Gun Nation Doesn’t Need The NRA To Attack Katie Couric – They Have Morning Joe.

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Leave it to Joe Scarborough, the conservative ‘conscience’ of MSNBC, to try and sully the reputations of the producers of Under The Gun by running a segment on the alleged mistakes and omissions which, according to Morning Joe, was a ‘stunning’ and ‘shocking’ misuse of journalistic power aimed at making sure that a group of ‘Americans’ who happened to be gun owners looked and sounded ‘dumb.’

scarThose comments, which Scarborough then used to guide his roundtable through a brief discussion of Couric’s misdeeds, could have been written for him by the NRA.  In fact, the NRA’s initial statement referred to Katie as a political ‘activist’ who ‘bends’ the truth to ‘propagandize audiences,’ which I guess is Katie’s legacy for having asked that moron from Alaska to name one newspaper that she ever read.

By the way, not a single member of Scarborough’s gallery – Chuck Todd, Chris Cillizza, et. al. – had actually seen the film.  But that didn’t stop them from shooting their mouths off and following Scarborough’s lead in condemning Katie and Stephanie because they had an unimpeachable source for their comments, namely, Page Six of The New York Post. Now when I was growing up, The Post was a left-liberal newspaper which carried a daily op-ed from Eleanor Roosevelt and, generally speaking, promoted a liberal, pro-labor line. The paper is now owned by Rupert Murdoch, it shamelessly panders to the lowest standard of digital and online journalism and, in case you didn’t know it, has become the campaign communications machine for Donald Trump.

What shocked me most of all about the segment was not Scarborough’s attempt to create a hot item out of nothing more than a silly, editing mistake.  Rather, it was the fact that not one of these journalistic experts on the panel made absolutely any attempt to balance Joe’s description of the film as a “hit job on a group of Americans,” even though the leader of this group of ‘Americans’ specifically said that he didn’t believe that there should be any backgrounds in a CBS interview that aired in 2009.  To me, Katie’s only mistake was to create the impression that the group of gun owners whose comments Scarborough referred to as ‘eloquent,’ and one of the other panelists claimed were ‘long’ and ‘well thought out’ are just your average gun owners who are concerned about their 2nd-Amendment rights.  They happen to be members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) which, in case you didn’t know it, advocates for no gun regulations of any kind. The VCDL always showed up at public appearances by Emily Miller, a Washington Star journalist who wrote a book about buying a gun to defend herself after she was the victim of a home invasion, except the home invasion actually didn’t take place.

Now I don’t know about you, but if the deleted segment covered nine seconds, resulting in the loss of the entire comments made by three people identified as gun ‘activists,’ how long and well thought out could each comment have been?  Three seconds long? Here’s one of the deleted comments: “I’ll ask you what crime or what law has ever stopped a crime? Tell me one law that has ever stopped a crime from happening.” You think that’s well thought out? Go lay brick.

Want to know why there has been such a big hue and cry over this film?  Because it’s far and away the best film on gun violence that has ever been made. I have now watched it three times and I cannot get over the images, the flow, the weaving together of public commentary with the reality of guns, lives and the places where gun violence occurs.  So let’s stop wringing our hands because Morning Joe put together a stupid and basically dishonest discussion to fill up three minutes of his show. Let’s make sure everyone who is or should be concerned about gun violence sees this film, and that’s the end of that.

 

What Did The Now-Infamous Nine Seconds Of Silence In ‘Under The Gun’ Really Mean?

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Move over Dick Heller – Gun Nation has a new poster boy named Philip Van Cleave.  He happens to be President of an outfit called the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) and tomorrow he’s appearing on the Glenn Beck show at 10 A.M. This is hardly Van Cleave’s first brush with the media.  In fact, he was interviewed at length by Lesley Stahl for a 2009 segment on 60 Minutes called ‘The Way of the Gun.’  And when he was asked whether everyone should go through a background check, he answered: “How about nobody go through a back ground check?  After all, the 2nd Amendment doesn’t mention background checks.”

couric          So here we have in a nutshell the current approach of Gun Nation to the existence of gun laws, namely, there shouldn’t be any gun laws. No background check, no mandated training, no restrictions on open carry, no nothing.  Which is why I find the current brouhaha about Katie Couric’s alleged attempt to demonize the good VCDL folks both amusing and deplorable; amusing because of the effort by Gun Nation to deflect away any concerns about gun violence at all; deplorable because the response to Couric’s alleged mishandling of the editing process in her film says something serious about how the GVP community responds to challenges from the other side.

Was I surprised that when an audio surfaced which indicated that the film’s VCDL segment had been edited, that this would immediately become grist for the right-wing mill?  Of course not, and by the way, the criticisms of the movie from the pro-gun noise machine had been circulating well in advance of the appearance of the now-infamous voice tape.  But what did bother me was the snarky and mean-spirited coverage of the issue by media outlets that should have known better, including the Washington Post and the New York Times.  The NRA gleefully put up a link to the New York Times’ story which called Couric out for her editorial “slant.” And they also made sure to mention the WaPo story which accused Couric of fraud.

