There were two tragic shootings in the US this past week or so, and the BBC was keen to use them to promote their anti-gun agenda. Not only did they seek to exploit both events to further that agenda, but stooped to dishonesty, and in one case censorship, in the process. The fact that these occurred around the time the media was acknowledging the one-year anniversary of the sad Newtown massacre, what many of them felt certain was going to be the turning point for the anti-gun movement, only added to their urgency.
In honor of the one-year anniversary of the media seeking to exploit a tragedy to further a political agenda, Mark Mardell flew back from honoring his “secular saint” in Johannesburg to interview a mother of one of the little victims in Newtown.
(NB: Before I continue, let me warn you that this will be a very long post, the length of a magazine feature, as this is a complex issue and there’s a lot of ground – a lot of BBC coverage – to cover. If you’re one of those TL/DR types who believes all blog posts should be short and sweet, 500 words maximum, then please click away now. Also, it’s important to point out that my opinion and your opinion of gun control and of gun culture and gun laws in the US is irrelevant. This is about the BBC’s biased reporting on the issue. Whether or not one agrees with a given ideological perspective should neither deny the BBC’s right to report on something, nor give it carte blanche when it’s an issue with which one agrees. I’m going to repeat this more than once, because I don’t want discussion in the comments to degenerate into moaning about guns in the US. We should be able to discuss the bias on its face, with the evidence I’ve provided, whether we agree with the specifics of an ideological position or not.)
After painting the picture of a heartbroken town, using the tools of a professional wordsmith to evoke emotion and gently guide the reader towards the desired conclusion, Mardell presents the words of Nicole Hockley, mother of Dylon, one of the little victims of a mentally ill teenager who killed his own mother and stole her guns to use in a mass murder. It’s impossible not to be moved at least a little by her pain, the loss of love and the unimaginable potential of a young life. Her expression of the loss of the physical sensation of holding her child touches deeply. It’s why the media engages in this kind of reporting. They know it’s moving, they know people will feel deeply. Unfortunately, they know it can sometimes be used to manipulate, and in some cases it strays into exploitation. It’s also impossible not to detect Mardell’s disappointment that the woman seems to him not to have learned the correct lesson from the tragedy.
Mrs. Hockley knows something must change to prevent this kind of thing from happening again, or at least make it so rare that nobody can make the case that, as Mardell has, it’s becoming as American as baseball. We’ll return to that highly biased bit of journalism later. Contrary to BBC reporting on the topic, nobody believes that nothing should change. Nobody wants these things to continue just so a few of us can keep our crazy arsenals. One of the lowest rhetorical tricks is to demonize one’s ideological opponent simply for disagreeing, denying the possibility that there might be a reasoned opinion on the other side worth discussing. With this trick, the debate is stifled before it begins, as Mardell demonstrates expertly:
President Barack Obama called for new gun laws after this act of mass murder. Congress has rebuffed every single one.
This makes it seems as if Congress (as usual with the BBC, it’s presented as a single, united body, which is dishonest), and by extension, the public who voted for them, opposed to any change, any improvement which might prevent further tragedies like this. For which laws did the President call? We aren’t told. Which laws doesn’t Congress want? We aren’t told. Does anyone in Congress have an alternative solution, or do they just want things to remain exactly as they are? We aren’t told. Informing you properly is not Mardell’s goal, of course. His purpose here is to make you believe that the US culture of gun ownership – in all its myriad forms, not the monolith nutter-with-an-arsenal portrait the BBC likes to present – is wrong, must be changed, and all right-thinking people seek a new momentum.
Nichole Hockley is disappointed but says she doesn’t back “gun control” and she doesn’t want, as some do, a ban on military-style rifles.
“Its not just about the gun at the end of the day. The gun is the weapon that was chosen to kill my son and others at Sandy Hook Elementary,” she said. “Certainly there are lots of common sense solutions required around gun safety – keep you guns locked up, make sure only people capable of having guns have them, report it if your gun is stolen.”
