The headline is positively terrifying. A group of mothers-turned-gun control activists in the wake of the Newtown shootings were menaced and intimidated by 40 plus gun owners openly brandishing weapons – some of which look like the malevolent “assault rifle.” Images of the gun owners appearing to intimidate their ideological foes surfaced, first on ThinkProgress, MSNBC, and even this site. As it turns out, those gun owners appear far less menacing from the front. This is probably why that image has been intentionally left out coverage of this supposed scandal.
A group of members of Moms Demand Action (MDA), a gun control advocacy group, was holding a meeting at a Texas restaurant when the members of Open Carry Texas (OTC) appeared outside and expressed their opposition to the group’s advocacy and membership drive by brandishing their firearms.
Was this group’s tactic heavy-handed? Certainly. Was the move uncalled for? It’s arguable. Has the group’s behavior in online forums like Facebook been of questionable taste? Most assuredly.
But has the media’s coverage of this incident been anything short of irresponsible? Without question.
Take, for example, this MSNBC clip in which the incident was used to “put a spotlight on Texas gun culture.”
In the segment in which news anchor Thomas Roberts interviewed MDA activist Shannon Watts who said that one of her members felt threatened by the protest.
Repeatedly and throughout the interview, MSNBC featured two “disturbing” images of the protesters:
In the second image, the protesters appear to be taking position to open fire on the restaurant where the MDA activists were meeting. But when you look at the photograph from the other angle…
… the situation appears to be a far less clear-cut example of intimidation and more like an effort by these protesters to gather and demonstrate their numerical superiority.
It’s hard to imagine a more glaring admission that whoever prepared the graphics for this segment did not have enough regard for the audience to present an accurate accounting of events. Their lack of even a modicum of respect for their viewers was, in this case, shared by Think Progress and other groups that circulated these images without the appropriate context.
Whether you think this group was intentionally seeking to intimidate gun control activists is perfectly subjective. This is why all the facts of this incident need to be presented so that viewers can make an informed decision. Anything less cannot be called journalism.
This kind of activism does the cause more harm than good. It demonstrates that those who believe in stricter gun laws do not feel like they can make their case without appealing to dishonest tactics in order to make their case.
That these media organizations feel the need to manipulate their audience in order to make their political point says quite a bit. That they are so demonstrably bad at it says even more.
[Photo via screen grab/Faceook]