Last Updated:November 25 @ 11:06 am

Sowell: News Versus Propaganda

By Thomas Sowell

Since so many in the media cannot resist turning every tragedy into a political talking point, it was perhaps inevitable that (1) someone would try to link the shooting rampage at the Batman movie in Colorado to the Tea Party, and that (2) some would try to make it a reason to impose more gun control laws.

Too many people in the media cannot seem to tell the difference between reporting the news and creating propaganda.

NBC News apparently could not resist doctoring the transcript of the conversation between George Zimmerman and the police after the Trayvon Martin shooting. Now ABC News took the fact that the man arrested for the shooting in Colorado was named James Holmes to broadcast to the world the fact that there is a James Holmes who is a member of the Tea Party in Colorado.

The fact has since come out that these are two different men, one in his 20s and the other in his 50s. But corrections never catch up with irresponsible news broadcasts. The James Holmes who belongs to the Tea Party has been deluged with phone calls. I hope he sues ABC News for every dime they have.

This is not the first time that the mainstream media have tried to create a link between conservatives and violence. Years ago, the Oklahoma City bombing was blamed on Rush Limbaugh, despite the absence of any evidence that the bomber was inspired by Rush Limbaugh.

Similar things have happened repeatedly, going all the way back to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which was blamed on a hostile right-wing atmosphere in Dallas, even though the assassin had a long history of being on the far left fringe.

But, where the shoe is on the other foot -- as when the Unabomber had a much marked-up copy of an environmentalist book by Al Gore -- the media heard no evil, saw no evil and spoke no evil. If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.

As for gun control advocates, I have no hope whatever that any facts whatever will make the slightest dent in their thinking -- or lack of thinking. New York's Mayor Bloomberg and CNN's Piers Morgan were on the air within hours of the shooting, pushing the case for gun control laws.

You might never know, from what they and other gun control advocates have said, that there is a mountain of evidence that gun control laws not only fail to control guns but are often counterproductive. However, for those other people who still think facts matter, it is worth presenting some of those facts.

Do countries with strong gun control laws have lower murder rates? Only if you cherry-pick the data.

Britain is a country with stronger gun control laws than the United States, and lower murder rates. But Mexico, Russia and Brazil are also countries with stronger gun control laws than the United States -- and their murder rates are much higher than ours. Israel and Switzerland have even higher rates of gun ownership than the United States, and much lower murder rates than ours.

Even the British example does not stand up very well under scrutiny. The murder rate in New York has been several times that in London for more than two centuries -- and, for most of that time, neither place had strong gun control laws. New York had strong gun control laws years before London did, but New York still had several times the murder rate of London.

It was in the later decades of the 20th century that the British government clamped down with severe gun control laws, disarming virtually the entire law-abiding citizenry. Gun crimes, including murder, rose as the public was disarmed.

Meanwhile, murder rates in the United States declined during the same years when murder rates in Britain were rising, which were also years when Americans were buying millions more guns per year.

The real problem, both in discussions of mass shootings and in discussions of gun control, is that too many people are too committed to a vision to allow mere facts to interfere with their beliefs, and the sense of superiority that those beliefs give them.

Any discussion of facts is futile when directed at such people. All anyone can do is warn others about the propaganda.


Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is


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  1. inluminatuoComment by inluminatuo
    July 24, 2012 @ 8:11 am

    “Never let a crisis go to waste” has become the new campaign slogan and plan of attack by this truth manipulating President whose “Back to the wall” political exigencies will stoop to no level too low to sustain his failed administration in power. When caught with pants down in the “Fast and Furious” gun running scandal, created by this administration to embarrass second amendment believers, what better opportunity to justify taking our guns away than to embrace a fellow insane person James Holmes, as your poster child to further promulgate and promote your insane liberal agenda. This is right out of the Alinsky play book on socialist mind manipulation of the masses to grab for that ever allusive power that the facts of truth inconveniently deny them the acquisition thereof. When guns are taken away from “THE PEOPLE” then it is only the law breakers and criminals who dishonestly possess them. When it is the criminals who run government we get what Jefferson warned us of which has now come to pass.

    “The two enemies of the people are criminals and government. So let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so that the second will not become the legal version of the first”

    No wonder it is our Constitution and the enforcement of it that the Liberal Socialist criminals fear at every turn. Their obstinate refusal to enforce our Constitution defines them, their minds, their intentions and their ideology as basically criminal. When amoral secular Liberals are put into positions of power, the second actually becomes the legal version of the first as Jefferson foretold.

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    • noveldogComment by noveldog
      July 24, 2012 @ 9:02 am

      That is a very astute comment and was very well written.

