Silly-season stories

Once upon a time in the news business we had a category of news we described as “silly-season stories.” Usually these periods occurred when world news was on pause: no recent massacres, no last-night airliner crash, no five-alarm fires, or international saber-rattling by hostile politicians. Late summer in the Northern Hemisphere was a good candidate for silly-season stories, defined as absurdities not really worthy of coverage.

How the world has changed under the pressure of “social media.”

A disinterested observer might well estimate that silly-season stories now dominate such online platform feeds as Yahoo. Percentages must be above eighty. At least. I bookmarked one a while back as an example. Early in the Biden era, there still was an almost obsessive coverage of everything Trump, to include his family. The item catching my eye was a snarky piece about one of the younger Trump’s snarky remarks about something or other: snark for snark.

“Gun nerds on Twitter couldn’t agree on the type of firearms on the wall behind Trump,” was the lead. It referenced a video of Trump the Younger making a statement about something or other in front of a wall mounting a display of odd firearms.

EXTREME EXAMPLE OF SINGLE-SHOT BOLT-ACTION HUNTING HANDGUN OF THE TYPE DISPLAYED ON THE TRUMP WALL. SLOW AND HEAVY AND ERGONOMIC AS A KITCHEN SINK.

Sweet suffering Jesu! There has been a growing movement to demonize all firearms since at least when The New York Times invented the famous term “Saturday Night Special,” forerunner of today’s boogeyman, the “assault rifle.” That was a rallying banner for the infamous 1968 Gun Control Act, a principal feature of which was banning import of small concealable pistols. The argument ran that small affordable pistols made it too easy for the hoi polloi to arm themselves and get up to no good. There was a corollary thread these pistols were so cheaply made they were a danger to their users, a kind of warped consumer-safety cant. (Of course nobody asked poor people living in dangerous environs their opinion.)

And to further the absurdity, the ban ended up blocking such high-quality (and expensive) guns as James Bond’s famous Walther PPK, an icon of German craftsmanship. Because the small print specified that to be importable a pistol had to have target sights. (Before long, the PPK/S showed up in America. A PPK with larger sights grafted on. And prices on existing original designs skyrocketed among collectors.)

As for cheap revolvers and semi-autos banned under the Times definition of Saturday Night Special, they forgot to ban parts. So containers of parts arrived, old buildings were repurposed for manufacture, and homegrown cheap pistols appeared. And poor people went right on buying them, as antigun rhetoric evidently adopted a new tack: demonize all firearms and firearms owners.

Thus, the wall of firearms behind the Trump kid making his snarky remarks was a guaranteed goad to the twittering class. Perhaps deliberately. “Gun-nerds on Twitter” is an oxymoron. Ignorant reaction to the type of firearm on display was telling. The single-shot pistols shown represent a minuscule subset of target firearms of little interest to most gun owners. Telescopic sights sometimes are mounted for more accuracy. Which to an ordinary hunter is absurd: if you want more accuracy use a rifle.

An even more minuscule subset of shooters take these single-shot hand cannons into the game fields, asserting their use requires superior skill to the use of, for example, a bolt-action five-shot deer rifle. The argument is that a single round, with an agonizingly slow reload, means first-shot placement is paramount. Same argument muzzle-loading hunters use for their old-fashioned smoke-poles.

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Bill Burkett

Professional writer, Pacific Northwest. 20 Books: “Sleeping Planet” 1964 to “Venus Mons Iliad” 2018–19. Most on Amazon for sale. Il faut d’abord durer.