Category Archives: Ethics

BradyWatch: sketchy charity alert

The Brady Campaign fails 6 out of the Better Business Bureau’s 20 standards for Charity Accountability.

In conflicts of vision, temperament wins the day

I’m pretty frustrated with my side right now. There’s been an epic blog war brewing between UK gun-controller James Kelly and pro-gun bloggers, many from Kevin Baker’s The Smallest Minority, which I joined. It started normally enough. Here were James’ two fundamental positions:

  1. Regardless of the actual trends in crime or gun violence, less gun control and more guns would have worsened them. Therefore, even if gun crime rises after additional gun control is passed, it is reasonable to assume that it would have risen faster had the laws not been passed.
  2. Handguns (and guns in general) are useless luxury items because of their intended purpose to injure or kill. Banning them hurts nobody and helps everybody.

Argument number 1 is unprovable. For example, if you ban guns and gun crime goes up, how do you measure the effectiveness of the gun ban? It may be true that crime would have risen faster if not for the ban, but that is an unknowable belief, and quite a poor basis for concrete social policy.

Argument 2 is easily disprovable through simple logical examples; e.g. if handguns are useless, why do police officers carry them? And if they’re useful for police officers, what makes them useless the moment they change hands to a private citizen?

I tried my best to engage Mr. Kelly in reasoned arguments such as these, and we had quite a spirited debate going on. I was even complimented:

Nate has been debating with me in a very measured way on the issue of gun control over recent threads,

[…]

Now again, to be fair to Nate, this is a model of impeccably measured debating compared to what I’ve experienced from many (probably the majority) of Kevin’s disciples.

Unfortunately, Mr. Kelly’s blog was pretty quickly enveloped by pro-gun bloggers who behaved, quite frankly, like tools. Rather than arguing in a civil manner, many of them were content to add such debate-advancing tidbits as the following:

Of course I don’t think James was being honest with me when he gave his answer. Just like he isn’t being honest now.

[…]

But hey, feel free to keep denying plain reality. You’ll continue to be proven wrong.

[…]

BTW Whining and crying amuse me, so keep that bit up!

[…]

Wow, you’re dazzling me with your intellect Mr. Kelly! Bravo.

[…]

Just try to stop demanding that we join you in your self-inflicted cess-pool, k?

When you start throwing around things like these, you’ve lost. No matter how disingenuous, offensive, or irritating your opponent may be, you can’t sink to his level. And in this case, Mr. Kelly was a good deal more level-headed than most of the commenters and that means he won.

Those two fundamental arguments James made regarding guns? There was little to be gained in debating them, because this debate isn’t really about guns; it’s about what kind of society we want to live in; one where we’re responsible for ourselves, or everyone around us.

James was being honest when he repeatedly said that statistics wouldn’t faze him. Because the truth is, when it comes to conflicts of visions like individualism vs collectivism, it’s not about the facts. Each of us arrive at our conclusions due to intensely personal and emotional events, and we only later dig up facts to support our views.

For example, I was turned from collectivism to individualism during several years’ worth of disastrous college experiences in communal living and unpleasant but forced interactions with a sociopathic collectivist. My faith in my new beliefs was further reinforced by enrollment in several economics courses, and when I landed a good job that earned me more money than my friends, I was dismayed by their jealousy and resentment. Then I bought my first gun, and things snowballed from there.

You could show me all the facts in the world that individualism and gun ownership make society unsafe and I still wouldn’t be convinced that human freedom is worth curtailing. Just as we tried bombarding Mr. Kelly with facts showing that his favored restrictions were the culprit of the UK’s rising crime wave, it didn’t make a difference to him. I can’t blame him for this because we all do the same.

I did argue with statistics, true. I did engage James on his gun arguments. But I remained civil while doing it. Because in debates of this nature where worldviews collide, facts are pretty irrelevant. Temperament is what wins the day. And by yelling, “No, my facts disprove your worldview, you cowardly fool!”, my side lost, and that’s very sad to me.

This is actually pretty brilliant

Another one hit out of the park from my favorite webcomic, SMBC:

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