Category Archives: Guns, violence, crime

The Post-Dallas Kumbaya Window Begins to Close

By John Grant, This Can’t Be Happening, 7/14/16

The Ultimate Attribution Error Fuels War

Someone’s crying, Lord, kumbaya

– From the Gullah song meaning, Lord, come by here and help us

There was a true kumbaya moment after the Dallas cop massacre similar to the moment after 9/11 when sympathy was expressed for America from many unexpected quarters around the world. That window began to close when US leaders took a hard line and vengefully attacked an un-implicated nation to counter the very sense of vulnerability that moved people of the world to sympathize with us. Similarly, the sympathy for attacked cops in Dallas may be evaporating thanks to a familiar sociological dynamic involving in-group, out-group identification.

Sociologists and psychologists call this “the ultimate attribution error.” As explained in an interesting New York Times article by Amanda Taub, it’s when people “attribute another group’s positive actions to random chance or circumstance but assume that [the other group’s] negative actions reflect the group’s core nature.” That is, in times of stress, people “circle the wagons” around their own kind based on a belief that their motives are human and honorable; those of the projected enemy are the essence of pure evil. “Once you dehumanize them, it’s easier to justify violence,” says Professor John Dovidio of the Inter-Group Relations Lab at Yale.

This can be seen on both sides of the Black Lives Matter versus Blue Lives Matter conflict. For me, it involves anger, laziness and a failure of courage to see or listen to or talk with a perceived enemy. Better to huddle up with your own pack and project your fears on the other guy….

continue reading at This Can’t Be Happening

Leave a comment

Filed under Guns, violence, crime, John Grant, Race, Ethnicity, Immigration

Gun deaths and public life

by Nathaniel Smith, Politics: A View from West Chester, 4/23/16

In the midst of election turmoil and craziness, it can be discouraging to pay close attention to what goes on in public life. There is so much self-interest, hypocrisy, and meanness. But then, we need to remember that real issues underlie elections and we can take our lead from those candidates and activists who promote a genuine vision of the public interest.

Among the most noteworthy of these, to me, are individuals fighting to prevent gun violence in this country. After years of carnage, our senses are dulled by so much shooting. Where was that shooting? How many dead in that one? What kind of gun? A relative accidentally shot a 4-year-old girl in Philadelphia and someone killed 8 sleeping members of a family in Ohio (Daily Local, April 16 and 23). In a few days, we won’t even remember.

But we all surely remember in 2012 when a deranged 20-year-old killed 20 elementary school students and 6 school staff, after killing his mother (who had enabled his gun habit) and before killing himself. The even worse news is that that one morning of terror accounted for only about one-third of this country’s average of 90 gun deaths a day. (More than half of those are suicides carried out by people who should have treatment, not access to guns.)

Many people in the Sandy Hook community, including parents who had lost children in the massacre, banded together to try to save others from having the same tragic experience….

continue reading at Politics: A View from West Chester

Leave a comment

Filed under Guns, violence, crime

An Essay On the Future: Alienation, Despair and American Greatness

by John Grant, This Can’t Be Happening, 12/14/2015

Give me an adequate army, with power to provide it with more pay and better food than falls to the lot of the average man, and I will undertake, within 30 years, to make the majority of the population believe that two and two are three, that water freezes when it gets hot and boils when it gets cold, or any other nonsense that might seem to serve the interest of the state.
                    - Bertrand Russell

An epidemic of unhappiness is spreading across the planet, while capital absolutism is asserting its right to unfettered control of our lives.
                    - Franco “Bifo” Berardi

First there was Paris. Then Colorado Springs. Then San Bernadino. A great discussion was raised in the land over which of the killers were terrorists and which were just lunatics. Police and FBI frantically went through apartments, hard-drives and cellphones to find out who had radicalized whom. Well paid corporate TV anchors salivated as police cordoned off crime scenes and politicos huddled in secret situation rooms to get their stories straight so they could release an official story to an eager and fearful public. They no doubt kept many important details to themselves.

Beyond the radicalizing question, there isn’t much interest why these people — versus other people — did what they did. Motivation comes down to: Who made them do it? The words alienation and despair are rarely seen, except maybe in the marginalized columns of the left. The problems of alienation and despair disappeared from the national discussion about the time Jimmy Carter’s malaise was overwhelmed by Ronald Reagan’s shining city on a hill and the rigors of 21st century “neoliberal” financial capitalism took the driver’s seat in America.

The Right emphatically pointed at ISIS and the Muslim threat. Utilizing sophisticated social media skills, a monstrous, growing caliphate had declared war on America and was seducing people living among us to kill us. America needed to respond with unrestrained lethal force, so America could be great again. In cases like the Planned Parenthood killings and the Charleston killings, the Left pointed at rightwing media bullhorns like Bill O’Reilly for relentlessly demonizing Planned Parenthood and the Black Lives Matters movement. O’Reilly vociferously denied on-air that he had “radicalized” anyone; he was not responsible for armed lunatics. The National Rifle Association stood firm: Any controls on citizen access to military assault rifles was the work of the Devil….

continue reading at This Can’t Be Happening

Leave a comment

Filed under Guns, violence, crime, John Grant, Right Wing, Terrorism

Gun Cultures – An Analysis (14 October 2015)

by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses, 10/15/15

Here is the question: What two “modern” societies have cultures that allow, and even idealize, the possession of guns? Answer: the United States and Israel. 

Part I – The American Gun Culture

In the U.S. there are 88 guns floating around for every 100 people, which comes to about 300 million of these weapons in circulation. This includes military-style assault weapons, of which it is estimated there are about 3.75 million in private hands. This state of affairs makes the U.S. the most weaponized modern society on the planet.

This weaponized status is not because most Americans want it this way. As President Obama has pointed out, multiple national polls have shown that most Americans want stricter gun control, but that seems not to matter. Why? Because most Americans are not sufficiently politically organized around this issue to out-lobby the minority who are – mostly in the form of the National Rifle Association (NRA). We are here referring to a rather fanatical, though culturally decisive, minority who define freedom as, first and foremost, the right to “pack” a firearm or two, or ten, ad infinitum. They errantly believe that somehow owning a gun (almost any gun) is “a birthright and an essential part of the nation’s heritage.” They expend much energy on misinterpreting the Second Amendment of the Constitution so as to allegedly prove their point. In other words, for these folks, being armed with a gun is a cornerstone of American culture. 

Isn’t this somehow a corruption of the democratic process? Shouldn’t that process demand that, in matters of national security (and this certainly is such a matter), the safety of the vast majority should prevail? Unfortunately this is not the American way of democratic politics. In truth the U.S. is not a democracy of individual citizens, but rather one of competing interest groups. The interest group that is the NRA is better funded and more politically influential than its opponents, and so, in the matter of gun legislation, it wins. And this is so despite the fact that its victories make society much more dangerous than it ought to be….

continue reading and follow links at To the Point Analyses

Leave a comment

Filed under Guns, violence, crime, Lawrence Davidson