An honest account of media misinformation after the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy has to take into account Rupert Murdoch’s tweet about the need to ban “automatic weapons,” when none was used to kill any of the 26 people. Can the chairman of News Corporation, the parent of Fox News, be this ignorant about the nature of gun laws and guns in America?
He asked, “When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons?” He urged Obama to exercise “bold leadership” on the issue.
Deep inside his story about the comments, Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine noted, “Despite Murdoch’s plea, automatic weapons are already illegal in the United States; Adam Lanza [the killer] used semiautomatics.”
In fact, automatic weapons are not technically illegal but are subject to extensive regulation and are very difficult to obtain.
One interesting aspect of this controversy is that left-leaning reporters such as Dylan Byers of Politico publicized Murdoch’s comments without correcting him. Others followed suit. “Rupert Murdoch demanded tighter gun control in the aftermath of the horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut,” reported The Huffington Post, without noting that his remarks were inaccurate and the “gun control” he talked about was already in effect.
This is fascinating because, in the past, liberal media have tried to claim that Fox News personnel spew misinformation about current events, leading to a lack of knowledge about important matters of public policy. Here is a case of the owner of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and other properties saying something that is completely erroneous and irrelevant to what happened in Newtown, Connecticut.
But why would liberal publications not want people to know that Murdoch was in error? There are several possible explanations:
- They do not understand gun laws, either, and didn’t realize Murdoch was wrong.
- They don’t care that Murdoch was wrong and wanted to use his mistaken comment to spread misinformation to the public about the killings.
- They know Murdoch was wrong but wanted to use his comment to send a message to Fox News Channel hosts and commentators that they should get on the “gun control” bandwagon with their boss.
Some conservative-oriented news sites did correct the media mogul. “Early news reports indicate that automatic weapons were not used in yesterday’s school shooting,” Breitbart News reported, in a brief story about Murdoch’s comments. Indeed, no evidence of automatic weapons being used has turned up. Twitchy Media noted, “Closer attention to the reports coming out of his media properties would have informed Murdoch that automatic weapons weren’t used in today’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.”
Also oblivious to the facts, Malcolm Turnbull, who reportedly knows Murdoch, replied by saying that the politicians would act when pressured by the media and that “I suspect they will find the courage when Fox News enthusiastically campaigns for it.”
This, then, is why the comment is getting so much attention from the left. The political progressives saw it as an effort to send marching orders to the conservative news channel to back Obama’s controversial call for more legislation.
Media Matters, the George Soros-funded left-wing organization, jumped on the comments, contrasting Murdoch’s “Call For [A] Weapons Ban” with how Fox News Channel commentators supposedly were guilty in the past of “Extreme Pro-gun Rhetoric.” The “rhetoric” consisted of comments in favor of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
The New York Post, another Murdoch property, has already demonstrated Murdoch’s influence by following his lead and running an editorial on December 18 insisting that Lanza’s semi-automatic rifle somehow functioned like a “fully automatic” weapon. The editorial seemed like an attempt to justify Murdoch’s erroneous comments.
“It is very discouraging that Murdoch thinks that machine guns have anything to do with these attacks,” noted John Lott, the author of More Guns, Less Crime. “There are strong self-defense reasons for people to have semi-automatic weapons.”
In addition to such figures as Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America, Lott has been willing to take on those in the media, especially on CNN, who are guilty of spreading misinformation about the massacre. But he has not been invited to appear on Fox News to rebut gun grabbers like Murdoch.
Referring to Lott’s credentials as a FoxNews.com columnist, Eric Wemple of The Washington Post notes that the Fox News Channel is failing to use its “go-to guy on hand” to counter federal calls for more “gun control” legislation. He said Lott’s “low profile” on FoxNews.com since the killings suggests that the network and its website are “treading carefully” on the subject.
Rather than “treading carefully,” it appears that the Fox News Channel is marching to Murdoch’s directives, as revealed on his Twitter page. Perhaps Lott’s willingness to rebut Murdoch on his blog helps explain why he in particular is not being effectively utilized by the channel.
What’s worse, as Gabriel Sherman has reported, a Lott column about the differences between semiautomatics and so-called military style assault weapons was actually killed by FoxNews.com.
What we are seeing here is a coordinated attempt to use Murdoch’s erroneous comments to further a political left-wing agenda. Murdoch’s employees are capable of understanding that the comments are being exploited for political purposes. But it is quite another thing to say on the air that the boss is wrong and to keep churning out facts that contradict Murdoch’s dubious position.
We appear to be witnessing self-censorship on the part of Fox News, in order to serve Murdoch’s agenda.
Fox News has to be carefully monitored in the weeks ahead to see if the Murdoch comments have a continued impact on the channel and are used to muzzle the case for gun rights as Obama and his other media allies lay the groundwork for further restrictions on the Second Amendment.
The information source many conservatives go to for accurate and informed coverage appears to be going the way of the liberal media.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.