We talk (a lot) here on TTAG about the Left and the Right here on TTAG. And to be fair, there’s some debate on how far right or left any given public figure, reporter, or commenter might be. But the thing about it is that where hearts and minds are changed is in the center. And exactly where that center is located is a question for some serious debate.
There’s a classic story about three blind men feeling an elephant. One says “It feels like a rope.” Another opines, “No…it feels like a wall.” The third says, “You’re both wrong – it feels like a firehose.” Thing is, no matter what they report, it all depends on their perspective as to what they report.
The TTAG Intrepid Reporters club met with Fearless Leader last night for a really nice dinner (thanks, RF!) and a chin wag on topics gun-related. One of the topics that came up concerned why the public is generally politically and Constitutionally deaf regarding gun laws.
RF asked our waitress, “Do you know what the 2nd Amendment says?” She didn’t. (But she did use a lifeline and ask a friend to get the right answer.) In fairness, she also thought there were 20 Amendments in the Bill of Rights, and was only able to correctly identify the right protected in the First Amendment.
Sadly, her response is typical of your average American. And you can wonder how anybody form an opinion on anything, if they know nothing about our government, current events, and important issues.
Bottom line: it’s the media that performs the function in society that informs the public about the issues du jour. But what happens when the media goes from reporting the news to editorializing on the news? Simply put, the public goes from being told what’s happening to being told what to think. And that’s dangerous in a number of ways.
Turns out, your perceptions of what’s normal is largely dictated by the input you receive. Certain input influences you more than others, for instance as a child, it’s likely that your parents will have more influence over how you form opinions than something you hear from a friend. But as adults, it’s the totality of the input we hear and see that pulls us in one direction or another.
So what does this have to do with guns? Plenty. Back when our country was founded, if you’d tried to limit the number of guns you could buy in a given month, or tried to pass a law limiting the number of musket balls you could keep on hand for your flintlock, the general populace would have looked at you as if you’d gone mad.
Today, there’s some strong evidence that a government background check on a person who wants to purchase a firearm does not have any significant effect on gun violence. In other words, the number of people denied a gun or arrested for trying to purchase a gun when they don’t qualify is statistically insignificant.
So why do it? (Hint: because it makes people feel as if the government is Doing Something To Address The Problem.)
If you ask the average bear on the street about background checks, I’d wager that even the most conservatie of gun owners would say “well…as long as they aren’t too invasive, I guess they’re okay.” Conversely, if you asked people “if it’s true that background checks do nothing to deter gun violence, would you be in favor of scrapping the entire system?”
I’d bet most people would argue that background checks are a good thing. Why? Because it feels right and logical. Why is that true? I’d argue that it’s because it’s what they’ve come to accept as the truth, because it’s what they’ve had drummed into their heads by the media.
Public opinion is largely a product of (or victim of) groupthink. And anybody challenging the conventional “wisdom” faces an uphill battle, when they try to buck that trend. The problem with relying on conventional wisdom and public opinion, is that it’s too easily swayed (over time, that is) and bears little connection with logic, reason, and statistical fact. Yet, it’s the center that determines the course of the country.
If you’re a regular TTAG reader, you’re used to reading lively debate, for we welcome the opportunity for all to comment on any given story, and we do our best to allow all viewpoints to be heard. But we freely admit that, while our goal is to tell the Truth About Guns, we’re human. And as such, we’re subject to the same human nature that affects/afflicts the rest of humanity.
So what’s the answer? Try this: Take nothing for granted. Challenge your Premises (regularly!). Question Authority. Ask Questions. And here’s the biggie: THINK FOR YOURSELF.