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Coming Soon to a Screen in your Area: The Danger of Political Fairytales

We are constantly learning about yet another mass shooting in the US. However, these tragic events have recently been occurring with such rapidity it can be difficult to keep track. As a result, Aussies have largely stopped paying much attention.

But I am not implying this is callous – or even unusual. Precisely the reverse. It is an entirely understandable reaction. We are all constantly watching ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ waving guns about on our tele, so it is disturbingly easy to push all of these ‘stories’ about mass shootings and the proliferation of guns into this same frame of reference. I do it all the time.

I read an awful lot of American newspapers. Yet even so, I normally just ‘blip’ over the many local ‘crime’ stories about gun crime and mass shootings as they are simply too disheartening. But sometimes, when the debate regarding the regulation of firearms bleeds into the political press and election coverage, it becomes a little difficult to ignore the topic. Hence this article.

But I am not writing about gun crime in the US per se. The ultimate aim of this short muse is to consider how discussion of this matter – as well as many others – has now drifted into the realm of the absurd, and why and how this is dangerous. But one thing at a time.

This is initially a story about the new emergency order that the Democratic Governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, recently issued. An emergency health-order that suspends the right to carry firearms in public, in and around Albuquerque, which is the state’s largest city.

The Governor explained that she had issued the order in response to a recent spate of shootings, including a suspected road rage incident outside a minor league baseball stadium that killed an 11-year-old girl standing on the sidewalk and critically wounded another in a vehicle; a 5-year-old girl fatally shot as she slept in a motor home; and the murder of a13-year-old girl, by a14-year-old boy, with his father’s gun.

Before considering the response to the issuance of this order, it is helpful to closely examine the claims being made by the Governor. Certainly, these tragic murders are horrific. But does the current situation warrant such an intervention? I went looking for a bit of context.

Albuquerque is not a large city, especially by American standards. With a population of about six hundred thousand it is comparable in size to Newcastle (if you add the Maitland district). Also, while Albuquerque is a more dangerous place to live than is commonplace in the USA, the same is also true for Newcastle. Over the last two years, Newcastle has generated a murder rate that is five times the average for the rest of NSW. In total, there were five murders in the Newcastle district in 2021, while in the preceding year there were four.

These statistics have generated concern but nevertheless, Australians are not generally too worried about getting shot. Even those living in Newcastle. And when the stats are interrogated, this seems a perfectly rational response. The total number of murders in Australia has been in the range of 300 to 350 per year (for the whole country) for the last two decades, with guns being involved in only about 21% of these homicide incidents.

Then there is the situation in the similarly sized city of Albuquerque. In recent years there has been a recent surge in homicides all across the USA. While arrests for most forms of criminal activity have either been static or falling, instances of murder by firearm have become almost commonplace most towns and cities across the USA. Albuquerque is emblematic of this trend.

Just like the rest of the country, Albuquerque has also been experiencing a murder by firearm ‘surge’. So, as the Wall Street Journal observes:

Despite the largest single-year increase in homicides on record, the overall violent crime rate in [in Albuquerque, in] 2020 remains relatively low by historical standards.

In fact, Albuquerque police records indicate that in 2023 alone, there have already been 73 homicide cases opened, involving 77 victims. Moreover, 83% of these murders involved the use of a firearm. This indicates a murder by firearm rate that is at least fifteen times that of Newcastle.

Consequently, it is evident that the USA is, oddly, both the most rigorously policed country on the earth, as well as being very near the head of the pack in the both the rate of gun ownership and death by gunshot. Yet while any other relatively unbiased observer would thus likely conclude that there is – more than likely – at least some connection between these factors, that does not seem to be the case in much of the commentary in the US. The New Mexico Governor certainly makes such a connection. Additionally, I would suggest that any reasonable observer would likely deem her response as being modest.

The order issued by the New Mexico Governor is only for thirty days, and only applies to carrying weapons in public in Alburquerque. Nothing else. Yet the instant response was dozens of highly armed citizen protestors, marching into the Civic Plaza in the centre of the city, carrying high powered rifles. All before the New Mexico Attorney General, Raúl Torrez, publicly declared that he would not uphold the governor’s public health order, or defend it in court, thus immediately sparking a political war within the local Democratic administration.

