Giant Sucking Sound

Ken Gorrellby Ken Gorrell,
Weirs Times Contributing Writer

“Correction: An earlier version of this article included a debunked statistic that Americans throw away 500M drinking straws a day, or 1.6 a day per person. Previous tweets with the article will be deleted, and an updated tweet will be issued.”
That’s what happens when a mainstream media outlet, NBC News, runs with a story based on a “statistic” produced by “research” from a nine-year-old boy.
Let that sink in. You probably saw one of the many articles that cited the 500-million-a-day figure, usually without any reference to the source of the data. A few newspapers claimed that the National Park Service had provided the number, but it turns out the NPS had been quoting…that same 9-year-old. A budding Einstein? No, just a brainwashed boy on a mission.
After being caught using a fourth-grader as a subject matter expert, another member of the Democrat-Media Complex, the Washington Post, backed away from the dubious number – for a few days. Soon they were back at it, this time with the unhelpful qualifier “by some estimates.” What are they teaching in journalism school these days?
That nice, big, round number was perfect for social media – easy for tweeting and sharing to promote the Green narrative that our addiction to plastics is killing lots of sea life. When being virtuous could be as painless and simple as banning something so ordinary and unnecessary, the bogus statistic was seized upon to support a movement to ban plastic straws.
I just got back from a morning walk along the beach in Ocean City, NJ. I saw nary a straw – not a one, and I was looking. Maybe straws aren’t such a problem for fish after all. Would a major news organization use my direct observations – an adult who used to get paid to write research reports – to challenge a statistic produced by an elementary school kid? Of course not. It’s all about the Narrative.
The Narrative isn’t simply that there is a lot of plastic in the sea. It isn’t simply that some of that plastic ends up killing fish. The Narrative is that Americans can do something about it that will make a difference, and that “something” needs to be codified into laws.
Naturally, California (the “land of fruits and nuts”, in Archie Bunker’s immortal phrasing) is leading the way. Some municipalities in the state have already banned plastic straws, bravely tackling one of the least important challenges facing their citizens. A bill making its way through the legislature of the state with fully a quarter of the nation’s welfare cases and a third of the chronically homeless would criminalize the serving of straws unless requested. A violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, six months in county jail, or both.
A writer at opined that “Regardless of the exact number of straws Americans actually use each day, we know it’s a lot. The moral case for limiting plastic straw use is founded on sound logic and backed up by ample evidence that they end up in the stomachs of all sorts of animals.” Never mind that there is no exact number. Never mind that the most-widely quoted number used to chum the emotional waters came from a kid who made three phone calls and calculated a simple average. The moral case is closed. Time to impose fines and jail time!
The problem with this “moral case” is easily identified by anyone who thinks about it for a moment. Where does all that plastic in the world’s oceans come from? What percentage comes from America? And of all of America’s plastic waste that goes into the sea, how much is made up of plastic straws?
The answers – based on real research, by real researchers, easily found on public-access web sites, are: 1) about 90% comes from Asia and Africa; 2) about 1% comes from America; and 3) of that 1%, a tiny fraction is plastic straws. So even if straws were banned across the country and every straw now in America was seized and disposed of in landfills, the effect on reducing plastics in the seas would be immeasurably small.
The Left has shown that it will use and abuse children to spread false information, from emotional and misleading photos to “research” by a kid that doesn’t pass the smell test. It insults the senses of anyone with any sense. This election cycle, Republican candidates need to ask swing voters, “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?”

Ken Gorrell can be reached at