Disarming stereotypes?

I need to apologize.

Because I take pride in avoiding the ad hominem approach to arguing, and try to stick to logic as much as I can, I am not proud of something I said the other night when I retaliated in kind to what I saw as a rude comment. The commenter (that's this guy) told me to "Fuck off and die, asshole." My response was to suggest that he gently go and blow it out his ass. I thought that in addition to being fair retaliation, that this was funny (because rightly or wrongly, I saw the man as a "blow-hard").

It really isn't all that funny two days later, and I don't think my comment persuaded anyone of anything. I'll leave it there in the comment section, because I have this weird thing (maybe it's my idea of "principle") about not wanting to "un-write" things I have written. I'll just let it sit there as a reminder that I too can be "over the top." But I am sorry. (Those who feel they need more background, please read my blogfather's remarks.)

And I am sorry at least as much to myself as I am to the commenter, because one of my biggest gripes about politics in general is the constant stream of ad hominem insults and attacks. Not only do they fail to persuade the opposition of anything, but worse yet, they tend to turn off potential allies, who quite justifiably don't want to join those who engage in childish name calling to get their way. I don't blame them, because people who hurl insults at each other to win debates can only be expected to continue to do the same thing to anyone unfortunate enough to join their cause.

Second Amendment advocacy is an especially sensitive area in this regard. Ferocious Culture War types populate each side -- the Culture War being heavily weighed down by ad hominem attacks, personal insults, and attacks on individual lifestyles. Whether someone owns a gun is as much a personal act as a political act these days anyway, and sometimes I think people get involved in gun politics as a way of vindicating themselves and their lifestyles.

I hasten to add that I do not refer only to the pro-gun people. The anti-gun people also see their lives as examples to be vindicated and for others to emulate. Not having a gun in the house, then, becomes as much a personal and political act as does having one. This is very inflammatory, and automatically makes the gun issue one of the most "hot-button" issues in the country. Add to this the dynamic of "saving lives." Pro-gun people think their guns save lives, while anti-gun people think precisely the opposite. In short, the gun issue is a seething cauldron of ad hominem attacks just waiting to happen.

NOTE: Being pro-Second Amendment and a gun owner for most of my life, I am of course on my side of the gun issue. (This I point out to avoid confusing any new readers.)

Richard Poe, a staunch Second Amendment activist, has stated that the primary purpose of gun control is to "disarm the middle class." While I do not agree with everything Mr. Poe says about the left, I think he's right about the major goal of disarming the middle class. Unfortunately, the left-wing gun control advocates and Marxists he decries are sometimes assisted by some of the staunchly pro-Second Amendment activists.

This will take some explaining, and I hope that if you are (like me) in the "staunchly pro-Second Amendment advocates" category you will hear me out. I have long believed in the philosophy that you catch more flies with honey. Three masters of this style of argument are Benjamin Franklin, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. In analyzing this, it must be remembered that their style of argument had at least as much to do with their success as the persuasiveness of the argument.

Style can be persuasiveness personified. It drove the left crazy that Ronald Reagan was able to (in their minds) make rabidly right-wing positions sound downright plausible, just as it drove the right crazy that Bill Clinton was able to package his agenda as "moderate" and make the middle class like him. As to Franklin, the man did not even believe in disagreeing; he thought the best approach was a gentle sort of questioning, coupled with humor and satire. Franklin learned this lesson early in life; his writing had attracted the ire of none other than Cotton Mather (of Salem witch fame) when Franklin was just sixteen years old.

One of the reasons I am so proud to have Jeff as my blogfather is that he is one of those intelligent, thoughtful gun owners which we direly, direly need. If the goal is to disarm the middle class, we should start by asking: just what is the middle class these days? My theory is that it consists of all those forgotten people out there who are:

  • turned off by or clueless about politics

  • abhor and/or fear ad hominem politics (ever wonder why the Clintons made so much headway with the "politics of personal destruction" phraseology?)

  • libertarian with a small "l"

  • in general, possessed of a live and let live philosophy
  • They can and should be armed, but they have been made to fear the gun issue. How has this happened? Not only have complicated gun laws proliferated which make clear that the government will know it if you get a gun, but nowadays your child's pediatrician will ask you whether you have a gun in the house, your school will indoctrinate your child that guns are evil (and possessed of some magical animus which makes them walk around and cause "gun deaths"), you will be snubbed socially and made to feel like some kind of un-cool fanatic or paranoid nut, your landlord or insurance company may ask questions, and in general, it will be made clear that if you have a gun, you are at least reckless, at worst a danger to the community and a downright bad parent who should be afraid to appear in public.

