Friday, June 01, 2007

Reality check: Mike Duffy parrots Conservative talking points, forgets he's a "journalist"

I’m watching the supper-hour newscast here on the Toronto CTV affiliate, and every evening the anchor does a live chat with Mike Duffy from Ottawa for an update on the day’s events on Parliament Hill. Duffy just spewed a pile of crap so odious I had to hit rewind on the PVR to watch it again, then once more to transcribe the exchange.

The topic was the Decivin’ Steven’s rejection today of a call form the McGuinty Liberal government in Ontario for a ban on hand guns. Rather that present all sides of the issue, Duffy launched into a one-sided, unchallenged recitation of the Conservative talking points on the issue (probably straight from Sandra Buckler to his famed BlackBerry) and flat-out misrepresented, if not worse, the facts of the issue and the Liberal position. And running through it all was an strong sense of smugness and superiority from the Duffster.

First, here’s the complete exchange:

Anchor: Michael, I have to tell you, this seems like a no-brainer to many people in Toronto, especially in the wake of the Jordan Manners shooting. But the Federal Conservative government has rejected Ontario’s call for an all-out ban on handguns.

: And the reason is it’s chicken-soup legislation. I.E., it’s a law you can pass and it makes everyone feel good but, like chicken soup, it really doesn’t cure the cold. The federal government is saying they looked at this…Paul Martin tried this one during the last election campaign and it smacked of desperation. The Tories here tell me that Dalton McGuinty, with an election coming-up here October 10th, is trying the same thing as a way to say don’t blame me, blame the federal government for gun violence in Toronto. What the federal Tories are saying is that a total ban would just be so huge, so difficult, it would take up so much resources trying to go after every gun collector and target shooter why don’t we just concentrate on gun violence among gangs, get the guns we an get now that are illegal out there. Let’s bring in mandatory prison terms for gun crimes. The Liberals are stalling and are opposed to it. The New Democrats and Conservatives voted in favour of it. So, at the end of the day, it’s time for a little (smugly fake-clears throat) reality check. Everybody hates guns. One politician saying blame the other doesn’t solve the problem. What solves the problem is more police putting more people in handcuffs and saying no to the hug-a-thug theory.

What a steaming pile of crap. You’d almost think Buckler had written the script for him, as a Blogging Tory couldn’t have done better. No ‘well this is one side and this is the other side’ but just a straight Con propaganda regurgitation.

First of all, Duffy claims this is “chicken soup legislation” which would seem to be his condescending way of saying a hand gun ban wouldn’t be effective. Stockwell Day made this same point today (same talking points no doubt) although he made it more eloquently than the Duffman:
Day argued that other countries where handguns have been banned have seen the numbers of gun crimes increase.

"In jurisdictions that have eliminated or tried to eliminate, to ban handguns - the United Kingdom, Ireland, other jurisdictions - in fact crime with guns has unfortunately gone up," Day said.

Unfortunately, Day was flat wrong. Rather than swallowing and regurgitating the Con talking-point like Duffy, the journalists at CP did some “journalism” as the kids like to call it and reported this (Scott's on this too):
Day's statements, however, don't appear to match with the facts.

There was a 16 per cent drop in the number of firearms offences in the United Kingdom in 2006 compared with the previous year, according to figures from Britain's Home Office. Injuries related to gun crimes also fell while fatalities rose slightly.

Police in London also reported an 11 per cent decrease in gun crime in the metropolitan London area during the same period.

Opps. You see, that’s the value of research Duffster. You must have some young interns on staff for that, right?

Then there’s Duffy’s ascertain that the Liberals are stalling on anti-crime legislation. Again, Duffy parrots an oft-repeated Con talking point unchallenged. Again, the talking point is full of crap. I don’t know if Duffy can remember as far back as, say, October, but if so he’d remember the Liberals offered to fast track more than half of the Conservative government’s crime fighting legislation. Yes, fast-track it. As in pass it quickly.

And how did Crime-fightin’ Decivin’ Steven respond to the offer? He said no thanks. As Globe columnist John Ibbitson explained, having the ‘soft on crime’ club to beat the Liberals with is more important to Harper than actually being, you know, tough on crime:
Then why do it? So Prime Minister Stephen Harper can turn the defeated bills into a wedge issue in the next election. "You see?" he will say. "This is the price we pay for a minority government. The Conservatives want criminals doing real time, rather than lounging around under house arrest. We want to keep dangerous offenders behind bars, and we want to protect people of faith from being compelled to act against their principles.

