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Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Earth Division
The Deleterious Effects of Mass Media on Public Opinion: The “Mass Shooting” Storyline
Recently, I wrote about in part relating to the mass shooting at the Aurora Mall in Colorado  and needless to say, the media are again sinking their teeth in to the gun issue. Not only does such hysteria-hype bring in more frightened viewers and increase advertising revenues for the media, but this kind of (selective) coverage advances the media’s anti-gun liberal agenda. Coverage on certain subjects in the mass media (especially national-level television and magazines) conform to certain left-of-center narratives, regardless of how accurate they actually are, even if statistics and evidence say otherwise. I’ve concluded there are two kinds of science: the science of scientists and cherry-picked science as portrayed by the media based on causes célèbre. This article is in part about media science.
Emotion-driven propaganda has been a staple of the left for many years. That those who push their activism with such techniques is in part what alienated me from the left. I found it very bothersome that emotion - and not reason - were being used to convince people into action. In looking for reasoned arguments, I found political narratives instead. The predictable storyline of media coverage regarding mass shootings is no different. Worse, this emotionally-manipulative coverage is considered enough for us to surrender our Constitutional rights (in spite of warnings of the perils of a disarmed citizenry from many of our Founding Fathers).
We are told, with no shortage of very loud, nearly endless emotionally hysterical appeals, that we must at least “ban assault weapons” if not guns in toto, because they keep being used in mass shootings. This is the basis of this specific media-science narrative, the facts notwithstanding.
A selective study by Mother Jones Magazine,  conducted shortly after the shootings in Aurora is often cited as a basis for this activism (including by leftwing professors). Never mind that most actual mass shootings were culled out of the study (robberies and gang-related shootings) and of those actually counted, only 25% actually used what the media are referring to as “assault weapons.” Regarding the killings in Connecticut, the assault weapon angle has been the focus and that the killer also carried two pistols has been neglected. Likewise with quotations from the Mother Jones study, in which it was admitted that 62% of the shootings were done with regular handguns as well; 88 of 142 total in specific. Only 35 were done with “assault weapons,” (rounded up to 25% of the total) and this writer assumes that these are generalized figures, that the actual numbers of people who were killed/injured by X type of weapon (or even flying glass or splintered wood instead of a bullet) in each shooting is not recorded. James Holmes used multiple gun types, for example, as did the shooters at Columbine. Some victims were injured by debris only.
Of course, a pistol doesn’t conjure a made-by-Hollywood image of a Terminator-esque villain letting loose on crowds of civilians making us all feel vulnerable and running for a catchall remedy, thus there is no useful emotional response elicited in readers which can be translated into political action by malleable, unwitting crowds. How many people in this country are now saying that our Constitutional rights “aren’t worth it” to save an average of 30 lives a year due to this type of media coverage? Worse, if you divide this 30-victim annual average by the 25% Mother Jones assault weapon usage figure, you round up to an average of 8 victims per year. EIGHT.
Let’s analyze Mother Jones’ data and draw some useful comparisons.
The Mother Jones study listed select shootings from 1982 to 2012, again setting criteria of their own definition that omitted most actual mass shootings, namely robberies and gang fights. In doing so, it is worth mentioning, that they invoked the old Marxian bogeyman-meme of the Angry White Male™ as most of the non-culled shooters in their study were white males. The insinuations are obvious and conform to another popular media narrative. While Mother Jones did admit to ruling out mass shootings in the text of the article (they did not tell us that they ruled out MOST of them statistically, however), in looking a the headline itself, it gives no indication of that whatsoever and makes a generic and thus all-encompassing reference to mass shootings as if they were all being counted. The reader assumes that all mass shootings are included in the study by first glance by implication. Manipulative and sensationalist? Loaded and leading?
By Mother Jones’ data, a total of 981 deaths and injuries have taken place in 62 mass shootings over the past 30 years from 1982 to 2012. That comes out to fewer than 30 per year. Consider that in a nation of over 300,000,000 people, an average of 30 annual victims (including survivors) are being used to fan mass hysteria and attempt to roll back our Constitutional rights. Eight annual victims in specific are being used to push “assault weapons” bans. (Hands on your 2nd Amendment rights but hands OFF our 1st Amendment rights!) Admittedly, even worse, Mother Jones concedes that the large majority of perpetrators in these shootings were mentally ill.
Now for a little more context.
Consider a favored cause of the environmentalist left: green, wholesome, natural gas. By US federal government figures, from 1992 to 2011 only (that leaves the Mother Jones mass shootings study with 11 more years of data), there were 10,265 reported natural gas pipeline-related incidents resulting in injuries and deaths.  In counting injuries in with deaths as Mother Jones did, it totals to 1,935, or an average of 102 per year. These figures are not reported in the media, let alone alarmingly so, and certainly are not used as a weapon against the natural gas industry to roll back natural gas usage and production, nor is the natural gas industry referred to and demonized as the Gas Industrial Complex or simply Big Gas. The emotionally tormented are not on Twitter calling for pro-natural gas activists and lobbyists to be set aflame. Gas is considered “green” and thus is excluded from the usual anti-business rhetoric from major media. Nautral gas CEOs are exempt from the kind of anti-CEO hostility that Hollywood and New York tend to enjoy portraying as they mock their favorite capitalist pig targets such as oil executives (J.R. Ewing in Dallas and Blake Carrington in Dynasty) and chemical company CEOs (Maxwell Potterdam in the movie Men at Work).
Odd, isn’t it? Let’s look at another one. Drunken driving. 
This is only in reference to actual deaths (you can assume injuries are many times greater than these figures). Annual US deaths from drunken driving in 2010: 10,228, which accounted for a massive 31% of all traffic-related deaths that year. 211 children were killed by alcohol-impaired drivers, vastly more than people of all ages killed annually in random shootings. If we are to assume the 2010 death figure is a general average, then over the past 20 years to compare to the length of the Mother Jones study, we can calculate that approximately 204,560 people have been killed in drunken driving crashes since 1982.
Yet not one peep out of the media, and chances are that many of them go out for cocktails after they go off-air.
I think I’ve said enough. Hands off my Heineken.