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Posts Tagged ‘guns’

PA Won’t Explain Why Machine Guns Were in Embassy in Prague

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

The Palestinian Authority has not explained to the Czech Republic why 12 firearms, including submachine guns, were stored at its embassy in Prague where a PA diplomat was killed in an explosion to weeks ago.

Palestinian diplomats have apologized for hiding illegal weapons at the Prague embassy where a blast killed the ambassador on New Year’s Day, the Czech foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

“A high-ranking Palestinian foreign ministry official… issued an official apology from the Palestinian side for the illegal presence of weapons on the premises of the Palestinian embassy,” the PA ministry said, but there was more left unsaid than what was admitted.

Palestinian ambassador Jamal al-Jamal was killed on January 1 when he was opening a safe in his new office.

It was immediately assumed that the explosion was an accident, possibly resulting from a device in the safe to immediately destroy documents if anyone were to tamper with the safe. It had been moved from the Palestinian Authority’s former offices in Prague.

But a PA official later said that the safe was old and had no such device.

Czech police later found the firearms, dating back to the 1980s and which were illegally kept. The Prague Post reported Tuesday that the weapons had not been in use.

Czech Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Johana Grohová told ČTK news, “We’ve received a note in which they explain the origin of the weapons that were found in the residence of the late Palestinian ambassador, but they do not explain the reason why the weapons were there, illegally in our view. We still insist that this amounted to a violation of the Czech Republic’s legal order, or the law on firearms and ammunition.

We’ve been assured that the weapons had not been used, that they were deposited. Nevertheless, it has not been sufficiently explained why the weapons continued being kept in the seat of their [Palestinian] mission.”

The Palestinian Authority already is considered a bad neighbor in the area where the new office and apartment are located. Several dozen people demonstrated outside the PA embassy on Friday to demand that it be relocated,

Israel’s Security Minister to Further Restrict Gun Ownership

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Internal Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch announced that he plans to restrict gun ownership in Israel even further.

Aharonovich will now require a psychological exam, besides the medical exam currently required. If an applicant fails the psychological exam, the new rules would actually require the appplicant to visit a psychiatrist.

Private indivduals and security guards hold 290,000 guns in Israel, and Aharonivich wants to reduce that number.

Aharanovich also wants to restrict the types of security guards that can get guns and limit them only to high risk businesses, as well as require the guards to hand in their guns at the end of their shifts.

The security companies are fighting the reform, as is the Ministry of Education, which doesn’t want the new restrictions to apply to their guards.

As it is, Israel has overly restrictive gun control laws, and many feel that Aharonovich’s “reforms” are going to far.

The Shadow of the Gun

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Every day another one of the stories comes in. A teacher panicked by a plastic gun, an army man on a cupcake, a t-shirt, a pop tart chewed into the shape of a gun or a finger gun hits the panic button. Suspensions and lectures quickly follow as the latest threat to the gun-free zone, usually in the form of a little boy, is tackled to the ground and lectured to within an inch of his life.

Tellingly these incidents rarely take place in the inner city schools where teenage gang members walk through metal detectors at the start of the day. The safety officers in those schools, big weary men with eyes that look everywhere at once, don’t waste their time on toys. Not unless those toys are full-size, painted black and filed down to look like real guns.

It’s usually the schools where a shooting is wholly unlikely; where gun violence is not a daily reality, but an unlikely convergence of horror, that institutional vigilance hits an irrational peak as every school imagines that it could be the next Columbine or the next Sandy Hook.

The NRA’s initial proposal of armed school guards was met with an irrational chorus of protests. More guns aren’t the answer, was the cry. And the leading crier was the White House’s expert skeet shooter. In a country where law enforcement is heavily armed and gunmen are stopped by gunmen in uniforms, a strange Swedenization had set in. The problem was not the man, it was the gun. Get rid of the guns and you stop the killing. Schools across the country are banning not the gun, but the idea of the gun. It is a conceptual prohibition that is meant to push away the threat of gun violence by eliminating any mention of the G word. Gun-free zones mean places where guns cannot be mentioned, depicted or even symbolized as if the refusal to concede the existence of a firearm will eliminate the threat of it being used on the premises.

