Saturday, December 19, 2015

Surrebuttal to Cory

Dear Cory,

We seem remarkably “sympatico” (to indulge in a bit of “modern vernacular,” myself) in terms of style and temperament. Here is my response to your latest reply.

>>Well I finally got around to reading your reply Matthew Bell, and I have to say I’m a little insulted you would assert that I misused the word “parody.”<<

I am a bit surprised that you feel the need to dwell on this part of my text.

After registering my quick complaint regarding your departure from the “basic definition” (your phrase) of “parody,” I went on to write:

However, I may surmise that you really meant that the man in the image, whether deliberately or not, served as (something like) a reflection or a microcosm ‘of the sick gun fetishism rampant in the country.’“

And then I responded to (what I took to be) the substance of your complaint.

>>You say I don’t understand the word parody,…’<<

I never wrote anything of the sort.

>>…’then provide as your evidence the most narrow, basic definition of the word.<<

This puzzles me. You appear to be criticizing me for “provid[ing] …’the …’basic definition of the word.”

I cannot see how I should be faulted for consulting a dictionary or for providing what you admit is the “basic definition” for the word in question.

If you want to stipulate a different definition for “parody” where the word is to be used in a slightly (or even radically) divergent sense than that communicated by its dictionary definition, then go right ahead. As you know, this is a common practice in law and philosophy.

But, as you say, the definition that I provided is the basic definition for “parody.” “Basic,” of course, means “forming an essential foundation…; fundamental.”

Based upon the standard definition and your admission that said definition is “basic,” I could straightforwardly press the argument that “deliberate exaggeration” is an “an essential foundation” for, or is “fundamental” to, a parody.

But I won’t, just like I did not leave my earlier point at the level of semantic tilting.

>>While sometimes the word parody is used in that context (think Weird Al Yankovic) in modern vernacular, parody also means any attempt to show some aspect of our society as absurd, ridiculous or idiotic.<<

You can stipulate a definition or draw from slang (“modern vernacular”) at your pleasure. It would have been helpful, however, for you to have telegraphed your departure from “basic” usage in some way. But, it is fine - and, I hope that you realize, I already assumed this and responded.

>>You say “why think that the individual in the picture is deliberately exaggerating?” but nowhere in my response did I ever assert that the man in the picture was doing the parody, and this should’ve been obvious by my saying later on in the post “a guy wearing confederate women’s underwear waving a powerful assault weapon _doesn’t seem to get the joke_”

Obviously, it was obvious, which was the purport of my reply.

1. Parodying involves deliberately exaggerating.

2. As you recognize, it’s not obvious that the subject of the photograph was deliberately exaggerating anything.

3. Therefore, it’s not obvious that the subject of the photograph was parodying anything.

You reply:

>>The person responsible for creating the meme was doing the parody…’<<

The person “responsible for creating the meme” simply took a photograph and superimposed upon it two (possibly fallacious) assertions. Clearly, the author of this mess intended to make the subject an object of derision and scorn. But I deny that this suffices to qualify the author’s effort as “parody” – according to the basic definition of that word.

>>, and sometimes people can be a parody of something without realizing they’re being a parody.<<

In loose speech, slang or stipulated word use, this is absolutely possible. But if the “basic definition” of a parody includes the provision that parodies include “deliberate exaggeration for comic effect”; and if the “basic definition” of “parody” maps out those features that are “essential foundations” for or “fundamental” to a “parody”; and if an entity cannot exist without displaying those features that are essential or fundamental to it; then, it seems that a “parody” cannot exist without this characteristic deliberateness.

>>For example, if I were to say “Donald Trump is a parody of conservative xenophobia, belligerence, and wealth-obsession” I do not mean to say that he is deliberately exaggerating, but there is a sincere hope within me that he is part of some giant inside joke.<<

I understand the usage, but I take it to be an idiosyncratic departure from what you labeled the “basic definition.”

If I were repeating your opinion to a third party, I would say: “Cory thinks that Donald Trump is the epitome of conservative xenophobia, belligerence, and wealth-obsession,” or: “Cory seems to think that Donald Trump is a caricature of a statesman.”[1]

>>Just taking a photo someone took of themselves, and recasting it in the light of the current gun control debate, falls in line with my definition of “parody” because it shows some aspect or another of it as being absurd or ridiculous.<<

I will stipulate[2] this.

>>Here are some other examples of people parodying gun fetishism in this country:




These all seem to be parodies according to the basic definition that I provided.

The first is a Saturday Night Live skit. The persons in the video are actors and, according to their script, seem to be deliberately exaggerating for comic effect. This is as obvious a parody as anything produced by Weird Al Yankovic. It conforms beautifully to the basic definition.

The second I am less sure about, since I could not bring myself to listen to the entire thing. But if the persons in the beginning “commercial” were actors deliberately exaggerating for comic effect, then this too would be a parody according to the standard definition.

Finally, South Park is clearly social satire. I would say that Matt Stone and Trey Parker employ deliberate exaggeration for comic effect and, thus, their cartoons would also qualify as parodies according to the basic definition.

>>I would argue that the meme Angie posted falls within the same vein as the above parodies, pointing out how there is what seems to be a fetishism around guns in our culture. After all, we are at the point where there are nearly as many guns as there are men, women and children in this country. The massive amounts of gun violence going on in this country also adds to the perception that maybe we are a little too obsessed with guns, obsessed to the point of fetishism.<<

I do not understand this paragraph. You seem to be arguing that the picture-text is a parody just because “there is what seems to be a fetishism around guns in our culture.” I do not see how the fact of cultural gun fetishism - even if it be conceded - is relevant to a judgment about whether a particular picture-text is a parody.

I would say that x is a “parody” just in case “x involves deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.” In the relevant case, the picture-text does not appear to involve deliberate exaggeration (presumably, the subject is not an actor, for example, who is intending to satirize gun fetishism). Therefore, the picture-text does not appear to be a “parody,” strictly-so-called.

But let this pass.

We agree:

- that the subject of the picture was not intending to be an object of comedy; and

- that the author of “meme” did intend to make the person an object of derision.

I should say that this makes the picture-text an example of mockery, not “parody.” I deny that the image is a “parody” according to the basic definition. But I don’t think it’s particularly interesting to argue about the label.

If you want to persist in calling it a “parody” based upon your understanding of colloquial speech, then fine. Go ahead. We can call it a “peanut butter and jelly sandwich” for all I care.

>>You go on to argue that most gun owners are not like the person in the picture, to which I would be inclined to agree.<<

I didn’t argue this, exactly. I just denied that the cross-dressing gun-toter could be considered representative. I wrote:

“I just deny that such a person can responsibly be held aloft as the poster-boy for gun ownership. To put it slightly differently, I deny that all gun owners can be glossed as ‘sick gun fetishists.’ I would say that this cross-dresser is unrepresentative of gun owners, and nothing in the text, or in your interpretation, militates against or allays this concern.”

I was merely pointing out that: (a.) if we are to think that the cross-dressing gun-toter is representative of “gun owners” writ large, then we need some evidence for this generalization; but (b.) we have been given no such evidence.

>>It was never my argument that the majority of gun owners are like that.<<

I figured, and I agree: the majority of gun owners are not like the subject of the photograph.

>>My argument was that there are enough morons in this country who, even as you agree, lack appreciation for human life, even so much so as to glorify violent pro-slavery secessionists, that perhaps we should reconsider letting everyone have free and equal access to military style assault weapons.<<

Previously, you wrote:

>>[W]e as a society are neither intellectually or spiritually advanced enough to have full, equal access to assault weapons.<<

I suppose that you now mean to say that “we as a society are neither intellectually or spiritually advanced enough” because “there are enough morons in this country who …lack appreciation for human life”.

However, since you agree that “most gun owners are not like the person in the picture,” I conclude that you think the bad apples are spoiling the bunch.

