By Tim Gee
Several years ago I canceled my hometown paper, the Oregonian, and subscribed to the Wall Street Journal. I was sick of the politically correct spin that was applied to both the selection of stories to print, and the way published stories were biased. Sadly, I’ve noticed an increasing trend of the same behavior in the WSJ over the past year or so. The main headline on this morning’s edition is just the latest example. I thought I was reading the New York Times when I looked at the front page. The headline: Gun Violence Raises, But Fewer Die . . .
Based on that, you’d think the piece is about increased gun violence. With Obama’s reelection, the gun control issue has come to the forefront, and apparently the WSJ’s editors decided to squeeze this story — about improvements in trauma medicine in general and gun shot wounds in particular — to fit the gun control narrative.
Very few of the claims in the story are substantiated. Yes, there have been some academic studies done by physicians on the improving survivability and outcomes of shooting victims, but these findings are only relevant for those patients who were included in the studies. It’s not possible to statistically extend those findings and apply them to broader groups.
Nor is there any data presented to support the allegation that gunshot wound victims have increased by, “almost half” between 2001 and 2011 – and it’s unknown whether that increase is figured on a per 100,000 population basis or whether it also reflects the increase in overall population.
After reading plenty of anecdotal and heart rending vignettes, the reporters admit that “criminologists say they are cautious about using such medical statistics to draw conclusions because of year-to-year inconsistencies in the number of medical institutions reporting data. The FBI collects annual homicide and aggravated assault statistics but doesn’t have reliable numbers for gun and knife attacks.”
It would seem to me that if those FBI data on homicides and aggravated assaults also showed an increase, they would have been used to support the reporter’s anti-gun perspective. So I checked the FBI data and here’s the percentage of change in aggravated assaults over the past few years:
2011 down 4% from the previous year
2010 down 6% from the previous year
2009 down 4.2% from the previous year, and 11.5% from 2000
It seems that what started as a great story about improvements in trauma medicine was stretched to support an unsubstantiated anti-gun message. A disgraceful spin-job worthy of the New York Times, but not the WSJ.