To: Eric Black, MinnPost
From: Mitch Berg, Peasant
Re: The New JournoList?
You built your reputation as a reporter. And for that, I give you all due respect.
I was a reporter, too. Not much of one; a couple of radio stations, some free-lance print work. Nothing big, and certainly nothing to build a career out of – but I did learn one thing, and practice it; a reporter is supposed to ask questions.
And while I apply only the broadest possible definition of “journalist” to myself, I do ask questions. I’m told I’m not bad at it, at least on the radio; even a reporter on your side of the aisle commented on it (I’ll direct you to paragraph 16). So it’s not a foreign concept to me.
Now, far be it from me to gainsay one of the deans of Minnesota political writing, but I’ve got a question here.
Last week, you wrote about Dr. Carl Bogus’ assertion from fifteen years ago that the Second Amendment was written to protect slavery. Now, my friend and frequent commenter Joe Doakes – who actually is a lawyer – pointed out that Bogus’ theory is given no weight by the legal academy, because it’s been pretty soundly debunked and, more signally, ignored by legal scholars; Bogus’ theory is only kept alive by anti-gunners who like, as Doakes put it, to “borrow his degree to lend them legitimacy”.
So here’s what I’m curious about.
Bogus published his theory fifteen years ago. It was roundly shredded in short order. It was substantially ignored (beyond a few trivial references to incidental research) in the SCOTUS’ debates that led to the Heller and McDonald decisions, which respectively adopted the “individual right” definition of the 2nd Amendment and incorporated that definition onto the states.
And yet somehow last week Bogus’ theory was pulled from legal history’s scrap heap and restored to glorious prominence by the gun-grabber left.
So I got to checking. The first I heard about it was a comment on my blog on 1/17, which pointed to your article in MinnPost the same day; around that time, I started seeing a lot of lefties on Twitter chanting more or less the same thing. Danny Glover and Roger Ebert had spoken or written about it, stating the “slavery” theory as settled fact, around the same time. And the story was churning around the leftyblog fever swamp, as these things do, once the likes of Kos and Crooks and Liars repeated the meme (which meant every bobbleheaded leftyblog carried it like it was the revealed truth).
Now, a concerted Googling (and a reading of your piece) seems to show that the “writing” about the subject links back to last Tuesday, when lefty talk show host Thom Hartmann – who is sort of the Dennis Prager of the left, only without the intelligence or credentials – wrote a piece on the lefty überblogs TruthOut and Smirking Chimp , lavishly citing Bogus’ theory.
And I thought the dynamics of the story were interesting; in two days, the “story” of Bogus’ “theory”, which had laid mostly dormant since being shredded in the court of academic and public opinion half a generation ago, suddenly was on the lips and minds and blogs of, it seemed, every lefty, from the fever swamp to Hollywood (pardon the redundancy) to, well, MinnPost and a half a million chuckleheaded leftybots on Twitter.
I’ve been writing online for a long time, Mr. Black. I’ve seen memes come and go. The “come” side usually takes a while; someone writes something, it gains traction, it holds sway, it rolls away like the tide. It usually takes a little while.
But the Bogus theory went, metaphorically, from zero to sixty in four seconds flat.
Didja notice that?
Anyway, those are the facts; Bogus’ theory came, was shredded, went away for fifteen years, and suddenly re-germinated across the broad swathe of lefty opinion over the course of two measly days. Now, leaving aside the fact that the theory is, well, bogus (as noted last week) – wouldn’t it have been a useful fact for the reader to know that Bogus’ theory has been languishing in academic obscurity for 15 years for a reason? I know, that would have been a statement against your interest and, I suspect, the MinnPost’s, but it’s kinda significant, no?
But here’s my question: aren’t you the least bit curious as to the, er, pace at which this meme swept the left? From “forgotten” to “conventional wisdom” in two days?
It almost seems as if there’s some sort of back-channel communication – one might even call it a list of journalists, absurd as that sounds – a, for lack of a better term, “Journo List” that syncs the leftymedia up on the major chanting points.
No, I know – that’s just crazy talk. I know.
Anyway – did that strike you as odd in any way? If not, why?
That is all.
PS: Well, no. It’s not. Because while the theory that the Second Amendment was “about protecting slavery” is pretty much a fringe, fever-swamp conceit, it is a matter of settled historical fact and Constitutional Law that the roots of the gun control movement are intensely racist.
More at noon today.