As I wrote previously:

“I believe that the attack on the Second Amendment is part of [our socio-cultural] degradation. In order to elevate ourselves, intellectually and spiritually, we need to hold fast to our heritage, not abandon it.”

I would resist the notion that existence of a minority of “morons” (whatever that term means) should somehow undermine the Second Amendment for the majority.[3]

(I have elsewhere argued that a minority of “drunk drivers” should not ruin the Fourth Amendment for the majority.)

>>You ask, what type of argument can be made from this meme? Sure, I’ll take a stab at that. If we take the 2nd amendment[:] “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”

>>[P]ars[ing] it, we would conclude that the premise is “a well regulated militia” and that the conclusion is “the right to bear arms shall not be infringed.”<<

Of course, what I asked for was the following.

“[W]hat I meant when I asked ‘what is the argument?’ was for a set of premises, drawing upon (perhaps slightly revised versions of) the two sentences plastered on the picture of the bearded, cross-dressing gun-toter.

“My contention was (and is) that no such argument is possible, unless it is something like the ones that I already gave. (E.g., [1] Cross-dressers are morons. [2] Morons cannot be trained in the use of firearms. [3] Therefore, cross-dressers cannot be trained in the use of firearms.)”

You do not draw from the sentences plastered on the picture-text. You merely quote the Second Amendment.

Your argument has independent interest, of course. But it is not what I asked for, since your premise is not drawn from the picture-text. It’s okay. I just wish you would admit that the picture-text’s “caption” is rubbish. Whereas you think that the picture-text is, as a whole, a “parody” of gun-fetishism, I would say that it is an (unintentional) burlesque of sound argumentation.

>>Therefore what the amendment is about, what it is implying, is that private gun ownership should be vis a vis being part of a militia. Otherwise the premise (well regulated militia) would not be part of the same sentence as private gun ownership? In conclusion, the man in the picture is in dereliction of his second amendment right, for the second amendment obliges us to only possesses such weapons as part of a well regulated militia, a militia who’s sole purpose to to combat tyranny. (How so ever you define it, more on that later.)<<

You have abandoned the picture-text’s wording and merely devised your own argument drawn directly from the Second Amendment.

Of course, you have produced a typical formulation. I respond to this sort of argument, here.[4]

As Thomas Jefferson explained:

Jefferson held that:

“…’the militia of the State …’ is …’ every man in it able to bear arms.”[5]

The Supreme Court endorsed Jefferson’s opinion in 1939:

“…[T]he Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense.”[6]

As I have written elsewhere:

“[D]isconnecting militia membership from the operative Second Amendment protections seems chiefly construed as a blessing to those who think that the avoidance of militia membership is a boon. Insofar as militia membership is considered an unnecessary burden to lay upon Americans, predication of ‘gun rights’ upon militia membership is considered an arbitrary restriction, imposed simply in order to reduce the number of those eligible to keep and bear arms. But, if one has a more Jeffersonian attitude on the matter, one sees that while it is correct to say that one does not obtain ‘gun rights’ in virtue of one’s militia membership, nevertheless, the ability to join into a citizens’ militia together with one’s armed neighbors is itself an important right.

“Indeed, if we take Jefferson’s gun-possession-being-a-duty comment seriously, we may well infer that membership in a citizens’ militia is itself a duty. It is not, to be sure, the precondition of keeping and bearing arms; but, nonetheless, it is a main reason for the importance of keeping and bearing arms. Hence, membership in a citizens’ militia is no more burdensome than are other crucial ways in which the citizens were intended to participate in their government (e.g., participation in electoral processes), and it is no less essential to maintaining our liberties. …’

“From a Jeffersonian perspective, …keeping and bearing arms is both a right and a duty, such that, in light of the founder’s intentions, the Second Amendment urges citizens to arm themselves as opposed to merely ‘allowing’ for the possibility that they might. And …’the citizens’ militia, being an important protection against coercive governmental force, is far from superfluous or unnecessary given our standing army (and police forces). But, in fact, given the existence of our standing army (and police forces), the citizens’ militia should be viewed as more crucial to the survival of our liberties than such a militia would be if the United States had no standing army (and no police forces, or, at least, much reduced police forces) at all.”[7]

>>Another possible interpretation from the meme is that, considering the time period in which the “well regulated militia” part of the amendment was written, a group of folks marching with musket rifles could indeed overthrow government should it become tyrannical. Nowadays, things are different. A group of people armed like the man in the meme would be easily dispatched with a few sarin gas filled icbms. In other words, people have no business having such weapons - they serve no purpose. Eras change. Technology changes. I don’t believe the framers of the constitution could’ve imagined the destructive power of the firearms of today; hence why the meme points out that the weapon can kill 30 people in under a minute.<<

Your paragraph here contains no hint of the reply that I made to you previously about these matters. Although I cannot confess myself to feel the same level of “insult” that you claimed regarding my argument against your use of “parody,” I am a little put-out that my earlier efforts seem to have gone unnoticed, or un-remembered.

For a refresher, see my “A Few Words on the Second Amendment’s Historical Meaning,”[8] specifically beginning with the question: On the historic meaning of the Second Amendment: Is the entire amendment “irrelevant”?

>>As far as your remarks regarding the civil war, I can only rebuke them in the harshest of terms. You quoted this: “The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederacy who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves.”

>>I mean seriously??? Self determination, for whom? Certainly not for the slaves.<<

By way of preface, I have to be quite clear. Nothing I write constitutes a defense of the institution of slavery per se.

I can defend the “South,” broadly construed, because (I believe that) the “South’s” actions in the “Civil War” were not primarily aimed at protecting slavery; they were aimed at protecting the spirit of the Constitutional agreement that the individual States had entered into during the late 18th century. That said I proceed to my reply.

“Self determination, for whom?” strikes me a little like the questions “When was the War of 1812?” or “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” Simply put, the free Persons in the South were thus fighting for themselves.

The Confederacy was comprised of those Southerners whom the Constitution designates “free Persons” (Article 1, Section 2) as opposed to “other Persons” for whom “representative and taxes” were “apportioned” at a fraction of “three-fifths.”

As I already noted, the historical fact is that the United States’s federal government was created in virtue of the ratification of the Constitution by the individual States.

When the “North” reneged on its endorsement of the Constitution, the “South” was within its rights to declare the “Union” null and void.

The idea that the North was on an idealistic crusade to free “poor negroes” from the heel of Southern oppressors is risible.

As I pointed out but that you seem to have ignored, Lincoln publicly and explicitly disclaimed the idea that he was primarily concerned with freeing slaves. There were underlying economic and political factors and forces at play. Reducing the “Civil War” to some imagined heroic northern struggle against recalcitrant southern slave-owners is just bad history – if not balderdash.[9]

Additionally, the northern factories were, as anyone who has listened attentively to Noam Chomsky should be able to tell you, every bit as horrifying and oppressive as any plantation described by the plagiarist Alex Haley or ABC television.

>>Later you argue: “In the American “Civil War,” the North fought to destroy the South’s economic base while simultaneously keeping its people and land in the “Union” fold. The South fought for self-determination and merely wanted the North either to keep to the Constitution or to allow peaceful secession. The North, of course, did neither.”

>>To which I would counter that regardless of their legal argument (more like justification), the South fought for a cause which is more than inhumane or misguided, to my mind, it was evil.<<

As I pointed out, the South’s “cause” was that it not be bound to a “union,” the terms of which were being changed without Southern ratification.

>>If the southern states wanted to make an argument for self-determination, the first thing they should’ve done was looked at was is said in the declaration of independence, which states unequivocally that “all men are created equal” and that, by right, all men are entitled to “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”<<

Since the Declaration of Independence (DOI) speaks of “all men” being “created equal,” but the Constitution (C) speaks contrasts “free Persons” (counted as 5/5 of a person for representative and tax purposes) and “other Persons” (counted as 3/5 of a person), seemingly one must say something like one of the following.[10]

i.) The Founders contradict themselves in the DOI and C;

ii.) The Founders held that being “created equal” didn’t necessarily entail being treated equally socio-politically; or

iii.) The Founders held that “all men” didn’t really mean every single man.

