Several media figures have reacted to the mass shooting in Washington, D.C.'s Navy Yard by downplaying the role access to firearms had in the killings, instead blaming video games and their purported effect on mental health. But studies have either debunked or failed to find a plausible link between playing violent video games and real world gun violence.
Much of the connection between shooter Aaron Alexis and video games appears to come from Mike Ritrovato, who says he knew Alexis. Ritrovato told The Los Angeles Times that "if [Alexis] had anything bad about him, it was that he was a 35-year-old man playing video games." Ritrovato also told ABC News that Alexis was often late to work "because he was staying up all night playing video games."
A new study from The New Republic determined that the Drudge Report's use of race-baiting headlines has soared in the last five years, a fact that lends context to the recent flood of conservative media amplifying random, interracial crimes and baselessly assigning them a racial motive.
Matt Drudge's conservative website Drudge Report is infamous for its obsessive coverage of alleged black-on-white crime and race-baiting headlines. But it's only getting worse, according to a new analysis by The New Republic. The magazine analyzed Drudge's use of race-related terms in headlines after 2008 -- the year President Obama established himself as a national figure with his first presidential campaign -- with Drudge headlines before 2008, and the results are striking. According to the analysis, since 2008, Drudge headlines:
Notably, the analysis highlighted that Drudge often altered headlines to inject a racial component when the original source contained none. This method of race-baiting has spilled over into the broader media. Recently, conservative outlets have seized upon local crime stories and baselessly assigned them racial motives when no such evidence existed. This spate of reckless race-baiting has been repeatedly accompanied by inapt comparisons to the killing of Trayvon Martin, an attempt to highlight a supposed double standard among civil rights leaders and media figures.
When a video of three teenage students beating up another student on a Florida school bus surfaced in early August, local media reported that the attack was in retaliation for the victim notifying school officials that the three teens tried to sell him drugs. But because the perpetrators happened to be black and the victim white, conservative media broke into a chorus of race-baiting, complaining that civil rights leaders hadn't spoken about the assault. Fox News bragged about its insertion of race into the crime, highlighting that it was the only network to bring race "to the forefront" on the story.
When three teens -- two black, one white -- allegedly shot and killed an Australian college student last month because they were "bored," law enforcement officials emphasized there was no evidence "to indicate that the killing of Christopher Lane was related to either his race or to his nationality."
Undeterred by facts, right-wing media again repeatedly manufactured a racial motive. Fox argued that the murder was "likely motivated by race" and even criticized other media outlets for "ignoring the race issue" in the crime. Drudge featured photographs of the two black suspects, neglecting to include the photo of their alleged white accomplice.
Reacting to news that the Obama administration will use executive action to curb gun violence, The Drudge Report titled its top story, "HEAD FAKE: OBAMA GOES AFTER GUNS."
Obama reportedly seeks to restrict the importation of military grade firearms for civilian sale and close a loophole that allows felons to obtain highly dangerous guns without a background check. In contrast to fearmongering by Drudge Report, neither policy will interfere with the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
In an attempt to promote stereotypes of African-Americans as violent and dangerous, Matt Drudge is featuring on his website the photos of two black teenagers who allegedly killed an Australian athlete, leaving out the photo of their alleged white accomplice.
On August 16, Australian baseball player Christopher Lane was shot and killed while jogging in Oklahoma. Two black teenagers have been charged with first-degree murder in the case while a white teenager has been charged as an accessory for allegedly driving the getaway car. Conservative media have suggested that the shooting was racially motivated, despite the fact that one of the alleged perpetrators was white and that the local district attorney said he has seen nothing to "indicate that the killing of Christopher Lane was related to either his race or to his nationality."
Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, who has a long record of bigoted commentary, claimed during a Fox News appearance that the murder is part of a societal trend in which "interracial violence is overwhelmingly black-on-white." Drudge is featuring that commentary under photos of the two black teens charged with murder, leaving out their alleged white accomplice.
