5 Years On: Hitler and Guns Still Reign Supreme

Hitler with gun

It’s now been five years since I began this blog, with the purpose of ferreting out, exposing and correcting myths, misinformation and disinformation in a variety of fields. In many ways, it’s been a productive five years. I’m pleased with the work I’ve done, and of all that I myself have learned in the process. And I’m pleased to see that I have a steadily growing following, and that I have received some wonderful feedback from readers. Equally telling, I’ve received my share of nay-saying and nasty attacks from those whose ideological feathers I’ve ruffled. The readership is not as large as I’d like, but considering that I’ve done next to nothing to promote it (I’m a very busy man, and not very tech savvy), it’s rather impressive.

These investigations have turned out to involve, much more frequently than I ever imagined, debunking the talking points of right-wing extremists. Which inevitably has prompted the accusation that I’m just here to promote a “liberal agenda”. Which is, alas, far from being the looniest thing right-wing extremists have said.

Which brings me to a fact that really bothers me. Out of 162 posts that I have written to date, the most popular by far is the one titled The Myth Of Hitler’s Gun Ban. And when I say by far, I mean really, really by far. More precisely, it receives more than twice as many views as all the others combined.  That’s right: more than twice as many as all the others combined. In one day alone, right after being linked in a commentary by pundit Randi Rhodes, it was viewed more than 23,000 times. It also has elicited about a third of the total comments.

I mentioned all of this to my wife and she said, “Well, maybe reading that post will make people want to read your other posts as well.” But the evidence indicates that this is not the case.  The blog is averaging barely more than one page view per visit. Most people come here to read just one thing. And most of the time, it’s the same one thing.

And it is far from being the best of my articles. Oh, there’s really nothing wrong with it, except that it’s rather cursory. Which is why I wrote two sequels that explore the topic in greater depth. But guess what? Those two posts are no more popular than any of the others. It’s bad enough that people consider this subject of such vital importance — I actually wrote the first post to show that it’s a bullshit question, and really not very important except as a historical footnote. What’s even worse is that so many readers don’t want to know the ifs, ands or buts. They just want a simple answer: did he or didn’t he?

They believe this question is vital because they have been duped into believing it’s vital by a relatively small cadre of gun culture propagandists who keep hammering away at one of their favorite little formulas: (a) Hitler banned guns and (b) therefore, any attempt to regulate guns is superlatively evil. Not only are both premises patently false, they are by no means interdependent, as the propagandists insistently suggest.

The irony is that, far from shunning firearms, Nazis embraced them with a white-hot passion. And it’s hard to imagine that anyone who knows anything about history at all doesn’t realize this. Thus, it’s hard not to suspect that the gun fanatics who conjure up the specter of Der Fuhrer are doing so not out of revulsion, but out of some level of admiration. Not for the man himself, or his policies or evil deeds. But for the way he and his followers fashioned such a powerful and influential movement — aided and abetted by guns.

In any case, there are numerous subjects I’ve written about that deserve far more attention, especially from American readers. There is, for example, the Christian Right’s Nazi-flavored campaign to marginalize gays. (No, “Nazi-flavored” is not an exaggeration.) There’s the way a shamelessly partisan media cartel colluded with Republicans in the hijacking of the 2000 presidential election. Or, if we must talk about guns, there is the way the gun lobby manipulates statistics to make it appear that guns make us safer; and in particular, there’s the frequent naive reliance on bogus “statistics” that grossly inflate the frequency of defensive gun use, giving gun owners a dangerous false sense of security and coincidentally swelling the coffers of gun merchants. Instead, many readers just zero in on a bit of minor marginalia in the history of Twentieth-Century Europe.

But there is a bright spot. I omitted something from the stats I referred to (and one reason I did so is to illustrate how incomplete information can be misleading). The counts do not include visits to the home page, which presumably reflect readers checking out the latest post without actually clicking on it. That count is on average nearly as high as that of the Hitler-gun post; in fact, for the past couple of weeks, it’s actually been considerably higher almost every day. If this continues, it certainly offers some encouragement.

Still, I’m glad that this blog is geared toward those who have a sincere interest in learning the truth. If it had been designed for the edification of the general public, one would have to conclude that it’s been a dismal failure.

Science Deniers, Flat Earthers and the Modern Galileo

galileo-and-cruz

“Ted Cruz DESTROYS Sierra Club President Over Global Warming”. So said the headline of one of the Internet spinfests making the rounds recently. Another said “Ted Cruz 1, Sierra Club 0”.  Or in the words of a blog writer for Michelle Malkin, whose problems with the real world we’ve discussed before, “Global Warming Causes Sierra Club President to Melt During Ted Cruz Questions About ‘Cooking’ Planet”.

Cruz’s own website even crows about his supposed triumph by posting links to gushing reports about the incident from the mainstream media and from right-wing propaganda outlets. (But I repeat myself.) All of which just goes to show that you can spin just about anything to your advantage if you have your skull inserted into your rectum far enough.

This take on events achieved search engine saturation — it was almost impossible to find an accurate account of the incident referred to, because the spinmeisters had piled up such a deep heap of rubbish to dig through. Unfortunately for them, they committed — as they often do — the fatal error of providing a link to a video that is supposed to buttress their cause, but in fact totally explodes it. (Compare, for example, the birthers who provided a link to a video which they claimed depicted an attorney for President Obama admitting that his birth certificate is forged.)

Suppose the spin were true. What if Cruz really had handed Sierra Club president Aaron Mair his testicles on a salver. What exactly would have been the significance? Damn little. Mair’s background is in sociology, history and political science, and he is by profession an epidemiological-spatial analyst, which is basically someone who studies the geographical distribution of disease. He does not claim to be an authority on climate science, which just might be why he accepts the research of those who are experts.