Let me briefly argue for view iii.

First, consider an argument premised on my supposition that many people would probably not recognize a right of the People, under U.S. positive law, to overthrow the government.

3.) Either the Founders intended the (preamble to the) DOI to be part of the positive law or they did not.

4.) If the Founders intended the (preamble to the) DOI to be part of the positive law, then they intended “all men are created equal” to be part of the positive law.

5.) Short of a principled reason to the contrary, if any of the preamble is positive law, then all of the preamble is positive law.

6.) For example, if “all men are created equal” is positive law, then “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish [the Form of Government], and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness” is also part of the positive law.

7.) But if “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish [the Form of Government], and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness” is part of the positive law, then BOTH it was the right under positive law for the antebellum South to secede AND today it remains the right of the People to alter or abolish the Government whenever it becomes “destructive of [the end] …’of secur[ing]” their (other) rights.

8.) Whoever does not recognize a persistent right, under the positive law and set forth in the DOI, to alter or abolish the U.S. government, should not hold that the DOI’s statement “all men are created equal” prescribes any right under positive law.

9.) Therefore, either:

(a.) The DOI sets forth as positive law both the “equality” of “all men” and the right of secession; or

(b.) The DOI sets forth as positive law neither the “equality” of “all men” nor the right of secession.

(Of course, I am assuming that you would wish to avoid the inclusion, in positive law, of the possibility of secession. I have presumed that, all other things being equal - and supposing you endorse premises 3-8 - you would deny 9a. On these presumptions, 9b would be the conclusion. From my point of view, both 9a and 9b seem to me to favor my position and disfavor yours; so I really do not much care which conclusion holds.)

Of course, if the Founders did not set forth the (preamble of the) DOI as positive law, then it may be assumed that “all men are created equal” is a term of art from the point-of-view of positive law.[11]

If we wish to understand the Founders’ view on political equality, we must consult the corpus of federal positive law, beginning with its foundation: the U.S. Constitution.

In the (pre-”Civil War”) Constitution, we read nothing about forbidding slavery. Indeed, we read that a non-“free Person” is to count as 3/5 of a “free Person” for purposes of representation and taxation.

It appears that whatever “all men are created equal” was intended to mean, it by no means precluded the institution of slavery or the counting of some persons differently than others for purposes of representation and taxation.

It is simply anachronistic to read a contemporary, “multi-cultural” meaning of “all men” back onto the Founders’ preambulatory statements.

>>They argued for state’s rights, but somehow failed to see that their legally obscure definition of state’s rights…’<<

I do not understand this sentence. What do you mean by the “South’s definition of state’s rights”? And please explain how said definition (whatever it is) was “legally obscure.” I do not know the meaning of the phrase “legally obscure.”

>>…’[their legally obscure definition of state’s rights] violated a more fundamental subset of rights, the very rights of humans to not be in bondage.<<

Here we get into a sticky place. Again, nothing I write is a defense of slavery.

According to the Founders, implicitly, the rights in view are not incompatible with the institution of slavery.

Now here you come seemingly suggesting that slavery was always indefensible in fact, even if it was not recognized as such. And the reason you give is that there exists “a more fundamental subset of rights [than those issued by the positive law], [namely,] the very rights of humans to not be in bondage.”

On the Founders’ view, explicitly, the rights in view were “endowed by [the] Creator.”

So I have a question for you: Whence comes this “more fundamental subset of rights,” on your view?

I would argue:

10.) If God does not exist, then absolute moral values (including objective duties, rights and obligations) do not exist.

Given metaphysical naturalism, I would argue that there is no such thing as an "absolute right." As philosophers Lucyle Werkmeister and Michael Ruse: “Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. …’Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says ‘Love they neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. …’Nevertheless, …’such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, …’and any deeper meaning is illusory.”[12]

If I perceive aright from other of your posts, you seem hold that God does not exist. It would appear to me that in order for this alleged set of "more fundamental rights" to take precedence over positive law, the set must exist at the level of (something like) natural law. As far as I can tell, the most plausible account of natural law grounds human value, human rights and so on upon human creation by God. Indeed, this is what the Founders seemingly meant by correlating "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" to an "endowment our creator."

However, if you hold that there is no Creator, then from where do believe humans supposedly derive this “more fundamental set of rights” of which you speak?

Note carefully that I did not say you were wrong about the existence of this “more fundamental set of rights.” But, if such a set does exist - and I think it does - then:

11.) Objective moral values (e.g., a fundamental set of human rights) do exist.

But if this is so, it would seem to follow that:

12.) Therefore, God exists.

In any case, I stress that there is no contradiction between the two following statements (at least, you have certainly not demonstrated any).

iv.) The institution of slavery, as it existed in the pre-”Civil War South,” violated fundamental, Creator-bestowed human rights; and

v.) The “North” was morally unjustified (i.e., not justified) in waging war against the “South.”

These are not contradictions because, number one, the moral justification for waging war is not decided exclusively by recourse to the question: Is the opponent engaged in a moral evil?[13]

No, at the least, a “just war” - if such a thing exists at all - is one for which there exists no peaceful alternative.

But as I noted previously:

“Slavery had been abolished in Britain without a ‘Civil War.’ Had the northern abolitionists really been concerned primarily with freeing slaves, then slaves could have been purchased by interested northerners and then released.”

Besides this, though, I would argue that the North was morally unjustified in waging war against the South “over slavery” because, in having entered into the Constitutional agreement, the individual States agreed that they would not wage war on each other over slavery.


As I previously observed:

13.) The Tenth Amendment makes clear that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution …’are reserved to the States respectively…’”

14.) The United States federal government had, at the time of the ‘Civil War,’ no powers with respect to the issue of slavery.

15.) Therefore, powers with respect to the issue of slavery were then reserved to the States respectively.

This was the agreement in force. It is immoral for one party to a multi-party agreement to unilaterally alter the agreement, and then force the altered agreement on other parties, especially (although not exclusively) when the alteration in question contradicts a basic tenet of the original agreement.

Granted that the institution of slavery was immoral, it remains to be shown that:

vi.) The North had no alternative to war in order to undo the institution of slavery; and

vii.) The North had the moral prerogative to renege on its agreement with the South.

>>The reason I see the confederates as evil is that they were unable to see the people they kept as slaves as human beings.<<

Well, this statement affords me an interesting peek into your psychology.

I will reciprocate by giving you a peek as well. I view all human beings as fundamentally evil as a result of Original Sin. Slavery was a crooked institution. But the “North” was hardly in a position to chastise the “South” regarding moral matters. I view the “Northern” position as tantamount to breach of contract; I view the “Civil War” as unjustifiable; and I view many of the most influential politicians (chiefly, but not exclusively, Lincoln) who embraced abolitionist rhetoric as opportunists.

The idea that the “Civil War” was a moral crusade is as obnoxious to me as the view that Bush II’s Iraq adventure was a moral crusade. In my opinion, both (and most other wars besides) employed moral rhetoric and exploited the public’s desire for a suitable moral justification, but were in fact prosecuted for mercenary reasons.

>>As I’ve already established earlier, being well armed, and being unable to imagine looking out through the eyes of another or imagining them feeling pain the same way you so, is a very dangerous combination.<<

One problem, here, is your word “well” in the phrase “well armed.” Previously you asserted - ignoring my defense of the continued relevance of the Second Amendment - that no amount of arming was of any use against modern military technology.

By this standard, it would appear that no private citizen can possibly be “well armed.”

However, I perceive that your difficulty is this. If you drop the “well” then you appear to be rooting for something like a universal handgun ban. So, you seem to be using “well” as a nod to the line that you are especially concerned about “assault weapons,” but are perhaps willing to “allow” for the possession of handguns. On your view, can “morons” own handguns? Are they merely to be obstructed when they attempt to purchase “assault weapons”? Or are they to be prevented from owning any firearms? Can they own knives? Etc.

