How to Make People Believe Absolutely Anything (In 5 Simple Steps)

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Anyone — yes, even you — can induce people, or at least a large number of people, to believe absolutely anything, no matter how absurd. And there is plenty of living proof out there. Consider Alex Jones, who has a huge following, many of whom believe that 9-11 was an inside job, that Sandy Hook was staged, that children are being abducted and shipped off to a slave colony on Mars, that pigs and gorillas have been given human brains and are running around talking, that a pedophilia ring is being run out of a pizza parlor, and that millions of people voted illegally in the last election. But perhaps the ultimate illustration of how preposterous persuasion works is a man who gets much of his “information” from Jones: his big fan and close ally, the man currently sitting in the Oval Office.

He is undoubtedly the most dishonest, corrupt and inept individual ever to occupy the White House. Yet he has a loyal cult following who still believe that he is honest, forthright and a successful businessman and brilliant leader who is somehow Making America Great Again — and even believe, perhaps most astoundingly of all, that he is a Good Christian. How did we get here?

Many people felt, and still feel, blindsided by the last election. But while the man himself seems to have come out of nowhere, it was inevitable that someone like him would be elected sooner or later. Because the way has been prepared for literally decades by a fringe media consisting of feverish AM talk show hosts, Fox “News” talking heads, and countless newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites. What they have done, anyone can do. And while it may require time and effort, it all boils down to 5 simple steps.

1. Tell them what they already want to hear

Savvy manipulators know that it’s easier to persuade people to wade in up to their necks if you can just convince them to get their feet wet first. Most of us are constantly seeking confirmation of what we already believe (the confirmation bias). When somebody reinforces our beliefs, we tend to regard them as more reliable and trustworthy in general. That’s why manipulators so often make a display of religiosity; committed religious individuals are especially prone to blind trust in anyone they perceive to be ardent followers of the One True Faith — otherwise priests wouldn’t be able to work their boyish charms so successfully. Begin with “Make America Great Again” (whatever the hell that means), and in no time you can work your way up to “millions voted illegally” and “I had a record-breaking victory”.

2. Stoke emotional responses, especially fear and rage

Ronald Reagan was gifted with that proverbial knack for faking sincerity; consequently, he is widely regarded, even today, as a man of impeccable honesty and character, even though he constantly lied through his teeth. (Indeed, with the exception of George W. Bush, it’s likely that no president lied more — until now, when the current White House Occupant dwarfs them both combined). But his sober demeanor was quite unusual among demagogues; they usually realize that while any statement carries more weight if delivered with emotion, the most potent emotions are fear and anger.

Typically, you just don’t hear demagogues speak in a calm, rational tone of voice; it’s more common to hear them sounding like fundamentalist preachers warning of hellfire and damnation than (like Reagan) kindly uncles delivering a homey morality tale. They will raise their voices, they will pound on their desks, they will relate little stories (factual or not) that supposedly validate their point, they will make their voices quiver, they will sometimes even bring themselves to tears.

The most effective message of all is “you are being threatened” or better yet “you are under attack”; particularly since these are messages that many people are already eager to hear. Thus the eternal popularity of silly narratives like transgender bathroom predators, the War on Christmas, and “they’re coming to take your guns”.

There is a part of our brain (the amygdala) that is constantly on the lookout for danger. In caveman days, it was conditioned to be suspicious of anything unknown; after all, that rustling in the bushes very well could be a lion scouting out lunch.  But even though the human race as a whole has long outgrown this mindset, there are still many people (we generally call them “conservatives”) who view the unfamiliar as something to be feared; and view people who promote, represent or advocate for acceptance of anything unfamiliar as enemies to be hated. Political opponents and ideological complements are no longer viewed as mere opponents and complements; they are mortal foes against whom you should prepare for “another civil war”.

3. Find someone to hate

It stands to reason that if you are going to control people effectively with fear and rage, then there must be a “them” to direct the fear and rage toward. You must find a suitable scapegoat to blame for all your (real or imagined) problems. It’s helpful to pinpoint specific individuals (e.g., Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton) but entire demographic sectors work even better. In the past, a number of groups have served this purpose well: Muslims, gays, African-Americans, communists, and most notoriously, Jews.

