CyberAlert -- 04/26/1999 -- Media Consider Cultural Culpability; NRA's "Cruel Reminder"

Media Consider Cultural Culpability; NRA's "Cruel Reminder"

1) If Cassie Bernall and friends "had been walking through that school carrying Bibles and saying 'Hail the Prince of Peace, King of Kings,'" they would've been chastised, suggested Bill Bennett.

2) Except Face the Nation, the broadcast network Sunday shows gave more time to holding the culture than the gun industry culpable. Bob Schieffer castigated Dan Quayle: "No offense Mr. Quayle, but this ought to be an excuse" to enact new gun control laws.

3) CBS News: A NRA "billboard is a cruel reminder for those still grieving over the events in Littleton that next week the NRA is coming to Denver," even though the mayor asked them "to go away."

4) The media focus on the "gun lobby," but NBC's Tim Russert asked Tipper Gore about the "entertainment lobby" which backs her husband.

5) "No less a public pulse-taker than Rosie O'Donnell is calling for a near-total ban on guns, England-style," Time enthused.

6) "That is irrational," Al Hunt said of how more trust George W. Bush than Al Gore as commander-in-chief. The same NBC poll found Clinton's approval plummeting, but NBC didn't report it.

7) Oops. AP: "President Clinton departed the NATO summit in such haste Saturday that he left behind perhaps the most important piece of luggage in the world -- the 'nuclear football.'"


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Best quote from the Sunday talk shows. Bill Bennett on NBC's Meet the Press:
"If these kids were walking around that school in black trench coats, saying Heil Hitler, why didn't somebody pay attention? I guarantee you if little Cassie Bernall, the little girl who was asked 'do you believe in God' and she said yes and then was blown away, if she and her friends had been walking through that school carrying Bibles and saying 'Hail the Prince of Peace, King of Kings,' they would have been hauled into the principal's office."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Are media opinion leaders moving beyond the standard blaming of too many guns, willing to give credibility to the cultural critique forwarded by social conservatives? Holding the entertainment and computer game industries accountable for their violent lyrics and games received more time on some weekend interview and news shows than calls for more gun control, though there were notable exceptions. And two Washington journalists who can be counted on to relay the usual liberal line actually gave violent lyrics and games equal culpability as guns.

-- More time for examining cultural influences than blaming guns. Meet the Press host Tim Russert interview Tipper Gore about the influence of the entertainment industry, as did ABC's Cokie Roberts on This Week, but neither show devoted a segment to guns. (See item #4 below for a noteworthy question and phrase issued by Russert.) Meet the Press also featured a roundtable looking at the culture with Pat Buchanan, Senator Joe Lieberman, Bill Bennett and James Garbarino, the author of the book Lost Boys. William Bennett also appeared along with Alvin Poussaint on Fox News Sunday. 60 Minutes led Sunday night with an examination of the issues behind the lawsuit against some film and video game companies by parents in Paducah, Kentucky, focusing on the contention by retired Lt. Colonel David Grossman that video games like Doom are "murder simulators."

-- Giving equal weight to cultural influences and bad parents as blaming guns. On Inside Washington, Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas lashed out at the "creepy" Internet but also referred to the "soulless" America:
"The answer is it's all of the above. It's obviously, it's the availability of firepower, it's the creepy Internet where you can learn how to make bombs easily, it's the absent parents, the soulless America. You can go down the checklist."

Over on CNN's Capital Gang, National Review's Kate O'Beirne suggested: "Rather than an excess of firearms there's a shortage of faith and family that has a lot more to do with what happened out in Littleton. Let's face it, our public square is more hostile to religion than it is to Marilyn Manson."
Instead of shooting her down as a religious right fanatic, the Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt agreed she had a point in putting her concerns into his list which did include guns:
"If we passed the kind of gun control laws I'd like to see, there'd still be these tragedies. If we got rid of all those violent movies and CDs, there'd still be these kinds of tragedies and if we had families accept more responsibilities they'd still exist, but if we did all three of those there would be fewer of them and the government can play a very important role here."

