Being an Opinion Professional – pundit, columnist, bobblehead, what have you – is a lot like being a Federal judge or a left-handed starting pitcher with all of his elbow ligaments intact: it's essentially a lifetime appointment. Short of extreme circumstances (the journalistic equivalent of impeachment, a torn labrum, or pitching for Dusty Baker) there appears to be no way to actually lose the job. You can be wrong about absolutely everything, constantly move the goalposts, make things up out of whole cloth, and propose ideas that make no sense, are insane, or both.

Part of this stems from the dynamics of the industry. There is not much of an audience for incremental suggestions and the blandly reasonable. No one wants to be the New David Gergen (David Brooks aside). There is an incentive to Go Big, to be attention-getting without sounding like a complete lunatic. And even if you fail at the latter, there is still plenty of work to be had in the minor leagues (explicitly partisan blogs and magazines, etc.) Few people remember him, but the career of Westbrook Pegler is a great example of the career arc of the insane. From his perch on top of the world as the big gun in the Hearst empire in the 1930s, he wasn't fired until 1960 when he turned on Hearst himself. Then he kicked around the low-end newspaper syndicates, and then to a job writing the John Birch Society newsletter until he grew too insane even for that outlet (explicit antisemitism and encouraging readers to murder RFK will do that). Despite being demonstrably batshit, it took four decades for someone to stop giving the guy an outlet for his dyspeptic ranting.

Perhaps not the freshest example. However, it helps us understand why it is nearly 2013 and Megan McArdle is still being paid by highly visible media outlets for her writing. This is the woman who once responded to a reader pointing out that her statistics are bunk with "It wasn't a statistic – it was a hypothetical," and somehow the entire media did not collectively laugh her into oblivion. So here we stand in the shadow of another tragedy and Megan – Newsweek's most recent hire, by the way – has vomited a 4000 word jumble of boilerplate quasi-libertarian nonsense on the none too prestigious pages of The Daily Beast. After concluding, shockingly, that there is nothing that government can do about mass shootings, she offers:

My guess is that we're going to get a law anyway, and my hope is that it will consist of small measures that might have some tiny actual effect, like restrictions on magazine capacity. I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. Would it work? Would people do it? I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips.

This does not even rise to the intellectual level of a decent Facebook post, and here we find the author being paid for the right to expose a global audience to this sewage. This is what she came up with. This is her idea. This is the best she can do. I guess that fancy University of Chicago education didn't cover things that cheap public schools give students in first-year social science classes: collective action problems, free riding, or, I don't know, watching Tombstone long enough to get to the Kurt Russell-as-Wyatt Earp "Your friends might get me in a rush but not before I turn your head into a canoe" scene that explains for anyone old enough to form sentences why people neither take initiative nor act simultaneously in such situations.

So all we really need to do is overcome millions of years of evolution and man's basic instinct to survive, adopt the basic tactics of North Korean infantry during the Korean War, and assume that a gunman can't shoot people faster than they can (in unison) give him the bum rush. If that holds, everything should be fine.

This is the person they pay to comment on finance, economics, politics, and social issues. I'm not sure if Newsweek counts as a top-tier media outlet anymore, but if so, I can't imagine McMegan getting another job in the big leagues after this. She needs to accept her fate and take a job at National Review Online. She can share an office and psych meds with Charles Krauthammer. It's for the best.

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  1. c u n d gulag Says:

    Feckwith and Nobbgobbler!
    Thanks for making me laugh this afternoon. :'-)

  2. Pincher Says:

    @Sluggo: "I don't see why asking the media to not publish the gunman's name voluntarily is such a godawful idea to some people"

    It is an awful idea because it says that we must sacrifice the first amendment to protect the second amendment. To me that is absurd. I'm sorry, but which country would you rather live in? One that protects the right to own assault rifles, or one that has a free press? Take your time on that one.

    In my opinion, an America without free speech is not worth protecting with guns. Now I realize that for gun nuts, an America without guns is not worth protecting with free speech.

  3. sluggo Says:

    @ pincher

    Thanks for clarifying my attitude toward assault rifles. I never realized that I was pro-assault rifle. Here I went through the last half century thinking I was anti-gun and pro-first amendment.

    Since when is a agreement (not a law) not to broadcast sensitive information a breach of the First Amendment?

    Like I said, it is the least that the media can do.