The current White House Occupant targeted brown-skinned foreigners, falsely claiming that Mexicans have driven up crime and that Muslims celebrated in the streets on 9-11. His cult followers certainly jumped on board with those sentiments, but they reserved their most venomous hostility for a much larger and longer established enemy that the right-wing media have hammered away at for years: “liberals”.

“Liberals” are always an ideal target because they are a motley and loosely defined assortment that constitutes at least half the population of the United States, including many people all around you — friends, neighbors, relatives and coworkers. Yet they are supposedly people who hate America, want to kill you and enslave you (not necessarily in that order), and want to sacrifice unbaptized babies on an altar devoted to the worship of Hollywood celebrities.

4. Project your own sins onto others

The quickest and most effective way to divert attention away from your true motives, flaws and misdeeds is to accuse someone else of the same thing — as loudly, and as quickly as possible, before people start realizing it’s really you who are the guilty party. Thus during the campaign the future White House Occupant made a point of branding his opponent as a liar and a crook, even while he himself was breaking all records for dishonesty and corruption. He was following the lead of his harbingers and cheerleaders in the right-wing media who have been howling for decades about how (all other) media is extremely biased and untrustworthy.

People with legitimate adult criticism usually focus on the specific complaint rather than making a broad generalization. When a person repeatedly applies derogatory labels or vague accusations to someone else, it’s usually a sign that you should examine the behavior of the person doing the applying.

5.  Lather, rinse, repeat

The more frequently people hear something, the more likely they are to believe it. So don’t just state your claims and make your case once. Proclaim them over and over and over, day after day after day. Crooked Hillary, crooked Hillary, crooked Hillary. Fake news, fake news, fake news. Liberal media, liberal media, liberal media. Worship me, worship me, worship me.

And there you have it. It may not be a quick and easy process, but this simple 5-step plan is guaranteed to produce results if you pursue it diligently and patiently. I look forward to seeing you in the White House.

 

 

 

The Age of Anti-Intellectualism: Facts Are Officially Obsolete

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These are plague years in America. The pestilence is as far-flung as any that ravaged Europe centuries ago – and potentially just as deadly. It’s not an affliction of the body, but of the mind. And unlike other diseases, the afflicted do not run from it or try to heal it; on the contrary, they embrace it wholeheartedly.

It isn’t stupidity; many of its victims are bright enough. It isn’t ignorance. Ignorance is simply an absence of knowledge; but this disease, anti-intellectualism, entails a willful avoidance of knowledge and a substitute of anti-knowledge. It isn’t just that many people no longer can distinguish between reality and fantasy; they no longer even have any concern that the distinction exists.

Half of Americans believe that Christianity came before Judaism, 30 percent believe Saddam Hussein was behind the 9-11 attacks, 30 percent don’t know what year 9-11 occurred in, 5 percent don’t know the DATE 9-11 occurred on (seriously), 30 percent of Democrats believe George W. Bush was behind the 9-11 attacks, 30 percent of Republicans believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya, 20 percent of Americans doubt that the moon landing actually occurred, 25 percent don’t know what country the U.S. won its independence from (many say it was China), 37 percent believe that climate change is a hoax, 35 percent believe that homosexuality is a choice, 25 percent don’t believe in evolution, 25 percent believe the sun revolves around the earth, and 71 percent don’t know where the Pacific Ocean is. (These percentages may vary from survey to survey, but the high insanity quotient is a constant.)

We have reached the point in American history at which facts officially have become obsolete. The corner officially was turned with the election of Donald J. Trump, a man who literally lies more often than he tells the truth.

Mind you, the plague is not of a solely political nature. And it has been incubating for quite a while. But its inception point arguably can be traced to another presidential election, and the apotheosis of another delusional demagogue: Ronald Reagan.

The Gipper was a prolific fibber even in a field proverbial for prevarication (though he pales beside Trump). Yet his admirers extol him as a “strong leader” of impeccable honesty and “character”. Why? One reason is that Reaganauts, like Trumpsters, are individuals who are willing and even eager to be deceived. In Reagan’s case, however, we also must give credit where it is due: he was a highly skilled liar, an acumen no doubt honed by his years in Hollywood. But there’s another, more chilling factor: he seems actually to have believed his own lies. His habit of recounting movie episodes as if they were real-life anecdotes apparently stems from his own confusion of one for the other.

