The Wages of Partisan News Reporting

I have noted recent news reports decrying incidents of Sandy Hook trutherism with a certain degree of cynical un-surprise. This then, is the fruit of modern journalism; now we have news consumers who are absolutely convinced that the mass murders either didn’t happen, didn’t happen as most reports have it, or believe that it was a put-up job entirely. Of course there have been conspiracy buffs since human history began; wherever there was a tragic or shocking event there have always been unexplained details, dangling loose ends and things which just seemed to convenient, too coincidental for some observers. Supposing the existence of a conspiracy explains shattering and usually random events all very neatly, which is why people are attracted to conspiracy theories in the first place. Since I was in grade school, I’ve been hearing about the plot, or plots which supposedly took down JFK. It’s to the point where I can paint myself as a radical just by insisting that Oswald was a lone radical nut-case and no, it wasn’t that hard a shot. And sometimes suspicion of a conspiracy has been very well based; look at the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

So, nothing new here, that there should be whispers of conspiracies with regard to the Sandy Hook murders, and nothing new that with the rise of the internet, conspiracy-minded people have no problem finding a wider audience for their particular obsessions than they would have, back in the day when getting the word out as a single activist or group meant a mimeograph machine, a mailing list and sufficient postage. The element that I suspect is new would be the widening lack of trust in the establishment media; broadcast and print alike. I’ve often lamented the manner in which formerly respected news outlets perceived by the public as being generally trustworthy have been pissing away that trust for the last two decades. Of course, up until about fifteen years ago, the internet wasn’t developed to the point where it was relatively easy to fact-check the establishment media; they may have have been just as craven, partisan or incompetent back then, (Hello, Mr. Duranty, Mr Rather, Mr. Eason, Mr. Arnett – your table is waiting!) and there would have been no way for any but a tiny number of people to know for sure.

But now we do know … and one of the things we also know is that just about everything first reported about the Sandy Hook murders, or the Zimmerman-Martin shooting, or the shooting of Gabby Giffords and a hundred other more news stories-du-jour turned out to be wrong. Just about everything said about the Tea Party by the major media turned out to be wrong – and this I know form personal experience as a local Tea Party activist. On the other hand, we know practically nothing about the takeover of the American consulate office in Benghazi late last year and the death of four Americans there. As a candidate for the highest office in the land in 2008, Barack Obama was treated as a precious and lustrous pearl by the national media, given only the lightest buffing and polishing, while his experience, qualifications and past associates went carefully and (to all appearances, deliberately) unexamined.

Reasonable, un-paranoid and non-tinfoil-hat-wearing Americans these days have every reason in the world to distrust what has been printed or broadcast. Rich soil in which to plant the seeds of paranoid conspiracy theories – and the funniest and most ironical part, is that the professional mainstream news media have laid down the deepest layer of that soil themselves, in appearing to trim the sails of coverage to suit the favored political and politically correct winds of the moment. As ye sow, ladies and gentlemen of the establishment press – so shall ye reap, a full crop of suspicion and paranoia.

(cross-posted at

18 thoughts on “The Wages of Partisan News Reporting”

  1. My own arguments along this line are simple:

    1) Early reporting has NO mention of a bushmaster rifle. Why? Is this really all that easy to miss?

    2) After 4-6 hours, all of a sudden it’s mentioned, even though there’s pretty much direct statements by news organizations that there were NO rifles on the scene, only two handguns, and one long gun or rifle in the trunk of his car.

    3) A bit later, the coroner comes on and says that ALL the kids were shot with the bushmaster.

    4) His mother did own a bushmaster, but the timing is just perfectly enough that it could have been found at the home and transported to the site by a single G. Gordon Liddy type individual acting on direct orders.

    5) The whole “conspiracy” requires only about 4-5 people, perhaps, be aware of it. Clearly the coroner, the person who transported the rifle are “in”. Anyone else at that level can suspect something hinky is going on, and yet not say anything because they’ve been told not to ask any questions.

