Explaining rhetorical questions to professional writers

I suppose rhetorical questions can be confusing to people particularly ones where the person doing the asking already knows the truth of the matter. Why ask a question if the questioner already has an answer? Perhaps to illustrate a point or perhaps in the vain hope of some self reflection.

In the case of gun-owning American libertarians current events in the United States provide an illustration of something people have known for years. The libertarian right is not and never has been opposed to the government using violence against its own people in general and the only people under any illusion about that are gun-owning American libertarians. It is true that they may very well be opposed to government using violence against specific groups of people but certainly not people less wealthy or less politically powerful.

There is no mystery here. There is no doubt or confusion. Simple observation of their behaviour on many issues has confirmed it. To step away from questions of guns for a moment, the position of these “libertarians” on questions of free speech in practice is one we’ve seen illustrated over and over. The libertarian right is very, very concerned about defending the free speech of the far right, racists, neo-nazis and white supremacists (groups they claim to oppose) and but either little interest or active hostility to the free speech of people on the left or even in the centre. There is a deep searing hatred of free speech, free association and freedom of ideas that reveals itself every time among people who claim to be free-speech purists. There is always some rationale why the given person’s speech should be limited.

For your consideration here is the former instigator of Sad Puppies (a protest movement he started because of the horrific oppression he faced in not winning a book award).

“Where are all you gun owners now?”


That’s the title and Larry seems to be under the impression based on his response that is a serious question, that there are people somewhere honestly wondering why the gun-owning libertarian right aren’t suddenly mobilising to defend freedom in response to American governments using violence against their citizens. Nobody is actually wondering where the gun-owning libertarian right are. Everybody ALREADY KNOWS that Larry will side with overt fascism in a conflict because that’s what he always does. Larry here is just a handy example. Nobody expects Larry Correia to step up and fight for freedom because that would pre-suppose he was ever in favour of freedom in general (as opposed to freedoms for himself or his mates).

“Well, every single gun nut in America has spent their entire adult life being continually mocked, insulted, and belittled by the left. You’ve done nothing but paint us as the bad guys.”

And there you go. Larry literally wouldn’t fight against actual Nazis or fascists or authoritarian governments and not really because the left have been mean to gun owners but because his beliefs and interests, while different, align with them. Aside from anything else the line of argument he is attempting here (that he’ll only defend freedom if people are nice to him) is overtly stating that his belief in freedom is deeply conditional: he’ll defend the ‘freedom’ of people who he likes. The same is true about his concern for the ‘free speech’ of the more overtly authoritarian right: he defends them because he likes them, which is simply the corollary of his stated argument.

The gun nuts? Yes, they are part of exactly the same set of beliefs and attitudes about the use of deadly force against a section of Americans that people are protesting against. The militarised police and the militarised right are not two utterly distinct ideologies but instances of deeply related ideas about the use of guns or deadly force to attempt to control society. There are differences of course, as you will find in any political ideology but not differences so great that the fundamental commonality is not apparent. Heck, as we saw in the anti-lockdown protests, the “libertarians” even try to dress the same as an occupying military force.

So no, nobody is even remotely expecting the likes of Larry Correia to actually defend the principles of liberty and if people are asking “where are all you gun owners now” they already know the answer.

The Virus, The Lockdown and the Wingnut Eschatology

A post really wasn’t coming together on all this stuff on the anti-lockdown ‘movement’ among the US right. However, I wanted a bunch of links in one place to come back to later. The whys and the hows and whos and how it all connects to money, oil and denial is sort of there. I intended just a list of links but you get a rambling post instead. Somehow Jonestown and the Last Jedi get connected in here. More after the fold.

Continue reading “The Virus, The Lockdown and the Wingnut Eschatology”

The Gun Lobby

The big story in Australia currently is the undercover video of senior members of the far right anti-immigration party One Nation attempting to gain money from pro-gun lobbyists. In a distinctly Australian twist, their defense has been that they were drunk at the time: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/mar/26/one-nations-james-ashby-says-he-was-on-the-sauce-when-seeking-20m-from-nra

I was a bit wary of the story initially, as it was presented as a kind of video ‘sting’ operation. That sounded too reminiscent of the antics of James O’Keefe in the US whose MO is to create highly edited video of meetings with people form organisations that the right is targeting. However, there’s a lot more to the story.

