Dunning and Kruger told us they would come.
Now this is a right wing message after my left wing heart!
Only it misses.
It’s a reference to Wounded Knee Massacre. which did in fact occur on December 29th, 1890. The rest of the account comes close to the truth.
Yet, the details of the story have been altered to suit the purposes of the gun rights lobby.
1: Referring to this as “the largest mass shooting in U.S. history” puts an odd spin on it. It is of course a mass shooting, in much the same sense that any other military operation (Whether it be a legitimate battle or an outright massacre) could be described as a “mass shooting.” Still, we don’t normally describe battles or even massacres carried out by the military as “mass shootings.” We use that phrase to describe the actions of people (usually civilians) acting on their own accord. Use of this phrasing is designed to bring this story in alignment with questions about civilian gun ownership rather than questions about military actions or the history of Indian-white relations. In effect, the author is inviting us to set aside the larger context of violence made possible, not only by government policy, but also a political economy hell-bent on predatory expansion and a U.S. population fully expecting to get everything Native Americans have in the end. Wounded Knee may be one of the worst of such stories, but none of these stories can be accurately compared to a seemingly random “mass shooting” carried out by civilians acting on their own.
I’m going to give the question as to whether or not this was “the largest” mass shooting a pass.
2: The timeline is over-simplified. The army did not first disarm the Lakota camp and then begin shooting, as this meme describes. The shooting broke out during the process of disarming the warriors. Certainly, a lot of the weapons had already been confiscated, but some Lakota still had weapons, and others may have been able to retrieve confiscated weapons in the early moments of the battle. By some accounts, Wounded Knee actually consists of a close quarter battle at the site of disarmament even as the army opened up with Hotchkiss guns on the women and children in the larger camp. Soldiers then proceeded to hunt down fleeing Lakota (men, and women, and children) long after any semblance of fighting wasover. (It also appears that some of the army’s own casualties were likely due to friendly fire. Seriously, …this was a clusterfuck!) Wounded Knee was certainly an atrocity, but it was not an atrocity that begins clearly AFTER the Lakota have been disarmed.
This is of course the central distortion of the narrative. It makes it possible to treat the massacre as a story of armed shooters and unarmed targets (thus conjuring the image of a “mass shooting” in the sense we see so often today). The resulting account not only ignores the weapons still in possession of Lakota; it also ignores the larger military context which made refusal to give up the weapons implausible. Once again, this was a military operation. The notion that Lakota could have simply refused to turn over their guns (as the author urges Americans to refuse themselves) is highly unrealistic.
Hell, it’s outright stupid!
3: The author tells us that America’s founding fathers saw fit to ensure that American citizens would be armed so as to prevent this sort of thing belies the relevance of this example to private gun ownership. Lakota were not U.S. Citizens at the time, and actual U.S. citizens (gun owners or not) were not exactly interested in helping them. There is nothing about the private gun ownership of American citizens which was ever going to stop this massacre from happening, and given the dynamics of actual war, it is highly unlikely that the private ownership of guns will make a difference in the event that officials in the U.S. government decides to attack a segment of its own citizenry will make any difference. You might get to shoot back. Those you shoot back at will be better armed than you.
This really is just one of many memes distorting history on behalf of the gun rights agenda. What’s particularly irritating about this one is the use of an atrocity carried out against Native Americans by a political lobby not known for supporting Native American rights. It’s cynical. It’s deceitful. And it’s pathetic.
If there is a case to be made for the right to own a gun, this is not it.
See this meme?
You can find it all over the net. The quote contained in it is extraordinarily popular in right wing circles. This should surprise nobody of course. It has George Washington singing the praises of private gun ownership as a means of preparing the population for possible war with their own government. The price of freedom, it seems to suggest, is the need to be ever vigilant against one’s own government, to be prepared at all times to rebel against that very government.
If you were to boil down the thinking of the Insurrectionists on January 6th, it might well be this quote right here.