The order instantly provoked both partisan and interparty criticism. Some of it ludicrously passionate. Some of it just ludicrous. Mostly it has become a story about the traducing of constitutionally enshrined rights by an overzealous public officer. One picture (published by the Associated Press) features April Polichette, at a ‘Second Amendment Protest’ meeting in Albuquerque, holding a sign that asserts boldly that: ‘The right to bear arms is what keeps us all safe.’

Which brings me to the crux of this missive. Which is that it is evident that much of the media coverage in the US, of a great many topics, is passionately unhinged. I suggest that we have to guard against a similar situation developing in Australia.

For example, the carrying of firearms in public is a constitutionally protected ‘right’ that was invented by right wing activists during the nineteen sixties. All of the jurisprudence up to this date indicates that the second amendment is (as the plain text of the amendment indicates) all about ensuring that the various US states could have their own little armies if they wanted them. Not a great idea, but certainly not as stupid as the idea of allowing every individual citizen to carry around an assault rifle in public. Thus, when I comment that this ‘right’ to carry arms was invented in the modern age, I am simply stating a fact. It does not exist before nineteen sixty. The second amendment does not say that everyone should have the right to carry a gun. The writers of the amendment did not intend for the second amendment to mean that everyone could carry a gun. Nor did those who voted for the amendment ever think that this might be the case.

But more significantly, just because the Supreme Court decided in District of Columbia v. Heller, to entirely renovate the interpretation of this amendment, does not thereby mean that the whole of American history and jurisprudence has also been altered. Nor does it mean that reality has been suddenly re-ordered in accord with right wing ideology.

Yet all of the responses to the order by the New Mexico Governor, from both the right and the left of the political spectrum in the US, has nevertheless been focused on the removal of these ‘rights. The whole basis of the discussion thus implicitly cedes to the right wing the ability to rewrite the past and be shielded from scrutiny. Consequently, I suggest that any discussion of gun control in the US should always commence with a simple acknowledgment that these ‘rights’ are manufactured, for political purposes. That the Federalist Society first stacked the US Supreme Court with partisan political figures and these individuals changed the interpretation of the second amendment to suit their personal political predilections. Yet even though all of this is undoubtedly the case, going by the coverage that is usually provided this issue in the US, the right wing have largely succeeded in rewriting history. Orwell would be astounded at their audacity, yet it seems to work.

In all the US press the proposition that the second amendment protects the right to own and carry a gun – any sort of gun – in public, is now simply assumed. Even though, throughout the ‘wild west’, virtually every town had a law that strictly prohibited the carrying of arms in public. So, all that the Governor of New Mexico is proposing is a return to the status quo circa 1880. A return to the good old days where a similar, quite commonsensical measure was ruthlessly enforced, for the good of everyone in town. (Those paying attention will likely understand that just such a town ordinance is at the centre of the story in the Shootout at the OK Corral.)

Yet the wholesale rewriting of American history and jurisprudence is rarely even mentioned in the mainstream media in the US. Or the takeover of the Supreme Court by a partisan group of religiously inspired nutters. Which brings me to the moral of this essay, which is that we need to reign in the more egregious, ideologically inspired claptrap that often passes for commentary in our media, in Australia; before it is too late to even engage in such a discussion.

The toxic impact of a purely partisan ‘mainstream’ media environment is made manifest in America. It should stand as a warning. The American press is now cut into two separate parts and a similar chasm is developing in our country. It will result in a situation here, just like in the US, where all of the press is chock-full of partisan ideologues, lecturing their partisan audience, on exactly why they should be outraged and regarding exactly how outraged they should be (ie, always very very outraged).

We are already seeing a similar disconnect between reality and the media narrative in some parts of the media in Australia, especially regarding topics such as the upcoming Voice referendum. For example, Marcia Langton labelling much of the recent coverage of the Voice debate in Australia as being racist is nothing more than stating the bleeding obvious (see The Great Australian Gaslighting). Yet instantly, the entire media pack in our country have descended on poor Marcia. Just for describing reality.

I do not want to pretend that the mass media has been better in the past. But I am asserting that we can, and should, aspire to a more nuanced and fact-based media narrative. More importantly, I suggest that we collectively need to revisit the idea that press agencies in our country are expected to be politically aligned. It seems to counter to the public interest that the many different press agencies in the west have decided to not only cover politics but also become politically active.

That these aspirations seem to be naive simply serves to illustrate how low our common expectations have sunk. But unless we begin to look at the coverage of news and current events as being a core and important issue, and take steps to stop our current slide into partisan nonsense, then our Australian media environment may very soon become as hopelessly gridlocked and fractured as in the US.

