from the Congress Action newsletter

Only Propaganda

by: Kim Weissman
April 14, 2002

The New York Times has a masthead slogan that reads, "All The News That's Fit To Print".

For most of America's media, a far more appropriate slogan might be, "Only The Propaganda We Want You To Read", because rather than being dispassionate purveyors of information, they have become ideologically driven censors marching in lockstep with each other to control the information we receive, and thereby control the judgments and the decisions we make on the basis of that information. This is not new, of course, but this debasement of our national political discourse takes on added significance with the enactment of the so-called Campaign Finance Reform (CFR) legislation, a law that obstructs the flow of information that media censors don't want you to know, stifles points of view that contradict the media's ideology, and gives the media even greater power to distort reality and to deceive the public. And in so doing it gives the media the power to impose, through deception, their own ideology on a free people.

The following might seem to be a story about gun control, or about elitist arrogance by which they deem themselves exempt from the laws they demand for everyone else. It is not about these things. These are part of the story, but only by way of illustration. Far more importantly, this is about a dangerous destruction of liberty, a new and disturbing loss of the ability of a free people to govern themselves.

Self government, the ability of free people to choose who will represent them in government and what courses of action their country will pursue, necessarily implies that the people who make those decisions, in our republic the voters, will be in possession of as full and complete information as possible about the issues of the day, information which they can use to make informed and reasoned decisions and choices. It is true that complete information about any issue is rarely available to anyone, however the intentional censorship of information, the selective presentation of carefully tailored facts, the deliberate distortion of what is available, deprives people of the ability to make fully informed decisions. Such censorship and selective presentation of facts "steers" people in a direction predetermined by the censors, and deceives people into making decisions and choices that they might not otherwise make if they were in full possession of all of the available information.

This story involves Sarah Brady of the gun-control lobby formerly known as Handgun Control, now of The Brady Campaign and The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Her new autobiography, "A Good Fight", contains a paragraph in which, as the Washington Post wrote in it's book review, "She even admits that he [Brady's 18 year old son] recently requested a hunting rifle for Christmas — and that she bought it." That's as far as the Post goes in describing the incident, but there are additional details regarding that purchase.

The rifle was a high-powered .30-06 caliber with telescopic sight, of a type that could be described as a "sniper rifle" by gun control groups. The book says that a background check was done and approved, but the Brady law requires that the buyer for whom the background check is done must be personally present so that the identity of the buyer can be verified by means of a government-issued photo ID. There is no indication whether or not the son was personally present. The law also allows guns to be bought as gifts without a background check of the final recipient. Second Amendment rights groups have claimed that the transaction might be a "straw purchase", which the BATF defines as using another person to acquire a firearm "to hide the identity of the true purchaser or ultimate possessor". The legality of any such transaction seems to turn on whether the buyer had the intention "to hide the identity of the…ultimate possessor".

The executive director of Seniors United Supporting the Second Amendment (SUSSA), said,

"Sarah Brady is typical of the anti-civil rights radicals. She wants to ban private transfers of guns for everyone but her and her elitist friends. If a black mother in a Delaware public housing apartment did this she would already be charged with a crime. I’m wondering if Delaware has different enforcement standards for rich white women."

Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and SUSSA have asked the BATF to investigate. But legality is not the issue. The issue is the public's right to know, even things that the media would rather keep hidden. It is at least ironic, and certainly should be newsworthy, that the revelation about Brady's purchase of a rifle for someone else comes at a time when her Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is trying to exploit the terrorist attacks of 9-11 by demanding more extensive background checks of all gun buyers, supposedly as a way of thwarting terrorists from buying guns. But most of the media has apparently concluded that the stark contradictions surrounding the Brady organization's public stance about background checks, and the details of this particular transaction, are not worth discussing, indeed, that the public has no right to even know about it.

Just as selective media reporting is not new, neither is elitist hypocrisy. Political and public figures demand more gun control laws and outright firearm bans for everyone else, while they use their wealth or influence to make sure those laws don't hamper them, or they simply ignore the laws already on the books. Rosie O'Donnell hysterically demanded that anyone owning a gun be thrown in jail, then hired armed bodyguards to accompany her own son to school. Recently it was revealed that bodyguards for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, sponsor of last year's international conference seeking a worldwide ban on all privately owned firearms, were still carrying, on the streets of New York City, submachine guns for which the BATF had refused to grant licenses. There are numerous other examples, but the issue here is not hypocrisy. The issue is, rather, the public's access to complete information.

The media continues to insist that gun control is the savior of civilization, which reflects the media's fundamental world view that guns (in the hands of ordinary citizens) are bad, and that gun control laws (that disarm ordinary citizens) are good. Several years ago when the United Kingdom essentially outlawed all privately owned handguns, and most other types of firearms, the media was thrilled. Our media still regularly scolds America for not following the "enlightened" lead of the UK. But is anyone curious why we haven't read follow-up stories about the wonderful success of the UK gun ban in stopping violent crime?