The Washington Times is claiming that carbon emissions could be causing "global cooling" in contradiction of basic physics.
In an editorial Monday designed to ridicule Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) for convening a summit on clean energy in Las Vegas, the Times repeatedly referred to climate change as a "scam" and cited several "facts" that allegedly discredit it -- including that "there's new evidence that carbon-dioxide emissions, which first set off global-warming hysteria, are actually triggering global cooling."
But there isn't "new evidence" of that. Or any kind of evidence, really.
As Duke University scientist William Chameides explained to Media Matters when Fox News tried to advance this "utter nonsense" claim, scientists established the greenhouse effect "more than a century ago":
What CO2 does is trap a larger amount of the heat from the sun, preventing it from escaping and thus driving up temperatures. To argue otherwise is to argue that the greenhouse effect does not exist. In fact the existence of the greenhouse effect was established by scientists more than a century ago. It would be impossible to explain the temperatures of Mars and Venus, as well as the Earth, without invoking this effect.
The "greenhouse effect" is part of a complex process -- a "balancing act" -- that makes life on earth possible. However, mankind's use of fossil fuels has led to a surplus of these gases, which prevents more radiation than usual from escaping back into space, thus making the planet hotter. This is not the slightest bit controversial in the scientific community, and the reverse is a vanishingly remote belief even among the climate deniosphere. For instance, the chairman of the industry-funded George C. Marshall Institute, a physicist who has conducted no climate research but suggests we should be "clamoring for more" carbon dioxide, has said that "most people like me believe that industrial emissions will cause warming, but just much less than has been predicted by many computer models." Indeed, industrial emissions have already caused substantial warming, as seen in this chart from NASA:
Right-wing media reacted to President Obama's proposal to lower the corporate tax rate by pushing the repeatedly debunked claim that a majority of small businesses pay the top individual income tax rate. In fact, only a small fraction of small businesses pay this rate, and Obama's plan includes other incentives to help them.
Right-wing media is disingenuously suggesting that Attorney General Eric Holder has disarmed George Zimmerman amid reports that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is holding all evidence -- including the gun used to kill Trayvon Martin -- from the Zimmerman trial as part of an ongoing civil rights investigation.
According to The Drudge Report, Zimmerman "can't have his gun back":
Zimmerman, who was acquitted on July 13 of charges of unlawfully killing 17-year-old Martin, is allowed to own a firearm because he is not disqualified from doing so under state and federal law and the current hold on evidence does not prevent him from buying another weapon.
Zimmerman reportedly already owned more than one handgun before the February 2012 shooting. Commenting on the handgun used to kill Martin, Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara, told CBS, "that particular weapon, he should never carry again. There's no reason to carry a weapon that's already killed somebody."
The Drudge Report highlighted the Senate passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill by reviving the falsehood that the legislation amounts to amnesty for undocumented immigrants. Drudge announced the news with the headline, "Amnesty Clears Senate":
Right-wing media have repeatedly invoked the amnesty falsehood to attack the bill, when in fact the Senate proposal requires immigrants who are in the country illegally to meet a number of requirements before they can apply for citizenship. Some of those conditions include passing criminal and security background checks, paying significant fines, and going through a waiting period that stretches to as far as 13 years.
Experts have further explained that the path to earned citizenship as outlined in the Senate bill cannot be equated with amnesty. As Cato Institute immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh noted of the Senate bill: "If it was amnesty they would be legalized immediately with no punishment, no process. They would just be forgiven and handed a green card."
Right-wing media are attacking President Obama over the cost of his upcoming diplomatic trip to Africa, ignoring or dismissing the fact that the security measures that have driven the trip's budget are in line with those used by previous presidents on similar trips.