    The key is fear. Needless to say, the middle class (which only wants to be left alone to pursue their lives, liberty and happiness) fears any and all of the above.

    Is it possible that these justifiably fearful citizens (who might despite all odds actually entertain thoughts of owning a gun) will likewise be frightened by the carefully crafted stereotypes of crazed, militant, gun-waving, Bible thumping bigots? Regardless of the truth of that stereotype, it is undeniably there. And I have to say that I have seen (and felt) palpable hostility by smug, self-congratulating gun nuts who think that they are clearly better (and often more "godly") than the unarmed, disarmed, constitutionally-disenfranchised, largely silent, sometimes agnostic, often timid, middle class.

    I don't mean to point fingers at anyone, but the disarming of the middle class proceeds at an alarming rate, while the already armed too often feel righteously superior to those they might condescendingly call "sheeple."

    Who might these "sheeple" be?

    People who are trying to fit in so they get and keep their jobs, their kids, their debt-ridden property, and their hard-earned social standing?

    People who don't even know about Second Amendment bloggers, much less study the divisions between them of which I complain?

    I have to explain something which is quite complicated, and rather than bore you all again with another citation of my Gay Guns San Francisco experience , let me shift gears and talk about dogs.

    Yes dogs. Less inflammatory than guns and homos.

    Not just any dogs, though. I want to talk about pit bulls, because they are another hot-button issue with which I am intimately familiar. Twenty or so years ago, the Berkeley City Council considered one of those onerous breed-specific bans which would have outlawed pit bulls. I had been breeding and selling puppies and I knew enough local owners of a more or less theatrical bent that I was able to throw together a small (mostly gay) group to demonstrate with cute pit bulls and cutesy signs saying things like "DON'T KILL MY PUPPY!" and "I ('heart') MY PIT BULL!"

    A couple of councilmembers I knew saw this on their way in and sheepishly came over. They said we needn't have gone to all the trouble, that they would never enact the ban. That they just didn't know that "we" cared so much. That all we needed to do was call. Over the years, I have seen the pit bull metamorphose from the poor Southern "white-trash" dog-fighting stereotype, to the urban ghetto crack dealer dog-fighting, child-killing stereotype, and now, to my amazement, to a celebrity hipster, trendy loveable dog stereotype. The other pit bull stereotypes, of course, are still to be found. But my point is, now you have Los Angeles actresses, San Francisco pierced kids, lesbian skateboarders, and hipsters of all varieties walking these adorable dogs around. In places where this has happened, they cannot, and will not, be banned. Moreover, once you involve hip celebrities, you make it tougher and tougher for any large city to enact anti-pit bull legislation. Indeed, having, say, Rosie Perez walk into a City Council hearing with her pit bull to the flashes of the photographers makes such legislation all but impossible. In contrast to the old days, there are now hip, dedicated, political organizations like this one.

    At this rate, the lowly pit bull might once again become a breed loved by the middle class.

    Get to know one of these dogs. You might find yourself charmed. Even, disarmed!

    "Disarming" works both ways.

    Just as pit bull owners were once invariably shown as antisocial if not psychotic misfits, gun owners are painted as anything but hip. In some ways, this unfair stereotyping is made easier by the fact that owning a gun is now considered a right wing act. Never mind the fact that Rosie O'Donnell, Dianne Feinstein, Sean Penn and other big liberals carry guns; they don't admit it publicly. Instead, they think they are in a different league from everyone else and that their gun ownership is not real gun ownership. (This reminds me of religious mullahs who feel justified in executing homosexuals for admitting to something which they deny doing even as they do it.)

    Gun ownership needs to be made at least as cool as owning a pit bull. There are many bloggers who do a great job of doing this in their own way -- Glenn Reynolds, Rachel Lucas, Jeff Soyer, Eugene Volokh, and Kim du Toit (even if he wants me to fuck off and die) are all outstanding examples. (What I would like to know, is how does one get Reynolds, Lucas, and actor James Woods on the board of the NRA? Believe me, I am deadly serious.)

    Everyone has a different style though. This being a media war and a propaganda war, intelligence and style are everything.

    Homosexuals, whether you like them or not, are hopelessly wedded to the middle class. Through a poorly understood, tough-to-explain form of symbiotic shamanism, they are both followers and leaders of the middle class. They decorate the houses, wait the tables in expensive restaurants, teach the kids, sell the makeup and perfume at Macys, style the hair, write the scripts for the shows on TV, tell people what to wear, help women lose weight, and assist generally with countless other middle-class-bolstering pastimes. I really don't like the stereotype because I don't fit it, but it really doesn't matter whether I or anyone likes it, because the close connection between homosexuals and middle class America is there, and ineradicable.

