Anyone remember Chariots of the Gods? The runaway bestseller suggested that Earth had been visited by “ancient astronauts” (astronauts who visited Earth a while back, not old aliens, although who knows how you date an ancient astronaut and what color roses they prefer). Swiss author and hotelier Eric von Däniken hypothesized – heavily – that aliens had blessed humanity with advanced technology. Chariots attributed various “mysteries” (e.g., the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge and Easter Island’s Maoi) to these strange visitors from another planet. The theory sparked the imaginations of millions. Unfortunately for the author . . .
Swiss authorities weren’t as impressed with Mr. von Däniken’s hotel management skills. Specifically his tendency to siphon-off money from his employer to fund his “research.” Mr. von Däniken wrote the sequel Gods from Outer Space from inside prison. That tome also sold millions of copies, despite the fact that von Däniken’s theories were not only half-baked, they were fraudulent.
I remember watching a NOVA documentary debunking Chariots. In a particularly telling sequence, the public TV researchers tracked-down the Mexican artisan who created one of the mysterious objects in von Däniken’s book: a rock with an engraving of what certainly looked like an ancient astronaut. The artisan identified Mr. von Däniken as his patron. Oops.
People entranced by Chariots of the Gods? swept aside questions of authenticity. That object may not be proof that ancient astronauts stopped by our solar system to share some nifty science stuff and found a religion or two, but how do you explain Easter Island, huh? NOVA did that one too. Yes, well, even if there’s just one example of ancient astronauts, then there were ancient astronauts.
Does that sound familiar? “If a gun control law saves just one life it’s worth it!” Proponents of civilian disarmament use that statement as a shield against the mountain of evidence against their position. Assuming we’re talking about laws that attempt to prevent firearms-related crime, rather than laws that punish bad guys for using a firearm in the commission of a crime, it’s no less pseudo-scientific than Chariots of the Gods? How do you know a gun control law saved anyone’s life?
You can’t. How can a scientific study ascertain how many people didn’t commit a firearms-related crime because it was too hard to get a gun? Sure, biased researchers might unearth a few bad guys who’d make that statement. But then there are plenty of people who claim to have seen Yeti, too. At the same time, gun control advocates who rely on the “one life saved” justification for gun control singularly, spectacularly fail to take account of the scientific data on lives saved by a lack of gun control.
With apologies to Stevie Wonder, humans have a natural desire to believe in things that they don’t understand. To be fair, some people on the other side of the gun “debate” – Americans who seek to defend and extend their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms – are also superstitious. There’s a strong tendency amongst gun rights supporters to believe that there’s a vast, secret and coordinated campaign to deprive them of their guns and gun rights.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got no problem with the “vast” part of that equation. God knows there are plenty of powerful proponents of civilian disarmament in this great nation of ours, looking to “sell” the idea of gun control. From legions of left-leaning journalists who fill the airwaves with anti-gun agitprop, to regiments of right-leaning politicians who pay lip service to the Second Amendment even as they undermine it, our society is infested with antis.
And yes, these once and future gun grabbers coordinate with each other. Mayor Bloomberg’s recent purchase of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Americans for Responsible Solutions’ political action committee campaign for pro-gun control pols, the Violence Policy Center’s relentless spoon-feeding of “stories” to supportive journalists – proof positive that the antis are working with each other to deprive Americans of their gun rights.
But secret they are not. All of these groups are out there, in public, doing the disarmament thing. You can see them in the mainstream media and watch them perpetuating defenselessness in legislative chambers. Even the infrequently mentioned Joyce Foundation has a web page outlining their gun control agenda.
So why do gun rights advocates believe there are huge, hidden forces at work? You know: the DHS is buying up all the ammo to stop Americans from having any gun food. The United Nations’ blue-helmeted goons are coming for our guns. George Soros bought the Freedom Group to shut it down. The DHS is preparing internment camps for gun owners. Google biased its search engine to “hide” the Second Amendment from web searches.
The answer: gun ownership can tap into and inspire a near-religious devotion to the cause of freedom and liberty. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; clinging to your guns and your religion is an excellent survival strategy. But this dedication can go over the line into paranormal paranoia, creating a need for a seemingly superhuman opposing force. Gun rights groups seeking public funding do nothing to temper this tendency and much to stimulate it.
I reckon its better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Or, if you prefer, it’s better to fight the devil that exists than to take on the devil that doesn’t. That said, Chariots of the Gods? inspired enormous popular interest in history, archaeology and space travel. If conspiracy theories inspire Americans to get off their asses and guard their right to keep and bear arms, I’m OK with it. Meanwhile, here’s my question for Google: how can you complain about Chinese censorship and bar firearms websites from AdWords?