The Potowmack Institute

Small Remarks on the News Media

Potowmack Institute
as amicus curiae
US v Emerson (1999)

The National Rifle Association
What does the NRA want?

The National Rifle Association
Charlton Heston Speaks

The Founders and the AK47
Sue Wimmershoff-Caplan:
The NRA's "armed citizen guerrillas" "outflank", Wash. Post 7/6/89
The Washington Post
Cultivating Ignorance

Guns, Rights, the Libertarian Fantasy, and the Rule of Law
Not Seen in The Responsive Community
Getting Commitment from Congress
The blood on their doorstep
The Libertarian Fantasy on the Supreme Court
Thomas and Scalia
Joyce Lee Malcolm
Ayn Rand, Blackstone
Joseph Story's
"Palladium of the Liberties"
The Second Amendment in Court

John Kenneth Rowland
Saul Cornell
Don Higginbotham
Garry Wills
Lawrence Cress
Jerry Cooper
Gary Hart
LaPierre's List and the Law Reviews
Revolutionary Militia

Militia Act, 1792
Mass. Militia Act, 1793

Whittaker Chambers
Reviews Ayn Rand

National Review, 1957

Clinton, NRA, ABC Sunday Morning catfight, March, 2000.

Sam Donaldson
Jodie Allen, Michel McQueen ("particular truth")
Time Magazine

Sam Donaldson, ABC News

            April 6, 1997
Re: Diane Rehm Program, NPR, April 3

Sam Donaldson
1717 DeSales Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Dear Mr. Donaldson:

I don't believe you read your mail, but this is serious business. It is important that you be on record for having been sent the message.

The last time I watched a Sunday morning news program was December 15, 1991. I can't be well informed on most things but there are a few subjects I do know something about. When those subject are poorly covered I can have no faith that the news media is providing useful information on anything at all. See attachment.

The failure is general. After the Empire State Building shooting Mayor Giuliani was on "Sixty Minutes" giving a preview interview to Dan Rather's news cast the next night. Giuliani described some conventional gun control proposals he would pursue. As he finished Dan Rather asked, You don't think these would cause constitutional problems? Dan Rather thinks that a constitutional problem is the failure of the politicians to fulfill their oath of office by maintaining, in the language of the Declaration of Independence, the "just powers" of government derived from the consent to be governed. That is not a constitutional problem but a dysfunction in the political culture that you and Dan Rather have helped create. Dan Rather earns a seven digit income to sit in front of a national audience (which does not include me) every night and be complicit in murder. He should find a line of work more consistent with his intellectual competence and where the stakes are not so high. Instead of sitting in his chair he would be better employed sweeping the floor around it. Giuliani's performance, of course, was not any better. He did not trounce all over Rather for asking an ignorant and foolish question. The performances of Rather and Giuliani were news stories.

The news media is in as good a position as anyone to conduct a national civics lesson. Otherwise, we are adrift without wind, sail, oar or compass on the libertarian fantasy sea.

            Yours truly,
            G. Eyclesheimer Ernst
"The Founders and the AK-47"
Getting Commitment from Congress

George Will's column, "America's Crisis of Gunfire," March 21, 1991, was included with the following comment:

I sent George Will an early version of my research in the form of a draft called "armed anarchic individualism" in February, 1991. He did not acknowledge receiving it and there is no way to know if he read it, but some of my references showed up in his column of March 21, 1991, in which he came to the simple minded conclusion that the Second Amendment should be repealed. Will made the same recommendation on David Brinkley's program, December 15, 1991. He was surrounded by Hodding Carter, Sam Donaldson, and Brinkley. All four demonstrated their complete ignorance of the Bill of Rights and how it works. This is the quality of public discourse, but then George Will is a creature of the Washington Post. Will's column has been put to good use. Wayne LaPierre in Guns, Crime, and Freedom (p. 11-12) claims Will's simplemindedness with: "Some columnists, however, are willing to concede that their views on the Second Amendment don't square with scholarship on the issue." The Potowmack Institute has examined the scholarship.