An Australian journalist working for Al Jazeera spent three years undercover within the world of pro-gun campaigners. Rodger Muller established a fake Australian gun rights group and with little more than videos and a website became seen as a minor but important broker between US gun organisations and Australia. The full Al Jazeera story is here: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/sell-massacre-nra-playbook-revealed-190325111828105.html

Australian TV has been running the in-depth investigation over two nights on the ABC and it has been fascinating (part two is tonight). The political fallout is not large currently — One Nation didn’t receive any money and it appears that as far as their attempt at a deal with the NRA went it wasn’t sufficient to break electoral law. The scandal is unlikely to lose One Nation any votes but it is helping to denormalise the extremist party and it makes it harder for the Liberal Party to be seen to be co-operating with them. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/mar/27/pauline-hanson-to-take-action-over-james-ashby-and-steve-dickson-but-not-yet

Pauline Hanson herself, the unlikely personality at the heart of One Nation’s cult of personality, was also captured spreading conspiracy mongering about the infamous Port Arthur massacre — the 1996 mass shooting that led to Australia adopting stricter gun laws: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/pauline-hanson-appears-to-question-port-arthur-massacre-in-video-20190327-p518a6.html

In the wake of the Christchurch murders, the issues of both guns and anti-immigrant extremism and Islamophobia have become more prominent in Australian politics. People are very aware that the shooter was an Australian but also that he could only access the weapons he used in New Zealand. The gun lobby in Australia is not high profile but they spend large amounts of money attempting to influence politicians to soften gun laws:

“Australians may be surprised to discover the gun lobby in Australia rivals the NRA in size and spending, according to Australia Institute research commissioned by Gun Control Australia.”


A key strategy is access to right wing minor parties who lack both cash and ethics. Such parties are unlikely to ever form government at either state or federal level but they often have a few seats in upper senate-like chambers of parliament (either state or federally) to either hold the balance of power or be influential in helping controversial legislation through.

Lastly, doubling back to question of journalist ethics, there’s a longer discussion about that aspect here: https://theconversation.com/did-al-jazeeras-undercover-investigation-into-one-nation-overstep-the-mark-114288

Anti-Gun Control Arguments Haven’t Become Any Smarter or More Honest

Dishonesty remains at the core of anti-gun control arguments and I note that regardless of evidence, shifting policies, or gun control experiments in countries other than the US, these arguments have barely shifted in decades.

Here’s the failed Sad Puppies 5 leader Sarah Hoyt https://web.archive.org/web/20180221173128/https://accordingtohoyt.com/2018/02/21/your-most-basic-right/

Here’s a summary of the arguments deployed:

Self Defence: Hoyt starts with claiming a fundamental right to self-defence. That’s a good start, as at least that is common ground. She trips over it almost straight away.

“So while it’s illegal to attack you, the criminal will still do it, and if you don’t have the right to defend yourself (as is true in many places in Europe) then you’re devolving to the criminals having power of life and death over law abiding citizens. This is a recipe for the law to become dead letter and for everyone ignoring it.”

The argument is posed as if X occurs then Y will happen. If there is no right to self-defence, Hoyt claims then effectively the end of the rule of law will happen. She also claims that in many places in Europe there is no right to self-defence. Where? Because that would be a simple test of her argument. Point out these countries that have no right to self-defence and we can all go see how everyone is now ignoring the law in general.

She doesn’t mention a single one. Nor is it clear which European nation has everyone ignoring the law.

Of course, she also wants to connect this to gun control. The UK has strict gun control, arguably the strictest gun control in Europe. And yet:

Armed population are a defence against tyranny: there is little evidence for this being true and substantial evidence that it is false. Authoritarian governments do not tend to first act against guns but rather tend to first act against ways for people to organise. Free trade unions are a common target, open communication is another. Tyrannical regimes may enact gun control but not more so then non-tyrannical regimes because…most countries enact some kind of gun control.

