As if to underpin my last article on the idiocy of mass democracy, we are now in the full anti-gun hysteria. This breaks out whenever a madman or criminal kills people. The mass media that both feeds and is propelled by public emotion is conducting a monomaniacal televised revival meeting, all at the service of reducing citizens second amendment rights.
Camera crews are dispatched to the scene and reporters who graduated with degrees in Communications or Journalism are asking deep questions of grieving families. Columnists with no training whatsoever are opining on the mental states and social phycological import of a tragedy which has yet to be fully investigated. On Meet the Press a panel of politicians and scribblers does the following. Senator Diane Feinstein plugs her soon to be introduced assault weapons bill. Mayor Bloomberg postures for the camera as usual, and Bill Bennett makes a shameless plug for appointment to a national study commission. This is our current level of discourse.
Our national reaction to the tragedy of Newtown is a sad mixture of voyeurism, opportunism and humbug.
The popular press is unable to process the simple fact that a madman has done what madmen do. They cannot help but create a narrative that goes beyond the tragedy itself. The emotions of the viewers must be satisfied by invading the grief of the victims families. No connection is too trivial, no angle is too extreme to be explored. Every pop psychologist must have his say. Tragedy becomes soap opera and every soap opera must have a villain. .
Enter the NRA. What passes for an elite in our country has agitated against the National Rifle Association for decades now. As even David Brooks pointed out, the anti-gun position is largely an artifact of urban leftie’s loathing of rural, traditional Amercia. Professor Glenn Reynolds explains how this works. “(1) Something bad happened; (2) I hate you; so (3) it’s your fault. This sort of reasoning has played out in all sorts of places over the past century, with poor results.
In a nation of over three hundred million souls, random violence using whatever means are at hand is inevitable. Any such large population harbors a significant number of mentally deranged persons. Frequently, derangement erupts in youth-early adulthood. But this is also the time of adolescent angst and exploration. So of all the adolescents in the US a small fraction are losing their grip on reality at any one time. The obvious corrective is to recognize this problem and seek to identify and where necessary, institutionalize those who pose a treat.
But this runs into another social barrier; the defective mentality of my generation, the Baby Boomers. My generation learned all we needed to know about psychiatry from the film, One Flew Over the Coocoo’s Nest. To our generation, brought up on dramas of the poetic loner, the horror of what happened in Connecticut can only be explained by some external cause. Locking people up for the sake of public good is just so unfair to all the free spirits among us. We were brought up on the terror of the insane asylum and the possibility of being falsely incarcerated in one.
Yes, the problem of determining who should be restrained and who is a harmless eccentric is a real one. Mistakes are made. But the reality is that the difficulty of getting someone into a mental institution is greater than in getting someone out. Filling a bed in such facilities is very expensive. In our age of effective psycho-active drugs, we tend to medicate rather than commit. I suspect that if the powers that be try to intervene, it will be in the form of public school psychologists making a lot of referrals to psychiatrists out of pure risk aversion. Government schools are already a form of family surrogate in many areas as it is.
And liberals being what they are, and the public being what it is, inanimate objects, that is firearms will have to take the blame for human nature. It’s so much easier to find some totem object to curse. The takeaway message here is that the only rights we have are those not yet abused by a madman. And there will always be madmen.
* Quotation from a column by Michele Malkin