This morning, the right-wing Daily Caller announced the launch of a new website section called Guns and Gear. According to their press release, "The section will include everything from the latest news about armed citizens defending themselves and their property, to coverage of Second Amendment policies and politics, to reviews of the latest guns and gear."
Publisher Neil Patel is quoted in the release saying that "The millions of Americans who own and are interested in guns are currently without the sort of daily news coverage that is allotted to most other American interests." But if the section's current content is any guide, the Caller has decided that the best way to provide this "daily news coverage" is to republish articles and press releases directly from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Take a look:
The top of the web page currently features one op-ed from top NRA lobbyist Chris Cox; links to three previous Cox columns; a reposted November NRA press release highlighting "Twelve Big Wins for Gun Owners"; and a gun review from the NRA publication Shooting Illustrated. Oh, and two ads for the NRA; apparently purported news outlets can make money republishing content from interest groups.
Further down the section, readers find additional republished NRA press releases, more Cox op-eds, more NRA web ads, and reposted articles from NRA publications American Rifleman, Shooting Illustrated, and American Rifleman. There are currently only seven pieces of content on the section's front page labeled as coming from The Daily Caller. Of those, three are articles that were originally published at Human Events and three are sets of links to gun manufacturers, state gun clubs, and gun owner manuals. The last is an article headlined "The War on Christmas."
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that the Caller has apparently decided to rely on the gun lobby for its "daily news coverage" of gun issues. The press release lists Mike Piccione as the section's editor, with editor in chief Tucker Carlson stating, "Mike Piccione knows more about firearms and self-defense than anyone in journalism. We're grateful to have him editing this new section." According to his Human Events bio, where he worked as editor of the newsletter Guns & Patriots, Piccione is "a NRA Marketing Manager."
For most publications, this kind of ethical cesspool would lead to apologies, internal debates about standards, and some soul-searching. At the Caller, it's just another Wednesday.
Daily Caller "reporter" Matthew Boyle's emerging second career as a gun lobby lackey is clearly on the fast track, judging from his recent coverage of Attorney General Eric Holder's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Having used his platform to amplify seemingly every Republican line of questioning asked to Holder about the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious, Boyle found time on NRA Radio to attack Rep. Hank Johnson's (D-GA) questioning at the hearing.
Not surprisingly given his embarrassing disregard for the facts, Boyle completely ignored the well-established factual basis of Rep. Johnson's questioning and even went so far as to smear Rep. Johnson with the false suggestion that he "played the race card".
Before asking about the gun lobby's role in blocking a permanent director of the ATF, Rep. Johnson asked Holder about the 'gun show loophole' and how many guns from gun shows had fallen into the hands of dangerous people (from Nexis):
JOHNSON: It's about 2,000 [guns trafficked through Fast and Furious]? Now, how many firearms are sold to Al Qaida terrorists, to other convicted felons, to domestic violence perpetrators, to convicted felons, to white supremacists?
Do you think the NRA and other Second Amendment rights radicals have -- have confidence that the U.S. will not have a competent ATF head if the Senate continues to deny a leader for that organization, thus rendering it rudderless? Is that -- is politics causing that, do you think?
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) later seized on the Johnson's use of the term "radicals" to suggest he was attacking the NRA's entire membership. Boyle dutifully wrote up an article uncritically echoing Issa's complaints. Speaking during the latest of what appear to be daily appearances with NRA News, Boyle bizarrely threw out the suggestion that Johnson's comments represented playing the "race card":
On last night's edition of Fox News' On the Record, host Greta van Susteren lauded the FBI credentials of Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), then allowed him to baselessly claim that the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious was approved "all the way at the top of the food chain," by Attorney General Eric Holder.
The Justice Department has consistently said that the operation, in which ATF agents allowed suspected traffickers to transmit guns to Mexico as part of an attempt to build a case against a drug cartel, was a local operation and that Holder and other senior Justice officials were unaware of the controversial tactics involved. But according to Grimm, for such an operation "you have to have approvals at the highest level of DOJ."