There are different variations of the meme, to be sure, but the quote itself is near and dear to right wing America. They share it with each other, and with the rest of us, on a regular basis. I first encountered it when a friend posted it for my benefit on Facebook. I have seen it there many times since. The quote finds its way onto twitter every day. It certainly found its way into Parler a number of times before that crappy service found its way into oblivion. You can find the quote on Instagram. It’s all over Pinterest, compliments on websites like Zazzle and BrainyQuote. It certainly makes its way around Tumblr. You can find this quote on merchandise at various online outlets, …T-Shirts and such. I could go on, but you get the idea. This quote gets around. It’s popular.
I mean, it’s REALLY popular!
And it’s fake.
To be a bit more specific, the first 11 words of this quote are from the fourth paragraph of George Washington’s first address to Congress. Everything after that has been doctored so as to make it into a talking point for gun owner’s rights.
Here is the fake quote:
“A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might abuse them, which would include their own government.”
Here the original:
A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined; to which end a Uniform and well digested plan is requisite: And their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufacturies, as tend to render them independent on others, for essential, particularly for military supplies.
So, what happens when you call people out on this? Well, sometimes, folks get the point. Some decent people actually take the correction and get on with their lives. More often, they refuse to believe they are wrong. Some just ignore you. Some sources, I suspect, are bots, programed to simply post this and other propaganda over and over without regards to any efforts to engage them. The most common response, I get, however is to tell me that the quote above is actually a paraphrase of something Washington actually said. Some even provide me with a link to the actual speech. (Whether or not they have read the speech is another question.)
In a parallel development, I have noticed a lot of people taking to twitter in recent years to post the actual quote above. This might well be a response to the fact that some of us keep addressing the fake quotes wherever we find it. Realizing they don’t need the fake quote, they use the real thing for pretty much the same political purpose. In their minds, the real thing is still very much a statement about the importance of the Second Amendment. It may not contain an explicit prescription for revolution-readiness, but at least it makes the case for private gun ownership, ad we all know what that means…
The problem is, it doesn’t.
If you read the rest of Washington’s speech, you can see quite clearly that its overwhelming theme is the exercise of the Federal government’s newly expanded powers. Yes, that’s right, Washington was actively working to expand the powers of the Federal Government, as did many of the founding fathers now celebrated by those whose very definition of evil is encapsulated in the phrase “big government.” One of the powers Washington was most happy to have at his disposal was the ability to outfit a viable military force. THAT is what this paragraph is about. It is nestled in between two other paragraphs that are most explicitly about troops and preparations for war. Keep reading that same speech, and you find Washington speaking quite explicitly about the prospect of war with Indians in the present-day southeast.
Among the many interesting objects, which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.
A free people ought not only to be armed but disciplined; to which end a Uniform and well digested plan is requisite: And their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories, as tend to render them independent on others, for essential, particularly for military supplies.
The proper establishment of the Troops which may be deemed indispensible, will be entitled to mature consideration. In the arrangements which may be made respecting it, it will be of importance to conciliate the comfortable support of the Officers and Soldiers with a due regard to œconomy.
What Washington is actually talking about is the ability to field an army. He sees this as an essential exercise of the powers newly granted to the Federal Government under its new Constitution. He is urging Congress to encourage the manufacture of weapons so that the armies of the United States will not have to rely on foreign powers to arm them in the event of any future war.
Just to be clear, the prospect of such future wars certainly does include the possibility of open rebellion, but Washington isn’t arguing that citizens might need to rebel against their own government. If anything, he is mindful of the prospect that he might need to put down such a rebellion. Remember, it was Shays’ Rebellion that triggered the urgent need for a constitutional convention in the first place. Its purpose was to fix perceived weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation, specifically, the inability of the central government under that plan to tax the population directly so as to give it the means of fielding an army capable of putting down such an insurrection when it happens again. That’s right. The trigger for creation of the U.S Constitution was the need to put down rebellions, and Washington himself was fully down with that very agenda. Lest anyone think this might have been idle speculation, one has only to remember the whiskey rebellion.