"But the opposition parties are more worried about the rights of criminals and pleadings of lawyers than they are about your protection. That is why we need a majority government."
The Liberals tried again in March, offering to pass four crime bills (C-18 (DNA Identification), C-22 (Age of Consent), C-23 (Criminal Procedure) and C-35 (Reverse Onus in Bail Hearings)) through the HoC in one day. The Con response? The used procedural measures to stall their own legislation! Yes Michael, the CONSERVATIVES stalled their own crime bills.

What’s more, to Duffy’s erroneous claim the Liberals are opposed to getting tough on gun crime and tough sentences, here’s what the Liberal platform has to say on the topic (I’m sure the OLO would be happy to hand-deliver him a copy) with some key parts bolded:

Tougher penalties – A Liberal government will re-introduce legislation to crack down on violent crimes and gang violence, and to double the mandatory minimum sentences for serious
gun-related crimes. These reforms will also prevent courts from using conditional sentences in cases where there was serious personal injury, including all forms of sexual assault; terrorist activities; and organized crime-related offences.

Once again Michael, doing research beyond the Con talking points can be quite conducive to not only balanced reporting, but accurate reporting. Which is supposed to be the general idea.

And finally, what the hell was this “hug-a-thug” BS about Michael? How in the heck is banding handguns the equivalent to hugging criminals? I mean, seriously man?

I have to admit to not being a regular viewer of Mike Duffy Live. Is he always this full of crap, or did I just catch him on a bad day or something?

UPDATE: As Olaf mentions in the comments, Bob
Tarantino has dug into the report cited in the CP piece on UK gun crime and found that while technically accurate, CP was selectivly misleading because overall, since the UK ban the stats have actually come up overall, although down in the period cited. So, bad CP, and bad me for taking CP at faith value. Let's hope the Brits have turned things around and numbers will continue their recent downward trend. Is the recent downward trend ban related? I dunno. Warren (the other Warren) has also examined the UK numbers and has some more nuanced thoughts.

My crow eaten and faith in CP shaken, back to selective and misleading stats. Some of the commenters over at Scott's find it quite selective that Stock specifically mentioned the UK and not, say Japan and Australia which they say also have bans and showed a drop. Are they right? I wouldn't put it past Stock but I don't know, and it's Friday night so I'm going to watch South Park instead of hitting Google.

Let me sign-off though by saying this, and I'm getting off my original theme of the Duffman here. But I'm sure no one is saying bans increase gun crime. You could read Stock that way, but I don't think that's what he was going for. I think the point he and most on his side would make would be that a ban would be ineffective. The veracity of that contention is unproven, barring a wider statistical sample of countries other than Stock's well-chosen UK example.

But even if a ban only leads to a minor decrease in gun crime, or serves to stem the rate of increase, isn't that a good thing. It's not an either/or situation as Duffy tries to make it out to be. We can both get tough on crime AND ban handguns. We can do both. Why not do everything we can to lower gun violence. Won't every bit help?

While Day and hand gun proponents, or ban opponents, whatever you want to call them, will argue a ban won't make a major difference, I don't think that's the real motivation for their opposition. For many of them, it's just that they like guns. They like the gun culture. They think owning a gun will make them more safe, they want it for protection.

And I don't buy that. I grew-up in the semi-rural West, and unlike many Liberals I'm willing to meet the right halfway on gun control. I understand the case for long-guns for hunting and pest control, the Liberal policy on the registry went too far in that regard. I worked on campaigns in B.C. where we made that point, and promised if elected to bring that view to the caucus table.

But you're not going to sell me on handguns. You don't shoot deer with a handgun. You shoot people with a handgun. So, not using any statistics, tell me again why we shouldn't ban handguns?

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ottlib said...

He is always full of crap.

He is a well known Conservative supporter.

He is politically astute enough to see the dreams of a Conservative majority slipping below the horizon and even of another Conservative victory leaving the dock.

So he is doing what all good Conservatives with soapbox would do. He is campaigning on behalf of the Conservatives hoping to stop the bleeding.

I stopped watching this guy a long time ago because he has basically thrown the idea of jounalistic objectivity and integrity out the window.

Olaf said...


