Tag Archives: Media Bias

UPDATE: “Mental health” will be a screen for gun ownership

President Obama’s executive action on gun control includes one of the provisions about which we fretted a couple of years ago.

Bureaucrat:  Why do you want to acquire a gun?

Citizen:  I like to camp in the woods and hunt animals.

Bureaucrat:  [Marks “mentally ill” in his notebook.]

. . .

Bureaucrat:  Why do you want to acquire a gun?

Citizen:  I want to be able to defend my business in case of Ferguson-style rioting.

Bureaucrat:  [Marks “mentally ill” in his notebook.]

. . .

Bureaucrat:  Why do you want to acquire a gun?

Citizen:  I want to defend myself in case of an Islamic terrorist attack.

Bureaucrat:  [Marks “mentally ill” in his notebook.]

. . .

Bureaucrat:  Why do you want to acquire a gun?

Citizen:  I fear government tyranny.

Bureaucrat:  [Marks “mentally ill” in his notebook.  Adds Citizen to the FBI watch list.]

The framework starts, according to Politico, with “enabl[ing] health care providers to report the names of mentally ill patients to an FBI firearms background check system.”  Even if this is all that will be in place, what could possibly go wrong?  Let’s see:  delays in background checks; false positives and name mix-ups, followed by a bureaucratic maze akin to the “no-fly” list; data sharing that will find someone’s supposed mental illness being recorded elsewhere; data breaches, either intentional (government bureaucrats spying on their neighbors or their daughter’s boyfriends) or negligent (e.g., OPM); new liability risks for doctors who are found to have treated patients who later commit gun crimes but did not report them.

An even bigger risk is when this program expands, to become compulsory, eventually resulting in an affirmative mental health check being a prerequisite to gun ownership.  “The administration has taken great pain to try to clarify that there is very limited information that would be reported only within a very limited group,” quotes the credulous Politico article, which naturally only cites “mental health” and gun control advocates and does not raise any of these potential pitfalls.

Luckily, we needn’t worry about a government program that begins with “very limited information that would be reported only within a very limited group” and greatly expands, often surreptitiously, thereafter.

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Filed under Big Government

Media tropes on immigration obscure legitimate debate about trade-offs

We know, you could substitute virtually any issue for “immigration” in the title and the story would be valid.  But the mainstream media’s (and Republican establishment media’s) desperation in trying to stop Donald Trump have brought out the worst in our discourse.

The Washington Post cites a couple of legal scholars in the first few paragraphs of an article headlined “Experts: Trump’s Muslim entry ban idea ‘ridiculous,’ ‘unconstitutional,'” but then—in a juxtaposition certainly worthy of James Taranto’s “Two papers in one!” meme—adds, well, actually, it wouldn’t be unconstitutional:

Barring Muslims who are not U.S. citizens from entering the country may not violate U.S. law in the same way, the experts said, because the Constitution’s protections generally do not apply to people outside the nation’s borders.


The Post article then cites a partial precedent, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was not found unconstitutional.  The article also repeatedly refers to “principles of international law and agreements the U.S. has signed with other nations” without specifying any of them.  One critic asserts, “I’m sure it would violate innumerable treaties if we suddenly started banning citizens of NATO countries, of Southeast Asian countries.”  Tell that to a Turk or Thai who has been denied a visa despite their countries’ close alliances with the U.S.

A point that the article, and most like it, fail to make is that the U.S., like any sovereign nation, has the right to grant or deny a visa to any individual, for any reason at all, and also to deny entry to anyone attempting to travel to the U.S., including those from countries whose nationals do not require a visa.

Meanwhile, Ben Shapiro, writing in The Daily Wire, brings out various straw-man arguments about American military members (which he rightly corrects in a later update clarifying that Trump was not referring to barring citizens) in characterizing Trump’s stance as “desperate.”  Um, Mr. Shapiro, Trump is leading in the polls, and his support has only increased since he called for more scrutiny of Muslims attempting to immigrate to the U.S.  The idea of trying to ban all Muslim immigration has wide support in polls.  Trump has made a policy proposal from a position of strength, not desperation.

Donald Trump did not call all Muslims terrorists.  He did not call for a database of Muslims living in the U.S., as the media was quick to accuse him after he didn’t forcefully reject a reporter’s suggestion to that effect.  Banning Muslim visitors is not at all like the internment of American citizens of Japanese and other origins in Axis countries during World War II, a comparison that the media has been quick to breathlessly make.

Attempting to ban all Muslim immigrants may or may not be a good idea.  It may or may not violate various treaties.  It would likely harm America’s standing in the world, victimize innocent people, and, above all, not be practical to implement.

However, none of these is reason to dismiss the merit of the proposal out of hand.  It wouldn’t be that difficult to bar foreigners who are obviously Muslim (Muslims often have names identifying them as such, as many countries list religion on their passports), who come from predominantly Muslim countries, and/or whose passports show visits to Syria, or Iraq, or Turkey (the gateway to ISIS-controlled territory).  Obviously such a ban would not catch everyone who is a threat.  We are not necessarily endorsing any such restrictions.