When private citizens decided to rebel against the Federal government over taxation while Washington, foreshadowing so many of the themes of modern right wing politics, far from backing the rebels, Washington sent troops to put down that very rebellion.
Now there is an interesting detail here insofar as the troops in question took the form of a militia. I reckon some might say, “See! See, that’s what we are talking about,” but of course that ignores the difference between the actually regulated militias of Washington’s day, and the self-appointed weekend warriors who call themselves militias today. More to the point, it ignores the fact that the militia in the Whiskey Rebellion was not defending itself from “their own government”; it was actually serving as the arm of enforcement for that very government. You see, that Constitution whose powers Washington wants to flex here gives Congress authority over the militia, a provision quite controversial at the time, and arguably one of the inspirations for the Second Amendment still in draft form as Washington made this speech. One of the newly expanded powers of the Federal government Washington is actually trying to build upon in this very speech is power to arm and control the militia.
The enumerated powers of Congress includes the following:
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
Hopefully, you caught the part about “suppressing insurrections.”
Because that’s what Washington actually did on his own watch.
This meme would have us believe Washington would side with the rebels. This meme would have us believe that Washington was hyping the virtues of an Amendment not yet ratified as a means of countering the very power he was actually seeking to build in his First Address to Congress.
This meme is a lie.
It is not a paraphrase of Washington’s actual statement, and it is not (as several folks have assured me) an honest description of Washington’s actual views. It is not an honest mistake; it’s not a different point of view.
It is a lie.
I was about 15 or 16 when my father cancelled our membership in the National Rifle Association (NRA). Money was tight back then, but Dad said that wasn’t entirely the issue. He was also fed up with their politics.
I was mortified.
The old “If guns are outlawed” sticker was then sitting on the bumper of my first car (which wasn’t yet running), and a stack of hunting and shooting magazines rested on a shelf in my bedroom. My private arsenal had already outgrown the gun-case. At the time, there just wasn’t much about the NRA that I didn’t like. Oh sure I’d noticed a myopic one-sidedness to some of the articles in those magazines, but for the most part, I was down for the main agenda. Dad never did explain to me what had bothered him about the NRA back then (the early 80s). I reckon he was just hoping I would grow a dose of moderation at some point. This was hardly the only obsession that could have given him cause for such concerns.
I guess Dad got his way on this one at least. My views on guns and gun control are complex. ‘Ambivalent’ may be a better word. My take on the legal issues doesn’t map well onto either the left or the right on the actual issue of gun ownership. I’m open to gun control, but skeptical of its impact (at least one any scale that’s practically possible in the present political climate). It hasn’t escaped my notice that I live in a region where firearms can be damned useful. (By way of illustration, one of my students took a job collecting plant samples this summer. Part of her training including a day or so learning how to handle a firearm. In the land of polar bears, a gun can be an essential part of scientific research.) I’ve also got a lot of friends and neighbors who feed themselves by use of firearms, and I’m not in the habit of turning down a good bowl of tutu (caribou) stew. The bottom line is that I won’t be campaigning for full disarmament anytime soon. Few do, really, but if complete disarmament is your bandwagon, then I am definitely not on board.
There is one other bandwagon I’m not climbing aboard any time soon, and that is the one run by the NRA. Any latent interest I might have had in that organization slipped away during the Clinton administration. The television ads from that era telling us that every honest gun owner ought to be a member didn’t exactly inspire me to get out my checkbook. Hearing countless people spouting their fears about ‘thuh guvment’ was enough to send shivers up my spine and put a large dose of queazy in the pit of my stomach. I recall “Impeach Clinton” bumper stickers within the first few months of his first administration. In time his critics would find reasons. In the interim, suddenly Bill Clinton was the source of the New World Order, notwithstanding Bush Senior’s use of the phrase to sell Desert Storm. Within the space of a single election, Clinton became the source of all that was wrong with the world. Seeing the same people who had supported centralization of power throughout the Reagan and Bush administrations suddenly play underdog against government authority was more than a little disconcerting.
It got a lot more disconcerting after the Oklahoma City bombing.
