Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Must We Be Nice to Paramilitary Gun-Nuts and Forced-Pregnancy Zealots?

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot to this post, "Sierra Peterson" commented:
In the previous post mentioned you stated that secessionists should be held liable for treason, a crime punishable by a minimum of at least 5 years in prison, then later backtracked, stating instead that what you really meant was imposing sanctions. These are two vastly different strategies with fundamentally different meanings and the first clearly involves implementing military police state tactics against ostensibly sovereign communities. Given how fundamentally unstable and irrationally violent many within the citizen militia demographic can be, how is it unreasonable to state that calling for their imprisonment could lead to a state of civil war? Clearly that's not what you intended by use of the word treason but for that reason your post could used some clarification, since throwing around legal terms without regard for their consequences has the potential to be unnecessarily inflammatory. In the past week there has already been a sheriff in Mississippi talking about having a "bloodbath" in his county if the Feds come in to take all their guns, with numerous other sheriffs refusing to enforce the gun bans. Any talk of treason simply panders to paranoid anti-state fantasies and further justifies unilateral militarization.
Now, I don't agree that I "backtracked" in my response to Sierra at all -- Literal secession would be literal treason and if we are not talking about poetic utterances here but actionable conduct it is presumably punishable as such. If saying so hurts the fee fees of literal armed insurrectionists that sound you hear is me playing the world's smallest violin as background accompaniment for their tantrum on this score. Also, I do not doubt at all that many gun nuts are dreaming dreams of literal and figural insurrection in all sorts of senses you might care to think of, but I don't see how anybody could mistake a post saying so as the passing of an actual legal sentence -- on who exactly? and who made me a judge anyway? and why wasn't I informed? and shouldn't I be paid better?

Many criminals are emotionally unstable, are you afraid that pointing out criminals who get caught go to jail is "unreasonable" also? Why is it "pandering" to paramilitary irrationality to describe it as irrational when it is? Why wouldn't actually clarifying the stakes of their stand by exposing its anti-social assumptions and ultimate consequences more likely change the minds of the reachable, scare the timid, and put a useful spotlight on the actually dangerous remaining few?

You know, paramilitary gun-nuts don't want to smash the state because liberals aren't being nice to them and patting their heads enough and telling them how smart and handsome they are. And since there actually is NO justification for unilateral militarization I fail to see how actually describing what they are doing "further justifies" what they are doing.

This kind of pre-emptive surrender to dangerous reactionary minorities reminds me of a generation of choice advocates pretending we just needed to find a nicer way to talk to forced-pregnancy zealots and they would stop trying to kill women by denying them healthcare. Few who claim to be anti-choice really want to treat abortion literally as murder in the law or fail to grasp the complexities of the issue when somebody they actually know and love is faced with it. So why did we allow the issue to be framed in the terms of an anti-abortionist minority in ways that materially eroded access to healthcare when majorities disapprove that outcome? So, too, majorities think assault weapons should be banned and they are right to think so. If a handful a white-racist swinging dick survivalists disagree let them make their case and lose on the merits and then face the consequences if they try to act on their anti-civilizational convictions.

You seem to be afraid that sheriffs across the country are really going to take up arms against the country just because a few pricks are strutting around saying they will. Don't get suckered into accepting the skewed terms on which the gun-nuts themselves envision America. Actually, even in the most benighted region of the country few would stand for literal insurrection for any length of time at all. We already had a Civil War in this country and the South lost it. Hell, the Southern governors are all going to accept the ACAs Medicaid expansion in a few years' time despite their big talk just because they want the money.

You think these bullies and loons are an existential threat to America if we actually fight them? I doubt they can stand up to sustained scrutiny and ridicule let alone actually organized resistance. Almost nobody actually wants to secede and most who think they do would stop wanting it the moment they actually gave it a try for a week and the remaining few would fail utterly in no time flat.

Stop being afraid of reactionary assholes -- call them out, marginalize them into comparative harmlessness through clear education about the stakes and facts, and then throw the few truly dangerous extremists into jail when they try to act on their assholery in actually violent ways. Is it really hard to have the courage of such convictions?