Not being able to empathize with your fellows is dangerous, by itself. It is also lamentable.

However, at least as far as I can imagine, it permits of no objective test and is therefore unsuitable as a legal prerequisite for firearm acquisition.

As I have said, the way to elevate our society is not to erode our heritage. It is to reinvigorate it.

>>So I view the confederacy as stupid, both then, as well as today when people try to revive it in spirit;<<

I would say that there is the spirit of the actual Confederacy (that is, of the men who stood for the what the Constitution stood for: the right of free Persons to determine their own futures) and then there is the spirit of what I can only call an “ersatz-Confederacy” (or some nebulous and powerless conglomeration of poor whites who, according to the liberal academy and media, are somehow a worse threat to “liberty” than hordes of immigrants).

>>…’for the very notion of “freedom” espoused by the confederacy is self-defeating. Lincoln said it best with his analogy of sheep and wolves. A quote im sure you are no doubt familiar with:

>>“The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name -- liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names --liberty and tyranny.

<<The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails today among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty” - Abraham Lincoln 4-18-1864<<

I am familiar with it.

As far as goes Lincoln-the-man, I am inclined to pass the verdict, as Mencken passed on the Gettysburg address, that he was a master rhetorician. But does his eloquent description of liberty apply to the country that he helped create, or to the one that he helped destroy? Was Lincoln the shepherd, or the wolf?

But, more to the present question, I wonder: which of Lincoln’s definitions of “liberty” do you endorse? Is it your view that “each man to do as he pleases with himself” or that only “some men to do as they please with other men”?

Is it you or me who is arguing that some men, variously the “morons” or the “spiritually/intellectually” deficient, should have their liberty curtailed? Who gets to decide who is “smart” or “educated” enough to escape being smeared as a “moron”? To whom shall we give the authority to decide which among us is “spiritually/intellectually” evolved enough to enjoy a fuller measure of liberty?

Lincoln’s rhetoric is useless in practice unless we simply and literally allow “each man to do as he pleases with himself” – period. For otherwise whoever wishes to limit the liberty of others can simply call himself a “shepherd.” In actuality, it is arguable that “shepherd” and “wolf” are interdefinable. A “shepherd” is “a wolf who has managed to take over the flock”; a “wolf” is “a would-be shepherd.”

Or else, are we to imagine that you have in mind some test to detect “genuine” concern for the sheep?

Lincoln’s entire image, I would argue, is foreign to the Founders.

Jefferson famously warned: "In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."[14]

The division of humanity into “sheep” and “shepherds” and “wolves” has a low-view of “liberty” baked into it. Our representatives are not supposed to decide for us or “protect us.” They are supposed to carry out our political will.

I would venture to say, if we wish to keep to Lincoln’s poetic deices of sheep, shepherd and wolf and preserve a high-view or liberty such that “each man to do as he pleases with himself,” then every free Person must surely be his own shepherd.

Of course, this is the spirit of the Second Amendment.

As Alexander Hamilton once said: “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual state. In a single state, if the persons intrusted [sic] with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair.”[15]

Only the Second Amendment can underwrite a robust ability of every man to “do as he pleases.” Only the Second Amendment can stop a wolf who is masquerading as a shepherd.

>>If your former aquantence did unfriend you over defending or supporting the actions of the confederacy, then I am inclined to agree with him when he asserts that such positions are, indeed, indefensible.<<

One person, male, on the thread ejaculated: “Oh [****] off. Seriously. You’re sea lioning the Civil goddamn War?? Ipso facto, you’re a neo-Confederate [****]bag.”

Another female justified blocking me on the following grounds:

“I’m a xenofeminist. Only cool people get an opinion.”

I would not recommend that you throw your lot in with such cretins.

>>But I’m not going to unfriend you [tongue emoticon]<<


>>You have at least made some articulate arguments for what the confederacy’s position was, even if they in no way take into account the position of black people at the time.<<

Likewise, you have done about as good a job as could be expected defending the lopsided and historically problematic view that the “South,” all by itself, constituted some sort of “evil” that the heroic “North,” led by “Saint Lincoln,” set aright.

I think of this view largely as a fiction authored by the victorious “North” – and endorsed by “Southerners” who were anxious to ingratiate themselves with their new masters.

But even if I did believe the received view, that is, even if I provisionally entertain the notion that the “Civil War” was fought over the dastardly “South’s” rabid anti-black bigotry - and I hope that my repeated denial of any such notion has not escaped your notice - fundamentally, I do not think that the eradication of black slavery was worth a price of 600,000 dead Americans, most of whom were our European-American cousins and relations.

The issue of black slavery was handled abominably.

With mutual respect and regards,


[1] See a similar example sentence using the word “caricature,” here: <>.

[2] In the legal sense: “Law. to accept (a proposition) without requiring that it be established by proof.” <>.

[3] “The most common classification of levels or grades of mental deficiency includes three categories: moron (I.Q. 50-69), imbecile (I.Q. 20-49), and idiot (I.Q. 0-19).” Ann Anastasi, “Mental Deficiency,” William D. Halsey, et al., eds., Collier’s Encyclopedia, New York: Crowell-Collier Publ. Co., 1964, p. 697; previously posted at <>.

[4] Matthew Bell, “Towards a Jeffersonian Appraisal of the SCOTUS ‘D.C. Gun Ban’ Decision,” Liberty Bell [weblog], Jun. 30, 2008, <>.

[5] Thomas Jefferson to A. L. C. Destutt de Tracy, 1811; quoted in ibid.

[6] US v. Miller, 307 US 174, 179 (1939); quoted in ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Liberty Bell [weblog], Oct. 7, 2015, <>.

[9] Abolitionists like John Brown were aided and abetted by a group of financiers. Called the “Secret Six,” the group orchestrated what ought, by today’s standards, to be termed “terrorist” actions in order to destroy the southern economic base and end black slavery. It is often assumed, without argument or evidence, that abolitionists were - one and all - idealistic humanists. Many had ulterior agendas.

[10] Of course, your phrase “by right” is ambiguous. There are potentially rights under Divine Law, Natural Law and Positive Law, etc. Since you do not say which of these three - if not something else - you have in mind, I will assume that you mean to speak of “rights” under positive law. Nothing that I will say militates against the view that the Founders - including Thomas Jefferson, the draft author, and the entire draft committee, including John Adams and Benjamin Franklin - were explicating their views as regards the natural law as opposed to the positive law.

[11] See, again, previous footnote.

[12] Lucyle T. Werkmeister and Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” The Darwinian Paradigm, reprint ed., London: Routledge, 2005, pp. 261-262 and 268-269; archived online at <>; cited by William Lane Craig, “The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality,” Reasonable Faith, <>.

[13] Or else, how would you block George W. Bush from waging “just war” against Saddam Hussein, given that Hussein was clearly guilty of killing and torturing his own people?

[14] "Thomas Jefferson, Resolutions Relative to the Alien and Sedition Acts," Nov. 10, 1798; archived online at .

[15] Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 28; archived online at Avalon Project, Yale Univ. Law School, <>.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Surrejoinder to Cory

Dear Cory,[1]

Thank you, as usual, for the stimulating remarks.

>>I have to laugh at your assertion that anyone trained in philosophy wouldn’t see anything of interest in the picture.<<

Well, if we take laughter as evidence of the presence of humor, then at least our exchange stands as evidence for your observation - with which I agree - that “[j]ust because you study philosophy doesn’t mean you throw your sense of humor out the window[;] in fact I think philosophy enhances it”!

Though, just to be strictly accurate about it, I did *not* assert that no one with the relevant training *would* see anything in the picture. Rather, I simply expressed my own lack of understanding about how that could be. The statement was not about you, therefore; it was about me.

