Thursday, May 24, 2012

If I had a rocket launcher...

Filed under the heading of "can we have a better effing media" is this article from the LA Times; L.A. gun buyback yields rocket launcher, assault weapons.
"A $2,000 pair of pocket pistols and a military rocket launcher -- sans rocket -- were among the 1,673 firearms that Los Angeles residents traded in for gift cards in the city’s gun buyback this weekend."
reads the first paragraph of this little item.

Charlie Pierce goes wild with this, asking;
"Who in the holy hell goes out and buys a freaking rocket launcher? What are you hunting? Traffic helicopters? And then, who in the holy hell turns it in to the cops? Shouldn't this engage the interest of the FBI's crack Set-Up-The-Loonies unit that has been so successful elsewhere?"
and on the face of it, given the newspaper article, his concern seems like a legitimate one.

But - speaking as someone who has had his rocket launchers in the day - wellll...let's just say that there are "rocket launchers" and "rocket launchers".

If this thing was, say, the "launcher" section from an RPG-7, well, that's bad. That really is a "rocket launcher"; you get your hands on the grenade round and you're in business.
But if this thing was - as I suspect it was - the dunnage from an old LAW or an AT-4, well, frankly, that's just a piece of fiberglass pipe. It's expendable, and is somewhere between difficult and impossible to reload. It's issued as a unit, launcher and projectile, and once it's fired the "launcher's" only real use as a weapon is as a bludgeon and not a very effective one, at that.
I will not disagree that the U.S. is pretty freaking ridiculous on who can tote around what weapon and why, but not sure that the whole "rocket launcher" thing here is really the cherry on the top of the self-licking ice cream sundae.

But you'd never know that from this article, and I suspect that there's one of two reasons for that;

First, it's possible that the LAPD did not produce the "rocket launcher" for the reporter, or describe it other than as such. In which case, one would think that the stupid fucking reporter would have asked an actual question, you know, like reporters in movies do, about the exact nature of this weapon.

Or, second, it's possible that the police DID produce the thing, and the reporter stared at it like a cow at the minutes of the Council of Trent, and ambled away as fucking clueless as he was before seeing it.

It's hard to tell which is worse.

But what is telling is that Charlie had a neat little quote from James Madison in his blog the following day:
“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

-- James Madison to W.T Barry, August 4, 1822
which sums up the utter fuckupitude that this little newspaper article represents.

In our current civilization We the People are asked to make many decisions on issues we have no personal knowledge of, in places we have never visited, and with information perforce supplied by others.

And the only way we can arm ourselves with the power of knowledge on these issues, from wars to traffic law, is through the reportage of others.

But if this article does anything, it shows how a simple question of physical fact - one that could have been clarified with a single, simple question - can be rendered not just completely, utterly useless but actively misleading - "OMFG, there are rocket launchers out there on the streets of LA!!!!" - through the total incompetence and ignorance of one local reporter.

And this is to completely elide the pernicious influence of maliciously deliberate liars of the Glenn Beckian sort.

It remains in me, therefore, no real sense of wonder that we are so thoroughly fucked.

Update 5/24 p.m.: In the Comments section, Andy (one of our most reliable regulars here - the next round's on me, Andy...) does his usual thorough job of fact-finding and tracks this nonsense down further. He finds a photo of this fearsome weapon of mass destruction at the Bakersfield TV station site and notes that it is, as suspected, an inerted training aid - in this case, of a U.S. AT-4.
So, no, the streets of LA are not in danger of becoming Beirut or Ramadi, LA Times, as a few simple questions would have established.


Why, oh why, can we not have a better fricking media?!?


  1. A quick search on this story found and image of the "rocket launcher" held aloft by a policeman which is clearly marked "trainer." I guess reporters can't even read.

  2. Another quick google search informed me that the gold band indicates this is field handling trainer, not even the 9mm tracer trainer - IOW, it's completely inert.

  3. Another two minutes of research yeilds this from the FM:

    The AT4 field handling trainer (FHT) is an inert device made from an expended AT4 tactical launcher. It simulates the weight, balance, characteristics, and operation of the launcher. The FHT is marked with either a gold or yellow l-inch
    band between the front and rear sights, and with the word “DUMMY” in l-inch letters on the side of the launch tube. The local TSC can convert expended launchers to training devices, but DOD Regulation 5100.76-M requires that these
    items be carefully controlled. The FHT is appropriate for several training situations that do not require the M287 tracer trainer, which prevents unnecessary damage to the tracer trainer. The FHT is used in marksmanship training, FTXs, and
    institutional training to help soldiers learn how to do the following:

    Inspect the AT4 for serviceability.
    Prepare an AT4 for firing.
    Demonstrate the correct AT4 firing position.
    Perform misfire procedures.
    Return an AT4 to carrying position.

  4. That was my thought, Andy; that this was just the outer casing either of an expended M72 or an AT-4; I didn't bother to chase the article any further, though - my point was that your basic newspaper browser got only OMFG!!! Rocket launchers!!!!".

    So, my initial point was, and still is; for a functioning democracy larger than a New England town you need a functioning news media. If a major newspaper in one of the U.S.'s largest cities can't get something as simple as this right, what the hell can you expect them to get right?

    And that's a "conventional" paper, not a frank propaganda organ like FOX.


  5. Andy and Chief,
    We get our shorts in a wad over rockets that may add a red glare to our nights , BUT we arm any ass hole in the world with samo if they just add the word spring after their name.
    We arm every fucking body and then are weak kneed at home.
    I'll bet the PO'lease have anti tank rockets in case AQ launches armored camel attacks in our happy streets.
    It's nice to see that Andy is back on station. Welcome to sunny Fl.

  6. jim: Well, at least here in the People's Republic of Portland our local coppers have the usual faux-infantry-squad complete with M21 systems and the like. AT-4's, maybe not, but it doesn't keep them from living their "Call of Duty" fantasies every time some local nutjob gets forted up with his ex-wife, a bottle of Everclear, and his .38 Special...

  7. Andy: Not sure where else the word "DUMMY" needs to get written; on the foreheads of the coppers? Of the newspaper editor?

    Still trying to figure out whether this is a bunch of clueless cops and idiot newspapermen, or cunning cops spinning up clueless reporters/editors.

    Still a fuckstory, either way. Just less forgivable if it's the latter.

  8. If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.

    -- Mark Twain