Saturday, January 15, 2005

Gold Medal Gunslingers

When I added Geek Links here, I included one for the Violence Policy Center (VPC) "... to provide some balance between 'Pro Gun Control' ... and 'Anti-Gun Control'". In the entry where I explained my choices, I mentioned that my dislike of VPC was based not only on philosophical differences, but also because they had singled out the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) and The Unofficial IPSC List for special attention.

... several years ago, when they were just getting started, they were desperate for content. Accordingly, considering their singular sense of honor, the surruptitiously subscribed to The Unofficial IPSC List (of which I was then, and remain, a subscriber) and spent a month downloading references to IPSC/USPSSA-related information, which they then anthologized into a piece the called "Gold Medal Gunslingers".
I promised to expand on this theme, and since I'm stuck in the house this weekend (winter in Oregon = freezing rain!) this is probably a good time to get with it.

The article and a companion news release were dated 07/22/99 ... actually four years AFTER they started their website.

The article (authored by Philip Alpers and Josh Sugarmann) was subtitled "Combat Shooting Targets the Olympic Games", and it discusses the request of IPSC to the International Olympic Committee to consider adding IPSC as a 'demonstration sport'. That is, it wouldn't be a 'medal sport', it would only be one of the Olympic activites and winners wouldn't be awarded medals.

Of course, that's not exactly the way VPC portrayed the effort:

Now, the peaceful intent of the Olympic Movement is being challenged. The gun lobby—eager to expand the perception of "sporting" activities involving firearms—has launched an international effort to make combat shooting an Olympic sport. Boosters of combat shooting hope that association with the Olympics, under the euphemistic name of "practical" shooting, will legitimize and popularize both their competitions and the increasingly lethal weapons they use.

(Emphasis added)

Peaceful Intent ... including several shooting competitions, archery, javelin, and long-distance running in a fashion reminiscent of the Battle of Marathon. All of these sports are based on "military" skills.

The gun lobby ... no, it was only IPSC, an amateur organization which employs no lobbiests.

[T]he increasingly lethal weapons they use ... a purely gratuitous comment added to prejudice the reader against the organization.

Of course, as with any good lie, there is an element of truth in it. Certainly the goal of IPSC was to "legitimize and popularize their competitions". The Gun Control crowd (VPC, HCI, etc.) have always been willing to attack the legitimacy of ANY user of firearms.

But I degress. It wasn't my purpose to fisk the article.

The article has several sections, and the one which I found most egregious is Section 4: A Combat Heritage.

It's not just that I don't agree with their point of view, although I don't. My objection is to the way they documented their article.

Not only did they gather quotes from several public sources, they also quoted from private sources.

First, they quoted from The IPSC Newsletter, a internal emailed newsletter from the IPSC president to IPSC members. They also quoted the USPSA In Touch Newsletter.

(This last is no longer in publication, but was a quarterly newsletter sent from the USPSA president to USPSA members.)

Since these are sent only to members, VPC would have had to join USPSA. Obviously, this anti-gun organization had no intent to participate in shooting competition, which implies they 'went undercover' only to gather quotes which they could use (frequently out of context) to further their own agenda.

A generous man would have to concede that this is not an unusual technique for an 'investigative reporter' (he said, leaning over backwards), although in this case it wasn't a journalistic endeaver in the sense of contributing to a newspaper - unless you define their self-promoting politically motivated 'news releases' in that light. And after all, how many newspapers, magazines and television networks can resist the temptation to flavor their 'news' with their own opinions?

Nope, that's not my biggest complaint. After all, VPC was going after both national and international organizations, and they have every right to quote their official documents.

But what about The Unofficial IPSC List?

This is an email newsletter which has NO official connection to either organization. It's not administered by IPSC, it's not funded by IPSC, and it's not moderated ... by IPSC or anyone else. It was started several years ago independently by a man who just happens to enjoy IPSC competition, and the only quasi-official connection is that one of the official websites provides a link for the convenience of those members who would like to subscribe to it. The link includes the following disclaimer:

This 'IPSC' mailing list or digest is not associated with, subsidized, nor endorsed by the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), or any of its regions. It is a completely independent, internet address designed for individuals interested in the IPSC sport. The "IPSC digest" is intended to be viewed for informational purposes only. If you wish to communicate with officials of IPSC or any of its regions, please visit the IPSC home page at for regional e-mail and internet addresses.
Who publishes this mailing list? The subscribers do. It's nothing more than an open forum where subscribers can exchange emails discussing any topic that suits their fancy. They send their emails to a central address, where it is redistributed to all subscribers.

VPC accessed this mailing list (archives are available for viewing online via Yahoo) and quoted parts of several emails ... again, out of context ... dated as far back as 1997.

What they ended up with was a selection of 'sound bytes' that they interpreted by implication in the most damning ways. Then they identified the authors by name, often including their nation of residency and in one case by city and state!

This intrusion was not only a violation of personal privacy, but when subscribers to the email service learned that they had been so quoted, they realized that they no longer could safely engage in a frank and open discussion of their personal views.

These subscribers are not public persons. They spoke for no one but themselves. But their private opinions were used by self-avowed enemies of their chosen sport against that sport.

Yellow journalism at its best.


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