    6) Since there won’t be any trial, there’s no reason for all the details to be made public allowing any individual to access them and take the stuff to independent experts for analysis.

    The final thing here, that makes me REALLY willing to believe the above, is, of course, Fast and Furious. When your PotUS has already demonstrated a willingness to conspire to produce an event that does EXACTLY the same thing as the events at Sandy Hook (e.g., to create an excuse for additional gun control BS to be passed), I would have to say that only a moron would NOT be skeptical of a “similar” event occurring a year or two later.

    Note that I’m not saying that anyone created any dead kids, faked any dead kids, or did anything of the sort. All they’ve done, in my opinion, is likely misrepresented the weapon used.

    Because getting new laws passed is a hell of a lot easier with big scary “assault” weapons behind the events than if it were done with a couple of handguns.

  2. Absolutely spot on.

    I think you’re right about Oswald too, and he wasn’t that bad a shot either. They have his range books from the USMC.

    And a bad shot in the USMC – which he wasn’t – is a good shot everywhere else.

    As to Sandy Hook and Bammy – they have a crisis, they have an organization to exploit crisis, they seized an opportunity.

    And have created a far wider crisis doing so. Remember they’re not exactly the most competent or scary of tyrants. A competent tyranny would have disarmed us first. Good heavens even Blair’s Labor got that one right.

  3. Of course the actual wages may be staying solvent or at least keeping an income, when you mysteriously don’t seem to be in the Black on revenue.

  4. From the things I do know about a given incident and what I subsequently read I have become distrustful of reporters. Examples abound. A lot of it is just laziness – any small plane that crashes is a “Cessna” – just as 40 years ago any exec jet was a Learjet

    Generally a simple phone call would resolve it.

    You see similar situations and if the politician is to the left most of the time ignored; if center or right they go after him like a pack of jackals.

    On Oswald 2 thoughts: I remember reading years ago on the thought of “conspiracies” that it is very easy to interpret given facts and “assume” a conspiracy is involved. Pick your incident. Of course proof is not necessary. Remember Bush Sr, the SR-71 and Iran?

    On Oswald’s shooting ability – I have no doubt he was good but disagree with the contention that if you are a “bad shot in the Marines you are still good anywhere else”. A bad shot is a bad shot.

    A few years ago I went to Dallas, went to the old Texas Book Depository and peered out the window Oswald used. Kennedy and just rounded the corner (Elm to Houston?) and he was in a straight line of sight – maybe 100-150 yards tops . Not a difficult shot, particularly with a scoped centerfire rifle.

    I have gone beyond mistrust of the MSM – I pretty much ignore them. Not in my sphere of interest.

  5. One question I’ve always had is whether the propaganda outlet value of the news organization is worth more to the owners than the value as a profit-producing business.

    The major outlets seem to generally have ownership buried inside some obscure conglomerate so that the news doesn’t really have to pay its own way in the marketplace.

    Government licensing of the broadcast media gives government a lot of room for extortion as does anti-trust legislation.

    I’d love to see a detailed analysis of ownership and revenue flows for major liberal media.

    As Mark Twain quipped, “I you do not read the newspapers, you are uninformed. If you do read the newspapers, you are misinformed.”

  6. Journalism and Communications majors make the Bourbons look like fact checkers for the Encyclopedia Britannica.
    HWith them spreading the word, how can one fail see conspiracies (or no conspiracies) all about? Manti Te’o claimed to love someone who did not exist in any tangible form, and he’s from Hawaii. Barack Obama is also from Hawaii, and proclaims a love of country which does not exist in any tangible form.
    Coincidence? Hah!
    Being a complete moron, I’m not fooled by either one.

  7. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States and Certifiable Movie Factologist Says:
    January 21st, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Agreed on all points. I’m a retired Peace Officer, and am used to putting things together from crime scenes. This story does not work.

