Gun rights vs hard data

Right winger David Brooks published an op ed column in the 2017 Oct 7 New York Times (print edition) on gun control.  His comments have a vital point, and they should be required reading.  If you quote hard data that demonstrates a mistake in an attitude, you will not change anyone’s opinion, instead you might strengthen their attachment to anti-real viewpoints.

Brooks with new wife

Fig 1  David Brooks with wife Anne

History is full of examples of this, from the spherical vs flat earth argument, the germ theory vs will of the gods arguments, or the current gun rights vs gun control struggle. Logical arguments are as effective as jerking a hook in a fish’s mouth.  This does not remove fishhook, it just makes it sink in deeper.

We made a similar point when we highlighted Katharine Hayhoe’s climate-change presentation – hard facts do not convince true believers who think that all that stuff is false. This is becoming a recurrent theme for us.

Img Tali Sharot

Fig 2  Tali Sharot, Princ. Invest. Affective Brain Lab

Brooks made excellent points, included a link to the book  The Influential Mind  by Tali Sharot (Director of the Affective Brain Lab, University College London).

Her point:  If you offer evidence that is opposite to  deeply held beliefs and you will not change any minds.  True believers will work hard to paint over the objections, even it if requires simply ignoring the data points.  The brighter the person, the faster and deeper the rationalizations.

Brooks’ topic is gun control.  When horrors like last week’s Las Vegas massacre happen state legislators move to weaken whatever gun control rules that were in place.  He quotes a study that indicates that when a single mass shooting occurs, there is a 15% increase in bills to state legislatures to strengthen gun ownership rights.

Brooks ends his essay showing that gun rights actually must be a stand in for much deeper attitudes, and I could not agree with him more strongly.  In 2000 only 29 out of every 100 Americans supported increased gun rights.  By 2016, gun rights supporters numbered 52 out of every 100. So something is going on. Per LastTechAge, this rise has been due to increases in the push by dark influences in U.S. society.  Per Brooks, people in agricultural and industrial America see their way of life threatened.  Gun rights stand for freedom, self-reliance and control over personal destiny.  I believe he is also right, the rights movement among our plotters is a stand-in for a much deeper set of issues.

Brooks continues on to blame “populist” attitudes which have taken over half his beloved Republican party.  He blames the self-righteous for a drum beat of proclamations that our elites are dominating the common man.  Oops.

Here our paths separate. The word populist has at least 2 different meanings.  Populist is what Bernie Sanders sometimes calls himself, it is also what Libertarians sometimes call themselves. See?  One word with different meanings.

I have always had an issue with Brooks’ inequality-problem problem.  American society has been preconditioned to accept what was supposed to happen in November 2016. This has been documented pretty well. But David wants to blame what he calls my “primitive zero-sum” mentality, tsk-tsk. (The comment makes better sense if you read his essay and mine at the previous link.)

So what is behind the successful anti gun control movement?  Certainly not a desire to protect the populace from the American government.  No one can successfully withstand our modern armed forces: a few assault rifles, anti aircraft missiles, bombs, whatever, will not be enough to defeat our war professionals. But we are in the middle of a silent revolution, what LastTechAge calls our slow war. It is guided by the ultra rich in our society, but has been pretty ham handed in the last 10 years – which is why we have a President Trump, rather than a President Pence, or Romney, or Bush.  So I am a Brooks’ special “self-righteous primitive.”

There are 3 books out right now that do a great job documenting the American back story …  White Trash by Nancy Isenberg (2016), Dark Money by Jane Mayer (2016), and Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean (2017).  These should be considered together to get a clear picture of who we are and what undercurrents are in action. Though they do not discuss gun control, they explain the huge recent push to break the bonds that hold us together as a coherent nation.

Image of authors

Fig 3  Nancy Isenberg Jane Mayer Nancy Maclean

This is a continuing thread at LastTechAge.  If you are sympathetic to David Brooks or Russ Douthat or Rush Limbaugh or Charles Koch, your probably should not spend much time here.  After all, Brooks has already indicated that no ideologue will be influenced by careful assembly and analysis of facts.


Charles J. Armentrout, Ann Arbor
2017 Oct 08
This is listed under Politics
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About LastTechAge

I am a physicist with years of work in fusion labs, industry labs, and teaching (physics and math). I have watched the tech scene, watched societal trends and am alarmed. My interest is to help us all improve or maintain that which we worked so hard to achieve.
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