Friday, October 9, 2015

Out of Proportion

The news media once again teams up with politicians to dictate to us what to think about and what to care about.  With the latest mass murder in Oregon they expose us to every theory, for and against some form of gun control.  Every mass murder, in fact every single murder, is tragic and steps should be taken to reduce any such occurrence, but is it really the huge problem they make it out to be or is it just another example of the media trying to sell papers and enhance audience figures by dwelling on the shocking?  (Count on the politicians to get on board and express opinions just to keep their names in front of the electorate.)

At the beginning of this USA Today piece on how bad it is, they lead with the statement:  “While only about 1% of all murders nationally, mass killings still happen frequently.”  That is true.  I compared the number of deaths by mass murder from this article (137 deaths in 30 occurences) to the government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data for homicides (16,121) and homicides with firearms (11,208) to confirm this.  It is only about one percent.  (All data is from 2013, the latest complete year released by the CDC.)

They admit that the fuss is about 1%, but lead with the word "bloodshed" apparently ignoring the other 99%.  How bad is the problem?  Looking further into the CDC data, it’s not surprising to find homicides themselves, far down on the list of causes of death.  More people are killed by vehicle accidents (35,369), suicide (41,148 – about half with firearms), poisonings (38,851) and falls (30, 208).

Furthermore, drowning is the leading cause of injury death among children aged 1–4 years.  “Among children aged ≤4 years, 50.1% of fatal incidents occurred in swimming pools.”  The fact that children between birth and four years dying in swimming pools (approximately 220) is greater than people who die in mass murders seems to escape those experts.  The politicians also ignore the fact that most mass murders are not on college campuses or at any school, but happen as a result of family disputes.  To them every gun death becomes another Sandy Hook.

This is neither about guns nor about mental health.  It’s about the media telling us what to care about and what to get upset and excited about.  They are pulling our strings!

Take another example of high school football.  Reporters breathlessly tell us that football injuries have resulted in four deaths in 2015.  (Some blast headlines that four deaths have happened in the last month, but they only play football in the fall.)  Do they remind us that those four deaths were .0000036 of over 1, 088,000 boys (and girls) playing high school football (less than 1/25 of one percent of one percent)?  Do they tell us that it is more than 100 times more likely to lose your high-school-age son to drowning or poisoning?  That doesn’t sell.  That doesn’t excite.  Blame the violence!  Blame the helmets!  (But when a high school girl goes to court to force the school to let her play football, everyone in the media is more concerned about her equal rights than about her potential for head injury!)

One more interesting note in passing on the CDC data:  There is a category called death by legal intervention.  Interestingly when sorted by race, the number of white people who died as a result of "legal intervention" (352) was more than double the number of black people (147).  But you wouldn’t know it from the headlines!

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