When he claimed, more than once, that he filmed the liberation of prisoners from Nazi concentration camps (he never made it out of California during the war), he gave the impression that he had vivid memories of the fictional incident, and even offered to show nonexistent film he’d shot. Hell, he probably even suffered from PTSD from firing the camera. 

He lied repeatedly about selling weapons to a hostile nation and then using the proceeds to fund drug-running terrorists in Central America. Then, after denying he’d sold the weapons, he insisted that all the weapons he didn’t sell would have fit on the back of a small truck. He didn’t seem to notice the discrepancy, and neither did his fawning fans.

In fact, inspired by his highly successful rape of reality, they began doing for the media what Reagan had done for government – Rush Limbaugh was one of the earliest to jump on the bandwagon and is still going strong, churning out an endless stream of toxic falsehoods attacking The Others. Eventually the movement gave us Fox “News”, which for the past two decades has been feeding suggestible viewers an alternate reality around the clock. These folks know that the public will not bother to do any fact checking if you tell them what they want to hear and appeal to their emotions. 

We now have a society in which any belief or opinion, no matter how kooky, is considered on equal footing (at least) with solid fact; and all you have to do is say “I disagree” to make an unpleasant fact vanish is a wisp of smoke.

This has been going on for some time. But now, anti-intellectualism is officially national policy. It’s going to have a figurehead in the Oval Office. It’s going to have a high priest with his finger on the button. We came very close to this situation before with the “election” of George W. Bush — a man who spoke in an incoherent flux of grotesquely mangled English, and didn’t know the respective duties of the three branches of federal government, or that Social Security is a federal program.

Now we’ve gone full-throttle, officially decreeing that knowledge is not only unnecessary but a handicap. The U.S. has elected a president who rarely if ever reads, has no government experience, has no knowledge of the Constitution or government policy, and whose only legal experience is in suing and being sued at least 4000 times. The U.S. is going to have a president who obtains a large portion of his “information” about the world from the loony conspiracy theories of Alex Jones, which he repeats more or less verbatim.

Jones, in case you’re not familiar with him, has suggested that the Sandy Hook massacre and the Boston Marathon bombing were staged; that 9-11 was an inside job; that airplanes use chemtrails to spread “weaponized flu”; that the government is using fluoride to control our minds; that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton smell like sulfur because they are possessed by demons; that Michelle Obama is a man; that juice boxes are engineered to make children gay; that Justin Bieber is planning to create a police state by brainwashing kids; and that the world is being controlled by lizards from another planet.

Trump was parroting Jones when he declared that Barack Obama is a Kenyan; that thousands of Muslims cheered in the streets on 9-11; that Clinton used drugs prior to a debate; that Antonin Scalia was murdered; that vaccines cause autism; that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination; and that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election.

Does any of this bother Trump’s supporters? Why should it? After all, there must be something fishy about Hillary’s emails.

I just heard the umpteenth one of them say that Trump won the popular vote. Thanks to the miracle of Google, it would take only a few seconds to find out who really won. But why should they bother when their illusions are so comfortable?

And how many times have you heard them say that Clinton was responsible for the deaths of Americans in Benghazi? It would only take a few minutes online to learn that a highly partisan investigation spent months and millions trying to find evidence of some blunder by Clinton or Obama with regard to Benghazi; but in the end they were forced to admit that the administration acted properly and made no mistakes. Even Fox “News” reported as much, for Christ’s sweet sake. But millions of people would prefer to believe the lie.

Throughout the excruciatingly long campaign season, Trumpsters bombarded Facebook with bogus stories supporting Trump — or more precisely declaring that “Hillary’s a crook”. Many of these stories were concocted by teenagers in Macedonia who had no interest in Trump or the election or the U.S of A. They just wanted to make money. And they did — a ton of it. Some of them tried circulating fake stories promoting Clinton and Sanders, but they discovered that Trump was much more of a cash cow — which is to say, his supporters were much more gullible and misinformed.

A large number of Trump voters call themselves “pro-life” – a smug euphemism for “I believe abortion will go away if I sweep it under the rug”. It’s their hope and dream that Donald Trump will keep at least one of his campaign pledges and do what he can to make abortion illegal again. They choose to bury the harsh reality (as many did pre-Roe) that outlawing abortion just means that many women and girls will die horrible deaths from back alley procedures. And it’s entirely possible that some of them will be loved ones of “pro-life” voters.