This isn’t a precautionary attitude, but a pacifist one. Gun horror is not a productive emotion, but learned helplessness disguised as moral superiority. Rather than teaching children to hate killers, schools are instead teaching them to hate guns. And reducing murders to instruments rather than morals, children are left with no sense of right and wrong, only an instinctive horror of violence.

Pacifists have always demonized armies rather than invaders. During WWI they obsessed over gas. During WWII, it was the bomber and the tank. During the Cold War they demonized nuclear weapons. In the War on Terror, they target the drone. By dealing with the object rather than the subject, they are able to avoid the question of moral responsibility. Rather than hold the Nazis, Communists or Islamists accountable for their actions, they extended a blanket condemnation over the weapons-wielders.

The American G.I. was just as bad as the S.S. man or the Kamikaze pilot or the Political Commissar. The only difference was in who had the bigger guns. And the one with the bigger guns, was also the most to blame.

That same attitude can be seen today when Israel is blamed for every battle with Islamic terrorists because it has the bigger guns. Rather than evaluating the nature of a conflict and the values of both sides, the pacifists score every war based on firepower.

While the left likes to indulge in stereotypes of gun-toting rednecks and bomb-brandishing generals, the only people who judge the worth of a man by his weapon are the pacifists, the gun-fearers and gun-hiders who mythologize weapons as black agents of evil.

To believe that there is no such thing as constructive violence is to reject free will. Without accepting the necessity of constructive violence, there is no good and evil, only armed men and unarmed men. Without constructive violence, two boys playing cops and robbers in the schoolyard are not acting out a childish morality play, they are becoming desensitized to murder, and without it a child with a pop tart chewed into the shape of a gun is on the way to being a school shooter.

If there is no such thing as constructive violence, then the police officer is not the solution to crime, he is part of the cycle of violence. And if that cycle of violence does not begin with a man choosing to use a gun for good or evil, then it must begin with the gun. The man becomes the object and the gun becomes the subject. American ICBMs become just as bad as Russian ballistic missiles. An Israeli soldier killing a suicide bomber is just as bad as the terrorist. There are no good guys with guns. To have a gun is to be the bad guy.

For decades the gun-control lobby has brandished assault rifles at press conferences and spent more time describing their killing power than their manufacturers have. The rifle has been upgraded to the assault rifle and now, in the latest Orwellian vernacular used by the White House and the entire media pyramid beneath it, weapons of war.

The dreaded assault rifle or weapon of war or killing machine of mass death actually kills rather few Americans. The average shooter doesn’t bring an AR-15 to a Chicago gangland dispute. Despite the number of these weapons in private hands, most of the killing takes place with handguns in the same parts of the country where large amounts of illegal drugs are sold, women trafficked and stores robbed.

Shootings in America are not caused by guns, they are caused by crime. Guns really do not walk off store shelves and go on killing sprees. That’s what criminals are for. But the trouble with that discussion is that it takes us into moral territory. Talking about guns is easy, talking about souls is not. If guns don’t kill people, then we have to ask the difficult question of what does kill people.

It’s a bigger question than just Adam Lanza pulling the trigger in a classroom full of children. It is a big question that encompasses the Nazi gas chambers and the Soviet gulags, the Rape of Nanking and September 11. It is a question as big as all of human history.

Pacifists once used to be able to address such questions, but they have become obsessed with the technology of violence, rather than the spiritual origin of violence. And the technology of violence is largely beside the point. Guns do not motivate people to kill. Nor do they represent that much of a quantum increase in death.

Some of history’s worst massacres happened long before firearms became useful for more than scaring off peasants. The heavily armed Americans of the 50s had lower per capita murder rates than medieval London. It isn’t the gun that makes the killer. It’s not the hand that kills, but the mind.

The gun-free society has little interest in individuals. Its technocratic philosopher-kings want big and comprehensive solutions. Their answer to gun violence is to feed a horror of guns. Their answer to obesity is to ban sodas. Their solutions invariably miss the point by treating people like objects and objects like people.

In the Middle Ages, rats were put on trial for eating crops. Today we put guns on trial for killing people. The left has tried to reduce people to economics, to class and then race, gender and sexual orientation. It has done its best to reduce people to the sum of their parts and then to tinker with those parts and it has failed badly. The best testimony of its profound spiritual failure is that the worst pockets of gun violence are in urban areas that have been under the influence of their sociologists, urban planners, psychologists, social justice activists, community organizers and political rope-pullers for generations. And what have those areas brought forth except malaise, despair, blight and murder?