"Sierra Peterson" responded:
Ok, if sitting behind a computer throwing insults at already disenfranchised blue collar survivalists that are just as much the casualties of neoliberal policies as any other demographic is what you consider "courage", then so be it. Did you know that the life expectancy for whites without a high school education is actually lower than it is for blacks and Latinos of equal education levels? This is the kind of scenario that feeds into the phobias of many of a survivalist and it seems doubtful that your insulting much of their community will outweigh the real life economic immiseration that led to the impulse for insurrection in the first place. And as has been stated here previously, the radical fringe actually can have a major effect on the political process by providing external influence that drives the mainstream further away from the center. Ron Paul and Glenn Beck are evidence enough of that pattern. As for your lack of support for secessionists' imprisonment for treason, your statement that they should "face the consequences" of their actions renders that claim rather dubious.
Sierra implies that I am merely "sitting behind a computer throwing insults at already disenfranchised blue collar survivalists that are just as much the casualties of neoliberal policies as any other demographic." Is Sierra claiming that more guns fights poverty somehow? Sierra points out that "the life expectancy for whites without a high school education is actually lower than it is for blacks and Latinos of equal education levels." Is Sierra claiming more guns increases life expectancy?

The main reason I want private military weapons banned is because they are demonstrably dangerous and serve no legitimate purpose. I also do think the discourse of paramilitary gun-nuttery is suffused with anarchist and secessionist conceits and I think it is well-worth calling attention to this reality and contemplating its impact deranging sensible public deliberation about the issue. I think all of this is pretty obvious. Saying so, according to Sierra "feeds into the phobias of many of a survivalist and it seems doubtful that your insulting much of their community will outweigh the real life economic immiseration that led to the impulse for insurrection in the first place."

Now, not everybody who is poor in America is building private arsenals of military weapons, and not everybody who is building private arsenals of military weapons is poor. For those few poor folks who are paramilitary gun-nuts it isn't exactly irrelevant to point out that hoarding military weapons isn't an anti-poverty program and that the existence of military weapons hoards endangers everybody in society, including them. Sierra thinks we should not make this case as clearly as we can do, because paramilitary gun-nuts will respond badly to such forthrightness. Sierra worries that "the radical fringe actually can have a major effect on the political process by providing external influence that drives the mainstream further away from the center."

But, once again, I think the evidence is entirely in the opposite direction. And it is to amplify this point in particular that I thought it worthy to republish this exchange as a post in its own right. A majority of people hold reasonable views on gun safety regulation -- that background checks should be universal, that people too irresponsible to use guns safely, young children, emotionally unstable or chronically depressed people, people with anger management issues should not be able to pass a screen to gun access, that military weapons should be banned altogether, and so on -- and empirically-testable harm-reduction models of good governance fully substantiate this majority view... and yet an objectively incorrect, dangerous view of the issue framed in hyperbolic terms by a small majority of zealots has made it impossible for the majority to prevail and do the right thing.

It is the timidity of the correct in the face of the organizational strength of a zealous minority of profitable gun manufacturers whomping up the irrational passions of a fringe that is responsible for all these unnecessary deaths. Again, those who are right need to have the courage of their convictions and stop this killing. If paramilitary gun-nuts are insulted by any of this, that is neither here nor there. Fortunately, they have Sierra to blow kisses at them.

As it happens, the same harm-reduction model of governance and the same majority support regulation of the abuses of for-profit insurance, the rich paying more taxes, the maintenance and expansion of social security, medicare, medicaid, food stamps, public education, and a host of other programs that objectively help the poor, supported by the same people who support gun safety regulation, impeded by exactly the same kind of moneyed interests, who whomp up the same kinds of irrational racial and religious hysteria and class resentments to convince people to vote against their own best interests in the service of outcomes they actually disapprove with the rhetoric of death panels, hunting rifle confiscation, FEMA concentration camps, UN takeover, and all the rest.

Should we really allow these wrongheaded irrational deranging terms to define public policy deliberation by relinquishing the discursive field for fear of insulting poor white people or making unstable people more mad? Does anybody honestly think that makes any kind of sense at all?

