After Gun Debate, Media Credibility Is Shot

Normally, the people who cover the media industry try studiously to avoid mentioning the very obvious fact that America's elite journalists are overwhelmingly liberal and that one can discern this by reviewing their output. This is a logical response considering that said reporters probably do not wish to antagonize potential sources. It's hard to report on the media if no one in the media will speak to you.

In the case of the recent journalist meltdown over gun control, the bias was so overwhelming, even Politico's cautious media reporter Dylan Byers had to admit the obvious:

Even by the standards of today’s partisan media environment, the response has been noteworthy. Television hosts, editorial boards, and even some reporters have aggressively criticized and shamed the 46 Senators who opposed the plan, while some have even taken to actively soliciting the public to contact them directly.

The decision by some members of the media to come down so firmly on one side of a policy debate has only served to reinforce conservatives’ longstanding suspicions that the mainstream media has a deep-seated liberal bias. [...]

Conservatives are doubly frustrated because amid all this cheerleading, the media largely turned a deaf ear to one of the right’s central substantive arguments: There is little evidence that the Manchin-Toomey plan could prevent another Aurora or Newtown — a fact many reports glossed over. Indeed, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein recently stated on the Senate floor that universal background checks, while “very important… would not have been prevented the tragedy in Newtown.”

While couched in "conservatives say" language, it's quite clear that Byers agrees that many self-proclaimed objective news outlets proved they were anything but in their coverage of debate over how to reduce gun violence. For these outlets, it was the Democrats' way or the highway.

Before the vote, taxpayer-funded loudmouth Bill Moyers of PBS directed viewers to call the congressional switchboard to lobby and also to "recruit your mayor" to join New York's nanny-in-chief Michael Bloomberg. Fellow PBS self-promoter Tavis Smiley couldn't have agreed more, saying that the prospect that expanded background checks might not happen "makes me want to throw up."

Former Democratic operative and current MSNBC host Chris Matthews was a persistent lobbyist on behalf of the legislation as he also repeatedly instructed his viewers to call their senators and tell them to support the Democratic bill.

As Byers notes, the New York Daily News ran several covers condemning politicians who opposed gun control, even going so far as to print a front page with the names and photos of 46 senators who had voted against bringing the background check expansion bill to the floor. Readers were also given a phone number to call.

After the bill went down to defeat, MSNBC's "Morning Joe" featured multiple segments where the co-hosts raged against the outcome. In one block, viewers were shown "faces of cowardice" posters of senators designed to enrage them against the "no" voters. Notably, the politician montage did not include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) even though he voted against the bill.

One person who was listed among the "cowards" viewers were instructed to hate was Mississippi senator Roger Wicker, who had been sent a poison-filled envelope by a crazed individual just a few days earlier. At MSNBC, being the leader of the Senate Democrats is enough to exempt you from the Two Minute Hate but surviving an assassination attempt isn't.

Similarly unhinged after expanded background checks failed was CNN host Piers Morgan who has been trying to save his show from cancellation by latching on to any reasonably popular issue.

"How many schoolchildren have to be murdered next time for Washington to do anything?" he raged on Twitter. "The U.S. senate just voted against expanding background checks for gun sales. What a pathetic, gutless bunch of cowards."

While the thought of a wanker like Piers Morgan calling anyone else a coward certainly is hilarious, if you really want a laugh, read the justification that gun control activist/Washington bureau chief of the Huffington Post Ryan Grim gave Byers for trying to lobby Congress while still calling himself a reporter:

“When you’re on the same side as 90 percent of people, that’s not even advocacy,” HuffPo’s Grim told Politico. “On this one, we’d like fewer people to be massacred — whatever can be done to have fewer kids and fewer innocent people gunned down.”

Grim also said that such advocacy efforts did not threaten HuffPo’s journalist [sic] credibility, and resisted the suggestion that HuffPo was a partisan news organization.

“What allows us to fully maintain our credibility is that when it comes to journalism, there’s no whiff of partisanship,” he said. “This flows from core principles: If Democrats are not living up to those principles, we’re certainly not giving them any quarter. That’s why readers continue to trust us.”

Seemingly lost in the fits of rage both before and after the final vote were the facts: 1) The bill that was supposedly designed in response to the Newtown massacre would not have prevented it from happening. 2) The Senate Democratic leadership could have expanded background checks had it also been more open to amendments which would have forced states to respect each others’ concealed weapons permits, 3) The 90 percent number that was frequently bandied about was derived from extremely imprecisely worded questioning. It cannot be considered a reliable metric in light of many other polls on firearms issues. 4) Senate Republicans had offered a bill which did not expand background checks but did actually give money to actually prosecute people who failed them. Under the present enforcement mechanism, just 44 of the 80,000 people who failed a background check to purchase a gun were prosecuted.

As such, the entire media attempt to stand upon the graves of the Newtown children to fulminate against people who did not support a particular piece of legislation that would not have prevented the tragedy was not just offensively biased, it was also utterly pointless.

The American public is ill-served when the media who purport to tell them “just the facts” not only ignore them but begin to openly lobby the government for specific legislation. While such displays of emotion might make journalists feel good about themselves, they only serve to further destroy the last remaining shreds of credibility that the self-proclaimed mainstream has in the eyes of the public.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013