Selective sound-biting has become the norm in politics.
It can be editing at its most deceitful: pulling short snippets from a longer paragraph can make it appear someone said exactly the opposite of what they actually articulated. And it's easily done with politicians, who tend to bloviate and speak often with mildly forked tongue so as to try to avoid offending anyone.
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, for example, was widely quoted as pronouncing--only a few days after the Texas church shooting incident in which an armed parishioner killed a would-be mass shooter--that "you just do not want the average citizen carrying a gun in a crowded place."
The quote was technically accurate, but it came after first Bloomberg first outlined what happened and then prefaced that remark with a statement that it's the job of the police to "have guns and to decide when to shoot."
The point is, reading the entire paragraph gives more context than only hearing the final sentence.
Which is precisely why Americans need to develop a skepticism over sound bites. Indeed, if average people would think more about how it feels when someone isolates something they have said and twists it out of context, it'd be less easy to fall victim to shyster spin-doctoring.
But the worst thing about Bloom-berg's remarks on the subject wasn't the selective sound-bite edit. That's SOP for political opponents, and it's easily called out and corrected.
What's worse is what Bloomberg said a couple of days later when his campaign released on social media a one-minute excerpt of a speech he made with regard to gun ownership.
"Nobody wants to take away anybody's gun," he said, presumably to separate himself from the Beto wing and its "Hell yes" attitude about seizing people's firearms. "It's protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."
An obligatory nod to the 2A crowd.
But then he goes on to say this: "The courts have ruled that you can have reasonable restrictions like background checks. Nobody, including NRA members when you poll, thinks that we should be selling guns to minors, to people with psychiatric problems, or people with criminal records.
"Something's got to be done."
The italics are mine, for emphasis.
It's understood and expected that ultra-level billionaires are out of touch with average folks, and Bloomberg is near the top of the upper strata of that segment. We all can overlook gaffes that betray how little the super-rich really understand about middle class life and strife.
But when Bloomberg says "Something's got to be done" right after listing three categories of citizens that nobody thinks should be able to buy guns, a reasonable listener would infer that nothing has been done yet. In fact, a reasonable listener might also conclude that part of the "something" that ought to be done would be to pass gun laws that prohibit the sale of firearms to "minors, to people with psychiatric problems, or people with criminal records."
It's not possible that Bloomberg doesn't know or understand that federal gun control measures have already been enacted to address the very issues he itemized. He isn't ignorant that way. Maybe he's hoping that voters are.
And to a mogul of his magnitude (news reports name him as the 10th richest person in the world), a victorious end may always be justified by dishonest means.
But facts apply equally to rich or poor. Federal laws have already been passed that make the sale of guns to (1) minors, (2) felons and (3) mentally defective people a crime. Regarding minors, the law is already stricter than what Bloomberg called for: Handgun buyers must be 21 years old.
All of which means that in his little speech Bloomberg cannot possibly believe his own words when he says, "something's got to be done."
Legally and legislatively, something has already been done about everything he mentioned.
This pandering, dupe-the-voters dynamic is insulting, and already playing out in Virginia, where Bloomberg helped finance a blue wave in the statehouse last November. Democratic legislators wasted no time proposing new gun restrictions, some of which will be challenged on constitutional grounds if passed.
One measure, which would outlaw not only the sale but also the mere possession of AR-15 type rifles, includes no "grandfather" provision for current owners. That omission, along with a Virginia congressman's suggestion that the governor call out the National Guard to enforce the law, has sparked concern over confiscation.
Despite gubernatorial claims there will be no confiscation, numerous "Second Amendment Sanctuary" resolutions have sprung up across the Old Dominion, as people push back against government heavy-handedness over personal liberty.
Guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens are not a threat. When criminals break existing gun laws more frequently, the government response should be greater prosecution and punishment for those crimes--not more gun laws to oppress non-criminal citizens.
A better Virginia experiment would be to focus on illegal gun possession by criminals. Pass some truly draconian punitive sentencing options, give judges the power to implement them, and see just how fast petty thugs might change their heat-packing habits.
Dana D. Kelley is a freelance writer from Jonesboro.
Editorial on 01/10/2020
Print Headline: DANA D. KELLEY: Pandering is insulting