The NRA and the Irrational Right


“To hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature.”

There is room elsewhere for indignation at the NRA’s response today to the Newtown mass murder of children and educators by a mentally ill young man whose gun-owning mother apparently did not keep her firearm’s beyond a disturbed son’s reach. The outrage should be universal. But the irrationality is that of the American right, more fringe and historically foolish with every social development. There is nary an issue about which what is now the mainstreamed fringe does not reject the empirical evidence of history and contemporaneous example, or of science, or abandon logical coherence in order to maintain the fictions of its narrow and antiquated world view or economic self-interest. From what economic policies best fight recession to the evidence of geology, astrophysics, and climatology to the implications of the right’s own belief in culture, the practice is all the same – a flight from coherence. Here is Wayne LaPiere today on the influence of culture.

LAPIERRE: And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal. There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people. Through vicious, violent video games with names like “Bullet Storm,” “Grand Theft Auto,” “Mortal Combat,” and “Splatterhouse.”

And here’s one, it’s called “Kindergarten Killers.” It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research staff can find it, and all of yours couldn’t? Or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it? Add another hurricane, add another natural disaster. I mean we have blood-soaked films out there, like “American Psycho,” “Natural Born Killers.” They’re aired like propaganda loops on Splatterdays and every single day.

1,000 music videos, and you all know this, portray life as a joke and they play murder — portray murder as a way of life. And then they all have the nerve to call it entertainment. But is that what it really is? Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography? In a race to the bottom, many conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate, and offend every standard of civilized society, by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behavior, and criminal cruelty right into our homes. Every minute, every day, every hour of every single year.

LAPIERRE: A child growing up in America today witnesses 16,000 murders, and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18. And, throughout it all, too many in the national media, their corporate owners, and their stockholders act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators.

Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize gun owners.

What does LaPierre argue for here? The influence of culture on society. Many on the left have for years resisted this argument from the reverse act of self-interest. Elements of the left feared it was an attempt to stifle the growing social and cultural liberation of post-Fifties America. In large measure it was, but that did not make the concern illegitimate. We put aside here the various studies that have attempted over the decades to demonstrate, or not, that so many hours of watching violence on television produces so much increase in the violence of individuals and society. We can argue those again tomorrow. Here is the definition from Merriam-Webster of this sense of the word “culture”:

5 a : the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations

b : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social groupalso : the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time <popular culture><southern culture>

c : the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization <a corporateculture focused on the bottom line>

d : the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic <studying the effect of computers on printculture> <changing the culture of materialism will take time — Peggy O’Mara>

Note the words I have emphasized. Our very notion of culture, in this meaning of the word, is of integrated practices, patterns, beliefs, and values. That is, the concept inherently includes the notion of influence, or as Merriam-Webster defines “integrate”:

to form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole

How could we even develop and advance culture if our patterns of behavior and our social practices did not influence to maintain, or to alter and improve, or deteriorate, that culture? Cultures and societies change over time, are historically transformed. How do we imagine that occurs?

Of course, “culture” in the sense of

b : acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical skills

influences “culture” in its broader meaning above. And is influenced by. Why would we not, by definition, recognize this process as endlessly recursive?

Yet here is Wayne LaPierre, a man with so much awful influence on society, arguing that mimetic representations of violence, and of cultures that glorify not only violence, but the tools, the weapons, that produce  violence – that these all lead to violent behavior. But actual violence, real violence in the real world, and an actual culture of fetishized weaponry – in the real society, not the represented society of art and entertainment – that this has no influence. And the answer to the violence of proliferated weaponry and violence is the further proliferation of weaponry.

You couldn’t make this insanity up. Actually, you could – you could make a film about it, which could have enormous destructive influence. Just not the real thing. No influence at all.



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