Tuesday, November 01, 2016
Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics by Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters has an important and, I submit, true premise. Namely that, on a host of issues, Americans and US politicians face manipulation by orchestrated, well-funded campaigns of deliberate misinformation. No surprise there, right?
However, readers should be aware that Rabin-Havt and Media Matters are themselves part of the propaganda machine they call Lies, Inc. I'll give just one glaring example.
In the epigraph to the book a "lie" is defined, in part, as "to create a false or misleading impression". This is exactly what the authors do in their hit on firearms researcher John Lott.
On page 116, they write: "When a group of researchers convened by the National Academy of Sciences examined Lott's thesis that the liberalization of concealed-carry laws leads to a decrease in violent crime, fifteen of the sixteen panel members found 'no credible evidence' to support this theory" (emphasis added) In support of their claim, the authors cite a 2015 article in Mother Jones magazine by Julia Lurie.
Here's the problem: Lurie is clearly engaged in an attempt "to create a false or misleading impression". In short, she's a liar. Given that the authors of Lies, Incorporated are aware of the methods of deceptive propagandists and yet take no care to correct Lurie's false narrative and tell the truth, I conclude they, too, are liars, especially since they took the liberty of slanting Lurie's statement even more strongly against Lott's position.
Here's Lurie's version: "The National Research Council, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, assembled a panel to look into the impact of concealed-carry laws; 15 of 16 panel members concluded that the existing research, including Lott's, provided 'no credible evidence' that right-to-carry laws had any effect on violent crime" (emphasis added).
I claim Lurie, Rabon-Havt, and Media Matters are liars because, years ago, I read much of the NRC report in question—Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review—and it was a real eye opener. Here is the full sentence from which Lurie (and Rabon-Havt and Media Matters) lifted the "no credible evidence" phrase: "For example, despite a large body of research, the committee found no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws decreases or increases violent crime, and there is almost no empirical evidence that the more than 80 prevention programs focused on gun-related violence have had any effect on children’s behavior, knowledge, attitudes, or beliefs about firearms."
The sentence in question is from page 2 of the report, in the Executive Summary (Lott's name appears nowhere in the Executive Summary). Here is one glaring and misleading omission by Lurie et al.: "the committee found no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws ... increases violent crime". Lurie et al. do not include this information or draw it to the attention of their readers because it does not serve their gun control agenda.
They also fail to note that the NRC panel takes a decidedly more judicious—though hardly uncritical—approach to Lott and his work. Readers interested in forming their own opinions on the matter are advised to read Chapter 6 and Appendices A and B of the report along with the links below. My point here is not to defend Lott and his work—I leave that to others—but to highlight the hypocrisy of Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters.
- "A response to Mother Jones’ mistake filled article on John Lott and the Crime Prevention Research Center" on the CPRC web site, Aug. 1, 2015
- "Is it a 'Lie' That More People Carrying Guns Can Lead to Less Crime?" on the Reason.com web site, Apr. 26, 2016. This is a response an article by Rabin-Havt in the Nation.