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“Evidence And Logic Are Beside The Point”: Newtown Truthers Follow The NRA’s Playbook

Conceived in a dream of reason, what the Internet too often reveals is mass credulousness and fathomless irrationality. According to Salon’s Alex Seitz-Wald, a video depicting the Newtown, CT elementary school massacre as a government-sponsored hoax has drawn 8.5 million views on YouTube.

No doubt many viewers were drawn by idle curiosity or sheer incredulity. What would “evidence” for so transparently preposterous an allegation consist of? Nevertheless, there appear to be thousands of True Believers.

Try googling “Emilie Parker alive,” to sample the crazy.

Adepts claim that a photograph of a young girl sitting in President Obama’s lap reveals that six-year-old Emilie Parker was not murdered along with 19 classmates at Sandy Hook elementary as reported. Supposedly, the photo reveals a telltale blunder.

In reality, the child in the photograph is Emilie’s little sister, Madeline.

But why go on? There’s plenty more in the same dogged, delusional vein. Debunk one aspect of the conspiracy, and a dozen absurdities replace it. To anybody capable of imagining that staging the Sandy Hook tragedy would even be possible—requiring, as it would, the active cooperation of half the population of Connecticut—mere evidence and logic are beside the point.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Apart from religion, more Americans appear to be nuts on the subject of guns than all other topics. The National Rifle Association has raised and spent millions in recent years peddling scare stories about President Obama’s secret plan to abolish the Second Amendment, confiscate everybody’s deer rifles and set up a gun-free dictatorship.

Newtown conspiracy theories are only incrementally madder spinoffs of the NRA’s master narrative. Yet its leaders are treated as VIPs in newsrooms and TV studios. Why?

To Believers, guns have become fetish objects in American popular culture, having magical potency. Witness Bushmaster Firearms’ advertising its .223 caliber AR-15—Newtown killer Adam Lanza’s weapon—with the slogan: “Consider your Man Card reissued.”

Viagra ads are more subtle.

Hence conversations with gun cultists tend to be conducted in the dualistic, all-or-nothing terms of fundamentalist theology. Although polls have shown that large majorities of gun owners favor, for example, improved background checks to make it harder for criminals and severely mentally ill people to acquire deadly weapons, cultists see all such legislation in apocalyptic terms. All regulation amounts to total confiscation.

Hollywood’s equally to blame. About half the emails I get on this topic invoke the Red Dawn fantasy, although it’s not foreign communists people imagine taking to the hills to fight. It’s mainly tyrannical US government SWAT teams intent upon seizing their personal arsenals and making them eat arugula that they’re determined to repel by force of arms.

I’m always tempted to warn these jokers that I’ve forwarded their messages to the Obama White House for inclusion on Big Brother’s Hellfire drone strike list, but I’m afraid most wouldn’t get the joke. Tanks, helicopter gunships and drones have pretty much put an end to the adolescent fantasy of plucky survivalists taking on the U.S. Marines. Everywhere except in movies and at certain kinds of gun shows, that is.

Then there are the Lethal Weapon/Die Hard revenge comedies I’m partial to myself: the Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis vehicles where a wisecracking hero and his plucky sidekick shoot their way through legions of wicked, heavily armed villains with universally poor marksmanship.

Let’s put it this way: Ever seen a headline like this? “LAPD Detective Kills 17 Gangsters in Nightclub Shootout” (Lethal Weapon) Or this? “Vacationing Cop Foils Xmas Plot; 34 Terrorists Slain.” (Die Hard)

Of course not. Because the working part of your brain understands that these films bear approximately the same relationship to reality as a Roadrunner cartoon.

Sometimes I think it’s mainly about the wisecracks.

“Go ahead, make my day.” The average dweeb wishes he could say something so clever to a rude supermarket bag boy, much less to a lone demento with a .357 mag.

However, deep in many of our lizard brains the Dirty Harry fantasy lurks nevertheless. NRA president Wayne LaPierre invoked it during his notorious Newtown press conference. You know, the bit about a good guy with a gun shooting it out with a bad guy with a gun—inside a first-grade classroom.

That’s why the single most useful piece of journalism since Newtown may be Amanda Ripley’s “Your Brain in a Shootout: Guns, Fear and Flawed Instincts.” Writing for Time, Ripley interviewed highly trained, experienced cops and soldiers who talked to her bluntly about the crazy, jagged chaos of armed combat.

“[R]esearch on actual gunfights,” she writes “the kind that happen not in a politician’s head but in fluorescent-lit stairwells and strip-mall restaurants around America, reveals [that]…Winning a gunfight without shooting innocent people typically requires realistic, expensive training and a special kind of person.”

And normally not the kind of person, oddly enough, that makes an excellent kindergarten teacher.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, January 22, 2013

January 24, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Crazed Romance With Guns”: The Answer To Gun Carnage Is Not Arming Teachers

Have you ever seen the holiday film classic “A Christmas Story”? Set in 1940s Indiana, it’s the charming tale of young Ralphie, whose only wish for Christmas is a Red Ryder BB gun. Poor Ralphie is constantly rebuffed by the adults in his life, who warn him, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

During this shattered holiday season, with so many Connecticut families experiencing unimaginable loss, the movie is a reminder that guns have always been popular in the American imagination. It also gently reminded me, however, that previous generations were much more circumspect and cautious in their attitudes toward firearms.

