So the New York Times polled the populace and found, for the first time ever, that a majority of Americans “oppose a nationwide ban on assault weapons” (44/50, in fact). Or at least, for the first time in twenty years; for that matter, this particular set of polling typically showed a three-to-two or three-to-one split the other way. This development is fascinating, not least because the New York Times is admitting that they in fact did the poll. After all, the result is a major challenge to the Times’ worldview and corporate sense of self; in fact, it suggests that the NYT and other Media groups made things worse for gun control advocates.
Which, indeed, they did.
Human beings like to believe in magic. And, in fact, magical thinking is a part of every human culture and society, most explicitly not excluding this one. Our particular brand of it – well, aside from the astrologists, Greenie religious fanatics, and anti-GMO demonologists – is our quaint current belief that you can fundamentally change a thing simply by changing its name. The idea is to associate a particular person or organization or belief with a word or phrase with a strong existing emotional resonance: pair the two together for long enough, and the word transfers its resonance to the person. Classic law of contagion, in other words, although my saying so too nastily would probably get me chased out of every college-level English department in Western society.
So, that’s the theory. How does it work in real life? Well, let’s look at ‘torture.’ As you may recall, back during the George W Bush administration the antiwar Left went to some trouble to successfully define the practice of waterboarding* as torture. The goal? To end the practice of waterboarding. The result? Well, by 2009 the American public had decided that waterboarding was torture – and that torture must be OK, then. And they kept deciding that in 2011. And 2014. And pretty much this year, too. This was, to put it extremely mildly, not the actual intent of the antiwar movement; which is one reason why any antiwar movement type reading this should immediately turn off his or her computer, go to the corner, and sit there until they die of old age.
But I digress. Something similar is in play here, I think: the anti-gun Left has managed to successfully categorize a whole variety of handguns and rifles as ‘assault weapons.’ What they clearly did not consider is that talking up the AR-15 – which is essentially a hunting rifle that you can accessorize like it was a Barbie doll** – as a scary ‘assault weapon’ will not dissuade anybody who might be worried that, say, Islamist terrorists might be planning to shoot at them in the near future. Because the map is not, in fact, the territory; and relabeling ‘Duluth’ as ‘Albuquerque’ doesn’t actually get you to New Mexico any faster.
So, um, thanks, I guess? Although I don’t know whether it’s really polite to thank somebody for being a demonstrator of the Law of Unintended Consequences. It might not be.
*This would be the practice of restraining somebody, putting a towel over their face, and pouring water over the towel in order to (terrifyingly) trigger the drowning reflex. If you’re instead pouring water down somebody’s windpipe, you’re a) yes, actually torturing somebody and b) doing it wrong.
**It’s actually called that. I mention this for anybody who just wandered in, mind you. My regular readers already know this.