Before I proceed to my rejoinder, however, let me make two preliminary comments, one personal and one general.

First, I appreciate the tag. Any time you want to bring something to my attention (for whatever reason), please, do not hesitate to do so. I agree with what you typed to me previously, “I need more intelligent friends on my friends list.” And I appreciate anything that any intelligent person wishes to show me.

Second, regarding the “picture,” I believe that there is an important distinction that ought to be stressed. To be precise, the “picture” is arguably (if roughly) composed of two discrete portions. (In deference to this, I will put the word “picture” in scare quotes [<--like so], throughout.)

Number one, there is lexical portion; number two, there is the visual portion.

Now it is quite possible, now that I reflect on the matter further, that I failed to see the humor in the “picture” because I was stuck on what I still believe is a muddle at the lexical level. To put it more exactly, the verbal overlay is I think difficult (at best) to convert into any sort of coherent (let alone constructive) argument, in the analytic sense. What I was expressing, when I registered my disquiet over this image being given mileage by philosophers, was my inability to translate the given text into a formal argument.

If, as an exercise, I abstract away from the displayed words - that is, if I pretend that the “picture” is just comprised of the bare, visual image - then, I can (I think!) manage to put myself into the perspective where the “picture” (at the visual level only) strikes me as humorous. However, when I attend to the entire presentation - lexical and visual layers together - I cannot get past my irritation that the words simply do not to express a non-fallacious argument.

Part of our difference, here, might be explicable in virtue of quantifying (per impossibile) the degree to which we are each ignoring the text. I am not ignoring the text at all. Indeed, it was my main focus. Perhaps you are ignoring the explicit text, if not altogether, then certainly to a greater extent than I.

I feel somewhat confident in this (minimal) diagnosis of the root of our difference. But if I am correct, then this difference of attention underlies all of our comments.

For instance, I twice asked: What is the argument supposed to be? This shows, I think, the degree to which I am concerned with the text-level. By asking my question, I intended primarily to ask: How can the displayed text be expanded or reworked so as to constitute premises in a formal argument? My suspicion was - and is - that it cannot be so (re-)constituted.

You seem to confirm this in two ways. Most directly, you do not provide a formalized argument that makes use of the “picture’s” text. I can only assume this is because you (like I) cannot see any way to do so.

Less directly, you proceed to speak of “what the picture means to [you]”. This suggests to me that whatever you were able to get from the “picture” came out of the visual level more or less exclusively.

So, from the textual point-of-view, I conclude that the statements are philosophically problematic and that my previous criticisms stand.

But what of the visual? I will turn to that, presently.

>>I can at least explain what the picture means to me. First of all, it’s a parady of the sick gun fetishism rampant in the country.<<

In order for me to gauge your meaning, I obviously have to consider you words. Now, in my dictionary, “parody” is defined as follows.

“[A]n imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.”

I take it, therefore, that a “parody” involves “deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.”

But why think that the individual in the picture was “deliberately exaggerating”? You give no reason, and I certainly cannot see any. (I note that if the image involved the depicted person in “deliberate exaggeration,” then I can scarcely believe he would have been smeared as a “moron.”)

But then, unfortunately, I have no reason to think that the image *is* “parody.”

However, I may surmise that you really meant that the man in the image, whether deliberately or not, served as (something like) a reflection or a microcosm “of the sick gun fetishism rampant in the country.”

I have two replies.

Number one, as I wrote in my initial response, this is possibly a hasty generalization. To put it another way, if this cross-dressing, gun-toter is supposed to be a stand-in for the “average firearm owner,” then I simply have to cry: “Foul!”

I just deny that such a person can responsibly be held aloft as the poster-boy for gun ownership. To put it slightly differently, I deny that all gun owners can be glossed as “sick gun fetishists.” I would say that this cross-dresser is unrepresentative of gun owners, and nothing in the text, or in your interpretation, militates against or allays this concern.

Number two, if the cross-dresser is *not* supposed to represent all gun owners, then who *does* he represent? Well, if I assume that “sick gun fetishists” are a proper subset of gun owners - and I will stipulate that they are - they it might well be that the cross-dresser *is* a fair representative of “sick gun fetishists.”

However, unless the number of “sick gun fetishists” is greater than 50% of the number of overall gun owners (and therefore a simple majority), then even if the cross-dresser is a fair representative of “sick gun fetishists,” it will still turn out that the he is unrepresentative of gun owners, overall. Thus, this second problem collapses back into the first problem.

Ultimately, we need some support for the contention that this cross-dresser is a fair representative of gun owners in general, or for the implicit contention that the majority of gun owners are fairly characterized as “sick gun fetishists,” or both. (And possibly, these come to the same thing.) As things stand, I have seen evidence for neither claim.

>>Secondly, it’s a parody of the confederate flag bravado which is ubiquitous throughout the South (and even here in West Virginia, which I suppose could be labeled as the Northern edge of the Bible belt).<<

As was the case above, unless the person in the photograph intentionally posed sporting a confederate flag bikini and a rifle as “exaggerations,” for the purpose of creating or eliciting a “comic effect,” I would just deny that the image is a “parody” of anything, strictly so-called. At best, if the image has not been Photoshopped, then the purveyor of the image is using the person as an object of derision. But this seems insufficient to me to count it as a “parody.”

However, again as before, if I read you as simply indicating your belief that the image is emblematic of such-and-so, and that such-and-so has humorous elements, then your point is salvageable.

It’s “salvageable,” but also mostly tangential to the topic of “gun control.”

To be sure, you assert a link with respect to the notion of the citizens’ militia.

>>The point being, during the Civil War, a group of very well-regulated militias joined together against a government they believed to be tyrannical...<<

My problem, here, is that I take your claim to be factually false. The Confederate States created an army of volunteers, later resorting to conscription. State militias were only employed in auxiliary and supplementary capacities. This case was exactly the same for the Union Army. (Even the officer corps was heavily dominated by volunteers.) In fact, the Union relied more heavily upon militias than did the South.

Historian Andrew Haughton discloses: “By the 1850s it [i.e., the militia network] was in disrepute in every state where some attempt was made to maintain it at all, and at the outbreak of the Civil War only a few states were capable of reporting on the condition of their militia. According to William Riker, ‘citizens evaded militia duty, condemned musters as vulgar, and laughed at those patriots who tried to be part-time soldiers.’“

Startlingly, Haughton then reveals: “Contrary to what might be expected of a martial society, the disrepair of the militia system was worst in the Southern states. ...If the number of men was paltry, their training was in most cases abysmal.”[2]

It seems, therefore, that your assertion is simply incorrect that “during the Civil War, a group of very well-regulated militias joined together against a government they believed to be tyrannical.”

The Confederate Army was not even largely composed of militiamen, and those it had were mostly not “well-regulated“ (i.e., well-trained).

However, this means that the Confederate link to the “gun control” debate, in this case, is simply too frail to hold.

Whatever else we may say about the Confederacy, then, should be understood - and I intend it to be - quite separate from the issue of “gun control.”

But, in the interest of advancing an interesting discussion with an interesting interlocutor, let me say a few words about it anyway.

>>Personally I find the rebel flag to be an abhorrent symbol which when displayed seems to imply “if I don’t get my way politically, I’ll resort to violence.”<<

This is of course the standard line. It is predictable that the vanquished should be saddled with guilt by the victors. But it does not seem to me to be true.

Baltimore native H. L. Mencken, the early 20th-century American atheist, journalist, satirist and Nietzsche disciple, can hardly be accused of being a “crypto-Confederate.” I will let him make the point.

“The Gettysburg speech is at once the shortest and the most famous oration in American history. ...Its eloquence brought to a pellucid and almost childlike perfection - the highest emotion reduced to one graceful and irresistible gesture. ..It is genuinely stupendous.

“But let us not forget that it is oratory, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it! Put it into the cold words of every day! The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination - “that government of the people, by the people, for the people,” should not perish from the earth.