Sierra's closing comment was among the most perplexing of all for me: "As for your lack of support for secessionists' imprisonment for treason, your statement that they should 'face the consequences' of their actions renders that claim rather dubious." I honestly cannot for the life of me figure out what Sierra is talking about. Obviously, not everybody who talks about American decline or the need for radical change in this country (among whom I am conspicuously one myself) is literally a secessionist, literally engaged in treasonable efforts. But presumably at least some people might describe them as such. Again, and just as obviously, we have a first amendment right to free expression and peacable assembly in this country. Dissent and activism are patriotic in my view. But if somebody is hoarding military weapons in their compound planning to gun down first responders as an opening salvo in their race war or resistance to the Obama socialist or UN takeover or whatever they are an objective threat to the peace, safety, and welfare of American citizens and should be stopped and then face criminal prosecution. Everybody faces such consequences. Sierra seems to think at least some paramilitary gun-nuts should not have to. If I am reading Sierra's position correctly, I think it is fair to say I think Sierra is simply wrong.


Sierra Peterson said...

Wow. Your ability to project entirely imaginary political constructs on commenters seemingly knows no bounds. First of all, perhaps you missed the part where I called citizen militia members paranoid and irrational. That should have been the first clue that I'm not a Tea Party member and that my perspectives on gun control might be slightly more complex than thinking that assault rifles should be freely distributed to pre-schoolers. The issue I took is with holding secessionists legally responsible for treason on account of possession of firearms that have been 100% legal up until the very recent past. No more, no less. It's interesting that the issue of mandatory minimum sentencing for gun crimes has been been a rallying point for progressives, yet, all of a sudden, the history of how low income communities have been destroyed by discriminatory sentencing on account of these same laws has been forgotten in favor of supporting Obama's executive orders. Is it really such a shocking concept to think that gun control could be used opportunistically by the prison industrial complex to indefinitely imprison minorities and/or low-income whites, and that this development could further enrage the radical fringe of gun nuts while convincing some, more moderate-leaning voters that government is necessarily antagonistic to their interests? In fact, I am entirely supportive of most gun control measures, however, given the fact that the prison industrial complex has essentially resurrected the institution of slavery, I see no reason to blindly trust that the criminal justice system will save us all from those evil citizen militias.

Dale Carrico said...

You say: Wow. Your ability to project entirely imaginary political constructs on commenters seemingly knows no bounds.

Then you attribute to me this entirely imaginary accusation I never made:

my perspectives on gun control might be slightly more complex than thinking that assault rifles should be freely distributed to pre-schoolers.

And then claim you were "taking issue" with this entirely imaginary position I never held or articulated:

holding secessionists legally responsible for treason on account of possession of firearms that have been 100% legal up until the very recent past

One is tempted to say: Wow.

Dale Carrico said...

I advocate banning military weapons, not pretending a ban already exists. Is that really so hard to grasp? Are you honestly proceeding in good faith here?

I explicitly and repeatedly pointed out that literal armed insurrection is treasonable but that arguments that America is in decline and needs radical change is not only NOT necessarily treasonable but often patriotic and even something I believe myself.

But literal secession (rather than poetic utterances about which the first amendment demands wide latitude, and I've never said otherwise and it is paranoid to assume otherwise) is literally treason. Your objection about organized secessionism -- rather than activism for even radical change -- especially connected to private military arsenal building eliciting a legitimate force response seems to me a disagreement with the dictionary more than with me.

In fact, I am entirely supportive of most gun control measures, however, given the fact that the prison industrial complex has essentially resurrected the institution of slavery, I see no reason to blindly trust that the criminal justice system will save us all from those evil citizen militias.

If you want to undermine the prison industrial complex -- an outcome with which I strongly sympathize and an issue about which I both write and teach -- you should be fighting the racist war on drugs and racist incarceration of immigrants in this country.

Your suggestion that forthright language about the danger and illegitimacy of private military arsenals will lead to the mass incarceration of poor whites is hard to distinguish from the usual paranoid fantasies of white racist masculinist anti-statist paramilitary gun-nuts.

