Posted by Curt on 4 October, 2017 at 4:26 pm. 2 comments already!


Joe Simonson:

Theoretically, it might make sense for a news outlet that bills itself as the nation’s “paper of record” to have a daily or weekly column devoted to fact-checking the claims and assertions made by America’s punditariat. Theoretically.

But “Spurious Chart, Data on N.R.A. Spending Mislead in Gun Debate,” from NYT fact-checker Linda Qiu, reaffirmed every right-wing criticism of this practice.

After the horrific Mandalay Bay massacre on the Las Vegas strip Sunday night, the Left immediately pivoted to the usual gun-control talking points, sparking a number of responses from popular conservative writers and journalists. In her column, Qiu focuses on three of the most debated gun-related claims, starting with a chart created in 2015 by Mark J. Perry of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. The graph depicts a negative correlation between the number of privately owned firearms and the nation’s gun-homicide rate.

Popular conservative commentator Ben Shapiro and the conspiracy-minded InfoWars journalist Paul Joseph Watson both shared the chart this week and noted that an increase in the number of firearms in the United States hadn’t led to an increase in murders. Pretty simple, irrefutable stuff.



Instead of affirming this admittedly counterintuitive fact, Qiu deems the two tweets “misleading.” She writes: “The chart’s data on the spike in the number of firearms and the decline in the homicides by firearms are accurate. But there is no proof that these two trends are connected. Crime, whether or not committed with guns, has generally declined over the past two decades. Experts aren’t entirely sure why but do say the drop was is influenced by a host of economic, racial and demographic factors.” Later, Qiu adds, “the homicide rate has remained steady since [1999], suggesting the correlation between the number of guns and number of gun killings does not hold past the turn of the millennium.”

Such an observation would be relevant if either Watson or Shapiro had asserted that an increase in the number of guns in circulation was responsible for the remarkable drop in homicide. Instead, Qiu employs a classic strawman by attacking an argument neither man made. Ironically, there actually are plethora of data that suggest more guns means lower crime, homicides included. Yet Qiu’s job isn’t to educate, it’s to serve as just another opinion columnist hiding behind the guise of a simple fact-focused researcher.

Moving along, Qiu addresses a popular tweet by Federalist co-founder Sean Davis (although nowhere near as popular as the one he quoted).

Davis is countering the Left’s argument that many Republican lawmakers don’t actually believe their pro–Second Amendment rhetoric. Instead, GOP congressmen talk — and vote — the way they do because of the NRA’s Vulcan financial grip around their necks. It’s an argument many have heard before from various 20-year-old college students who just completed an afternoon of skimming Noam Chomsky–related Wikipedia entries.

“Just follow the money” is the simple refrain of those who resign themselves to a lazy kind of materialism. And in reality, the NRA’s financial contributions are minuscule. As Davis notes, liberal groups such as Planned Parenthood exert more direct financial influence over Congress — although it’s safe to say the candidates they support likely agree with the organization’s extreme pro-choice stance.

Regardless, Qiu once again “fact checks” an argument her target didn’t make: “The N.R.A.’s cumulative spending across three election cycles tops $104 million, more than double than [sic] the $41 million spent by Planned Parenthood during the same time, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the campaign finance watchdog.”

Qiu’s “cumulative spending” combines money actually given to congressional candidates with “outside spending” — money given to independent groups to spend on political ads and other efforts to sway elections. While it’s true that the NRA’s outside spending easily surpasses Planned Parenthood’s, this fact doesn’t refute Davis’s central point that the Left’s obsession with the NRA’s relationship with Congress is divorced from reality.

In her third and final attempt at myth busting, Qiu turns to Hillary Clinton’s grotesque Monday-morning tweets about the proposed bill in Congress that would make it easier for civilians to buy sound suppressors for their firearms.

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