You can’t run a direct line of reasoning from Charlton Heston’s “take my gun from my cold dead hands” speech to that bombing, no, but these two notes fit in the same damned tune. The right wing now sings a constant chorus of ‘don’t tread on me’ messages, and most of them serve simultaneously to valorize the weekend warrior games of countless over-gown boys and to demonize the best efforts of anyone involved in pretty much any kind public service. Hating the government is a popular sport in what passes for ‘conservative’ circles these days. The problem is you can’t shoot at the government and you can’t bomb the government. Hell, you can’t even shout at the government. You can only do these things to real people, people who work for the government, and the trouble with demonizing that government is its a damned effective way to demonize real people. It’s a damned effective way to justify hurting real people. An awful lot of people died in Oklahoma City because someone decided to strike a blow against the government, and his ideas about that government had an awful lot in common with those pushed by the NRA for a couple decades now. Is the one the cause of the other? Maybe not, but it’s a damned reckless message just the same.
What I specifically object to is the scorched earth tactics that the NRA keeps producing. Talking of Second Amendment solutions and other confrontations with the government may sound like the words of brave people put-upon by dark forces and powerful institutions, but they are also clear and obvious efforts to intimidate the rest of us. While other interest groups go to the voting booths, hire lawyers to plead their case, or sometimes take to the streets with a sign or three, elements of the gun rights crowd keep threatening to use their guns under some unspecified conditions. It’s easy enough to imagine the scenario without its details. They will fight back against tyranny, of course; that’s what these people keep telling us. The problem of course is that tyranny may very well be a few unwelcome regulations and the tyrant may well be (as it was in Oklahoma City) ordinary people just trying to do their damned jobs.
Don’t get me wrong. For better or for worse, the Second Amendment is part of American government. There are certainly arguments to be made about its proper scope, and still other arguments to be made about the effectiveness of various gun control measures, but there is no excuse for the constant litany of violent fantasies surrounding firearms ownership. An awful lot of people keep telling us they and their guns are the best protection from government overreach, and every time I see or hear this message I find myself hoping for protection from precisely the folks producing it. I realize echos of this message come to us from the days of America’s founding fathers, but those echos have been twisted by ideology, augmented by fraudulent representations, and generally milked for everything they could possibly be worth. In the end, it isn’t America’s founders that keep this threat of violence alive in America’s politics today. It is the words and deeds of shameless people.
…which of course brings us to the latest twist in Donald Trump’s campaign. These are his words on the subject:
Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the second amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks, although the second amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.
To say these remarks have sparked outrage is putting it mildly, but let’s be clear. This is not an obvious call for gun owners to assassinate Hillary Clinton. It isn’t even a clear call for armed rebellion in the case that Hillary wins the election. There isn’t really anything clear about this message at all, but then again there wouldn’t be.
It’s Trump, remember?
He and clarity have never really been on speaking terms.
What this rhetoric ALSO isn’t is a responsible case for the Second Amendment. To begin with, the claim that Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment is hardly supported by the evidence. She favors a variety of gun control measures, yes. This does not mean she wishes to abolish the Second Amendment after all. It’s a straw Hillary that Trump is talking about, not the real one.
It’s really not clear how the straw Hillary who wants to abolish the Second Amendment altogether would even go about it, but it actually is clear that she couldn’t do it just by appointing a few judges. That move is neither sufficient nor necessary to do away with the Second Amendment (in principle or practice).
Hillary may well support gun control measures that many gun owners wouldn’t want to see passed. She may even advocate measures that ought not to be passed by any objective measure of their merits. Gun control measures, perfectly sound or bat-shit crazy, do NOT add up to the abolition of the Second Amendment. And let’s be clear, even Scalia, in the infamous Heller decision suggested that some regulations could be consistent with the existence of the Second Amendment, a Second Amendment he construed explicitly (and quite controversially as an individual right).