The American University Forum

March 18, 1997

Are There Limits? The Narrow Reality of the Mainstream Media

Panelists were:
Sanford Ungar, American University, moderator
Michel McQueen, ABC-News
Jodie Allen, Slate Magazine, formerly of the
Washington Post
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Sunday Telegraph of London
Ken Silverstein, Counterpunch
Neil Lewis, New York Times

The transcript is presented from where audience participation was invited about half way through the forum which lasted about an hour and a half. The forum was recorded for broadcast on National Public Radio but was never broadcast. The explanation was that it was too long to be edited down to one hour.

It is hard to say if these people are really this incompetent. It certainly should convince thoughtful citizens that these cannot be our serious sources of public enlightenment. The first obligation of the news media is to get the facts straight. Getting the facts straight cannot include being a platform for every advocate's fraud. There also should be some effort to "distill," as Michel McQueen puts it below, the facts and explain what is really at work. But, when the subject comes up at all at a level more elevated than the body count, ABC News and the Washington Post report the gun lobby's "particular truth" as another respectable position of a claimant in the public arena. The real truth is dismissed as some eccentric's "particular truth."

ABC News and the Washington Post might take their instructions from Diane Rehm (.../196rehm.html) at WAMU, who is broadcast nationally weekday mornings on NPR. She confesses an inability to address the subjects of gun violence and gun ownership and avoids them almost entirely— one or two poorly done programs a year if that. She at least is honest but she cannot claim that she has not been informed over the past eight years.

We live in a age of interest group politics. Any one who can organize voters and marshall resources to buy off politicians is given a legitimate, respectable claim in the political process. There are no mechanisms in the political arena or public information arena to seek out the truth and evaluate the validity of competing claims. This has to be taken up by the citizenry. It cannot be left to the politicians and news media. The forces of darkness are hard at work, but there are some things we have to get right first.

G. Eyclesheimer Ernst


Ungar: I would like to invite people to come to the microphones with questions. I do want to state in advance I am not going to permit long speeches from the audience. I have not permitted them from the panelists. So we will be happy to have brief statements that stimulate the discussion. If you will identify yourself please.

FPJ: My name is G. E. Ernst. I publish a magazine on the Internet call the Firearms Policy Journal [predecessor to the Potowmack Institute]. Anyone who is listening can find it on a search engine using those words, "firearms" "policy" "journal". Anyone here who wants the URL I have a bunch of cards that have it on them.

McQueen: You should— when you reached into your pocket I got a little nervous for a second.

FPJ: I am very sorry.

McQueen: You have to warn us next time.

Ungar: We did not set up our metal detectors tonight.

FPJ:What I have done— I have had this on there since— the first issue was September, 1995— it is over a year and a half— the readership was less than 1000 per month in the spring of last year. It was 3000 in December, 6000 last month and heading for 8000 hits this month, in March [1997].

The basic argument is— or, analysis— is that what motivates the gun lobby in this country is a doctrine of political liberty that says there is a balance of power between an armed populace and any and all government and to maintain this balance of power the objective of all the posturing of the gun lobby organizations— and there are many of them; it is not just the NRA— is to keep gun ownership outside of accountability to public authority. This doctrine is built on several frauds. The most ubiquitous of which is Federalist Paper No. 46 [LaPierre's list]. I devote a lot of space to that. Words from Federalist Paper No. 46 are the most frequently quoted from the period of the founding of the Republic in the Washington Post. They appear there every so often and just to sum it up and if you want to pursue this any more the whole issue is why aren't we hearing this. The news in every major city in the country is dominated every day single day by gun violence. This all we hear. We get a tremendous amount of reporting on it but no one does any analysis as to what is really going on and the efforts of Handgun Control are rather frivolous— and the Clinton Administration and the Washington Post, my favorite example of dereliction. I mean, people like Jodie Allen have had the things I have written and have not been published. I don't even send them out any more.

Ungar: Let me summarize your question or the premise—

FPJ: There is a serious crisis in the country and it is a crisis in citizenship not guns and we are not talking about it.

Ungar: Your premise is that there is a crisis involving guns in the this country and that the mainstream media are not taking that seriously. They are merely reporting on symptoms frequently enough but not raising— not investing and encouraging discussion of the serious crisis.