VAN SUSTEREN: And I suppose we should say and just sort of put in perspective, not only are you a member of Congress, you're a former FBI agent.
GRIMM: Yes. That's correct.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK. So -- and so the attorney general would be your boss, if you were still -- in theory.
GRIMM: Yes. Absolutely true.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. You want him out. Why?
GRIMM: I don't think we have the confidence. I think the attorney general has been misleading not only the Congress but the American people. Listen, you don't let guns and drugs walk. That's the general rule of thumb. So if you're going to do something like that, which is very rare, you have to have approvals at the highest level of DOJ.
Now, why is this more complicated? Because you're not just letting them walk within an area here in the United States. You're talking about an international border. So you're having guns walk across into another country.
There's no question in my mind that you needed approval all the way to top of the food chain, which leads directly to the attorney general.
But Fox News viewers have previously received the opposite information from a source with far more experience in the area. In a September interview, Michael Sullivan, acting director of the ATF under President Bush, said the operation was "well within the rights of the director [of ATF] to approve or reject," and "didn't require authorities outside of ATF... for the purpose of initiating it."
Not surprisingly, van Susteren never mentioned Sullivan's expressly contradictory analysis, nor the DOJ's denials.
Yesterday the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) put out the message that hunting with firearms is really, really, really safe. As you can see in their handy table, the gun-lobby group proclaims hunting with firearms is safer than golfing, bowling, or jogging. From the NSSF blog:
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise: Hunting with firearms is safe; in fact, hunting with firearms is one of the safest recreational activities in America.
Look just a little deeper and you can see that the NSSF's methodology is almost laughably shoddy. Safety analysis, according to the NSSF, need not include a relative measure of chance of death. Nor does it use a single source to form its estimated number of accidents, but rather mashes together two different data sources to make up for the lack of statistics about hunting in their primary data source.
The NSSF's blog post and its safety activity chart don't mention fatal hunting accidents at all. Perhaps sensing the obvious question coming from the reporters it hopes will write up its findings, the NSSF includes this factoid in the middle of a press release on the hunting safety report:
Though recent accurate figures on fatalities related to hunting are not available, statistics from 2002 show 99 fatal hunting accidents.
The NSSF makes no effort to evaluate the lethality or seriousness of different types of injuries in each activity it claims is less safe than hunting with firearms. A bullet to the chest and a sprained ankle are both counted as one injury in their statistics, and that's the basis of their claim that hunting with guns is safer then all but the least strenuous activities. According to a 2004 Good Morning America report, the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) estimated that hunters were accidentally shooting more than 1,000 people a year in the United States and Canada.
Additionally, the methodology used to determine the number of injuries for every other activity is different than the methodology used to determine the safety of hunting. For every other activity, the NSSF relies on the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) 2010 data, but for hunting, it's data from CPSC combined with IHEA data to fill in the gaps. The NSSF never says if it has any reason to think that the IHEA collects data in a comparable way to the CPSC. It doesn't even say if it's using data from the same year, which it's also probably in the dark on, given that it apparently doesn't know the number of hunting related fatal accidents in 2010.
The media regularly go to NSSF for comment on articles related to gun statistics. The NSSF also publishes data on background checks that it claims are adjusted to properly reflect the number of gun sales made in the United States. The NSSF's shoddy hunting safety research casts serious doubts about the credibility of the organization as a source of accurate information.
Within a day of publication, the NSSF's hunter safety report was featured on the popular Truth About Guns blog under the title of "NSSF: Hunting Safer then Sex" and on the blog Shall Not Be Questioned under the title "Cheerleading More Dangerous Than Hunting With Guns." Outdoor-themed news sites have also picked up the story.
We've long chronicled the right-wing media's problem with undertaking basic research before trying to smear progressives. Nonetheless, this one was a doozy.