Banning guns will do as much for those areas as banning drugs did. It is not the shadow of the gun that has fallen over Chicago, but an occlusion of the spirit. Social services have had generations to save the city and they have failed because the technocracy can reach the body, but it cannot reach the soul.

The gun-control activists drew the wrong lesson from Newtown as they drew the wrong lessons from WWII and September 11. The lesson is not that weapons are bad, the lesson is that people in the grip of evil ideas are capable of unimaginable horrors regardless of the tools at their disposal. A single man can kill a classroom full of children with a gun and a few men can kill thousands with a few box cutters. It isn’t the tool that matters. It’s the man.

Unwishing the gun brings us back to the sword. Unwishing the sword brings us back to the spear. Unwishing the spear brings us back to the stone club. And what then? When every weapon that ever existed or will exist is undone, all that remains is the deadliest weapon of all. The mind of man.

The gun, the sword, the spear and the club took countless lives and saved countless lives. Civilization has always balanced on a future made possible by little boys playing cops and robbers and playing with little green army men. They can either grow up to be the protectors of the future or the frightened men who will stand aside and do nothing when they hear the screams begin to come because they have been told that all violence is evil.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Purim and the Right to Bear Arms

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

On February 8, Rabbi Dovid Bendory spoke at the New Jersey statehouse about the right to bear arms. The Rabbinic Director of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, Rabbi Bendory stated with reference to chapter 22 of Sefer Shemot:

God has given us the right to self-defense. We have not only a God-given right to defend ourselves and to protect our families; but we have a God -commanded responsibility to do so.

Soon we will celebrate Purim. Last year I interviewed Rabbi Bendory about these themes in relation to the festival. He observed:

Purim is a story in gun control and its impact on a nation. It’s because of the gun control of Achashverosh’s reign that the Jews had no right to defend themselves, that they were so vulnerable to being wiped out by the decree of one lunatic. The government has taken away from the people the God-given right to self-defense. So Achashverosh magnanimously grants them that right back—you  can now defend yourselves against the people who attack you—and the result is of course the celebration of Purim.

Rabbi Bendory further noted regarding Shmuel I 13:19, that

The first historically recorded incident of gun control—and when I use the term gun control, of course in this context it means weapons control—the  first historic use of gun control was against the Jews. Today in Israel, these lessons are more urgent than ever.

Four Jews who will not celebrate Purim this year are Yitzhak Ames, Talia Ames, Kochava Even-Haim, and Avishai Schindler. On August 31, 2010, Hamas murdered them on Route 60 near Kiryat Arba. (May the Almighty avenge their blood).

The government had disarmed Yitzhak before the massacre because of he and his wife’s activism in defense of Gush Katif. A family friend stated, “There are four bodies today because the government, instead of fighting terrorism, is fighting citizens. They put settlers in situations where their hands are tied.”

As the civil rights organization Honenu noted in a report last November on the government’s broader disarmament of citizens, “If Ames’s weapon had been in his possession, perhaps the incident would have ended differently.”

The grandson of the owner of the Lahav gun store in Tel Aviv similarly remarked in December on Israel’s repressive gun policies:

The problem is that the law makes it very difficult for the good people to get guns. The number of legal guns in recent years has gone to around 170,000, but there are a half a million illegal guns floating around the Arab sector, no one knows how many.

On illegal guns in the Arab sector, Dr. Guy Bechor of the Interdisciplinary Studies Center in Herzliya wrote in November concerning the terror attack on a bus in Tel Aviv:

Arab villages in Israel are flooded with illegal aliens—and the weapons they bring along. The Israel Police are well aware of this problem and of its extent, but for some reason are doing almost nothing to stop it. This is understandable.

After all, police apparently have more urgent priorities like raiding a beit midrash and beating people therein.

The Israeli government and it seems much of the citizenry have learned neither from Tanach nor history. The American jurist St. George Tucker had more wisdom and sense of survival than many Jews today when he wrote in 1803: “Wherever…the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.”

Every Jew – a .22?