-- Liberal ant-gun mantra. Some liberals in the media are unable to move beyond their kneejerk response that more gun control is the answer. On Capital Gang Time magazine's Margaret Carlson asserted:
"The Republicans want to get government off our backs, but into the soul business. They want government into our souls, which I don't think is the answer. Gary Bauer, for instance, in announcing his candidate said that if they'd, if somebody told them -- if they had prayer in school or were told God loved them -- they would be, this wouldn't have happened. This wouldn't have happened without the Tech-9 semi-automatic pistol, it wouldn't have been quite as brutal. I can take care of my daughter's soul. What I can't take care of is whether her friends have guns or not."

O'Beirne then correctly noted that shotguns were available 100 years ago but students didn't use them to kill their classmates.

CBS's Face the Nation devoted its entire show to the Colorado shooting, the only Sunday interview show to do so, and pressed all its guests about guns before host Bob Schieffer ended by taking a shot at Dan Quayle for opposing further gun control.

To Colorado Governor Bill Owens, Schieffer demanded: "Governor, have you changed your mind now about gun control laws? I know you favored the concealed weapons law that was being debated out there, did you not?"

Schieffer and Gloria Borger quizzed Wayne LaPierre of the NRA about whether he favors allowing teachers to "carry heat" and why he isn't for holding adults criminally responsible for their kids before they turned to Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder. He got nicer treatment as Borger kindly set him up: "Do you think tougher gun laws could have prevented this?"

Ending the show, Schieffer made clear that he thinks more gun control is the answer. After recalling some school shooting incidents, Schieffer argued:
"The excuses are always different, but one thing remains constant: People who had no business with guns somehow found them. The gun lobby assures us that stricter gun laws would not have prevented them and maybe they're right. But I know one thing. If the kids who walked into that high school had been armed with baseball bats or even knives, instead of guns, most of the children who died last week would still be alive. The bodies had not yet been removed when presidential candidate Dan Quayle, among others, told Chris Matthews, 'I hope we won't use this as an excuse to go and take away guns.' No offense Mr. Quayle, but this ought to be an excuse, an excuse to get to the bottom of things like this and see that they never happen again."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) The evil NRA provides a "cruel reminder" of the shooting to the Littleton community, CBS News reporter Sandra Hughes claimed Friday night. As noted the April 23 CyberAlert, through Thursday night CBS had avoided the gun control debate unlike NBC which got to it the first night and ABC two nights later, both with a pro-gun control slant. But Friday night, April 23, CBS delivered its own loaded hit on the NRA.

Evening News anchor John Roberts asserted that the Littleton shooting "reignited gun control as a national issue." Over video of a NRA billboard advertising its national convention in Denver, which showed Charlton Heston holding a rifle with "Join Me" superimposed over him and the words "World Class Guns & Gear Expo" next to him, Hughes chastised:
"This National Rifle Association billboard is a cruel reminder for those still grieving over the events in Littleton that next week the NRA is coming to Denver, even though Mayor Wellington Webb asked the NRA to go away."
Webb: "This is a time for mourning and grieving."
Hughes: "It will only scale back its planned three-day conference to a one day meeting. NRA President Charlton Heston refused our request for an interview. A spokesman told CBS News, the NRA quote 'wants the community to bury their children' before it will discuss gun control. The Littleton massacre has galvanized the anti-gun movement across the country. Here in California legislators are trying to put a limit on the number of guns that can be bought at any one time."
Wally Knox, CA Assemblyman: "How is it possible in our society that we have a culture of death that can lead people to these acts?"
Hughes: "The California Assembly last night passed a measure aimed at what's called straw gun purchases in which one buyer legally buys several guns at one time and sells them on the black market for a profit, sometimes doubling the price. Often those buying the guns are juveniles. In Los Angeles police found that up to 30 percent of guns used in crimes came from these kinds of purchases."
Hughes allowed a gun store owner to say the gun laws are not about crime control but people control. She then concluded:
"Even in many conservative states pro-gun legislation is being tabled and in Colorado two bills long supported by the gun lobby were shut down days before becoming law."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Gun lobby, gun lobby, gun lobby is the media mantra. But NBC's Tim Russert noted on Sunday that there's also an "entertainment lobby" which backs Democrats. Interviewing Tipper Gore for the April 25 Meet the Press, Russert queried:
"As you know, the entertainment lobby is very strong in this country. Viacom, which owns MTV, Warner Brothers which distributes Natural Born Killers which glorifies 52 killings in three weeks -- Big political donors to your husband's campaign and to a lot of campaigns. How do you get to those executives and say 'stop this'?"


