Categories
society

The Muslim Gun Paradox

Trump wants to ban Muslims from coming to the USA. Many other Republicans have called for similar shifts, though only applied to refugees. In general, there is a right-wing consensus that Islam is a problem.

Meanwhile, many on the left want more gun control (or gun safety as they are wont to say). The New York Times even came darn close to the watchword of confiscation, saying some guns should be given up by lawful owners as part of a gun control platform.

The right wing says we either need super screening of incoming Muslim refugees, or maybe we should ban them all from coming. The left says we need super screening of gun owners, or maybe we should ban (at least some) gun ownership.

There’s some sort of pattern there. Something about needing to feel safe, being able to trust people. And both sides seem to agree that it’s needed. And yet they’re arguing as though they are living on different planets.

Why shouldn’t the right-wing admit that screening is a tool, whether it’s for immigration or gun ownership? Why shouldn’t the left-wing admit that, for the same reasons that anti-immigration agendas from the right won’t really do much, gun control isn’t a magic bullet?

Thing is, most of the people support a good screening. You don’t want to go to the doctor and she half-asses the prostate check. Get up in there. Make sure it’s nice and smooth. Maybe get a picture taken, for your social feed. You don’t want to go to the mechanic and she doesn’t change the oil filter, making the new oil just get cruddy double-time. And you don’t want people who aren’t thinking straight just going out and getting guns. You don’t want disturbed refugees to come in and spoil things.

It seems sensible to admit the irony. We need to screen, wherever someone comes from, but with greater scrutiny when they come from a warzone populated by people who might be part of a death cult. And certainly, when someone wants to buy a lethal implement, they should be given a good once-over. If someone wants to borrow your car, you tend to want to know who they are and a few more details like if they can drive, have a license, etc.

Thing is, as far as I can tell the Democrats want to screen refugees, and at least some Republicans want to have better background checks for gun sales. The fact that there are loud arguments seem to be the result of a bunch of idiots. So maybe the real screening needs to be in who we choose to listen to in arguments such as these.

Categories
society

Mass Shootings versus Terrorism

We’ve seen the countless mass shootings occur throughout the country, and we’ve seen the GOP basically shrug, time and again. Their big answer has been more people with more guns. And yet, in responding to the attack in Paris, their tune is very different.

Keep the refugees out. Only let Christians in. Track all Muslims. Troops in Syria. And, of course, at least one suggested that the French should have carried more guns.

Numerous governors, including those whose states have witnessed mass shootings, have said they will refuse to allow Syrian refugees admittance to their states.

What is the deal? Are terrorists’ bullets scarier than mass shooters’? Is it that the terrorists constantly agitate and announce their desires, where we don’t hear about mass shooters until after the fact? Are terrorists more effective than lone shooters?

Honestly, a lot of it seems to come down to ideology over ideology. Terrorists, it is thought by the GOP, are built of terrorist ideology, something that is infectious, something that could spread. They don’t have enough of a grasp on mass shootings to say whether there is any contagion there.

They see a terrorist like they see a weed in the garden. If the weed stays, it will choke off everything, spreading itself. But they see mass shooters as a rabid dog, wandering into the garden, stomping on the flowers, but once you catch it or kill it, it’s contained.

But to someone outside the GOP ideology, this just seems bizarre. You have terrorism here, with these mass shootings, which they won’t lift a finger to stop. But you have these other acts of terrorism, and suddenly they can’t do enough to prevent it. They want to move heaven and earth to stop refugees.

The solutions aren’t really much clearer for dealing with terrorism. But the implementation, who deals with it, and the types of rallying cries the GOP can give differ quite a lot. For example, they could offer free guns to Americans for every Syrian refugee admitted. They haven’t, but I doubt it will take them long.

Dealing with terrorism and refugees will be a job for the military and federal law enforcement organizations. Preventing mass shootings would likely require at least some local intervention, possibly some gun control measures. Anything that burdens gun owners just can’t rouse the same sort of energy from the GOP.

