Monday, August 12, 2019

They Call Us Messrs. Pig

On Sunday, in the wake of two mass shootings, musician Jason Isbell questioned the necessity of ordinary Americans to own an “assault weapon,” touching on the pedantic and intricate ways gun-rights advocates define their wares.

“Legit question for rural Americans,” responded William McNabb, a Twitter user whose bio says he lives in southern Arkansas. “How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-5 mins while my small kids play?”

McNabb’s response, and his back-and-forth with Isbell, paralyzed social media with countless memes that poked fun at the idea of semiautomatic rifles as a vital tool in wild pig home defense. An 8-bit game was quickly developed. Even “Simpsons” writer Bill Oakley created a mock episode script title “Bart Gets 30-50 Feral Hogs.”
Think 30-50 feral hogs is a joke? Millions more are rampaging across the U.S.
As the idea of sounders of feral pigs necessitating an armed response was quickly lumped into the category of "pedantic and intricate," the joke has kept going. This past weekend, while listening to the radio, I heard some NPR personalities mocking the idea. And, okay, I can see how one might think of it as a completely spurious grasp at any straw to retain "the necessity of ordinary Americans to own an 'assault weapon'."

But there is a difference between "not a problem for me" and "not a problem." While feral hogs are now found in Washington State, there's a mountain range (not to mention a fairly sizable chunk of suburbia) between them and me. The chances of me walking out to the car and having to figure out how to deal with hostile semi-wildlife in the immediate future are slim. But for those people who do actually live in hog habitat, it can be tricky. And so I can see the utility of a high-capacity, semi-automatic rifle. That, however, leans towards the idea that there is a legitimate reason for at least some people to own an AR-15, AK-47 or one of their countless clones, variants and knock-offs; and this stands in the way of the complete ban that many gun-control advocates feel is the best solution to the random, portable, violence that semi-automatic rifles represent.

It's worth pointing out that gun-control advocates have their own set of "pedantic and intricate ways" to define their position, and one of these is asking the question of "why does anyone need to own a weapon like this?" after having decided that a) the status quo should have the burden of proof and b) there is no legitimate affirmative answer to the question. The problem with a legitimate need is that it requires a solution. And given that most of the gun-control advocates that I've met are rather steadfast in their ignorance about firearms in general and the feared "assault weapons" in particular, the don't understand the uses and functionality of weapons well enough to offer any solutions. And this can prompt them to simply deny that any proof offered is valid.

What this often says to people like Mr. McNabb is that people like Mr. Isbell don't actually care about his problems and motivations. This fuels the disconnect between Red and Blue America, with the two sides increasingly at odds because each time one group attempts to solve a crisis for itself, it tends to create a crisis for the other. And as each side comes to view these crises as intentional designs, rather than undesirable side effects, the belief that malice is at work grows more and more.

While President Trump is famously quick to find ways to turn resentments to his political advantage, he's not alone in this.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was "way too convenient" that Epstein could no longer incriminate others.

"What a lot of us want to know is, what did he know?" he told reporters. "How many other millionaires and billionaires were part of the illegal activities that he was engaged in?"
Jeffrey Epstein: How conspiracy theories spread after financier's death
This certainly sounds to me like a politician looking to capitalize on the resentments of "the 99%." Mayor de Blasio may be attempting to vilify a smaller group of people than President Trump typically goes after, but the goal is the same; to build support by legitimizing anger at others by implicating them in acting against the interests of the angry.

These sorts of appeals to emotion are effective. Which is why they're so common. But I suspect that they're more difficult to control than people think they are. Which is something that I expect we'll figure out, one way or the other.

No comments: