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The Social Justice Foundation publishes something called ‘Pacific Standard.’ And ‘Pacific Standard’ has published a post called What Guns Do To Our State of Mind By Dartmouth cultural anthropologist Chelsey Kivland.

It’s absolutely everything you’d expect from the Social Justice Foundation with a soupçon of irrational mysticism thrown in just for fun. In looking at “gun violence” in the Caribbean basket case nation of Haiti, Kivland attempts to invest in guns a kind of magical ability to affect the poor unwitting souls who come in contact with them.

“Whoever touches that gun, he’ll die at some point … because it acts on you,” explained a 37-year-old man who lives in the poor neighborhood of Bel Air in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where I have worked as an anthropologist since 2008. Kal* was talking about a specific Smith & Wesson .38 special caliber revolver, long the standard issue gun of American police and United States-trained security forces in Haiti. After being purchased for $75 from a former army soldier, this gun passed through the hands of three men: a young father, Frantz; Papapa, a young man; and Henri, another new father.

All three were shot and killed in their community between December of 2012 and February of 2013. Although the trant-uit (.38), as residents called the gun, did not fire all the lethal bullets, all died while in possession of it.

When I asked Belairians why these deaths occurred, they often surmised that the gunmen fell victim to maji, or “magic.” In Haiti, magic refers to an unethical use of spiritual power, distinct from ceremonial forms of Vodou, which call on ancestors to heal and protect the family. (Vodou is the preferred spelling, rather than Voodoo, which some practitioners view as derogatory.) This form of magic entails engaging with secret powers that allow a person to advance at the expense of another. To many, the men died because the occult forces they had been using for unethical gain had ultimately turned against them—opening them up to conflict and failing to protect them.

Yet when neighbors relayed how the deaths happened, they offered explanations involving a different kind of occult transformation: the supernatural potency of the .38 to change people into unethical agents. With each subsequent death, lore intensified around the gun, with people surmising that “touching” this gun could portend death. “Ever since they touched the gun, those poor young boys were not the same,” said one community member. Residents spoke about the gun as if it were an amulet that could change otherwise good people and what they did in the world.

It would be shortsighted to dismiss these claims as the misguided logic of a “superstitious people.” That racially inflected trope, long used to marginalize and demonize Haitians, among others, blinds observers to the way in which guns do exhibit a power akin to magic: the power to create a change in someone’s state of mind.

Got that? It was the gun that changed these people into “unethical agents.” If not for the malevolent influence of the firearm, they’d have been noble, positive contributors to their community. And if you dare to attribute the kind of mystical powers that guns are said to have in the armpit of the western hemisphere to ignorance or superstition, you’re A RACIST, mired in closed-minded white supremacy.

Kivland’s message is, when it comes to “gun violence,” forget human frailty, corruption, personal responsibility or agency…it’s the gun that makes us evil, exerting its powers on our state of mind.

The natural conclusion then is…we have to do something about the guns.

According to Kal, it all started because baz leader Frantz brought his gun to his birthday party, a big affair thrown in the street, complete with a DJ. At the time, a rival baz led by Papapa was competing for control of the neighborhood, and the group made this clear by coming to the party uninvited and armed. Papapa was not happy to see that Frantz had his gun on him and was waving it in the air. “When they saw the .38, they wanted to ruin the party,” Kal told me. “Then Papapa shot at him. It happened quickly. Boom! He was lying on the ground. Everyone ran.”

If you read that paragraph and thought that what happened was an almost inevitable outgrowth of a gang-related turf dispute, you’re hopelessly blinded by your own Eurocentric prejudices.

Kivand then describes two more subsequent shootings attributable to that same magical .38 revolver and then concludes . . .

Although the gun had a potent effect on all three men, it did not act on them in the same way. For Frantz and Papapa, the gun enabled and epitomized their doomed claims to sovereign control of the block. For Henri, the gun pushed him into a trajectory of criminal action that could only have one outcome. Echoing Kal, Henri’s friend explained, “He saw the weapon, and he saw the road before him.” Yet another said, “Before, he was a nice young man. But the .38 showed him another way. He wanted to carry a bad name like Papapa.”

The .38 “showed him” that alternate path…one he never would have traveled had it not been for that little ballistic Beelzebub.

A gun is not just an inanimate object that can be separated from its user’s intentions. A gun held by a person is a human-technology composite that transforms what both can do in the world. As the philosopher and anthropologist Bruno Latour has argued: “You are another subject because you hold the gun; the gun is another object because it has entered into a relationship with you. … A bad guy becomes a worse guy; a silent gun becomes a fired gun.” The crux of this view is that people are needed to activate technology, and technology is necessary to activate and augment human capacities.

Yet Belairians’ accounts push this idea even further. Guns and people work together not only to fire a gun but also to imbue that technology with social meanings of power and violence. The potency of the .38 results from the way in which material objects and people must co-participate in creating lethal actors and actions in the world.

How are we ever to resist the corrupting influence of these demonic devices?

There is a lesson to be gleaned from understanding the supernatural potency of guns. We cannot think about guns and people as separate entities, debating gun restrictions on one hand and mental-health policy on the other. The target of intervention must be the gun-person composite. If we are to truly understand and control gun violence, we need to accept that guns have potent technological and psychological effects on people—effects that inspire violent ways of being and acting in the world.

Here’s something Kivland’s insane ramblings and theorizing fail to take into account. Over the last quarter century, civilian gun ownership here in the Unites States has more than doubled. There are, by most estimates, nearly 400 million civilian-owned guns in this country (and probably far more).

At the same time, firearms-related crime has sunk to historic lows. We live in a country awash in guns that’s also remarkably safe and, other than a few notable urban exceptions, largely free of “gun violence.” If guns possess the mystical properties to beguile and corrupt those unlucky enough to come in contact with them, how could that possibly be?

magical guns power
Chelsey Kivland courtesy Dartmouth

We’ve run some posts recently describing how a couple of gun owners argue the pro-gun side. Both cases, however, pre-suppose the person on the other side of the argument is open to and capable of rational thought regarding the subject. We’re not sure there’s anything short of an exorcism that might reach an Ivy League intellect like Chelsey Kivland’s.

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  1. >>“Whoever touches that gun, he’ll die at some point …<<

    Yes. And, he'll also die at some point if he never touches that gun…

  2. That has to be the reason I’m such a good person. I’ve never handled 38 special.

    See, revolvers WILL get you killed.

    • If a .38 has that much juju, imagine what would happen if they found a .45.

      That thing would have godlike powers.

        • The locals should call on the spirit of Saint John Moses Browning to exorcise the evil demons of .38 “trant-uit” using the blinding glory of the .45, called the “soul-reaver” by the saved locals.

  3. It’s never the backwards 3rd world voodoo believing wannabe gangsters in a nation decimated by the Clinton Foundation. Nah, it’s the gun. The gun did it. I have it’s confession on tape.

    • Is it bad I had to reread to get this was Haiti and not Camden? Of course starting to hear these kinds of stories in Troy now but they are still catching up to the Philly area crime levels.

      • Haitians are “closer to nature” which is a polite way to describe a simple minded savage.

        • I mean I did say Camden….. but I guess Wilmington would be the more contemporary kill zone.

  4. Yeah evil never existed before guns just showed up and ruined the planet for everyone. Let me guess next they’ll say guns are another contributor to climate change.

    • Well could argue guns were a driving force in European industrial development as well as colonialism and ruining the spiritual cultures that know objects have agency to influence reality. But I would need a lobotomy to believe in the argument.

  5. Except, he’s right.

    The path in most any Hollywood action movie or TV show is:
    -Character is abused
    -Character is ignored and powerless
    -Character gets GUN
    -Character becomes powerful, respected, and feared
    -Hero can’t stop him until he gets his own GUN.

    Guns in popular media are treated as totems of power that change everything. No wonder the disaffected losers who live their lives with a screen in front of their face think that’s how it works.