This is why the current discussions regarding curbing the instances of misinformation and disinformation in our media are both necessary and should be applauded by all Aussies, regardless of their political bent. But these regulatory measures can only be viewed as a starting point. There is a need to move to decentralise our media and unwind the massive monopolies that currently exist. The good health of our democracy depends on cultivating a healthy press environment.

The stakes are high. Big Brother is not just a scary tale. Nineteen-eighty-four is not in our rear-view mirror. Just as in America, very soon parts of our media may also become so utterly detached from reality, that half our population will begin agitating for renovations to our law, in accord with a brand new and improved history of Australia; fashioned just for us out of whole cloth, by News Corp, the Evangelical Church, and the Industrial Arms complex of the United States of Australia.

Have a nice day.


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  1. Andrew Smith

    Talking of America, has anyone seen ABC News Online ‘Just In’; has it been tasked with doing commercial media’ work in regions, in lieu of many regional commercial news outlets being shut down or merged with urban?

    It’s overloaded with regional and remote community stories of violence, shootings, murders, rape, grief, trauma etc. interspersed with some sport and fluff….. avoidance of political analysis, and only a little business analysis…. very very lightweight; but easier for common national messaging from RW media in urban centres?

  2. Canguro

    Speaking of political fairytales, the recent slew of charges laid against Trump & Associates by the Georgian prosecutor under anti-racketeering legislation is a timely wake-up call to this cabal of fantasists who forged ahead with their toxic and dangerous mix of lies, falsehoods, threats, heavy-handed leaning on others to lie on their behalf and more. May they all eventually end up wearing the latest line in orange jumpsuits along with swapping their privileged white insular lifestyles for a taste of reality as administered by the American justice system when it actually gets its act together and delivers due punishment for egregious & illegal behaviour that has real and damaging consequences.

    One of these goons, Peter Navarro, has belatedly hid the reality wall head on, after stonewalling and refusing to submit to a Congress subpoena summoning him to explain himself and his relationship to the attack on the US Capitol on January 2021. No doubt, this man believed he was above the law; ergo, he’s a fantasist, and is now bemoaning his recent conviction and the very real possibility of soon joining the orange-clad and shackled behind bars. Hip hip hooray, ought to be the cry across that troubled land.

  3. Goog

    Just back from visiting a long time ,34 years, fellow pilot in California . He is currently prostate cancer , and had 5 days in hospital to be fitted with a pacemaker . He wanted to take his handguns with him into the hospital . When I went with him and his nurse to the the oncologist , the attached hospital at the medical centre had large signs at the door “ No handguns Allowed” . The nurse had two daughters ,both nurses and the younger one told me how the hospital in Oregon was closed for over a week because of a murder there . Even my friends car had NRA stickers all over it . I wonder if tomorrow when he is getting fitted with a Fibrullator if he will try again to take his handguns . I do think that after the death of his wife in 2008 his attachment to Trump and Fox News ,paranoia is now normal for him

  4. wam

    We are a racist society but resolutely deny it. Marcia’s careless aside will not help the yes case and will strengthen the 40% who will still vote no but that is a long way from failing. KISS, Albo, will get YES
    The right to bear arms is linked to a ‘militia’ but quickly became a right to shoot native Americans.
    The gun lobby is terrified of a national vote on guns which risks the end of the 2nd amendment???

  5. B Sullivan

    Cangaru: ‘We are a racist nation but resolutely deny it.’

    We are a racist nation that is comprised of one single race, the same one that exists everywhere else in the world. A world that clings to the scientifically discredited belief that humans of different geographical or cultural origins belong to different races. Culture is not a genetically inheritable trait. It has to be taught from generation to generation. Geography can effect what you genetically look like due to natural selection favouring those with physical characteristics that are a suitable for that environment but it does not create different races. Natural selection determines whether some of us black and some of us white but it doesn’t turn us into different races.

    We are a racist culture but resolutely deny the fact that there are no other races to be racist against, so we make do with pretending different cultural and geographical backgrounds are indications of different races instead. Maybe it’s a bit like that old god justification. There are no gods so we have had to invent them. There are no races so they too have had to be invented.