I'm not going to comment on Duffy one way or the other, although there's something appealing to me about someone who is claimed by Liberals to be a die hard Conservative and by Conservatives to be a die hard Liberal. It leads me to believe that he probably has his biases like everyone else, but is willing to play the devils advocate when appropriate (which of course is sacrilege to the partisan crowd, I understand). I'm not sure that Duffy is always, or even usually, expressing his personal opinion when he goes on his rants or challenges his guests (I'm more of a Newman man myself, truth be told).

Now, as to your (and CP's) "fact" that shows that gun crime has actually decreased since banning handguns, you understand that you're quoting a one year statistic differential, right? From 2005 to 2006. And from that, you feel the claim that gun crime has gone up in the UK since their hand gun ban is "flat wrong". Right? This, of course, assumes that the handgun ban was established in 2005. In fact, it was about ten years ago. According to Lorne Gunter (who, you may question his biases, and can feel free to dispute his facts if you have cause):

Since Britain implemented a near-complete ban on civilian handgun ownership a decade ago, handgun possession among criminals has soared by an estimated one million to three million guns, and handgun crime has almost tripled.

I know the temptation is to say "yea, Lorne Gunter would say that", but unless you can suggest that he's wrong, the 10 year period following the handgun band seems like a far more authoritative sample, then the 2005-06 sample you provide via CP, that some how shows Day to be "flat wrong".


I mean, say what you will about Duffy, Day, or Gunter, but if you're going to try to suggest that gun crimes have actually decreased since the UK banned them (thus, showing Day to be "flat wrong"), you might want to dig a little deeper than the 2005-06 statistics.

Olaf said...

Despite your authority in deciding what is and isn't "flat wrong", Bob Tarantino has an enlightening rebuttal.

I don't mean to ruffle any feathers, but is there a possibility that in this case, it's Jeff, who is flat wrong, and not Stock?

Jeff said...

Post updated Olaf. You can say I was wrong by association (on that one point out of many). Oh CP, how can I ever trust you again?

It would seem both the CP and the Stock were being quite careful and selective in their usage of examples and statistics.

George said...

I agree that we need such a ban, and Harper is a fool for rejecting McGuinty's proposal.

But I am a bit confused here with respect to your quote from what you call the "Liberal platform" (without a link!). It says in your quote that the Liberals want to double sentences and get tough on gangs, etc.

Why, then, do the Liberals want to vote against the current get-tough-on-crime legislation that even the NDP will support? From what I have read here and from what I know about the bill, the Liberals should be in full and total support of that crime bill.

Perhaps, you can explain it a bit more, if you don't mind, and a link to that part of the "Liberal platform" would also be appreciated.

Kaniz Mouli said...

Mike is a conservative supporter. You should have seen him when he was talking to the Liberal premier of PEI..he look so pissed. Jean Lapierre often comes to the program and they both bitch about Dion all the time. I would prefer Don Newman or CPAC anyday over Duffy.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! I watch Duffy about 3 times a week. He's a Con hack like his associates Bob Fife (worse than Duffy) and Craig Oliver (a little better than Duff).

We need a Media Matters for Canada.


Gayle said...

"But I'm sure no one is saying bans increase gun crime. You could read Stock that way, but I don't think that's what he was going for. I think the point he and most on his side would make would be that a ban would be ineffective. The veracity of that contention is unproven, barring a wider statistical sample of countries other than Stock's well-chosen UK example."

You know what has been statistically proven to be ineffective in decreasing crime? - INCREASING sentences. The conservatives acknowledge that on the explanatory material attached to the gun crimes legislation on the website. (To be fair, they also point out that some studies suggest that at least for gun crimes tougher sentences may be some deterrent, which I would equate to the studies that show banning hand guns decreases crime).

In any event - which costs more, banning guns or increasing sentences? The provisions of the conservative crime bills would vastly increase the number of prisoners, resulting in the need to build more prisons and hire more staff. I believe they priced in the area of billions of dollars. The costs of building are a one time expense, but maintenance, staff and costs relating to housing prisoners will be ongoing. All for something that they really have no evidence to believe will be effective. Where will this money come from?

(To be clear, I am referring not only to the gun bill, but other proposals as well, such as reducing or eliminating parole - it costs more to keep someone in prison than to parole him, for example).

Other reasons the liberals oppose the gun legislation is that it is likely to be found unconstitutional, and it is unnecessary. The liberals are not opposed to the entire bill - as I understand it they oppose the mandatory minimums. They agree with increasing the maximums, which is enough to increase sentences for these offences (but leaves some discretion with the courts, where it belongs).