And there’s another grim consequence of bubble-dwelling that is not only possible but absolutely certain. Trump has declared that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese (yet another nutty notion he cribbed from Jones) and this greatly appealed to voters whose favorite subject is not science. But we cannot ignore climate change forever; in the very near future, its effects are going to become so devastating that they will demand to be acknowledged. And that day probably will be hastened by the actions of Trump and company.

In the meantime, the denizens of alternate reality will keep on reveling in their plague, and turning their backs on the facts. Until the day comes when some pesky fact sneaks around and cures them by kicking them squarely in the nuts.

Reactions to Boston: The Good, the Bad, and the Batshit Loony

Bombing Victim Jeff Bauman

Bombing Victim Jeff Bauman

A senseless act of violence (or a tragedy if you will) like the Boston Marathon bombing has a way of bringing out the best in most people. A wounded veteran of combat in Afghanistan comforted an injured woman, showing her his scars and assuring her that she would survive. An intern who had just finished a 14-hour hospital shift pitched right in and began treating the wounded. Hundreds of local residents rushed from their homes to supply water and first aid, sometimes using their belts for tourniquets.

Unfortunately, such an incident also brings out the worst in some people. For the right-wing fanatics, every such occasion is a golden opportunity to do what they live for: spread hate, divisiveness and paranoia — and try to score political points by taking cheap shots at President Obama and “liberals”.  Part of the spin after this particular incident was to declare that Obama is irresponsible and incompetent with national security because he allowed 3 Americans to be killed in a terrorist strike on American soil — while Bush kept us safe because he allowed only 3000 to be killed.

These folks can’t  even display enough respect for the victims or  basic human decency to wait a few hours before launching into attack mode; they start cranking out the venom as soon as the news breaks. Nothing is more important than giving voice to their irrational,  deranged, all-consuming hatred for the guy in the White House and anyone who might possibly like him even a little bit.

Naturally, guns always figure in the mix. Right on cue after Sandy  Hook, the gun lobby went into “it could have happened with a nail file” mode,  making puerile smears against anyone who dared challenge the supremacy of the almighty gun. The ever-entertaining National Review characterized Gabrielle Giffords’ outrage over the NRA’s grip on Congress as “childish” and “an embarrassment”.  The general attitude among right-wing reactionaries toward shooting victims is that by making their voice heard they are “bullies” and “props” of the Obama administration who have no business getting involved in the discussion over guns. And while the grief in Newtown was still raw, the NRA displayed its usual classiness by targeting the community with pro-gun robocalls and other propaganda.

But the attack in Boston wasn’t a shooting. So there was no reason to even bring up guns, eh? Do you really thing they’d let a little thing like that stop them? Sure, it took Wayne LaPierre a couple of weeks to proclaim that we obviously need more guns to protect us from pressure cookers —  to invoke the bombing in incendiary pro-gun rhetoric, and to exploit violence for personal gain, while accusing the proponents of “gun control” of doing the same, of course. (In case you didn’t know, when the president responds to gun violence by supporting measures to prevent it from occurring it again, that’s called political grandstanding and suppressing freedom; when the gun lobby exploits violence to whip up paranoia and increase profits, it’s called defending liberty. Everybody clear?)

But not to worry, Arkansas legislator Nate Bell took up the slack for LaPierre’s excessive delay. While authorities were in pursuit of the attackers, he Tweeted:

I  wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?

This understandably sparked a great deal of outrage, especially among Bostonians.  Some of the responses were as crude as his comment solicited. Others were more sophisticated. My favorite was this:

I invite you to Boston. So you can witness true toughness, compassion and humanity. Toughest city on earth. No guns required.

That’s the Boston I know and love. Incidentally Bell, unlike others of his breed, at least had the decency to issue a half-assed apology — not for the “content” but for the “timing”. In other words, it appears he still believes that anyone who doesn’t hide behind a hunk of metal is “cowering”, but he realizes he didn’t select the most tactful possible time to say so.

Immediately after the bombing,  right-wing pundit Laura Ingraham seized the opportunity to ratchet up the hysteria over immigration, and Fox contributor Erik Rush suggested of Muslims, “Let’s kill them all.” Mind you, both of these responses were delivered before ANYTHING was known about the suspects.  After the suspects were identified, and one of the alleged bombers and three of his acquaintances were discovered to be students at University Of Massachusetts-Dartmouth,  Bill O’Reilly concluded that there must be a “huge problem” with the school itself.