The real problem with the discussion about Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from visiting the U.S. is that very few commentators acknowledge (1) we are at war and (2) there are always trade-offs in policy decisions.

Almost no one—including, we would venture to guess, Donald Trump—would like the idea of banning people of a certain religion from entering the U.S. in principle.  Plenty of Muslims contribute to American society; want to visit as tourists, students, or businesspeople; and wish no harm on the country.  However, since there is a significant population of Muslims who consider themselves at war with the U.S., we are right to consider trade-offs.  President Obama or the pontificators calling Trump’s idea “ridiculous” have not addressed the question of how many innocent Muslims can reasonably be barred the privilege of traveling to the country in exchange for keeping the country safe from terrorists.


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Media desperately attempts to search for the root of “radicalization”

It was surreal to see CNN the other night (12/07/15 EST) alternating headlines between revelations about how the couple behind the Islamic terror attack in San Bernardino were “radicalized for ‘quite some time'” and bashing Donald Trump for trying to address the problem of Muslim terrorist infiltration in the U.S.

MSM navel-gazing about how a Muslim could be mysteriously “radicalized”—as if entering a black box then emerging from it—is nothing more than a red herring, just another mechanism to obscure the linkage between Islam and terrorism.  It’s also consistent with the victimization narrative that so dominates our society:  the passive construction of the word “radicalized” implies that it creates victims who have had some vague action done upon them as opposed to having made their own decisions for which they are accountable.

To hear the media tell it (with due credit to South Park), some sequence of events like this occurs:

  1. Islam
  2. ??
  3. Radicalization
  4. Terrorism

While it’s trivial to observe that not all Muslims are “radical” in the sense that they wish to terrorize and kill non-Muslim populations or are sympathetic to those who do, it is also equally obvious that something inherent in Islam promotes “radicalization.”  Anyone who attended an Islamic school (i.e., almost everyone) in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, or the Palestinian territories—or any number of madrassas in many countries in the world—has been “radicalized.”

A better heuristic to understand the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism might be to explore how so many Muslims have become de-radicalized in light of the societies from which they have emerged.

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Filed under Foreign Affairs

Live by the cynical lie, die by the cynical lie

The media was duly aflutter when Maureen Dowd broke the “news” in her August 1 column that Beau Biden had, on his deathbed, implored his father to run for president.  This tidbit could obviously only have been leaked to Dowd by Vice President Biden either directly or indirectly.

However, the media has been quiet about an astonishing revelation from last night’s softball 60 Minutes interview with the vice president:  he claimed that “nothing like that ever, ever happened.”

Does Maureen Dowd feel ashamed at being used so cynically by Biden, uncritically lapping up his spin?  It’s ghoulish enough that she would serve as the mouthpiece for a cunning politician whose only possible motive for reporting such an anecdote could have been to gain political points from his family tragedy.

Is she now wallowing in the ignominy of being sold out when Biden decided it would be in his interest to shift the narrative?  Does she feel foolish at all?  Will she think twice the next time an unseemly liberal requests to exploit her influence to do his own bidding?  Kudos to Biden for playing the pliant liberal media like a fiddle; shame on Maureen Dowd for serving as his sycophant.

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Filed under Politics

Can we please stop using “birthright” citizenship as a synonym for jus soli citizenship?

One can basically become a citizen of a country in one of two ways:  by virtue of birth, or birthright, in which case he is known as a natural-born citizen; or by being granted citizenship after birth, in which case he is known as a naturalized citizen.

The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world which grants birthright citizenship automatically to individuals born on U.S. soil (under most circumstances), known as the jus soli concept (jus soli is Latin for “right of the soil”).  There are ways for one to be a birthright citizen other than being born on U.S. soil, namely, to be born abroad if both parents are U.S. citizens or, in some circumstances, if one parent is a U.S. citizen.  The State Department summarizes the law here.

We can have a legitimate debate about the merits of the jus soli concept, and also whether this practice is actually mandated by the constitution:  there is a constitutional argument that a child born of illegal immigrants on U.S. soil need not automatically be granted U.S. citizenship.

What Donald Trump is really talking about is ending the jus soli principle, at least in some cases.  He should clarify his language, for even though no one (as far as we are aware) is talking about ending birthright citizenship as such, our politicians and pundits are muddying the waters—often deliberately.  It would be useful for presidential candidates to state whether they oppose jus soli citizenship in all cases, in some cases (such as when the mother or both parents are in the U.S. illegally), or not at all.  Trump’s immigration policy paper mentions “the children of illegal immigrants” in passing, but does not fully explain his position.

For an example of the obfuscation, see James Taranto eviscerate a misleading tweet, which claimed that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is a hypocrite for attacking “birthright” citizenship even though he is a “birthright” citizen.  Wrong:  Cruz is indeed a birthright citizen, because his birth abroad to a U.S. citizen mother fulfilled the requirements of birthright citizenship, but he is clearly opposing granting birthright citizenship to people born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants.  Cruz is opposing at least one application of the jus soli principle, and he is not a jus soli citizen—much less one born to illegal immigrants—which of course is not hypocritical at all.  Donald Trump is also a birthright citizen, but he is also not a hypocrite for opposing a certain type of birthright citizenship.

