How To Turn A "Straight News" Story Into An Editorial

Everybody does it, but I've never seen it done harder than ABC TV News does it here.

Here's the lede from the print version of the story:
A majority of Americans oppose banning assault weapons for the first time in more than 20 years of ABC News/Washington Post polls, with the public expressing vast doubt that the authorities can prevent “lone wolf” terrorist attacks and a substantial sense that armed citizens can help.
So, the actual news is that a second poll now finds a majority opposed to an assault weapons ban for the first time since that scary term was invented out of whole cloth to sell gun control. The President has already moved on to calling these things "battlefield weapons," which they are not: the kind you take to the battlefield are automatic. But the shift in rhetoric is unlikely to be persuasive given that most Americans now doubt the government's competence to protect them from terrorist attacks of this kind. They're right, of course, to doubt it. The government can't possibly stop these sorts of attacks reliably. Even if they assume vast new surveillance powers and police powers, they just won't be everywhere all the time. The only institution that could possibly stop lone wolf attacks reliably is the militia, in the original sense of the ordinary people of the country armed for the defense of themselves as well as the common peace and lawful order. They're the only ones who will always be wherever the terrorist may pick to attack.

So, as a news story, this story is empirically opposed to the President's narrative and agenda.

Now, if you're inclined, watch the television version of the story at the link. Let us count the ways in which it bends this story into the approved form:

1) It opens with a "troubling headline" about a local news story in Albuquerque, which would normally never make national news, but which is elevated just so that ABC can link the shooting to the news story via a 'this comes at the same time as...' move.

2) The news story is built not around the poll, but around demonstrations in favor of the Second Amendment. These are described as having been organized "to push back against the President's campaign to rein in gun violence." That's right -- they're demonstrating in favor of gun violence! What they want is for gun violence to be unrestrained!

3) We still don't get the poll. First, an additional introductory feature about some accidental shootings, complete with footage of a bloody ambulance bed being moved to a hospital. We're now halfway into the story, and all we've heard is that people organized at rallies, shot each other accidentally, and "oppose the President's plans." Why? A man is allowed to explain just after the halfway point: he says that if you tell Americans they can't have something, they'll want it. So, really nothing more than childish defiance is at work -- no Constitutional principles, no concerns about government competence, no terrorism, just a kind of fit that Daddy won't let them have candy.

4) Now we get a segment about how the President is moved by the shootings at Sandy Hook. It runs for 1/6th of the length of the news story, and shows the President somber, hurt, and speaking "almost daily" about the need to "protect our children."

5) We are now 1:21 into a 2:00 story. The poll comes up: "The public agrees with the President on some of his proposals..."

6) We get specific numbers on those proposals the public agrees with.

7) "But a ban on assault weapons looks unlikely..." -- because the poll shows that public opposes it? No! " Republicans push back."

8) Ted Cruz is allowed literally half of a sentence in defense of whatever these "Republican" ideas might be.

9) Twenty seconds left! "The White House admits not all Democrats are on board." Do we hear from a Democrat explaining why? Of course not! No, we hear from a White House dude explaining that "We're going to twist the arms" of Democrats to get them on board.

10) They close without ever giving the numbers opposing assault weapons, never mentioning the doubts about government competence to stop attacks, and never allowing anyone to give any part of the countervailing principled arguments, nor the empirical ones either. Instead, they close with a pledge from the White House and its supporters to have a "fifty-state strategy" to get new gun control through Congress.

Television rots the brain. Sometimes, it's by design.


raven said...

The covenant goes both ways. If they want to totally strip our constitutional rights away, they at the same time, strip away their legitimacy as our government.

PS- I not only don't trust them to protect me, I don't trust them to do anything AT ALL , since about the end of the Apollo program.

MikeD said...

Technically, the Supreme Court has ruled that the police have zero duty to protect your life. Period. So in an active shooter situation, relying on the police (or indeed, any part of the government) to come rescue you is foolish. Oh, sure, they might. I am positive there are some police who would refuse to sit by and just let the shooter continue to kill without attempting to stop them. But in some cases (Columbine comes to mind) that's exactly what they did. And the SCOTUS has agreed that they don't have any obligation to try and stop it.

Ymar Sakar said...

Sometimes by design... try 95% due to Hollywood influence.

Ymar Sakar said...

Exactly so, raven. Which people who wanted "peace in our time" didn't seem to realize. That so long as they ignored the Left's power, pampered them, and emboldened them with talk of peace, the more likely that they were going to fire first and start up CW2.

And then the response will be as natural as Sherman and Lee, Sheridan and Nathan B Forrest. Even people who had no say in the political decisions and judgment, could still fight and kill. Then again, the Southern Confederacy of "State's rights" had immunity from the draft for all large slave owning property owners. So it was by design for them. NB Forrest volunteered, and people were often surprised at that, hence his rank.

If the enemy is in range, so are you. Assuming equivalent weapons technology.

Even in jails, where prisoners are ostensibly under the protection of the security forces, SWAT teams will still spend minutes "setting up" even as the cameras show somebody being knifed to death about 100 times. That's just how humans are in a hierarchy. They may look like wolves, but they have no fangs.

Matt said...

To be fair, Mike, Columbine was pretty much the turning point for active shooter response. Heck, we didn't even HAVE the term "active shooter," or any other description of this pattern of violence. In that incident and prior ones, the usual practice was to treat it like a hostage situation (surround the building and call the SWAT team), and by the time the police were ready to mobilize, the shooters had already done their damage. Police response in subsequent active shooter incidents seems to have been considerably better.

Grim said...

Yeah, that's a fair point.

We had one of those when I was a teenager in our county, actually. It was this bullied, special needs kid who finally got fed up and brought a bunch of guns to school. One of the shop teachers tackled him and got his gun, but then it turned out he had another, and so he took a room full of his fellow students hostage for a while. The police showed up, talked him down over time, and that was that. It was exactly a hostage situation, as he was trying to get some attention to how horribly he was being treated and his need for more respect.

Since Columbine, kids like that just murder all the other kids, and then put themselves out of their misery when the cops show up. It's a different world, conceptually, and you can't blame the cops for not being the first ones to make the mental shift. For one thing, if they had, we'd say they were incredibly heavy-handed to have rushed in and shot to death someone who -- based on all previous experience -- could have likely been talked down with a bit of patience.

MikeD said...

No, this situation came up long before Columbine:

Matt said...

I didn't mean there was never a multiple-victim mass shooting before Columbine; just that there wasn't any systematic approach to thinking about and dealing with such incidents before Columbine. And even the Whitman shooting doesn't quite match the modern "active shooter" profile -- Whitman sniped from one location, rather than moving through an area firing at close range, like all the Columbine copycats. A closer match to the modern pattern would probably be the Wheaton, Maryland shooting in 1975 (, and in that one, the first cops to respond pursued the shooter immediately and took him down.