    The latest addition is that they are saying that the long gun removed from the trunk of the car, the process being videoed, broadcast, and the video being in my possession; is a SAIGA 12 gauge shotgun and not the Bushmaster. The Saiga is built on an AR-15 style frame, but is bulkier and heavier. When I watch it, it appears to be something somewhat smaller and lighter than an AR-15, akin to a Bushmaster.

    Went to a gun show yesterday and handled both. I still think that what was removed was far more likely a Bushmaster.

    But, let us assume that it was a SAIGA pulled out of the trunk. They are not exactly ubiquitous. And they are in high demand on the market. I think that if they were appearing spontaneously in car trunks, we would have heard about it, and I might have put in my bid to have one appear in mine.

    All the other weapons named that were involved were known to have been legally the property of the mother he murdered. All appear to have a chain of custody as to how she obtained them. There is no indication that she had a SAIGA; overt or covert. And if she had a Bushmaster openly, there really is no reason to have concealed possession of a SAIGA shotgun.

    So where in the name of all that is holy, and a half dozen persons I know personally who aren’t; did the freaking SAIGA come from? We know that Lanza did repeatedly attempt to buy long guns in the weeks preceding the attack. [By the way, in the real world, that could be considered indicative but not probative of premeditation.] And we know that the system did in fact work perfectly in those cases, and he was not allowed to buy them.

    If he illegally acquired the SAIGA from a dealer, the BATF would be screaming that it proved that we need more restrictive laws since the background checks did not work. If he acquired it from a private party, they would be screaming and use it in the ongoing push to ban private sales.

    The silence is deafening.

    If it was his mother’s Bushmaster pulled from the car, the entire narrative of the crime breaks down. If it was not, then where did that weapon come from, what was it, and who else is involved?

    The fact that this is a “dog that did not bark” moment [for those not familiar with the phrase, see Sherlock Holmes in “Silver Blaze”] should scream out to any investigator. A whole bunch of people are dead, mostly kids, and something is being concealed.

    On the larger question, can you name ANY major incident in the last 10 years where the mainstream news media has gotten the basic facts right? Can you name any incident where they have gotten it wrong where they have not doubled down on being wrong instead of correcting themselves as openly as they were wrong?

    For extra credit, in the same period perform the same analysis for statements by the Federal government?

    In Napoleonic France, the news media was largely controlled by the State. And the official press releases, broadsided all over the French Empire, were called “Bulletins”. There was a colloquial phrase at that time and place.

    “To lie like a Bulletin”

    There is nothing new under the sun. And we would do well to remember it going forward for anything said by the media, or the government.

    Subotai Bahadur

  8. There are a lot of questions, still – about Sandy Hook, as well as about the Benghazi consulate and Fast’n’Furious, aren’t there? The pity of it is that now, even if our establishment presstitutes did buckle down and do the job expected of them – instead of doubling down on wrong until the contradictions couldn’t be contained any longer – and come up with some facts and explainations, the general public has become so cynical that very likely they would not be believed. Not just by the tin-foil chapeau element, but by the public at large. ‘Lie like a bulletin’, indeed.

    Wonder if the establishment news will figure out that this lack of credibility is connected to the death spiral in readership. Print Newsweek is dead; can Time be long behind? (although their troubles stem mostly, I think, from being a weekly publication in a 24-7 world.)

  9. News magazines and news papers are dying. I recently leafed through a copy of Sports Illustrated which was very thin – perhaps 20 pages. There were only 2 full page ads.

    Old style news people think that a story has to be big, shocking, embarrasing, about immorality, to sell. Today’s people yawn at these stories. They can read 10 stories about the same event from Google or Yahoo or AOL – they can see contradictions. When finally bad stories get to print people pass them by. Seen that, heard that already.

    But there is no contest for accuracy among reporters – they compete only to grab the eye or ear with stories that provoke outrage.