This reflects more of the consensus in the US than Mardell and his BBC colleagues are comfortable with. Contrary to the general BBC coverage of the issue, there are already plenty of laws controlling guns in the country. They vary from State to State (anathema to the BBC), yet we’re always given the impression that most of the country is one heated argument short of becoming the Wild West. (NB: Your opinion of whether or not people should own guns is irrelevant. The BBC’s reporting is biased, whether you agree with their ideology on the issue or not. Don’t appear to take the position that it’s okay for the BBC to be biased when you agree with them.) Fortunately, as the woman is being presented as an absolute moral authority, he must let her speak. No BBC censorship at this point.
But she says issues about mental health are just as important. There should be early intervention and programmes to stop people feeling isolated.
Now we get to the key element of this tragedy: mental illness. We aren’t properly reminded here, as the BBC expects we all know the details but anyone who remembers the story will know that a mentally ill young man killed his mother, stole her legally-owned weapons, and went on to commit mass murder against small children and their teachers. Here’s where the BBC begins to discuss the reality behind the tragedy, and to address the issues behind it.
Oh, hang on, no it isn’t. We’re back to gun control laws.
But she doesn’t see why Congress couldn’t have banned large ammunition magazines that can hold many bullets.
Connecticut has enacted such a ban on magazines of more than 10 rounds.
“The most lethal feature of a gun is the high-capacity magazine clips,” she said. “When you look at a lot of states there, hunters don’t have more than three or seven per clip because it is about being fair to the animals.
“I would like to see that same fairness given to humans,” she added.
That’s a great line, actually, better than just about anything put out by all the world-class, highly-trained, professional wordsmiths at the BBC. It’s so good it almost made me forget that she said the issue of mental illness was “just as important”. Mardell seems to have forgotten about it, because that’s the last we hear of it. The rest of the piece is about working to enforce more gun control laws. He even wheels out the traditional appeal to authority, this time in the form of the owner of a gun shop who denigrates some of the people who rushed to buy up certain unapproved weapons before laws banning them came into effect. Even the owner of a gun shop, you’re expected to feel, says that people who want to own these guns are idiots, and that it’s very dangerous. What more is there to say, right?
Wrong. There’s more – much, much more – to say about mental illness and the culture and laws surrounding it. Yet Mardell and the BBC swept it under the rug. Mardell simply doesn’t care that the woman – presented here as a voice you must listen to due to her absolute moral authority, remember – said that the issue of mental illness is of equal importance. That won’t do anything to push his or the BBC’s anti-gun agenda, so he ignored it entirely.
It’s likely that the journalist excuse for not spelling out the details of the mass murderer is that most people knew enough that it was unnecessary, and would have impeded the flow of the piece. I believe that one solitary sentence, not unlike the one I wrote above, would have sufficed, and would not have put a damper on the prose. It would, however, have detracted from the agenda. The victim’s mother said that it was just as important as what the BBC made into the main – and only – point of the story, so it’s hard to accept any excuse for leaving it out, practically denying the importance of the issue altogether.
Near the end of the article, after we hear the gun shop owner seemingly disparage many gun owners, Mardell amazing allows through one of the man’s sentiments, and perhaps the most important one of all on the issue of gun control:
He strongly believes that guns are not only a part of America’s constitution, they are also a part of its history and a bulwark against dictatorship – a frequently heard argument.
A frequently heard argument? Not from the BBC it isn’t. When was the last time you heard anyone from the BBC say this was part of the debate? It must be like racism and the Tea Party for Mardell. He’s admitted that he frequently hears people claiming legitimate opposition to Democrats’ and the President’s various Big-Government, redistributionist policies, and that he’s seen no overt evidence that it’s all due to racism, yet he remains convinced that it’s actually all due to racism – or crypto-racism – and pretty much all BBC reporting on opposition to any of the President’s policies is inspired by racism.
In the case of gun control laws, something that is apparently something Mardell hears frequently is never evident in his or his colleagues’ reporting on the issue. Right here, this tells us that he and the BBC just ignore a large portion of what they hear, because it doesn’t suit their agenda.
Getting back to the gun shop owner’s opinion, we get one more little mention of mental health issues, but it’s again subsumed by “common sense” gun control laws.
But he does insist that mental health is an issue and that people should be properly trained in using firearms.