Simply put, regulations are on the table with or without Hillary as POTUS. Also the Second Amendment remains on the table with or without Hillary as POTUS. Far from the dooms-day scenario Trump trots out in this speech, another Presidential Clinton is at best/worst just another twist in the long case history of the Aecond Amendment. It’s not the end of the Second Amendment or civilization itself. So, yes, Trump is exaggerating, which is putting it mildly.
That exaggeration is not simply a mistake. Realizing just how badly Trump is exaggerating the prospect of a Presidential Hillary helps us understand how to take the comment that Second Amendment people might be able to do something about her after all. These Second Amendment people would be acting in a fantasy world in which a President, and a President alone is enough to render the legal landscape hopeless. If Trump is really suggesting something as mild as voting or rallying to his cause, then there is no need to raise the specter of a gun-grabbing apocalypse in preparation for it. His wording is ambiguous of course, but it’s the ambiguity of plausible deniability. And when speaking to millions, some of whom are clearly quite excitable, Trump’s message will take on many meanings. He knows that. The man is not THAT stupid. Many, perhaps most will take his words to mean something as radical as it takes to say something really rude to a cotton-picking liberal, but some will take them far worse. Some folks are quite prepared to kick their John Wayne fantasies into high gear. A responsible candidate knows this, and a responsible candidate doesn’t rouse his support base, or any subsection of it to the brink of violence.
He has been doing this throughout his campaign. I know of no other candidate in recent memory who has deliberately provoked violence at his own rallies, always falling short of directly calling for it, but often coming as close as one might without explicitly endorsing it.
During the primary season, the actual violence at campaign rallies clearly worked in Trump’s favor. What began as a series of news stories about Trump’s own supporters beating various protestors transitioned seamlessly into a series of stories about protestors engaged in all manner of violence against Trump’s own supporters.
Trump’s fighting words couldn’t help but fall on angry ears for his critics. Many of us have responded with such radical actions as a contemptuous tweet or a few minutes of outraged gripetude, but some took it further. Some engaged in genuine violence. The pay-off for Trump was obvious enough as he and his supporters played the victim and cast his critics as those with no respect for civil society.
What better context for Trump to present himself as the law-and order candidate!?!
A responsible candidate would have asked his supporters to step back and let security handle matters. If Trump said such things on some occasions, on others he talked about how those beaten deserved it, suggested he would pay for the lawyers of those beating protesters, and otherwise said a number of things encouraging the violence in his own supporters. and to provoke violence against his opponents.
Simply put, violence has worked well for Trump. He provoked it to his benefit in the primaries, and it should come as no surprise that he continues to do so in the present general election cycle. He started the general election by fantasizing about hitting his critics at the Democratic National Convention. You can see it in this passage. It isn’t until the very end that we come to realize he is talking about something other than outright violence, and you come to that only after indulging in a long violent fantasy.
The things that were said about me, I mean, should I go through some of the names? I, You know what I wanted to, I wanted to hit a couple of those speakers so hard, I would have hit them, no-no, I was gonna hit them so, I was all set, and then I got a call from a highly respected governor, ‘how’s it going Donald?’ I said; “well it’s going good, but they are really saying bad things about me. I’m gonna hit them so hard, I was gonna hit one guy in particular, a very little guy, I was gonna hit this guy so hard his head would spin, he wouldn’t know what the Hell happened, and, he came out of nowhere, he came out of nowhere; they made deals with me, ‘would you help me this; would you make this deal and solve the problem.?’ I solved the problem. I do a great job. I was going to hit a number of those speakers so hard their heads would spin. They’d never recover. And that’s what I did with a a lot of, that’s why I still don’t have certain people endorsing me. They still haven’t recovered.
It could be an accident of course. And elves could bake chocolate cookies under a full moon. This is a conscious effort on Trump’s part. Just as above, this is a message calculated to stimulate violence. It is ambiguous enough to evade responsibility for that violence, but it’s evocative enough to encourage it just the same.
