Was it a fake news or fake news that it was fake news?

February 22, 2018

Is the real news sometimes fake as the fake news?

Had to ask myself that in the middle of the night when I could not sleep and checked my computer to see what’s new.

There was a story circulating on the alt right sites (or at least the ones who like to take jabs at mainstream media) that CNN attempted to hand a scripted question to a Florida high school student in place of one he wanted to ask at what was billed by that network as a town hall meeting on the Florida school shooting. Supposedly the kid wanted to suggest that veterans could be hired as armed guards at the schools. But instead, purportedly, CNN handed him a script, I suppose calling for gun control.

Later this morning when I tried to check one of the sites covering that story in order to read further into it, it appeared to be gone (although I am sure you can find it — nothing, truth or lie, ever really disappears on the internet I am told).

Concurrently there is this story floating around that actors have appeared as students promoting gun control.

Even if even minute parts of all this were true — I mean anything goes on this modern form of communication (or miscommunication) — there is enough footage out there and enough reporting from enough different sources that we know the obvious and understandable truth: folks and their children or visa versa are upset at being the targets of rapid-fire weapons.

(And by the way I did try to check some of this out via the Snopes site, but nothing on the scripted question, or at least when I checked, and I got too bogged down on the other — to convoluted; I gave up.)

Regardless of the facts I am sure that there is a fake news effort out there by forces of or friendly to the NRA or alt right and maybe even the Russians employing fake news to taint or smear the real news as fake news.

In the pre-internet days one had to judge the source to get to the truth. These days you have to judge the source of the source, and that can be difficult to perhaps impossible at times.

All that aside, I am always uncomfortable when journalism becomes an integral part of the news rather than an unbiased observer. And public forums should be an honest, unscripted discussion of issues. And I am in no way charging or believing that there was any scripting (but having never attended one of these CNN-type town halls I would not know). And if something is to be broadcast in a time frame there has to be some order.

I’m not even sure a news organization should stage forums. Doing that by definition makes them part of the story. Of course in broadcast news, in particular, the presenters by being presenters become a part of the story somehow. No way around it really.

I could go on and on about this but I will try not to. But let me add that I wish that for the so-called presidential debates, for example, that we’d go back to a really dull format run by the League of Women Voters in times way past now with the contestants sitting on folding chairs to wait their turn to speak with no fancy stage decorations and where the contestants did the talking not the moderators (and actually political nerd or junkie that I have been I did not think that they were dull) .

And back to the school shooting issue: regardless if there might be some people on both sides of the issue trying to muddy the waters, I think that the gun control movement might catch fire with the populace as a whole if the students and parents can sustain the pressure. It might well spread nationwide.

Little Marco Rubio, the Florida U.S. senator and former presidential candidate who gets millions of dollars from the NRA, looked as if he were shaking in those boots he sometimes wears to heighten himself when he faced the wrath of a visibly angry man whose daughter was killed in the recent massacre.

Angry citizens are the one thing that can beat the NRA.

p.s.

If you have not read my blogs previously you might jump to the conclusion, understandably, that I am super liberal and maybe against the Second Amendment. Not necessarily so. I consider myself middle of the road in politics and tolerant of that uniquely American provision in the Constitution that is the Second Amendment, even if I think that it is never fully understood nor described by most (including me). I mean it’s only one sentence long and does state that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. But I think to fully understand it you have to read some history and court decisions and be aware of its use of language — its grammar and syntax and the fact there is even more than one version of it.

But if I am correct the official version (my source Wikipedia) is:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Note the confusing use of upper case and I would say at least the last comma. English grammar had not been fully standardized, especially in the United States, I believe, at the time of our founding fathers, but without going into it all I think I am correct in writing that the current interpretation by the U.S. Supreme Court allows some room for some amount of gun control.

 

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A generational change may lead to some sense on guns…

February 21, 2018

I turned off the car radio when a caller into a conservative talk show said the students from the Florida high school where the latest mass shooting took place should “shut up and go back to school and sit down and learn something”.

It seemed apparent to me that the caller felt threatened by some of the surprisingly articulate students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who as survivors of one of the worst mass shootings in the nation, are urging lawmakers to take action on gun control (to no avail currently).

And wouldn’t you know it? Part of the reaction by the reactionary right is to say that the students are being put up to it by subversive gun control forces — a staffer of a Florida legislator even erroneously described a couple of the students as phonies, as actors.

