Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Devil's Right Hand Man

I'm going to preface this post by stating emphatically that I do not believe in a devil. While the famous aphorism claims that "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist", I'd postulate that the greatest trick the authoritarians ever pulled was convincing the world that the devil exists. By creating a supernatural devil, the authoritarians have stifled genuine inquiry into the conundrum of the existence of evil, and have thrown spanners into debates about how to handle "evildoers". Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I'm going to rip Wayne LaPierre, the Devil's Right-Hand Man, a new one... metaphorically, of course.

Wayne LaPierre's "press conference" (so-called, the bastard never took any questions from the press) was an unmitigated blend of mendacity and viciousness. I'm going to pull some nasty little bits out of the transcript of the speech to highlight just how mendacious and vicious his speech was.

The biggest cop-out in LaPierre's speech was his refusal to even acknowledge the role that guns played in the Newton, Ct massacre (and the numerous other mass shooting events that have plagued the headlines for the last few decades, including a murder spree that was transpiring even as he was speaking).

LaPierre started off by blaming gun control policy for the Newton shooting:

How do we protect our children right now, starting today, in a way that we know works? The only way to answer that question is to face the truth. Politicians pass laws for gun free school zones, they issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them. And, in doing so, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.
How have our nation’s priorities gotten so far out of order. Think about it. We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, court houses, even sports stadiums are all protected by armed security.

Of course, the "gun free school" initiative is one facet of a multi-pronged initiative aimed at reducing gun violence among America's youth. Increased penalties for gun possession in the vicinity of a school won't dissuade a suicidal individual bent on taking as many victims with him as he can, but it is supposed to reduce the incidence of shootings resulting from grudges.

LaPierre then blamed actual demons in his speech, proposing a twelfth century cause for a twentieth and twenty-first century problem (has anyone ever heard of a mass halberding?):

The truth is, that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters. People that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons, that no sane person can every possibly comprehend them. They walk among us every single day, and does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school, he’s already identified at this very moment?

The real problem of mental illness cannot be chalked up to demonic possession- even proposing that is monstrous and counterproductive. As bad as healthcare is in the United States, our approach to mental health problems is positively cruel. Oftimes, mentally ill persons who have exhibited dangerous behavior are left untreated until they actually commit a violent act, and then are shunted off into a criminal justice system in which they are further victimized. Mentally ill individuals are more likely to be the victims of violence than to be the perpetrators.

LaPierre's next attempt at deflection of blame was to cite violent video games, movies, and music videos as inspiration to mass shooters:

And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal. There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people. Through vicious, violent video games with names like “Bullet Storm,” “Grand Theft Auto,” “Mortal Combat,” and “Splatterhouse.” And here’s one, it’s called “Kindergarten Killers.” It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research staff can find it, and all of yours couldn’t? Or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it? Add another hurricane, add another natural disaster. I mean we have blood-soaked films out there, like “American Psycho,” “Natural Born Killers.” They’re aired like propaganda loops on Splatterdays and every single day. 1,000 music videos, and you all know this, portray life as a joke and they play murder -- portray murder as a way of life. And then they all have the nerve to call it entertainment. But is that what it really is? Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography? In a race to the bottom, many conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate, and offend every standard of civilized society, by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behavior, and criminal cruelty right into our homes. Every minute, every day, every hour of every single year a child growing up in America today witnesses 16,000 murders, and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18. And, throughout it all, too many in the national media, their corporate owners, and their stockholders act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators. Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize gun owners.

Oddly enough, the movies LaPierre cites are well over ten years old, and not the sort of movies that anyone under the age of thirty would remember. One of the video games he mentions is a poorly made amateur effort which was probably created with the express purpose of trolling Wayne LaPierre. As far as the "Mortal Combat" video games go, there haven't been a rash of kung-fu mass killings in recorded U.S. history. While violent video games may increase a player's level of aggression, in the absence of guns, it is virtually impossible to act out one's fantasies of mass violence. I have to confess that I used to meet up with a couple of friends of mine every week to chew bubblegum and kick ass drink scotch and play Halo, and that my foot had a tendency to "leaden up" when I began the drive home (until I reminded myself that there real consequences to real-world aggressiveness, though I defy you to tell me you don't want to speed when you listen to this)... We all have occasional untoward thoughts- the desire to smash the noggin of someone who cuts us off while driving, a desire to smack an obnoxious loudmouth- but guns allow us to act on these thoughts before we fully process how messed up they are. Guns remove a need for premeditation and lower the bar for violence. No matter how violent one's entertainment choices are, guns are a prerequisite for a mass-killing spree.

LaPierre then tells his biggest lie of his rant, a lie which has been repeated by news stations without a rebuttal- I'm highlighting the most mendacious part:

As brave and heroic and as self-sacrificing as those teachers were in those classrooms and as prompt and professional and well- trained as those police were when they responded, they were unable -- through no fault of their own, unable to stop it.
As parents we do everything we can to keep our children safe. It’s now time for us to assume responsibility for our schools. The only way -- the only way to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

LaPierre flat out lies when he claims that no shooting was ever stopped by unarmed civilians. Also, most mass-shootings are not stopped by a "good guy with a gun", they tend to stop when the shooter commits suicide. Additional guns in an "active shooting event" would probably result in additional deaths- they are a destabilizing factor, and the addition of additional shooters would confuse the identity of the "bad" shooter.

I saved LaPierre's most monstrous statement for last- a heinous proposal that the U.S. register mentally ill persons rather than firearms:

How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame from a national media machine that rewards them with wall-to-wall attention and a sense of identity that they crave, while provoking others to try to make their mark.
A dozen more killers, a hundred more? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill? The fact is this: That wouldn’t even begin to address the much larger, more lethal criminal class -- killers, robbers, rapists, gang members who have spread like cancer in every community across our nation.

