Thursday, January 07, 2016


The Pathetic Fallacy

The literary term, Pathetic Fallacy, sounds particularly bad to our ears but the first word of the term, 'pathetic,' doesn't mean miserable and worthy of pity like we think of when we hear that word; it has an older, less harsh meaning. The term itself is a literary device wherein the author attributes human emotions and traits to nature or inanimate objects. Which brings me to E.J. Dionne's editorial today. It's pretty pathetic (modern meaning).

It's about guns. He starts with this criticism of the President's tearful, self aggrandizing speech about guns on Monday:

House Speaker Paul Ryan showed why the Republican far right has such faith in him by declaring that Obama's "words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty." Accusing a president of undermining liberty is a nice way of encouraging those who see him as a dictator.
E.J. then quotes someone from the NRA:

Yet there was the National Rifle Association itself making fun of Obama's actions for being puny. "This is it, really?" said the NRA's Jennifer Baker. "They're not really doing anything." The same NRA put up a frightening online video declaring that Obama is "our biggest threat to national security." So a president who's "not really doing anything" is also a menacing tyrant.
But of course someone could be completely ineffectual in the details of an attempt to be a tyrant and still be a tyrant. I'm thinking of the successful revolutionary in Woody Allen's Bananas. When the guerilla becomes president of the fictional San Marcos he orders that the official language be changed to Swedish and everyone has to change their underwear every half-hour and, so they can check, they have to wear their underwear on the outside. It takes a tyrant to hand down laws without a legislature; even if the tyrant is not doing anything really of a tyrannical nature, just being ineptly silly (Woody ask what's Spanish for straightjacket after witnessing the executive action.)

E.J.'s kind of dim. He continues.

Their favorite ploy is to say that since there are already so many guns out there -- some estimates run to over 300 million -- no particular practical measure will do much of anything to stem the violence.
Not my favorite ploy. Regarding the inutility of additional gun control laws, I ask if the murder statutes don't stop a person from using a gun to murder someone, what makes you think that a lesser law will be obeyed? That's my favorite ploy.

E.J. is right that there are probably more than 300 million guns in civilian hands. Since 1993, when gun murder reached its peak and civilian ownership involved less than 200 Million guns, the private ownership of guns has increased by 50% and the gun murder rate has declined by 49%. Why is there a need for additional gun control laws again?

But as soon as the weapons extremists have said that sane action is useless in the face of so many guns, they turn around and assert that those who support universal background checks and other small steps are secretly in favor of gun confiscation. Wait a minute: In one breath, they are implying, against all their other assertions, that the problem really is too many guns; in the next, they are condemning those who propose any regulations as would-be despots who want to disarm the country -- the only thing their own rhetoric suggests would make a real difference. Welcome to a new philosophical concept: circular illogic.

I have a feeling that E.J. did not excel in logic classes. We don't imply the problem is too many guns. The problem is too many murderers. The guns, being inanimate, don't have any volition. There are no guns that want to kill you. Indeed, they have no emotions whatsoever. Rather than talk about guns as the source of murders we talk about murderers as the source of murders. We do talk about reality (plenty of guns) but our problem with advocates of common sense gun regulation is the essential one for all gun control legislation, namely, only the law abiding will obey gun control laws and we don't need them to do that precisely because they are law abiding and will obey the murder and assault statutes as well.

E.J. ends with exhorting Democrats to take up the cause of more gun control. I'm with him on that because it is a proven loser for Democrat candidates, especially the ones for President. Yeah, come on, you wussies, stand for more gun control! Why take halfway steps? Stand for gun confiscation. That will get you in solid with the voters. I dare you to follow E.J.'s suggestions here. I double dog dare you.

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