I am delighted that President Obama, shocked to his senses by the carnage in Connecticut, has finally found the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and take steps toward more regulation of firearms. But I fear that won’t be enough.

Don’t get me wrong: I support a ban on assault-type weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and waiting periods for gun purchases. All of those are common-sense measures that should already be the law of the land.

But I don’t think those steps will be enough to change a culture steeped in gun lore and conditioned to believe that firearms hold some magical powers to keep the streets safe. Somehow, our crazed romance with guns — a dangerous and dysfunctional relationship — must end.

It hasn’t always been this way. My late father came of age in the 1930s and ’40s in deepest, reddest Alabama. He was an avid outdoorsman who loved fishing and hunting. Nothing made my father happier than awakening in the wee hours on a crisp morning in November to go out into the cold and stalk deer. Go figure.

I think he would have been amused — or perhaps puzzled — by the ad campaign that Bushmaster adopted to sell its AR-15 assault-type rifle, which was used by the Connecticut shooter. The campaign bestowed “manhood” on Bushmaster buyers. I don’t think my dad — who worked hard, supported his family and tried to teach his children right from wrong — ever thought his manhood was in question.

A veteran of combat in Korea, he was as strict about gun safety as the National Rifle Association is imprudent. He and his hunting buddies refused to hunt with rifles because the projectiles are too powerful and travel too far; they used shotguns instead. They banned hunters whom they deemed careless. Dick Cheney would not have been welcome.

As a young college graduate headed for the big city, I contemplated buying a firearm. My father wouldn’t hear of it, noting that I’d be more likely to be a victim of my own handgun than to ward off danger with it. He suggested that I stay out of dangerous places instead.

My dad was also a junior-high-school principal, and I think he would be horrified — simply horrified — by the irrational suggestion from some political leaders that the answer to school shootings is to arm teachers. He knew perfectly well that arming teachers would be a way to get more children killed.

As the term “friendly fire” connotes, soldiers and police officers, who undergo intense weapons training, frequently miss their targets or hit others by mistake. Last August, as just one example, New York City police officers killed a gunman outside the Empire State Building. Nine bystanders also ended up wounded, all by police gunfire or ricochets.

When did so many of our political leaders — governors, members of Congress, state legislators — lose their senses about guns? How did we come to have a culture in which public figures believe it is rational to advocate arming teachers to prevent school massacres?

Even as some of the loudest gun advocates have become more hysterical in their absolutism, the number of households with guns has actually decreased over the last few decades, according to polls and federal data. Unfortunately, the number of guns owned by a smaller portion of households has increased.

Meanwhile, reasonable, old-school outdoorsmen like my dad aren’t speaking up. They need to stand up and be counted.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, December 22, 2012

 

December 22, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence, Public Safety | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Transparent Public Relations Ploy”: Don’t Be Fooled, Walmart Hasn’t Changed Anything

In this week’s issue, we describe how Walmart has expanded gun sales—including military-style assault weapons—to half of its stores nationwide, and is the country’s biggest retailer of guns and ammunition in the country.

As our story was about to be published, Walmart removed a Bushmaster AR-15 style assault rifle, the same gun Adam Lanza used to carry out his attack on the Sandy Hook Elementary School, from its website. All of the other assault weapons remain. (See other examples here).

This is one of the most transparent public relations moves in relation to a dangerous product that I can recall—it was literally the least Walmart could do. To be clear, the store never actually sold the guns online. Rather, you can peruse Walmart’s gun inventory on its website, read customer reviews and product specifications and then find a Walmart near you that carries the item.

All Walmart did was remove that one gun, the one most likely to create a public relations problem, from a website where you couldn’t buy it anyway. But the Bushmaster remains on Walmart shelves—something the retail giant confirmed to MSNBC this afternoon, saying there is “no change” to its firearm sales.

Other retail chains, however, are making changes—though only slightly more substantial than Walmart’s URL adjustment. Dick’s Sporting Goods is “suspending” sales of some rifles in stores nationwide during “this time of national mourning,” and taking all guns out of stores located near Newtown, Connecticut. Cabela’s will stop selling AR-15s in Connecticut only.

If Walmart were to curtail weapons sales, however, it wouldn’t just hurt their bottom line. Freedom Group, one of the largest gun manufacturers in the country with $237.9 million in annual sales, said in its most recent financial statement that Walmart accounts for 13 percent of those sales alone, and warned investors of trouble should Walmart ever change its policy:

Our sales to Wal-Mart are generally not governed by a written long-term contract between the parties. In the event that Wal-Mart were to significantly reduce or terminate its purchases of firearms, ammunition and/or other products from us, our financial condition or results of operations and cash flows could be adversely affected.

Freedom Group was dumped today by its private equity owner, Cerberus Capital, following investor pressure. They’re in for more trouble if Walmart stops selling guns—but don’t look for that to happen anytime soon, based on how the retail giant has responded so far.

 

By: George Zornick, The Nation, December 18, 2012

December 20, 2012 Posted by | Corporations, Guns | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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