Leaving it like this is sickening, as anyone who paid attention to the actual story will know that the mentally ill mass murderer was properly trained in using firearms, taken to training by his own mother. One can learn all sorts of hypothetical tactics from video games, but that doesn’t teach one how to actually hold, fire, and reload a weapon in meatspace. To claim, as many in the media did, that he learned it all from video games, is a lie, and is actually evidence of the naïvité endemic in the industry’s expert practitioners. So much for that point about proper training preventing this kind of tragedy, and so much for BBC honesty on the matter. Mardell should have pointed that out, but he didn’t, because he doesn’t give a damn. His real agenda is to promote the idea that the US needs to change.
There’s no doubt guns are one of the issues that are central to the wide political gulf in America.
Compromise seems unlikely but Ms Hockley insists what she calls “a conversation” is possible with the focus on the safety of children.
It’s not possible with anyone at the BBC, as their minds are already made up to take what for the majority of people in the US would be an extremist position. The BBC has never, and will never, discuss the fact that, due to the police taking twenty minutes to arrive on the scene, never mind getting in their and stopping a killer, Lanza could have used one of those hunting rifles with clips of only five rounds to kill just as many children and teachers. These were just about the most defenseless victims imaginable, and couldn’t have stopped him if they tried. Hell, he could almost have used a muzzle-loaded musket from the 1830s and done the same thing. Even an amateur can manage one round a minute, and it’s not like any of the little children or their young teachers would have known the difference or dared move when a lunatic with a gun was stalking them. In essence, none of the stricter gun control laws Mrs. Hockley nor most other not as extremist as BBC journalists are talking about would have prevented the tragedy. Only addressing the national culture on mental health issues will be able to even begin to deal with this. Yet Mardell swept it aside.
The second shooting tragedy this week was also covered by the BBC, and they had a difficult time using this one to push their agenda. Not that it stopped them from trying. And in this case, they stooped to censorship in order to aid it.
A student at a Colorado school shot and wounded two students, one seriously, before dying of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police say.
If this hadn’t happened one day before the Newtown anniversary, would the BBC have even bother with it? Possibly, as it still would have been a good opportunity to send Jonny Dymond over to tell you that this occurred just a few miles away from the infamous Colombine mass murders.
“In the cold, outside their classrooms, waiting to be frisked, the students of another terrorized school,” Dymond intoned ominously, describing the scene with his voice carefully measured and modulated, placing emotive stress on “frisked”, in order to give the proper dark impression, like an actor giving a dramatic reading of a Gothic horror. Professional, world-class BBC journalism in action.
And thus begins the Narrative, one of too many schools cowering in fear of gun massacres. Whatever shall be done? More gun laws needed? Yes, of course. After all, this is the BBC, and that is their agenda.
Just like with , though, all the stricter gun control laws currently being revisited wouldn’t have prevented this tragedy.
The gunman brought a shotgun to the school and was looking for a specific teacher when confronted by a classmate, the Arapahoe County sheriff said.
Nobody in the gun control crowd is talking about banning shotguns. In fact, Vice President Biden recommends owning one for home defense. Even some people in Britain, such as farmers, are allowed to own shotguns. No way are shotguns going to be part of the national debate the BBC dreams of, nor are they going to be restricted or limited in any way. So this isn’t at all a useful tragedy to exploit to further the gun control agenda. Yet the BBC wanted to do it anyway, and so we get Dymond’s dramatic performance.
In addition, the BBC assigned David Botti (just how many Beeboids are working in the US these days? It’s getting ridiculous.) to do a “bespoke” video magazine piece on how US schools are so scared of these mass murders that they’re locking down. The point of his piece is actually not whether or not schools are over-reacting to an existential threat. In reality, the agenda is to stoke emotions against gun ownership and encourage approved thoughts about stricter gun control laws. Think of the children!
As for the Arapahoe shooting, since the BBC had little success in finding a way to push their agenda with that story, they engaged in censorship so it wouldn’t detract from another Narrative: who engages in gun violence.