  6. Daryl Marshman

    This strange attitude to guns in America I believe also translates into their attitudes on the world stage. They feel the need to have weapons in their hands but in every country they can convince to their way of thinking. To me the person that says I need my guns to be safe is the same as the country saying I need these massive weapons to be safe.
    Australia has been sucked into this way of thinking which only puts us more at risk, let’s hope we are not so stupid to allow guns on our streets. It comes from the same mentality.

  7. New England Cocky

    Your though-provoking article demonstrates that democracy and politics are participation sports that individuals ignore to their personal detriment. Think Germany 1933 to 1945 where about 30% of the population created genocide, local terror and world war to the huge disadvantage of their national population and the world in general.
    Then remember that in 1933 the national socialist government was democratically elected receiving both finance & support that benefitted the big heavy industry & manufacturing industrialists as a bulwark against their perceived threat of communism from Russia (USSR).
    To a political sceptic this appears to be a similar scenario to present day Australia, where the major political parties have forgotten Australian voters and seem intent on gifting all of Australia’s natural resources to foreign owned multinational corporations that are prepared to use every trick to achieve their objectives. Then throw in the Scummo of the Seven Secret Ministries attempt at a royally facilitated democratically elected dictatorship and one may be excused for thinking history was repeating itself.

  8. New England Cocky

    @ wam: Professor Marcia was deliberately misquoted by the merdick scribbler and has sought legal advice for redress.
    In early Australia from about the 1792(?) Toongabbie Aboriginal revenge killing of two ”settlers” who raped two Aboriginal women, White Australians were allowed to carry fire-arms and used them to deadly effect from about 1820, especially against Aboriginal resistance to the European invasion crossing the Blue Mountains on Aboriginal tracks with the ecologically destructive sheep, cattle, goats, pigs and other cloven hooved animals.
    Note that the first time a European was held legally responsible for the murder of an Aboriginal person was the 1838 Myall Creek Massacre trial of the ten (10) European stockmen who carried out the preference of the squatter.
    This genocide was written into the 1901 Australian Constitution due to the strong advocacy of Beechworth Victoria lawyer Isaac Isaacs, who went on to become Isaacs CJ of the Australian High Court and sat as judge alone to prevent the return of the vote to South Australian Aboriginals who had been granted the vote in 1892, together with women. Then followed the state sponsored policies of genocide.
    It appears that you support the continuation of these state sponsored polices, that actually continued on the NSW Far North Coast well into the 20th century.

    @ B Sullivan: Uhm ….. if my memory serves; racism was the creation of a Roman Catholic priest during the 16th century. It was necessary to background the Vatican justification or blessing for European interests to the create the slave trade as well as rob & plunder foreign countries out of sight across the other side of the world. Marvellous what you can get for a ten percent cut of the plunder.

  9. Terence Mills

    Myall Creek was a water-shed and distinguished Australia from America.

    This tragedy, in a remote part of the new colony, occurred in 1838, a bare fifty years since the arrival of the first fleet. After two trials, seven of the twelve colonists were found guilty of murder and hanged demonstrating that the Wild West approach in the Americas would not be tolerated in the new colony of New South wales as it was then known : the rule of law had taken root in the colony.

  10. Nathan

    Some sensible arguments but 2 things to note:
    1. If the Misinfo / Disinfo law goes ahead there is provision for something like a $8,000 fine for spreading ‘misinfo’. Having an opinion that does not agree with the gov of the day will be illegal and your ‘imo’ will be subject to penalty. You say “half our population will begin agitating for renovations to our law”. Unlikely! There will be no agitation, not unless people want to test out the penalty regime.
    2. In regard to weapons, Switzerland has one of the highest gun ownerships, yet one the lowest homicide rates in the world. That means something else at play in the US. What could that be? Hollywood movies scripting violence as the go-to solution to a problem, could that be a factor?
    As I understand it, gun owners see themselves as the last line of defense against foreign invaders.
    However, the last thing tyrants want is a messy war. They learned their lesson in WW1 and WW2. These days, wars are silent. Better to use psy-ops against a population, sit back and watch the country destroy itself. Yuri Bezmenov, public relations agent for the KGB, warned Americans of the ideological subversion it was being subject to, but the message did not go wide or deep enough to halt it in its tracks.
    The weapons of choice these days are energy and bio-weapons. Imagine putting a 70 gigawatt laser in a low orbit satellite (or two) and cutting a swathe of destruction over an area being subjected to a standing scalar micro-wave at the same time. One could do a lot of damage in the 10 minutes a satellite is in line of sight. Why, one could even ‘melt’ windscreen glass in cars parked next to the ocean. No need to put a car in the furnace-like conditions of a forest fire (not hot enough to melt glass anyway), just laser/microwave it.
    A lot of Americans now see what’s going on now. It’d be naïve to expect them to unsee it.

