Human Events Blog

MSNBC, John McCain, and the weaponized ellipsis

Senator John McCain recently found himself targeted by the same kind of deceptive video editing that made George Zimmerman into a racist, and generated the entirely false “grieving Newtown father heckled by gun nuts” story, as related by NewsMax:

The controversy surrounds a news clip that first appeared on Phoenix television station KTVK, showing McCain at a recent town hall meeting.

In the video, McCain is seen in conversation with Caren Teves, whose 24-year-old son Alex was shot dead in the Aurora movie theater massacre last year.

Speaking about assault weapons in the video, Teves tells McCain, “These weapons don’t belong on our streets.”

The video shows McCain responding, “I can tell you right now you need some straight talk. That assault weapons’ ban will not pass the congress of the United States.”

Why, that heartless, callous, straight-talking mavericky brute!  How dare he treat this woman so bluntly!

Except that’s not what happened.  The edited video, which received very heavy play and much comment on MSNBC, cuts out a very lengthy and significant part of the exchange, which completely disables the attack on McCain:

In the longer video, McCain tells the grieving mom, “First of all, can I say thank you and God bless . . . Our hearts and our prayers go out to you and your family.

“I just had a town hall meeting yesterday in Tucson and the people who were affected by the terrible, tragic shooting there,” McCain continues.

“I met with [retired astronaut] Mark Kelly and [his wife, former Arizona Rep.] Gabby Giffords in my office last week on this issue — as you know they are becoming, understandably, great advocates on this issue, and I will continue that conversation.

“I can tell you right now — you need some straight talk — that assault weapons ban will not pass the Congress of the United States. It won’t. Now I owe it to you to give you my opinion because the majority of the members of Congress don’t support it . . . All I can tell you is . . . I will continue to work with the bipartisan group on both sides of the aisle representing all of America, not just California, and we will try to come up with ways to prevent this from happening again . . .

“I appreciate your opinion. I promise you that you have my commitment to work with every member of Congress no matter where they are in the political arena to try and prevent this from happening again.”

Confronted with the full cut of her doctored video, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow modestly allowed, “Maybe he wasn’t, in real time, so insensitive and abrasive to a woman who probably deserves some sensitivity when she is talked to about these matters.”  Gee, Rachel, ya think?

This is the audio/video version of “Dowdification,” the weaponized use of the ellipsis pioneered by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.  Dowd would simply chop out inconvenient parts of a quote from people she disliked, replacing them with “…” to make the speaker look foolish or vicious.

Editorial oversight always raises the possibility that “context” will be lost; if you’re going to quote a 30-minute speech in a short blog post or 30-second news segment, obviously excerpts must be made.  Most people waylaid by unfortunate quotes claim they were taken out of context.  Sometimes it is difficult to decide what context to include.  But there seems to be a rise in these deliberately doctored videos, which are very carefully tailored to create certain impressions, often completely at odds with the obvious intent of the speakers.  Another example that springs to mind was NBC News’ creative edit of a video clip to make it appear that out-of-touch rich guy Mitt Romney was struck dumb by the sight of an electronic sandwich ordering system at a convenience store… a self-consciously deliberate effort to recreate the “bar code scanner moment” that media historians credit with damaging President George Bush during the 1992 campaign.

Meanwhile, liberals twist themselves into pretzels to concoct fantasies about how Obama quotes like “you didn’t build that” or “the private sector is doing fine” were somehow taken out of context, even by people who extensively quoted and transcribed the entire speech and paid careful attention to his clear meaning.  It’s funny how the weaponized ellipsis so often runs in one political direction, isn’t it?  The best example of a video edit that cut against a liberal which comes to mind is the clip that ended the career of Shirley Sherrod at the USDA (thanks to action by Obama Administration officials.)  The Left has been howling about that for years, without making much of a fuss about the swift and summary way Sherrod was dispatched by her nervous Administration superiors, but their intolerance for dishonest editing seems rather specific.

Update: Let it be noted for the record that the ellipsis isn’t always an assault weapon.  Sometimes it’s a band-aid to cover foolishness, when the media really adores someone and wants to protect them.  For example, First Lady Michelle Obama made the following statement about the horrible murder of the teenage girl who sang at her husband’s second inaugural, as collateral damage in the frequent gang wars that rock the gun-free utopia of Chicago:

She was caught in the line of fire because some kids had some automatic weapons they didn’t need.  I just don’t want to keep disappointing our kids in this country. I want them to know that we put them first.

But the crime was committed with a handgun, not an “automatic weapon,” so ABC News helpfully edited out Mrs. Obama’s ignorant comment, to make it look like she said, “She was caught in the line of fire… I just don’t want to keep disappointing our kids in this country.”  The regime appreciates your loyal service, “journalists!”

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