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

I have not yet addressed the horrific tragedy that struck our nation a little over week ago in Newtown, Connecticut. The truth is that this is the kind of thing that I do not usually discuss since it is not a Jewish issue. Even though there was one Jewish victim, the tragedy is much larger than one victim.

But the fact is that the issues raised by this tragedy affects us all – Jew and Gentile alike.

On Friday morning, December 14th, 27 people were massacred at the Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School by Adam Lanza, a mentally ill 20-year-old with easy access to four semi-automatic weapons. Twenty of the victims were very young children and at least two of the adults, one a teacher and the other the school principal were murdered while attempting to shield children from the hail of bullets.

Like just about everyone else I was stunned by it. I could not imagine the sudden grief that parents, friends, and families must have felt. The idea that a group of six-year-old children were so quickly massacred in this way is unimaginable. So terrible is this to me this that my mind is mentally blocked from putting myself into the shoes of those parents. I think I would have a mental breakdown if I did. I was basically numbed by it. The President was visibly moved to tears when he first made public comments about it.

My immediate thoughts were about the guns. I thought it was indeed the easy access to guns that was the problem here. Those guns were legally obtained by Lanza’s mother, an avid gun enthusiast. Unfortunately for her, that attitude cost her her life at the hands of her own son just before he went on his killing rampage and suicide. The state of Connecticut is reputed to have some of the strictest gun laws in the country. It didn’t matter. The guns were there at the disposal of a mentally deranged individual.

Personally, I wouldn’t go anywhere near a gun. Guns scare me, frankly. To me the dangers of someone getting accidentally shot far outweigh the improbability of my using it for protection, which would be the only reason for me to own one. I am reminded of a former employee of mine whose son was killed by a gun carelessly placed on a table in her home by a friend who was police trainee. The boy found it, started playing with it and he accidentally shot himself in the head.

I believe that the massacre in Newton would never have happened if guns were made illegal.

It happens to be the case that in England gun ownership is very strictly controlled. If I understand correctly the police don’t even carry guns. It also happens to be the case that the gun homicide rate there is one of the lowest in the world. If we could do the same here in America, this massacre would very likely never have happened.

The trouble is you can’t do that here. It is a constitutional right of every American citizen to bear arms. And there is some truth to the slogan of gun rights advocates that if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. It is therefore quite understandable that some people feel the need to own a gun for protection.

If I recall correctly the founding fathers believed that confiscating guns from the citizenry was a first step towards tyranny. Which is one reason they introduced the 2nd amendment. But is that still the case? In my view making all guns illegal would be a huge step towards solving this problem. But the only way that can be done is to repeal the second amendment to the constitution. That is not going to happen. Although using England as an example I think it should. Will outlaws still have guns? Of course they will. But I would differ with England in that I would still allow law enforcement to carry them.

Gun enthusiasts of course would vehemently protest any such move. They use guns as toys… for target practice and the like. And then there are hunters. Perhaps an exception could be made for single shot rifles for hunting purposes. But I would outlaw all private ownership of all handguns and assault type semi automatic weapons that can take a large magazine clip filled with bullets. I would certainly outlaw those large ammunition clips. This is the type of gun and clip used by Lanza to shoot and kill so many victims so quickly.

But then I had another thought that went in an entirely different direction. I couldn’t help thinking that if the principal who had encountered him at the beginning of his shooting rampage had a gun with a conceal/carry permit, was well trained and proficient with firearms – that she could have shot Lanza before he did so much damage. I don’t know if she would have gotten to him before he killed anyone. But she surely could have saved many of those children and herself. Lest anyone think this is ridiculous, there are schools in Texas where all or most of the teachers are trained in firearms and carry weapons.

But I have to admit that the thought of a teacher who carries a gun in the classroom teaching my child is a scary thought. Teachers can be – or become – deranged too. With a gun at the ready, there could just as easily be another shooting of this type. Only this time by a deranged teacher.

Then there is the proposal by the NRA. They want to station armed police guards in every school. While many people are outraged by this, I don’t see it that way. If properly trained they too could have prevented the Newtown massacre had they been there.

The NRA points to Israeli schools who have this exact situation. Israel as we all know has been frequently subjected to terrorist attacks by suicide bombers. I don’t blame them a bit for protecting their schools in this way.

