Real Consequences of Republicans’ “Anything But Guns” Arguments

Ted Cruz
You can have Ted Cruz’s talking points when you pry them from his cold, dead hands.

Paul Krugman wrote an excellent article this week. In it, he notes that rather than address the fact that America owns almost half of the world’s guns, Republicans are suggesting that we militarize our schools and frankly the rest of society. In other words, it’s better to live in a world where there are military checkpoints at every block than it is to live in a world where gun ownership is limited in any way whatsoever.

This is the ultimate example of American libertarianism. It’s the idea that explicit limits on what people can do are the only thing that limits their liberty. And it results in bizarre conclusions. People are now able to buy military-grade hardware but have to put up with police checkpoints that are supposedly looking for drunk drivers but arrest almost exclusively people with expired licenses and car registrations.

This is what you get when freedom is just a fetish. I find it frustrating. The people who go on and on about “freedom” don’t seem to care about it on a practical level. They will trade away tons of real freedom for talking points. And they’re able to do this because their lives are good. They aren’t the kind of people who are likely to be harassed by the police.

Guns as the Only Freedom That Matters

Not that the modern Republican Party has actually turned libertarian, even in the pathetic American sense of the word. But they have come to this libertarian approach to guns for the same reason that libertarians come to their positions: they are trying to stop specific actions in the name of liberty rather than produce the maximum amount of liberty.

The start of any conservative conversation about mass shootings and other gun deaths is always simply that we can’t talk about guns. Access to guns is defined as a libertarian ideal so important that it cannot be challenged. Nothing is as important. No other freedom can compete. Therefore we quickly move to an authoritarian state. Because that is a small price to pay for the very thing that defines liberty in their minds.

Liberty as Fetish

We wouldn’t have this problem if liberty had meaning. But for the people who love to use the word, it’s nothing but a signifier. It is the thing that is supported by the People That Are Good. Liberals might believe in freedom but they don’t believe in “Freedom”!

So it’s not surprising that roughly a quarter to a third of the nation thinks that no freedom claim can match the freedom claim of gun owners.

Of course for the politicians and activists, none of this matters. They don’t care about schools. They just care about having something they can talk about besides guns while reporters are still asking them about the latest shooting.

Real Consequences

But there are real consequences. After the Parkland massacre, Florida schools were turned into police zones. Did it help? Well, it diverted a huge amount of resources to cops, who now outnumber nurses at Florida schools. It made the children far more likely to be expelled from school and arrested at school.

But most important, the new police schools may have succeeded in doing the one thing that they were meant to do: stop the bad publicity of school shootings. Thus far, there haven’t been any major school shootings in Florida. Of course, it’s only been four years. Time will tell. But the cost is enormous. Rather than stop the war, we’ve simply armed one side. And it’s not like shooters don’t have other targets.

This shows that there are real consequences of all this happy talk meant simply to move society past the time when we’re focused on these things. Our society becomes more authoritarian even as we become less safe from the very things the authoritarianism is supposed to protect us from.

But I suppose that’s a small price to pay for the happy feeling that The People That Are Good get from knowing that “freedom” has been secured.

Tucker Carlson Will Never Be Held Accountable

Tucker Carlson

A man apparently shot 13 people, killing 10 of them, at a grocery store in Buffalo. He live-streamed it (of course). And he left what appears to be a white supremacist manifesto that discusses the Great Replacement conspiracy theory, popularized by Fox News star Tucker Carlson.

On Twitter, people made the connection. Many demanded that Carlson be taken off the air. But we all know that won’t happen, right? I wrote to a friend:

“All that will happen is that Carlson will air a segment in which he notes that his name was never mentioned and that the true outrage is that liberals are attacking him. And it will be over.”

Apologia Begins!

Well, within an hour, I saw this:

On one level, she’s right: there is no way to know if the shooter got the idea from Tucker Carlson. In fact, my guess would be that he didn’t.

But that’s not how information spreads. Information comes via an ecosystem. I fully absorbed the popular ideas of postmodernism by the age of 12 without ever having read any philosophers or even heard anyone talk about it explicitly.

This is one of the big reasons why we need to signal, as a community, that the ideas of fascism are wrong. All the happy talk about the “free market of ideas” is the road to social collapse. (Of course, I know that all the big proponents of the “free market of ideas” are the first to want to silence any ideas they don’t personally like.)

This is why Tucker Carlson should have been taken off television long ago. He spreads fascist propaganda. We don’t need 10 people to die to know that is harmful.

Useless Media

But our media industry requires that Tucker Carlson be holding a good deal more than a smoking gun. They require something to the effect of “Patriots should murder people of color in order to protect our race!” They will be fine with, “Well, you can’t prove he got the idea from me!”

The bigger problem is that we live in a country where a large part of the population believes fascism is good. For many years now, I’ve felt like I was living in a bad production of Rhinoceros.

Tucker Carlson by Gage Skidmore under CC BY-SA 2.0.