Last week, we debunked the claim from three conservative bloggers that President Obama repeatedly met with a Department of Justice official "keenly aware" of the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious at "the height" of the operation. In fact, no evidence has been presented showing that the official was aware at the time of the controversial details of the program, and in any case, the meetings in question were actually White House visits to attend major events related to a visit by the Mexican President and the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.
As we pointed out, hundreds to thousands of people attended these supposed meetings, making it extremely unlikely that the DOJ official was using them to secretly brief the President. And as we noted, this information was easily available through the same White House Visitors Office records that the right-wing bloggers were using to drum up their conspiracy.
Yesterday, the Daily Caller attempted to identify just where those bloggers went wrong:
But on the dates in question, the logs specifically referred to formal arrivals and receptions related to a State Dinner for Mexican president Felipe Calderón. It's unclear whether the three writers noticed this feature of the visitor logs, since the spreadsheets' columns related to the purpose for the visits is hidden from view and only become visible when readers scroll a considerable distance to one side.
That's how pathetic even the Caller acknowledges the right-wing blogosphere must be: they are either too incompetent to "scroll a considerable distance to one side" in order to confirm their conspiracies before they run with them or they're simply uninterested in the truth.
For their part, the Caller was also apparently unable to pull off the scrolling trick on their own. Instead, after reading the claims of right-wing bloggers, they contacted the White House directly, who pointed them to our post. It remains to be seen whether the Caller has learned not to take such sources seriously in the future.
Rarely has the National Rifle Association's paranoia been more clearly on display than during yesterday's NRA News segment featuring Cato Institute fellow Daniel Mitchell. Mitchell was pretty straight forward: you need guns as a bulwark against the increasingly likely possibility of the world plunging into a "Mad Max dystopia."
Mitchell's recent Forbes article explaining his fears is surely destined for greatness on par with "Boston on Surviving Y2K," and his reportage appears so far to have been ignored by Alex Jones, so it's understandable why NRA News felt the need to amplify his message.
Mitchell's argument is largely based on talking to rich Europeans at a recent economic conference. The European elite, Mitchell reports, are gassing up their private jets in preparation to flee Europe in the event of societal collapse. Mitchell proposes people without the financial ability to leave Europe would be much better off in countries with high levels of gun ownership like Switzerland than they would in countries with more restrictive gun policies such as the United Kingdom. Mitchell on NRA News:
Based on my travels in Europe I started thinking, well, the Swiss are probably in good shape. I've been in lots of Swiss homes and people show me their guns, but if you're in the U.K. or a place like that where there's really no individual rights for firearms ownership.
I mean, imagine if society breaks down and the welfare state collapses into some sort of Mad Max dystopia, which we all hope of course never happens, but if it does where would I rather be Switzerland or England?
Examining Mitchell's core example of successful gun interventions you quickly see the hollow nature of his argument. Along with NRA News host Ginny Simone, Mitchell touts Korean shop owners defending their shops during the Los Angeles riots and contrasts that with shop owners during the London riots that were unarmed. Did more guns make the Los Angeles riots safer for citizens?
The numbers suggest the opposite. During the British riots 6 deaths were associated with civilian criminal activity. Of the two victims killed by gunfire one is believed to have been a looter himself. By contrast during the Los Angeles riots 53 people were killed, 35 by gunfire (10 of those by law enforcement or the National Guard).
Yet in the alternate reality presented by NRA News the Los Angeles riots are cited as a success story and the British riots as a travesty.
The plain subtext of Mitchell's argument is that economic collapse will be caused by politicians not following his preferred economic policies. Mitchell in Forbes:
If politicians destroy the economic system with too much debt and too much dependency, firearms will be the first and last line of defense against those who would plunder and pillage.
So to review: invest in guns, cut social programs like Medicare and Social Security.
