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Media Manipulation on Guns

Media Manipulation on Guns
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John Caile | March 14, 2014

We all know people who are either afraid of guns or simply don't like them. But why? In a word, Hollywood. Since the 1960s, it's been almost impossible to watch any TV crime show without finding numerous inaccurate and downright false depictions of guns and gun owners.

Serious students of mass media manipulation know that the most successful propaganda hides the real agenda in subtle "themes" combined with constant repetition. For example, roughly half of American homes own at least one gun, more every day. But on television, about the only people with guns are cops and criminals. The (very false) impression is thus given that "average folks" owning guns is a relatively rare phenomenon.

Or take gun registration. Most people, including gun owners, are surprised to find that only nine states (and Washington, D.C.) actually have laws requiring registration of handguns. Because if you watch any of the long-running crime shows, you would think that gun registration was the norm.

In just about every episode involving a firearm you will likely have some detective asking, "Who was the gun registered to?" or announcing, "The gun was registered to..." or simply, "The gun wasn't registered."

Characters will also miraculously solve crimes by "tracing" guns, or because "ballistic records" connected the gun to "a series of homicides." Never mind that professional killers and even gang-bangers seldom use the same gun twice. And they certainly don't register them. No matter. The underlying message is that "keeping records" will solve crimes.

Now visualize the average person hearing the words "register" and "tracing" repeated over and over, on every crime show he or she watches. If some legislator in your state has just proposed a bill requiring gun registration, those unfamiliar with the issue ask, "What? Aren't ALL guns already registered?" This makes it tougher for gun owners to oppose gun registration schemes, since the public has already been literally programmed to accept it.

The same kind of propaganda is used to mischaracterize guns themselves. Just look at how often you hear the term "assault weapon" in a movie or TV show. In a recent episode of the new series, Chicago PD, they resurrected the mythical "cop-killer bullets" (in this case, ordinary 5.56 rounds with some blue paint on the tip). They even claimed they could "go through an engine block" (I'm not kidding).

Movies and television stories also relentlessly inundate the viewer with fully automatic gunfire. Every gang shootout, mafia hit, or firefight in the many international political thrillers that are currently the rage features AR-15s (or the "Darth Vader" of all firearms, the AK) blazing away, cascades of shell casings filling the air.

These images trump facts and reason. Trying to explain the difference between a civilian and a military carbine is as futile as telling people that full-auto firearms are used only extremely rarely in real life. Images trump reason. Their "experience" (read: TV watching) convinces them that such weapons are "everywhere," causing horrible carnage. As a result, when new restrictions on such "dangerous killing machines" are proposed by anti-gun lawmakers, they dutifully fall in line.

Add to this the generally negative attitude toward guns displayed by most TV characters (with the only exceptions being some of the new breed of "gun-savvy" women appearing on some shows) and it isn't hard to understand why so many of our neighbors are easily persuaded to fear and dislike guns - and the people who carry them.