Katie Couric's unethical editing in her recently released documentary, "Under the Gun," a heavily biased propaganda film promoting gun control, has attracted some harsh criticism, but the deceit involved is nothing new to rights activists. We've seen media distort, misrepresent and outright lie about guns, gun laws and gun owners for decades. The deception in the Couric film is just the latest in a long string of lies.
For those who might not have heard about the Couric flap, it boils down to the director splicing in an awkward silence after Couric asks a group of rights advocates in Virginia how they propose we prevent felons and terrorists from buying guns without background checks. In the film, Couric asks the question and we then see video of participants sitting around looking uncomfortable, looking at the floor and scuffing their toes, with no response. This lasted for eight full seconds before a dramatic cut to a close-up of a loaded revolver cylinder being closed as the film shifts to a new topic. The impression is that the group has been stumped by the question and simply doesn't have an answer. In reality, members of the group responded almost immediately with a variety of comments. The awkward silence shown in the film was apparently shot while participants were waiting for the interview to start.
After criticism of the unethical editing started popping up on the Fox News Channel and in print media (the other major television networks have ignored the story), the director, Stephanie Soechtig, issued a statement saying that it wasn't her intention to make the rights activists look foolish or unresponsive, but rather a way of giving the audience a moment to think about the significance of the question. Couric, who was the executive producer of the film and has repeatedly insisted that her objective was to give a balanced look at the gun issue from all sides, first backed up Soechtig, but later took "responsibility" for the "misleading" edit, saying she should have been more vigorous in her objections to the segment.
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Couric's former co-host on the "Today" show, Bryant Gumbel, was also accused of creative editing this week. Jim Sullivan, one of the designers of the AR-15/M16 rifle says his comments in an interview on Gumbel's HBO show, "Real Sports," were edited to make it appear that he opposes the sale of the AR-15 to civilians.
While some have called for Couric to resign her position as "the face" of the Yahoo.com news division, and now Gumbel is catching flak, the reality is that nothing is likely to come of the editing flaps. Even though many of their media colleagues don't really like Couric and Gumbel much, they almost unanimously support gun control, and they are more than willing to let lies and deceit be promulgated for what they see as a good cause.
We know this because we've seen it over and over again. For decades we saw video of "reporters" at shooting ranges breathlessly talking about the "killing power" of "assault weapons," followed by a demonstration of someone firing a machine gun. So-called "assault weapons," commonly available in the U.S., are not machine guns, and machine guns were not affected by the Clinton Assault Weapon Ban. Showing machine-gun fire was a lie. There were also cases of reporters showing an AK-type rifle being shot at a watermelon, then showing the melon exploding more dynamically than normal. They clearly substituted video of a melon taking a hit from a shotgun or high-power hunting rifle to exaggerate the perception of the power of "assault weapons." These distortions were commonplace for years, and only tapered off after gun owners were able to start exposing them publicly through the power of the Internet. We still see these sorts of things occasionally, but not as much as we did a few years ago.
What we do still see is selective presentation. Couric is not the first to claim to be open-minded and fair – seeking the truth of the issue without the hype and distortion, only to present a heavily distorted, one-sided piece of anti-rights propaganda. Just look at the "Partners" list and call to action on her film's site. Like Couric, these people often do sit down and talk with rights advocates and gun safety experts, but the majority of that footage never makes it onto the screen. Couric and company recorded hours of interviews with rights advocates and experts like professor John Lott, but in the end, only a scant few minutes of some of these interviews were included in the film. Nothing from the two hours with professor Lott was included.
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A 2011 HBO "documentary" called "Gun Fight" did the same thing, shooting hours of interviews with me at the Gun Rights Policy Conference in San Francisco and a trip to the range with my friend Nicki Stallard. In the final cut, they used a clip from a speech I gave at the conference, editing it to appear that I was advocating arming 5-year-olds, and some brief clips from the range trip. My in-depth discussion of the meaning and importance of the Second Amendment was cut, and Nicki, who is a transsexual, was never shown. Apparently, a clean-cut, well-spoken, non-crazy advocate of the Second Amendment did not fit their agenda, and a transsexual gun-rights advocate was just too far out of the narrative to even consider. To this day, a photo of my hands shooting Nicki's .45 appears on the film's synopsis page at HBO, though.
Big Media's bias against guns is practically a tradition, going back at least to the New York Times' support for the Sullivan law over a century ago. The current crop of supposedly "documentary" films reveal the same bias and a willful determination to support an established narrative. Drama, storytelling and "the narrative" all take precedence over truth.
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