If I had thought someone might come on to counter the caller I might not have switched the radio off, and, actually, I did turn it back on moments later — I was bored. But usually on these shows you don’t get much give and take. It’s usually one-sided. Debate is not what these shows are for. You get listeners and listeners beget sponsors. And for some reason apparently a lot of people just want to have their own beliefs validated and are not interested in sorting anything out.

And left-wing radio talk shows can be just as bad, and ultra left-wing worse. It’s just that there does not seem to be the market for left wing to the extent there is for right wing.

I prefer to think that I am a middle of the roader. And I think that there is such a thing as a middle-of-the-road talk show or one that avoids partisanship, but that’s probably confined to public radio which the right wingers are fond of calling “communist radio”. But with the near eradication of communism or the red menace of the Cold War, the term communist has been supplanted by “liberal”. And I guess liberal is considered bad by some folks because the term means you challenge the status quo. And if you are comfortable with the status quo well then you would feel threatened.

But what if you would just like to change some things but leave other things alone? Like don’t try to fix something that isn’t broken. That is where we middle of the roaders fit in or don’t fit in. No in today’s political discussions you gotta be one way or the other.

It’s hard to stir people up with moderation. And politics depends upon stirring people up.

But on this scourge of mass shootings, primarily carried out with semi-automatic assault rifles (sometimes converted into automatic), there are a  lot of things that could be done I am sure and a lot of things that do not need to be done. We don’t have to ban all guns from all citizens (and I don’t really hear anyone calling for that). We don’t have to abolish the Second Amendment. We don’t have to form a police state.

But it would seem prudent to me that we outlaw private ownership or the carrying of assault rifles. And then every time I write that I feel compelled to answer the retort that if you outlaw guns then only outlaws will have them. But in most of these mass shootings the outlaws got the guns legally. You make something hard to do and it will be less likely — not impossible of course — for it to happen.

And for those who just love to spray bullets out of semi-automatic rifles for fun — not to hurt anyone — geesh! I don’t know, maybe keep it legal to use them at rifle ranges where you could rent the weapons.

Improved background checks for gun ownership might help. Improved procedures for identification and treatment of those who suffer from mental health problems could help too, but to me those are side issues.

Identifying people with mental health problems is like identifying suspected terrorists. We can’t just round them up on suspicion. We are stuck taking them into custody after the fact, after the damage has been done, that is if they themselves survive. And the real frustrating part is that in so many cases, including the most recent, the authorities were aware of the threat but could not (or at least did not) do anything.

As to arming teachers with guns: seriously? I should not make a joke out of this, but have you ever dealt with a classroom of high school students? The temptation would be too much. Okay, that was wrong of me to make light of it — but seriously, I think the goal should be to cut down on firearm danger, not add another element that could lead to accidental shootings and create an atmosphere where the gun becomes the problem solver.

The main problem is that it is way to easy and legal to get ahold of assault rifles, which have no legitimate use outside of the military (save non-human target practice) in a civilized society.

Inertia and the National Rifle Association or NRA seems to prevent lawmakers from acting. Through political pressure and outright bribery the NRA has thus far successfully fought off most sensible gun control measures, including a former ban on assault rifles.

It may take a generational change to get anything done. The students in Florida are speaking out and trying to spread the word to others across the nation.

Meanwhile, back to that caller on the right-wing talk show:

He prefaced his remarks by saying that he was so frustrated (with the talk of gun control by the students) “that my head is about to pop off “. I almost thought he was going to say that “I want to go out and shoot someone”.

And that is the danger. We have some folks out there who are really frustrated and then they get their hands on an easy-to-obtain assault rifle and do some shooting.

p.s.

All this said, there is always a danger to our democracy in an over-reaction to a security threat. The right wing usually overreacts in favor of choking down on civil liberties, such as freedom of speech (not so on gun rights, though). The left wing might overreact by trying to repeal the Second Amendment or at least interpreting its somewhat ambiguous wording to where it is useless (I realize some say it is not ambiguous). I have to say the Second Amendment does make our democracy unique in that it guarantees citizens the right to own guns and in turn be able to rebel against their own government (whether or not that was the real intent of it). I would not particularly like to see that amendment repealed — it’s so American. Maybe a rewording in today’s language and understandable syntax would help.

Also, there is something to be said for individual citizens having the right to defend themselves. The police usually are not able to respond until after the fact of a tragedy. But do we want shootouts with assault rifles?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Banning assault weapons is common sense…

February 16, 2018

Common sense is I think what the typical Trump supporter and perhaps National Rifle Association (NRA) member might promote, that is to say in my mind those types of people criticize anyone who would give anything other than a reactionary thought as just lacking in common sense, too into deep thinking — too liberal (where I live that word has taken the place of communist since at least the end of the Cold War).