It’s a behavior we’ve heard all too often from the BBC. I’ve lost count of how many times a shooting gets reported, and BBC journalists and on-air talent start speculating that it must be a Right-winger or white supremacist (to most BBC journalists they’re one and the same), before the facts come out. For example, we heard it with the Toulouse shootings (eventually Gavin Hewitt had enough evidence shoved in his face to make him wonder if it was something else), we heard it with Norwegian shootings, we heard it with the Tucson shootings (some Beeboids tweeted that bias and even blood libel of Sarah Palin as well: see Mark Blank-Settle Jim Hawkins, Katty Kay, and Rachel Kennedy, on our “In Their Own Tweets” page), and we heard it with the Boston bombings. There’s no need for an editorial directive for this biased agenda to be institutional if they all think the same way already. In only one of those cases – Anders Breivik in Norway – did the perpetrator turn out to be driven by some sort of Right-wing ideology. And he was clearly mentally ill. The Tucson murderer, Jared Loughner, also turned out be mentally ill. Yet the BBC reflexively leapt to assume that all of them must have been, before waiting for facts. And in Loughner’s case, tried to sweep the mental illness issue under the rug in favor of pushing their gun control agenda.
In the Arapahoe case, we do know the ideology of the shooter, and we know why the BBC decided to censor it.
The teenage gunman who entered Arapahoe High School on Friday afternoon and shot two fellow students with a shotgun was outspoken about politics, was a gifted debater and might have been bullied for his beliefs, according to students who knew him.
Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson identified the gunman as Karl Pierson, an 18-year-old student.
“He had very strong beliefs about gun laws and stuff,” said junior Abbey Skoda, who was in a class with Pierson during her freshman year. “I also heard he was bullied a lot.”
The part about being bullied has a parallel in the Columbine tragedy, actually. In addition to the easy connection for the lazy journalist of the geographical proximity, somebody decided to tack on a gratuitous mention of the Adam Lanza’s obsession with mass murder stories like Columbine. It’s completely irrelevant to the story itself. The Arapahoe shooter didn’t seem to keep a scrapbook like Lanza did, nor are we hearing about any other shared obsessions. The BBC included that for Narrative purposes only.
As for the Arapahoe shooters beliefs:
In one Facebook post, Pierson attacks the philosophies of economist Adam Smith, who through his invisible-hand theory pushed the notion that the free market was self-regulating. In another post, he describes himself as “Keynesian.”
“I was wondering to all the neoclassicals and neoliberals, why isn’t the market correcting itself?” he wrote. “If the invisible hand is so strong, shouldn’t it be able to overpower regulations?”
Pierson also appears to mock Republicans on another Facebook post, writing “you republicans are so cute” and posting an image that reads: “The Republican Party: Health Care: Let ’em Die, Climate Change: Let ’em Die, Gun Violence: Let ’em Die, Women’s Rights: Let ’em Die, More War: Let ’em Die. Is this really the side you want to be on?”
Carl Schmidt and Brendon Mendelson, both seniors at Arapahoe High, knew Pierson. They said he had political views that were “outside the mainstream,” but they did not elaborate.
And there you have it. He held similar political beliefs to most BBC journalists. This would have detracted from the anti-gun agenda, so they left it out. Unlike with other shootings where political motivations came from the other side, or at least when they assumed as much. Perhaps the cognitive dissonance was just too much for them.
(UPDATE Dec. 16: More info on the political beliefs of the Arapahoe shooter. This CNN report gives conflicting anecdotes from his fellow students:
Stutz, an offensive tackle on the football team, had known Pierson since the two shared a human behavior class when Stutz was a freshman and Pierson a sophomore. They worked on a class experiment together in which they went into the community and tried breaking unwritten rules, Stutz said.
“I did think he was a little weird, but I didn’t think he was, like, bad weird,” Stutz added. “He always kind of talked about how America was a communist country, how the government was, like, trying to take us over and stuff. I don’t know, just some weird stuff that I didn’t really pay close attention to, but nothing that alarmed me.
But then there’s this:
Senior Chris Davis, 18, was among many students Saturday trying to make sense of Pierson’s shooting rampage.
“He was a weird kid,” Davis said. “He’s a self-proclaimed communist, just wears Soviet shirts all the time.”
Pierson became easily aggravated, “always liked to be right” and didn’t like losing, Davis said.
“It seems realistic, now, that he did it,” Davis added.