On June 13, The Washington Post reported on an internal document that detailed some of the security precautions being taken during President Obama's scheduled trip to Africa later this month, which will include the first lady, and will seek to forge stronger economic ties with African nations and address global health problems. According to the document, hundreds of Secret Service agents will be dispatched where the president and his family will be, a naval ship will be standing by for medical emergencies, and fighter aircraft will fly in 24-hours security shifts. The document "does not specify costs" for the trip, but the Post cited speculation from a source familiar with the trip that it "could cost the federal government $60 million to $100 million based on the costs of similar African trips in recent years."
The Post also stated that "the preparations appear to be in line with similar travels in the past" and quoted Ben Rhodes, an Obama adviser on national security, who said that the security requirements "are Secret Service-driven." The story also mentioned that a safari was being considered during the trip but was canceled, and that previous presidents had made similar trips, with President Bush bringing his daughters along on one that included a safari:
Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also made trips to multiple African nations involving similarly laborious preparations. Bush went in 2003 and 2008, bringing his wife on both occasions. Bush's two daughters went along on the first trip, which included a safari at a game preserve on the Botswana-South Africa border.
But in their eagerness to criticize President Obama over the cost of the trip, right-wing media ignored or dismissed these facts. The Drudge Report only highlighted the speculation that the trip could cost $100 million and that the safari was canceled. A blog post from The Weekly Standard drew attention to the canceled safari without mentioning the African safari that Bush and his family went on.
Mark Levin, on the other hand, decided that these precedents were irrelevant when he attacked Obama on his radio show. Levin said that he'd "never seen a presidential family take so many trips" and that Obama "doesn't deny himself or his family a damn thing." Levin stated that Obama is "on welfare, presidential welfare" and that "Obama believes that this is his time to live like a king" and that "his wife is the imperial first lady." He concluded by dismissing the fact that previous presidents have made similar trips by claiming "this president's propaganda is different from other presidents, this president's Marxist class warfare is different than other presidents."
Fox Nation highlighted Levin's attack on Obama with the headline, "Levin slams Obama's $100 million Africa trip: He lives like a billionaire off you and me!"
Right-wing media outlets are hyping a new study by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) -- a Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled nativist organization -- which claims that the Senate's immigration bill would double the number of guest workers admitted into the country each year. The study, however, is just the latest in a series of flawed, debunked studies that CIS has released.
The outlets - including the Daily Caller, Newsmax, The Washington Times, Breitbart.com, and Drudge Report -- have all highlighted the study which claims that in the first year of the Senate's proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill, "nearly 1.6 million more temporary workers than currently allowed" will be admitted to the United States. The study also claims that the bill would double the number of temporary workers admitted each year compared to current levels.
What these outlets fail to mention is that, like many of CIS' previous studies -- and others they have latched on to in order to undermine immigration reform -- this study is flawed and its conclusions are bogus.
Philip Wolgin, senior policy analyst for immigration at the Center for American Progress, emphasized the top five reasons the CIS study "misses the mark," including its lack of methodology, double-counting temporary and permanent immigrants, misrepresenting who will actually compete with American workers, and the miscounting of visa categories. Wolgin explained that CIS makes significant statistical errors, including what he calls the "absurd" idea that 950,000 people would apply for and be granted the V Visa in the first year after the immigration reform bill's passage.
The V visa is a temporary visa that allows the family members of legal permanent residents to remain in the country legally until they are granted permanent residency as well. As the Center for American Progress explained, even though 75 percent of spouses and children of permanent residents are exempted from per-country quotas, some families still face up to 19 years apart due to backlogs in the immigration system.
Wolgin also pointed out that among the three visa categories that make up 83 percent of the increases in the CIS study, CIS over-counted by more than 255,000 people.
Right-wing media are wildly distorting facts and criminal procedure to pretend Attorney General Eric Holder "lied" to Congress when he testified about government surveillance of journalists and prosecutorial discretion at a May 15 hearing.