And so here we are, at a new low point in American politics, at least in my own memory, a Presidential candidate stirring up violence in the service of his own campaign. It says a lot about Trump’s character that he is willing to do this to get the position. It says a lot about how he plans to run the country, and what it says about those plans is damned frightening. We can add his penchant for promoting violence to Trump’s sustained and very deliberate courtship of white nationalists throughout his campaign. This man has already done irreparable harm to the nation, and it’s hard to imagine what good things he could possibly do as President to overcome the harm he is clearly willing to do in the service of becoming President. More likely, he will just go on hurting people and encouraging his supporters to do the same.
Today’s message is distinctive insofar as it’s a clear and definitive marriage of two trends within the current GOP. On the one hand, we have Trump’s general efforts to wind up the nation to state of hysteria, to create the sense that America rests on the brink of social breakdown. On the other we have the long-standing right-wing message of violent opposition to government authority, one rooted in a myopic devotion to a single civil right. It’s marriage made in Hell, or at least a cheesy overpriced hotel equivalent thereof. Donald Trump is a huckster. That much should be clear to pretty much anyone this side of a mental ward. But he’s a huckster with a heart full of bile.
I suppose it is too much to ask that folks distinguish the varieties of gun control from an outright ban. The way the gun rights crowd raises the specter of a completely disarmed populace when speaking about any variety lesser measures smacks of dishonesty.
It would hardly give away the farm to distinguish such things from one another. There are plenty of legitimate questions about the efficacy of lesser gun control measures, especially when applied to a population already so well armed as we are here in the U.S. But that is an interesting and well focused discussion some folks don’t seem to want to risk.
But what is really fascinating about memes like this is the slippage between a right to bear arms and a prescription for doing so. The second Amendment was alive and well when the internment of Japanese occurred in the first place. So, that right and that right alone simply is not a cure for the evil that this pic wants us to think about. The meme only works if we are to imagine a population which is not merely in possession of the right to bear arms, but which actively uses that right even to the point of preparing for war against its own government.
And can anyone really imagine Japanese immigrant population of the west coast doing this in the years leading up to World War II? Can anyone imagine the response from their neighbors?
This is not merely a defense of the Second Amendment, it is an argument for the expansion of private gun ownership well beyond anything previously imagined in American history. To make this argument work, we need more than just the right to bear arms, we all need to have the arms, the training to use them, and enough firepower to make them an effective counter to the powers of the United States Government.
Is the author suggesting that gun owners could stop such a thing as internment? Perhaps, but would they?
It’s a pretty common claim from the gun rights crowd, the notion that the Second Amendment puts the teeth in the rest of our civil rights. It is through gun ownership, so the argument goes, that people are protected from abuse by government officials. It is the most important means by which our rights are protected.
Pardon me, …from ‘thuh government.’
But gun owners did not stop the internment of Japanese.
Or of Aleuts during the same war.
Neither did they stop lynching of blacks.
Nor did gun owners secure the right to vote for African Americans.
…or for women.
…or Native Americans.
Gun owners did not stop the Federal Government from kidnapping Native American children to be taken to schools far from their families.
They didn’t stop police harassment of homosexuals.
They didn’t improve treatment of the mentally ill.
They didn’t stop the Zoot Suit Riots.
…or legacy provisions precluding Jews from owning homes in some neighborhoods.
Gun Ownership didn’t stop Jim Crow laws.
It was not gun owners that secured for any number of minorities the right to an education or any other protections by states or the federal government.
In each of these instances, the rights in question were won by protestors, and lawyers, and people who talked a hell of a lot, even if their main opponents didn’t. In many of these instances gun owners were actively involved in the very repression suffered by those in question. Since the founding of the country, Gun violence has played a far greater role in the repression of civil rights than it has in protecting them. There are exceptions to be sure, but this narrative is not built on the exceptions. It is built on a fantasy that skips any active consideration of how these things actually work.
Herein lies the biggest problem with this fantasy scenario; it presents us with the image of a government acting on its own, independent of the public will. That could happen, I suppose, but is far less likely than the countless times in which government policies actually have facilitated repressive measures popular with the American people, or at least a large segment of it. And in such moments, the victims of repression have rarely been sufficiently well armed to make an effective stand against those who wanted a piece of their liberty.
