Thursday, January 17, 2013

Maybe Salon Thinks You've Lost Your Marbles

In accusing the NRA of displaying a shocking new nuttiness in its recent gun control ads, Salon demonstrates it has no concept of the long history behind the NRA's argument. Salon seeks to characterize the NRA's ads (which amount to: he makes sure his kids are protected by guns, but not yours) as an attack on the President's family. So, here's some perspective. Opponents of anti-gun legislation have long cried hypocrisy against government officials whose own families are provided armed security at government expense, but who expect less fortunate individuals to make do without. This is not some wild new evidence of madness, it's an old argument. And, historically, not a particularly controversial one.

The first time this author heard the argument was in the 1980s. It was directed at Ted Kennedy. Kennedy was accused of traveling everywhere with armed guards, all the while preaching that civilians didn't need and shouldn't have guns. Kennedy was further lampooned with bumper stickers proclaiming that "Ted Kennedy's Car Has Killed More People Than My Gun". The latter attack was a lot closer to an attack on Ted Kennedy's character than the first, which was simply an effort to illustrate that the man wasn't willing to accept for himself the rule he preached for others. Obviously, people can have a fair debate over whether Ted Kennedy or some other politician needs a different rule than others, or should have a different rule, but the argument was there decades ago and it's the same argument now.

None of this goes to the heart of whether the argument is good, or whether any of the legislation actually at issue is likely to succeed. This article is about how slimy Salon is to pretend sudden shock at an argument that is decades old (at least) and is not an attack on the President's family but on the President's willingness to spend federal money on armed guards for his own family while (as the NRA might describe it) preaching the disarmament of others.

Salon should be ashamed of itself. There are wonderful arguments to make in the realm of personal security and public policy, but Salon has decided instead to run an attack piece against the NRA for displaying sudden madness when all it has done is to publish once more an argument that has been uncontroversial for decades.

Insinuating that the NRA is somehow connected to alarming emails by some Kansas politician, never previously heard of by this author, is more of the same: it's sly. If there's a nutball in Kansas urging his fellows to join him in praying from Psalms 108:9, he may need his own article. News flash: nutballs sometimes talk about killing the President. The question is, what has this got to do with the NRA's newest repetition of an age-old suggestion that people should find politicians to be hypocrites so as to color the public view on an emotional political issue?

In an argument long wrought with inflamed passions, Salon hasn't offered the cool balm of logic but instead fueled the fires with another Molotov.  Nice going, there.

Maybe Salon thinks its readers are unable to comprehend the game being played on them, and will conclude that the NRA urges the death of the President because someone elected in Kansas forwarded offensive emails while being a registered Republican. Maybe Salon thinks its readers will overlook its sloppy argument. Maybe Salon thinks we've all lost it, so there's no point to constructing sound arguments about political issues. Who knows. But Salon isn't advancing the argument at all.

For the merits of the matter, one might compare and contrast the success of other countries with other seemingly intractable problems, like addiction*. Or violent crime broader than the context of firearms.

*: In looking at the problem of addiction, it's worth looking at socially impactful sequelae such as its associated auto-related fatalities, an area in which we've actually improved since the '80s here in the U.S.  It may be worth asking what it is about auto fatalities that is so different from addiction generally that made it a success.  The fact that the drug dominating auto fatalities (ethanol) remains legal to buy (if you are 21) may offer some insight into the effectiveness of social interventions and the relative success of public health efforts over police efforts in curbing persistent undesirable behavior.

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