"Enforce the laws on the books already before passing more" is the plea of the National Rifle Association (NRA) when proposals are made to strengthen guns laws. In April NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "We support all kinds of behavioral requirements, restrictions ... there are dozens of laws on the books that we support. The problem is they're not being enforced."
So what happens when a state starts enforcing gun laws at gun shows? Long-winded jeremiads complaining of "entrapment" by the "anti-gun cabal." Maybe it's time to change the slogan to "enforce the laws on the books, but make sure it's not a law we don't like you jack-booted thugs."
On Wednesday New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the arrest of ten people for selling guns at a gun show without performing a background check on the buyers as is required by state law. Mirroring previous undercover gun show investigations, Schneiderman reports that the sales happened even after indications were made that the buyer couldn't pass a background check, saying at a press conference: "I'm very sorry to report that every gun show they visited, undercover investigators who explicitly stated that they could not pass background checks were able to obtain firearms."
Only hours after the announcement NRA News was hosting a gripe session with Tom King of the New York Rifle and Pistol Association in a segment they titled "Bloomberg's Bogus Gun Show Sting". King told NRA Radio host Ginny Simone that the sting was "entrapment," it's purpose to "foster a political agenda" by a "anti-gun cabal." King's depiction of "entrapment" included such tricky methods as asking if the guns were for sale and saying they were looking to buy those types of guns.
King also told Gannett Pressconnects, "I guarantee you there's not a gun owner in New York state who was aware of that law before today." Contradicting King's depiction of the law was Budd Schroeder of the Shooters Committee on Political Education, who told a reporter for The Buffalo News that he's seen security guards at every gun show he'd attended check to see if gun buyers had proof that they'd undergone a background check. Hopefully moving forward the New York gun lobby will get it together and decide if the law is highly obscure or rigorously enforced.
Additionally transcripts of the purchases showed the seller suggested an illegal straw purchase saying, "I can sell it to you, and you can give it to him" after being informed that one of the undercover investigators couldn't pass a background check because of a domestic abuse incident.
Failing to perform a background check at a gun show is currently a misdemeanor offense in New York state.
From the November 30 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money with Eric Bolling:
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From the November 30 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money:
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"RED ALERT: Deputy A.G. behind 'Fast and Furious' met with President Obama four times during the height of the operation" read the headline to a post in Doug Ross's DirectorBlue blog on Monday. The post then proceeds to weave a narrative suggesting President Obama was repeatedly meeting with a Department of Justice official "keenly aware" of the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious at "the height" of the operation.
Sipsy Steet Irregulars conspiracist Mike Vanderbough, quickly picked up Ross' post, asking "Well, well, well. What do you know about this, Mr. President?" Surely the intrepid journalists at Daily Caller cannot be far behind.
As underwhelming as it is to establish that a series of "meetings" happened without a bit of information about what was discussed, Ross doesn't even get the facts straight on that. A closer look -- scrolling right -- at the White House Visitor Records data Ross is citing strongly suggests he's established nothing more than Grindler's attendance at speeches and events at the White House where between one hundred and several thousand other people were present. Looks like it's to time to cancel the draft impeachment articles.
Ross' big find is that Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler is listed in the White House visitor log records that were recently released as having visited Obama -- "POTUS" -- four times. Grindler received a briefing on the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious and although the documents related to the briefing did not mention the controversial "gun walking" tactics and the Department of Justice has said the briefing did not include "the operational tactics that have since raised concerns" it was enough for Ross to posit that Grindler "was keenly aware of all aspects of Fast and Furious." Ross:
Item 3: Newly released White House Visitor Logs list Grindler as having visited the White House 40 times, but only four times with the President himself. All four meetings with the President occurred over a two-week period, between 7 May 2010 and 19 May 2010.
According to The Los Angeles Times, these dates just so happened to represent the run-up to "the height of [Operation] Fast and Furious":
Ross concludes: "So my question is this: What did President Obama know -- and when did he know it?"
