Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guns: William Kostric and Chris Matthews

William Kostric protested Obama's Health Care town hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire today. William Kostric wore a gun to the protest. This, of course, resulted in people flipping their shit. The problem with the shit flippers, I think, is found in the following exchange between Kostric and Matthews:



William Kostric: "I'm advocating an informed society, an armed society, a polite society...that's all there is to it."

Chris Matthews: "You speak in a different way than most people. I think, what the trouble is, you alarm many people that believe when you bring a gun violence might be afoot. Because they associate a gun with violence and they associate a gun with force. But you say you're not interested in using force to get your way politically."

William Kostric: "A firearm is a defensive tool."

Chris Matthews: "So bringing a show of force to a political debate was not meant as a violent act?"

William Kostric: "Not at all."

Now, as I've said before, the Second Ammendment is pretty damned unintelligible. In District of Columbia v. Heller we received some clarification. Regardless, at the present moment, it is legal to openly carry a gun in New Hampshire. So, great.

There exist dipshits who think guns are the means of settling an argument, who embrace a "right makes right" mentality. The difficulty is that not everyone who carries a gun is a dipshit. Assuming that William Kostric is genuine he is not one of the crazies. Presumably he is not going to open fire at a crowded mall given that, to quote Kostric, "a firearm is a defensive tool."

The difficulty I have with this situation is Matthews' "they associate a gun with violence and they associate a gun with force" comment. I can understand how one might arrive at or support that association. The question is whether or not the association is reasonable, whether there is some causal link between guns and violence. My guess is not that guns cause violence, that there is some innate quality to the thing which somehow sparks violent tendancies. Rather, individuals who are themselves violent can utilize guns as they could utilize a knife, an explosive, a pencil, a car, etc. to perform violent acts. Interestingly, no one freaked out at the number of people who drove to the protest, despite the existence of car bombs. But when one guy brings a gun everyone freaks out. This, I think, is a problem.

In the media coverage I saw of this event the verbage of "he had a gun" carried with it an undertone of violence, of the threat of assassination, of evil. It was not taken to be a fact, akin to "he wore shoes", but rather the "gun" was somehow indicative of violence, harm, danger. This despite the fact that no one was shot or harmed at the protest in spite of the gun.

There are some who characterize alcohol or marijuana as themselves evil, a root cause of society's ills. This characterization results not from an understanding of the things in themselves but rather is based upon an illusion crafted out of cherry picked examples. Sure, there are alcoholics who beat their wives or drug addicts whose addiction started with pot. But there are also individuals who can drink a beer after work and then do their taxes, who can smoke a joint and then watch a movie with their kids.

If we can dismantle illusions and talk about the things in themselves, if we can undermine bullshit-stupid conceptualizations of objects and rather discuss the objects themselves, why not do this with guns? Why are these objects not all on equal footing? The left might endorse alcohol and marijuana but loathe guns. The right might endorse gun rights but loathe alcohol and marijuana. If one assesses the whole situation, the big picture, I think one will see that both sides are being moronic.

What if each side stopped being moronic and assessed the things in themselves? What if each side abandoned socially constructed illusions and rather engaged with reality? What if we stopped being stupid?

William Kostric can carry a gun to a political protest and not shoot anyone. Perhaps this indicates something regarding guns and people being shot.

15 comments:

Mike Lewis said...

the thing that brothers me the most about all of this is the rhetoric from the right and shit like this a rise in malitia activity.

mostly because those guys don't walk around with their guns in plain sight.

Roscoe said...

like it or not, a gun IS a visible weapon...

You make the argument of Car Bombs, but wouldn't it be reasonable to assume the same people would be more than a little worried about someone openly brandishing a knife, or even, say, a baseball bat?

I'm not saying the media didn't push this, but that's what they do w/ anything sensational..

But there's something to be said for recognizing the potential issues w/ bringing a physical deterrent to a verbal discussion.

Dude did nothing wrong here, but he highlights the potential of someone actually going beyond the pale...

Roscoe said...

okay.. Kostric is a deluded man, and possibly fettered by self-worn blinders...

But.. man.. Matthews, in TRYING to get to his issues w/ the situation... comes across as a Nancy Grace level dick.

Dick-a-geddon, if you will.

Caleb said...

if we can undermine bullshit-stupid conceptualizations of objects and rather discuss the objects themselves

If we strip conceptualization from the object, doesn't talking about it afterwards just re-conceptualize it? I don't think that we can have a conversation about a thing in regard to that thing itself because in order to talk about it we'd have to first name it, assign attributes to it, conceptualize it. It's the problem that words are only defined by other words; the only way to connect a thing to that ring is to abstract it first.

What if each side abandoned socially constructed illusions and rather engaged with reality?

J, you're on a quest for Ultimate Reality here. Fundimental existence of things as they truly are, apart from interperetation and inferior understanding. It would be great if our national politicians had all attained enlightenment before being elected, although I don't know how completitively they could campaign against the unenlightened candidates.

_J_ said...

"If we strip conceptualization from the object, doesn't talking about it afterwards just re-conceptualize it?"

Not necessarily. If we want to describe language as always languaging about concepts rather than objects we can describe it that way. But that renders language pretty damn useless.