    Meanwhile, people actually in gun culture don’t think this way at all. To us, guns aren’t mystic totems, but merely tools.

    The problem is the sick culture that fetishizes violence in general and guns in particular. And it comes from people like Chelsey Kivland and Gersh Kuntzman and Harvey Weinstein and Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese and all the other people who sell what they decry

    • This isn’t new or more stupid than usual, outside the voodoo connection a lot of us have been making these points about gun control “believers” for a long time. They really do think that guns are magical talismins of evil power, imbued with a corrupting spirit that will torment and turn otherwise good people to mass killers.

      Thus gun free zones, schools should be places of learning, don’t carry a gun around children, because the gun will call out to you with murderous impulses upon sensing the innocent souls.

      You need to destroy all crime related and surplus guns because they are tainted with evil, even more than the usual ones.

      You have to keep guns off the streets, because they will cause the otherwise noble, hardworking community minded people to pursue lives of crime.

      “Assault weapons of war”, their terminology, are especially evil killing machines that like nothing better than to mow down hapless masses.

      “High capacity” magazines are evil because a bad guy killing up to 10 people is ok but 20-30 is unthinkable.

      The only way to redeem guns is to break the curse by melting them down and turning them into a peace sculpture, no doubt after performing some purifying ritual.

      You read articles like the “I made my own AK at a build party, and then torched it” from Mother Jones or that cry for help “the first thing I did when purchasing my Glock and getting it home was to load a round and insert it into my mouth…”, or read “good thing I didn’t have a gun when I was assaulted, I would have killed someone…” you realize a debate on freedom and facts is going to be impossible.

    • I’m not the one who’s so far away when I feel the snakebite enter my veins…🎵🎶🎵

  6. Sadly this gobbledygook is not the dumbest BS I’ve read today. Fakebook always wins😩😋😏

    • Duterte threatened to invade Canada today. Not exactly a “gun issue” but that’s pretty far up there on the wierd shitOmeter.

      • Considering just how bat-guano crazy Duterte is, and how pitiful is modern Canada, he just might march all the way to Ottawa before the Canadians could muster enough guns to stop him, if then. The Canadians should be afraid. . . very afraid.
        Maybe they should go on strike, or marry off the Prince of Canada to the Princess of the Philippines.
        Besides, what with all their beady little eyes and their flapping heads so full of lies, they’re not even a real country anyway.
        Blame Canada!

  7. Journalists finally giving voodoo the scientific credence it deserves. Go figure, on the one hand prayers are scoffed at and on the other the chthonic powers of fire and brimstone imbued within steel, lead and brass are taken as dogma. “Objective journalism”, superstition and bad science have become the amalgamate core of the progressive faith.

  8. I remember someone offered me a gun once. They were going to give it to me freely. But I resisted temptation. I was diminished, and went into the West, and remained Galadriel. True Story.

  9. To whom it may concern;

    This will be my last letter. We have grown apart over these last 6 weeks. I now have two loves in my life, big city living and a voodoo woman named Phyllis.

    Ciao, Roberto.

  10. Well, you know if it comes from the Social Justice Foundation it has to be factual and unbiased.

  11. If you have to go to Voodoo, methinks the arguments against the inanimate object is being lost. The leftards are just going deeper into the dead zombie rabbit hole. The world is weird enough without these morons infecting the air we breathe. Maybe we should point out that Trump actually breathes the air, they will just have to hold their breath.

  12. ““Whoever touches that gun, he’ll die at some point … because it acts on you,”

    This was literally the basic plot of an episode of the 70s tv show “Quincy.”

    And yes, it was just as ridiculous as the article from the Social Justice Foundation.

    • Sounds more like the plot from an episode of “Kolchak the Night Stalker,” where the newspaper reporter investigated supernatural deaths.

    • Thanks Gov, I was thinking about the Harvey Korman and someone needed to put it on here.

      This is why I don’t discuss guns with irrational Leftists. It is pointless to argue with an irrational person.