Looking at the complete visitor log entries the whole thing falls apart instantly. The four meetings appear to actually be three visits to attend heavily-reported public or diplomatic events where many, many other people were present.
Attorney General Eric Holder apparently struck a nerve yesterday when he accurately called out the Daily Caller for effectively creating a movement of congressional Republicans seeking his resignation. Both editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson and reporter Matthew Boyle have since done damage control with extremely friendly media outlets, claiming that they are acting legitimately and attacking Holder for his criticism.
Boyle has led the website's reporters in a month-long effort to find Republicans willing to take a free shot at the Obama administration by calling for Holder's resignation, with the stated rationale being the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious. The campaign has led to nearly two dozen articles featuring calls for Holder's resignation from 51 low-level members of Congress, Republican presidential candidates, Sarah Palin, and congressional challengers, among others.
Carlson stopped by Fox & Friends' curvy couch this morning, accusing Holder of being "Nixonian" and saying that "we are not in control of the legislative branch." When co-host Gretchen Carlson asked the Daily Caller editor whether he thought Holder "had that reaction to your reporter because it hasn't been covered as much by the mainstream media," he noted that "our reporter Matt Boyle has written a number of stories on this," but never acknowledged the character of that reporting.
Boyle sounded similar notes in an appearance on NRA Radio (the NRA has called for Holder's resignation). He told host Cam Edwards: "To assume that we're 'behind' the calls for his resignation, I don't know how he can think that. All I'm doing is calling up congressmen and senators and asking them, and then whatever their answer is I print it."
He went on to say that "if he thinks that I have the ability to control what they say and what they don't say, that's unbelievable," adding, "I'd love to know what other conspiracy theories the attorney general can come up with about the media."
Boyle, demonstrating his trademark inability to stick to facts, went on to falsely accuse Holder of previously attacking a Daily Caller article:
From the November 29 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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The Daily Caller's attempt to pass out pitchforks to GOP members of Congress and send them after Attorney General Eric Holder has now been called out by the target himself.
TPM's Ryan J. Reilly reports:
Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday told a reporter with the conservative news website The Daily Caller that the news organization was ginning up calls for him to resign over ATF's botched Operation Fast and Furious.
The reporter approached Holder after an event at the White House on the federal government's efforts to combat counterfeit goods.
"You guys need to... you guys need to stop this," TPM heard Holder tell the reporter. "There's not an organic* thing happening, you guys are behind this."
Holder was referencing Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle's month-long quest to find relatively low-ranking Republican members of Congress interested in taking a free shot at the Obama administration by calling for Holder's resignation. The putative rationale for these calls is the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious; new evidence has been revealed indicating that Holder know about the controversial tactics used in that operation.
You may remember Boyle from his public humiliation over a ludicrously false September report that the Environmental Protection Agency wants to hire "230,000 new bureaucrats -- at a cost of $21 billion -- to attempt to implement" new climate change regulations." Boyle's colleagues were reportedly embarrassed by the decision by DC executive editor David Martosko -- who has a long record in conservative political advocacy but none in journalism -- to stand behind Boyle's reporting.
At most publications, a misstep of this magnitude would have consequences. But at the Caller, it's more of a feature than a bug. And so Boyle has apparently spent much of the last month calling around to Republican politicians and asking them whether they think Holder should resign. That's creating a story, not reporting one.
Apparently there are those who find National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre's exhortation that there is a "massive Obama conspiracy" in which President Obama is planning to follow up his re-election by somehow eliminating the Second Amendment just a touch too subtle.
In an ad emailed out to the list of WorldNetDaily this afternoon, the good people at USAAmmo explain that President Obama is "secretly conspiring to strip American Citizens of the right to bear arms"... just like Hitler. The sane response to this dastardly conspiracy is, of course, to stock up on military-grade assault weapons and ammunition, which the patriots at USAAmmo have helpful put on sale, presumably in honor of Cyber Monday or the impending dictatorship.