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) "No less a public pulse-taker than Rosie O'Donnell is calling for a near-total ban on guns," an apparently serious Time Daily declared of O'Donnell's representativeness in an article claiming the winners in this tragedy are gun control advocates.
In a piece posted on the Time Web site over the weekend, Frank Pellegrini maintained:

LITTLETON: The breakdown of families, alienation at school, Goth culture, violent TV, film and video games, and rock music -- they've all been named as accomplices in the Littleton massacre. Some guilty verdicts have been passed out: An upcoming Marilyn Manson concert has been canceled, and MGM has pulled the film "Basketball Diaries" off of video store shelves because one fantasy scene has a trench-coated Leo DiCaprio spraying his school with bullets. But at week's end, there was a clear leader in the scapegoat derby: Guns.

"If there was a winner in this week's mayhem, it's gun control advocates," says TIME Denver bureau chief Richard Woodbury. From Colorado to Washington, long-dead legislation is back on the table, single-issue pol Rep. Carolyn McCarthy is back on TV again, and no less a public pulse-taker than Rosie O'Donnell is calling for a near-total ban on guns, England-style. Will Littleton be our Dunblane? The logic is clear enough: Guns may not kill people, but neither do disaffected teens -- until they get a hold of some guns. Keep guns away from those teens, and they can't shoot anyone. But they can still blow plenty of people up with homemade pipe bombs.

END Time Daily reprint


cyberno6.jpg (1848 bytes) "Irrational" to trust George W. Bush ahead of Al Gore as commander-in-chief? Referring to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, on Saturday's Capital Gang on CNN Al Hunt lamented to Mark Shields:
"We did a survey this week that asked who do you trust as commander-in-chief. 21 percent said they trust Al Gore as commander-in-chief, 43 percent said they trust George W. Bush. That is irrational Mark, but it's real."

Speaking of this NBC News poll, it found Clinton has his lowest approval level, at 58 percent, since the fall of 1997 -- way back before the Lewinsky scandal broke. But while the networks highlighted any poll during the scandal months which showed Clinton with high approval, NBC News has managed to avoid reporting this one. Not a word about it on Thursday or Friday on Nightly News or Today, observed MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens.

The "Washington Wire" column in the April 23 Wall Street Journal relayed three poll findings:

-- Clinton's approval rating is at 58 percent and his disapproval sits at 38 percent.

-- "The 50 percent of Americans who back him on foreign policy is down 10 percentage points from last month."

-- "The public now favors Republicans over Democrats on handling foreign policy; by 34 percent to 19 percent, up from a gap of only five percentage points last month."


cyberno7.jpg (1724 bytes) The current commander-in-chief in action, losing the "nuclear football." That's right, Clinton left his top military aide behind on Saturday as he took off for the White House. So reported a brief AP dispatch played on the front page of Sunday's Washington Times, but not mentioned in any of the network newscasts I saw over the weekend. Here's the AP story, transmitted early Saturday night, in full:

Nuclear Launch Codes Left Behind

WASHINGTON (AP) President Clinton departed the NATO summit in such haste Saturday that he left behind perhaps the most important piece of luggage in the world -- the "nuclear football."

The President's military aide, who constantly shadows Clinton and carries the briefcase containing U.S. nuclear launch codes, was mistakenly left at the International Trade Center when Clinton's motorcade sped off 45 minutes early and without notice.

The aide walked the 41/2 blocks back to the White House without incident. "We're safe," said White House press secretary Joe Lockhart. He said Clinton left so quickly because his last summit meeting of the day broke up early and "rather than wait for everyone to gather, he just took off."

The pool of reporters that always travels with Clinton also was left behind.

END Story Reprint

And Al Hunt finds it "irrational" that the public would better trust as commander-in-chief someone outside of this Keystone Cops team. -- Brent Baker


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