Junk Science, Junk Journalism, Platinum Funding

 The MinnPost – a non-profit-run institutional blog established the the intention to get a jump on the next wave of institutional journalism – gets a whole bunch of money from the Joyce Foundation.  Joyce also bankrolls Minnesota’s “largest” gun grabber group, “Protect Minnesota”, and Michael Bloomberg’s “Mayors Against Illegal Guns”, as well as paying academics to deliver the conclusions they want

Is that financial relationship related to the fact that the MinnPost has, whenever the subject of guns and the Second Amendment is at hand, turned itself into a risible propaganda organ for the gun-grabbing extreme left?

From Eric Black’s recycling long-obscure legal theories about the origins of the Second Amendment to Doug Grow’s naked puff-piecemongering in support of Heather Martens’ checkbook advocacy group, the MinnPost would seem to be working hard to earn the $50K or so they got from Joyce. 

The latest?  Susan Perry, a “Health” reporter who has pulled her weight in the past on theMinnPost’santi-gun beat. 

Confederate soldiers! With guns! Defending slavery! This is what the MinnPost think you, the law-abiding gun owner, genuflect to.

Yesterday came this piece, entitled…

Well, no.  We’ll get to the title in a bit.  But I’m going to pull a quote from the end of the story first.  I’ll add emphasis for weasel words and a particularly dim strawman:

“Although correlation is not synonymous with causation,” write Bangalore and Messerli, “it seems conceivable that abundant gun availability facilitates firearm-related deaths. Conversely, high crime rates may instigate widespread anxiety and fear, thereby motivating people to arm themselves and give rise to increased gun ownership, which, in turn, increases availability. The resulting vicious cycle could, bit-by-bit, lead to the polarized status that is now the case with the US.”

“Regardless of exact cause and effect, however,” they add, “the current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis purporting to show that countries with the higher gun ownership are safer than those with low gun ownership.”

So – seventeen paragraphs into a nineteen paragraph article, we hear that the reasearchers aren’t actually drawing conclusions (in attacking a “widely quoted hypothesis” that nobody quotes at all). 

Which is a bit of a letdown for a story whose headline…:

“Idea that ‘guns make a nation safer’ is debunked in study”

…fairly screams “We’ve got a big big big conclusion here!”

 The Rhetorical Slalom Between The Strawmen: I’ll throw this out to the shooters in the audience.  Was this premise…:

The idea that “guns make a nation safer”

…as new to you as it was to me?

Anyway – the “premise”…

…is not true, according to a study published today in The American Journal of Medicine.

In fact, the study found just the opposite: Countries with a low rate of gun ownership have significantly fewer gun-related deaths than those with a high rate.

Right.  In the same way that areas where couples marry have higher divorce rates than areas where they just shack up. 

The study – and Perry’s piece – are honest, in a very dishonest sense; they scrupulously point out that gun death rates are, mirabile dictu, lower in places fewer guns.  But the “study” is equally scrupulous in avoiding apples to apples comparisons, or correlating their conclusions to any data that doesn’t fit inside their razor-thin premise…

…which is to attack a case (“Nations with few guns have higher gun crime rates!”) that, for the life of me, I’ve never heard a single credible person make – about nations, anyway. 

Cherry-Picked:  Perry notes that…

The U.S. leads in gun ownership — and gun deaths

The analysis found that the United States has far and away the highest rate of gun ownership, with 88.8 privately owned guns for every 100 people (“almost as many guns as it has people,” Bangalore and Messerli note)…The United States also has the highest firearm-related death rate: 10.2 deaths per 100,000 residents…At the other end of the spectrum are Japan and the Netherlands. Japan has a gun-ownership rate of 0.6 guns per 100 people, while the Netherlands’ rate is 3.9.

Those two countries also had two of the lowest death-by-gun rates: 0.06/100,000 for Japan and 0.46/100,000 for the Netherlands.

But neither Japan nor the Netherlands is fighting a “Drug War”; neither nation has policies that have turned their inner cities into shooting galleries, controlled by people who have nothing to lose by resorting to violence to protect their markets, using entry-level employees who grow up in a culture that glorifies violence and ignores consequences. 

Neither Japan nor the Netherlands has a major geographical region dominated by a culture that was practicing duelling and honor-killing and treating violence as a way of life long before there was a United States – a culture whose crime rates are, at worst, on par with the worst of the inner cities

Indeed, both Japan and the Netherlands are extremely homogenous countries; homogenous societies tend to be pretty placid – until they have to flirt with heterodoxy (ask the Koreans and the Ainu in Japan, or the Indonesians in the Netherlands).

Indeed, Perry’s article points – unwittingly – at the truth:

The only country that was a bit of an outlier was South Africa. It had a relatively low gun ownership rate of 12.5/100, but a high (the second-highest, just below the U.S.) gun-related death rate of 9.41/100,000.

And of the countries on the list, South Africa is the only one with a significantly – indeed, pivotally – heterodox society.  One with massive urban dysfunction, to boot. 

Which might lead the rational observer to conclude – or see a correlation, anyway – that guns don’t kill people; societal dysfunction does.

Math Is Hard, And Psychiatry Is Harder:  But let’s look at the “gun death” numbers Perry actually does deign to report – the relative gun murder rates in the US, the Netherlands, Japan and…:

[…the] United Kingdom also ranked low on both lists. It has a gun-ownership rate of 6.2 per 100 people and a gun-death rate of 0.25 per 100,000.