I am willing to accept your report that you are not a tea partier and that you actually support gun safety regulation, and so I think it becomes all the more urgent for you to grasp that you are reproducing the terms of their discourse and devoting all your effort here to undermining forthright description of the actual facts and stakes that would eventuate in the regulation you claim to support.

You may recall that my argument all along has been that in the absence of forthright characterization of demonstrably preferable harm-reduction and majority-supported policy positions, the discursive terrain is often framed instead by the deranging and damaging terms of irrational views held by extreme minorities. To the extent that you are reasonable and not simply engaging in sanewashing PR for paramilitary gun-nuttery you may be providing evidence of my thesis even as you are disputing it for whatever reason.

Your derisive parting shot that I am indulging in "blind trust" that the criminal justice system will "save us from evil militias" is not exactly encouraging.

Do you regard paramilitary militias generally virtuous and innocuous then?

I have devoted considerable attention and activism to policing police violence and injustices in the justice system, but the goal is to reform these in the service of equity-in-diversity. Do you think the expectation and demand that police protect and serve the people and that people have equal recourse to the law is an expression of "blind trust" or an irrational desire for "salvation"?

Do you really think forthright discussion of the dangers and illegitimacy of private military arsenals will do more harm by justifying some pogrom against and prison-industrial enslavement of white people than the good of diminishing the ongoing catastrophe of gun violence in this country?

I look forward to being told how I am outrageously distorting your views here simply by questioning your premises and calling attention to their entailments. It's an enjoyable diversion.

Black guy from the future past said...

@ Sierra Peterson just give it up. In an earlier time I might have sympathized or even tagged along in your "arguments", but now I find those utterances about "freedom" and "gun rights" inane, (freedom only exists in degrees and responsibilities, is it really freedom to be free to harm others?, what about my freedom to be free from harm?) Are guns really that necessary in a civilized world? These men, predominately white men are not talking about duck hunting or even rights for that matter, they are talking about open rebellion against a stable and relatively non-tyrannical state. Injustices occur here and there, OF COURSE. However, at no point in American history has anybody endured martial law, or lost representation while being taxed (save for the colonial era under Britain). SO I wonder where is this threat of tyranny you right wingers and libertarians and gun sympathizers keep talking about?

I have seen and been through it all. I've been on sites that have said that mankind's thinking is the problem, I have been on sites claiming to offer salvation in the form of "no government" or shiny robot godhood, I have learned about all types of nuttery ranging from the spiritual (enlightenment), economical (capitalism/libertarianism), and political (anarchism-libertarianism). Finally I landed upon this site that spoke about things in concrete and urgent terms. Making clear and poignant the already attractive possibility, (and it is absolutely possible) of greater peace, equality, diversity and democracy. This site promises no easy fixes, no salvation, no end world "Realizations" of shiny-robot- super enlightenment-godhoods, and absolutely no utopias.

This site makes clear the political pains and struggles that everyone must face. These struggles are dangerous, they are not simple, they are not perfect. They are not guaranteed. Many democratic movements have never gotten pass the point of conception and many of those that were executed have resulted in death and continues to result in the deaths of peaceful activists. These situations and conditions are REAL. So arguing about who gets to keep their guns, and why, is really a major distraction from the real issue of a functioning peaceable democracy in the modern diverse world.

Can gun laws be used for abusive ends? Sure. Does that means we should do nothing about guns and be so cautious about dealing with the issue that we effectively get no resolutions through? No. You claim to support gun legislation yet you also cite possible abuses. These are risks that must be taken, they don't call it the "great experiment" for nothing. We cannot sit idly by as gun disasters continue again and again.

Dale Carrico said...

To be fair, Sierra has supported gun safety regulations as a policy matter. My quarrel is with what seems to be a reluctance to be forthright in our advocacy for this outcome for fear of alienating already alienated paramilitary gun-nuts or exacerbating the irrationality of already irrational minorities with whom we disagree. I don't think this makes much sense, and to be honest I think Sierra's efforts to derail the Moot into discussions of gun regulation materially exacerbating poverty or expanding the prison-industrial complex seem a bit like psychologically understandable face-saving efforts by someone who realized they hold something of a losing argumentative hand. One can't be sure, but I'm inclined to suspect Sierra's heart is ultimately in the right place, actually.