I’m not sure that I am a deep thinker but I do like to be objective and weigh options on things.

But common sense has its place too.

And in my mind stemming the free flow of weapons and banning assault rifles and the ammunition and other trappings, such as bump stocks, that go along with them, is common sense.

And I say this of course in reference to the latest in a plethora of mass shootings, which took place on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2018, this week, the massacre at a high school in Florida.

In an editorial the Wall Street Journal claimed that there is no evidence that banning assault rifles would help. I find that an odd attitude. I mean it is common sense that if you cannot get a hold of an assault rifle you can’t use it to mow people down. Of course I realize the Journal and others, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, contend that if a person is intent on doing harm he (or she, but for some reason it is always he in these things) will get a hold of the weapons. While that is a common sense too, it ignores the fact that the easier you make something the more likely it will happen.

(And let’s note here that Rubio, who ran for president in the Republican primary in 2016, is compromised in that the gun lobby was one of his major benefactors, and you could see the discomfort in his face when he tried to talk about the gun situation the other day. He was trying to acknowledge that there is a problem — it happened in his own state — but not raise the ire of his benefactor at the same time.)

True, there is no magic cure for this epidemic of mass killings (I won’t try recite the recent history here; there are plenty of stories out there that will do that for you). But we should at least begin somewhere.

President Trump mentioned nary a word about gun control in an address to the nation on the subject of the Florida school shooting. He stressed mental health, a little ironic in that many think (and seriously) that he is a little off himself. And yes, no doubt if we could do something to identify people who have a potential for violence we could help them and protect our society. Trump of course shied away from gun control because the voters who put him in office no doubt tend to be anti gun control.

Then there is the call to: “if you see something, say something”.

But people did see something way before all this happened at the high school in Florida. In fact it has been reported that the killer posted the fact that he wanted to shoot up a school on social media and that the FBI was made aware of it. And the stories say that people in the community thought he was mentally unstable and that he had a fascination with guns and shot at animals.

The problem is that while if you see something say something is certainly a good idea, police cannot go out and arrest someone on all that and we do not live in a police state, nor would we want to, where big brother always had an eye on you. But if you see something, say something is still a valuable tool I would think.

However I still come back to the idea that common sense says if you cut off the supply of assault weapons it would make it far less likely these incidents would occur.

Now as I understand it, guns and ammunition are basically illegal in Mexico. But Mexico is terribly violent and has suffered thousands of deaths in an ongoing drug war with weapons supplied from the United States (and other places I am sure). But Mexico does not have a stable system of government and its government at all levels is rife with corruption.

We have a our own corruption but not at the level of Mexico and we have much more stability — albeit we live in a violent society.

One obstacle in the way of any common sense gun control is that we have the Second Amendment which the Supreme Court has held entitles nearly everyone to have a gun. The court has held, though, that there can be some restrictions.

Or maybe in light of the fact the high court gives some leeway in restrictions that is not so much an obstacle. But what is an obstacle is that most politicians, be they liberal, moderate, or conservative, dare not cross the NRA, said to be the strongest political lobby in the nation.

Also, among the citizenry in general I suppose there may be a kind of apathy, disinterest, or sympathy with the notion that there should be no restrictions on guns. It is an American thing.

I myself have stated that I at least generally or maybe in a passive way support the Second Amendment. I also think, though, it is not clearly understood. But I for some reason have a hard time writing about it because it has a kind of convoluted history. I have read that the real intent of the Second Amendment was to ensure that the U.S. had a citizen army rather than one controlled by the central government that would resemble armies of the monarchies in Europe. And to explain that (do I really need to?) would take maybe more paragraphs (less if I were better at writing and synthesizing and condensing thoughts). But we have an army controlled by our federal government these days of course and have had for most of our history.

(And all that is academic anyway being as how the Supreme Court has upheld the individual right to possess weapons, with some restriction.)

And to sum this all up, despite the reluctance or fear of politicians to deal with gun control, the power is really with the people.

Just as the NRA could use its influence to push anyone out of office, enough voters could push those out who fail to deal with gun control. A slow process perhaps, but the mid terms are this year, and nothing else seems to be happening.

P.s.

A lot of people apparently love to shoot assault rifles and go to commercial ranges to engage in their hobby. So it is big business. Money talks. And while I would sincerely hate to deprive anyone of their fun, I put the safety of society and our children first.