The Left Will Not Achieve Gun Reform By Using Divisive Culture War Tactics

Gun violence protests - NRA blood on your hands

Going on a moralistic crusade against the NRA and gun rights supporters may be cathartic for the Left, but folding the gun control debate into the ongoing toxic culture war only guarantees bitter polarisation and more deadly inaction

A worrying (but perhaps predictable) new development following the horrific Parkland school shooting has been a concerted effort by many on the anti-gun Left to fold the issue of gun rights and restrictions into the broader, toxic ongoing culture war, in which Americans hunker down within their respective ideological bunkers and instinctively assume the worst of those who disagree.

This trend reached depressing new heights last night during CNN’s town hall on gun control, held in Broward County, Florida, where the shooting took place. This was less a serious debate conducted in the spirit of seeking compromise than it was an inquisition, designed not to foster understanding or brainstorm solutions but rather to provide a cathartic opportunity for gun-control advocates to scream at gun rights supporters and accuse them of complicity in the mass murder of innocent schoolchildren.

Even if there were a shred of truth in these monstrous accusations – and there isn’t – it would remain absolutely terrible politics. Constantly fuming that the other side is selfish and evil only encourages alienation and division, a fact which was true when some Republicans implied that President Obama didn’t “love America” and which applies equally now when some Democrats imply that conservatives don’t care about murdered kids. And it really should be a cause of deep shame for CNN that President Trump of all people was able to moderate a calmer, more respectful and productive listening session on gun control at the White House than Jake Tapper, with all his experience, managed on live television.

(Of course, the US media being the uncritically self-regarding entity that it is, Tapper is receiving praise from all corners for permitting what was effectively open season on Republican senator Marco Rubio and NRA representative Dana Loesch while letting the political activist local sheriff whose department failed to take action against the killer before he struck completely off the hook).

The irony to all of this is that there have actually been some genuinely hopeful signs of movement from gun rights proponents after this latest shooting. Whether it is increased fatigue from even hardened gun-rights activists at witnessing the funerals of more young children or (perhaps more likely) the loud and insistent activism of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students themselves, concessions are now being mooted and offered on areas from bump stocks (though no such device was used in this particular shooting) to increased criminal background and mental health checks.

This much, however, was foreseeable. What seems to be new this time is that efforts are now underway to make gun rights supporters pariahs in the wider American culture and society. We see this most notably with swarms of activists on social media browbeating corporations into disassociating themselves with the National Rifle Association – and gunowners in general, by extension:

 

This, of course, is precisely the same tactic used by the illiberal leftist British organisation Stop Funding Hate, which channels the efforts of a few thousand shrill voices on Twitter to intimidate companies into pulling their advertisements from certain publications or certain publications from their places of business.

Stop Funding Hate has had great success in surgically removing the spines of various corporations in Britain and then bending them to conform to whatever happens to be their moral outrage of the week, nearly always involving the Daily Mail. One does not have to approve of the Daily Mail’s editorial positions or reporting standards to be concerned that leftist efforts to make the personal political are creating dozens of new wedge issues to divide British people from one another rather than uniting us around common values, and co-opting big business in their efforts to do so.

In America, it seems to corporate capitulations are going to be every bit as swift as they have been here in the United Kingdom, with car hire giant Enterprise Rent-A-Car swiftly terminating a deal with the NRA in which offered rental discounts to their members:

 

Note the specific language used here, too. The business relationship was between Enterprise and the NRA, so the spineless amoebas who run the company’s social media accounts could simply have said that they terminated their relationship with the NRA. But they went one step further and specifically pointed out that they were withdrawing their discount for “NRA members”, as though innocent NRA members (none of whom have ever committed one of these mass shootings) are themselves deserving of opprobrium and social sanction.

An intersectional social justice warrior might say that this has the effect of “othering” the large minority of Americans who own guns, but of course such terms are only conferred on designated victim groups, a label which conservative gun-owners will never attract. Those of us who do not wallow 24/7 in victimhood culture might simply point out that appearing to repudiate law-abiding NRA members

Are firms like Enterprise free to advertise or offer affinity partnerships with whatever organisations they please? Of course. Is it necessarily good business to allow a handful of Twitter activists to effectively dictate corporate strategy? It’s arguable, but I have very strong doubts. But is it good for the country for corporations to so clearly take sides on divisive social issues, coming perilously close to suggesting that those who hold more conservative views are effectively personae non gratae? I think it is unambiguously bad and counterproductive to do so.