“It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederacy who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves.

“What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i.e., of the people of the States? The Confederates went into battle an absolutely free people; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision and vote of the rest of the country - and for nearly twenty years that vote was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely any freedom at all.

“Am I the first American to note the fundamental nonsensicality of the Gettysburg address? If so, I plead my aesthetic joy in it in amelioration of the sacrilege.”[3]

Mencken is of course not the first person to have seen the fundamental inconsistency lurking in Lincoln’s rhetoric. However, he is perhaps the first post-Civil War, establishment Northerner to have dared to depart from the party line. Mencken was a maverick and could get away with bucking the system like that. The screws have been tightened around the lid since his day.

>>Which leads me to why it’s satirical, one douchebag proudly displaying his symbol of rebellion and his firearm is completely futile - you already tried to overthrow the government once, and if you tried again today it would go even worse for you (you know, we live in the age of WMDs, drones, tanks, complete and utter digital surveillance, etc.).<<

I will now expand upon Mencken’s courageous insight. I trust you have a thicker skin than some of my other past conversation partners; nevertheless, I do incur some risk. For I will now reproduce a portion of text that previously led to my “de-friending”!

“The U.S. Constitution was the agreement by which the individual States created a well-defined Federal government. The Federal government’s powers were specifically enumerated in the Constitution.

“Here was the South’s argument:

“(1) The Tenth Amendment makes clear that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

“(2) The United States [federal government had not, at the time of the ‘Civil War,’ been] delegated powers with respect to the issue of slavery.

“(3) Therefore, powers with respect to the issue of slavery [were then] reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”[4]

As uncomfortable a fact as it may be, the party that overthrew the federal government - that is, who ignored the dictates of the Constitution in favor of imposing its own political will - was in fact situated to the north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

>>Finally, I just found the picture funny. Just because you study philosophy doesn’t mean you throw your sense of humor out the window, in fact I think philosophy enhances it. Which is the sole reason I tagged you, I figured you too would find it amusing, given your interest in the gun debate in this country.<<

Again, you don’t have to hesitate to bring anything to my attention; nor do you have to explain yourself (or apologize) for having done so.

>>Whew, that went a little long, I almost didn’t get to what the meme means to me. I think the argument in a broad sense is that we as a society are neither intellectually or spiritually advanced enough to have full, equal access to assault weapons.<<

Of course, it seems to me that you are simply using the “picture” as an opportunity to expound upon general themes that are important to you. That is fine, and I appreciate your thoughts.

But, as I hope is clearer now, what I meant when I asked “what is the argument?” was for a set of premises, drawing upon (perhaps slightly revised versions of) the two sentences plastered on the picture of the bearded, cross-dressing gun-toter.

My contention was (and is) that no such argument is possible, unless it is something like the ones that I already gave. (E.g., [1] Cross-dressers are morons. [2] Morons cannot be trained in the use of firearms. [3] Therefore, cross-dressers cannot be trained in the use of firearms.)

In our previous, lengthy exchange you cautioned me against the use of particular sources because, you advised, the sources in question were “not in any way helpful towards” my argument and, in fact, were “detrimental to [my] cause.”

I would recommend, mutatis mutandis, something similar to you here. Since the picture-text is clearly open to charges of being variously ad hominem or unrepresentative or both, your belief that humanity’s (or America’s) intellectual/spiritual maturity is simply insufficient to support access to certain weapons is not well-served by any appeal to, or mention of, such a problematic post.

I suppose, at the bottom of it, this is partly what I meant to convey when I expressed puzzlement that philosophy enthusiasts should associate themselves with such a “picture.” Prima facie, the text is a mess. And if the visual elements are believed to be expedient for the provocation of reflection, then it would seem to me to be time better spent digging up the original image and posting it by itself, rather than writing at length defending what is apparently indefensible (I mean, the text as-it-is).

>>By intellectually, I mean that this country is becoming increasingly illiterate, not in the sense that they cannot read, but rather in the sense that they refuse to.<<

I mostly agree with this. It depends on how we define “literacy.” If we set the bar of literacy so low that word recognition suffices, then your point scans. But I would argue that literacy ought to entail being able to tackle hefty texts, and not just being able to read the TV Guide. With a higher standard in place, it might turn out that people are increasingly illiterate, full-stop.

>>The danger of an illiterate society are multidimensional, first, because they are unable to distinguish between sound reasoning and propaganda...<<

I have sympathy with this, but - for reasons that I will not get into, presently - I would prefer to distinguish literacy and logic. Hence, I would not hold that literacy - even a robust, high-standards literacy of the variety that I earlier alluded to - is sufficient equipment with which to divide sound reasoning from propaganda.

In fact, I don’t even think that logic and literacy together are jointly sufficient.

As an aside, I will register my opinion that part of the reason for this is that I think non-rational mechanisms are at play in such areas as advertising and “propaganda” - or whatever names one cares to assign to Edward Bernays-ian/Jacques Ellul-ian-style “public relations” campaigns. Such campaigns can be waged both contra- and pro-guns and, in my view, often traffic in or incorporate subliminal elements and which may well have an insidious and non-, sub- or unconscious effect.

I take it that you and I are both literate and familiar with logic. At least, I think it’s plausible that we’re both more literate and more familiar with logic than the “average” person. Still, I would classify the posted “picture” as propaganda, and you would likely disagree.

>>...they with the aid of their automatic rifles can be persuaded into committing unspeakable acts of violence...<<

I think that “persuaded” is emphatically the wrong word, here. Although I have neither the space nor the time to make this plausible if you’re inclined to disagree, I would argue that the more accurate word is “programmed.”[5]

>>...(think of the confederacy. Put simply, they killed people because they were no longer allowed to hold people as slaves)...<<

As I sketched above, I think that this is a mischaracterization. The United States as a corporate entity was formed when the individual States agreed to the terms and conditions of the federal government as set forth in the Constitution. At the time the Civil War was instigated, the Constitution had delegated the federal government no authority to abolish, control or regulate slavery, and the Constitution had explicitly stated that powers not expressly assigned to the federal government were reserved to the States. Thus, straightforwardly, slavery was a state-related issue. The “North” therefore violated the terms of the Constitutional agreement.

(Slavery had been abolished in Britain without a "Civil War." Had the northern abolitionists really been concerned primarily with freeing slaves, then slaves could have been purchased by interested northerners and then released. There was more at work then a mere concern with abolition. Of course, it is also worth noting that what was fought in the U.S. was not a "civil war" properly so-called. In a true civil war, two or more contenders fight for control of a single state. In the American "Civil War," the North fought to destroy the South's economic base while simultaneously keeping its people and land in the "Union" fold. The South fought for self-determination and merely wanted the North either to keep to the Constitution or to allow peaceful secession. The North, of course, did neither.)

The Confederacy basically responded by saying that if the Constitution was no longer to be followed, then it (the Confederacy) would no longer recognize the union that the Constitution had brought into being. The North, via Lincoln, countered by declaring that “preserving the union” was of “paramount” concern. Lincoln famously wrote:

“I would save the Union. ...My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”[6]

>>Second, because without a solid intellectual foundation, people often cannot cope with difficulties they are going through in life...<<

Sociologically, although it is debatable, this is arguably false as well.[7]

>>...they cannot understand the sociological, political, and philosophical origins of their conflicts, nor can they look within themselves and work on their problems from within, because they lack the tools to, the concept of critical self examination is foreign to them. So they resort to gun violence.<<

This is a tightly-packed bundle of controversial claims. Analyzing crime statistics is difficult. Trying to explain criminal motivation raises the difficulty level by several orders of magnitude. Even scratching the surface of this tough nut would be a taller order than I presently have time to tackle. It will have to suffice for me to observe, in passing, that crime statistics correlate strongly with low(er) IQ. It is not at all clear to me that this measure is either irrelevant or itself “caused” by criminality. To be more direct, I think it is altogether possible that persons having antecedently low IQs explains both turns toward violence and the inability to “understand the sociological, political, and philosophical origins of their conflicts” and to “look within themselves and work on their problems...” and so on.

