A friend of mine, Ken Stern, worked as VP and then CEO of National Public Radio from 1999-2008. He was best known perhaps for growing NPR (NPR called him a “numbers cruncher and lawyer”), squeezing $200 million out of Joan Kroc (McDonald’s restaurant heiress; the largest private donation in NPR history) and for strong liberal views — which included an anti-gun platform that he forced into practically every NPR daily broadcast. I was especially attentive during that era because I served on the citizen’s advisory board for WUFT-FM, owned by the University of Florida.
Now it seems — according to a story in National Review, the conservative magazine Bill Buckley organized in 1955 — that Ken, a Yale lawyer, has spent a year living in what he calls “red America,” getting to know the Americans “who saw issues different from him: evangelical Christians, gun owners, Tea Party activists, NASCAR fans” and people who attend Friday night high school football games (people who turn the television off when the ultimate scam, professional sports, is on air).
Ken says, ever so sweetly and artificially, that he is “pleasantly surprised by what he found” and concludes there is a strong argument to be made that the country’s largest media institutions poorly serve vast swaths of the nation, out of a combination of bias, ignorance and cultural barriers.
Well … duh!
Among the elements of Ken’s awakening is his understanding of guns in our lives. “Take guns,” he says. “Gun control and gun rights is one of our most divisive issues and there are legitimate points on both sides. But media is obsessed with the gun-control side and gives only scant, mostly negative, recognition to the gun-rights side.”
So now Ken talks about “defensive gun use” as if he actually understands, and I quote: “Take, for instance, the issue of legitimate defensive gun use (DGU), which is often dismissed by the media as myth. But DGUs happen all the time — 200 times a day, according to the Department of Justice, or 5,000 times a day, according to an overly exuberant Florida State University study. But whichever study you choose to believe, DGUs happen frequently and give credence to my hunting friends who see their guns as the last line of defense for themselves and their families.”
Describing a storeowner who uses a firearm to drive off a would-be armed robber, and the complete lack of positive media coverage of the event, Ken writes, “It’s not that media is suppressing stories intentionally. It’s that these stories don’t reflect their interests and beliefs.”
Jim Geraghty, the author of National Review’s “Morning Jolt,” wrote that today’s journalists and broadcasters “living and working among so many other like-minded left-of-center people leaves them with an inaccurate perception of how the world actually works.” Like a multi-millionaire presidential candidate marveling at a grocery store scanner or a millionaire football player whining about being “oppressed.”
And there’s the trouble with Ken’s ideas. While I appreciate that he came down to spend a “full year” among we the little people, the working class, blue-collar America, I feel that, at least on one issue, he came away with an entirely false understanding — that there are “legitimate points on both sides.”
There is no “other side” to the gun debate. Our nation’s founding document is clear on this point. Citizens have a right to possess and carry a firearm. Citizens have a right to protect themselves and the founding papers explicitly discuss oppression by our own government as one of the possibilities.
There may very well be another side to NASCAR or to professional football; there may be another side to xeriscaping one’s yard or Columbus Day or how to handle the brutal nut case dictator in North Korea. There is “another side” to many things, but as for my ownership of shotguns and rifles and handguns, as for my right — indeed, my responsibility — to protect and care for myself and my family, there is only One Side. So while I’m happy that Ken dipped his toe into the everyday life of we the seething, unwashed masses, he missed the effing point about gun ownership. On that issue, I and, I believe, millions of responsibly armed Americans would be most happy to enlighten him.
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