In real world history, those who have suffered the greatest deprivations did not merely face the threat of Federal Authority; they also have had to contend with the prejudice of an American population content to have them suffer.
…one that sometimes even demanded it.
We can imagine the victims of repression better armed, yes, but only if we also imagine the majority better armed as well. This is hardly a story which leads to a successful defense of liberty. I would call the scenario anarchy, but I don’t wish to sully the term ‘anarchy’ with such a vision of violence and destruction.
It’s damned hard to read these self-indulgent fantsies when considering the actual history of people struggling for their rights. It’s hard to give credence to this juvenile narrative, knowing what it took for the people in these camps to survive, what it took the Freedom Riders to earn rights enjoyed by gun-toting whites in the South. And it is especially hard to hear such arguments from those with so little to say about such things as Guantanamo Bay or the countless encroachments on Fourth Amendment Rights we’ve seen over the last few decades.
What pisses me off about this argument isn’t the defense of gun ownership, or even opposition to gun control. Frankly I don’t think this kind of crap even touches either one of those issues. It sheds no light on those issues whatsoever, and leave us with a whole different discussion to have if we can ever get clear of noise like this. What bothers me about this stuff is the scorched-earth tactics; the vision of politics as warfare and questions about rights as an invitation to shoot at one another. It’s a vision of government as a faceless evil empire in opposition to private citizens, and begging for opposition from heroic gun-owners everywhere. Folks telling this yarn have no sense of how such things actually happen. But they are happy to tell stories of gun-toting heroes squaring off against a government turned inexplicably on its own population. How that will work is a Hell we can only hope we will never see.
And it’s a Hell as likely to be brought about by gun-owners defending their own rights (as they define them) as anything done by a corrupt and tyrannical government.
While others have struggled and died for some of the most basic human rights imaginable, so many in the gun crowd openly fantasize about acts of violence over basic policy disagreements and the possibility of restricted access to a commodity. The pretense that this commodity is the key to civil rights plays a big role in these fantasies. The end result is a tantrum born of paranoia and privilege and a gun culture increasingly dangerous to the rest of us.
No. I’m not talking about the weapons. I am talking about the mindset of people who produce memes like the one above. People who make such arguments are not interested in protecting anyone under serious threat of government repression. The gun rights crowd did not protect the Japanese during World War II, and I for one don’t believe they will be there the next time someone decides to create camps like this.
…unless of course it is to close and lock the gates.
So, I just saw this campaign video from Joe “The Plumber” Worzelbacher (He’s Running for a House Seat in Ohio), and I swear a little part of me just died. It’s not like I was expecting much from Joe, or from the political opportunists intent on helping him stretch his fifteen minutes (and the collective Hell that goes with it) just a little longer. But Damn! If stupid really does burn, then the state of Ohio needs to open a new hospital wing just to deal the fall-out from this particular idiot-bomb.
So, Godwin’s Law aside, what’s wrong with this ad?
I’m going to say right off the bat that I don’t know enough about the Armenian Holocaust to really deal with it properly. I will add that I would be damned surprised if Joe did either, or the idiot who wrote his speech in this video, whoever that may have been and whatever drug he may have been taking at the time.
On one level, Joe’s argument really presents a very simple exercise in fallacy recognition. He mentions two laws followed by two genocides. Joe offers no analysis in support of his contention that they are linked, but he does fire off a couple rounds while giving us time to let the obvious connection sink in. …and my gosh golly aren’t we all impressed!
This is a Post Hoc fallacy, pure and simple. Done.
It should be added that Joe has subsequently denied he was claiming gun control caused the Holocaust, and then he went on to explain that it could never have happened without disarming the people first. (Actually, Joe attributes this particular claim to Hitler, so I suppose he still has grounds for plausible deniability on the matter, but of course the question is why does he bring it up if he doesn’t intend to advance the claim?) Seriously, this is the rhetoric of a complete coward. If he can’t make up his mind whether or not he means to say gun control made the Holocaust possible, then he really ought to shut his festering gob.