The Westboro Baptist Church also weighed in, blaming the violence on Obama, abortion and gays. Makes perfect sense if you snort gunpowder and Bibles long enough.  At least a couple of right-wing gun fanatics declared that “liberals” love it when things like this happen. (If anybody “loves” it, it would have to be the people who seek occasions to make idiotic utterances like that.) And dear old Rush Limbaugh concluded that the bombers were obviously influenced by the “liberal elite intellectual thought” in Boston. Can’t allow any of that intellectual thought, it’s quite dangerous — among other things, it might damage Rush’s ratings.

In fact, it appears the terrorists were influenced by rabidly right-wing slime merchant Alex Jones, whose tin hat delusions have been mainstreamed by Republicans in Congress (not the first time a terrorist has been a fan of his). Jones, who is gifted with an extraordinary capacity to find a sinister conspiracy in every leaf and snowflake, didn’t disappoint this time around.  Within MINUTES of the news from Boston, he was Tweeting things like this:

Our hearts go out to those that are hurt or killed #Boston marathon – but this thing stinks to high heaven #falseflag

Explosions at the Boston Marathon. Don’t that the FBI [sic] has been behind virtually every domestic terror plot in the US, as NY Times reported.

A False flag, in case you’re still unfamiliar with the term after all the batting about it’s been getting in the last few years,  is an incident in which a government attacks its own people (or even an individual fakes an attack on himself/ herself) in order to cast blame on someone else.  It has become an automatic response among the Alex Joneses of the world to declare that any terrorist attack, any disaster, any act of mass violence must have been staged by the Obama administration for some reason or other. The existence of emergency preparedness drills that utilize “crisis actors” is all the proof these folks need that the victims of actual disasters are merely faking it. There are people out there who believe that nobody really died in Boston, in Newtown, in Aurora, or even in the World Trade Center. And whenever you encounter such an individual,  the odds are excellent that he’ll be a fawning fan of Alex Jones.

It’s also an excellent bet that he’ll be a big fan of Alex’s chief rival for the Kool-Aid Crown, Glenn Beck — who also was true to form.  He declared not only that Obama was behind the bombing, but that he was shielding a Saudi who had carried out the deed at his behest. Furthermore, the Beckster gave the president an ultimatum to come clean by April 22, or else he would “expose” the administration big time. Don’t look now, Glenn, but April 22 has quietly come and gone, and you still haven’t exposed anyone but yourself — and most Americans are really wishing you’d zip it back up. By the way, don’t you and AJ even talk to each other enough to get your stories straight? Did the president orchestrate a real attack or a hoax? Sheesh!

Granted, some people also suspected initially that the culprits were connected with a radical Tea Party faction. (I was among them, but I exercised the discretion not to voice that suspicion in public.) After all, the attack occurred on tax day, and one of the primary objectives of the Tea Party is, supposedly, to protest taxes. It occurred in Boston, site of the real Tea Party. And Tea Party rhetoric tends to be incendiary, and often is laced with subtle and not-so-subtle exhortations to violence.  These are all solid facts, not just “evidence” pulled out of the ass of someone who’s been fed a steady diet of ideological frenzy. In any case, there’s a difference between entertaining suspicions and turning them into presumptions, paranoia, propaganda and perfidy.

The most sickening trope to make the rounds, for my money at least, concerned Jeff Bauman, who lost both of his legs to terrorism. The wingers circulated a graphic photo of him at the scene, falsely identifying him as a vet who’d lost his limbs in combat, and suggesting that he’d been fitted with prosthetics that day so he could add a touch of realism to the elaborate hoax. (As Snopes mentions, it’s a common tactic among perpetrators of such rumors to find a Person B who bears a superficial resemblance to Person A, and declare that they’re one and the same.)

In our own universe, however, Bauman’s legs were intact until April 15. But he did become a hero of sorts by assisting in the identification of the suspects. Heavily medicated in the hospital, and unable to speak, he nonetheless grabbed pen and paper and scribbled a note to indicate that he had seen one of the bombers. and the information he provided proved useful in zeroing in on the alleged terrorists.

This, surely, is Boston at its best. It’s what men like Jeff Bauman do while other people are using him as a prop to circulate nutty rumors about the president. And demonstrating their “patriotism” by venting their obsessive loathing for half of their fellow Americans.

