Mass Shootings: The Politician’s Syllogism
In 1999, the world stopped to scratch its head while they tried to understand why two teenagers would take guns to school and murder their classmates. Lacking a clear answer, some settled on a rather simple explanation: it must be violent video games.
The notion just made sense. The “first person shooter” was new, and had risen in popularity during the late 90’s. While Hollywood glorified violence and turned it into entertainment, video games put you behind the gun so you could participate. They desensitized the audience to what should be considered shocking, and encouraged the behavior with a score board. Clearly, video games enabled these boys to act out some violent fantasy over and over, until it spilled out into real life.
This idea survived for a while on the backs of people who didn’t like or understand video games in the first place — but after a few years, it stopped sticking. Ironically, the tone deaf Texas Lieutenant Governor took to Fox News yesterday to ask when the federal government would take action against the video game industry.
LtGov Patrick demonstrated a few things with his call to action:
- His detachment and lack of understanding of a generation of people who play video games in increasing numbers.
- His tasteless use of the shooting as an advertisement for his political platform, hinging on “we have to do something”
- He called for the federal government to impose restrictions which violate the founding ideals of our country: freedom of expression
- His solutions clearly do nothing to address the issue our nation faces
Let me be abundantly clear: I understand where LtGov Patrick is coming from, and I agree on several of his other points. However, attributing the blame for the El Paso shooting to video games borders on comedy.
However, I will not let his blunder go to waste. While the right half of the country regrettably comes off of as tasteless, out of touch, ineffective, and stuck twenty years in the past— they serve as a perfect literary foil for the tasteless, out of touch, ineffective, but sophisticated and modern attempts of the left.
Now, I promise not to bore you with the gun control debate — at this point, either you see it or you don’t. However, I want to point another “simple solution” being proposed. A day after the shooting, democratic hopeful Kamala Harris announced that she wants to hold social media “accountable” for “hate” and “cyber warfare”.
Now, Senator Harris manages to pull this off in a much more suave way than LtGov Patrick. Instead of the caveman “Hurr durr, when da gubment gonna tackle dem daggone vah-o-lent vidya gaymes”, she pontificates elegantly. “With great power comes great responsibility. Shouldn’t Facebook consider its role in this shooting? When will we hold them accountable for the spread of hate?”
Senator Harris wraps her idea in a tidy box, and affixes a pretty bow on the top. However, if you unwrap her proposal, you will see it unmistakably ticks three out of four boxes.
- Demonstrates a comical lack of understanding of social media, the internet, and a generation using it in ever increasing numbers. (Cyber warfare?)
- Tastelessly uses the shooting as an advertisement for her political aspirations, hinging on “we have to do something”
- Calls for the federal government to impose restrictions which violate the founding ideals of our country: freedom of expression
The last box, ineffectiveness, should be readily apparent. Facebook is the new “video game” of 2019. Harris doesn’t understand it, she’s afraid of it, she wants to control it. To attribute the actions of these hateful people to the internet misses the mark. And yet, we’re so easily sucked into this trap.
The Politician’s Syllogism is as follows:
- We must change to improve things
- Doing “this” will change things
- Therefore, doing “this” will improve things
This is a logical fallacy, in the same way that it’s wrong to say “all dogs have four legs, gerbils have four legs, therefore gerbils are dogs”. The fallacy makes the solutions easy to swallow — but the fallacy isn’t the dangerous part. It’s the solution.
Here are some things that you will find in common with bad solutions.
First, high pressure and urgent calls to action. “People are dying, we have to do something, we can’t sit idly by and watch this happen.” This may be a very true statement! Perhaps something does need to be done! But scare tactics and pressure don’t make for good decisions.
If you keep listening, you may hear lies and twisted reasoning start to slip in. “Thoughts and prayers won’t solve this. We’re the only place in the world that has these problems. The ‘other guys’ would rather sit here and do nothing.” This should serve as a pretty big red flag. None of these statements are true, and each shows a critical lack of understanding and awareness about religion, the world, and your political opponents.
Next, a scapegoat is chosen, and the problem over simplified. “It’s all because of racists on the internet. If only we could only do something about them, this would all stop.”
And finally, the false promise. “If you give me more power, I will fix it.”
Ironic that after accusing an administration of disseminating lies through social media, we’re chomping at the bit to give the next administration the power to decide which “truths” are permitted to be disseminated through social media.
A year and a half ago, I started to compile my thoughts on shooting sprees. I am now four articles deep.
- In “Disenfranchised Grief”, I discussed the importance of grieving, and how our society is bypassing this step while rushing to solutions.
- In “Terminology Matters”, I discussed the necessity of a common language for discussing shooting sprees, and the inadequacies of existing terminology.
- In “Let’s Ban Bumpstocks!”, I demonstrated the pitfalls of careless wording by improving legislation banning bump stocks.
- And here, I’ve warned about the emotional manipulation of power hungry politicians from both isles.
It doesn’t take a careful eye to notice that I have yet to propose a solution of my own. On one hand, that’s because I’m still not sure myself. On the other, there’s such a gravitational well of misinformation, partisanship, and emotion that it’s hard to think clearly. I could go on about how I think the media sensationalizes and gamifies shooting sprees — but I think it’s time to progress towards a solution. (Besides, I’d just be picking my own scapegoats to blame.)
The first step in finding a solution is understanding the problem. Sometimes, that means clearing up your workspace and getting a good light so you can see properly. I hope you’ll be on the lookout for my next article, where I plan to get to the root of what America’s really concerned about.
Until I manage to write that article, please take time to read about the heroic actions of Glendon Oakley, who protected and assisted civilians and children evacuating the El Paso shooting. Certainly, his character is what America needs right now.