It would put my mind at greater ease to know that Israeli trained sharpshooters were on alert in my child’s school for any terrorist that might enter. Israel’s attitude about guns is more along the lines of the NRA. It is also true that a civilian carrying a handgun is a fairly common sight there. I also believe there has never been an incident like this in Israel’s history… where in the US it seems like every Monday and Thursday we see one.

Are armed guards a viable option here in America? I don’t know. Counter claims are being made that it would be ineffective. Columbine had an armed guard that was somehow eluded and students were massacred there by other students.

But still you can’t argue with the success of such a program in Israel. I think it is therefore really a matter of better training. Something the Israelis could help us with.

What about a Jewish school? Should we have armed guards in every day school? That would make quite a sight… something we are all not used to here at all. Or maybe we should all carry guns the way Meir Kahane once suggested. He coined the phrase “Every Jew – 22.” Twenty-two is the caliber handgun he suggested we own. He claimed that had the Jewish people had guns at the beginning of the Holocaust they could have fight back effectively.

That of course is very debatable. It may have made the annihilation of six-million Jews more difficult – but I doubt it would have done anything more than delay it.

Rabbi Kahane said that a Holocaust could happen anywhere; anytime. And we should be ready for it by having our own weapons. That is of course ridiculous. But I understand where he was coming from. He did not want to see us to go like sheep to the slaughter – which is what happens when an armed tyrannical government starts rounding up its unarmed citizens like Germany did to the Jewish people during the Holocaust.

But still, if every Jew carried a handgun – that would include every teacher and Rebbe. That would surely prevent the kind of massacre that happened in Newtown.

Does this sound like a viable idea to anyone?

Some have also suggested that the real issue here is mental illness, not handguns. While I agree – that too is an issue that ought to be addressed here, I don’t think that mental Illness will be cured anytime soon. No matter how much time and energy we devote to it. Although I fully agree that we need to devote a lot more time and money to it than we do now it does not offer any real solutions in the short term.

One thing seems clear to me. One way or the other something needs to change here in a big way. Because if it doesn’t. We may not have seen the last of this kind of thing.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Madmen and Crowds

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

There was a temporary interval in American life when a shooting spree by a madman would have been viewed as the crime of one man. The dead would have been mourned. The killer, if he had been taken alive, would have been punished, and while the memorial might have been accompanied by some leading sermons, the country would have been spared the media exploitation and blame-a-thon that invariably follows such events.

The trouble is that there are no more individuals. Or rather the individual is no longer recognized as having any standing. “All private plans, all private lives, have been in a sense repealed by an overriding public danger,” Roosevelt declared in 1940 to the Democratic National Convention.  And the repeal never seems to have been repealed. Instead all private plans and private lives are being constantly repealed by a turmoil of overriding public dangers, most of them sociological in nature.

A shooting takes place and the media urges that millions of firearms be confiscated. Every crisis requires that more freedoms be sacrificed for that overriding public danger that the talking heads are screaming about this week over news feeds from every corner of the globe. There are no more private lives. Only public ones. Everyone will sooner or later pass before the camera and be judged by millions of strangers in a narrative that will transform him or her into a hero or villain in the great social struggle against the public danger of the day.

Calling Adam Lanza a madman has little meaning now. The madman retreats to a private world of his own making. But the collective culture does not recognize madness as a detachment from the crowd. Instead it views it as yet another social malady to be solved. Re-open the asylums. Provide more mental health funding. Open hotlines for anyone with suicidal thoughts. Social solutions for a social society coping with the anti-social.

But even our madmen are public figures now. Cut off from the collective culture by their minds, they still strive to connect to its most fundamental value. Fame.

America’s spree killers don’t drive pickup trucks with gun racks. They aren’t NRA members and have never opened a bible. They are young, mentally ill and famous. They are exactly like the real and fake celebrities who crowd magazine covers, television screens and paparazzi-choked premieres. But they can’t sing or dance, and have no unique way to embarrass themselves into staged fame. Instead they kill their way to being famous.