Of Guns and Madness

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Gun Culture Propaganda, in case you didn’t know

Columbine. Aurora. Virginia Tech. Tuscon. Newtown. What they all have in common, besides being the sites of horrific massacres, is that the crimes were carried out by mentally disturbed gunmen. Whenever an unbalanced individual wants to make a big statement to get the world’s attention, it seems that the gun is the instrument of choice to deliver the message. And aside from being male, the one thing that nearly all mass shooters have in common is that they are mentally and/or emotionally disturbed. But it’s not just the shooters who display bats in the belfry; it’s also a large segment of the American public in reacting to these bloodbaths.

Shortly after the carnage at Sandy Hook, as after any and every mass shooting,  the gun lobby began rhapsodizing about how wonderful guns are, and gun sales began soaring, thanks in large part to the NRA’s campaign of paranoia — not about other armed crazies, but about the government. Since President Obama, they declared, wants to “take away your guns”, the thing to do is acquire more of them for him to take away. And millions of gunsters have bought into this transparent marketing ploy.  Are these the actions of a sane society?

One of them was Larry Ward, president of Political Media, Inc., who commented:

“The Obama administration has shown that it is more than willing to trample the Constitution to impose its dictates upon the American people. If the American people don’t fight back now, Obama will do to the Second Amendment what he has already done to the First with Obamacare; gut it without a moment’s thought to our basic constitutional rights.”

If that’s not loony enough for you, try this. Ward is chairman of Gun Appreciation Day, as if guns weren’t already appreciated more than enough. As discussed in the post Of Guns and Glamor, American pop culture is saturated with the glorification if not downright deification of the almighty gun, which is commonly portrayed as the first, best and/or only solution to any obstacle that blocks your path.  Americans don’t just love their guns; they worship their guns, they obsess over their guns, they eat, breathe, and fuck their guns. Are these the sentiments of a mentally balanced society?

Gun Appreciation Day (on which 5 people were injured in 3 accidental shootings) was held on January 19, in proximity to Obama’s second inauguration and the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. That’s a triple nose thumbing: not only was Dr. King murdered with one of their precious toys, but that Second Amendment they champion as “the one that makes all the others possible” was actually inserted into the Constitution largely to defend the institution of slavery.  Yet today the gun culture passionately believes the Second Amendment to be the very embodiment of liberty, and hold gun ownership itself as being synonymous with liberty. And the president, they maintain, is an enemy to that liberty, a tyrannical dictator who’s actually been (horrors) issuing executive orders lately. Never mind that he’s issued fewer executive orders than any president in the past century. Never mind that the executive orders dealing with firearms are quite sensible and don’t involve “taking away your guns”. We mustn’t let the facts get in our way, or we might succumb to sanity.

The running narrative is to portray “liberals” as being enemies of the Constitution because they tend to support firearm regulations. Never mind that the vast majority of NRA members ( the vast majority of whom are anything but “liberal” ) also support some form of restrictions on guns. Never mind that an icon many of them devoutly revere was a vocal proponent of “gun control”. There’s nothing more important than scoring cheap political points, even if it means exploiting the violent deaths of school children. Jesus H. Christ tap-dancing on a cracker, what is wrong with these people? It certainly isn’t a surfeit of sanity.

The wingnut blogosphere has been abuzz with many rumors and accusations about the Newtown slaughter. For one thing, in rushing to the defense of their beloved assault weapons, gunsters have circulated the claim that the Sandy Hook killer actually used only handguns. It’s been established that the primary weapon was a rifle, but that hardly can be expected to stop the rumors. The big advantage of insanity is that when reality doesn’t fit your worldview, you can just switch to a different reality.

But that wasn’t the nuttiest rumor by any means. Foremost among them is the accusation that the whole thing was just staged, and the grieving parents of the deceased children were in fact hired actors. Yep, a lot of people out there believe that not only the Obama administration and the librulmedia, but also all the students, teachers and parents of  Sandy Hook and indeed the entire Newtown community, and even the friends and relatives of the victims from other communities are all involved in a big conspiracy to portray firearms as (heaven forbid) destructive.  Does this bear any resemblance whatsoever to a sane thought process?

