Archive for the ‘Gun Control’ Category

Manhunt

February 8, 2013

keystone-cops-granger
The fortress that is the Los Angeles Police Department.

Police all over Southern California have been carrying out a manhunt for a former LAPD officer, Christopher Dorner, who has gone on a killing spree. As the New York Times tells it:

    The police across Southern California were on high alert in a dragnet that appeared to stun even a part of the country familiar with dramatic police hunts. Teams of police officers were dispatched overnight to guard uniformed officers and their families, tactical officers set up lines of defense outside the fortress that is the Los Angeles Police Department, and motorcycle officers were ordered to retreat to the safety of patrol cars.

“The fortress that is the Los Angeles Police Department”. Sounds impressive, no? And what happens when the denizens of this fortress swing into action? The Times immediately tells us:

    In Torrance, two women delivering newspapers were shot and wounded by police officers who mistook the vehicle they were driving for the one identified as belonging to the gunman.

So police officers opened fire on a vehicle without knowing who was inside it. I suppose it’s easy to mistake two women for one man. The LAPD expressed regret for the incident:

    In a press conference Thursday morning, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck confirmed that police shot innocent bystanders during the hunt for Dorner. He detailed the two victims’ gunshot wounds:

    “One has a minor gunshot wound and is in the process of being released. The second person is in stable condition, with two gunshot wounds,” said Chief Beck. “Tragically, we believe this was a case of mistaken identity by the officers.”

You think so, huh? And is it a tragedy because it was a case of mistaken identity, or is it a tragedy that they only believe this was a case of mistaken identity?

I suppose we shouldn’t be too outraged by this. After all, we have a president who draws up a weekly kill list and orders drone attacks without much concern for the legal or moral consequences. The LAPD are clearly in step with the twenty-first century.

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Paranoid Stylings: American Politics in the Twenty-first Century

January 18, 2013

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    This glimpse across a long span of time emboldens me to make the conjecture—it is no more than that—that a mentality disposed to see the world in this way may be a persistent psychic phenomenon, more or less constantly affecting a modest minority of the population. But certain religious traditions, certain social structures and national inheritances, certain historical catastrophes or frustrations may be conducive to the release of such psychic energies, and to situations in which they can more readily be built into mass movements or political parties. In American experience ethnic and religious conflict have plainly been a major focus for militant and suspicious minds of this sort, but class conflicts also can mobilize such energies. Perhaps the central situation conducive to the diffusion of the paranoid tendency is a confrontation of opposed interests which are (or are felt to be) totally irreconcilable, and thus by nature not susceptible to the normal political processes of bargain and compromise. The situation becomes worse when the representatives of a particular social interest—perhaps because of the very unrealistic and unrealizable nature of its demands—are shut out of the political process. Having no access to political bargaining or the making of decisions, they find their original conception that the world of power is sinister and malicious fully confirmed. They see only the consequences of power—and this through distorting lenses—and have no chance to observe its actual machinery. A distinguished historian has said that one of the most valuable things about history is that it teaches us how things do not happen. It is precisely this kind of awareness that the paranoid fails to develop. He has a special resistance of his own, of course, to developing such awareness, but circumstances often deprive him of exposure to events that might enlighten him—and in any case he resists enlightenment.

    – Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics

It seems that everything that happens in America nowadays is part of some sort of conspiracy. A small, but very vocal group of people are now claiming that the Sandy Hook massacre was faked, that it was a “false-flag operation”, carried out so that President Obama can have an excuse to “take away our guns”. One witness to the shootings has received threatening phone calls and e-mails accusing him of being in the pay of the government. There are also conspiracy theories about the Aurora Shootings.

You can laugh (or cry) all you want about this, but is it really any sillier than some of the claims made by the 9/11 “Truth” movement? I don’t know how many times I read somebody on Indymedia or some other website claiming that the “hole” in the Pentagon could not possibly have been made by an airplane, as if this person had spent his life observing planes crashing into buildings. And a surprisingly large number of Americans think that the Apollo moon landing was faked. One wonders why they just don’t go all the way and claim that everything on the news is faked.

In his essay, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, Richard Hofstadter argued that there is a long history of conspiracist thinking in the U.S. He discusses anti-Masonry and anti-Catholicism in nineteenth century America, and he draws a direct line from them to the anti-Communism of the 1940’s and 1950’s. A common characteristic of these movements is a belief that the U.S. is under threat from secretive forces, usually of foreign in origin. (Think of how birthers try to claim that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.) Hofstadter sees these movements as being mainly rural in character. This may have been true of earlier movements, but it can’t really be said of the 9/11 “Truth” movement. It seems to me that the paranoid style is beginning to become so pervasive in this country that it is starting to crowd out reasonable critiques of our political and economic system.

More Thoughts on the Connecticut Shootings

December 17, 2012

It’s interesting the ways that people will try to avoid the arguments for gun control. One argument that’s been circulating tries to blame the media for mass shootings. It argues that shooters do what they do in order to become famous. Because the media devote so much attention to these shootings, it makes other people want to become shooters themselves. (This argument is made in a quote circulating on the Internet that has been falsely attributed to Morgan Freeman.) With regard to Adam Lanza, this idea is pure speculation. We simply don’t know what he was thinking when he went to that school or even when he shot his mother. He left no notes (or none that have been found so far). He didn’t say anything to anyone. All we know for certain is that Nancy Lanza purchased semiautomatic weapons that her son later used to kill people. It was the availability of weapons that made the shootings possible. That is all we know so far.

The Connecticut Shootings

December 15, 2012

The school shooting in Newtown, CT is one of 61 mass shootings that have occurred in the U.S. since 1999. The U.S. is not the only country that has had this type of shooting, but it has them more often than any other country. (The Washington Post offers some interesting statistics on this. You can find them here. This reasons for this are probably complex, but it is not unreasonable to suppose that the U.S.’s shredded social safety net and lax gun control are factors in this. We live in a country where a man who was obviously schizophrenic, Jared Loughner, was able to purchase a Glock 19 without any trouble.

I come out of a political tradition that opposes gun control on the grounds that it disarms the working class. This argument might have some traction if there were workers’ militias in this country, but there aren’t. (The militias that do exist all have reactionary politics.) It was the George W. Bush Administration that allowed the ban on assault rifles to expire. You know that they didn’t do this so that oppressed minorities could fight the police. I think it significant that the people who most strongly oppose gun control laws also support “Stand Your Ground” laws, which are effectively an invitation to vigilantism. The Right wants people to live in an atmosphere of fear and violence. In such a society, people are more easily manipulated, and they are more deferential to authority.