>>Our society is so misguided that a guy wearing confederate women’s underwear waving a powerful assault weapon doesn’t seem to get the joke (unless, of course that photo is staged. But I see shit like this all the time where I’m living.)<<

You’ll get no argument from me on the issue of our society being misguided. Though, in my case, I lament that “[o]ur society is so misguided that a guy [might wear] ...women’s underwear...”.

>>Being in a well-regulated militia is fine...<<

Of course, another problem with the posted “picture” is that it is not at all apparent that the guy is even in a militia.

>>...but at some point you have to decide whether you want to stand on first moral principles, derived from a thorough understanding of the philosophical school of ethics (like Kantian deontology, utilitarianism, virtue theory, etc) or be just another man with a gun.<<

Again, I would certainly not argue against the idea that all human actions - which obviously includes militia actions - should be governed by ethical principles. In fact, I elsewhere argue that even deciding to reconstitute a citizens’ militia should be a principled action.[8]

>>What I mean by our spiritual shortcomings is simply this, that we as a society no longer have any value for human life.<<

I agree. I think this applies not only to the murders (individual, mass, “serial” and so on) that you mainly have in mind, but also to abortion.

>>We are so desensitized to images of violence, many of us simply cannot see the interiority of the victems. We can’t put ourselves in their shoes, imagine what it’s like being fired at and having your guts torn out/apart.<<

I agree with this too. In fact, I think similar things come into play when people seemingly fail or decline to imagine being dismembered in utero.

>>Yes, I am saying we are increasingly becoming sociopathic.<<

I agree. And I have actually entertained a similar socio-cultural analysis myself in the past.

>>I’ll give you a good example, on Aug 27th of this year, a news reporter named Alison Parker was gunned down on live television, and it was caught on camera, both from the news feed and from a go pro worn by the killer. Immediately everyone wanted to watch the video, and the idiots over at infowars (fuck them!!!) were all trying to deconstruct the video and prove how it was staged.<<

I can only say that the “mainstream media” is largely owned by half a dozen or so corporations. This “corporate media” is roundly criticized by many left-leaning activists, some of whom - like Noam Chomsky - I admire greatly. As I (think that I) reminded you in our previous conversation, Chomsky recommends that people create and champion alternative media outlets in order to offset the corporate “news” and propaganda monopoly.

The extent to which the corporate media is intertwined with government and intelligence interests is unknown. However, what *is* known is alarming enough. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was investigated in the 1970s and discovered to have been infiltrating news media outlets, including those whose broadcasts were available in the U.S. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) notorious “COINTELPRO” operation was geared at undermining domestic political movements. The National Security Agency’s technical ability to “spy on Americans” has been known for decades, but it was recently through the whistle-blowing efforts of Edward Snowden that the extent to which NSA’s abilities had been put into practice were revealed more clearly.[9]

“In the early 1960s, America’s top military leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities to create public support for a war against Cuba. Code named Operation Northwoods, the plans reportedly included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities. The plans were developed as ways to trick the American public and the international community into supporting a war to oust Cuba’s then new leader, communist Fidel Castro. America’s top military brass even contemplated causing U.S. military casualties, writing: ‘We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba,’ and, ‘casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation.’”[10]

“In September 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was asked if the military might lie to the press, and Rumsfeld responded, ‘This conjures up Winston Chuchill’s famous phrase when he said ...sometimes the truth is so precious it must be accompanied by a bodyguard of lies’... Rumsfeld essentially stated that he would in fact lie to the press...”.[11]

And that is just the briefest rehearsal of known information about the domestic activities of four or so of the seventeen or so agencies that constitute the U.S. “intelligence community.”

During the most recent “war” in Iraq, it was admitted that the “U.S. Home Audience” was the target U.S. military propaganda. “[D]ocuments [obtained by the Washington Post] ...list the ‘U.S. Home Audience’ as one of the targets of a broader propaganda campaign.”[12]

By my lights, a corporate media that, as many “liberal” activists recognize, is unreliable in its coverage of Indonesian atrocities in East Timor and Israeli war crimes in the Occupied Territories does not suddenly become reliable merely because its coverage of shooting spectacles is amendable to a leftist agenda of “gun control.”

True journalism is supposed to be asking and trying to answer hard questions. Much of the sellout media just seems to rubber stamp the press releases of the FBI, local police and military. This is not the function of a free press.

It is also not the function of the press to facilitate memorial services for alleged victims whose barely-cold bodies have yet to be autopsied or to render hallowed crime scenes that have not yet been investigated.

Thus, the probing (even if groping) inquiries of the Infowars crew I do not take to be evidence of desensitization. I take it to be evidence of the stirrings of a free press - all the more important in light of the fact that you and I are the admitted targets of military propaganda.

We live inside of what former CIA counterintelligence chieftain James Jesus Angleton referred to as a “wilderness of mirrors.”

Infowars is imperfect, yes. But it is asking hard questions.

>>It’s just images for them, a pure spectacle, numerous videos popped up proclaiming it was a hoax, with thousands of views. Her last moments, her final screams, have become another show for anyone to view in their livingroom.<<

The alternative seems to be that the initial claims of police and intelligence agencies are merely accepted at face value and, in lieu of an investigation, we all just go right to mourning.

If the police and on-site “authorities” are so reliable, however, then perhaps we can also dispense with the judiciary.

>>The media circus around mass shootings makes gunmen into celebrities.<<

I have sympathy with the criticism of “media circuses.” However, I would want to distinguish between the mindless repetition of “raw footage” interspersed with the supposedly reliable remarks of professional commentators - as I have seen, for example, on the corporate networks from Fox to MSNBC - and genuine attempts at analysis.

The crime investigation does not cease when the chalk outlines are drawn. As important as it is to retain our human empathy and compassion for the genuine victims, it is also important to hold fast to our human skepticism in the face of the overwhelming evidence that We, the American People, are under sustained attacks by “our” intelligence and military communities - in league with or at the behest of, corporate interests.[13]

>>After playing an ultra violent FPS game someone can put in a blu-ray of a violent movie, become bored with that and turn on the news to see non-stop 24 hour news coverage of the latest shooting spree.<<

I am also well aware of, and lament, the media’s elevation of violence. It is worth remarking that there is a CIA-connection to the video game industry.[14]

>>Perhaps the greatest argument that we as a society have lost all appreciation for human life? The fact that, statistically, 90 people A DAY die from guns (suicides, murders, accidents) and nobody is doing anything, in fact a large percentage of this country want us to have MORE guns.<<

I agree. I add to this the following data. “According to WHO, every year in the world there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. This corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day. In the USA, where nearly half of pregnancies are unintended and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion, there are over 3,000 abortions per day.”[15]

>>...something is seriously fucked up in this country.<<

I agree.

>>We are not spiritually or intellectually advanced enough to have free, equal access to such weapons.<<

This, I have several problems with. Most fundamentally, I believe that we have a responsibility to pass the torch of liberty on to posterity at least as fully alight as we received it. We are being intellectually and spiritually degraded by some of the same corporate and propagandistic operatives who seek to disarm us. I believe that the attack on the Second Amendment is part of this degradation. In order to elevate ourselves, intellectually and spiritually, we need to hold fast to our heritage, not abandon it.

(You know that I have defended the importance of the Second Amendment. I will not re-post all of the links that I already provided to you.)

Suffice it here to say that, propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding, I believe, as John Stossel recently concluded, “More guns lead to less crime.”[16]

All the best,


[1] Response to Facebook post, <>.

[2] Andrew R. B. Haughton, Training, Tactics and Leadership in the Confederate Army of Tennessee: Seeds of Failure, London: Routledge, 2012, p. 22; archived online at <>.

