American Culture

Cat Scratch Fever Trumps the Red Dots Everytime…

CNN is running a couple of “opposing voices” on the subject of 2nd Amendement rights as exclusives on their web site. One is by Tom Plate, “former editor of the editorial pages at the Los Angeles Times and currently a professor of communication and policy studies at UCLA.”

The other is by Ted Nugent. “Rock guitarist Ted Nugent has sold more than 30 million albums. He’s also a gun rights activist and serves on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association.”

If you knew nothing about Ted, you could guess which side he’s on by reading through a short list of his album titles: Dog Eat Dog, Weekend Warriors, Free-for-All, Penetrator, and one would be remiss if one failed to mention If You Can’t Lick’Em…Lick ‘Em.

Tom Plate makes a reasonable argument that suggests that reducing the number of firearms in America would reduce the number of gun crimes in America:

When the great pop composer and legendary member of the Beatles John Lennon was shot in 1980 in New York, many in the foreign press tabbed it a war on celebrities. Now, some in the media will declare a war on students or some-such. This is all misplaced. The correct target of our concern needs to be guns. America has more than it can possibly handle. How many can our society handle? My opinion is: as close to zero as possible.

He then relates a personal anecdote about being robbed (only a month ago) and the feeling of dread he felt as his attacker aimed a weapon with a laser sight at his head. That’s the “red dot” I reference in the title.

How did he react?

Because I’m anything but a James Bond type, I quickly complied with all of his requests. Perhaps because of my rapid response (it is called surrender), he chose not to shoot me; but he just as easily could have. What was to stop him?

This occurred in Beverly Hills, a low-crime area dotted with upscale boutiques, restaurants and businesses — a city best known perhaps for its glamour and celebrity sightings.

He concludes:

Basically the only thing I saw or can remember was the gun, with the red dot, pointed right at my head.

A near-death experience does focus the mind. We need to get rid of our guns.

Ted Nugent first offers us anecdote after anecdote (five in all) of “good citizens” who either a)went and got or b) pulled their legally owned weapons and took down someone engaged in a gun crime.

Ted thinks that any attempt to limit of his constitutional, nay, “God-given” right to carry heat is an offense that borders on the ludicrous:

Thirty-two people dead on a U.S. college campus pursuing their American Dream, mowed-down over an extended period of time by a lone, non-American gunman in possession of a firearm on campus in defiance of a zero-tolerance gun ban. Feel better yet? Didn’t think so.

Who doesn’t get this? Who has the audacity to demand unarmed helplessness? Who likes dead good guys?

I’ll tell you who. People who tramp on the Second Amendment, that’s who. People who refuse to accept the self-evident truth that free people have the God-given right to keep and bear arms, to defend themselves and their loved ones. People who are so desperate in their drive to control others, so mindless in their denial that they pretend access to gas causes arson, Ryder trucks and fertilizer cause terrorism, water causes drowning, forks and spoons cause obesity, dialing 911 will somehow save your life, and that their greedy clamoring to “feel good” is more important than admitting that armed citizens are much better equipped to stop evil than unarmed, helpless ones.

Most of what Ted says, of course, is either arguing the point, ad hominem attacks on his opponents, or appeals to emotion. In a rhetorical match, Plate would win because his argument is sounder.

But I’d be willing to bet that for most Americans, Nugent’s rant appeals more. We’re a nation addicted to what Aldous Huxley called “the feelies.” And right now, in the wake of Monday’s tragedy at Virginia Tech, what Jean Shepherd would call an “oiled, cold steel beauty” would feel really comforting to most folks. Our “Cat Scratch Fever” might make us all want to give the bad guys red dots….

6 replies »

  1. Yes, but: if I’m the guy at CNN charged with staging a “debate” on the issue, how would I have gone about it?

    I might have sought out an “anti” spokesperson who was a bit tougher – admitting that you “surrendered” and leaving the reader with the impression that you nearly wet your pants, well, that’s not so good. That just reinforces the stereotype that gun control folks are pussies.

    But somebody like Nugent, a rampaging blowhard who couldn’t parse a statistic if it was crawling fangs-first down his man-thong, that actually isn’t a bad job of “show, don’t tell.” It’s like when the Clinton administration needed a clincher on NAFTA – they set up the anti-NAFTA crowd by presenting Ross Perot as a credible voice, got him on Larry King, controlled the staging (down to the decision to have Gore sitting behind him, looking regally down on his hillbilly ass), and stomped the shizzle out of him. (Never mind that Ross was probably right about a few things…)

    So it comes down to this. CNN wants a debate on the issue. It gives us a smart, well-informed pussy and a wingnut with Viagra poisoning.

    Thereby validating my expectations of them. God Bless the Free Press.

  2. It’s all about fear. If you batten people on fear, they’ll believe any damn thing. In fact, getting a gun puts you in greater statistical danger. A gun kept in a home is 43 times more likely to kill a member of the household or a friend than an intruder, and households with guns are 2.7 times more likely to suffer a murder than households without guns. And if you prefer anecdotes, as Nugent does, there are plenty of counteranecdotes, like the story of surgeon Kim Fang in suburban San Francisco, who shot and killed a burglar and was shot and killed in return; without Fang’s gun, he would have lost some jewelry and cash, not his life.

    Also, I strongly agree with you, Sam, that the sensation-seeking media

  3. Robert,

    I come at this with a measure of ambivalence. For starters, I’m a gun owner who grew up with and around guns. I’m not afraid of them when they’re in responsible hands, although I certainly understand that “when” is the operational word in that sentence.

    As a guy with multiple degrees in things language related, I’ve also always been incredibly suspicious of those who argue some variation of the “militia” argument in suggesting that the founders never intended the 2A to assure private ownership. As best I can tell, that’s EXACTLY what they meant. Of course, the rub is that our constitution is a document that was written for life in an era that’s long dead. Many of the assumptions on which it’s built have changed (and some were in error to start with). In this case, their sense of what gun ownership and militia meant was what it was, but we have since evolved into a society where assumptions about the relationship of private citizen to “militia” have changed dramatically. I mean, what the hell is a militia in our present world, anyway?

    So I think the argument you end with here is closer to my perspective. If we want to argue that private ownership is a bad idea, then let’s address that point on its own terms. The mechanisms by which we might amend the Constitution are clearly spelled out. But let’s not waste time arguing that the framers didn’t mean what they said. The 2A is an example of bad writing, to be sure, but it seems to me that a gun in every patriotic home was pretty much precisely what they had in mind.

    Whatever we’re going to do, I wish we’d get it sorted out. I’m not comforted when I find myself agreeing with Ted Nugent. I loved FREE FOR ALL, but found nothing in it to suggest that he was somebody to turn to for policy guidance.

  4. I’ve been running through my New English Bible looking for the chapter and verse about God and gun rights. Anybody got a page citation?

    Oh, no, wait: I’ve got it. The problem is apparently something that has been mistranslated over the ages. The corrected text is:

    “I am the Lord thy Gun; thou shalt not have other gods before me.”

  5. I think you misquoted felixwas – I think the verse says, “…thou shalt have no other GUNS before me.”

    I’ll have to check my NRA edition of the Bible, of course….

  6. A few years back I overheard a couple of ladies in a post office talking about Nugent. One had seen him on a hunting show and was surprised to find he was such a “clean cut” man, not like most of those rock ‘n’ roll types. All you have to do is say you like shooting animals for fun and half of the country is convinced you’re a good person.

    I so wanted to sing “I made her pussy purr with a stroke of my hand.”