    • Well to be fair, voodoo is certainly more plausible than the vast majority of beliefs that make up the Democratic Party platform.

      • Yes, there is more current evidence to support the effects of voodoo then there is the Abrahamic religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

        • Define ‘effects’.

          Anyway, it simply comes down to the plausibility of a spirit realm. If there are intelligent beings that don’t have what we would recognize as flesh and blood bodies then it’s logical that there would be good and evil spirits. Voodoo is then just as plausible as the Abrahamic religions. Which doesn’t mean that a healthy dose of skepticism isn’t called for – people have been making up shit for as long as we’ve had language.

    • I almost hate to say this . . . but I’m a cultural anthropologist (actually socio-cultural anthropologist) who has fairly recently escaped (aka retired) from the madness engulfing high-ed. There was a time when starry-eyed twits like Chelsey Kivland would have been gently or not-so gently encouraged to go away. Now, her kind of twaddle is commonplace and people like her are getting Ph.D.’s. Anthropology used to be a discipline of substance and knowledge. I’m glad I was there when it was. I’m equally glad to not be there when it no longer is.

  13. I bought an AR from a guy with a ratty beard and a couple of missing teeth who spoke with a Cajun accent. Ever since I brought the little rifle home it has been talking to me. Finally, I am beginning to understand it (the AR’s accent is terrible) and I think I agree with what it is saying.

    Starting this weekend, we are gonna’ start visiting wet, muddy hollows and, together, we gonna’ shoot us some hogs. My AR don’t won’t to tickle any piglets, we both want them snorty, grumpy fat Hogs. It’s gonna’ be good times.

    Do you thing my little AR is OK? Should I have someone check it out?

    • If it speaks of making quality gumbo you’re good to go.

      If it talks about beer, cheap plastic beads and titties all the time you might want to consider a replacement.

    • If your new rifle calls you a “coonass”, it’s a term of endearment, not an insult. It means your rifle has adopted you.

  14. It’s not that the way these people are looking at something is completely wrong. It’s just backwards.

    If you look at any tool like a gun, motorcycle, fast car, sword etc as something that adds inches to your dick things are probably not going to go well for you because you’re not respecting the object which leads to an astronomically higher chance that you will misuse it and suffer consequences for doing so.

    A gun is like the weight room. It is what it is but it often amplifies the attitude of the user. You might go to the gym and get great benefits because that’s what you were looking for. Or you might have gone seeking an image enhancer and turned into a gym rat douchebag who only talks about “gainz” and is willing to use steroids for the image of a Greek God who can fuck a rock until it squirts out water like a porn star even though the steroids mean your dick doesn’t work six months a year.

    Just like the gym, if you buy a gun because you’re insecure and want the image of being “hard” you’ll probably buy a gun, run your mouth and eventually come up against someone who isn’t going to take your shit.

    “He pulled out his chrome .45, talked some shit, and wound up dead…”

    • A gun … often amplifies the attitude of the user.

      Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!!! We have a winner!

      Not only do gangbangers validate this principle with their average life expectancy of about 23 years old (seriously, that is a fact), people who obtain their license to carry concealed handguns also validate the principle with their violent crime rate being the lowest measured crime rate of any demographic!

      Methinks Miss Kivland has smoked too much ganja during her “academic” study in Haiti.

    • I read it as “The Social-IST Justice Foundation”. No problem can’t be solved without oppression, torture, and execution of class enemies.

  15. Isn’t that like blaming steel and polymers for the deaths of all the young men of color killed in the gang and drug warfare?

  16. Lol. there is a spelling mistake that is easy to spot if you know french. “Although the trant-uit (.38), as residents called the gun” It’s trente-huit which is the number for 38 in french. mistake was made by original poster, not the author on this site

    • Oh, i’m sure she’s just celebrating the bullshit Creole nonsense words they use over there, same as they do here with Ebonics. I suspect the vast majority of Haitians would kill to speak like someone that isn’t doomed to a life of prostitution & murder cut short by horrific diarrhea.