[3] Henry Louis Mencken, “Five Men at Random,” Prejudices: Third Series, vol. 3, New York: A. A. Knopf, 1922, pp. 174-175; archived online at <>.

[4] Matthew Bell; previous Facebook exchange; archived online at <>.

[5] For a colorful, albeit non-academic, illustration, see British “mentalist” Derren Brown's intriguing production “The Heist,” online at YouTube, <>. For more from Derren Brown, see my “Veritas Vincit,” Bell Curve [weblog], Mar. 11, 2013, <>.

[6] Abraham Lincoln, letter to Horace Greeley, Washington, D.C., Aug. 22, 1862; reproduced as “Letter to Horace Greeley,” Abraham Lincoln online, <>.

[7] At least if “happiness” is used as a benchmark; see Kevin McSpadden, “Education Does Not Make You a Happier Person,” Time, Mar. 26, 2015, <>. My anthropological/theological inclinations suggest that a solid spiritual foundation is more important, but probing this would take us even further afield from “gun control.”

[8] See again my post “Towards a Jeffersonian Appraisal of the D.C. Gun Ban Decision,” Liberty Bell [weblog], Jun. 30, 2008, <>.

[9] On the FBI's track record of lying, see my post “Most Credulous, Er...DANGEROUS Cities,” Liberty Bell [weblog], Nov. 2, 2012, <>.

[10] David Ruppe, “U.S. Military Wanted to Provoke War With Cuba,” ABC News, May 1, 2001, <>.

[11] Susan Maret, Government Secrecy, Bingley [U.K.]: Emerald Publ., 2011, p. 17; archived online at <>. For my catalog of the Bush administration's lying related to 9/11 and the Iraq “war,” see “9/11 Primer, Part 2,” Liberty Bell [weblog], Sept. 10, 2012, <>.

[12] “U.S. Military Stoking Xenophobia in Iraq,” dispatch, United Press Intl., Apr. 10, 2006; accessed via LexisNexis.

[13] I sketch some of this in my July 4, 2013 post “g00gle,” Liberty Bell [weblog], <>.

[14] See my “Inauspicious beginning?” Bell Curve [weblog], Jan. 1, 2013, <>.

[15] “Abortions Worldwide This Year,” <>.

[16] John Stossel, “The Smear,” Town Hall, Dec. 2, 2015, <>.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Let’s Throw Our Brains and Our Guns Into the Toilet at the Same Time (Parody)

(Parody of Josie Duffy’s histrionic harangue “Your Opinion on Gun Control Doesn't Matter,” posted to the liberal Daily Kos website, December 2, 2015. Warning: Many sentiments, including those herein attributed to Noam Chomsky and Patrick Henry, are purposely inverted. It’s meant to be satirical. Caveat lector!)

Let’s Throw Our Brains and Our Guns Into the Toilet at the Same Time

Why don't we just stop thinking entirely? I don't care about your "arguments." I only care about the images that I am shown on my television.

I'm willing to call a spade a spade: I'm too emotionally-engaged to process this anymore. Thankfully, the six-odd corporations that own the majority of the news media in this country have made the talking-points crystal clear.

Firstly, there have been more mass shootings than days in the year! Who needs analysis when faced with numbers like that?

Secondly, if you are one of those types that views the Bill of Rights as an organic whole, such that one amendment protects the others; or who thinks that a citizen who is well-trained in the use of her firearm could actually protect herself and others from being senselessly massacred by shooters hopped-up on psychotropic drugs; or who believes, with the Founding Fathers that being armed is quite possibly a population's very last defense against government tyranny; then you are a monster.

You can take history and philosophy and shove them! Your right to keep and bear firearms is preventing the rest of us from carrying out background checks and monitoring behavior for potential threats. I mean, who could have spotted mild-mannered Sayed Farook as a would-be mass killer when all he did was things like subscribe to Sunni Islam and take vacations to the ISIS-supporting country of Saudi Arabia? Let's recall that only 15 of the 19 men blamed for the attacks of September 11, 2001 were from Saudi Arabia. (The remainder was surely culled from the Tea Party.)

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, this is a public health crisis. I feel sick already.

We need to move immediately to task the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the job of gun-violence-epidemic surveillance. As an institution committed to sober scientific analysis, the CDC would never make a mountain out of a molehill. I thank my lucky stars every day that CDC alerts probably saved Western Civilization from hantavirus and monkeypox. Though, I confess that I still get the shiver-shakes whenever I see a mouse trap or visit the local zoo.

Now this media fixation upon gun violence has my stomach in knots every time my fiancé takes the subway to work. I don't want people I love to die. I don't want to die. I'm too young to die!

This is exactly why I never turn off the television! I have a deep-seated psychological hunger to be constantly apprised of every single danger that might face my fiancé or me. Who cannot see, between the commercial breaks, the plain writing on the screen?

If there is one thing we know for sure, it's that seemingly endless attention upon violent events is going to bring the viewing audience clarity. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, the mass media and television is dominated by the public relations (PR) industry. Around World War One, this business was called the propaganda industry. After it was found out that "propaganda" was entirely the work of dastardly, rightwing types like "Nazis" and the National Rifle Association, the name was changed straight-away.

I thank the Universe that, as Chomsky put it, the PR industry, which in its regular vocation sells toothpaste, life-style drugs, automobiles and other commodities, has truth for its guiding principle. "[T]he Committee on Public Information, established to coordinate propaganda during World War I, ...'discovered in 1917-18 that one of the best means of controlling news was flooding news channels with facts, or what amounted to official information.'"

You just think about that! I'm watching a livestream of the local news right now. I won't even turn it off to complete my article submission - that's how scared your guns have made me.

I am inundated with facts. A bewildered reporter tries to swallow his tears. From that, you heartless rightwing bastard, I infer that he's sad! Fact number one!

It's also raining outside. How fittingly that sets the mood. And it's also fact number 2!

Clear across the country in California there are a dozen dead bodies, each end brought by bullets. There are so many facts packed in there I feel like I need an enema! I don't need to wait for an "autopsy." Scrutiny is offensive to "survivors" and it always has been!

I don't care if these shooters, like so many others, were on mood-altering, prescription pharmaceuticals. You know the type. They sport "black box" warnings that possible side-effects include suicidal thoughts and violent outbursts.

I don't need any "investigation"! The initial, live footage, together with the speculations of various talking heads, is good enough for me!

What could possibly be discovered in an inquiry that would be of any interest, you insensitive a-hole? What? The U.S. government itself has no track record of training assassination squads in Latin America. The Central Intelligence Agency has never engaged in "black operations." The Federal Bureau of Investigation has never infiltrated domestic groups with anything like "COINTELPRO." The National Security Agency doesn't spy on Americans. Edward Snowden taught us that in his spare time while he was vacationing in Russia.

It's not even possible that there is a deeper narrative - to this event or the "gun control" push in general. How dare you insinuate otherwise?

What I care about are the parents, frantically calling, hoping that their children are alive. And thanks to the uncompromising truth-mission of the mainstream media, I get continual doses of raw facts.

At this moment right now, the crime has just been committed. It's not time for a criminal investigation! It's time to give up our guns!

Think about it this way. The survivors are just embarking on a journey of pain, guilt, trauma, regret and flashbacks. Their pain might last decades.

But maintaining historical continuity with the Founding Fathers is supposedly worth it to you! You say, Let's not give up the hard-won liberties, maintained over centuries, just because we've been whipped-up into a frenzy by the corporate media over goings on the last few years. You quote the Roman poet Juvenal, "Who will guard the guards themselves?"

Do I have to remind you that most governments, historically, are more than willing to protect their unarmed people? Do I have to say it out loud? I will! "Giving up our cherished American liberties is absolutely worth it to me!" What else can I do??

As Patrick Henry said: "Life is so dear, and peace is so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery!" I just want the icky feeling to go away.