We haven't read such stories because crimes committed with guns have skyrocketed in the UK since the gun ban, for the very logical reason that criminals, by definition, don't obey the laws. The International Crime Victims Survey ranked the UK the second worst industrialized country in the world in terms of the frequency of criminal violence. The London Times reports crimes committed with handguns at the highest level since 1993, four years before the handgun ban was enacted. The BBC writes that gun crimes have risen 40% (in some places 90%) since the gun ban went into effect. But you'd have to read the British media to find that out. Our media instead creates the false impression that gun control laws reduce crime, because that lie helps to advance their agenda of disarming ordinary people. And when the crime rate rises after the law-abiding are disarmed, it won't be the politicians or the arrogant elites who suffer, since they will still be able to circumvent those gun control laws.

Media deceit is not confined to gun control, of course. How many people voted for Al Gore, because they were convinced by media fearmongering that the earth will be destroyed by global warming and that Gore could fix it? How many people oppose drilling in ANWR because they believe huge swaths of pristine wilderness would be destroyed, due to media hyperbole and pictures of majestic mountain ranges that are nowhere near ANWR? How many don't know that increased auto fuel efficiency standards kill thousands of people every year, because the media rarely reports that fact when demanding higher standards? How many believe the Enron debacle is primarily the fault of republicans, because the media has mostly ignored the far greater democrat culpability? How many people know that many of the school shootings, committed by people who simply ignored gun control and other laws, were stopped by private individuals with their own guns, because the national media always leaves out that small detail?

Which brings us back to the primary topic at hand, the dangerous destruction of liberty, the loss of the ability of free people to govern themselves — Campaign Finance Reform.

Hypothesize that Brady runs for elective office to advocate more gun control (it worked in the UK, didn't it?). If she came out with a new book, it would garner more weepy reviews like those about her current book — favorable (and free) publicity worth millions. If some group issues press releases bringing out additional facts that may be relevant, as Second Amendment rights groups have done, not only would the reports disappear into the black hole of media bias, as the current reports have, but it could also very well be illegal to even issue such reports, with the threat of fines and jail for the officers of the organization. It could be illegal to even mention that information in public under CFR.

Facts put out by independent groups may or may not be accurate, which is why censorship advocates call them "attack ads" that must be banned. But the media can, and does, publish "attack editorials" as often as they like. The media can, and does, publish anything, no matter how inaccurate and misleading, because they enjoy First Amendment protection. And when one of their pet schemes turns out to be a disaster (like gun control and socialized medicine in the UK, for example), they simply stop reporting on the issue entirely, thereby creating the false impression that the scheme was a success. But you, second-class citizens, no longer enjoy First Amendment protection for what you want to say. Yes, you can stand in your local public park (assuming you get a police permit), and speak to passers-by until you are hoarse; you can write as many letters to the editors of your local newspapers as you want (which won't ever see the light of day if an editor decides not to publish them).

So how effectively will you be able to disseminate your information, compared to the circulation and viewership of the major media? If you use your own money to buy newspaper space to spread your information, you might be breaking the law if you don't hire a lawyer to fill out the proper forms and file them at the appropriate federal bureaucracies within the designated time frames. If you want to run your ads within 60 days of an election (the only time most voters are paying attention), it may be illegal to do so at all. And if you join with like-minded individuals to pool your money to buy ads, you will be vilified as a "special interest group" launching "attack ads" against the poor candidate.

In a system of self government, the right to vote comes with the responsibility of voters to educate themselves so they can cast their votes intelligently. That self-education task cannot be undertaken by relying solely on the media (or any other single source), one has to seek out alternate sources of information to provide balance and get a full picture of any issue, often to find out the truth at all. CFR has made it harder to find such alternate sources of information, by chilling the freedom of groups that aren't the established media to speak, thereby making it that much more likely that the major media will be the only source of information for increasing numbers of voters.

CFR has been called an incumbent protection act because it inhibits the ability of groups and individuals to criticize political incumbents. It is also an advancement of media ideology act, because it allows the media to advance their ideology by selectively presenting their worldview, with even less chance that contrary information will make it into the public marketplace of ideas.

Our vote, and who gets elected to enact the laws that affect so many areas of our lives, depends on the quality and completeness of the information we have. If that information distorts reality, or hides the truth or relevant facts, our vote has been suborned. By tailoring and censoring information, the media can strongly influence who we vote for and the policies we seek to enact. By restricting the flow of information from alternate sources, while allowing the media to carry on unencumbered, CFR has enormously increased the media's ability to control the information we receive, thus to control our votes, and to induce us to cast our votes in a way that suits them and furthers their own ideology. The ability of a free people to govern ourselves has taken a big step backwards. But it's called "reform", so nobody cares.

[Bold emphasis added by TYSK.]

The above article is the property of Kim Weissman, and is reprinted with his permission.
Contact him prior to reproducing.

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14 apr 2002;
updated 21 apr 2010