Secret messages out in the open #9

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Dear __________,

A hydrophobic noman suggested that you shot me down over something and seemed to be certain that this should cause me to roll over and capitulate. Admit everything. I can see why this might be assumed. Everyone knows I compliment you frequently. I admire your writing, incisiveness, and clarity. That is not a stand-in for saying you are better, more correct, more valuable, more clairvoyant… You know the drill — you reinvented it nicely.

Your writing is 6 out of 10 falls stronger than mine of late. I often look to you for opinion on topics in which I haven’t had time or exposure. On a particular point, though, you could hardly be more wrong and it’s trivial enough to show that I’m a bit embarrassed to have to do it.

Firearms, through misuse, kill 10,000-15,000 Americans a year. Leaving aside for the moment that the majority of that violence is in noways random, that’s still not fun. We have the right to own guns anyway. There is some state control over this industry. In the places where there is less there is generally less homicide by gun along with it.1

Doctors and hospitals, through malpractice, kill an estimated 100,0002 Americans a year. Bad prescriptions alone kill around 80 a day; more than twice as many as guns. There is near total state control over the aspects of this industry which are not, as the hipsters say, OTC. I’m speaking as the son of a former member of a State Board of Examiners who only ever told one story about it which amounted to, Jesus Fucking Christ is it hard to take away a license from a doctor everyone knows to be irretrievably incompetent and a mortal threat to his patients.

I acknowledge this to be mele ed aranci but as the apples’ mission statement is Death and the oranges’ is Healing those are some pretty fucking suggestive fruit.

Acknowledging that government is an evil, of varying degrees, in every aspect of life except medical care and coverage is illustration B in the Universal Picture Book’s definition of “cognitive dissonance.”3 Boosterism for state controlled medical care amounts to cheerleading for manslaughter. B-E A-G-G R-E-S-S-I-V-E.

1 The first gun numbers Google laid at my feet.

2 Some of the less inhibited estimates go as high as 400,000.

3 And for the general audience—see also Dunning-Kruger effect.

6 comments · Commenting is closed
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Re: Secret messages out in the open #9

Joe Bageant had some interesting and compelling things to say about guns (scroll down to his response).

I completely lack faith in the state as an instrument for coping with either the horrifying level of quotidian aggression, or to control the proliferation of weapons used in its expression. As the actually existing controls work out in practice, whatever the intent and theory might be (and I do assume a certain amount of benevolence in their conception) the weight falls hardest on those subject to the worst of the background violence. Without some radical changes in the way we organize and empower the state, that level of violence is not going to diminish. It will find expression in more support for wars of aggression, in support for harsh punishments for minor violations of the law. Individual violence sublimated and expressed through the state does not begin to address the core problem.

Now, speaking of apples and oranges, it's an odd calculus that counts murders performed without state sanction as more threatening than those committed with it. The bull roar of approval from jingos, punishment freaks and cruise missile liberals doesn't lend any moral weight to mass murder.

By Vagrant on 29 December 2007 · 20:28

A is A

Re^2: Secret messages out in the open #9

I would argue that you’re right but Joe is wrong and repeating some of the same exaggerations. For example, isn’t it pretty compelling that bad prescriptions kill twice as many as guns and cars kill four times as many? It, de facto, invalidates statements like–

…I cannot imagine Americans asking anytime soon just what national disease is causing so many of its men and boys to pull that trigger.

So many? We’re 24th per capita in national murder rates. Granted that’s top quartile and I’d prefer the bottom, but still, 23 are worse. And though we have a higher murder rate than places like the UK, they have a higher violent crime rate; as I believe Australia has but I could be remembering wrong on that.

30% of murders in the US are carried out without a gun. Americans do kill each other more than we ought but guns are simply not a meaningful part of the equation. Canadian cities with similar gun ownership and the same basic media exposure do not have the same murder rates. Cities like DC, with the most prohibitive gun laws in the country, have, by far, the highest murder rates.

Some of the numbers from the gun page I linked I found interesting because I find myself accepting the rhetoric because it’s so relentless and one-sided. How many cops have been killed by cop-killer bullets defeating armor? None. How many licensed concealed weapon carriers have killed someone after a traffic accident? One and he was acquitted of wrong doing. How many cops killed by a licensed carrier? None. How many were defended by one? Quite a few, apparently. How many mass murders were stopped lately by a private citizen with a gun? Two come to mind, I’ll be there were more.

Some of the gun sites report that upwards of 4,000,000 successful gun defenses of life, body, and property happen every year. That dwarfs the 12,000 killed and might even keep the number lower. Every person with a gun is an equal. There is no other force in society that can do that but money and we know how well that works. I’d rather have every person on the street armed than none.

