Sunday, October 18, 2015

Of Cops and Kindergarteners

There's a reason we will never have that "discussion" about gun control and other hot topics in America: we're not allowed to.  There are so many entities whose job it is to grab out attention, to sell us on their products, to agitate us into fear and outrage and to enlist our support -- and in that pursuit of power,  truth, fact and objectivity are impediments. Any thoughts, proposals, arguments or  even unadorned facts are going to be drowned out or ignored. Swallow or be swept aside and damned.

Indeed it's often possible that someone who sees a bigger picture might be beyond the reach of the captious arguments and emotional smokescreens that typify American politics.  And of course everything in America is politics -- even the weather. Hardly anyone here is trained or experienced in noticing bad or weak or deceptive arguments.  We see numbers we like and we accept them and we like them only because they flatter our principles -- by which we mean our prejudices.  So what if you, as I did, got this in your in-box?

If you're a "Eeeew guns, get them away, get them away" person, there's little doubt that you'll see a stone tablet given us by Moses calling for immediate elimination of a threat. If  you're an NRA paranoid zonbie, you'll look for a way to debunk it or simply deny it in a frenzy of denunciation and because there are so many disparate and unrelated "gun cultures" there will be as many rationalizations, affirmations and denials as there are "gun cultures" and anti-gun cultures.  So what does the rational man do with yet another outrage bomb?

Perhaps if you've been taking your vitamin Cynic pills, you'll wonder whether those figures, if they are true, apply to more than one year, whether there's a trend, upward or downward or whether an unusual period is being used deceptively to look like a rule.  Can one really look at 2013 and say "each year" without blushing?

 Well a somewhat cursory look at the CDC figures shows that the numbers for age 4 and under  shootings, they've at least been in the same area since 2010 and although we don't yet have a number for this year, let's, for now assume they're true even if it's obvious that the purpose of the NY Times article was to scare you and enlist your support for as yet unspecified measures.  Snopes, one of my go-to sources when someone hands me an emotional argument seems to think the numbers are good enough for the purposes of argument, but points out what most of us won't pay attention to: These are absolute numbers not relative numbers.  Yes, it's not more dangerous to be 4 than to be a cop. There are more than 23 million kids 5 and under.  There are about 760,000 full time sworn officers.

So Mr. Rational will likely say "that's too many shootings" but might just be a little less friendly toward an article trying to make it seem worse, which is how I feel about virtually all I'm subjected to when it comes to many matters of safety and sociology. It's more dangerous to be a cop than a kid. Why would an honest person make the reverse seem true? Does a good cause sanctify a bad argument? Why do you need to do the Twist if the facts are on your side?  Why are you mumbling about unspecified gun controls when someone needs to start teaching people not to leave guns around - loaded or otherwise and do it today!. Now ask yourself who is actually attempting that and who isn't even though they all claim to be all about safety?

I got a "survey" from with a predictable rant about the NRA and steering me toward the desired answer "Yes I'm a gun owner and I support gun control"  The other possibilities would suggest that I was a lunatic or a monster or worse.  Although I am and I do, I'm not replying since there's no possibility of asking "what do you mean by gun control and how would it be enforced?"   Surveys such as this one, and they're used by opposing sides with much success, allow the big players to claim support they don't actually have.  How many claims to have the majority on some side are based on false-choice questions, false dilemmas and vague language?  Many, I suspect.

It's insulting because it presumes I'm unaware that there is a whole mountain of existing gun law, that I'm in such a state of panic that I'll vote for anything and that all that matters is passing laws and there's no need to look closely at what they say and whether they can be enforced fairly and equally..

No, there's no discussion, no conversation, only a lot of  manipulation and deceit  - and the packaging of selected facts and shady arguments: a lot of dimly lit agendas and lots of statements of broad principle. which liars do I listen to?  I'm left only with the option of  blogging to the four winds or ceasing to give a damn, which is not an option.  You can't be heard over the howling and the hate. You can't hope to inform people whose personalities are anchored to falsehoods because you'll readily be identified as a puppet of the "Liberals" the NRA, the NAACP, the Illuminati, the Zionist conspiracy and the Devil himself.

You have a hard time really knowing whether mass shootings are on the rise or whether there's a pattern for all the groups trying to tailor the data.  More shootings of 4 or more people are family related, but all the energy is being spent proving school shootings are on the rise and have only to do with the ease of buying weapons and the proliferation of them.  Can we ever know what the truth is. Some graphs make mass shootings look sporadic with isolated clusters, others try to make it look like a steady increase.  Like Procrustes' bed, reality gets stretched or trimmed to fit into it.  From all sides we're told to be afraid of the other side: afraid of guns and government and minorities and racists, of Christians and Muslims and Obama and the list is long. Outrage is everywhere and you're only choice is to listen to us!

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