But more relevant is this claim runs counter to a later argument: criminals will get guns or other arms one way or another anyway.

Lawbreakers will still have guns: Hoyt says:

“Because it makes killing easier, criminals and psychopaths will have it. They will have guns, regardless of what the law says.”

Yet that hardly means it should be made easy for them. A determined burglar can break into your house but that doesn’t mean you should leave your front door open. Making life harder for criminals to commit crimes is how laws work. Few laws prevent all cases of a crime and this kind of fatalism applied across the board really would lead to the law becoming a dead letter with everyone ignoring it.

Of course, Hoyt has forgotten that she thinks actual determined people fighting a tyranny somehow WON’T people to break the law and get guns.

A gun is just a tool: True and tools make it easier for a person to do a thing. Printing presses are tools and the development of printing presses and their spread led to more books and more literacy. Computers are tools and have led to profound social change. Sure, without printing presses people still found ways to make books but precisely because it was harder there were fewer of them. Likewise, without spreadsheets people would still do accounting or statistics but the tools we have make it easier. A gun is a tool that makes killing people EASIER. Hoyt does recognise that guns make killing people easier and then ignores that point.

Note that this argument runs directly counter to the necessary for self-defence argument and the armed population argument. If a determined person will easily use ‘a shoe, my handbag, or the handle to my office door’ to serve the same purpose as a gun then what need does anybody have for a gun?

This argument is part of Schrodinger’s gun – when a gun is both a magical talisman that enables the rule of law and wards of tyranny and yet also a dumb lump of metal easily replaced with a well-aimed shoe.

You can be confident that a person who advances such arguments does so with NO sincerity. To advance these Schrodinger’s gun argument implies that the argument is offered in bad faith.

Gun control is stupid: Hoyt starts struggling:

“The only people who believe that the way to prevent violence is to disarm the law abiding people and leave them at the mercy of psychopaths are children and idiots. “

Children, idiots and a wide range of people on the left and right in most nations of the world. In the English speaking world, in countries with many cultural connections with the US, major gun control measures have been enacted by CONSERVATIVES.

Stalin! The arguments come closer to gibbering at this point. I don’t know how Hoyt thinks the Bolshevik’s came to power but I’m quite certain she doesn’t believe that Lenin and Trotsky were just fine & lovely and Stalin betrayed the revolution. The Bolshevik Red Guard were armed paramilitaries who toppled the Provisional Government. Lenin took power using literally MILITIAS of armed citizens to depose a more democratic (if deeply flawed) government.

Private militias do not have a great track record when it comes to the rule-of-law versus tyranny. There are many exceptions but a list of people who had their own armed militias BEFORE they took over the state includes these chaps:

  • Pol Pot
  • Mao
  • Lenin (and as a subordinate Stalin)
  • Hitler

On the plus side, there are examples of people’s militia’s fighting for freedom against tyrannical governments or against military dictators (or wannabe military dictators) but even these EXCEPTIONS tend to not be groups that Hoyt would like (e.g. the paramilitary wing of the ANC or the Sandinistas). In zero cases, do we have nations maintaining significant private paramilitary forces during periods of democratic stability with rule of law. Private guns are not a prophylactic defence of freedom.

Gibber, gibber, SOROS!: Seriously.

Australian Gun Laws – Did they Work? (spolier: yes they did)

University of Sydney academic Professor Simon Chapman is the lead author of a study that has examined the impact of the late 1990’s tightening of Australian gun laws. The Liberal government of the time (for ‘liberal’ read ‘conservative’) enacted tougher gun laws in response to the Port Arthur mass shooting in Tasmania. Australia’s gun laws did not become as strict as the UK’s and the emphasis was on  guns that could be used in mass shootings and a general reduction in gun availability.

