The Art of the Left Hook: Guns, Humanity, and Politics
Guest Blog by Joe Katzman
"Liberalism, by the inner dynamic of its logic, was forced to become an instrument of social control in order to avoid the chaos which it created by its own erosion of tradition and morals. Democratic man could not be left to his own devices; chaos would result. The logic was clear. If there is no God, there can be no religion; if there is no religion, there can be no morals; if there are no morals, there can be no self-control; if there is no self-control, there can be no social order; if there is no social order, there can be nothing but the chaos of competing desire. But we cannot have chaos, so therefore we must institute behavioral control in place of the traditional structures of the past — tradition, religion, etc. Abolishing tradition, religion and morals and establishing "scientific" social control are one and the same project." — E. Michael Jones, Libido Dominandi - Sexual Liberation and Political Control
As I think about the Sandy Hook massacre, I keep coming back to 3 different facets. One is human. One is policy. One is politics. Sadly, in what's left of our republic, they no longer overlap. But they're all there, all the same.
Dealing with each of them in turn may help readers tie several posts here at Blackfive together into a larger picture, understand what has gone wrong since the shootings, and get more clarity on the way forward. Consider it my offering as a long-time reader; I trust that it will well repay your time with interest.
We'll begin with the human side...(after the Jump).
The person who has swelled most in my thoughts over the last few days is the shooter's mother, Nancy Lanza. The one who knew something was wrong with her son, who grew up with that knowing. The one who tried to help him, because he he was her boy. Because she loved him. The one who had no help herself. The one who was left to twist in the wind by a carefully architected system of half-measures and studied inaction. Maybe she was careless with the tools she thought might protect her in the last resort, as media coverage implies. Maybe she took reasonable precautions, and found that they were not enough. Either way, she died at the hands of her own son. Shot 4 times. In the head.
It is something inexpressibly sad, something that accuses us as well as her. Maybe that's why you hear so little about it, and almost never as an issue. Certainly not from a President whose agenda would be inconvenienced. Or from memorial services whose bells ring 26 times - but she was victim #1, and that makes 27. So where do you hear about it? From your fellow citizens caught in the same hell, who are beginning to stand up and say "I am Adam Lanza's Mother."
Find their stories. Read their stories. You owe them that much.
Even as the larger issues beckon, and one notes the trend for these sprees: linear, and upward, consistently upward. Counting only American incidents with at least 2 casualties, there were 18 in the 1980s. Then 54 in the 1990s, and 87 in the 2000s. Why? Guns have become harder to buy, and serious psychoses aren't spiraling in the population. Is it that bad economic times produce despair? Funny, but I don't recall the 1990s that way. So where's the engine? What's different? Where, as they say in the policy trade, is the delta?
Mental illness does play a role. A 2000 New York Times study of 100 rampage murderers found that 47 were mentally ill. A 2001 paper from U. Berkeley took things a step beyond, and argued that 1/3 of the state-to-state variation in homicide rates is attributable to the strength or weakness of involuntary civil-commitment laws. After reading Froggy's "Gun Control vs. Teh Crazy," you cam believe that, but he himself points out that the big change in the way we treat the mentally ill happened long before the 1980s, and has been set for a long time. In 2012, I can't see that as the delta, either.
So what has changed? Evan Sayet is on to part of it, as he discusses 2 generations of children explicitly conditioned to avoid making judgements, or to use moral norms beyond "obey the rules and those who make them." Iterate that process, and E. Michael Jones' quote above tells us what comes next.
Then there's the media, the culture. In "The Dark Night Rises," Peggy Noonan made an insightful point about the culture being something we used to send our kids out to play in. She didn't put it this way, but that kind of culture is also a kind of safety net when personal circumstances don't measure up, offering a refuge of sorts and a view of better possibilities. Now?
"Violence is different, I said, because there are unstable people among us, and they are less defended against dark cultural messages. The borders of the minds of the unstable are more porous. They let the darkness in."
