“We Admittedly Do Not Have Any Direct Evidence...”: Right-Wing Media And Fast And Furious

Media Matters has long noted that the right-wing media is unparalleled in its willingness to throw its weight behind entirely fabricated conspiracies and fake stories. In their world, the Shirley Sherrod controversy was "orchestrated" by the White House to “smear” Andrew Breitbart; the Obama administration deliberately ignored the BP oil spill in order to stop future drilling; and President Obama secretly skipped his daughter's soccer team in order to do... something.

So it should come as no surprise that the right-wing media have turned a controversial program from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) into an elaborate conspiracy directed from the highest reaches of government intended to bolster the case for gun control legislation - even as they acknowledge there is no evidence for this claim.

Last week, the House Oversight Committee held two hearings into the ATF's Project Gunrunner, a division that seeks to halt the flow of firearms to Mexico, and a controversial initiative it began in 2009 called Operation Fast and Furious. According to the committee's report, under Fast and Furious, ATF knowingly allowed guns to be trafficked across the border to Mexico in order to “identify other members of a trafficking network and build a large, complex conspiracy case.” Reports indicate that the program may lead to acting ATF director Kenneth Melson's replacement.

But rather than stick to the facts, the right wing has again created an alternate reality. Spokesmen for the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America have used Fox News appearances to declare that what actually happened was a clever plot involving Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder aimed at creating a “river of guns” flowing into Mexico to create “political advantage” and “set the stage for more gun restrictions on the law abiding people in this country.”

The right-wing blogosphere has since jumped on the story, but apparently aware of just how far-out all this sounds, they have generally couched the theory in a series of questions or even outward admissions that they have no evidence to support it.

Take Bob Owens, a Pajamas Media blogger who has previously openly discussed armed revolution and written that he hopes that makes Media Matters researchers “feel threatened.” This week, Owens has written two articles speculating about whether Fast and Furious was “never designed to succeed as a law enforcement operation at all” and was instead “a PR op for gun control.”

In his second piece, Owens writes, “We admittedly do not have any direct evidence of this allegation.” That's generally where responsible people decide not to further comment until and unless they actually amass some sort of evidence. But Owens can't do that, you see, because the “circumstantial case... has proven strong enough to have few detractors and raises questions that must be answered.”

The right-wing blogosphere being what it is, the lack of any evidence whatsoever isn't causing a whole lot of restraint.

  • Hot Air linked to an Owens piece and asked, “Was this a move to boost up the gun control lobby?”
  • In a question mark-laden editorial, Investor's Business Daily also cited Owens and asked if the program was a “gun control plot.”
  • An Ace of Spades blogger thinks that a relevant piece of the Gunrunner timeline is the election of a “hard-core, idealogical [sic] leftist” as president and claims that "[w]hether Operation Fast and Furious was just a bad idea or a cynical ploy to push the left's gun control agenda, we need to get to the bottom of it."
  • Instapundit commented on his “suspicions” on the “awfully convenient juxtaposition” between the administration's public comments on guns going to Mexico and the program.

Is it possible that these people are just incapable of sticking to the facts?