It’s also vital, of course, for gunsters to try to minimize the horrors of a gun tragedy by drawing irrelevant and pointless comparisons. Many of them absolutely must seize the occasion to remind you that they also consider abortion to be murder just in case you forgot and if you did how dare  you. They don’t seem to realize that they’re advocating the same measure for abortion — i.e. government prohibition — that they insist is ineffective for gun violence.  It’s also standard operating procedure to point out that more people are killed by automobiles than guns so why don’t we talk about banning automobiles heh heh heh.  Never mind that automobiles serve a useful purpose besides killing people, which generally results from improper use, whereas guns are designed to kill, and death is a product of their intended purpose; or that strict “automobile control” has been a fact of life for generations.

And hey, people also can kill with hammers and baseball bats, so how about outlawing them, nyuk nyuk nyuk. Never mind that guns kill at least 20 times as often as all blunt objects combined — all of which, need we add, are designed for a more constructive use. And oh yes, we mustn’t forget knives, which are certainly a significant assault weapon.  And presto, at about the same time as the Newtown massacre, a deranged man in China went on a rampage with a knife and wounded 22 school children. So there — see what happens when people don’t have guns?

Now in case you’re really confused here about the difference between the China episode and the Connecticut episode, here’s a little visual aid that might come in handy:

STABBING VICTIM IN CHINA

chinese students

SHOOTING VICTIM IN CONNECTICUT

(ABC News)

(ABC News)

You might want to study these two pictures carefully to see if you can spot the difference. You could be tested on it one of these days.

Of course, the gunsters may have picked on China because that country has had its own share of attacks on school students — 10 of them in less than 3 years, all carried out with sharp or blunt instruments. Researchers are trying to sort out the factors that have prompted this sudden rash of violence, but they could save themselves a lot of trouble by just consulting the American Gun Worshiping Cult , which has it all figured out: it’s all because the Chinese can’t access guns as easily as candy. Take away people’s guns, and they’ll turn violent by other means, so you might as well let ’em have guns, eh?

There are at least a couple of little problems with this line of “reasoning”. First, China’s strict firearms code goes back many years, to long before this spate of school attacks that started in 2010. Second, these 10 attacks have produced a total of 25 deaths. The shooter in Connecticut singlehandedly bested China’s collective score in a matter of minutes. To juxtapose these two recent tragedies in order to make the case that the American system of arms for all is preferable to the Chinese system of strict regulation is to imply that it’s better to have 20 dead kids than 22 wounded ones. Is this really the preference of people who have a grip on their mental faculties?

It also has become quite trendy in the wake of these tragedies for gunsters to defend the object of their infatuation by insisting that a gun is “just a tool”. Really? Hammers, toothbrushes and can openers are tools. But do hammer aficionados go out and swing their tools just for fun? Do toothbrush enthusiasts salivate over the sleekest, sexiest models of oral hygiene implements at trade shows? Are there racks and racks of slick magazines at your local bookstore glorifying can openers? Are there hundreds of online forums on which devotees can compare corkscrews and discuss how they take theirs out into the woods and exercise them for sport? Actually, it would make more sense to lavish that kind of attention on such objects, because tools are things that enhance the quality of life. Guns, on the other hand, destroy and disrupt life — by using them for the very purpose for which they’re intended. Nor does it work to justify the fawning adulation by protesting that they’re needed for protection. Burglar alarms, insurance policies and condoms also afford protection. But does any of them boast the kind of cult following that deadly weapons do? The word tool just doesn’t seem to apply to guns. As for many gun owners — well, you be the judge.

I’ve heard plenty from them. Here are, by far, the most widely read and commented upon posts on this blog : (1) The Myth of Hitler’s Gun Ban; (2) Estimating Defensive Gun Uses Reasonably; (3) Make My Day: Mention Gun Defense “Statistics”; and (4) The Myth of Constitutional “Gun Rights” ; a Second Look at the Second Amendment. Noticing a  pattern here? A large percentage of the readers of these posts have been not so much readers as reactors; they’ve been gun addicts who are upset because I have questioned their dogma. Consequently, they’ve written to inform me that the Second Amendment was written so that citizens could violently overthrow the officials they’ve elected themselves, and that abortion and the “outlawing” of school prayer are responsible for all the nation’s ills, and that Hitler never massacred anyone, and that the U.S. has been taken over by a coalition of atheists, vegetarians, pagans, environmentalists and Muslims. No word yet on whether the extraterrestrial lizard people are also involved.

