April 16, 2009

Their Favorite Fictions

Two readers sent me a link to another infuriating and dishonest New York Times story about Americans guns begin purchased in the United States and being smuggled south for use by Mexican drug cartels.

As you may expect, it picked up on the White House's favorite faux talking points:

Sending straw buyers into American stores, cartels have stocked up on semiautomatic AK-47 and AR-15 rifles, converting some to machine guns, investigators in both countries say. They have also bought .50 caliber rifles capable of stopping a car and Belgian pistols able to fire rifle rounds that will penetrate body armor.

As it so often does, existing BATF rules and regulations disprove the media’s assertions. Simply put, The BATF does not allow the manufacture or importation of firearms that can easily be modified into machine guns, and those drop-in parts which can quickly change a semi-automatic design are treated and as strictly monitored and regulated as machine guns themselves under U.S. law.

If there are conversions going on in Mexico, it means that the parts that make a machine gun a machine gun already exist in Mexico, meaning no additional laws targeting U.S. guns would make a difference.

And when you come down to it, I'm tired of government officials that favor gun control telling us that these conversions are taking place. I want them to show us specific conversions they have captured, making the serial numbers and manufacturing details of their parts public record so that we can determine for ourselves where these parts are coming from.

As for the .50 caliber rifles "capable of stopping a car," well, a typical car can be stopped with just about any centerfire rifle you would use for deer hunting, or with a typical shotgun. Implying that .50 caliber bullets have magical properties is rhetorically disingenuous. Yes, the .50 BMG cartridge produces far more energy than a typical rifle bullet, but the bullet isn't explosive, which is just what most pro-gun control stories stop just short of stating when they imply such firearms are threats to train cars, airplanes, and armored vehicles.

As for the .50 rifles being recovered in Mexico, commenters have remarked before how the .50-caliber rifles being recovered by the Mexican police look suspiciously like those sold to the Mexican military, right down to the same brand of scope and back-up iron sights (BUIS). Once again, that is not a problem that would be resolved by more restrictions in the United States.

As for the "Belgian pistols able to fire rifle rounds that will penetrate body armor," the authors are peddling yet another statement that is a only loosely based in fact.

The round in question is the 5.7x28, and it is not remotely a rifle cartridge.

It is chambered for pistols and personal defense weapons that falls into the submachine class of weapons , but that can shoot bullet designed for armor penetration. What the Times won't tell you is that armor-piercing bullets are highly-restricted under U.S law, for sale only to the military and police. Nor will the Times tell their readers that even when these pistols are loaded with the heavily-restricted "armor piercing" bullets, these bullets utterly fail to penetrate the more advanced body armor used by police and military units, and work reliably only on lesser armor classes.

Lastly, the Times neglects to mention that their rhetorical whipping boy 5.7x28 cartridge is failing to catch on in many circles, because while it does possess some armor penetration capabilities if using the restricted ammunition, it always uses a tiny bullet, and does not have a record of reliably causing incapacitating wounds.

You've got to give it to the Times for efficiency, though; they packed so many half-truths and lies in two sentences that it took seven paragraphs to detail them all.

But the Times isn't quite does just yet.

Watch the mastery in the deceptive sentence below:

Federal agents say about 90 percent of the 12,000 pistols and rifles the Mexican authorities recovered from drug dealers last year and asked to be traced came from dealers in the United States, most of them in Texas and Arizona.

If you read this quickly as most newspaper readers would, you'd come away with the distinct impression that 90-percent of the guns recovered from drug dealers in Mexico came from the United States, which is exactly what the author wants you to understand.

It is only upon reading the sentence deeper that you would recognize that the the phrase "and asked to be traced" is the key.

Mexican authorities only ask American authorities to track the small fraction of those guns that it suspects comes from the United States. The do not ask us to trace the majority of the guns they capture that are clearly not of U.S. origin. Of the total number of guns recovered from cartels, just 17-percent came from the United States--quite a big difference from the 90-percent the y tried to trick readers into accepting.

It is really quite sad that so many journalists feel they have the right to publisher such clearly biased information as fact, but their reporting is no more pathetic than the editors and publishers that allow journalists to publish advocacy instead of news.

News organizations are dying on the vine in the United States, and the media loves to claim that the Internet is to blame. That may be true, but if it is, it is because the Internet allows the media’s favorite fictions to be exposed, leaving their reputations—arguably their most important product" irrevocably damaged.

People won’t knowing buy damaged goods, and why should they?

Day by day, story by story, the Times justifies ever dollar it loses with another fiction that turns away another reader, and when they are gone, they will not be missed.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at April 16, 2009 07:19 AM

As one of my college professors used to say..."There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics!"

Posted by: Lone Cactus In AZ at April 16, 2009 01:46 PM

They're certainly right that the internet is partially to blame, but to a much larger extent the problem is themselves. The mistake the MSM made was to begin thinking of themselves as an institution, rather than as a business. They have lost sight of what it is their customers are buying their product for. Their readers have always gone to them for information, but throughout their entire history they have been able to present a lopsided watered down product (all narrative and minimal substance) to the reader. They've been able to do that because they were the only convenient source of information. It may just be an unfortunate habit, picked up through exposure to an existing professional culture, but many of them seem to feel that watered down crap is the important part of their product, and the information just gets in the way.
So yeah, the Internet provides an alternative, and higher quality source of information; selling newspapers in the information age is going to require a substantially better product than they have ever had to produce in the past. So far it doesn't look like they have it in them, or even to have realized the need.

Posted by: dmoss at April 16, 2009 05:10 PM

The NYT is a model of fairness compared to UPI's flat out lies. UPI omits the "of those traced" part entirely and says that 90% of all guns seized were from the US and then goes on to lie again saying that gun dealers are selling military assault rifles, not even bothering with "military style" or some such sleight of hand.

"Mexican authorities say that about 90 percent of the 12,000 pistols and rifles they recovered from drug dealers last year came from dealers in the United States, most of them in Texas and Arizona, with officials saying the cartels have been stocking up on U.S.-bought military assault rifles."

Posted by: Robert L. at April 16, 2009 06:10 PM