Selling “Cowboy America” on the BBC
Telling lies on TV keep viewers watching, but those lies do a crappy job at informing the general public. That is true for both the US mainstream media, and true for the British Broadcasting Company. Like any TV commentator these days, BBC host Aaron Heslehurst needs to sell shock-and-awe or his listeners will change the channel. Commentators do whatever they have to do when their job is on the line. To be generous, they “tell stories” or “spin a narrative”. In short, they lie.
Heslehurst said there were more than one mass public shooting a day in the United States. It is important to understand why he lied. Heslehurst has to sell the BBC audience that crime in the United States, and crime with a firearm in particular, is out of control. The European audience wants to think the real US is like the old spaghetti westerns they saw in old black and white movies. That narrative also confirms the European bias that citizens are protected from violence by their big government. It distracts them from the rising crime in England and the rise of Islamic terrorism in France.
You can say anything once you stretch the facts.
Let’s look at the lies one by one. Under order of President Obama, the FBI redefined a mass public shooting in 2012. The definition used to be four victims killed with a gun in a public place. The Obama administration changed the number to two people. Some archives also dropped the requirement for the homicide to be in a public place. Some counted the murderer as one of the victims. Those changes wildly distorted the statistics. They reclassified and confuses every domestic murder-suicide done in private with a mass public shooting done in a school or at a mall. The new definition produced an expected jump in “public shootings”. Some of the unofficial data now counts those reported injured by a firearm as recorded in online news source. Rather than only counting the victims who were killed according to police reports, they let Google add up the reported number of injured. That is probably the data Heslehurst used to inflate his news report.
Those are huge differences in the definition of mass public violence. What used to be described as a gangland drive-by is now a “mass public shooting”.
BBC host Heslehurst doesn’t tell you that most of his “mass public shootings” were not murders at all.
In fact, both the rates of violent crime in the United States and homicide committed with a gun have fallen to half their historic peak. The rates have fallen steadily over the last thirty years. The crime rates fell at the same time that gun ownership and concealed carry have soared. Gun sales doubled in the last six years.. while crime rates fell. Heslehurst wouldn’t tell his audience that bit of news.. for obvious reasons. That news doesn’t fit his sensationalized story.
Looking back, the yearly average was just over four instances of mass murder in a public place. By the old definition of four victims, the rate of mass murders has ticked up a few percentage points in the last few years. Many of those events are from muslim terrorists. Best not mention that fact on the news either.
Heslehurst also said more Americans shot each other than died in recent American wars. He is right. The first gulf war claimed less than 200 American military lives. For comparison, twice that number were shot and killed by drug thugs in Chicago this year alone. Obama’s Iraq war claimed less than 4 thousand. As odd as it sounds, being a US soldier has become safer. We no longer storm beaches in the face of machine-gun fire and sacrifice men to take a mountain. That is a good thing. Don’t fix it.
We know why Heslehurst “forgot” to mention those inconvenient facts and instead spun his story. He has to keep viewers watching. He tells his viewers what they want to believe in the simplest possible terms. “Guns” “NRA” and “America” are familiar icons.. as if Heslehurst is describing the news from a child’s picture book. BBC viewers would have changed back to the soccer game if Heslehurst had told the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In truth, the United States is boring. He can’t tell a boring story. He has to say, “Americans shoot each other, and the National Rifle Association is bad.”
He’ll say whatever it takes. Sadly, so do many of the commercial news media in the US. That means we have to listen harder and read deeper to get the truth.
Hell, if journalists always told the truth then we wouldn’t have blogs like Slow Facts.