Now stop and think about it: When was the last time those two august publications ran stories about the false, deceptive and utterly fraudulent arguments about gun violence presented by the NRA virtually every day?  Do you think that the VCDL focus group in Couric’s movie made up the idea that the 2nd Amendment gave them unlimited rights to their guns out of thin air?  No – they said it because that’s what the pro-gun noise machine has been telling them for the past twenty years.  And this nonsense is presented by media outlets like The New York Times not as stupid, not as completely wrong, not as dangerous, but as legitimate expression from the ‘other side.’

I have been listening to the gun debate since the 1960’s, and what I find most interesting is the degree to which one side has been very consistent and the other side continues to change its stance.  GVP-land has advocated expanded background checks, limits on magazine capacities and research into smart guns; arguments that haven’t really changed at all since 1994, if not since 1968.  The pro-gun assembly, on the other hand, has morphed from automatic CCW licensing, to no CCW licensing, to open carry, all of which are sanctified by their so-called 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

The truth is that we haven’t had a debate about gun violence; what we have had is a conscious attempt by pro-gun advocates to advance their agenda by denying the existence of gun violence at all.  The nine seconds of silence that followed Katie’s question about how to keep guns out of the wrong hands was exactly the response that we get from Gun Nation every, single time the issue is raised.  And some of my friends in GVP-land seem to have forgotten that point in their rush to apologize for Katie’s terrible misdeed.

Know what the end result of this tempest in a teapot will be?  More people will watch Katie’s film.

 

Why Is Katie Couric Apologizing About Her Documentary? I Wouldn’t.

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I wasn’t going to watch Katie Couric’s documentary, Under The Gun, because at a certain point listening to people talk about how they are dealing or not dealing with the loss of a loved one from gun violence becomes an experience I would rather pass up.  But I finally forced myself to endure the heartfelt testimonies of such folks thanks to the big noise eruption from Gun Nation over what is claimed to be a falsification of the film’s contents due to the editing of a segment that covers a discussion with a group of gun ‘activists,’ from the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

couric           Let me say right from the beginning that a documentary filmmaker is not obliged to put the totality of their material on public view.  In fact, a film editor or producer can do whatever they want.  I was interviewed at length to see whether I might later get a segment in the film; the producers decided not to come back and put me on camera which was fine.  They had every right to decide what to do with my brilliant comments, including never mentioning our discussions at all.

But let’s remember that the right-wing noise machine probably still believes that if it hadn’t been for Katie asking Sarah Palin to name a newspaper that she ever read, the whole recent history of American politics might have taken a different path.  So the fact that she can now be accused of slanting her documentary to find favor with the anti-gun crowd is seen as a bit of payback, that’s for sure.

What exactly was the terrible crime committed by Katie and her director, Stephanie Soechtig, at roughly 21 minutes into the film?  The Virginia Citizens Defense League group had just been asked a series of questions about gun ownership, you know, the usual stuff like requiring training for a gun license [answer: it violates of the 2nd Amendment]; extending background checks [answer: that would create a national gun registry]; government wanting to take away all guns [answer: of course the government wants to ban all guns] and so forth. Then the question was asked: “Well, then how do you keep guns out of the hands of terrorists and criminals?”  This was followed by silence as the camera panned the group, all of whom appeared to be thinking about a proper response.

But it turned out that members of the group did respond, and the fact that these responses were edited out of the film was enough to make the Gun Nation noise machine scream ‘foul!’ and post the usual outraged comments on the usual pro-gun blogs.  Even The New York Times and CNN chimed in to force Couric and Soechtig to apologize for their ‘mistake.’

I listened to the entire audio of that session and frankly, what the august VCDL members didn’t get on film was nothing more than the usual mélange of gun-rights crap that has been floating around since the Feds first started regulating gun ownership back in 1968. Here are some of the profound and incisive comments:

  • Criminals don’t obey laws.
  • Law-abiding folks need to protect themselves.
  • If someone wants to murder someone else and can’t get a gun, they’ll use a different tool.

Let’s leave aside the fact that those statements have been shown to be false in more peer-based research studies than I can count. And if the group interview revealed anything at all, it is that most gun-owning activists can be trusted to trot out the gun industry’s marketing pitch every single time.

Which is why I don’t understand how come the filmmakers even felt the need to apologize for not completely presenting “every point of view.” You’re not getting a thoughtful or reasonable approach to gun violence when you sit down with a group like the VCDL. You’re getting what a group of otherwise rational adults have deluded themselves into believing are the reasons why they need to walk around with guns.

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