  17. My question for doctor Chelsey is, who do da voodoo likes you do? Taint nobody who do dat voodoo likes you do girl.

  18. If she limited her claims to Haiti I’d agree with her, more or less. Extremely superstitious people who believe in magic? Sure, they could believe a particular old .38 carries an evil spirit or a curse of some other such hogwash.

    It’s when she turns these same claims upon the civilized people of the USA that she shows her hoplophobia has entered the gangrenous phase neural ruin.

    Poor gal’s brain is gone to rot. Should have gotten out of Haiti when she had a chance, before somebody put a voodoody of a spell on her.

  19. No matter how hard I listen I never hear my guns speak to me, well, except for the Hi-Point, it says, “I’m ya prolem solva.”

  20. When I read the title “Dumbest Thing on the Internet about Guns You’ll Read Today”, I thought … “Challenge accepted”. But I have to give it to Chelsey, this was a complete success.

  21. Quoting a line from S.M. Stirling’s Island in the Sea of Time,” That thar is a gun ,boy, not a magic wand” .
    It doesn’t make any one do anything.

  22. As stupid as it is. It doesn’t make the top 3 stupid anti firearm comments I’ve read today.

  23. The picture for the article. Is that from the part in the Bible when God said “Let there be Light” and dropped His gunm?

  24. “cultural anthropologist..”

    look, I don’t tell you about spider societies, don’t tell me about guns.

  25. She’s a child with no life experience outside her sheltered worldview. You can see it in her photo. Mealcard, apartment, library. Thats who she is. Anything taboo (or is the preferred spelling now “tabou”….because reasons) in her little bubble is outside her expertise. An article like this is literally no different than propaganda written for those already of her mindset. To her audience, she’s edgy for broaching a subject most of them are afraid of, but to the rest of the world she’s a drooling moron.

    Drool away kid. How’s them student loans looking?

  26. Oh my goodness. I never realized that the gun could turn otherwise good people so evil. And for those three in the massive sample size she reviewed, they only had it a couple of years. Our government has had guns for over 230. We probably ought to make the government give up their guns so we can rid them of their corrupt and evil ways.

  27. Haiti would still be the idea permanent home for the UN. The US to donate 100 GP Medium tents and that would be the end of ending support for the corrupt joke of an organization.

  28. Please help. I have a old Finnish M-39 Mosin Nagant on the mantle above the fireplace that, on the coldest winter nights, can be heard to whisper “Hakkaa Päälle” (Cut ’em down) and “Tulta munille!” (Fire at their balls!). 

    I beseech you, esteemed Dartmouth cultural anthropologist Chelsey Kivland, what I should do?….

    • Oh, and in the summer this M-39 just mumbles, “Get another puukko. Everyone needs more puukkos.”

  29. Translation: Never let poor people have any power, they don’t know what to do with it.
    That’s essentially what the article states. Give poor people something that lets them have an option other than to be poor people being shit upon by life, and they might choose that option even if it isn’t very nice.

    That is the basis of why the powerful don’t want anyone armed but them. So I guess they kind of got the concept.

  30. Mankind has changed little if at all from the days of mysticism and the land of the Neanderthals. We have 21st Century technology and the emotional responses of the Cave People of yesterday. Carl Sagan’s book “The Demon Haunted World” is a chilling peak into the immature and primitive mind of Mankind and how primitive our emotions still control much of our behavior. When you couple all this with Bronze Age Mysticism and its primitive beliefs one wonders how the earth was not blown up in a Nuclear Holocaust decades ago as the people in modern industrialized nations are no different than some of the last of the small tribes of people still living in remote corners of the world. Everything that goes bump in the night has the same primitive beliefs and meanings no matter what group of people you belong to. The Human Adult is a myth as only wrinkled children ever existed on this planet.

  31. Can confirm. Every time I’ve picked up my daughter’s pink Daisy BB gun, I’m overcome with an almost uncontrollable urge to bake heart-shaped cupcakes and have a slumber party.

  32. As a cultural anthropologist you should know it’s “trente-huit” you ignorant twit.

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