Gawker, Huffington Post, and the Death of Journalistic Integrity

Readers who also follow the video game industry may be familiar with the mess that is the Depression Quest controversy. For the majority that probably have not heard of it, the argument boils down to whether or not a conflict of interest existed between writers (primarily for Gawker Media’s Kotaku) and a female game developer who managed to get her reportedly awful game added to the Steam’s indie-driven Greenlight Project. The accusations levied against Kotaku and Rock Paper Shotgun writers revolve around evidence that at least one of them had extraprofessional relations with Depression Quest developer Zoe Quinn at (approximately) the same time that they were promoting her work on their sites. The whole issue has taken video game forums by storm and has been the cause of countless social media arguments.

Some of you may be wondering why Modern Rifleman would wade into these obviously filthy waters covering a subject that has no clear connection to firearms and Second Amendment politics. Indeed, I have no desire to insert myself or this website into the Depression Quest mess. However, the controversy shares some close parallels with another, more publicized, source of outrage. In a recent article for America’s First Freedom (one of the NRA’s several publications) law professor and Second Amendment authority, David Kopel, called into question the intentions and sincerity of Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (MDA for short). Kopel argued in his piece that the homemaker-turned-activist image maintained by Watts was not consistent with her professional resume and that her extensive public relations experience discredits the grassroots nature of her movement. Kopel did not criticize Watts for the fact that she was employed, rather he argued that the nature of her previous engagements undermines what she is currently trying to be.

Unsurprisingly, Gawker Media jumped all over Kopel. Much like sister-site Kotaku’s attempt to create controversy where none needed to exist, Gawker’s Adam Weinstein fixated and subsequently misrepresented a single portion of Kopel’s article where he dismissed Shannon Watts’ homemaker façade. The goal of Weinstein’s outrage was apparently to show readers that the NRA was sexist at best, misogynist at worst. He actually made a few decent points about the imagery used by the NRA, but was quickly sidetracked by his own sarcasm and blind hatred for the organization. Contrary to Weinstein’s absurd claims, Kopel never said that women should be homemakers, nor did he imply that they should “know their place”. Weinstein seems to enjoy spouting off about his graduate degrees (in journalism –see the comments), but his alarming inability to comprehend that which he reads seriously calls into question his ability to effectively write. Moreover, for all his schooling he seems to forget that it is not a journalist’s job to fabricate the news.

Kopel’s response to Weinstein (from GunsAmerica):

Significantly, Gawker does not contest the factual accuracy of anything in my article, including my list of various falsehoods propounded by Ms. Watts–such as her claim that guns are banned at NRA Headquarters, or the falsehood of her assertion that she never had any prior involvement in the gun issue, despite having worked as a communications aide for energetically anti-gun Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan.

If you’re looking for serious analysis of firerams issues, it might not be a good idea to rely on a website which features content such as “Manhattan Brunch Place’s Weekly Drunken Shitshow Caught on Video.” The opening of this piece of investigative journalism explains that an individual “continues to nurse a raging hate-boner for Pranna, the popular brunch spot….He’s posted two new supercuts of wasted Pranna brunchers….” That gem of reporting appears on today’s Gawker home page, two items below the attack on my article.

Gawker, it should be remembered, is infamous for providing New York City burglars with a target list of firearms, by publishing the name and address of every firearms permit holder in New York City.

The Gawker article criticizing my article was written by Adam Weinstein. In one of the comments to the article, he writes, “When non-grad-school non-Ren people try to tell you about framers’ intent and historical perspective, do you just think about Greenblatt and Foucault and laugh to yourself?” If Mr. Weinstein were interested in the facts of the firearms policy debate, he might have learned that the law professors who have written on the original meaning of the Second Amendment do have graduate degrees, and that some of them, such as Joyce Malcolm, are scholars of Renaissance Studies.

When I think of Foucault, I think of his describing Ayatollah Khomeini as “a kind of mystic saint” whose “political spirituality” which would take Iran back to its natural roots. I think that people who still look to Foucault to justify sneering at “non-grad-school non-Ren people” have poor judgment.

On Twitter, the Bloomberg lobby offers its gullible followers with a menu of prewritten messages to retweet. The Bloomberg messages claim that the NRA thinks that all women should be full-time homemakers. Of course the article never said that. My own mother was a full-time lawyer, at a time when there were very few women lawyers in Colorado.

Now let us turn our attention to the web powerhouse and well known content-mill, Huffington Post. This morning, Huff Post Politics posted an article penned by none other than Shannon Watts in which she personally responds to Kopel’s article and takes up the sexism banner precisely where Weinstein left it. In her piece, she spends a few lines railing against the NRA’s apparent portrayal of women before launching into a full-fledged infomercial for MDA and Everytown for Gun Sense. The whole article reads exactly like a paid advertisement, except it was 100% free as Watts is recognized as a contributor for Huffington Post.

In pondering my reaction to these articles, a couple of themes seemed to preoccupy my thoughts. The first was that journalistic integrity is by and large nonexistent, both in traditional media and web-based publications. Agenda driven pieces like those discussed here exist on both sides of every issue and in all forms of media. I understand some may find it hypocritical of me to call this out on a pro-Second Amendment website, but at Modern Rifleman I strive to accurately address every angle of an issue. I have no relationship with anyone or anything I write about here and will not make a claim unless there is reputable evidence to support it. The second theme pertained to the impressive degree of hypocrisy shown by Gawker Media and Huffington Post in both articles. On one hand, they accuse the NRA and David Kopel of being sexist. On the other hand, they intentionally mislead women on the subject and assume that these same women will not seek out the source material to make a decision for themselves. This sort of behavior is shameful and unfortunately far too common.


NRA’s America’s First Freedom article:

Gawker article:

Huffington Post article:

Guns America article:



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