So what happened? The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association here: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2530362 [abstract is directly avaialble but I think it is possible to get the full article by a free sign-up]

There is also an editorial in the same edition of the journal here: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2530361

What is most clear from the current study is that Australia’s NFA coincided with an elimination of mass killings with firearms. It is difficult to pinpoint precisely which aspect of the policy contributed to this success, but the substantial reduction in the population’s exposure to semiautomatic long guns capable of accepting large-capacity magazines (LCMs) for ammunition is likely to have been key. Examinations of fatal mass shootings in the United States have found that when assault weapons or pistols with LCMs are used in these shootings, the number of victims shot is about 2.5 times higher than in mass shootings with other firearms.7,8

The study is particularly interesting because it aims to disentangle the effect of the gun law changes from other brother shifts – for example  the trend in many developing nations of declines in homicide that occurred anyway. It also shows that the laws had an impact on suicide and importantly, shows that banning some kinds of weapons does not just lead to shift to still-legal weapons with no resulting decline in mass-killings or suicides. Instead a selective ban and gun buy-back schemes does seem to have resulted in a net reduction in deaths.

From a Guardian news article on the study:

The lead author of the study, Professor Simon Chapman, said a similar study had been conducted 10 years ago, and that the researchers had repeated it to see if gun-related deaths were continuing to decline, finding that they had.

“I’ve calculated that for every person in Australia shot in a massacre, 139 [people] are shot through firearm-related suicide or homicides, so they are much more common,” Chapman said.

“We found that homicide and suicide firearms deaths had been falling before the reforms, but the rate of the fall accelerated for both of them after the reforms. We’ve shown that a major policy intervention designed to stop mass shootings has had an effect on other gun-related deaths as well.”

He said the researchers had chosen to publish the results in an American medical journal not just because the title was a prestigious one, but also because the findings would have a greater impact.

However, he does not believe the findings will have an impact on gun ownership laws in the US.

“The US is a good example of where evidence is going to take longer to prevail over fear and ideology,” he said.

“When people like [Republican candidate] Donald Trump talk about gun violence, he’s essentially not talking about the facts or the evidence, he’s talking about ideology and saying people want the right to protect themselves and their homes.

“The irony is the person you have to protect yourself most from in a home is the person who owns the gun.”

Chapman said more than half of those who had conducted mass shootings in Australia and New Zealand had been licensed gun holders.

Timothy retells Dune

[From the pen of Timothy the Talking Cat]
So one of those filers who Camestros let’s comment here seems to think that Dune is too lefty for a cat like me. Pish tosh and piffle. Dune is the best, better than sjwalwayslieaboutstuff by Vax Poopli but about the same stuff plus spaceships and sandsnakes.

Let me tell you about Dune…😸
Dune or The Tragedy of the Fall of the House Harkonen caused by Evil Leftyfeministspacemuslims.

Once upon a time there was a great family called Harkonen (or something like that ). They were great at business and created lots of wealth which made everybody in the galaxy richer. They would always help out the emepror even though he was a whiny RINO Mitt Romney sort of guy. The big dad Harkonen was the Donald Trump of the Galaxy. He was huuggge. He had a super handsome son who looked like Sting when he was still cool and not banging on about saving the rainforest.

Now there was this posh elitist liberal progressive family called the Artyfarties. They like super sucked at making money. The dad was a real wimp and the mum was in some sort of feminist cult. The son looked like the crazy guy in Agents of Shield but younger and more wimpy. The kid Artyfarties thought he was so much smarter than everybody but was a big wimp.

Now Boss Harkonen took pity on the Artyfarties. Big mistake! But he had a kind heart and he hated to see the Artyfarties suck so badly at businessing. So Boss Harkonen says to Dad Artyfarties: “You can run this planet for me. It is the only place you get Old Spice Magic which makes people young and makes spaceships run. It’s a classic monopoly, you can’t go wrong. Just don’t screw it up!”

So the Artyfarties go to Tatooine and start running the Old Spice. Magic racket but they immediately start messing things up with stupid liberal ideas. They start filling everybody’s head with “equality” and “social justice”. They also make friends with an ” ecologist” I.e. some sort of greeny agitator who is probably all “rights for sandsnakes” and stuff. You know the type.

Soon the whole Old Spice trade is all skew-wiff messed up like Democrats running City Hall. The Emperor is like “WTF Boss Harkonen?” And Boss Harkonen says ” Sorry Emperor, it’s that waste of space sh!tstain Dad Artyfarties. He couldn’t run a eyetinting clinic in a melange factory” which was the space way of saying “a piss up in a brewery”.