    What is not ineradicable is the illogical tendency of homosexuals (and many other trendy types) to dislike guns, and consider them un-cool, un-hip, un-stylish. Every homosexual like Jeff Soyer is a dagger in the heart of the plan to disarm middle America. Because of this, those who want to arm middle America would do well to remember that the Second Amendment is no one's exclusive turf, nor should it be a battleground for culture wars which, if they must be fought at all, are best fought in some other arena.

    One last observation: I am in no way suggesting that homosexuals are better qualified or more capable of leading the opposition to gun control. Such a thing would be as absurd as suggesting that they lead the country away from draconian anti-pit bull legislation. I am saying that they are a useful, very disarming weapon to confuse, frustrate (and, well, even emasculate) the politically correct -- and they counter a ridiculous, deliberately misleading stereotype which has not been countered, and which often turns off the middle class.

    Isn't the Second Amendment more important than the preservation of a stereotype?

    posted by Eric on 10.01.03 at 05:00 PM


    I should probably stay out of this, but...

    I read your third to last paragraph and while I can agree that those stereotype professions exist, and are filled in large part by gay people, we should not--not for one damn minute--project that those stereotype gay professions encompass the majority of gays in this country.

    Those are merely gays that are "out" and I mean that it the most literal sense.

    The vast majority of gay people are "in" but I don't mean that they are secretive about it, I mean that their sexual preference does not define their politics, their preference in literature, or what music or clothing they buy. They are just like everyone else--their sexual preference is what defines the gender of their mate, not if they wear Armani or listen to show tunes. They are "in" in the sense that their sexual preference does not define them as a person anymore than someone's preference for blondes, brunettes, being on top, or being into nurses uniforms defines someone's politics.

    There are just as many diverse groups of homosexuals as there are heterosexuals. To suggest, or even think, that gays define the middle class, and are therefore into style and fad, more than patriotism or intellectual pursuits is wrong. Dead wrong.

    The vast majority of gays and lesbians don't make an issue of it anymore than casual acquaintances won't know if I'm married or not, the race of my husband, or if I have children. But when I know the person a little better and they meet me in a personal realm, they will know these things.

    I don't wear a button that says "I'm straight." There are gay people who feel the need to wear the button, "I'm gay." And to that, I can respond only with "and so fucking what?" -- What the hell has that got to do with anything?

    Perhaps people aren't linking a particular blogger because they don't read that blogger. Perhaps they like the blog a little, but not a lot. Perhaps, as was the case with Kim, he's lazy about updating his blog roll and uses other blogrolls to go to other sites. I do the same thing. I use Kim's blogroll and mine, in combination--as well as a list of favorites that aren't linked anywhere in public.

    My long winded point here, is that it was wrong to even question the motives behind someone linking or not linking someone. It was childish. To suggest, even for one second, that it could be because of someones sexual preference was INSULTING--and for that you got an earful from my otherwise (despite all blog fodder to the contrary) compassionate and patient husband.

    Change the words and you can begin to see what an insult, even the mere suggestion caused... if you had said to a pro 2A blogger who was black, "perhaps he's not linking you because he hates black people..." you would have gotten the same earful. If you REALLY think that Kim would exclude someone because he was gay or black, then the ONLY response is FUCK YOU! And why would you want to be linked by someone who you thought so shallow and bigoted. Those are fighting words.

    We're in this together, dammit. But we don't have to all be on each other's freakin buddy lists to show our solidarity.

    As Kim said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    And if you ever want to know why a particular blogger isn't linking someone, just ask them.

    Mrs. du Toit   ·  October 2, 2003 1:58 PM

    Thank you for your very thoughtful and obviously sincere comment. I completely agree about stereotypes and they drive me crazy -- as do definitions.

    As to linking, I have noticed a certain stinginess, particularly among the bigger bloggers, which I am told, has gotten worse over time. I do not like it, so I am extremely generous in my links -- many of which never reciprocate. I have never complained to any of them, nor will I. Without evidence, I would never assume that sexual preference had anything to do with it, either. But when I am put on notice about something which otherwise might not have occurred to me, and I ask questions (which is all I did), that is not an insult. For example, if someone asked me whether I failed to link to them because, say, they were Mormon, or heterosexual, I would not feel insulted, nor would I hesitate to answer. If they accused me of bigotry, that would be another matter. I did not accuse your husband of bigotry at all, and despite my anger at his insulting remark, I apologized then and there:

    I did ask whether Jeff's status as "a self-described gay gun nut" was preventing him from getting links. If not, I am glad to hear it. If my suspicions are wrong, I am sorry, in all honesty.
    No insult was intended, and while I have already apologized, your comment shows that I was incorrect even to pose the question.