FPJ: It is worse than that because they give a platform to the gun lobby's frauds.

Ungar: Okay, and giving a platform to the gun lobby's frauds.

I want— we have to move along— to reach an acceptable summary and I'd like people on the panel to have the opportunity to comment on that point before we do I want to remind our radio listeners that we talking this evening with Jodie Allen of Slate, Ken Silverstein, Michel McQueen of ABC News, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, and Neil Lewis for the New York Times. Comments on this point about the gun lobby not being adequately exposed in the mainstream media.

Allen: Golly, I mean— The Washington Post. It is one their major editorial interests.

FPJ: The website is available. Anyone who wants to read it can see what I have to say about the Washington Post. I give you an example, I give it to you before I leave, of all the times the Washington Post has printed the words from Federalist Paper No. 46— this doctrine of political liberty is built to a large degree on one paragraph in Federalist Paper No. 46 and the words are always quoted out of context to mean the very opposite of what they mean in context.

Ungar: But you are not allowing an answer. I understand the strength of your opinion but you cannot cut off the answer that quickly.

Allen: I guess you are arguing that they don't— they certainly devote a lot of space to the issue both in the news pages— that did a whole series on guns and the proliferation of them a couple of years ago [1991] and certainly it is a major topic of editorial interest and certainly the editorial pages is very much in favor of gun control. Now, you say they specifically address the issue in your way— have you written short letters to the paper.

FPJ: They are on the website. I don't care any more if the Washington Post...

Ungar: I want to see if there are anyone else who wants to comment on this point. I can't let the whole evening— the rest of the evening— be devoted to this point. Although I respect what you are saying. Anyone else want to comment on this point?

McQueen: Well, if the whole question of what is really going on any of these big topics is a matter of opinion and think sometimes people get frustrated because they want their particular truth to be reflected and sometimes it can't be— I think what we do is distill a variety of opinion and present them.

Ungar: We will have time to discuss some of these matters and thoughts later.

One person's "particular truth"! GEErnst had left the microphone when McQueen began to speak and could only gasp in disbelief, especially considering the topic of the forum. Jodie Allen was quite shocked that the derelict Washington Post, the NRA's most diligent protector, isn't the cutting edge of the crusade against gun violence. These kinds of mentalities and levels of consciousness are the qualifications for the fabulous salaries these people are paid. Of course, the moderator was not going to allow any time to be spend on anything important. There were people lined up at the microphone who wanted to criticize the news media for not giving appropriate coverage to open marriage and nudist colonies.

Re: The Gun in America 1998, July 6

TIME Magazine Letters
Time & Life Building
Rockefeller Center
New York, NY 10020

Dear Sirs/Mesdames:

What the gun lobby wants is to maintain a balance of power between an armed populace and any and all government. It has to keep gun ownership outside of accountability to public authority. It cannot win its right to be armed outside of the law in court. It has to have it by defeating legislation. To defeat legislation it has to employ fraud and demagoguery and promote individual self-defense.

One fraud unchallenged by you is the meaning of to "bear arms." In the Second Amendment context, to "bear arms" is a military function. Russell F. Weigley in the History of the United States Army(1967), page 87, writes: "[the Constitution] retained the [historical] dual military system...: a citizen soldiery enrolled in the state militias, plus a professional army of a type represented by the British [and Continental] Army." The Militia Act of 1792, enacted by the same people who ratified the Second Amendment, required the states to register gun owners for militia duty. It was not about a personal right to be armed outside of the law. Registration of ownership is the one thing the gun lobby cannot accommodate.

Registration, in our present context, is the means to establish and enforce legal categories of gun ownership that can effectively disarm the lawless and the disloyal. That is how citizens provide for their self-defense under law and government. There can be individual self-defense on the slippery slope to anarchy but not in the state of anarchy.

You have provided no useful enlightenment.

For your enlightenment see:

Comments on Charlton Heston's Speech at the National Press Club

The Libertarian Fantasy on the Supreme Court

Bringing Gun Ownership Under the Rule of Law

Guns, Rights, the Libertarian Fantasy, and the Rule of Law

Rowland's dissertation

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