The Media Will Spin Things For Their Own Purposes

I was a bit concerned when I noticed that The Truth About Guns was running a high profile “simulation” of the Charlie Hedbo massacre given that site’s propensity for grandiose self-promotion. I don’t think my fears were unwarranted. The resulting story in the press essentially conveys the notion that armed self-defense is useless. It was even linked approvingly by our favorite Brady Board member.

I’m absolutely not criticizing the idea of running a simulation like this. It’s never a bad idea to see what we can learn. What was a bad idea was inviting the media along in the name of self-promotion and publicity, before the results were understood and digested. Even if TTAG’s subsequent analysis turns out to be very useful, the media’s version of the story is already out there; running away is a better tactic than armed self-defense. It only adds to the arguments of our opponents.

It may very well be that in a Charlie Hedbo scenario, you’re pretty well screwed no matter what you do. No one except fools argue that a defensive firearm is a talisman that wards off all evil and harm. Nor would anyone argue that sometimes a hasty retreat is the best way to stay alive. But that’s a very different thing than offering the media and our opponents an opportunity to reinforce what they already believe: that armed self-defense is a myth, and you’re better off just running away.

49 thoughts on “The Media Will Spin Things For Their Own Purposes”

  1. In a Charlie Hedbo scenario you will be screwed, because not only are you outgunned but you are dealing with fanatics who don’t mind dying. Still though, armed resistance can be better than nothing when you consider it might by other bystanders some time.

    Now, with the other 99% of violent acts that go on in the world, armed resistance is much more effective IMO because your common criminal will generally change their plans real fast when there’s lead flying in their direction for a change. This is seen in nearly every school shooting in the US when the shooters usually offs themselves once the police finally arrive.

    1. I tend to agree that in a scenario with trained riflemen, with the element of surprise on their side, a citizen armed with a pistol doesn’t honestly stand much of a chance in a closed office environment. TTAG didn’t have to tell anyone that. But oh, were they eager to tell the media.

      1. In that situation though, everyone in the office is pretty much up the creek without a paddle regardless of whether or not they resist.

        If some resist with at least quasi-effective tools (read: handguns or better), they increase everyone else’s odds of survival.

        If I’m going to be killed by a terrorist either way, I’d prefer to go out like a lion, rather than a lamb.

      2. I disagree. It completely depends on the scenario.

        If you’ve got one (or more) bad guys looking to ambush one single person, yeah you are screwed. Completely. An ordinary civilian, on his/her own, in a free society, cannot protect against an ambusy.

        But in the Charlie Hebdo case, you had two shooters in a close environment trying to kill a dozen folks. Even a single well-aimed (or lucky) could have taken out one of the perps, complicating the rest of their scenario.

        1. It all hinges on surprise and initiative. If you are surprised, you are unlikely to be able to take the initiative.

          Conversely, if the gunman’s entry into the room you occupy you is not a surprise to you, you can potentially turn the tables and set up an ambush of your own.

          The key in this type of situation is to resist: If you don’t, you’re probably dead anyway, whereas resistance has at least even odds of improving the outcome for someone (either everyone, or the people who use your resistance to cover their escape).

    2. “You are dealing with fanatics who don’t mind dying” Except they were wearing masks, and had a getaway car.

      1. They don’t value life, just their ability to take the lives of their enemies.

        Wearing masks and fleeing the scene are tactical choices intended to increase the number of people they are able to take with them.

        Had they not run, or run but not concealed their identities, their ability to launch subsequent strikes (and thus murder more people) would have been greatly reduced.

        1. I’m not arguing they aren’t a blog. They’re a high-traffic blog, though; I see links to them about once a week, right up there with Bearing Arms and Guns Save Lives and the PJ Tattler.

          And apparently they’re notable enough that their simulation was noticed by the media, hence this blog post.

          Really, my only point here is that Farago is a cheap bastard who doesn’t pay his writers despite all the traffic they get.

          1. Although we do have contributors who send us free material; we do pay our core staff of writers. We have two full timers and five paid freelancers. FWIW I don’t draw one red penny from the site.

            1. Indeed? Well, good. Back in June of 2012 when Managing Editor Dan Zimmerman asked me to write for TTAG, I was told that no one at TTAG was paid (although there was hope that would change in the following year with enough viewers) and that all the writers did it “for the glory.” I’m glad to see that’s changed.

                1. There’s always that. I did find it rather incredulous that he maintains a website that pays authors without receiving any profit from it whatsoever, but perhaps he meant that expenses perfectly match income.

                  Which is not a thing to brag about, IMO.

                  1. I can believe it, for the same reason people rent out a house even though the rental income from it barely covers the mortgage and property taxes. You’re building equity at their expense. I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with that.

                    Though, even if he didn’t pay his contributors, as long as they voluntarily contribute, what would be wrong with that?

                    1. There’s nothing wrong with it. I just find it bothersome when people are asked to contribute to something on a regular basis “for the exposure”. Consider it a personal quirk.

