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More ‘Gun Hysteria’ in the Media Than Ever, Says Author

Bestselling novelist Stephen Hunter talks about newspapers, new media, movies — and critics

Stephen Hunter cut his teeth at the Baltimore Sun before moving to The Washington Post in 1997. It was there that he became the publication’s chief film critic and eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2003.

Hunter left his job in 2008 to focus entirely on writing thriller novels, the newest of which, “G-Man,” was recently released. His primary literary protagonist, former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger, is also now at the center of a popular USA Network series, called “Shooter.”

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Unlike many classic newspapermen, Hunter doesn’t see a big problem with the alternative media the internet has brought to life. He actually seems to embrace the change.

“For many years, the golden years of the newspaper business, a big river of money flowed through newspapers and made everything possible … And it meant every newspaper could have two film critics and an art critic,” said Hunter. “Suddenly, that dried up, and the newspapers shrank and shrank and shrank.”

The media then moved into a world Hunter described as a “democracy of voices,” one in which people can seek out and support the “voice that serves them the most.”

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Hunter concluded in his interview with LifeZette that today, “You can build your own private newspaper.”

That is to say, if you don’t like the way an outlet covers one subject but appreciate its take on another, you simply mix and match until you have your perfect newspaper “composed of parts you have selected.”

Some pundits and older reporters have lamented the opening of voices to their world — but 71-year old Hunter is not among them. “The change is permanent,” he said. “It all changed, and it seems to be working.”

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Having been away from movie criticism for nine years now, Hunter said the job is not as sacred as some may think. “For many years I thought that movie criticism was one of the pillars of civilization. Then movie criticism disappeared, professional movie criticism fell, and civilization seems to still be here — so obviously I was mistaken.”

Of leaving his post as one of the country’s leading and most popular voices in film criticism, Hunter said one has to know when to hang up his hat. “One of the things a movie critic has to have is a hard drive of movie memories,” he said. “Mine filled up in about 2007, 2006, and nothing else would stick.”

“I couldn’t remember the difference between Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds.”

He continued, “I could remember music from the ’40s, but I couldn’t remember the difference between Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds.”

Hunter reached a point where every time he saw a new movie, it “was like the first time I’d ever seen a movie in my life.” When he stopped recognizing faces and names, Hunter left The Post and he said it was one the best decisions he’s ever made, though he did enjoy being “part of the transaction between the moviegoer and the movie.”

Other than films, Hunter wrote many pieces for The Post on the Second Amendment and guns. One need only read a handful of pages from a Hunter novel, including the new “G-Man,” to get a sense of just how knowledgeable and passionate the man is about firearms.

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Unfortunately, Hunter hasn’t seen much progress made against the ignorance that has long peppered the media’s coverage of guns and gun owners.

“Among the elite media,” he said, “there’s more gun ignorance, more gun stupidity, more gun hysteria, more gun ‘screwballness’ than ever.”

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But the author sees the independent and alternative media as glimmers of hope. “To some degree that’s counteracted by the fact that given the democratic reality of the internet, there are far more voices than there once were.”

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PopZette editor Zachary Leeman can be reached at [email protected].