They’ve called me a “brainwashed liberal”, an “asshole”, an “idiot”,  “one bloody walking red fucking herring” (I’m still trying to get a good visual on that one) and “a brain dead gun-grabbing neo-Nazi liberal”. All because I set the record straight by debunking a myth about Hitler — that’s right, not about guns, but about Hitler. It’s still one of their cherished beliefs, though, and anyone who challenges any part of the Gun Gospel is obviously a commie/ traitor/ librul.  Heaven knows what they would have said if I’d tried to promote some ideology of my own that conflicts with theirs (as these folks love to accuse me of doing, with no substantiation whatsoever).

I even heard from Alex Jones. Yes, Alex New World Order Jones, who never met a conspiracy theory he didn’t like.  And what did he have to say to me?

“I have never witnessed a more pompous or self absorbed and self righteous individual in my life. You know everything and how everyone should live and what they should believe. Right? Why even bother with a blog like this when you have no room in your inflated head for an honest debate?”

I am intrigued by the possibility that someone who, like me, blogs anonymously to keep himself out of the limelight could be regarded as “pompous”, “self-absorbed” or “self-righteous”. It’s not an impossible scenario, and I’d love to hear the details. Unfortunately, the venerable Mr. Jones didn’t leave a clue as to what led him to that conclusion, or why he believes, despite an overwhelming body of evidence to the contrary — even in the comments on the very post he was commenting on, no less — that I leave no room for “honest debate”. But in any case, if I received that kind of sliming from him, I must really be doing something right.

A few days later, Jones appeared on MSNBC as a guest of Piers Morgan, the British media personality whom he’s been trying to get deported because he doesn’t support Jones’ radical interpretation of the Second Amendment (honest debate, all the way). I defy you to watch this “interview” and tell me that these disjointed, spittle-flecked rantings are the product of a healthily functioning brain.

But there are many others like him out there. Indeed, there are many who look up to Jones as a guru, a sage, a prophet. They believe the Obama administration is the new Nazi regime, and that someone would be doing the world a favor by knocking him off. (Perhaps they just feel threatened because a couple of the president’s nefarious executive orders target mental illness.) They fancy themselves the equivalent of the patriots who fought the American Revolution, and are itching to turn their own weapons on anyone who is connected with the big bad guvmint.

War may be an effective metaphor, but for the gun culture, it isn’t just metaphor, but literal reality. Many of its constituents are incapable of expressing ideological differences or complaints about official policy in any but the most extreme, vitriolic, polarized, absolute, oversimplified, dire, overblown and violent of terms. Their worldview admits no other option except us-against-them, or more accurately me-against-them, and they have the compulsive conviction that “them” must be stopped from whatever they’re doing, and even destroyed, in order to save the universe. It’s paranoid schizophrenia at its starkest, and it illustrates why many of them should hardly be allowed to handle a loaded question, much less a loaded weapon.

In a way, it’s fitting that they view their imagined oppression in terms of war, since war itself, with its heavy concentrations of gunnery, is perhaps the ultimate madness: not only does it attempt, as expressed by a popular slogan, to establish who is right by determining who is left, but in a sense it attempts to establish who is more civilized by determining who can behave more barbarically. (For a wickedly satirical take on the war-as-madness conceit, see Philippe de Broca’s 1966 film King Of Hearts.)

I don’t mean to suggest that all gun owners are delusional or that military personnel who use guns as part of their job are playing with a depleted deck; the latter, after all, have a great deal of discipline and at least some realistic context guiding their actions. I don’t know the psychological profile of the “average” combat recruit – I suspect it’s rather more sound than that of the “average “civilian, since the soldier has to pass through a certain amount of screening and filtering, whereas most Americans become citizens just by being born. Additionally, the typical soldier, unlike the typical gun fanatic, is drawn to take up arms by motives more noble than just a love of the hardware and a hatred for the government. But however sound the psyche going into combat, it stands a perilous chance of being severely and permanently impaired by the time it comes out – about one in five combatants who return from Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Warfare may not succeed in converting many of its participants into the kind of outright madmen who made the war a necessity in the first place, but it does its best.

It may not be fair to say that Wayne LaPierre and company want to turn the country into one big war zone. But they are turning it into one big armed psych ward. And  how much difference is there?