Irony of Ironies, Joe thinks his critics are pushing a political agenda. (And seriously, how lacking in self-consciousness do you have to be to make such an accusation about people critical of YOUR OWN POLITICAL CAMPAIGN ADD?) Joe also says that his critics must hate history, because apparently they don’t want to hear it. One of Joe’s spokesman (Phil Christofanelli) adds that Joe is a student of history. …yeah right! The prospect that Joe’s critics may just know more about the subject than he or his speech writer does seems to escape these guys, …or perhaps they are simply hoping that prospect will escape Ohio voters.
But of course Joe isn’t the only happy hustler to trot this line of powdered camel dung out and offer us a straw. It’s a fairly conventional line of bullshit from the gun lobby and assorted gun enthusiasts, …actually, I should say from the less intelligent and completely dishonest members of gun-toting crowd. Seriously, there are decent and intelligent gun-owning folks out there. You can tell who they are because they are not the ones laying this line of crap down on the table and expecting you to snort it.
But lets sort through a few specifics, shall we? Near as I can tell Joe was actually talking about a gun control law passed in 1938, but let’s not quibble over that detail. No, let’s quibble over the fact that Germany had already passed gun control laws in 1919, 1920, and 1928. Each of these laws modified the legal options for gun ownership in different ways, and there is no clear reason to choose the 1938 law as the smoking gun (pun intended) for Nazi gun control. Joe’s sophisticated periodization is little other than an ad hoc choice of the date most convenient to his own narrative (much as his choice of 1939 as the beginning of the holocaust-according-to-Joe). Joe picked the most convenient date for his own story, and that was about it.
Did I mention this argument is pure camel dung?
Okay, but let’s think about this for a minute. 1938(9)? What had already happened in Germany by that point? Well, let’s see. On the basis of the 1932 elections, Hitler had been appointed Chancellor in January of 1933. This was followed soon after by a suspicious fire in the Reichstag (German parliamentary building) that February. The following day President Hindenburg granted Hitler emergency powers, and in March the German Parliament (under great pressure from the Nazi party) signed away the bulk of its powers to Hitler in a law known as the Enabling Act. In effect, the democratic institutions of Weimar Germany had already come to a pretty full stop by the end of 1934, 5 years before the key to everything in Joe’s gun-induced euphoria.
…and of course by this time the Nazis were already locking up their political enemies.
In late June and early July of 1934, Nazi leadership killed about a hundred of their own in a fascinating little purge known as the “Night of the Long Knives.” By early August Hitler had fused the offices of President and Chancellor, thus making himself, …well, der Fuhrer. And with that Nazi leadership is in pretty much full swing, the law is what they say it is at this point in history, …4-5 years before the law Joe offers as the key to it all.
The Nuremberg Laws were passed in 1935, installing legal repression of Jews throughout Germany, 4 years before the terrible law which Joe wants us to believe made it all possible.
By 1939, the Nazis had already been using concentration camps for 6 years. They weren’t killing people in mass yet, but they were already working them to death in large numbers, and yes, they were already experimenting with ways to kill Jewish prisoners and other undesirables. Italy had already invaded Ethiopia, the Japanese had already taken Manchuria, and Francisco Franco had already seized power in Spain, all with the support of Germany. Hitler had already seized Austria and begun his push for the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.
Despite all the crimes the Nazis had already committed, all the freedoms they had already taken away, Joe wants us to think a law passed in 1938(9) made it all possible. It’s amazing! It is completely asinine to suggest that private German citizens were in a position to stop Nazi atrocities in 1938, let alone to suggest the largely unarmed Jewish population, could have managed it. This is not history. This is fantasy.
So, just remember this the next time one of these smug little idiots decides to illustrate the Dunning-Kruger Effect by giving you the pop-gun and bubble-gum history of the Holocaust, conveniently simplified for the benefit of the American gun-lobby. There is only one way to make that argument, and that is to be so damned ignorant about the history in question that you just don’t know any better.
Apparently, Joe doesn’t know any better.
He’s hoping a lot of people in Ohio don’t either.