AP's Hyperbole Masquerades as Journalism

For the Associated Press, Tim Klass shows that taking liberties with facts by enveloping them in wild hyperbole can sex up a boring story into something much more alarming. Unfortunately, what one ends up with is not a presentation of news, but a promulgation of a narrative that befits a particular political agenda. And this time writer Klass uses his hyperbolic style to advance the guns-are-evil story line.

The headline startles the reader by screaming out "Powerful weapons found in Northwest drug raids." One immediately imagines an image of dozens of high powered and dangerous guns, those above and beyond the norm, in the hands of these felonious drug dealers. One imagines enough guns to arm an army with the police sorely out numbered. But, when the story is read in its entirety, it becomes obvious that "powerful weapons" turns into one high powered pistol, the rest being your average, everyday firearms seen all over the place.

Federal agents busted a drug-trafficking ring that distributed methamphetamine and cocaine from Mexico in Washington state and carried unusually powerful weaponry, injecting a dangerous new factor into drug crime in the region.

The "unusually powerful weaponry" in discussion appears to be a .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol. This pistol is a bit heavier than the average .45-caliber ACP automatic that the U.S. Army once issued by the thousands. The AP piece also describes a few other weapons.

A .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol, AK-47-type semiautomatic assault rifle and 14 other weapons shown to reporters Thursday were among 23 guns seized in Operation Arctic Chill when 35 search warrants were served in the past two weeks. Also seized were 19 pounds of methamphetamine, a quarter-pound of cocaine, 22 vehicles and $60,000 in cash, and 31 people were arrested.

Yes, the one Desert Eagle is a powerful pistol and it isn't all too common to see one of these expensive pistols in the hands of drug dealers. But the other weapons listed are not "unusually powerful" at all. In fact, they are common as dirt both in the U.S. and in Mexico.

Then we get more hyperbole in this:

The Desert Eagle pistol can "blow a hole the size of a Mack truck through a person," said Leigh Winchell, regional chief of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A "Mack truck"? What over-the-top foolishness. A big hole, yes, but this is simple-minded hyperbole was meant to make the one high powered pistol they found take on gargantuan proportions. This is a government official trying to puff up his actions to make himself look better, nothing more.

But, the AP wasn't done quoting this spittle-specked official.

"Knowing that you have meth traffickers on the street carrying .50-caliber handguns or assault rifles is very sobering and is of great concern to us," Winchell said.

Again, we have one Desert Eagle here. Not an Eagle in every drug dealer's pockets. But this doesn't stop these self-justifying officials from buttering up the press with wild claims. "This number of weapons is unprecedented" adds U.S. Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan.

Now, remember. They found 23 guns total from multiple raids and one high powered pistol.

Raids were conducted in Tacoma, Olympia and nearby communities; Vancouver, Wash.; several Seattle suburbs; and Oakdale, Calif., where Moorin said a "superlab" capable of producing 10 pounds of meth at a time was found in a home.

Is 23 guns such a monumental amount from raids that took place over a large swath of the Pacific Northwest?

Now, there is no question that Mexican drug violence is getting worse and has spilled across the border into our country. There are a lot of troubles here, to be sure. But this story is filled with hyperbole that makes a mockery of the real troubles going on and is a perfect example of fitting in hyperbole where facts are needed.