What hasn’t happened in the last couple of weeks? Oh yeah, the world didn’t end … though to hear some tell it, the end is nigh.
I’m fairly sure those were heads I heard popping over the weekend, not fireworks.
Talking (not popping) heads have been almost apoplectic over one thing after another—Caitlyn Jenner (still!); the Charleston murders and the ensuing rage over targeting Christians, guns, racism, the Confederate flag, et al.; and two Supreme Court rulings last week, first on the legality of subsidies for the federal Obamacare exchanges, then on same-sex marriage.
Pundits have tripped over themselves commenting on the Supreme Court, hurling epithets at friend and foe alike. You know, the court full of all those activist judges … except when partisans like the ruling it’s issued.
I have to admit that the Supreme Court rulings amused me, not so much because of the effects of the decisions themselves, but for Antonin Scalia’s even more outrageous than usual dissents. The Washington Post headlined a commentary on King v. Burwell as “Antonin Scalia went full Scalia in his Obamacare dissent.”
Well, if he went full Scalia there, I’m not sure what you’d call his Obergefell dissent. Can you go fuller than full? If you can, he certainly did, and quite personally at that. Poor Anthony Kennedy and his “mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.” Here’s hoping Scalia didn’t also key his car. Or give him a swirly. It seems he can really hold a grudge.
Still, HI-larity survives the Supreme Court challenge. Not sure how many brain cells survived those conniption fits, though.
That’s still no reason to be less than straightforward with your facts. Cherry-picked facts from partisan sources may sound reassuring, but they’re still not reality.
Television pundits and newspaper columnists are generally given more leeway for hyperbole, but should always remember to be careful (that includes me)—intelligent, skeptical readers and watchers are out there. And yep, they’re paying attention.
Howell Medders of Fayetteville is one such reader, and he brought up statistics from conservative site IJReview used by Mike Masterson in a recent column. Those statistics rank five advanced nations ahead of the United States in per capita rampage shootings.
Because Medders had just had a letter published, I wouldn’t be able to print his letter for nearly a month; however, he makes an important point that is extremely timely considering current events.
Medders noted: “But Masterson failed to mention that two of the top five had only one rampage shooting incident. The other three had only two such incidents.
“The U.S. had 38 rampage shootings in that time period.”
Medders is indeed correct, and the U.S. death toll far outstripped all other nations on the list, with 277 in the period between 2009 and 2013. The next closest was Norway (No. 1 on the list), with 77 deaths from one incident. IJReview rather helpfully includes that information, apparently not realizing it was hurting its case (darn it all).
IJReview’s intent for those statistics was to prove this comment from President Barack Obama wrong: “But let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.”
It’s true that this type of mass violence does occur elsewhere, so that part of the statement is false. However, it’s also true that it does not occur in those other nations with the same frequency as the United States. PolitiFact deemed the statement as a whole “Mostly False,” reasoning that mass shootings do happen in other advanced nations, but while the sheer number of deaths and incidents is greater in the United States, per capita it’s not. (Wait … you mean PolitiFact didn’t blindly rule it true like so many conservatives think it does with Obama statements?? The hell you say!)
That “per capita” qualifier is important, especially considering that shootings among the small populations of the five nations ahead of the U.S. on the IJReview list would thus, as a percentage, essentially dwarf the U.S. and its much larger population. All the better to make a point.
As FactCheck often states in its quarterly number roundups on Obama’s record, no single number can tell the whole story.
Which is exactly why partisan sources prefer to use one isolated statistic or only part of a quote; the better to fool you with, my dear. Without context, you could probably prove than pigs can fly. (If you do prove that, please let me know; I just have to see it.) You apparently can also prove that Obama is the Anti-Christ and has completely destroyed the economy. He probably eats babies too. And that one stray hair that keeps landing in your eye? That’s his fault too.
Thank you, Mr. Medders, for helping keep us honest.