Friday, April 4, 2014

Concerto For Cold Dead Hands, First Movement: Cultural Influences

The response to yesterday's piece -- one of my older essays, which first appeared at the Palace Of Reason of loving memory -- was quite overwhelming. Apparently the wholly unConstitutional anti-firearms initiatives in Connecticut and New York have finally galvanized active resistance to further encroachments, a truly heart-gladdening development. However, a number of readers, though they approve of the piece's general theme, have written to ask for a wider treatment of the subject; in effect, a how-we-got-here that might help in the formulation of a counter-strategy.

I'm not certain I'm the right writer for that job, but I won't have it said that I backed away from the challenge.

I've written before about the double-edged nature of urbanization; indeed, I've done so several times. It's a natural consequence of a commercial culture, especially one going through the transition from Agricultural to Industrial. However, the economic incentives that drive urbanization are not the only ones in the picture. As Professor Arne Stromberg, holder of the Edmond Genet Chair in Sociology at Gallatin University (the finest institution of higher learning on Hope) has told us:

"We know from historical data that predators of all sorts will concentrate where the prey is fattest."

"Fattest" in the above should be interpreted widely:

  • Are they rich?
  • Slow moving enough to be easily caught?
  • Unable (or disinclined) to defend themselves when confronted?
  • Herded together in a fashion that constrains their actions in their own defense?

All of these considerations make a population attractive prey to one or another category of predators. And there is more than one category of predator to take into account. For, to quote Professor Stromberg again:

"The merely an organized band of predators with a veneer of legitimacy derived either from tradition or from a manufactured appearance of the consent of its subjects."

(In this, the good professor is merely following the line of thought first articulated by early Twentieth Century sociologist Franz Oppenheimer in his masterwork The State.)

To return to the main thread, an urbanized culture has concentrated its population in a fashion that will make urban zones much more attractive to predators. The "private" criminal will see a "target rich environment," particularly for crimes against property. The "public" criminal -- I'm following Professor Stromberg's analysis above -- is likely to view the urban populace as a unitary target: "a herd of sheep ready for shearing." And in one of the great ironies of history, the activities of the former greatly assist the ambitions of the latter.

Cities in these United States have a far greater probability of being hostile to private ownership of firearms than non-urban regions. Urban populations incline toward a lower degree of mutuality, including mutual trust, than those of suburban and rural regions. The specific reasons for this need not concern us now; the effects on attitudes toward gun ownership are what matter most.

"Public" criminals -- I do like that phrasing! -- capitalize on these conditions to encourage general distrust, among city dwellers, in firearms and in those who want to own them. Urban politicians' moves to ban the private ownership of guns are seldom resisted with even a fraction of the fury that suburbanites and country dwellers routinely muster. The secondary consequences include an increasing dependency upon "public" protectors and a deepening gulf between city and non-city populations, especially on subjects related to individual self-reliance. Here we see a second-stage irony equal in size to the first: Should a city erupt in general chaos, the city-dweller's safety would depend upon flight from his city -- and he would expect to be accepted and protected by those among whom he would shelter.

Urban populations are far easier to tyrannize than non-urban ones -- and both sorts of predators know it.

At this time, the population of these United States is about 65% urbanized, by the standards in common use. The consequence is a preponderance of anti-firearms sentiment among a vast number of Americans. It's not 65%; just as not all country dwellers are gun-friendly, not all city dwellers are gun-hostile. Besides, some of those formally "urban zones" are sufficiently dispersed to have more of the character of the suburbs; consider Indianapolis and Milwaukee as examples of the "non-urban city." However, the fraction is large enough that infringements on the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment are generally tolerated, even welcomed, by an unpleasantly large fraction of the electorate.

Consider these correlations, as well:

  • Our news media corporations are all city-based;
  • So are our entertainment companies (e.g., movie and TV studios and publishers);
  • Contemporary cultural productions tend to demonize private ownership of firearms, whether overtly or subtly;
  • Most stories told by contemporary "literature" and video entertainment occur in cities;
  • So does most consumption of such entertainment;
  • The great majority of our cities are tyrannized by left-liberal Democrat administrations.

The pattern could hardly be clearer.

Andrew Breitbart was emphatic that "Culture is upstream from politics." Cultural influences are nowhere more important than in the fight to preserve our right to keep and bear arms. The anti-firearms influences arising from our urbanized culture, and the responses of predators and propagandists to it, must somehow be countered.

We in the Second Amendment community have lamented the efficacy with which politicians can turn evens like the slaughter at Sandy Hook, Connecticut into fuel for the anti-firearms forces. Yet once again, it's all too likely that the core problem is cultural; in the case of Sandy Hook and comparable atrocities against the helpless, a media culture that portrays the slaughter as being a direct consequence of private firearms ownership, speaking principally to an urban culture that's already inclined toward citizen disarmament. That media culture excels at "framing" a set of events to force conformance to "a narrative" preferred by the media's masters. The preferred narrative of the anti-gun forces will naturally seek to exclude, even suppress, all discussion of the private predators' custom-designed hunting ground: the "gun-free zone," where decent persons are forbidden to go armed so that predators can do as they please.

More anon.


Anonymous said...

I think you rose to the challenge well.
What I glean from your final para is that the media is the fulcrum for change here.... I believe we need to convince the media to stop framing the issue to our disadvantage.

Sergio said...

The media is a megaphone bought and paid for by those who have interest in power.

They have no interest in devoting airtime to something so banal as "the truth."

We should, as a culture, begin to look at mass media as being a non-stop advertisement for whatever it is the owners are selling.

And we should stop looking for that reality to change.

KG said...

Differ, the media can't be persuaded to change, only forced to by the power of the hip pocket.

Differ said...

Persuasion has all sorts of levels.