But fully half of the US “gun death rate” is suicides.  And the suicide rate in the US (12/100,000) is half of Japans (21.7/100,000), and equal to the UK’s (11.8), and both the US and UK are 50% higher  than the Dutch, at 8.8/100,000. 

We’re not sure if the “study” concluded that guns and depressed, mentally-ill or chemically-addled people don’t mix, or not.  Perhaps the Joyce Foundation will write a grant to study that?


Is This A Strawman, Or A Begged Question?: Perry’s piece continues:

Their conclusion: “There was no significant correlation between guns per capita per country and crime rate, arguing against the notion of more guns translating into less crime.”

This is the third time in Perry’s piece the “notion” that anyone is comparing national gun rates to crime – at least in nations with working legal and law-enforcement systems, which is what the “study” is limited to. 

And for the record, I’m at a complete loss as to a single credible pro-gun advocate who’s made that claim – between nations.  The variables – societal heterodoxy, cultural conditions, criminal justice issues, different judicial systems – are far too complex to make such a case in an intelligent way. 

But when you start eliminating variables?   By just considering different firearms ownership rates in the US?  It’s not rocket surgery – even I can do it, even though I don’t have to because John Lott et al already did.  At worst, in the United States, places with higher legal gun ownership are very generally safer. 

And that’s just a correlation.  I’m not ascribing causation.

And unlike Susan Perry, I’ll admit that without any obfuscation.

So Let’s Summarize:  Susan Perry’s article reports on a non-comprehensive study whose own authors admit it’s a non-“debunk”-ment, that reached no meaningful conclusion about a premise that nobody advanced. 

Follow The Money:  We mentioned the Joyce Foundation – which bankrolls both the MinnPost and the state’s “largest” gun control group. 

One might ask – is it possible to expect honest “journalism” from a publication that has a financial interest in reporting an organization’s slant on the news? 

I’ll ask – because as Perry’s article notes in its heading, in addition to the Joycers…

This content is made possible by the generous sponsorship support of UCare.

So not only is the MinnPost an organ of an anti-gun extremist group, it’s also on the payroll of…

…the State of Minnesota.

Edward R. Murrow would vomit.

9 thoughts on “Junk Science, Junk Journalism, Platinum Funding

  1. One would figure that, years after gun rights advocates pointed out that gun crime is not all crime, even Joyce-funded researchers would be forced to look at violent crime as a whole in determining the effect of widespread firearm ownership on said crime.

    But no, apparently, they never learn. As our host notes, arguing guns is like the movie “Groundhog Day.” Every day, you get to rebut the same old, tired arguments that are all but tautologies. Sigh.

  2. As our host notes, arguing guns is like the movie “Groundhog Day.” Every day, you get to rebut the same old, tired arguments that are all but tautologies. Sigh.

    That’s the most frustrating thing about this “debate”. Every few years, we get a new generation of journos, and non-profit talking heads, and have to start over again.

    In my “career” as an RKBA activist, I can remember at least six different major waves of anti-gun activism (seven if you count one from back before I was a shooter):
    – 1981 – after the San Ysidro McDonalds massacre
    – ’83-’86 – A spate of workplace shootings (the origins of the phrase “going Postal”)
    – 1987-88 – The Stockton Massacre (AR is the new AK), the rise of gang violence, the first of the “Shall Issue” states
    – 1994 – The Clinton Crime Bill / AR Ban, fallout from the OKC bombing and “Militia” paranoia.
    – 1999 – Columbine and a spate of other school shootings
    – 2008 – Virginia Tech and a few other major shootings
    – 2012 – Aurora, Tucson, Newtown

    The left has debuted the same arguments every. Single. Time, as if they were the first time they’d ever been used.

  3. Mr. Berg … While perhaps tedious to those of us who been listening for years, a lot of this stuff is new to the teens/young adults who are coming of age and starting to listen to the issues. God knows they’re getting a double dose at school, from the kennels they were raised in, and from the media personalities they follow. Not to mention the immigrants who are streaming into the country. While they mostly vote liberal, they tend to act (and vote) their own self interests. Coming from places where life is cheap, and not being stupid, many immigrants may also welcome pro-gun information and adopt what they can use.

    Consequently, we are obliged be just as tedious as the anti-gunners are and hope that new listeners will consider our side of the tedium.

  4. Odd coincidence — just last week, the AAAS’s flagship pub had two articles on the reduction in NSF grants that fund poli-sci research. Until this year, political science got about ten million $/year to spend ‘proving’ things like AGW doubters are ignoring empirical data. OK senator Tom Coburn was behind the de-funding. Now the NSF will only pay for poli-sci research that is designed to aid US national security or the US economy.
    This seems eminently sensible. Poli-sci ain’t physics. The body of human knowledge of the world is not increased by research with results that cannot be duplicated. This should be done with humanities money.
    Anyhow, the gnashing of teeth is a joy to watch. There is no sense of irony among the de-funded poli-sci types. They don’t acknowledge that they’ve failed at their field of study (politics), and they especially don’t get that politicians should have a say in how political science is studied.

  5. Pingback: Open Letter To The MinnPost Editorial Team | Shot in the Dark

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