In defense of the tweeter, the article to which he linked does cite Ted Cruz’s opposition to “birthright citizenship” multiple times, including in the headline, and it appears that Cruz used those two words in the radio interview that was the subject of the article.  However, Cruz was talking about birthright citizenship when the parents are in the U.S. illegally, which is a special case that provides necessary context to any discussion of the subject—and which the headline, from CBS Dallas, also deliberately, or negligently, failed to represent.

Jeb Bush recently referred to “a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship” in attacking Donald Trump’s calls to end it.  Presumably he was thinking of jus soli as the noble concept.  Are politicians and the media avoiding the proper, precise Latin term for simplicity, or because “birthright citizenship” is a euphemism that is hard to argue against?

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Filed under Culture

We’re going to see a lot of this. . . but usually with at least some attempt at logic

Eugene Robinson’s apparently phoned-in column in the Washington Post yesterday raises what will be a common trope leading up to the 2016 presidential primaries and then the general election:  Is [insert issue here] good for [insert presidential candidate here]?  The answer, of course, no matter the issue, will be “yes” in the case of Hillary Clinton or whoever the Democratic nominee is and “no” in the case of the Republican nominee, with an extra vociferous “no” in the case of Donald Trump.  Media bias is always more prevalent when it comes to which issues even appear in  the first place than in how pieces are written.

Still, Robinson’s column is especially spurious and lazy, even by the standards of the Post editorial page.  His question is, “What could stumbling stocks mean for presidential politics?” and somehow his answer is that they would help Hillary Clinton.

If he presented a theory to explain why he thought this was the case, then we could just roll our eyes and conclude that it was a typical column.  (And then await a column next month, titled, “What could skyrocketing stocks mean for presidential politics?” which has the same conclusion.)  However, he doesn’t even offer any reason, other than the fact that Hillary Clinton has a resume that includes elected office and Donald Trump does not.

Robinson uses an anecdote to poke fun at the reactions of both John McCain and President Obama to financial turmoil in fall 2008, reporting the accounts of others that McCain “had nothing of substance to say” and Obama “gave an academic lecture on finance to a room littered with MBAs.”  Although his summary of Obama’s performance is not a compliment, Robinson concludes, “In the end, voters decided that sang-froid, perhaps with a touch of arrogance, was better than cluelessness.”

If we find ourselves in similar straits leading up to the 2016 election, Robinson avers, “I’m guessing it could make voters pay more attention to the candidates’ records on economic and financial management—and might give a boost to those with experience, as opposed to promise.”

If you were to think that this is an endorsement of Donald Trump, who has navigated all types of business environments very successfully, compared to career figurehead and politician Hillary Clinton (who does, in fairness, have a good track record in cattle futures), you would be wrong.  See, “Polls consistently say that voters see her as the most experienced candidate in either party.”  As a commentary on how one particular change in circumstances—a falling stock market—might impact different candidates, all else equal, this seems like a non sequitur.  He then spouts the brief talking-point attacks on most of the Republican candidates, including Trump, all of which are either irrelevant to his question or contrary to his conclusion:  he gives no credit to the “records on economic and financial management” of Govs. Walker or Christie, and doesn’t mention the other governors in the race.

His next non sequitur is the conclusion, which again does not follow from anything stated in the column:  “Logically, it seems to me that market craziness ought to be bad for Trump. But while his candidacy is about many things, logic isn’t one of them.”  So, if Trump’s candidacy is not about logic, then can we infer the converse of the first of these sentences—i.e., that “market craziness” is good for Trump?  We’re scratching our heads.

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Filed under Media Bias

Today’s version of “Spot the missing party label”!

The mainstream media is notorious for failing to mention the party of a politician implicated in a scandal if said politician is a Democrat.*

Today’s Los Angeles Times puts a new twist on the practice in an article entitled “Mississippi in limbo over high-court’s same-sex marriage ruling”:  “Mississippi’s attorney general, Jim Hood, declared that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right would not be observed in the Magnolia State” until the Fifth Circuit “gives gay weddings the go-ahead.”

It’s unclear in what form, or whether, this legal housekeeping will take place, and the article doesn’t hesitate to cite the state’s religious leanings, shameful historical record on everything, etc.

But it never mentions that Attorney General Hood is . . . a Democrat.

The phrasing “in limbo” suggests a sympathy to the legal conundrum.  On the other hand, we don’t need much of an imagination to speculate that if Hood were a Republican, the headline would read something like “Republican A.G. defies Supreme Court on same-sex marriage.”  We have plenty of examples in MSM outlets, including the Los Angeles Times itself, that prominently identify such rogue state and local officials as Republicans, usually in the first sentence.

*We can actually defend this practice to some extent.  When a Democrat politician is corrupt, it’s sort of a “dog bites man” story, so perhaps the party of the crook can go without saying.  On the other hand, we see the identity of a dirty pol as Republican as legitimately newsworthy.  Tu quoque, MSM?

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