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Opening Arguments


Lot of nitwittery in my profession on display this week:

In reaction to the defeat of gun control in the U.S. Senate yesterday, editorial pages across the nation are seething with anger, lashing out at rural America, gun manufacturers and the NRA.

Both the L.A. Times and Chicago Tribune called the defeat "shameful" - echoing Pres. Obama who yesterday called the defeat "A shameful day for Washington."

I say "nitwittery" because so many of those editorials are not the best examples of the craft -- rational assertions supported by well-crafted arguments, you know, an exercise in reason. They are the rhetorical equivalent of a child holding his breath and stomping his feet. And they are so disturbingly similar that I'd call them pretentious posturings rather than genuine expressions of outrage. Editorias "seething with anger" should be few and far between. They are much better when "deploring unfortunate situations."

Just consider some of this dreck.

"Courage was not in short supply at the Capitaol on Wednesday." -- The Washington Post's Dana Milbank.

"For 45 senators, the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary School is a forgotten tragedy. The toll of 270 Americans who are shot every day is not a problem requiring action. The easy access to guns on the Internet, and the inevitability of the next massacre, is not worth preventing." -- The New York Times

"Shameful disconnect defeated the Senate's best chance at passing meaningful gun restrictions, gutting the first serious attempt at such legislation in two decades." -- Chicago Tribune

"The streets of Chicago are a long way from Washington. Nothing showed that more clearly than the U.S. Senate's outrageous rejection Wednesday of a legislative measure that would have given our nation an essential anti-violence reform - universal background checks for people buying guns." -- Chicago Sun-Times

The embedded assumption in all those editorials is that the background-check legislation would be meaningful, i.e.  would prevent the kind of violence visited on the Sandy Hook Elementary children. That being the case, it would indeed be shameful to vote against the bill because of trembling fear of the might of the NRA.

But the legislation was not meaningful. The backgrounds checks are good at identifying criminals, but not so much the dangerosusly mentally ill because the reporting requirements vary so widely from state to state. And since mass shootings are overwhelmingly associated with violent mental illness rather than known criminals, expanding the checks won't really contribute much to safety. Calling the legislation meaningful is pure flim-flammery, which editorials should be disdaining, not cheerleading for.

I, for one, deplore the scoundrels' attempts at emotional blackmail and the editorial pages' descent into irrational table thuming. In fact, I am seething with disdain.


Tim Zank
Fri, 04/19/2013 - 11:57am

It's a great day when useless, overbearing, and costly legislation gets shot down (pun intended)...this particular fight has illustrated (once again) it's not about safety, it's about control...


added bonus was watching the editorial writers and pundits twist (as evidenced by Leo above) themselves into knots trying to shame all of us for actually having common sense...