MediaWatch: May 18, 1998

Vol. Twelve No. 7

NewsBites: Handgun Haters

Handgun Haters. Small bands of gun control activists held a "Silent March" on May 2, laying empty shoes at the doors of gun companies, and attracted stories on all the networks. But five months ago, the annual March for Life in Washington drew "tens of thousands" (according to Associated Press), but the networks ignored it. On TV, the pro-life protest was the real Silent March.

Brian Williams began the May 2 NBC Nightly News: "Tonight in a number of American cities and towns, there is exhaustion after a day spent making a point about what many consider one of America's biggest domestic threats: Handguns."

Reporter Stan Bernard continued: "Just this week the protesters' claim that guns are too available to young people was supported by a week-long shooting spree in Hanes City, Florida. Three teenagers have been charged with killing two and wounding seven. And the recent school shootings in Jonesboro, Arkansas and Edinboro, Pennsylvania all provide a background of pain to today's protests."

On that night's CBS Evening News, Elizabeth Kaledin began: "These are shoes no one would want to fill. More than 5000 pairs of them belonging to children killed by gunfire in one year. They are on display in Springfield, Massachusetts today as part of a new campaign to hold gun makers accountable, not only for the cost in lives gun violence brings, but the cost in dollars as well. "Kaledin aired three gun-control soundbites and recounted the expensive recovery of one victim. Like Bernard, Kaledin aired one soundbite from a "gun industry lobbyist," but concluded: "These protesters say unless these gunmakers take more responsibility for their product we will all keep on paying in more ways than one."

Radical Cheek? Despite the Cold War's recent end, reporters greeted a glossy new version of The Communist Manifesto not as the frightening re-emergence of a murderous ideology, but as a cheeky bit of radical chic.

ABC's Anderson Cooper began his May 2 World News Tonight report: "It's not easy being a communist in America today. "Cooper seemed surprised that "At New York University this weekend some very earnest academics have gathered to praise Marx, not to bury him. "Cooper said cheekily: "At Revolution Books, New York 's only Marxist-Leninist-Maoist bookstore, they're, well, tickled pink by all the attention."

On April 20, Washington Post reporter Paula Span relayed the marketing vision of Verso's Colin Robinson, with Madison Avenue mannequins lifting the Manifesto in store windows. Span suggested: "Why couldn't Marx, who did have a way with the next out-of-fashion political philosopher to stage a comeback?" Why not Hitler with Mein Kampf?

Reporters even find "first-edition" communists adorable. New York Times reporter Sara Rimer profiled a Los Angeles old age home for "former communists, still-staunch socialists, liberals, intellectuals and other freethinkers." After noting that Sunset Home's library was graced with a bust of Lenin, Rimer gushed: "Their sympathies remain with workers everywhere." Rimer didn't ask whether their "sympathy" extended to the Cossacks butchered on Lenin's orders in 1919.

What Is Bipartisan? CNN often identifies the McCain-Feingold bill as "bipartisan" campaign reform. But when there is bipartisan support for a conservative idea, like partial privatization of Social Security, CNN called it "contentious."

When the House killed a version of McCain-Feingold, CNN's Brooks Jackson reported on the March 30 The World Today: "Speaker Newt Gingrich attending a Congressman's funeral in New Mexico today also wants to bury a bipartisan bill that would ban soft money contributions to political parties."

On the April 28 The World Today, Wolf Blitzer opined: "One contentious option involves privatizing some parts of Social Security." Blitzer ignored proof of bipartisanship: support from Democratic Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Bob Kerrey and an August 1997 Democratic Leadership Council poll which showed 73 percent of Democrats support some form of privatization.