While warning that gun control is "One Election Away!" USAAmmo manages to compare Obama to any number of dictators (see update):
Clicking on the ad redirects readers to a web video posted by the company. The first half features haunting music and images of the various dictators who allegedly "established gun control" and the victims who, "unable to defend themselves, were imprisoned, enslaved, and annihilated." In case, you missed the point, the music swiftly shifts to heavy metal as on-screen text warns viewers that "Governments render their citizens defenseless with GUN CONTROL!" because "The defensless [sic] are subject to enslavement, imprisonment and annihilation."
Declaring that "An unarmed American is a subject... an armed American is a citizen," the website urges viewers to "Get armed at USAAmmo.com," then shows images of the AR- and AK- variants and ammo on sale at the website. The video closes with the cheery/chilling statement, "Get them something they'll love! BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!!"
It's not unusual for gun manufacturers, sellers, or advocates to promote firearms sales by fearmongering about impending gun control measures. But this is a little blunt even for them.
The right-wing media and gun lobby effort to convince people U.S. guns aren't arming Mexican cartels didn't seem like it could get less credible after self appointed arms trafficking expert Chuck Norris got into the mix. But then last night, Tom Stilson, a blogger at Andrew Breitbart's Big Government, decided to pen a hit job suggesting the "U.S. government may be primary suppliers of cartel weapons."
The rhetoric Stilson uses at Big Government is in the same vein as other previous attacks against the State Department and Hillary Clinton, all of which are related to the rampant and often conspiratorial attacks related to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' (ATF) failed Fast and Furious operation (generally aimed at The Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder).
Stilson's case is almost exclusively built around the basic fact that the U.S. exports guns to the Mexican military and police as well as other Latin American national military forces. These governments have extensive problems with corruption that certainly leads to lost and stolen weapons. Since U.S. arms exports are approved by the State Department, Stilson asserts that the State Department is broadly responsible for arming the cartels and insinuating that it might have been "premeditated."
Beyond expressing generalities about U.S. arms exports and Mexican government corruption, Stilson offers little direct evidence to support his claims. Stilson cites only one unconfirmed report of U.S. arms sales that might have been directed to a cartel front company. This leads him to erroneously suggest that the ATF could confirm all his assertions about Mexico guns if they just released their data. Stilson:
These statistics imply the State and Defense Departments may very well be the top suppliers of small arms to Mexico's drug cartels and not civilians. Only the information obtained from ATF Firearms Traces will tell. However, those records are not public.
Aggregate ATF statistics on U.S. guns recovered in Mexico have in fact been released to the public. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) asked the ATF about U.S. sales to the Mexican military and other Latin American militaries in a letter sent on June 16th. ATF's response stated that the number of traces to either a foreign firearm dealer/importer or a foreign military in those countries was 346 for 2009-2010. This accounts for around 1% of the total firearms successfully traced that could potentially qualify as State Department-approved exports. It's not at all clear what other data he thinks the ATF is withholding, particularly given National Rifle Association-backed legal restrictions preventing public access to most ATF trace data.
Later, Stilson cites the State Department Blue Lantern program that tries to monitor whether exported weapons are being used as intended:
The Blue Lantern Program involves traces performed by the DDTC to ensure exported military weaponry does not end up with an unauthorized nation or organization. For the Americas, 80% of traces where unauthorized end users were identified involved small arms
This citation is practically meaningless in terms of establishing facts about cartel guns. As Stilson admits, the report doesn't have data on Mexico -- only the Americas. In 2009, the program found only 11 cases where there were "indications of diversion or unauthorized retransfer or re-export." We don't know if any of these cases involved small arms or Mexico.
Stilson concludes with a bit of revisionist history:
After the DOJ and the White House knowingly pursued attempts at new gun control legislation, we are left to ask the question; is this just another case of government stupidity or is this something more premeditated?
In reality, Obama hasn't hasn't prioritized gun control legislation at all.