So the Emperor tells the Harkonens to boot the Artyfarties off Tatooine tootsweet.

Meanwhile Kid Artyfarties was being indoctrinated into his mum’s feminist cult. They have been waiting for a chosen one called the KitKat Paddywhack. Just then the Harkonens send in the baliffs to evict the Artyfarties but the Artyfarties go all psycho and start shooting (because, I guess gun control is for the little people). The Harkonens shoot back in self defence and sadly all the Artyfarties die.

Except.. Kid Artyfarties escapes arrest and goes and hides out in the desert with spacemuslims. Kid Artyfarties then takes lots of drugs and gets demonic powers. ” I’m the KitKat Paddywhack! ” he says and starts his evil plan.

He gangs up with the spacemuslims and the spacefeminists and the SJWs and the PEETA sandsnakes and the liberal elites and probably the lamestream media and Racheal Maddow and Space George Soros and launches a terrorist attack on the Harkonens because he is an ungrateful brat and a big loser. Then he stabs Sting Harkonen in the back by distracting him with a bad cover version of *Walking on the Moon”. Then he takes over the universe as KitKat Paddywhack.

The moral of the story is: if you give a liberal an inch then they double down and ruin your Old Spice franchise. Dune is a dystyopian vision of leftism run amuck.

Weird Internet Ideas: The NRA and Terrorism Follow Up

A follow up to this post. There is an article here at the New Republic website on an act in the US Congress called H.R.1076 – Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015.


Amends the federal criminal code to grant the Attorney General the authority to deny the transfer of firearms or the issuance of a federal firearms and explosives license to any individual if the Attorney General: (1) determines that such individual has been engaged in or has provided material support or resources for terrorist activities, and (2) has a reasonable belief that such individual may use a firearm or explosive in connection with terrorism. Allows any individual whose firearm or explosives license application has been denied to bring legal action challenging the denial.

Prohibits the sale or distribution of firearms or explosives to any individual whom the Attorney General has determined to be engaged in terrorist activities.

Permits the Attorney General to withhold information in firearms and explosives license denial revocation suits if the Attorney General determines that the disclosure of such information would likely compromise national security.

Authorizes the Attorney General to revoke firearms and explosives licenses and permits held by individuals determined to be engaged in terrorism.

Guess who is opposing it?
Did you guess terrorists and those who support terrorists? Ok, you are probably right. Did you guess the NRA? Well done – you’ve got the right level of cynicism about their motives.

Wierd Internet Ideas: The NRA and terrorism

In the wake of the tragedy in Paris comes the analysis. Of course people will see any major event through the lens of their own understanding of the world but unfortunately the murders in France also coincide with the height of campaigning for the US Republican Party primaries. Consequently as well comments that are wrong but at least relevant, we also have to put up with comments that are attempts to shoe-horn US political obsessions into world politics.

No clearer example of this is Donald Trump who said:

“You can say what you want, but if they had guns — if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry — it would have been a much, much different situation,”

There are layers of wrong there, both in his previous characterization of France having particularly strong gun control laws (much less strong than the UK), whether people carrying guns would have helped any (probably not) and whether more lax gun laws would not have contributed a greater number of deaths overall from other causes (probably so). [As an aside: There is an odd tendency I’ve noted from various parts of the right (not just in the US) to see France as a stand-in for Europe and European attitudes and hence any sort of vague difference between Europe and the US is assumed to be greatest in France. In reality France can be more nationalistic than the US, less committed to multiculturalism than the US, less permissive in some aspects of social policy than other parts of Europe, less strict on guns than the UK, less social-democratic than Scandinavian countries etc etc.]

I’m tempted to say that of all the many issues that have a bearing on the tragedy in France US gun control politics (typically a less partisan and less volatile issue in other nations) has zero to do with international terrorism. However, that isn’t entirely true. The connection though isn’t the Die Hard fantasies of open-carry advocates who imagine that they will leap to the rescue and single-handedly save the day from suicide bombers, but with the organizations that underpins much of the vehemence of US guns politics: the NRA.

Continue reading “Wierd Internet Ideas: The NRA and terrorism”