They do, and Carl Cannon has the research. Did I enjoy all of the Lethal Weapon movies? Absolutely. I'll even give Gangsta rap credit for having its its musical moments, and the Gourds' bluegrass cover of Snoop Dogg still makes me chuckle. At the same time, gangsta rap's trajectory of popularity and influence tracks more or less directly with the rampage murder curve, doesn't it? Yet all of gangsta rap put together is just one creek feeding a larger river. Violence and dehumanization from visual media sources continue to climb in pervasiveness, intensity, and accessibility.
Even as 24/7 news coverage elevates each psychotic. The smiling media, Piers Morgan and the lot of them, all broadcasting at full volume the template for the next killer's celebrity, and a simple invitation:
Figure out how to raise the bar.
Uncle Jimbo was right that you don't hear much about all this from the media, or other "guardians of the culture." This stuff sells papers, you know. It sells music, and movies too. It lines their pockets.
Am I saying that these people are using guns as a distraction, in order to line their own pockets while inciting the next killer? Why, yes. Yes, I am.
If they thought this really was an emergency, if they thought we really needed to change, they'd be willing to put their own roles, and their own sense of license, on the table. Wouldn't they? Might I ask: are you seeing that? Of course not. This fictional speech by Hilary Clinton, or by any other leftist, will remain fiction.
Which brings me to the 3rd point, politics. The part detached from both the genuinely human aspect, and policy reality. The part that drives me crazy.
Part of what angers me is that very disconnect. The human reality, and serious policy, should be especially important in these moments. In America today, a Circuit City Christmas sale bears a closer relation to the true spirit of Christmas, than mainstream media debate bears to either serious humanity or serious policy.
So be it. Reality bites, but it's the only starting place we have. There are sanctuaries and fellowships where we can insist on discussing the human elements seriously, and we must. There are think tanks where we can discuss policy, as we should. But public debate is dominated by opponents who see it as war, see you as the target, and see children in places like Sandy Hook only as convenient "never waste a crisis" props. This will be so until America decides whether it will be free or a police state - and you will live in that decision.
Which is why it's so frustrating watching the GOP and conservatives in the wake of this shooting, as they prove that they've learned absolutely nothing from the last 5 years. Not. One. Thing.
Lets begin at the beginning. The issue doesn't matter to the Left. Doesn't now, didn't before, never did. None of these issues do, ever. We've just spent the last decade watching the supposed defenders of women's freedoms and gay rights fawn over and apologize for Islamist theocrats. If that doesn't cure people of this delusion, as the Left's pet jihadis execute women for being raped, and argue which execution techniques for gays are Koranically correct... then I have no idea what will.
So what do conservatives do? After decades of arguing with such opponents, they immediately rise to discuss the issues - in a defensive mode. At which point, we've just lost. The Left chose the label, the tag, and made you wear it. Andrew Breitbart tried, again and again, to teach us: "never give those bastards the moral high ground."
Have enough of us learned? Have any of us learned?
I'll know when we've learned. When a mass shooting becomes a moment of real trepidation in the entertainment industry and the media, as they brace for the full-throated attack on the river of poison they pump into the culture. As they brace for the endless exhortations and sermons to people to get rid of their TVs, which end up having a visible affect on viewership. As they mobilize to fight the bills headed to the legislative floor, forcing cable and entertainment operators to offer per-channel subscriptions at comparable pro-rata costs to their package deals. As they wait for cries and organized efforts to change the ratings system for films, so that repeated killings that don't involve depictions of war get mandatory NC-17 ratings, or worse. As they're forced to listen for an outcry that forces them to cover the cruel treatment of our mentally ill and their families, because "I am Adam Lanza's Mother" becomes a mainstream rallying cry and accusation in defense of our fellow citizens. Etcetera, etcetera.
When that happens, beyond isolated points of light like John Hinderaker, I'll know. So will you.
When it does, it will be good politics. It will offer aid and comfort to families trying to do the human thing in an inhuman culture. It'll be good policy, too. All of this can happen. If, and only if, you help make it happen.
Yes, you can.
Joe Katzman used to blog over at Winds of Change.NET, back when he had a regular blog. He spends most of his time these days writing professionally about national security issues.