It can’t be both. Either the football player misunderstood what Pierson was saying, or the other kid was hallucinating and imagined the Communist t-shirts. Of course we also get the usual “He seemed so nice, can’t imagine him doing this” statements, which never illuminate any of these stories. Two minutes of an internet search ignoring non-Left sites which seized on only one of those quotes found this from the Left-leaning LA Times:
Joe Redmond, an 18-year-old senior who was good friends with Pierson and was also on the debate team, praised his former teammate’s debating prowess, saying Pierson was the best on the team.
“He and I talked politics and economics a lot. He was very good when he was on the team, and he knew what he was talking about,” Redmond said.
Pierson, he said, was a self-proclaimed socialist. “But he also wore a Communist Party T-shirt to confuse people,” Redmond said. Pierson also sometimes wore an Air Force Academy hoodie and apparently wanted to attend the school, Redmond said. His political leanings, friends say, were more antiauthoritarian than communist.
Antiauthoriatarian. So not so much like your typical Beeboid. Although reading further about his arrogance and viciousness against people who disagreed with him politically, he’s sounding more and more like one. Actually, if he’s a self-proclaimed socialist but doesn’t trust the government, he’s like the Occupiers I’ve talked to. And one with emotional problems at least. This just makes it even more curious that the BBC didn’t bother following up on his political beliefs, seeing as how they usually aren’t shy about doing so. Perhaps it just added nothing to the Narrative, so never mind.)
The BBC, in fact, has a long history of pushing a gun-control agenda. And we have proof that it’s not mere supposition, something I’m only inferring, reading something that isn’t there. Mark Mardell himself admitted it. Near the beginning of this piece, I mentioned his quip that mass shootings were becoming “as American as baseball”. It came from this report on that shooting on a Naval base a couple months back.
In his online report about the incident, he admitted the agenda.
I’m standing in front of a yellow police cordon, the flashing lights of emergency vehicles in the background. The locations change, but the question from the presenters in London is as predictable as it is understandable.
“Will this tragedy make a difference to the debate on gun control?” The short and blunt answer: “No.”
Certainly the murders at the Navy Yard will give fresh impetus to a very old debate.
That’s what they were looking for, and came up empty-handed. Mardell’s disappointment was palpable (I wrote about that incident here). In fact, just like with the recent shooting at that Arapahoe school, the murderer brought only a shotgun to the party. As I said earlier, that’s not going to add one iota of support to the gun control agenda. VP Biden says we can have one, British farmers can have one, banning large-capacity magazines will change nothing. Funny how no Beeboids were tweeting that Biden had blood on his hands for encouraging people to get themselves a shotgun. Oh, and that killer was….wait for it….mentally ill. So was at least one of the Columbine murderers, come to think of it. And the BBC quickly abandoned the story once they realized it. Mardell swept the mental illness issue aside after paying lip service to its existence.
Actually, I have to admit that’s not quite true. BBC journalist Debbie Siegelbaum (I repeat: just how many BBC journalists are there in the US?) reported that one possible reason the man was able to kill so many people is that the SWAT team was ordered to stand down. The BBC got the scoop (I don’t know which one of them got it), and the US media picked up on it immediately. Why or how a BBC journalist got this scoop, I have no idea. Right place, right time, perhaps. However it happened, this was – or should have been – an example of good investigative journalism, placing the facts of the story over any ideology or preconceived notions about the surrounding issues. It was then that the BBC quickly abandoned it. Why? This should have been major, worthy of following up.
Instead, the BBC chose ideology over journalism. No aspect of this incident was useful for the anti-gun agenda, so they simply moved on to bloodier pastures. They thought they found them this week. Because the BBC has so many journalists in the US, including BBC News America, a daily news broadcast produced in and targeted at the US audience, it’s deserving of scrutiny and concern. This is one of the ways that the BBC tries, as Jeremy Paxman put it, to “spread influence”. So let’s not pretend any longer that the BBC doesn’t try to do this, or that they don’t believe the BBC doesn’t have some sort of Divine Right to do it.
The BBC should be doing stories about how we need a national debate on mental health issues, rather than constantly seeking to push gun control buttons. Perhaps they’re simply intellectually incapable of making the leap. They’re certainly ideologically incapable of dealing with the entire issue reasonably or impartially. Or honestly.