Cruz, however, is another matter. With a background in public policy, law and politics, he believes he does know more about climate science than those who study it for a living. He’s even dubbed climate science a “religion.” He knows that global warming is a hoax because it still snows in New Hampshire. No, really. In fact, he places himself in some rather elite company as a maverick scientific thinker:

Today, the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers. It used to be [that] it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier.

Aside from the fact that he is turning reality on its ear, fancying himself a modern Galileo and casting the scientific community in the role of a backward religious establishment, there is something staggeringly stupid about that utterance, even by Cruz’s usual standards. But we’ll return to that later. First let’s look at what actually happened at that hearing.

It helps to understand how hearings work in a GOP-controlled Congress. When Planned Parenthood was the target of a smear campaign by a group circulating deceptively edited videos, Congress went after (not the perpetrators of the fraud, but) Planned Parenthood’s CEO, Cecile Richards, whom they subjected to a very nasty, one-sided, accusatory inquisition.

When terrorists attacked an American consulate in Benghazi, Republicans went after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who coincidentally was the favored contender for the Democratic nomination for president — even though there’s really nothing to investigate, they’ve reportedly now investigated Benghazi more than they investigated 9-11, which occurred on American soil, had a much heavier toll, and actually involved an administration’s gross negligence. And many of us still remember the congressional shark orgy around Clinton’s husband over his sex life, a witch hunt mounted under the comically transparent pretext that it was somehow in the national interest.

So it shouldn’t come as a great shock that given the platform, someone like Ted Cruz would seize the opportunity to grill a Sierra Club representative in an attempt to vindicate his own ineptitude. And while Aaron Mair was not as well prepared for the vicious onslaught as were Richards or Clinton or Clinton (this one was, after all, unscheduled), he was equally firm and patient — I’m not sure that he rolled his eyes even once.

The “platform” was a hearing on government regulation. But at one point Mair observed:

That people of color and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by pollution, and climate disruption should not be up for debate any more so than the science behind climate change itself.

Well sir, Cruz saw his opportunity, so he pounced.

I’m curious: Is the Sierra Club, is this a frequent practice to declare areas of science not up for debate, not up for consideration of what the evidence and data show?

Among other things, this is a false attribution. It isn’t the Sierra Club that declares “areas of science not up for debate”. It’s scientists themselves. As Mair repeats far too many times (but what else can you say to such Cruzian nonsense on the spot — he had a better response later), the organization stands behind the consensus of 97 percent of scientists. At one point, however, he did refer to the “preponderance of evidence”, which gave Cruz another golden opportunity, noting that as a lawyer he learned that it only took a certainty of 51 percent to establish a preponderance.

I don’t know what kind of lawyer Cruz was, but surely he is not so inept a mathematician as to confuse 51 with 97. If only one scientist says something, or only one percent of scientists say something, by all means you can take it with a grain of salt. If 51 percent of scientists say something, you can consider it a matter of legitimate debate. If 97 percent say something, you’d do well to start paying attention.

Actually, Mair was wrong. He was citing a commonly quoted figure when he said that 97 percent of scientists concur with the global warming scenario, but this figure is off. The actual percentage is more than 99.99 percent. Yet Cruz still knows better.  And he has a simple explanation for why virtually all the scientists are wrong: those scientists only say what they do because they receive “massive grants”.  The “grant” card is a standard component of the anti-sciencer’s toolkit; if all else fails, just suggest that giving scientists money hopelessly corrupts them — unless of course that money comes from a petroleum company, and then the research is above questioning.

The implication is that nearly all scientists, even the best and brightest, can be bought. If that were true, it’s hard to imagine that science would have made anywhere near the progress it has — we might well be still in the bone knives and bearskins stage.

I’m curious, Senator Cruz: would you prefer that scientific research be carried out by shoe salesmen in their basements on weekends — or by individuals wealthy enough to fund their own research? Just how big does a grant need to be to qualify as “massive”? Should it be in the neighborhood of, say, the 15 million you received from major polluters this year?

Cruz asks whether it’s true that there has been no warming trend for the past 18 years. Mair responds, simply but accurately, that no, it isn’t true. Cruz presses on, laying a trap by asking whether Mair knows what “the pause” refers to. Mair fails the test. So what? “The pause” is a statistical burp that absolutely does NOT show a cessation of global warming. Cruz believes it does. So which of them is more uninformed?

In short, it’s true that Aaron Mair wasn’t stellar in defending himself at his de facto trial; but however bad he may have looked, Ted Cruz definitely looked much worse. And it was entirely his own doing. That tends to happen whenever a pompous individual poses as more knowledgeable about a field than the collective experts in that field — unless of course the individual in question really is a Galileo.

Which brings us back to that little statement Cruz made above. Let’s look at it again. Sorry, but it’s just too good to use only once.

Today, the global warming alarmists are the equivalent of the flat-Earthers. It used to be [that] it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier.

As you probably realize, the clash between Galileo and the church had nothing to do with the shape of the earth. It occurred because Galileo had stated the earth revolved around the sun, while church officials insisted that the earth (and they themselves) were at the center of the universe. They were dead wrong about that, but they at least knew the earth was round — as virtually everyone else did.

Today, the term flat earther is applied figuratively to a person who clings obstinately to a narrow-minded belief that is contradicted by the evidence — like, oh, certain senators from Texas. But once upon a time, many people literally believed that before modern times. people literally believed the earth was flat. Not only is Cruz buying into this myth, he is quite ignorant about a key event in the history of science and the iconic conflict involving the scientific genius whose shoes he presumes to fill.

Did we mention that this character is chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness? Did we mention that he wants to be president of the United States?