As schizophrenic as our shooters were, as unable to connect to the groupthink of the larger culture, they understood the one thing that we valued. And they got it in a brute force way. They became what every girl with dyed blonde hair waiting on line to impress the judges of television’s dueling singing competitions, every waiter with sunglasses waiting to become a movie star on Rodeo Drive, every “internet personality” leaning precariously over a webcam on YouTube, every kid trying out rhymes on his friends and building a fake biography of all the people he shot in drug deals gone bad, want to be. Famous.

In mass culture, fame is the only oxygen of the individual. It is the only thing that distinguishes the vanishing individual from the herd. The celebrity is to 21st Century America as the general, the writer, the poet, the politician and the genius were to former eras. All these things and many more have been distilled down to the simple status of celebrity. You are either famous or you aren’t. You either have a private life that everyone knows about or your private life has already been repealed by the overriding public dangers of cow farts, racism and large sodas. You are either a slave to the public or just a public slave.

A culture of crowds makes crazy people even crazier. There’s nothing for paranoia like a major city and these days we all live in the major city of a culture that is crowded in even its most rural areas. Crowd culture expects everyone to follow the leader, to join the meme, to move with the flow, but that is something that crazy people cannot do. The madman is always out of step and out of sync, the paranoid schizophrenic occasionally makes a compelling leader, but he is unable to be a follower.

Madness can at its simplest be viewed as the gap between his thinking and our own. Like cultural differences, it often explodes into violence, but unlike cultural differences it cannot be bridged because there is no common language. The madman is a member of a unique culture of one. He is a citizen of himself. He has his own laws, his own values and even his own mental language. And it is one that no sane person will ever understand.

The madman is the ultimate individual dying in his own private rebellions that mean nothing to anyone else. A sane society may lock him up, it may crudely tinker with his brain chemistry or even carve up his gray matter, but it will never truly make him one with the group. And our society, addled by nearly as many drugs as your average madman, is a long way from sane. It flirts with madness in its aimless attempts at reestablishing the place of the individual in a collectivist culture, and it veers recklessly from sympathizing with violence to pretending not to understand where violence comes from. It’s the feigned innocence of those who are just jaded enough not to want to know how jaded they have truly become.

If the madman has lost the ability to speak to the crowd, the crowd has equally lost the ability to speak to the individual. The madman suffers from a defective mental vocabulary and the mad society has lost the ability to formulate concepts relating to individual behavior.

In our society the individual is always seen as putting on a public performance of accepting or rejecting group values. All private lives become a public competition to see who recycles the most, is the least racist, the most giving and the best example of what a cog in the great social machine should be. Every individual act is a commentary, not ultimately on the individual, but on the social machine. Crime is no longer a private act, but a public one, that emerges out of social factors such as the poverty rate, race relations, the availability of firearms, cold medication in pharmacies and the amount of funding for midnight basketball, outpatient mental health therapy and a thousand others.

All private plans are a public danger. All individual acts are really collective acts. There is no “I” in individual. There is only the crowd, its avatars who live out their fantasies and entertain them, and the masses shuffling off toward their daily labors until they are released from the grind and allowed a few hours to entertain themselves watching their avatars live a public show of private life.

How does one speak of individual responsibility to such people and how can they be expected to distinguish individualism from madness? The ant hive cannot be expected to think of the ant. It cannot understand anthood apart from the hive.

The Blame-a-Thon continues. Blaming Adam Lanza for his own actions is insufficient. Even blaming his dead mother is insufficient. Individuals do not matter. Only groups do. Corporations. The NRA. The Tea Party. Private tragedy becomes a political event complete with campaign speeches and fundraising letters. Organizations converge. New offices are opened and phone lines are installed. Press conferences are given. “This is a wake up call. A call for action. It’s time we did something.”

Within an hour, the responsibility is transferred from a killer to the society at large and then to the groups that do not share the values of the new collectivist society. War is declared. Press releases are faxed. Letters are sent out. “We need your help, Michael.” “Stand with us, Susan.” The dead are buried and their bodies are used to make the mulch of a new wave of political repression and profiteering. The dead, like singing competition contestants, are ultimately disposable, as are their killers. It is the producers and the judges who endure.

Each call to action is signed with the promise, “So that this will never have happen again.” That is the sociological siren song of the crowd. The promise of a powerful government safety net that will keep every terrible thing from ever happening a second time. But there is no net that madmen cannot slip through when they choose to. It is possible to repeal the private lives and private plans of all gun owners, but not the private lives and plans of madmen who are not peninsulas, but islands in the stream, who do not care about laws, regulations and expectations. Broken men looking to break.