Anyway, I’m foreshadowing too many posts for next year.

By A is A on 29 December 2007 · 21:05


Re^3: Secret messages out in the open #9

Ashley, the strength of my argument rests on not assigning selectively exculpatory and condemnatory categories to violence against humans, and the insanity of criminalizing possession of lethal tools, but retaining the right of the state to create endlessly violent conditions. Homicide is homicide, after all, whether done by a thug operating on his own or done procedurally by agents of the state under the aegis of the state. Inducement to violence is wrong whether it's thugs cheering each other on or a demagogue inveighing against evildoers. Joe's argument is that it makes rotten logic to narrowly address the tools of violence (guns) when people are completely unwilling to address the "why" of violence. We're both dealing with a relatively small topic.

With you, I also agree in large part-- sure, some rates of needless death do indeed pale in comparison to others. I have no argument against that. Road deaths, medical malpractice, death through unsafe building practices, poisonous food and water . . . they're all bad. Separately and together, they're deadlier than gun proliferation. And there certainly are places with far more horrific rates of all kinds of violence. But that's not my prey here. I'm after the social conditions in the US that foster interpersonal violence.

I do not agree that more guns would mean less needless deaths. I don't think they would necessarily lead to more either. Violence is more a function of conditions conducive to it than it is of capability to commit it. Where the people who do the killing come from and what makes them willing to do it is the real issue. What I think bothers the gun control people so much is the apparent ease of violence facilitated by guns. What they ignore is what happens to people long before they pull the trigger. Side by side with that willful ignorance is their support for violence, provided it's state violence.

By Vagrant on 29 December 2007 · 22:06

A is A

Re^4: Secret messages out in the open #9

I agree with your social interpretation on the individual level completely. On the larger level, democide, there is something far worse going on. The reason I have no compunctions about meeting any single person armed is, it’s one person. The responsibility in the situation is explicit and to murder me is not necessarily hard as a theoretical problem but as an actual event it’s something that few people would want to carry out and far fewer still be able to.

When you put someone outside that 1:1 but they retain the power to kill, that’s entirely different and it’s why, say, a doctor can kill many, many people without ever being called to task. Even when caught out, he or she may not be stopped until many more die.

Now, on nothing near a tangent, let’s revisit Iraq. We’ve killed 100,000 directly, 1,000,000 indirectly; displaced 5,000,000. Well, not we, I voted for Badnarik and congresspersons against the war, but you get the idea.

Let’s say, just for the sake of argument that Iraq had had nuclear weapons. 1,000,000 people brought back to life. A country unshattered. Imperialism stopped in the light like the cockroach it is.

And the seeming contradiction of more weapons meaning less killing becomes clear. Equals are unattractive targets for cowards. Only cowards swing first.

The first gun laws were targeted at preventing blacks from owning firearms once slavery ended. It’s no accident.

The problems with the American psyche I can’t quibble about because you’re right. I feel the need to clarify, just in case: the _________ in the lede was not a proxy for Scruggs. :)

By A is A on 29 December 2007 · 22:53


Re^5: Secret messages out in the open #9

Let’s say, just for the sake of argument that Iraq had had nuclear weapons. 1,000,000 people brought back to life. A country unshattered. Imperialism stopped in the light like the cockroach it is.

Ha! Point well made. Our crackpot elite would be whining about unfair terms on oil contracts, not finishing off the ethnic cleansing. More nukes does equal less imperialism. Though what an odd solution that would be.

My clarification on your clarification: I wish I were eloquent enough to be worth an open letter :'-( Somehow, though, I'll find a way to carry on.

This topic is like catnip to me. I can't resist the opportunity to expand on my view that vicious treatment yields vicious results.

By Vagrant on 30 December 2007 · 06:05

A is A

Re^6: Secret messages out in the open #9

…my view that vicious treatment yields vicious results.

Well, I don’t think it’s a view, I think it’s a fact and I can guess why you and I are aware of it. There are no bad dogs. Only bad dog owners.

Of course even the kindest, most loved, best trained dog is likely to turn into a sheep killer if you let him roam in a pack with a couple of bad dogs. So we have your argument and mine neatly combined in a social structure quite like our own.

[I dislike the nuclear weapon thing; it’s seemingly irrational. It shouldn’t, by all that is good and right, work. It does work, and capitalism besides, because the only human trait, the only animal trait, the only thing every strand of DNA in the known world agrees we can rely on is self-interest. Where there is equality, self-interest turns from accrual of power, rendered pointless, to things like art, enjoyment, and exploration.]

By A is A on 30 December 2007 · 11:32