    So we have a president who feeds the need for outrage. Every outrage demands a solution and solutions cost big bucks and new laws and power for the problem solvers. That’s how progressives report news and run government in the third world.

  10. Michael Crichton said in a lecture that if you read the newspaper, and see inaccuracies and falsehoods in subjects you understand, why should think they’re correct about anything else?

  11. Re: Lee Harvey.

    He didn’t have to be good. He just had to be lucky. The shots taken were just that. The last could have just as well been a miss as a fatal shot.
    The press, or MSM, is just proving the reality that you get more of whatever you reward, and less of whatever you don’t.
    Merde is being rewarded because it is ‘first’. While watching the TV story of McAfee, I saw that he noted that reporters do not have time to find out the truth, as they are rewarded for ‘quickest and firstest’ stories. Facts come later, but those first to report are rewarded. He noted there was always something NEW that had to be reported, so going over ‘old news’ to get the facts straight was not rewarding. There is an ‘infinitesimal’ time frame between the news being reported and something else coming down the pike to take its place on whatever media, so there is no reason or reward for going back and making corrections.
    Twain was right. Uninformed or mis-informed.

  12. }}} I think you’re right about Oswald too, and he wasn’t that bad a shot either. They have his range books from the USMC.

    The problem with this happens to be buried in Posner’s book, “Case Closed”. It is discussing Oswald’s little soiree in the USSR. While there, he went hunting with some co-workers, and they indicated he was such a bad shot he could not hit things with a shotgun. Now, I’ve never used a shotgun, but… aren’t they supposed to be the easiest weapon to hit things with? And here we have one witness saying Oswald was particularly ineffective with one?

    Posner never connects this to the later “vastly improved” shooting skills of Oswald at any point.

    It’s… odd. Both the myopic failure to ask about this disconnect of information (I noticed it immediately upon reading it), as well as the information itself. I’m not saying there’s no explanation. But that the author fails to even make the connection is frustrating. That happens throughout the book. “A & ~A”. On a regular basis. And Posner’s book is supposed to be one of “the most thorough”.

  13. }}} although their troubles stem mostly, I think, from being a weekly publication in a 24-7 world

    That is *A* problem, but not an insurmountable one. The answer seems obvious. The 24-7 news can only give you sound bites. A newsweekly magazine *COULD* give you in-depth, background, and overview information on the stories of the week.

    Of course, the level of reporting would have to be MORE informed than that of The Onion’s reporters, not LESS. In order to write satire, you have to actually spend time investigating and understanding your subject matter. Something typical modern “reporters” do not seem to believe necessary, even as they claim that they are somehow better than some guy sitting in his Pyjamas somewhere….

  14. The Economist has half the circulation of Time but seems to be doing well. The weekly Standard has about the same circulation and I’ve never seen it in a Doctor’s office. The problem is the product. There was more and better writing in LIFE in the 50’s than is Time of the teens.

  15. I am with Mrs. Davis – it’s the product . I haven’t subscribed to our newspaper for – I’ll bet – 35 years. If I thought they were objective in their reporting – I’d be glad to pay.

    I remember some years ago – we had a 2nd Amendment rally – easily 7,000-10,000 showed up – not a word from our “news”paper.

    Get 5 yahoos demonstrating on a street corner against Iraq and its on their front page.

    To me most of the MSM has become toxic – even if miraculously they suddenly became objective and unbiased it would take them years to come back.

    Good riddance.

  16. Bill Brandt Says:
    January 23rd, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Agreed. Haven’t subscribed to a paper for a couple of decades. Here, we have an active TEA Party. We have rallies that fill parks. Our local paper has yet to cover one [pro-or con] in all the time the TEA Party has been here. The reason is that the ownership of our small local paper comes from an out of state based chain. The owner sent a memo out to the effect that opposing taxes was treason, and directing the chain not to cover us. Funny thing, they seem to be just barely limping along. Not just us, of course. With the wonderful Obama economy, ad revenue collapsed. But that particular choice probably did not help.

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