There is more danger than safety in the crowd. Not only can the crowd not deter a madman, for the same reason that Kitty Genovese bled to death lay dying for an hour, but the crowd is also mad. It is a madness that is harder to detect because it is the madness of a crowd. The individual irrationality of a madman is detectable by outsiders, because of its conflict with the group reality, and even to the person of the madman by that same conflict, which fuels his paranoia toward the outside world, but the group cannot detect its own irrationality and is too large and pervasive for its irrationality to be recognized on the outside.

Our crowd is not yet as collectively insane as Adam Lanza, but it’s getting there. And it will not be pretty when it does. The madness of crowds is not a pretty thing. It can be seen in the hysterical crowds that greeted Hitler or the equally hysterical crowds swooning at the sight of a celebrity. Individual madness is flawed chemistry, but crowd madness is a will to madness, a raving desire to be one with the collective view, to be famous or almost famous, to exchange reason for sensation and individuality for the group immortality of the group.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

The Perfect Prison

Monday, December 24th, 2012

There are as many ways to look at a man as there are at a glass of water. Either half empty or half full. Either people are basically good or they are basically rotten. And all theories of government come down to one view or the other.

If people are basically good, then they can also be left to their own devices. They may even be allowed to run their own affairs. If however they are basically rotten, then a system is needed that will force goodness on them. And this system’s own goodness will be protected by strict conformity to an ideology that is also inherently good. Those who run the system can only be chosen from the ranks of the faithful adherents of that ideology.

Arguments for goodness or “badness” are wholly anecdotal. And always have been. A man walks into a school and murders children. A man throws himself under a car to save a woman. Which of them is a definite commentary on the species or the culture? That’s a matter of picking and choosing. Both are arguably exceptions to the rule. But on the whole we have far more people who do not shoot anyone than those who do. Far more who do not steal, than steal. Far more who may not wear a halo, or that we would want to share a long train ride with, but who on the whole could be trusted not to turn on their neighbors if one day every police department within a 100 miles folds up shop.

Gun control, like most liberal social legislation, is a barometer for the state of the human glass. It is a Rorschach test for how we see others. This week’s MSNBC commentary has been the usual notes about the paranoia of gun owners. But if there is gun owner paranoia about being attacked, it seems to be outmatched by the paranoia of gun controllers who believe that every gun owner is a ticking time bomb. Or pretend to believe it when the red light turns on and the commercial break ends.

“How much firepower does a law-abiding gun owner need?” is the leading talking point of the gun controllers. But it could just as well be, “How much cold medicine does a law-abiding sneezer need?” Cold medicine has been regulated to the extent that you need a photo ID if your nose is stuffed up under a bill sponsored by a community organizer from Chicago who stayed briefly in the Senate on his way to bigger and worse things. And people have been arrested for buying too much cold medicine.

If you believe that people are basically good, then they can be trusted with an AR-15. If you believe that people are basically bad, then they can’t even be trusted with cold medicine.

We have come a long way from the muckrakers who headed downtown from their cozy digs, toting along heavy cameras and notebooks to document the conditions there. And proposed reforms. Some of the reforms were even salutary. Others were cruel and capricious. The reformers saw to it that a woman walking alone in 19th Century New York City could be arrested for prostitution. Because if you believe that people are basically bad… then you already know the rest of the story whether it’s cold medicines, guns or a woman walking down the street.

When you dig up enough dirt, then everyone looks dirty and the justification is there for a mandatory clean-up program. That is what the reformers and the muckrakers accomplished by displaying an image of a broken society. Their work was selective and biased, and they insisted on defining the city by its worst parts, and the entire country by the city. Their grand achievements have culminated in a national system of one-size-fits-all legislation. Lanza is America. America is Lanza.

Mayor Bloomberg is right that New York City has a problem with gun violence, but it’s not a problem caused by guns. Still talking about guns is easier than talking about shooters. Urban mayors are waging war on gun shops in more rural and better behaved parts of the country as if urban social problems come from those gun shops, when if anything it’s the other way around.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/daniel-greenfield/the-perfect-prison/2012/12/24/

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