Sierra Peterson said...

FYI, I started this comment before the previous two were posted then got distracted elsewhere, so it is a response to the 3rd comment down...

If you go to your average unheated, off-the-grid trailer park in the U.S., chances are close to 100% that you'll find paranoid wannabe militia members with arsenals larger than are reasonably needed by anyone in a civilized country. Are these places the new bastions of white privilege? It seems the left isn't even aware of the huge number of homeless or marginally housed white people in this country living in conditions approaching that of the global South, or the equally large number of white people incarcerated for victimless crimes(believe it or not, they exist). Or the history of feudalism and indentured servitude that left a legacy of poverty throughout the Appalachians. Acknowledging that fact does not a racist Tea Partier make, neither does it invalidate the necessary gains made by the anti-racist movement. Progressive politics as a whole are not served by minimizing the prevalence of classism or denying its effects, and in fact, recognizing the economic realities faced by lower class whites would likely render militant conservatism a lot less appealing to all but the most privileged. The fact is that the use of legal terminology that has historically only ever been used for draconian criminal prosecution will primarily result in lengthy prison sentences for the same populations you've previously claimed to support, namely those who have been immiserated by neoliberal economic policies. This statement doesn't invalidate the need for gun control, nor does it insinuate that militias are harmless or virtuous. The point I was making is merely that the nature of the sentence should match the nature of the crime, and a 5 year minimum prison sentence would be an entirely unjustifiable response to the possession of a firearm that was previously legal. As for the assault weapons ban, I was referring to the law that was approved 5 days ago in New York.

Dale Carrico said...

Sierra, in both my writing and my teaching I am a ferocious opponent of the racist war on (some) drugs and the prison-industrial complex and advocate for anti-poverty programs.

In the recent posts of mine that you have taken exception to I have insisted that private ownership of military weapons and arsenals is a clear and urgent danger to public health, welfare, and security -- that there is no legitimate civilian need for such weapons -- that the second amendment is not violated by their banning or by other reasonable regulations on the purchase and use of guns -- and also that racist, masculinist, anti-statist conceits suffuse paramilitary gun culture (yes, yes, there are always exceptions).

All of that remains true and important. Neither the truth nor the importance of any of that is diminished by my resistance as well to the prison-industrial complex or the racist war on (some) drugs.

You say you disagree with that. I think you are wrong to do so. And I also happen to think the way you opposed my positions initially is actually hard to square with this latest more genial formulation of your position. But, fine, I'll just agree to disagree and accept **for now** that you have your own priorities. And since I agree rural poverty and prison reform are important (though hardly as central to the actual topic at hand as you seem to believe for whatever reason) I wish you luck in your future endeavors.

PS: I never mentioned the NY gun legislation -- of which I enthusiastically approve. The discussion of guns, you may have noticed, has a much wider ambit than NY at the moment...? I don't understand why you say a 5-yr sentence for the illegal purchase now of a now-banned military weapon would somehow be wrong just because before the reasonable law rightly banned it there would have been no sentence for the non-violation of a non-law... Obviously, one doesn't retroactively punish folks for obeying laws that subsequently change, but to disobey laws that are passed *after they pass* is to court criminal penalties. That's how it works, this business of passing of the laws 'n such. There's nothing wrong with that, and since we're talking about the scourge of private military weapons and arsenals it is in fact all to the good. Arms trafficking and military gun hoarding is a great social evil. This is obvious.

Sierra Peterson said...

It's easy to pretend that racist white boogeymen will be the only people incarcerated due to gun laws but the reality is that plenty of blacks and Hispanics own assault rifles too. Do they deserve to have their lives and families ruined from incarceration resulting from a victimless crime as well? You can go on about your opposition to the prison-industrial complex all you want but if you support mandatory minimum sentencing laws for non-violent crimes then that makes you a hypocrite, plain and simple.