                  2. Him saying “I don’t get monetary compensation from the site” is not the same as saying that he does not profit from the site.

                    T&E guns? Ammo? All-expenses paid trips to industry events? Working relationships with important people at gun companies? All things of non-monetary value that one could potentially get out of a major blog like TTAG.

                    Having your hobby be cost-neutral is certainly nothing to sneeze at.

          2. Most of his writers are woefully underexperienced to write the type of articles or reviews that they do. Some have only been into shooting for a couple of years. Not that longevity necessarily = quality of journalism, but in article after article (I actually read TTAG every day) I see that lack of experience showcased in gun reviews, tactics discussions, etc.

            1. That’s because the audience for those reviews is the Google search engine. I’d bet that most of TTAGs traffic comes in through those reviews. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with it. If your goal is to make money, that’s how the game is played. But Google can’t evaluate (yet) the expertise of the person making the review. A good percentage of my own traffic is the few reviews I’ve done, and I won’t write about guns I’m not intimately familiar with. But my goal with this blog was never to make money.

  2. > No one except fools argue that a defensive firearm is a talisman that wards off all evil and harm.

    Yet every time there is some media coverage of a shooting, someone from the NRA claims that the only way it could have been prevented is by having more people with guns. The hyperbole is bad on both sides.

    I have defensive firearms. I don’t expect them to magically save me if something goes wrong. I just hope they shift the odds a bit in my favor.

      1. … or fanatics. Typically if we would encounter an active shooter in the states we would be facing people who are executing rash plans using spur of the moment judgments. However, we have also seen “sudden jihad syndrome” take form here.

        Sebastian, you also wrote how if someone could aim a camera, they could probably shoot just as well. From the “high ground” perspective I saw in the Charlie Hebdo video, one could surmise that the element of surprise of a defensive pistol situation could be realistic.

    1. After Sandy Hook, The Frenchman said, and I quote: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

      “Good guy with a gun.”

      Isn’t that what we pay the police to be? I may not have all kinds of fancy guns and gear, and I may not have had fancy training in team-based counter-terrorist operations, but isn’t that why I pay taxes so that my county, state, and federal governments can employ thousands of good guys with guns?

      The Frenchman made a very general statement: That it takes determined armed resistance to stop determined armed attackers. The media then decided to read things into it that he never actually said. At this point, it’s also important to note that what he proposed alongside this quote was that we increase the number of sworn police officers that are based in schools.

      To call this statement, and the suggestion that went along with it, “hyperbole” is a fundamental misrepresentation of the facts bordering upon willful mendacity.

      1. Isn’t that what we pay the police to be?


        Sorry, too weak: make that H*LL NO.

        The only way you could depend on the police to proactively defend you, to be there right at hand the moment something bad happens to you… well, you’d have to have a Police State.

        Sorry: the only effective defense against a distributed threat is a distributed defense. (Meaning you and the folks around you at that very moment.)

        1. I think you have your wires crossed: I was making a specific point about a specific quote made by a specific individual, at a specific time and place. Namely, that LaPierre did not, as the drive-by media and anti-rights cultists have mendaciously insinuated for the last two years, suggest that we arm every single person as a condition of entry into any school.

          Just because the police are “good guys with guns” does not mean that you and I aren’t, can’t, and/or shouldn’t also be “good guys with guns.”

          Living in a police state would certainly not be desirable, but living in a state without any form of police wouldn’t be much more desirable.

  3. Huh… I thought at the Charlie Hedbo massacre there was acutally little warning for those in the meeting room. As they heard some “firecrackers” outside and within moments the terrorists were in the room.

    I might be wrong on the amount of time that elapsed, but that doesn’t sound like there was much of a chance for those at the meeting to actually retreat.

    1. I’ve read a lot of things in that regard. I’ve even read some articles saying the police were unarmed. One difficulty with simulating the scenario this early is we still don’t really understand what the situation was. If they had to spend their element of surprise killing the cop, an armed individual would have a better chance of being in a favorable position when the gunmen entered the room.

  4. Nonsense. This is exactly the scenario where a defensive firearm is most likely to be effective. You hear gunshots outside or in another room of the building, and have plenty of time to take cover and set up an ambush.

    The other, more common scenario, where you are approached on the street by thugs and have less than 1/10th of a second to decide whether or not to pull your pistol and shoot before you’re overpowered, is a better argument in favor of running away rather than using a firearm. But even then, I’d rather have a gun and take my chances.

    1. If there was warning, that changes the scenario. It doesn’t look like in the simulation, there was any warning. But all I have to go on is the news program. If there was warning, and their simulated armed citizen was just sitting there and not setting up cover or concealment to use their own element of surprise, their simulated armed citizen needs more training.

      1. “…their simulated armed citizen needs more training.”

        That, I think, is the most important point that can be taken away from this. Not just that the citizens have arms, but that they be well trained with their arms. That seems familiar. Well regulated militia, or something like that.