LaPierre basically wants to further demonize and victimize one of the most marginalized populations in the United States. Besides being a gross violation of Health Information Privacy Laws, LaPierre's proposal would only increase employment and housing discrimination (among other forms of discrimination) against the mentally ill. As brilliant artist and twitterer Spearhafoc poignantly put in in a Sadly, No! comment thread:

People in this thread brought up LaPierre’s attack on the mentally ill, but I haven’t seen mention of his call for a national database for people with mental problems.
I have Autism, OCD, and Depression. Apparently I belong on a national registry, but an automatic assault rifle doesn’t.

As far as the post title goes, if I don't believe in a devil, then why would I characterize Wayne LaPierre as the Devil's Right-Hand Man? I'll let the incredible Steve Earle answer that question:

I will be cross-posting this at Rumproast shortly.


mikey said...

Your depiction of the facts is correct right down the line, but I would question your interpretation. LaPierre is not 'evil' in the same sense that a lawyer for a serial rapist or a lobbyist for a repressive government or a programmer for a hedge fund are not evil. He's doing his job - a distasteful, irresponsible job I, and I suspect you, would refuse to do.

The key is that it is all strategy. LaPierre doesn't believe the things he is saying, and doesn't care if you or I or some toothless racist in Alabama believes them. They are calibrated to change the discussion, nothing more or less.

His constituency is NOT the 4 million+ NRA members. It is the Manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers of firearms and associated products. Any meaningful firearms legislation, even something as pointless as a ban on some rifles or magazines, would cost them money and profits. He recognizes clearly that it would be deeply counterproductive to argue directly against gun control at this point.

So instead he is only seeking to change the conversation. Anyone who might otherwise be speaking out about active measures to reduce gun violence who is distracted to talk about movies, games, mental health or the evil derangement of one Wayne LaPierre is doing his work for him. Because he did his job, and tossed all those red herrings out on the national discourse, and everybody seems hell-bent on picking him up. And he wins.

Congress is the game, effective firearms regulations like the NFA, effective tax policy, a strengthening of product liability laws around gun injuries and deaths - these are the things that matter in this discussion. The fact that Wayne LaPierre is a dick who is good at his job can be left for another, less urgent time...

wiley said...

In the wake of the most pathologically ill shooting most of us have ever seen, it's a comfort to read so many sane and measured responses from hearts and minds. It's time for some positive backlash.

Thank you, 4-Bs.

Check out the Rude Pundit if you haven't already. He published a letter from a elementary public school teacher that is perfect in tone and temperament.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

So instead he is only seeking to change the conversation.

Happens every time.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

LaPierre is not 'evil' in the same sense that a lawyer for a serial rapist or a lobbyist for a repressive government or a programmer for a hedge fund are not evil. He's doing his job - a distasteful, irresponsible job I, and I suspect you, would refuse to do.

I would beg to differ- he is evil, not only is he doing this distasteful job (I believe the Buddhists are right in including "Right Work" as part of their Noble Eightfold Path), he is perpetrating a great evil, demonizing the mentally ill, while trying to distract the public from a great evil, the ongoing rash of shootings. It's cynical, and could result in even more damage being done to an extremely marginalized population.


Right, eh?

Thank you, 4-Bs.

I live to serve!

Happens every time.

Disgusting, right? They need to have the heat kept on them. Ignore them, and it will be interpreted as tacit assent. They need to be marginalized so they can't lie about representing a "silent majority".

mikey said...

The point is that there are a certain set of extant realities, and we need to put on our big boy jammies and confront them. One is that there is a constitutional guarantee that cannot be ignored or wished away. The fact that you believe that it does not say what the Supreme Court believes it says is utterly irrelevant. There are lots of folks who still think the Obamacare mandate is unconstitutional - how’s that working out for them?

Second, there is a lot of money in guns. A LOT of money. They are not going to stand down and risk their profits because people are dying. Those profits will have to pried from their cold dead hands, if I may borrow a phrase. We are not confronting ‘evil’, or even people who WANT people to be murdered. We’re confronting professionals, politicians and lobbyists and lawyers and marketers who are very well funded and very good at what they do for a living. The first thing we have to make certain of is that we don’t fall for their strategies. They are going to try to derail any meaningful regulation - if you think that just means the most obvious arguments against gun control you’re naive. It means using their power and wealth to try to take control of the narrative, control the conversation, prevent any serious public groundswell of demand for a sane national firearms policy.

It’s bad enough that we’re talking exclusively about rifles. A hundred Americas have been murdered with guns since Sandy Hook, and yet nobody’s heard of them. That’s because they weren't gunned down by a madman with a rifle, they are just the faceless victims of America’s ridiculous national firearms policy. If we put all our effort into banning some rifles, how many lives will it save? What will be the ultimate difference? The NRA will fight regulations banning some rifles, but they are secretly ecstatic that the public outrage is limited to such a tiny portion of their profits. As long as we play their game by their rules we’ll accomplish nothing and they’ll laugh evilly all the way to the bank.

While we rail at the “evil” Mr. LaPierre, how many lobbyists and lawyers and marketers are working diligently for the Tobacco industry, the Coal industry, the Financial industry. Why do we mostly ignore them? Because we are onto their game. We can recognize them doing their jobs and we can spit the bait. We’re not going to enable their employers to kill our friends and our families and ruin our communities. But we don’t seem to have the same perspective here - we are delighted to spend our time arguing about video games and the EVIL of the lobbyists and demanding regulation of a few rifles and some kinds of magazines. Once again, it is a case of getting precisely the outcome we deserve...