Dale Carrico said...

I actually don't advocate **mandatory** minimum sentences for anything, I think judges should always have some latitude in sentencing. Tough-talk get-tough-on-crime crap like California's Three Strikes law here doesn't do much good and did a whole lot of harm (Three Strikes is fortunately being eroded here by initiative). But this has never been a fine-grained discussion of every provision on every page of any particular law but a general discussion of private arsenals and US paramilitary gun culture and I won't be drawn down a rabbit hole endlessly fending off your insinuations that I secretly want to destroy the white race or kill the poor or whatever paranoid bullshit is driving your responses. I do not agree with you that unless we pretend not to notice the racism, masculinism, and anti-statism that suffuses paramilitary gun-nuttery poor white folks will be herded into prison camps, as you seem to imply. And I do not agree that because assault weapons haven't always been illegal people shouldn't face criminal sanction for trafficking in them even when they are. And don't think I haven't noticed that you keep trying to recast military weapons hoarding as a "victimless crime," no matter how many domestic disputes become lethal because of guns, no matter how many kids die in accidents because of guns, no matter how many mass slaughters take place because emotionally unstable folks have access to assault weapons, and on and on. They should obviously be banned and once they are those who seek to possess or traffic in them should obviously face real penalties. We're done now.

jollyspaniard said...

I doubt very much that ninety nine percent of these loons would do anything if things got "worse" from their point of view. And I also doubt that they'd stop airing their paranoid fantasies if they were placated either.

Ultimately they are afraid of something else and they're covering up that fear with scapegoating as a coping mechanism. If the unlikely event that they were to visit this blog they'd be much more scared by the non gun political and cultural stuff mentioned here (if they thought such views had a chance of prevailaing] than the gun stuff.

Trying to avoid setting them off would be tantamount to crossing a Tokyo subway platform crammed full of peacocks without ruffling any feathers. I'm not even sure you'd be doing them any favours by lending their fantasies an air of legitamacy. They'd be better off shedding these notions and dealing with what really bothers them.

Dale Carrico said...

js, word.

jollyspaniard said...

We've got some separtist types here in the UK called the freeman movement. Have you heard of them very much. It's a belief system based on a weird form of legal woo whereby they claim that the state has no authority over them because of how they interpret the Magna Carta or somesuch. A lot of them talk about setting up their own communities.

This being the UK they arm themselves with woo not guns. Evangelical woo is non lethal unfortunately unless you're stuck at a dinner party with a few of these guys and have a lot of death by boredom in your family history.

jimf said...

> A majority of people hold reasonable views on gun safety regulation --
> . . . that military weapons should be banned altogether. . .

SF author, Ayn Rand fan (erstwhile atheist, but now Christian
after a brush with mortality and a conversation with Mary [Mother
of God] -- see ),
and author of the "Golden Age" trilogy
(much admired by Eliezer Yudkowsky, Michael Anissimov, and other
>Hists; by me, not so much: there are a bunch of choice quotes --
more than **somebody** wanted, at ),
John C. Wright, does not share this view. (Are we surprised?)
Guest Post by William M Briggs: Firearm Homicides Dropping
Posted on January 16, 2013 by John C Wright

I am permitted even when it is not a Friday to post articles written
by others, as here, where Mr Briggs has prevailed upon all men of
good will to come to the aid of their country. Having trampled the
freedom of religion of the Roman Catholic Church, with insolent
unconstitutional tyranny, our masters seek to do the same to
the NRA. Two of the Bill of Rights down, eight to go. Welcome
to my world, gunowners! We are all Catholics now. All the words
that follow are Mr Brigg’s.

Firearm Homicides Dropping. Assault Weapons Ban Not Correlated
With Decrease In Homicides. No Need For New Restrictions.
Posted on 16 January 2013 by Briggs

I rarely ask this, but please link, forward, email, and favorite
this post as widely as possible. . .

Dale Carrico said...

When it comes to futurological high camp Natasha Vita-More is one of very few who holds a vanilla-scented candle to John C. Wright.