        Seriously, though, I think if the situation had been a group of average concealed carriers, you’d see similar results. Am I wrong to say that the average concealed carrier does not seek enough training? He took his state-mandated class and carries his gun to Walmart and church, etc.

        Isn’t that what the biggest failing in this scenario is? This certainly makes me want to start taking more classes, knowing that my recognition/reaction probably wouldn’t have been fast enough.

        It simply isn’t enough to have a gun. You must have the training too.

        In the end, if we can spread that message, maybe we can turn this into a win for us.

        1. Actually training would help, but the biggest problem with CC is the average carrier doesn’t WANT to shoot anyone and will probably hesitate to be certain that the situation warrants drawing a gun before doing so.
          I know that would be the biggest hurdle for myself, deciding if shooting someone was necessary, after that the training takes over and you do what you’ve practiced.

          1. “…the average carrier doesn’t WANT to shoot anyone and will probably hesitate…”

            I would say the average person doesn’t want to shoot anyone. I certainly don’t want to shoot anyone. Only psychos want to shoot someone.

            But your point about hesitation is correct. The decision making is probably the hardest part.

            Was that a gunshot? Do I overturn this table in the middle of a meeting and grab my gun from my holster, possibly losing my job and becoming known as that crazy gun guy who flipped out in the middle of a meeting, because a car backfired outside? Don’t think that thought won’t be playing in the back of every concealed carrier’s mind at the first sign of trouble.

            Training will overcome the hesitation, though. That is the whole point. We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training. Those without training have nothing to fall back on. They may get lucky, but it’s better to be good than lucky. Those who are trained can then have the possibility of being good and lucky.

            1. That’s a good point. It’s been a while since I worked in a gun free zone, but yeah, hesitation over losing your job would be real, I think. Though, given the threats Charlie Hedbo was facing, I would be quicker to attribute more than one loud bang to gunfire.

          2. “…the average carrier doesn’t WANT to shoot anyone and will probably hesitate to be certain that the situation warrants drawing a gun before doing so…”

            Don’t discount the weight of potential legal ramifications of an unjustified use of deadly force: It isn’t just a question of “do I want to shoot this person” but also a question of “If I shoot this person, am I going to end up serving time in prison?”

        2. To be fair to TTAG, using relatively poorly trained people in a simulation is perfectly valid, since your average CCWer isn’t going to be all that well trained. That’s fodder for the antis, but it’s just a fact. What the antis don’t realize is that your average cop is not all that well trained either.

          1. Exactly. I don’t have problem with the fact that TTAG did the exercise, or that they are willing to let people know the conclusions that were drawn from the exercise. That’s admirable, actually, because the results were less than the fantasy ideal that a good guy with a gun will magically stop the bad guy.

            The only problem I have with this entire exercise was the way they invited the media along and exposed the conclusions to a crowd who was ready to jump on it with both feet because it fits their narrative. I don’t believe that inviting the media along at all was wise.

            I am not at all surprised by the fact that, given the circumstances, the people in the room did not manage to put together a coherent and effective defense that resulted in more lives saved. Were any of them trained? Had any of them been through any thing like this before?

            It certainly highlights the need for training with regards to this specific kind of attack, and that is the message we gun owners and concealed carriers should be taking away from this.

            I firmly believe that this can still be turned into a positive.

  5. From their latest: “The final problem was time. Robert insisted that we perform this test within 24 hours of having the idea in order to capture media attention, and that unfortunately meant that the methodology was rushed, the volunteer pool was small, and we did not have sufficient time on the day of the event to even run all of the volunteers who did manage to make it to the location”

    Because the purpose of this wasn’t education. The purpose was to promote his blog. In the process, he gave our opponents more ammunition to declare what fools we all are.

    1. Is this Zumbo level yet?

      It’s been clear for a while that Robert doesn’t care about any “side effects”, but it seems that he’s been inching bit by bit more towards the anti’s side.

      Course there’s always making money writing for the antis, as a certain former magazine columnist is finding.

      1. I’m not a regular reader of their blog to know what direction things have been heading in. They are in my RSS feed, but I don’t often actually read anything. I noticed this incident from someone on Facebook.

        I don’t think this is Zumbo level. But it wasn’t a smart thing to do from the perspective of helping the issue. I’m not even sure it was that smart as a publicity stunt.

  6. And this whole exercise completely ignores the group-inoculation effects of enabling citizen to carry arms. The shootings that grab the headlines almost exclusively take place in gun-free zone. Any idiot who wants to recreate a Charlie Hebdo scenario in the U.S. will aim for places like NYC, Boston, or L.A. They certainly wouldn’t pick Dallas.

  7. We’ve published our preliminary results (including caveats), Six out of the nine “good guys with a gun” got a hit on one terrorist. One out of nine used the firearm for a semi-successful evacuation.

    1. And it’s a wonderful example of the old saying that “A lie will get halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on.”

      Thanks for the “help”.

    1. I’m shocked the media didn’t treat the whole thing fairly! Who could have guessed? But getting ink for TTAG is more important than the cause, certainly.

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