Often, when people find out I write for newspapers and magazines and Al Gore’s interwebnets, they say, “Oh, you’re a journalist.” Every time that happens I say, “No, I’m a writer.” OK, sometimes I tell them I’m a dolphin waxer, but for some reason no one believes me. Except for that real estate lady in Branson, Missouri. Had her going pretty good until my wife cracked up.
The main reason I differentiate between journalists and writers is Gersh Kuntzman. Well, not just him, but him and all the journalists like him. Mr. Kuntzman is a journalist for the New York Daily News, and I have to admit he’s made a lot more people laugh during the past couple of weeks than I have. I’m kind of jealous.
After the Orlando tragedy, Mr. Kuntzman decided to do a hit piece on me. Well, not me personally, but me and about 50,000 other people.He wanted to do something he’d never done before, and write about it from a no vice’s perspective. I do the same thing sometimes. I once wrote about the time I took half an airplane ride, which is a pretty stupid thing to do, unless you enjoy falling for a mile and a half.
The difference is that Mr. Kuntzman was trying to be serious. He wanted to shoot an AR-15, which he had never done, and write about the experience. Trouble was, being a resident of New York, he didn’t have the necessary freedom to do that in his home state. He had to go to Philadelphia, where liberty is still practiced on a limited basis.
The title of Mr. Kuntzman’s story was ‘What is it like to fire an AR-15? It’s horrifying, menacing and very very loud.’ Well, just the title got a lot of people laughing, and as soon as the story came out, people started posting videos of their little daughters shooting AR-15s and having fun. How embarrassing.
Mr. Kuntzman started out his article with, “It felt to me like a bazooka – and sounded like a cannon.” I’ve held a bazooka, and it doesn’t feel anything like an AR, although I have to admit an AR is pretty loud. That’s what they make ear plugs for—and suppressors.
But Mr. Kuntzman’s most celebrated paragraph probably gives the most telling insight into his horrifying experience shooting the most popular rifle in the country. He said, “The recoil bruised my shoulder, which can happen if you don’t know what you’re doing. The brass shell casings disoriented me as they flew past my face. The smell of sulfur and destruction made me sick. The explosions – loud like a bomb – game me a temporary form of PTSD. For at least an hour after firing the gun just a few times, I was anxious and irritable.”
Now, I guess all that is to be expected when a delicate, sophisticated, intellectual journalist shoots an AR for the first time, but I think it illustrates, better than I ever could, why I don’t want to be identified as a journalist. I have standards. Granted, they’re pretty low, but I draw the line at telling the world the diminutive 5.56x45 is capable of giving me a bruise, even if it were true. And claiming PTSD from merely shooting a low-powered rifle a few times, a rifle fired every day by little girls, seems to me to be a quantum leap to disrespect for all our brave military members who legitimately suffer from that problem. And what, exactly, does destruction smell like? I think Mr. Kuntzman needs to cut down on the caffeine.
But he wasn’t the only journalist who stuck both feet into his own mouth and took a hike lately. Neil Steinberg, who might benefit from a history lesson on what happens to disarmed people with his last name, is a journalist for the Chicago Sun-Times. He also decided to do a hit piece on me. I’m getting used to it.
Mr. Steinberg drove to Des Plaines to buy an ‘assault rifle,’ by which he meant ‘AR-15.’ That should indicate his impressive level of ignorance, beyond the fact he’s a journalist. He wanted to write about how easy it is to buy this assault rifle. Things didn’t go so well for Mr. Steinberg.
Oh, he passed the background check fine, but the store, Maxon Shooter’s Supplies, wouldn’t sell him an AR. They didn’t have to give a reason, legally, but they pointed out that Mr. Steinberg has an “admitted history of alcohol abuse, and a charge for domestic battery involving his wife,” which is all true. So the system worked, beyond legality into morality, which Mr. Steinberg didn’t like one little bit. I think it bruised his ego a tad.
The resulting article contains a plethora of lies, half-truths, and false implications designed to mislead, all thinly veiled behind a guise of claimed fairness in reporting. A hit piece Mr. Steinberg wanted to write, and a hit piece Mr. Steinberg wrote. Bless his heart.
And this is why I’m not a journalist. Well, that and the fact I don’t know what destruction smells like.
But I make a pretty good dolphin waxer . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an astronaut and public speaker who works weekends running an automatic sprinkler system. Write to him at [email protected].