October 5, 2017: Las Vegas Falsehoods | Bump Stock Defense | Cuba is Still Our Enemy
Good Thursday. Before we get into the news, we have some scheduling changes to discuss. We launched this newsletter in February. For us, it has been a labor of love, and we have been gratified to have earned so many devoted readers. However, as much as we are committed to covering the conservative media, we cannot continue at this pace unless we find some way to raise money. So, we have decided to move to once a week until we can come up with a sustainable financial model. Of course, we will be supplementing the newsletter with email updates and posts to social media as events demand. We throw this out to our loyal community because perhaps some of you have fundraising suggestions or ideas for institutions that would like to work with us. We hope to hear from you at email@example.com. Otherwise, we will be back again next Thursday.
1. “Very Very Strange…”: Las Vegas Part 1
By now, the response to mass shootings feel rote. We knew the Mainstream Media anger about the lack of gun control would boil over, just as we foresaw that the conservative media would explain why gun control would not solve anything.
In this round, however, led by false news reports from the conservative troublemakers at the 4chan website that the shooter, Stephen Paddock, was a Democrat, the conservative media has been casting doubt on many of the facts surrounding the shooting.
The alt-Right folks at The Gateway Pundit pushed reports that implied that Paddock did not act alone. One story, for example, conjectured that room service receipts for food indicate that Paddock had an accomplice. (Police have admitted to looking for a “mystery” female companion, but were pointed in saying she may have had no relationship to the shooting.) Meanwhile, Fox News gave airtime to a former C.I.A.- trained operative, Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, who claimed with no evidence that Paddock was politically motivated to shoot pro-gun Trump voters.
On Twitter, Red Nation Rising @RedNationRising, with 123k followers, added to the air of suspicion.:
I'm scratching my head wondering:
How did a 64-year-old with no military experience kill 59 and injure +500 like a combat pro?
And Tomi Lahren @TomiLahren, with 842k, followers threw in:
Media focusing on guns. There's something bigger here. I think there's something more about Paddock and his gf that hasn't been revealed.
But what was really weird is that the general tone of skepticism about the facts spread to David French of National Review, who wrote a piece Monday headlined “Based on the Early Reports, the Las Vegas shooting is Very Very Strange.” He said that the massacre was not the typical mass shooting in that Paddock was not your typical disenfranchised shooter -- he was not even a “gun guy.”:
As virtually everyone has noted from the abundant video footage of the incident, it certainly sounds as if the shooter used either fully-automatic weapons or semi-automatic weapons modified (through, for example, a bump fire stock) to closely simulate automatic fire. Moreover, the police are reporting that he had “more than 10 rifles.” He apparently rented his corner room for days and may have even set up cameras to detect when police were approaching. That’s all strange enough, but it’s even more unusual when you consider that his own family apparently didn’t know that he maintained a stockpile of guns. …
Put all this together, and the shooting is flat-out bizarre. It’s significantly different from virtually any other mass shooting in U.S. history. If the weapons were fully automatic, then he likely would have spent immense sums of money to obtain them legally, jumping through extensive legal hoops
2. And It Is Not a Gun Control Issue Anyway…: Las Vegas Part 2
Traditional conservatives feel immensely frustrated by how liberals dismiss their arguments to limit gun control as empty but don’t really engage with their points. We turn again to French because this article, excoriating the post-shooting monologue of the late night host Jimmy Kimmel, is a prime example of the complaint.:
It’s just completely false to contrast our response to 9/11 with a comment like “there’s nothing we can do” about gun crime (or mass shootings) in the United States. We have a host of laws and regulations governing gun ownership and gun use, and we spend billions of dollars on local, state, and federal law enforcement to enforce the law and punish violations. ...
It’s disappointing to see Kimmel repeat a popular left-wing internet meme — that the Founders couldn’t have wanted Americans to possess AK-47s. Yet it’s historically indisputable that the Founders protected the right of Americans to possess weapons that gave individual citizens far greater military parity with the government than American citizens possess now.
The musket was the principal weapon of armed conflict in the 18th century. An American leaving his home with a musket was on par with a member of the Continental Line. Not so with an American who possesses any number of AR-15s or AK-47s. The contemporary gap between civilians and the military is vast and growing. Moreover, it’s a tad ironic to see a man exercise his First Amendment rights through modern technologies like television or YouTube or social media (something the Founders couldn’t possibly imagine) and decry the exercise of Second Amendment rights through the ownership of modern firearms.
Also Worth Noting:
Like so many divides in American culture, this one was made worse by the fault lines of on race and class privilege. Many articles pointed out that white men with guns have been as dangerous as any class of minority. Needless to say, the conservative press did not appreciate this analysis. Steven Crowder, who has a conservative podcast and website Louder With Crowder, had this to say:
Not helping is Vox’s latest take straight from their porcelain throne: blaming a specific gender and race, rather than ideology, for acts of terrorism. Behold a headline and byline so problematic, I used my control + B option. This sh!t is getting serious.
