of the mainstream media’s – or even big media’s – control of the news. Thirty years ago, this story would have been effectively bottled up by the lack of mainstream news coverage. Not so today – there are just too many outlets to block them all effectively.

Second, there is no doubt that this story is flat out being ignored by many media outlets. It has been over a year since CBS first ran a story on Fast and Furious on it’s evening national news program. Since then there have been several congressional hearings, AG Holder and the DOJ have been threatened with contempt of congress, a White House aide has been connected to the scandal, the Mexican government has demanded that those responsible be handed over to them for trail, and over 60 congressmen and senators have called for Holder to resign. Not to mention the fact that a Border Patrol Agent is dead, as are hundreds of Mexicans. Does this not sound a story worthy of coverage?

One would think so – but in the year since CBS because the first “mainstream media” outlet to cover this story, the NBC, CBS, and PBS evening news have run exactly ZERO STORIES on the scandal. In other words, if you are part of the ever-shrinking group of people who get their news from the networks evening newscasts you would not even know this story existed.

There are many reasons for this, so let’s look at them one by one.

Cultural bias. Consider the location of most of the media in this country. The vast majority of the “old media” (ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS – and well as the New York Times) is headquartered in one of two cities: New York and Washington. The mindset towards firearms in these two cities is 180 degrees out of sync with the rest of the country. Washington DC is desperately trying to hold on to a virtual handgun ban (by making ownership as difficult as possible) after loosing a statutory ban before the Supreme Court. New York has only recently had to back off of it’s “keep the average guy from owning a gun” $350.00 per year per gun “registration fee” in light of the same decision. The culture in these two cities – along with Chicago and San Francisco – is as anti-gun as it gets. The editors who decide what stories get printed or broadcast largely reflect the culture of the cities in which they live. Guns are seen as intrinsically bad and as a source of evil – rather than objects that can be used for good or evil. Therefore the Federal Gun Cops (the ATF or more correctly the BATFE) are seen as a force for good and the more restrictions on gun rights the better. It takes a great deal of personal integrity to overcome a cultural and political bias as strong as this one. Only one of the four networks has managed to summon up enough integrity to provide coverage. It really is sad.

Political Bias. We know from the Journal-list scandal, as well as the more recent leaks from “Media Matters”, that there is a very direct and unhealthy relationship between the administration and much of the mainstream media. Much of the media simply does not care about printing the truth, or doing their job of holding government accountable. They view their job as basically being the official PR department for the Obama administration. This too is very sad.

Denial. It’s hard to believe that this could possibly by true. These must be unsubstantiated right wing charges that can’t possibly be true. This scandal makes Watergate look like nothing. No one died in Watergate and Watergate did not involve committing an act of war against Mexico or any other nation. Yet it took a long time for the news media and the rest of the nation to believe that Nixon had covered up Watergate. Fast and Furious is even harder to accept – especially if one believes that President Obama was in the loop when the operation was planned (something that cannot be proven at this point).

Lack of knowledge. Most reporters are not familiar with firearms in general and the US civilian firearms market and culture in particular. Even those who have firearms knowledge are likely to have obtained it in the military – not as civilians. Most have never been to a civilian gun range. They know few if any gun owners. They have never experienced the gun culture. They have not spent time in gun shops, have never purchased a gun and have little idea what the process is like. They don’t know any gun dealers and have no idea what they are like – or how closely many are associated with law enforcement. Most of what they do “know” has come from gun control groups and is often flat out wrong.

Anti-gun rights agenda. A significant number of reporters simply are opposed to gun rights. Fast and Furious is turning into a disaster for gun control advocates – who simply want the story to go away. Many reporters and news organizations share the same goals.

It is indeed sad that Fast and Furious is so “under reported”, but as the links in the time line indicate, there has been enough coverage to keep the story alive. It’s not going to go away any time soon.

Another opinion can be found here.

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