The Newtown heckle hoax
The Internet was afire on Tuesday with outrage over a gun nut who dared to “heckle” the father of a Sandy Hook Elementary shooting victim, shouting him down with a “Second Amendment shall not be infringed!” chant while he was trying to speak. What a great story to feed the righteous arrogance of the anti-gun crowd!
Except it didn’t happen. It’s a hoax, or at the very least a heavily massaged story, based on a doctored video clip. Twitchy busted the propagandists by running the full, unedited video… which makes it painfully clear that the people in the audience who said “Second Amendment!” were responding to a direct question from the Newtown father, Neil Heslin.
The exchange is very easy to follow. Heslin says, “I ask if there’s anybody in this room that can give me one reason or challenge this question: why anybody in this room needs to have one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or high-capacity clips.” Then he sits there for a few moments, looking at the audience and waiting for a response.
When he doesn’t get one, he declares, “Not one person can answer that question.” He says this in a way clearly meant to convey triumph that nobody responded to him.
Then, and only then, does someone call out, “The Second Amendment shall not be infringed!” Several others are heard raising similar objections at the same moment. The officials conducting the hearing promptly told whoever this was to pipe down. They did not reprimand Heslin for breaking format to provoke the audience.
Interestingly, Heslin turns to the people who shouted about the Second Amendment and says, “Oh, right,” in a way that doesn’t sound sarcastic or dismissive. After order is restored, he says, “Anyway, we’re all entitled to our own opinion, and I respect their opinions and their thoughts… but, I wish they’d respect mine and give it a little bit of thought, and realize that it could have been their child that was in school that day.” He does not behave as if he’s been heckled or insulted. No one makes any further effort to interfere with the rest of his remarks.
It all happens 15 minutes into the full, unedited video:
There have been a few game attempts to ignore the obvious and claim the special edit doesn’t change the nature of what transpired. That’s ludicrous. The segment removed from the video circulated by MSNBC, among other sources, was carefully and deliberately excised to wipe out the inconvenient moment when Heslin specifically asked for a response… and then proved it wasn’t rhetorical by using the resulting silence as “proof” that his argument was correct. The person, or persons, who shouted about the Second Amendment didn’t say a word until Heslin essentially taunted them for remaining silent. I don’t know that he realized he was doing that; he’s a grieving father who probably doesn’t have much public debating experience. Having watched the clip a couple of times, I think he was honestly waiting for someone in the audience to answer him.
Obviously the people trying to pump this into an outrageous story with doctored video aren’t interested in fair, reasoned debate: they want to score points, and if they feel any vestigial remorse that they must lie to do it, they reassure themselves that the absolute righteousness of their position justifies all necessary slander. Only one side is supposed to talk during our “national conversation on gun control.” Emotional appeals are supposed to sweep away both logic and inconvenient individual rights. It’s considered rude to note that what Heslin did is profoundly dishonest and unfair. But I guess when you disagree with the righteous, you don’t get to complain about rigged debate rules and kangaroo courts of opinion.