Anyway, I just think it’s an important instance of hypocrisy to keep in mind. The political convenience and inconvenience are very important factors in what happens with an issue, and it just so happens that Americans love guns a lot more than refugees.

Categories
warpath

ISIS versus Al Qaeda

I kept hearing about how ISIS must be the batshittiest of crazy ever (at least of modern pseudo-Islamist terrorist and paramilitary groups) because Al Qaeda, the leading brand, has called them out for being too extreme. Whether this is all in the cynical fun of television news, or whether it is a serious point meant to illustrate just how much batshit these guys have stockpiled is unclear.

I think it’s the latter. I think the media actually trusts Al Qaeda’s judgment on this one. Like listening to the guy with singed eyebrows when he tells you (in a maniacal giggle) not to try to relight that firework, son. Shrug.

The media probably isn’t allowed to admit to itself, much less to the public, that radical groups that survive long enough to acquire the kind of cachet that Al Qaeda has tend to become more legitimate over time.

The biggest single reason is the money. Once they have the money, it becomes hard to justify the same tactics that were driven by lack of funds.

Where you couldn’t afford to buy most black market weapons, with money you can. Where you didn’t care about pissing off non-violent religious groups because they were part of the problem, now you’re trading money with them to try to shape the community influence and culture.

The second reason is that the former leadership was either captured or killed. The second generation, seeing the effectiveness with which the top row got wiped from the slate, doesn’t want to be dead or locked up. In part this is about the organization and their loyalty to it: they know how much internal turmoil and struggle that leadership changes put on an organization. And of course, it’s also self-preservation.

So just for the record, Al Qaeda saying ISIS is a heaping pile of the bat’s previous meals should not only be taken as one extreme group pointing at another, but as one naturally self-legitimizing group that is in fact less extreme than even a few years ago.

Which gets to the second part of the relationship. Groups like ISIS typically break off from groups like Al Qaeda, for the very reason that a group like Al Qaeda will condemn the extremity of a group like ISIS. The minority of a maturing group will wish to continue with the old tactics of utter destruction and murder. And they will feel frustrated, cuckolded by the new fold that the group is gravitating toward.

They see the new regime as a sellout, a slight against what the organization should be. So they split off. Maybe they are more extreme by a bit. Maybe even the earlier form of the originating organization prohibited some behaviors considered too much, and the new group adopts them. Maybe they do things to try to gain recruits away from the original group. They have to have a selling point, of course. So they tend to use the idea, “we’ll jihad the infidels twice as hard as anyone, or your money back.”

But as long as we cannot understand such organizations as a society, we will continue to allow our leaders to understand them badly on our behalf. So we should not buy into hyped up notions of evil or of it being all about religion. We should try to understand why terrorism exists, how it arises and how it passes away.

If you reread this post and insert Tea Party and Republican or some of the newer ecology-minded groups and Greenpeace, or basically any social movement ever (oh, and also replace terrorism/violence with the relevant activities of those groups; small detail, that), you should see the same basic pattern of organizational development at work.

Okay, but what about situations where legitimization does not quell the violent urge? These organizations are typically when the only legitimacy is the violence itself. Slave owners, for example. Dictatorships where the people would obviously change their government but for the force of violence. And so on. They are not entirely legitimate. They are legitimate toward their peers (e.g., other nation-states), but not toward their citizens.

Prison culture often hinges on this facet. If the main understanding of prisoners is that the institution is illegitimate (toward them) and only existing by violence or threat of violence, then prisons will be violent. If the prisoners have respect for law, believe there is a mission of rehabilitation and service to the prison, the violence will be minimized (barring the presence of other violent forces). We also see this in financial institutions (including otherwise legitimate governments faced with the opportunity to sell natural resources to private companies), which often undertake economic violence toward those it feels no need to act legitimately toward (i.e., the poor).

