True believers 

Conceived in a dream of reason, what the Internet too often reveals is mass credulousness and fathomless irrationality. According to Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald, a video depicting the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre as a government-sponsored hoax has drawn 8.5 million views on YouTube.

No doubt many viewers were drawn by idle curiosity or sheer incredulity. What would "evidence" for so transparently preposterous an allegation consist of? Nevertheless, there appear to be thousands of True Believers.

Try Googling "Emilie Parker alive," to sample the crazy.

Adepts claim that a photograph of a young girl sitting in President Obama's lap reveals that 6-year-old Emilie Parker was not murdered along with 19 classmates at Sandy Hook elementary as reported. Supposedly, the photo reveals a telltale blunder.

In reality, the child in the photograph is Emilie's little sister, Madeline.

But why go on? There's plenty more in the same dogged, delusional vein. To anybody capable of imagining that staging the Sandy Hook tragedy would even be possible — requiring, as it would, the active cooperation of half the population of Connecticut — mere evidence and logic are beside the point.

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised. Apart from religion, more Americans appear to be nuts on the subject of guns than all other topics. The National Rifle Association has raised and spent millions in recent years peddling scare stories about President Obama's secret plan to abolish the Second Amendment, confiscate everybody's deer rifles and set up a gun-free dictatorship.

Newtown conspiracy theories are only incrementally madder spinoffs of the NRA's master narrative. Yet its leaders are treated as VIPs in newsrooms and TV studios. Why?

To Believers, guns have become fetish objects in American popular culture, having magical potency. Witness Bushmaster Firearms' advertising its .223 caliber AR-15 — Newtown killer Adam Lanza's weapon — with the slogan: "Consider your Man Card reissued." Viagra ads are more subtle.

Hence conversations with gun cultists tend to be conducted in the dualistic, all-or-nothing terms of fundamentalist theology. Although polls have shown that large majorities of gun owners favor, for example, improved background checks to make it harder for criminals and severely mentally ill people to acquire deadly weapons, cultists see all such legislation in apocalyptic terms. All regulation amounts to total confiscation.

Hollywood's equally to blame. About half the emails I get on this topic invoke the "Red Dawn" fantasy, although it's not foreign communists people imagine taking to the hills to fight, but tyrannical U.S. government SWAT teams intent upon seizing their personal arsenals and making them eat arugula.

I'm always tempted to warn these jokers that I've forwarded their messages to the Obama White House for inclusion on Big Brother's Hellfire drone strike list, but I'm afraid most wouldn't get the joke. Tanks, helicopter gunships and drones have pretty much put an end to the adolescent fantasy of plucky survivalists taking on the U.S. Marines. Everywhere except in movies and at certain kinds of gun shows, that is.

Then there are the Lethal Weapon/Die Hard revenge comedies I'm partial to myself: the Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis vehicles where a wisecracking hero and his plucky sidekick shoot their way through legions of wicked, heavily-armed villains with universally poor marksmanship.

Let's put it this way: Ever seen a headline like this? "LAPD Detective Kills 17 Gangsters in Nightclub Shootout" (Lethal Weapon) Or this? "Vacationing Cop Foils Xmas Plot; 34 Terrorists Slain." (Die Hard)

Of course not. Because the working part of your brain understands that these films bear approximately the same relationship to reality as a Roadrunner cartoon.

However, deep in many of our lizard brains the Dirty Harry fantasy lurks nevertheless. NRA president Wayne LaPierre invoked it during his notorious Newtown press conference. You know, the bit about a good guy with a gun shooting it out with a bad guy with a gun — inside a first-grade classroom.

That's why the single most useful piece of journalism since Newtown may be Amanda Ripley's "Your Brain in a Shootout: Guns, Fear and Flawed Instincts." Writing for Time, Ripley interviewed highly trained, experienced cops and soldiers who talked to her bluntly about the crazy, jagged chaos of armed combat.

"[R]esearch on actual gunfights, the kind that happen not in a politician's head but in fluorescent-lit stairwells and strip-mall restaurants around America, reveals [that]...Winning a gunfight without shooting innocent people typically requires realistic, expensive training and a special kind of person."

And normally not the kind of person, oddly enough, that makes an excellent kindergarten teacher.

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • Exterminating the Palestinians

    If Secretary of State John Kerry has failed to bring about a cease fire to end the bloodbath in Gaza, then so has everybody else.
    • Jul 30, 2014
  • Americans like GOP words on foreign policy but Democrats' actions

    Search the phrase "the most powerful man in the world" and what comes up are photos of grotesquely over-developed weight-lifters; also Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. Awfully ironic under present circumstances. It's a cant term TV news anchors use to describe U.S. presidents, enhancing their own self-importance as chroniclers of the great.
    • Jul 24, 2014
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Low taxes, big problems

    When H. L. Mencken said that for every complex problem there is one explanation that is clear, simple and wrong, he had in mind the idea that spills from the lips of every Republican politician and that preoccupies the fevered brain of every tea partier and protester
    • Apr 1, 2010
  • GOP tells NFL it can't endorse Obamacare

    Aaron Rodgers, the all-pro quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, will hawk casualty insurance for State Farm in funny TV spots again this fall, but neither he nor any other National Football League star will sell health insurance.
    • Aug 1, 2013
  • What socialism?

    Scary times always breed popular delusions and this season's is socialism. Creeping government control demolished the economy and now the socialists are using the crisis to finish the conversion from capitalism to a socialist state.
    • Jun 10, 2010

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • Exterminating the Palestinians

    If Secretary of State John Kerry has failed to bring about a cease fire to end the bloodbath in Gaza, then so has everybody else.
    • Jul 30, 2014
  • Americans like GOP words on foreign policy but Democrats' actions

    Search the phrase "the most powerful man in the world" and what comes up are photos of grotesquely over-developed weight-lifters; also Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. Awfully ironic under present circumstances. It's a cant term TV news anchors use to describe U.S. presidents, enhancing their own self-importance as chroniclers of the great.
    • Jul 24, 2014
  • Professors can't be rape police

    If one believes even a significant fraction of the horror stories in the national news media, beastly male behavior has become almost epidemic on American college campuses. Tales of drunken sexual assault and worse multiply from sea to shining sea.
    • Jul 16, 2014
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

August

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31  
  • Re: Little Rock's nannies target clubbing

    • Little Rock needs to be promoting their 5am clubs not trying to shut them down…

    • on August 1, 2014
  • Re: Enter the loan sharks

    • COMMON WEALTH LOAN FINANCE FIRM EMAIL-[commonwealthloanfirm@gmail.com] ADDRESS-Senator House,85 Queen Victoria Street,London EC4V 4HA, UNITED KINGDOM…

    • on August 1, 2014
  • Re: Little Rock's nannies target clubbing

    • First of all I work late and when I get off I want to go…

    • on July 31, 2014
 

© 2014 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation