Shooting holes in agenda journalism

Lots of folks like to throw around the term “fake news” to describe stories they do not like or stories that are, well, fake. I prefer the term “agenda journalism” because it does not make a judgment on the veracity of the reporting, and it can be easier to spot than the fake stuff that always has an agenda.

The Huffington Post ran such a piece last week called “Gun owners more likely to vote than non-gun owners.” Do not accuse me of journalism profiling, because I believe even the editors of the HuffPost would eagerly agree they have a decidedly leftward tilt in their views of events. So, yeah, the agenda was pretty clear, as was my need to lean way over to starboard while reading to keep from falling out of my chair.

Here are some interesting nuggets that show the story and the results of the University of Kansas study that prompted it to be left-wing, anti-gun propaganda with no news or educational value. Any first-year statistics student could shoot holes through it, so to speak.

The authors of the study attribute the lack of gun-control legislation to gun owners the researchers say constitute a “very strong political group” that uses its weight and influence to deny the wishes of the majority of Americans. The researchers also found gun owners were more likely to use social media to promote their gun beliefs, to lobby elected officials about gun policies, and to give money to promote Second Amendment rights.

Oh, and they were more likely than non-gun owners to register to vote and to vote in presidential elections. Apparently, those are bad things?

One problem with statistics is that one can use them to make just about any argument. Another problem is that many people throwing out statistics (and reporters who write about them) fail to put the numbers into perspective. And a third problem is that many consumers of news and information believe anything they see, especially when it supports their agenda.

For instance, the USA has the highest per capita gun ownership in the world with more than 90 firearms for every 100 persons. You can find some sources that put that ratio at one-to-one.

Here is where broad statistics like those break down: Eight of the nine people in my immediate family, including my grandchildren, own zero guns. None.

Who owns guns? Glad you asked, but be warned that this is where the numbers can make your eyes cross.

About 29 percent of the USA population owns 100 percent of the guns. That comes to around 95 million Americans owning some type of firearm. Subtracting the youngsters from that total population of the US raises the ratio of adults who own at least one gun to nearly four out of ten. Put another way, about six out of ten adults do not own even one firearm.

But wait, there’s more. A Pew Charitable Trust study found three percent of those adults, or 7.3 million, individually own between eight and 140 guns, which means two percent of the entire USA population owns half of the guns in the country. That is a big difference from nine firearms for every 10 persons. Both numbers are correct, but one really tilts the scales to the left.

A quick look at the 2016 presidential election results from Texas may shine the stark light of reality on those findings. A 2015 study in the medical journal Injury Prevention suggested 35.7 percent of the Texas population over the age of 18 owned a gun. That would be around nine million Texans. That is about the same number (8.9 million) who voted in the last election, which had a turnout of around 46.4 percent. An analysis of the Lone Star State election results shows 30 percent of those gun owners voted for Clinton.

So, is the HuffPost story fake news? Is the university study fake statistics? Or are they the latest, but not the last, examples of agenda journalism masquerading as useful information?

Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur (The world wants to be deceived, so deceive it).

Photo credit: Pxhere

John David Powell is an award-winning journalist from Texas. His email address is

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