      I agree we have certain enemies such as criminals and the government, however one of the worst is the Liberal News Media which practices censorship. They are our enemies propaganda tool. They tailor their news to fit their political agenda and thereby brainwash all whom they can.

      They(the corrupt ones of the news media)uphold the would be slave makers of the world while opposing everything that is decent. They do not fear, or respect God, the Constitution, or the people, and their inalienable rights to pursue peace, prosperity, and happiness.

      Simply put they want to make immorally depraved slaves out of each of us.

      We must break free of their influence by seeking multiple sources of information and sifting through them to obtain the truth. Then awe must vote them out of office and imprison the ones who are the most violent and dangerous to our freedom.

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    • nickster99Comment by nickster99
      July 24, 2012 @ 9:55 am

      Excellent comment to Mr. Sowell’s article! I will never give up my guns no matter what happens. Never!

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    • jaycee1234Comment by jaycee1234
      July 24, 2012 @ 10:10 am

      Another great comment as usual Illuminato. The left is great for tactics like this. About ten years ago there was a kid’s TV show called Teletubbies. One of the characters was called Tinky Winky and carried a bag that looked like a purse around with him. Gay liberal writer Michael Musto who wrote for the leftist NY rag The Village Voice said Tinky Winky was gay. Evangelist Pat Robertson picked up on that and broadcast it on his TV show and all hell broke out towards him from other gays calling him homophobic and other slurs when it was one of their own who started it and he was just reacting to it and opining on his own. They are doing the same with Rush. These are typical Saul Alinsky tactics who Obama was a desciple of, “Find a target, isolate it, attack it and destroy it.”

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  2. pistol packing mamaComment by txgoatlady
    July 24, 2012 @ 9:02 am

    For some reason all the rabid gun-control people have failed to notice that the guy also had explosive devices. If he had been unable to obtain guns, he probably would have used more of those in public places and caused even greater casualities with a better chance of remaining anonymous.

    If Cinemark hadn’t banned guns (notice how well that sign worked at deterring the shooter), a CCL holder might have been able to cut this tragedy short.

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  3. clarkentComment by clarkent
    July 24, 2012 @ 9:14 am

    The ones who are so against guns won’t be happy until everyone in America is disarmed. Read the Constitution, it says we have the right to bear arms, so all you anti-gun people get over it.

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  4. bna42Comment by bna42
    July 24, 2012 @ 9:41 am

    “Read the Constitution, it says we have the right to bear arms, so all you anti-gun people get over it.”

    The Constitution also says that right should “not be infringed”, but we have watched infringements be placed on our right at city, state, and federal levels. The fact that an individual is required to undergo a background check and purchase a license in order to carry a personal weapon is a definite infringement. How many criminals are walking the streets with illegally-purchased weapons concealed on their persons while law-abiding people are at their mercy because the criminals don’t concern themselves with “gun-free” zones? Places such as schools, government facilities, and many movie theaters are “gun-free zones”, but take a look at how many massacres occur in these places.

    This is the thing that astounds me about the gun control wackos. We have more than 20,000 gun laws on the books, but those laws only inhibit the law-abiding citizens because the thugs don’t obey the laws. How can the federal government enforce these laws on citizens when our own government agencies such as ATF, DOJ, and other willingly violate these laws in gun-running operations?

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    • commonsenseneededComment by commonsenseneeded
      July 24, 2012 @ 10:16 am

      You are absolutely correct in saying gun laws don’t hinder criminals form obtaining, carrying, or using them. The problem with all laws is that only law abiding citizens heed them, while the criminals laugh, and do as they please. This is a problem our legislature can’t seem to grasp. Aside from that fact, there are too many laws that remain on the books, even tho’ they are outdated, or replaced by others,and the old outdated laws remain on the books, just to confuse the issues. All laws need to be written in plain, common English, not legal jargon that only lawyers understand. One might consider that there are some cases where less is more; and perhaps that is true of laws. Maybe we need to eliminate many of the laws, and replace them with good, old fashioned common sense!

      As for any more gun laws; there is no doing away with weapons, because if you can’t buy them, people will make them. Criminals manage to obtain them while confined in prison, so what makes the authorities think laws can keep guns or any other weapon off the streets of our country? As in most other things, liberal thinking resides somewhere in lala land, not the real world.

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    • inluminatuoComment by inluminatuo
      July 24, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

      Blaming crimes on guns is like blaming forks for people being fat. While the dis-armed sheep are dialing 911 as the knife comes across their throat, I’ll have already placed 3 rounds into the brains of my attacker.

