Ah, the liberal media. Have you noticed, as I have, that whenever there’s an accidental shooting, the media immediately switches to the passive voice?
In the active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action. For example, He shot himself while cleaning his gun. In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is acted upon, for example, The gun accidentally fired while he was cleaning it. Passive v active voice is a neat trick used by spinmeisters and obfuscators, and it’s one which savvy cynics such as myself have learned to recognize. For those who have forgotten their English 101:
We find an overabundance of the passive voice in sentences created by self-protective business interests, magniloquent educators, and bombastic military writers (who must get weary of this accusation), who use the passive voice to avoid responsibility for actions taken. Thus “Cigarette ads were designed to appeal especially to children” places the burden on the ads — as opposed to “We designed the cigarette ads to appeal especially to children,” in which “we” accepts responsibility.
I don’t know if it’s intentional, but when writing about accidental shootings the media’s use of the passive voice is so pervasive and common, it’s hard not to wonder what the hell is going on. Here are just a few examples I’ve assembled from recent reports.
Investigators said the man was removing a .45 caliber handgun from the console of his car, when the weapon accidentally fired. The victim was taken to a nearby hospital then later transported to a Wichita facility for treatment
Amazing how these things “just happen,” isn’t it? The weapon “just accidentally fired,” all by its own self.
It appears that Cooper was removing a hunting rifle from the vehicle and that it accidentally fired, the bullet tearing through the case in which the gun was located and hitting Cooper in the chest, Honeycutt said.
According to a Tuesday release, the gun discharged while in the child’s possession.
LUMBERTON – A Fairmont boy was accidentally shot to death Sunday when the shotgun his father was cleaning discharged, authorities said.
A police trainee with Dallas Area Rapid Transit was wounded around 6:15 a.m. Wednesday morning after his service weapon accidentally discharged. The bullet struck the trainee in the leg. Dallas Fire-Rescue sent an ambulance to the scene, which was located in the 2100 block of South Corinth Street, just north of Illinois Avenue.
A spokesman for DART said that the trainee was putting his weapon in its holster when it accidentally fired. Another spokesman confirmed that the trainee shot himself in the thigh and was taken to Methodist Hospital in Dallas.
Which one was it? Did the gun just accidentally fire, or did the trainee shoot himself in the thigh?
Police say a man went to the park to take a walk. He was putting the gun away when it accidentally fired, striking him in the leg.
WTF is this about, reporters? Why does the media give people a pass for shooting their kids, their neighbors, innocent bystanders, and themselves? It’s very curious. Is this “political correctness,” or just bad journalism?
But my favorite is this headline from Dayton, Ohio. It isn’t an example of passive voice use, as the story gets it right (before getting it wrong). But the headline is an egregious contortion deflecting responsibility for gun negligence by a CCW holder. It was so good I had to get a screen shot. I bring you this profile in courage:
And from the story:
MORAINE – A male driving in a store parking lot accidentally shot himself in the leg with his .45 Caliber Colt Commander.
On a routine shopping trip, the subject said it was uncomfortable wearing the weapon – for which he had legitimate papers – in his holster while driving, so he put it in the center console of his vehicle. When he reached for the weapon, it went off.
Yes, Dayton News. Give that man a medal for “saving himself.” /sarcasm.
Here’s the deal: we’ve either got a bunch of weapons just firing all by their ownselves, in which case gun manufacturers maybe need to rethink their product, OR we have a bunch of gun owners showing extreme negligence while cleaning, holstering, and stowing their weapons. Either way, we’ve got a problem and the news media seems to be giving everyone a pass.