Now that the possible chilling ramifications of legal searches of reporters' work product have been widely condemned not only by the press, both political parties, and President Obama and Holder, right-wing media have resorted to misrepresenting search warrant procedure, criminal law, and basic facts of what the Department of Justice (DOJ) actually did in their investigation of how a State Department employee may have violated the Espionage Act of 1917.
Specifically, right-wing media claim Holder's May 15 testimony is inconsistent with a two-year-old affidavit DOJ filed in support of a search warrant request for an email account associated with Fox News' James Rosen, as part of their investigation into the government official's unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Fox News host Sean Hannity was the most recent example, who showed a clip of the testimony on his May 29 show and then stated "what you just witnessed was the United States Attorney General lying while under oath before Congress."
Continuing in a vein set by Fox News host Megyn Kelly on the May 28 edition of America Live when she complained "it is one thing for the DOJ to go into a courtroom and try to get your records, your phone records, your email records. It's quite another for them not to give you any notice[,]" right-wing media is complaining that the underlying legal rationale behind the warrant request was incorrect. In support of this argument, the Drudge Report has been pushing claims made on Breitbart.com that Holder went "judge shopping" in pursuit of approval for this supposedly flawed search warrant.
Less than 24 hours after Alex Jones theorized that a "weather weapon" could have been used to cause the devastating Oklahoma tornado, conservative gossip Matt Drudge returned to his pattern of promoting the conspiracy theorist.
On May 21, Jones told a caller that the government has the ability to "create and steer groups of tornadoes" and that if people spotted helicopters and small aircraft "in and around the clouds, spraying and doing things" in Oklahoma, it could be evidence that a "weather weapon" was used.
Today Drudge prominently links to a story on Jones' website Infowars in the upper left hand corner of his site. The linked story claims that "armed Homeland Security guards" were "policing free speech" by appearing outside an IRS building in St. Louis during a Tea Party protest.
Drudge later changed the headline, linking to the same story:
Media Matters has previously documented that Drudge has linked to Jones at least 244 times in the last two years, and that Drudge contributor Joseph Curl worked with Jones to "crash" a party being held by former Bush staffers.
Jones hailed Drudge for pushing "into the mainstream media" his conspiracy theory that the Department of Homeland Security was stockpiling ammunition for use against American citizens while Drudge said 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones."
David Martosko of the Daily Mail Online provided former Vice President Dick Cheney a platform to criticize the Obama administration's failure to anticipate the September 11, 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, without noting that seven attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities occurred during the Bush administration.
In his article, Martosko quotes Cheney saying that the Obama administration's handling of the Benghazi attacks was "a failure of leadership" for not anticipating an attack on September 11, which Cheney said the Bush administration always expected following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Martosko's interview of Cheney was promoted by the Drudge Report, Fox Nation, and Breitbart.com.
But none of these outlets promoting Cheney's opinion noted that the U.S. suffered fatal attacks on embassies and consulates during the Bush administration. Between 2002 and 2008, seven attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates took place in Pakistan, Syria, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Serbia, and Yemen.
Additionally, there have been many attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets -- including embassies -- for decades, and far more have occurred during previous administrations than under President Obama. Mother Jones put together the following graphic based on data from the State Department and the University of Maryland's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism:
Cheney also served as Secretary of Defense during George H.W. Bush's presidency, when there were many times more attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets than under Obama.
Republican congressmen are giving credibility to Alex Jones and his conservative fringe website Infowars.com, which popularized a conspiracy theory that DHS is stockpiling ammunition for nefarious purposes. The conspiracy theory has now inspired legislation known as the AMMO Act of 2013, which seeks to limit the ammunition purchasing power of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), even though the underlying theory was based on flawed math and a mischaracterization of the facts.
The right-wing media is promoting a study by the conservative policy group Heritage Foundation which claims immigration reform will cost $6.3 trillion dollars and damage the economy. This claim has been repeatedly debunked, even by conservatives, and is a revision of a 2007 study that utilized "fatally flawed" methodology.