  4. Nick Says:

    Pincher, you did notice the word "voluntarily" in there, didn't you? Many papers voluntarily refrain from publishing the names of people who have been sexually assaulted, or children who have been the victims of crime, or sometimes the last names of parents whose children have been crime victims. It's not because these things are banned, it's out of a sense of decency–when the name contributes nothing of value to the story (e.g. if you know a 6-year-old has been molested, that's enough; you don't need to know her name) many organizations will refrain from printing it. I don't think anyone here is asking for a ban on publishing the name of a shooter, just asking media outlets not to give the psychos what they want.

  5. Pincher Says:

    @Sluggo – I don't think I said you are 'pro assault rifle'. But if someone says (e.g. David Brooks and others) that we just cannot restrict the right to own guns, but that names can be withheld from news reports, then to me that person has clearly ranked assault rifles above a free press.

    @Nick – Yes, I understand that this restriction is supposed to be voluntary, like withholding names of victims of sexual assaults. But I don't feel that comparison works, because any halfwit TV news anchor can recognize the vulnerability of sexual assault victims, and one's status as such a victim is rather cut and dried – either a complaint was filed or it wasn't. It's not hard to see how the victim suffers harm from the release of his/her name. So the shame pressure on one rogue news outlet is potentially quite strong.

    But in which murder cases should the name of the shooter be withheld 'voluntarily'? Those in which the suspect killed more than one person? More than four? Those in which the victims were totally innocent, or mostly innocent? Prof Amy Bishop at U-Alabama shot a bunch of her colleagues. Should the press have withheld her name? The victims didn't deserve what happened, but they weren't strangers to Bishop either. They were parties to her complaint, deranged as it was. She was not exactly like a shooter at a mall. And in what sense is any individual harmed by the release of the suspect's name? You can't name a person who is definitely harmed by the release of the CT shooter's name, or any other name. So it is all shades of grey – which to me says that the press's moral obligation here is unclear and voluntary withholding won't work.

  6. Ruthie Says:

    "…[I]f we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. Would it work?"

    Only if they ran faster than speeding bullets.

    Seriously, how DID McArdle get through high school math?

  7. JoyfulA Says:

    At least the media could get the name right and not discuss the killer's brother for half a day.

  8. JazzBumpa Says:

    bb –

    Jesus H. Christ, man – how can you not realize how spectacularly irrelevant that information is? Yes, Sandy Hook is a statistical blip, and mass murder isn't the problem. But it is a very small part of a much larger problem: that on average 34 people are murdered with firearms per day in this country, and a hell of a lot of them are kids. The number of gun suicides is even greater. And nobody has had the balls to even talk about it since the NRA scuttled Gore's presidential run in his own home state, because he was in favor of gun control.

    Also note, you almost never read about drive-by knifings, or innocents getting caught in the cross-stabbing. Yes, people kill people, as the NRA loves to tell us. Guns simply make it a whole lot quicker, easier, more efficient and indiscriminate.

    It's why we no longer go to war wielding swords.

    But, you know what? 20 families lost their little children in one tragic incident that could have been very easily preventable if we had gun regulations similar to those of every other first world country on this planet. So fuck the statistics and stop changing the subject. We're talking about human lives.

    As different as we are, I usually like you.

    Today, you have made me sick.


  9. Bill Says:


    Eat it.


  10. Carrstone Says:

    What, she got the job you wanted?

  11. mclaren Says:

    Eau remarks: "I do not see how this column contains more stupid than countless other "Guns don't

  12. bb in GA Says:


    34 gun deaths per day is over 12K per year which is the homicide total in the US. It's about 9000 murders per year where the murderer used a firearm usually in violation of numerous existing laws.

    About 12,000 children per year are killed in auto accidents or as pedestrians.

    What's your plan for the other ~500 mass murders per the five year period?

    Why do you start on the minority part (about 250 per five years) in an area where we have clear constitutional issues involved (for me, not the criminals), and fraught with the most tactical and strategic difficulty?


  13. bb in GA Says:

    Earlier quote source:



  14. TallDave Says:

    All good points, "gin and tacos," except

    1) rushing a shooter works, and saves lives
    2) it's not at all unnatural, in fact it happens spontaneously all the time
    3) people tend to do what they're trained to do

    So it looks like you're the stupid one.

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