MMM and VPC Misinformation Slip Verbatim onto Treasury Web Site
by Sean Oberle
sure to read the follow-up report concluding that this notice served to have the
offending anti-gun propaganda removed from the government website. Repeat:
this battle has already been won.
The U.S. Treasury Department runs a project, overseen by the Customs Service, called the International Trade Data System (ITDS) to "facilitate information processing for businesses and the over 100 federal agencies involved in international trade." That’s not a venue where you’d expect to find the propaganda of such grabber groups as the Million Mom March or Violence Policy Center posted verbatim. But there it is – on the ITDS web site – in a profile of the firearm industry.
(See http://www.itds.treas.gov/Firearmindustry.htm.) It is among profiles of numerous industries.
Now, before you get too incensed, frankly, I suspect this likely is nothing more than an example of a bureaucrat wanting to get a job done fast and simply cutting and pasting paragraphs from around the web rather than writing something original. Our concern here, rather than about conspiracy, should be about the mindless acceptance of propaganda as factual description. Honestly, I’d be just as concerned if Treasury had parroted the NRA or GOA.
But whatever the background, whatever the intent, employees of the executive branch of the United States government have no business parroting – on an official government web site – the propaganda of any group with a political agenda. This is especially true when that propaganda is targeted against an industry that is regulated by another arm of the very agency that is repeating the words. The BATF also is part of the Treasury Department.
In the first instance, Treasury repeats verbatim Violence Policy Center charges against the firearms industry, including that it targets youth, focuses on “Saturday night specials” and (shudder-shudder) has increased use of plastics. This propaganda creates the impression of an industry purposely seeking to arm children and to improve a criminal’s ability to act. This propaganda has no place being portrayed as the U.S. government’s words. But it is.
VPC’s words posted as Treasury’s words:
To counteract the sales slump of the 1980s, gun makers began a marketing campaign aimed at women and youth. At the same time, they began to redesign and expand their product lines focusing on firepower (assault weapons, a new generation of high-powered Saturday Night Specials, and new ammunition types), and technology (laser sights and the increased use of plastics).
In the second instance, Treasury repeats verbatim the Million Mom March’s allegations about gun makers, including that they “fail to include basic safety features,” “sell junk guns” and “deliberately seek to recruit children as customers.” This propaganda creates the impression of an industry somehow selling defective weapons and purposely seeking to arm criminals and children. Again, it has no place being portrayed as the U.S. government’s words. But it is.
MMM’s words posted as Treasury’s words:
The gun industry enjoys a privileged position as America's least regulated commercial enterprise. Gun makers design, manufacture, market, and distribute their products, the only consumer products specifically designed to kill people, with insufficient oversight. Consequently, gun makers routinely fail to include basic safety features into their products. Companies make and sell junk guns, which have inferior materials, construction and design features, and military-style assault weapons, which do not belong in civilian hands. Some companies highlight features of their guns that have particular appeal for criminals, while the industry as a whole deliberately seeks to recruit children as customers. Some distributors and dealers sell guns to people who cannot legally buy them, or who clearly intend to resell them illegally on the street. Meanwhile, the industry vigorously, and often successfully, resists every effort to establish even minimal regulatory controls..
Interestingly, the bulk of the ITDS firearm industry profile seems to be lifted from a 1999 paper by a college student at Loyola College in Maryland. The parts copied from the student’s essay
(http://www.loyola.edu/dept/philosophy/techne/barth.html) cover the Second Amendment and the history of firearms and are neutral if not leaning pro RKBA.
It is this fact that makes me suspect that, rather than a conspiracy, some government employee simply searched the web for key words and cut and pasted. After all, while I’m sure that the college student is a smart fellow, how odd that the U.S. government would choose to use his paper out of the hundreds of professional works on the Second Amendment and the history of firearms. (Incidentally, the student replied to my email to say that he had not given the government permission to lift whole passages of his essay.)
In any event, the MMM and VPC propaganda should be removed from this government website. Contact the director of the ITDS program, John Hill at