What We’re Watching:
So did one of the worst mass shootings in American history persuade anyone to switch sides on the gun control debate besides the country musician Caleb Keeter, who performed at the concert where Paddock unleashed his fury.
Jazz Shaw of HotAir grudgingly conceded we need laws against “bump stocks,” devices that upgrade a semi-automatic weapon into a full automatic one. No so with Breitbart, which went into defensive mode.
3. Cuba is Still Our Enemy
The conservative press is revisiting Barack Obama’s move to improve relations with Cuba, reacting to the revelation that American diplomats in the island nation were being harmed by sonic pulses. The U.S. has expelled 15 Cuban diplomats as a protest. The Washington Examiner reminded its readers that Cuba outsources terrorism -- even today.:
Cuba's Castro regime did more than reorient the country's entire economic, social, and political systems. It birthed an activist foreign policy that saw the little nation play a large role in the world—the effects of which we are still living with today.
The Castro government uses its spy service to project power far from Cuban shores. Like its Soviet forebears, under whose auspices it was created in 1961, Castro's intelligence services bolstered terrorist groups.
The Daily Signal focused on the Cuban government’s ongoing and dangerous harassment of American diplomats.:
Even though the State Department has not accused the Cuban government of the attacks, it is the Cuban government that is responsible for the security of our diplomats.
The Cubans claim to be innocent, yet have stubbornly refused to either cooperate with the U.S. government or guarantee American diplomats’ safety. Both terms are direct violations of Cuba’s obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
While the Cubans may not have directed the attacks, their claims to innocence fall on deaf ears. It is unlikely that Cuba’s totalitarian regime would be unaware of a foreign actor or subversive element in the Cuban government carrying out a long-term attack on high-priority countries such as the U.S. and Canada.
U.S. government officials and their families posted in Havana and abroad are routinely victims of the Cuban government’s harassment. Surveillance of all forms is commonplace, as well as various forms of physical and physiological abuse, including threatening attempts to run their cars off the road, poisoning of pets, and in one case, replacing mouthwash with urine.
4. Hurricane Politics: Will Florida Go Blue?
Trump went to Puerto Rico on a sympathy mission this week, but it didn’t seem to win him any love there. Already, the conservative media is worried about damaging political fallout from the White House response to Hurricane Maria, as described in this Breitbart article suggesting it might cost him the Florida vote because of the large numbers of Puerto Ricans who will relocate to the state.:
Since Florida is a hotly contested swing state that has changed the course of presidential elections, it’s no exaggeration to say that Maria may end up changing the American political landscape permanently.
Politico quotes San Juan Municipal Assembly President Marco Rigau bluntly predicting that the post-Maria exodus of up to one million Puerto Ricans will mean “a lot more people voting Democrat in Florida.”
An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll out this week indicates that the conservative press may be right to worry. According to the poll, just 32 percent approve of how Trump is handling disaster relief in the U.S. territory, while 49 percent disapprove.
What We’re Watching:
Meanwhile, Fox News’s John Stossel questioned the whole premise of having the Federal government pay for rebuilding. We wonder if this is a trend. He wrote:
Clearly only the federal government can send in the military and other first responders. After Hurricane Harvey, FEMA housed 42,000 people in 692 shelters. After Hurricane Irma, 13,000 National Guard soldiers from 22 states helped rescue and evacuate people. That’s the kind of emergency response we expect from the federal government. But rebuilding -- after the storms?
Washington has no money of its own. Anything it spends comes from states. But states and local governments know better than Washington how relief money might best be used.
(Puerto Rico may be an exception, since its government is, as one entrepreneur put it, “inept and riddled with corruption.”)
This idea that the federal government must lead in rebuilding is only a recent phenomenon, says the Cato institute’s Chris Edwards.
5. Liberals and Their Free Speech Problem
The theme of Freedom of Speech comes up often here. Conservatives have successfully inflamed their base and created a wedge among progressives by drawing attention to liberals’ intolerance for speech that they find distasteful. Two articles out this week are very relevant to the topic. First, the Harvard historian Jill Lepore, writing in The New Yorker, traces the fascinating history of the free speech fights on campus and notices that the politics have flipped. She writes:
In the half century between the elections of Governor Reagan and President Trump, the left and the right would appear to have switched sides, the left fighting against free speech and the right fighting for it. This formulation isn’t entirely wrong. An unwillingness to engage with conservative thought, an aversion to debate, and a weakened commitment to free speech are among the failures of the left. Campus protesters have tried to silence not only alt-right gadflies but also serious if controversial scholars and policymakers.
And, as if right on queue, Reason, a libertarian monthly magazine, published a disturbing story about how students affiliated with Black Lives Matter prevented a speaker from the ACLU from speaking at a recent event at William and Mary. The headline says it all: “Black Lives Matter Students Shut Down the ACLU's Campus Free Speech Event Because 'Liberalism Is White Supremacy.”