We have already been through this dismal dance with the media. The mainstream, prestige media’s often soft but near-universal leftward bias on all issues did not have the desired effect of “reprogramming” conservatives into adopting progressive positions; rather, it simply forced conservative news consumers into the arms of right wing talk radio, Fox News and a slew of independent right-wing websites whose journalistic standards and commitment to objectivity are often questionable at best. And freed from the need to cater to that side of the market, the remaining prestige media has had every social and commercial incentive to pander to progressive dogma and groupthink to the extent that many journalists genuinely believe themselves to be objective while displaying degrees of selection bias and epistemic closure which beggar belief.

Has this division been good for American society? Who can argue that it has been anything other than a monumental failure? More than anything, this is what gave the country President Trump. When the legacy news outlets which generally still come closest to reporting objective truth make it plainly clearly that conservative ideas are unwelcome and will be treated with more scepticism than progressive ideas, the very idea of objectivity is poisoned.

Do we really want to replicate this polarisation across all aspects of American life? Do we want to live in a society where the car rental company you use, the airline you fly, the grocery store you shop at or the high-tech goods you buy become an expression of your stance on every hot-button social issue, a flag planted to declare your allegiance in the culture wars?

Nothing good can come of this. Nothing. Have conservatives historically shown far too little sense of urgency in proposing and implementing policy changes in an attempt to reduce the frequency and deadliness of mass shootings, or at least been content to see efforts stall so long as their rights were not threatened? Absolutely. But now they are actually coming to the table, the Left’s response cannot be to paint every gun-owning American as a pariah and refuse to frequent the same places of business.

The Left have a history of achieving social changes – often welcome, sometimes less so – and responding to these victories not with magnanimity toward the conservatives they routed but rather with an unbecoming, snarling vengefulness. It would be a real catastrophe if they now repeat this destructive behaviour as they fight for greater gun control.

APTOPIX School Shooting Florida

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 15 – Barack Obama On Campus Censorship

President Obama’s timely criticism of the Safe Space Generation of students

It may come as a surprise to his conservative critics, but President Obama’s stance on the creeping authoritarianism and Identity Politics culture infecting American college campuses is very much on the side of free speech and robust debate.

Pressed to discuss his views on “politically biased colleges” at a high school town hall event held late last year, Barack Obama said:

Sometimes, y’know, there are folks on college campuses who are liberal and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues, who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side. And that’s a problem too. I was just talking to a friend of mine about this, you know, I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t wanna have a guest speaker who, you know, is too conservative. Or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African Americans, or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. And you know, I gotta tell you, I don’t agree with that either.

I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view, y’know? I think that you should be able to – anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with ’em. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying “you can’t come because, y’know my – I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say”. That’s not the way we learn either.

It is interesting to watch the reaction of the students standing behind Obama while he makes these remarks. Some are clearly bored and not paying close attention, but most clap politely when Obama reaches a natural break in his speech.

However, there is also a significant minority of students in the audience who are giving what can best be described as death stares. Clearly they do not like what they are hearing one bit, because Obama’s pragmatic suggestion that college is place where autonomous adults go to debate sometimes difficult ideas in the pursuit of personal and intellectual growth is contrary to everything that they have been taught is progressive and socially just.

Note in particular the two women on the top right of the screen when Obama says that campus speech restrictions are more suited to the former Soviet Union, approximately 3 minutes and 50 seconds into the video. While the other students seem to have fairly neutral expressions at this point, these two students look angry, sullen and passive-aggressive. The president of the United States has dared to come to their school and blaspheme against the Cult of Identity Politics to which they fully subscribe, and so they sit there, arms crossed and doubtless feeling quite triggered, plotting their revenge.

The point is this: it only takes a few such angry zealots to cow and intimidate an entire student population – and university administrations which should know better – into embracing every corrosive aspect of the Identity Politics culture. Of an entire student body, only a minority will drink deep enough from the well of competitive grievance culture that they turn and become the angry, authoritarian stars of many a YouTube video. But those who do are incapable of leaving everybody else alone. They cannot practice their new secular religion privately; all must share in their beliefs and abide by their behavioural codes, on pain of punishment.

Just seven years ago, the image of an African-American man addressing a group of high school students as President of the United States would have been seen as a powerful display of the social change that is possible when free speech is celebrated, guaranteed and used. Barack Obama, whatever one thinks of his record in office, did not become president by sheltering inside an academic safe space, after all. But Identity Politics does not encourage reflection on progress made; it primarily fosters resentment about the sins and injustices of the past.

Today’s generation of Identity Politics-practising students can talk endlessly about their “pain” and write interminable, barely literate screeds demanding that they be sheltered, acknowledged and validated in everything that they do.

But I doubt that a single one of them could write “Dreams from my Father“.

 

Safe Space Notice - 2

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