The Morning Jolt


Look What We Can Learn When We Venture Out into Red America!

Ken Stern, who worked at NPR from 1999 to 2008 and served as the institution’s CEO, chose to spend an entire year living in “red America” and getting to know the Americans who saw issues differently from him: evangelical Christians, gun owners, Tea Party activists, NASCAR fans, etcetera. He’s pleasantly surprised by what he found, and he concludes there’s a strong argument to be made that the country’s largest media institutions poorly serve large swathes of the country, out of a combination of bias, ignorance, and cultural barriers:

Over the course of this past year, I have tried to consume media as they do and understand it as a partisan player. It is not so hard to do. Take guns. Gun control and gun rights is one of our most divisive issues, and there are legitimate points on both sides. But media is obsessed with the gun-control side and gives only scant, mostly negative, recognition to the gun-rights sides.

Take, for instance, the issue of legitimate defensive gun use (DGU), which is often dismissed by the media as myth. But DGUs happen all the time — 200 times a day, according to the Department of Justice, or 5,000 times a day, according to an overly exuberant Florida State University study. But whichever study you choose to believe, DGUs happen frequently and give credence to my hunting friends who see their guns as the last line of defense for themselves and their families.

Describing a storeowner who uses a firearm to drive off a would-be armed robber, Stern writes, “It’s not that media is suppressing stories intentionally. It’s that these stories don’t reflect their interests and beliefs.”

Journalism requires judgment. If you pick up a newspaper (pardon my anachronistic examples) and everything that’s on the front page seems boring, irrelevant, and not that important to you, you probably won’t buy it or read it. Journalists and editors need to have good acumen for what’s important in the lives of their audience and a sense of how to balance what you need to read and what you want to read. We all have a sense of how the world works, and those of us who follow politics tend to develop strong, even intense beliefs of how things are and how they ought to be. Revising those beliefs is a slow and difficult process.

The Washington Post’s health-care correspondent dismissed the trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell as a “local crime story.” A Democratic senator is currently on trial in corruption, not far from the media capital of the country, with allegations of private jets ferrying the senator to party with gorgeous supermodels at lush tropical resorts and $100 million stolen from Medicare to pay for the lavish lifestyle and fill campaign coffers . . .  and it’s gotten intermittent coverage at best. A longtime Democratic staffer was arrested by the FBI as he attempted to flee to Pakistan, wiping his phone of all data hours earlier.

Why do reporters in the national news media find these stories . . . not quite as compelling as conservative journalism institutions? A pretty plausible theory is that living and working among so many other like-minded left-of-center people leaves them with an inaccurate perception of how the world actually works. In their minds, abortionists are dedicated medical professionals who risk death threats to provide vital serves to women, not monsters. Democratic senators and their staffers are good people, dedicated, principled, and law-abiding. Cases that contradict these beliefs are inconsequential exceptions, and not worthy of extended public attention.

Orwell described this well: “The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield . . . To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

No doubt, we on the right have these blind spots as well. But we have the advantage of constantly encountering the left-of-center views from dominant institutions, so I think more counter-arguments permeate our “bubble.” I think we’re slightly better at revising our beliefs in the face of contrary data, although I’m sure a lot of progressives will scoff at this. But you’ve seen quite a few prominent conservatives rethink their views on incarceration and various criminal justice issues and whether drug use should be criminalized. Most Republicans are far more wary of military interventions and the promotion of democracy abroad after the Iraq War. There’s far more acceptance of gay marriage than a decade or two ago. No one is perfect, but I think Red America understands Blue America more than Blue America understands Red America.

Hey, Remember Las Vegas? Aren’t We Missing Something?

Speaking of stories that just sort of drop off the national media’s radar screen . . . are we ever going to get a motive for the Las Vegas shooter? It’s been three and a half weeks, and the coverage has largely stopped in outlets outside of Las Vegas. But locals are still demanding answers.

Three weeks after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, investigators continue to ask the same question. Stephen Paddock, 64, left no apparent clues as to his motive, had no ties to political or extremist groups and left no note explaining why he would meticulously plan the worst mass shooting in modern US history.

“Usually within 24, 48 hours after an incident like this, we generally know what the motive is,” said Art Roderick, retired assistant director of the US Marshals Service and a CNN law enforcement analyst. “In my opinion, I think he doesn’t want us to know. He wants us to continue to ask these questions. This is a unique case. This individual is almost in a category by himself.”

The gunman left no note, just calculations scribbled on a notepad measuring the distance from his suite to the people below. The LVMPD says it has discovered no extreme political beliefs or associations to extremist groups.

The Castilla family filed a lawsuit October 17, seeking to force the MGM/Mandalay Bay to make public what they knew about Paddock and what security measures they had or failed to have in place.

“The only thing we hope for is to prevent this from happening again,” said Athena Castilla, saying it would be what her sister would want. “We want to spread the message that (my sister) didn’t deserve what happened that night.”

No doubt the FBI and police are doing their best, but . . . how difficult is it to pull off something like this and leave absolutely no clues to motive?

Why Are We Not Giving This Man Asylum?

Our Jay Nordlinger offers the disturbing tale of Andrés Felipe Arias and how Colombia — a nation that not too long ago appeared to be headed in the right direction — is sliding back into show trials, corruption, human-rights abuses, and outrageous injustice:

Arias was arrested in July 2011. His indictment hearing was a farce and a spectacle. It was held in a theater, rather than the regular, more sober venue. The theater was packed with supporters of the attorney general, Viviane Morales. They cheered as at a soccer game. The hearing was broadcast live on television. And Morales did something very unusual — also cruel and dangerous: She divulged the personal information of the Arias family, including their address and phone number. This despite the fact that they were under the protection of state security, given the threats to Arias from narco-terrorists and the like . . . 

True to its leak, the supreme court convicted Arias — convicted him in absentia. The charges were astounding: embezzlement in favor of third parties (i.e., the scamming farmers) and unlawful contract with the OAS (the kind of contract that had been standard practice). The court admitted that it had no witnesses or documentary evidence — an amazing admission — and that Arias had never profited by as much as a cent. One of the justices voting against Arias had never even heard the case. She became a member of the court after the trial was over.

Five agencies of the Colombian government had looked into the Arias case — five — and determined that there was no wrongdoing.

In recent weeks, Colombia has been treated to a major scandal known as el cartel de la toga, or the gown cartel, or the cartel of the judicial robes: The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has caught Colombian judges taking bribes in exchange for favorable rulings. And these judges — wouldn’t you know? — include some of the very supreme-court justices who convicted Arias.

Perhaps most inexplicably, Colombia does not honor its extradition treaties with the United States, but our government canceled Arias’s asylum hearing without warning, never explained why, and is honoring Colombia’s request to send him back.

ADDENDA: Over on the home page, I pick apart a glowing profile of Kirsten Gillibrand in Vogue magazine, one that is clearly meant to elevate her to the top tier of Democrats contemplating a 2020 presidential bid, but that leaves the impression that she’s some sort of wildly popular economically pragmatic iconoclast. She just isn’t, and I lay out the parts of her record that the gushing article preferred to ignore.


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