    However, there is no way I could have been expected to know that beforehand. I was presented with information and I asked a question to which I honestly did not know the answer. (Asking a question is not an accusation.)

    Perhaps sexual preference is more inflammatory than, say, politics. But I speak from years of experience as someone who has been called a "traitor" by people on the left and by people in the gay movement. (Yes, people do think that way.) I would not expect most left-wing blogs to link to me, and I would assume that the reason for non-linkage was that they did not like my politics. (Similarly, I would not expect to see links between Kim du Toit and Sarah Brady.) And let's face it, because in general homosexuality is considered "left wing," there are many right wing blogs who would not link to a homosexual blog for political reasons. Your husband did refer to the "homosexual agenda" -- and frankly I resent being tarred with that brush. I meant what I said about homosexual gun owners being politically homeless. They are -- and that is because moral conservatives on the right will not tolerate their homosexuality, while gun grabbing liberals consider guns anathema. That this is illogical merely restates the problem.

    How would I know whether your husband shared the quite common moral conservative opposition to homosexuality? The oft-stated "love the sinner but hate the sin" mentality, while it might allow a certain degree of arm's-length association with homosexuals, would not condone linking to a known homosexual's blog -- for that might imply condoning the hated conduct. I am glad to know that he does not think that way, and I am sorry for asking questions which only displayed my ignorance.

    I am not projecting gay stereotypes onto anyone. However, I have long felt that the best way to destroy stereotypes is by mixing them up. Stereotypical thinking about gun owners fuels the anti-gun climate, and causes people to make assumptions which are often unwarranted. What better way to destroy the common stereotype of gun-owners than for, say, a Richard Simmons to be seen shooting at a range? While the image of Richard Simmons at a gun range seems ridiculous, that's the whole idea.

    This is war -- and I know the enemy.

    I am very grateful that you shared your thoughts as candidly as you did, and I assure you and your husband that I meant no offense.

    Eric Scheie   ·  October 2, 2003 3:54 PM

    Thank you for the tempered reply as well.

    I do want to mention that the talk of Kim being a "bigger blogger" always reduces us to giggles. Yes, we are aware that he has a steady rate of clicks and hits, but those hits are so small in relation to anything important, that it never ceases to amaze us that people think this is a big deal.

    Kim started blogging about 2 years ago, about the same time I did. He links to what he reads, not what he recommends.

    And I think that style difference is something that should be acknowledged and understood. Some people link to hundreds of other sites. We all know that there is no way in hell that the blogger who does that can read ALL those blogs everyday. So the blogroll isn't useful in a practical sense--to the people who have it or the people who see it. It's clearly a list of blogs that you would read, if there were 200 hours in a day.

    Blogs are very personal things. If you created a blogroll of your "must reads" everyday, who would be on it? Not what you'd recommend to others, but what YOU want to make sure you see each day.

    That's how a lot of "big bloggers" view their blogrolls--not as advertising space, but as a public list of favorites.

    There are about a million blogs out there now. Soon you will be accused of some sort of snobbery for not listing all who agree with you, or write in a similar style or on issues you care about.

    Are you going to link to ALL of them? You have a limit. You simply make your limit longer than others.

    Mrs. du Toit   ·  October 3, 2003 7:07 AM

    There is much wisdom in what you say. My policy right now is that if I like a blog OR visit it repeatedly, OR if a blog links to me, then I place a link. There may be a million blogs, but how many of them generate genuine, entertaining content every day? It is too much work for most people; I regularly see "tired" blogs which don't offer anything new for days or weeks. I can find no system which ranks blogs based on longevity, or by the regularity and quantity of material posted (to say nothing of quality). It would be a valuable tool, because it would offer a ratings system independent of links -- based on other objective criteria.

    While I am still a new blogger (four months), it's my feeling right now that dynamic linking will "grow" the blogosphere to the benefit of all. Therefore, anyone who links to me and anyone I like gets a link. Except for dead blogs, I refuse to engage in the practice of "de-linking" -- even if I vehemently disagree with one of my links.

    Finally, I am quite taken by your "prediction":

    Soon you will be accused of some sort of snobbery for not listing all who agree with you, or write in a similar style or on issues you care about.
    I should be so fortunate! And if ever I am, I will link till I drop.

    By the way, I spend a great deal of time visiting my links. It is VERY time consuming as you say -- but often well worth the effort.

    Thank you again!

    Eric Scheie   ·  October 3, 2003 8:23 PM

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