Categories
society

Cult Thinking and Terrorists

Tragic events pain us, and even more so for the failure of media to put them in the proper context. The media fails to educate, to the point they prefer to run with gossip and innuendo to purely educational content to fill dead air.

On some issues they may paint a fair picture, such as when they cover cults. Most of the time the cult harm to society comes in alienation and wasting of resources. The media seldom covers cults unless their harm grows far beyond this basic level, to mass suicide or worse.

But many events we see in the news are intimately related to the sort of cultural relativism needed to understand cults. None more so than terrorism, and the world view that allows for it.

First one should might contrast the reaction to domestic incidents with those that take place overseas. The media tends to barely report terrorist bombings in Iraq, for example. They certainly do not follow any manhunts, seek out family, neighbors, and other acquaintances to interview, and the like.

This itself shows the sort of tribal and cultist worldview. The value difference based purely on nationality or locality becomes essential to terrorism and cults in general. But that value finds itself lacing most any culture.

The feature of the media that stands out as an unanswered question (the media should both ask questions and answer or seek answers to questions): ‘how could terrorists kill the innocent (children, civilians)?’ But worse than media, this sentiment arises from elected officials (which suggests the need for a Constitutional Amendment requiring continuing education for all legislators).

The basic formula of the cult, of terrorists:

  1. The world differs from how you learned to view it (and therefore from how your teachers view it and how their group views it).
  2. There will be calamity unless either most people come to view it correctly.
  3. For peoples’ minds to change, YOU must participate in some activity that you wouldn’t do without our programming.

It’s a little more involved, especially using ego control (using emotional abuse to train the person to become dependent on the cult (and more importantly on fulfillment of their promise) for emotional health), isolation (to prevent opportunities for cognitive dissonance), and other techniques.

The belief that one’s soul hangs upon carrying out a religious/ritualistic promise to the gods, and that not continuing once promised would essentially doom one to hellfire illustrates why many single out religion as a problem. But that can be said equally of any religion that posits the existence of a hell, and pointing to the non-cultist believers as both wrong and faithful simply strengthens the belief.

To understand the act of terror one must unpack the meaning not as it appears to the asker, but to the terrorist or cultist worldview. Ultimately the prevention of terrorism relies upon this sort of thinking. Some measure of terrorist acts may be prevented through law enforcement and military operations. Most terrorism will need to be literally disarmed through cultural actions not violent actions.

But society needs this sort of understanding not just for combating terrorism, but cults, racism, and fascism of all sorts. We need to be taught to unpack our own culture from time to time and recognize the dysfunctional and functional parts. It doesn’t ruin a thing to understand it, yet it seems a part of our culture believes exactly that it does.

Categories
unAmerican

Guantánamo Detainees in Federal Courts

I’ll keep this brief and avoid delving into the actual legal arguments set forth by the majority and minority.

What I would like to address, however, is the dissents demeanor in their opinions. Particularly Justice Scalia, but it applies to C.J. Roberts as well.

First and foremost, Scalia explicitly assumes that the detainees held at Guantánamo Bay are enemies of the United States. But both seem to take a very weird bent with regard to the decision. Namely, they seem to imply that the legal system of the United States of America (the same one that they themselves are in the business of judging the law of) is inadequate, and in fact broken.

Scalia in particular seems to believe granting access to the Federal Courts of the United States of America will inevitably lead to the freedom of men who will immediately return strapped with nuclear arms and blow us all to kingdom come.

Let me say that again with a tad less rhetoric: Scalia believes that the US legal system is crap.

And that’s prominent in his arguing. He does argue the issues too, but, to quote as the NYTimes does:

The nation will live to regret what the court has done today.

I’m sorry, but if the terrorists are this bad, that we must destroy all that we have stood for, then we truly face an enemy from which there is no escape and we might as well all go for ice cream immediately. It’s just that simple. If we cannot stand upon our principles when facing the worst enemies, we have no principles upon which to stand.