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  5. gopjonesComment by gopjones
    July 24, 2012 @ 10:10 am

    Mr. Sowell,
    As always, true. Your writing is accurate and smart. Nothing like the other (99%) of the media. The rub. you are preaching to the quire. How can we make any headway when your readership is getting older and deminishing in numbers. While the newley educated(?) are a growing number. It is a supreme downer to project the math. Seems to me we are at the point where the chioce has to be made. A concerted effort to rehabilitate the schools. Or concede the eventual destruction of the United States, as established.

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    • commonsenseneededComment by commonsenseneeded
      July 24, 2012 @ 10:26 am

      The young people have been brainwashed by liberal education systems, to think that the government has the right to invade every bit of one’s personal life with its’ laws and regulations.Today, or school systems are focused on the Socialized liberal agenda, that diverts money from courses for our own children, to courses in languages other than English to serve refugees from dozens of other countries, mostly Latinos. How can we expect our children to grow into responsible, law abiding adults, when our own government endorses and condones “illegal” immigration, with the emphasis on ILLEGAL? Isn’t it a government duty to keep our borders secure and to know who is entering and for what reasons? It fails to perform it’s duties in that task, yet tries to promote things that are the result of it’s own failures.

      Now government is even trying to restrict the size of soda you can buy, because people are fat. I don’t drink soda, or any other sweetened drink, but I know if they restrict the portion size, people who want more will just by twice as many!

      Government is out of control, and has lost sight of what it’s primary duty is!

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  6. americanjoeComment by americanjoe
    July 24, 2012 @ 10:23 am

    Why waste so much time and energy trying to make this country into what the Pilgrims came here to escape? Why don’t all the gun-grabbing liberal democrats move to England? Anyone that wishes to change the USA into something other than what our constitution dictates is not a true American, if you don’t like it leave! Democrats are not true Americans; everything they stand for is destroying America. Work hard; earn a good living and protect your family and valuables. Is it really that hard to see right from wrong?

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  7. OldpatriotComment by Oldpatriot
    July 24, 2012 @ 10:45 am

    As long as there are no metal detectors, I carry everywhere I go. It’s not that I am paranoid, it’s that the world can be a dangerous place and I, at least, want a chance to escape.

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  8. Mort_fComment by Mort_f
    July 24, 2012 @ 11:10 am

    Intersting that Mr. Sowell did not even mention the Sullivan Laws, perhaps the most restrictive gun control law in this country. The then mayor of New York City had that law enacted so that only his supporters / cronies could have pistols.

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  9. LAPhilComment by LAPhil
    July 24, 2012 @ 11:52 am

    I agree with Sowell that ABC News should be sued big time by the “other” James Holmes. This kind of garbage by the media has got to stop once and for all, and a good lawsuit just might do the trick.

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  10. wdjincComment by wdjinc
    July 24, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

    Unfair to blame any political or religious affiliation for a crazed killer’s actions. Also unfair to blame it on poor parenting. Our society is losing its moral and religious fiber with anti-religion trends and it is showing up in these types of crimes. ABC News once again proved they are not a credible news source.

    The answer is not banning guns as the bad guys will always find a way to obtain guns while the good guys would be without and defenseless.

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  11. SkyknightComment by Skyknight
    July 24, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

    One very important point that was left out of this article is that Holmes was actually one of the leaders of the George Soros Communists backed OWS Black Block group in San Diego.
    Why isn’t this information all over the media?

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  12. thedoveComment by thedove
    July 24, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

    “Too many people in the media cannot seem to tell the difference between reporting the news and creating propaganda.”

    If I didn’t know better from years of reading Mr. Sowell’s work, I’d think he’s naive. The fact is the media knows full well the difference, and creating propaganda is their intent.

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  13. BillzillaComment by Billzilla
    July 24, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

    Funny isnt it? The first thing ABC “news” did as soon as they learned the name of the shooter, was to try to connect him to the Tea Party. Seems to me that they’re scared to death of the Tea Party and will do anything to destroy it, even if they have to make up things! The members of the Tea Party mostly do not get their news from the “main stream media” and that makes the Tea Party dangerous in the collective minds of the “main stream media”, they can’t control the Tea Party members with their phoney “news”.

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  14. gopjonesComment by gopjones
    July 24, 2012 @ 5:22 pm

    Billzilla..Agreed. Sadder still. The hard line libs give them a pass on it. You have to wonder if it’s out of party loyalty or the result of their public education. Or are they one in the same?

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  15. calradoComment by calrado
    July 24, 2012 @ 10:27 pm

    Considering Holmes’ profile, this is starting to smell like Fast & Furious II. Where did he get the money for all the artillery and explosive expertise? I’ve heard a rumor that the UN is voting next week to ban private ownership of guns worldwide. When they come for my guns, I’ll give them the bullets first! Well expressed, Thomas Sowell!

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