  11. New England Cocky

    @Terence MIlls: Uhm ….. so why did it take the English authorities 50 years to dispense justice to Aboriginals when in 1820(?) The NSW Supreme Court declared that Aborigines were subject to English laws?
    @ Nathan: Thank you for mentioning the modern trend in weapon development. Perhaps you could also advise the Albanese LABOR government that the USUKA submarine debacle is already redundant and only useful as tribute to the American Imperium that is setting up Australia to be the next playground for the US NE Military Industrial Complex. Remember the alleged economic future for invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and the profits harvested by American corporations investments in South Korea during the armistice.

    Bio-weapons have already been used against Australia by the NZ Chief Plant Pathologist in the apple market debate.

  12. Canguro

    @B Sullivan, a small point; Please use your natural faculty of paying close attention in instances where you quote others, otherwise you run the risk of misquoting, as in the case above where you reference me for something written by wam. Granted, your mistake is benign, but if you were giving a serve… maybe another response altogether. Cheers, Canga.

  13. Clakka

    Guns and other weapons are horrendous, but not the only perversions invented by the rights of madness in man’s bent for annihilation.

    Take for example, machinations around the Voice, take Qantas and the Big4+.

    In Oz, under the illusion of egalitarianism, a fair go, and she’ll be right, mate, illegality and corruption abounds in corporations, governments, statutory authorities and regulators influencing, and frequently mandating the maddened minds and behaviour of the entire population. All covered in a tango of schmooze and see-no, hear-no, speak-no by the MSM until the cover is irrevocably blown by whistleblowers of ethics and conscience, who then go on to be persecuted and prosecuted to ruin their lives and deter others.

    A form of fascism disguised as democracy. Illegality and corruption has become the Oz national sport, and a right, yet it maintains the hypocrisy, gall and hubris to point the finger internationally at others.

    And it’s all dramatically on the rise, with the LNP now importing American-style post-truth political ‘culture war’ and using it solely and brutally as their m.o., forsaking properly reasoned and presented rationale. And ironically this American style is able somewhat to be combatted there, as they have some of the most stringent fraud and anti-trust laws in the world – Oz has some of the weakest, if any worthy of note. This is a very dangerous phenomenon that leads to a very rapid breakdown in trust of democratic process, political instability, and ultimately civil polarisation, unrest and ferocity – it has already started. Of course Labor and others are immersed, and the questions remain, who will put their head up to lift the game, and for how long?

    The laws are virtually irrelevant, representing a blip to be subverted or overcome. Gun offence is on the rise. In the PNG highlands the gun wars are off the scale, the place is flooded with assault weapons, the national police don’t stand a chance. One might ask where the guns come from? Anywhere and everywhere, and to think they’re not accumulating here in Oz is naive. We ought not forget in Oz there is a penchant for taking up all / any sport and then betting on it.

    In Oz, when the perpetrators of illegality and corruption are found out, they have usually scarpered, or arranged to scarper with the proceeds. The higher up the tree of influence they sit, the more likely they will just slither off to obscurity, the less likely they will pay the price, the less likely they will be pursued, and the less likely they will be prosecuted. For it seems they may be handy to the apparatchiks of guile and deception.

  14. wam

    thanks NEC misquoting by the ‘no’?? cela va sans dire. My words were “Marcia’s careless aside will not help the yes” I think it was careless and it will not help the yes?
    Did you hear price at the press?
    I have seen a poster produced in the early days of settlement where a blak figure spearing a white figure is hanged and a white figure shooting a black figure is hanged and the Myall Creek trial saw the ex convicts hanged but the big 3 were not investigated.
    “It appears that you support the continuation of these state sponsored polices, that actually continued on the NSW Far North Coast well into the 20th century”
    WTF does that mean??
    I have lived in Darwin since the 60s and know of many examples of ‘racism'(our racism against Aboriginal people is real sullivan) including Coniston 90 years after Myall Creek and the strychnine grog of 1982.

  15. wam

    ps just drove past Fannie Bay Gaol and remembered that Aboriginal people were executed in the open but, 70 years ago, when two white men, Czech immigrants, were to be hanged the government built a special room for their execution.

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