If I say "Mikey wants a beer" and you take that to refer only to concepts of mikey and concepts of beer, then there would be no link to the actual mikey or the actual beer as they exist out there, assuming an out there.

My distinction between conceptualizations / objects themselves referred to the interpretations made of Kostric.

- guy has a gun
- guy has a poster about watering trees with blood

The interpretation links the gun to the poster and is "zomg assassin". The things in themselves are simply two facts which may not necessarily have anything to do with one another.

"J, you're on a quest for Ultimate Reality here. "

As always. But I do not think that absurd or problematic.

In Obama's town hall he was discussing the attempt to get at the facts rather than the scare-mongering. That is an attempt to get at ultimate reality insofar as it creates a differentiation between interpretations and facts.

Caleb said...

If I say "Mikey wants a beer" and you take that to refer only to concepts of mikey and concepts of beer, then there would be no link to the actual mikey or the actual beer as they exist out there, assuming an out there.

Right. I don't know what mikey is. I only know concepts of mikey.

"J, you're on a quest for Ultimate Reality here. "

As always. But I do not think that absurd or problematic.


I just wanted to make sure you were aware of what you were doing. I'd agree that it isn't problematic, but I'd also be sure to say that it is severely difficult to actually do.

Roscoe said...

actually.. J's quest might well BE problematic.....

Seems like half of the issue here is the media dealing w/ interpretations and or knee-jerk assessments.

(the other half seems to be the media dealing w/ reasonable conclusions, though)

Wouldn't the quest for ultimate reality run right up aground against the discussion of assesments? In that assesments are explicitly not reality?

_J_ said...

"Right. I don't know what mikey is. I only know concepts of mikey."

The problem with that articulation is that "I only know concepts of mikey" still maintains that there exists a mikey independent of the concepts. One knows concepts of mikey.

So, how does one know there is a "mikey" independent of the concepts if all one knows are the concepts?

To say that one knows concepts of mikey requires that one know that there is a mikey independent of the concepts. Otherwise, whence the distinction between "concepts of" and "mikey"?

_J_ said...

"Wouldn't the quest for ultimate reality run right up aground against the discussion of assesments? In that assesments are explicitly not reality?"

The problem with "assessments are explicitly not reality" is that we run into the problem I stated with caleb's point: If we only get "assessments of reality" and never get to "reality" then we're stuck with

- reality is unknowable
- whence the distinction between "reality" and "assessment of"?

I think one can get to reality with: "He has a gun." I think one is divorced from reality when one exclaims; "He has a guN! ZOMG!"

If one wants to claim that all statements are of the "He has a gun! ZOMG!" nature, that all claims are interpretations and never statements of facts qua facts, that's fine. But then one loses reality and rather only ever engaged with interpretations.

Except to say that to have an "interpretation" there must be that which is interpreted. Which, presumably, is reality.

Caleb said...

So, how does one know there is a "mikey" independent of the concepts if all one knows are the concepts?

It is convenient to presume an actual mikey as source for my concepts of mikey. That's all the more reason I have for that. I don't think that I can say that I know mikey because I'm sure there are things I think mikey is that he is not, and if mikey is a thing of reality, concepts of mikey can be false but mikey himself cannot(otherwise he would not be part of reality).

I think one can get to reality with: "He has a gun." I think one is divorced from reality when one exclaims; "He has a guN! ZOMG!"

I'm just now aware of why I am taking issue with this rant, J. You're saying that "gun" as an object exists as reality, but the violence associated with the object does not, the connotations of "gun" at a political assembly do not, that the cultural construct "gun" which Matthews is attempting to utilize is not part of reality. You stop there, after denying everything except sense perception a claim on reality? I'm concerned. Have you been experimenting with Empiricism, J? Or, are you going to allow something like "function" to be on the "gun" side of the reality line?

Why does the gun get to exist? Because we can all see it, and we can't all see the implications of gun within range of the president? Because it is convenient?

_J_ said...

"It is convenient to presume an actual mikey as source for my concepts of mikey."

Wouldn't it be more convenient to presume that only your concepts exist for which there is no referrent? Or to assume that if there is an actual mikey your concepts can be 100% coherent and consistent with that mikey?

"You're saying that "gun" as an object exists as reality, but the violence associated with the object does not"

I am not denying that the association exists. I am questioning the degree to which that association is sensible.

At the beginning of the interview Matthews is yelling at this guy. At the end Matthews backs down. The difference? At the beginning Matthews was dealing with the association "Gun = Crazy Loon". After talking to Kostric, however, Matthews realized that in this situation the existence of a gun was not necessarily violent.

The problem is the associations:

guns are violent
knives are sometimes violent
cars are usually not violent but can be

The "violent" there is presumed to do something or somehow reflect the object. But the association seems silly, at best.

kylebrown said...

"guns are violent
knives are sometimes violent
cars are usually not violent but can be"

The difference between the three things however is stark. The primary purpose of a gun is as a weapon. Sure a weapon could be used defensively, but it is still a weapon. The primary purpose of a knife is as a tool. Sure they can be used as weapons, but by and far of the billions of knives that exist in the world, I would wager a guess that at least 95% if not more are used for utility purposes, not violence. The primary purpose of a car is for transportation. Sure more deaths happen as a result of someone misusing a car than any of the others on the list, but this is simple human error.

The difference is that a gun when used properly should kill. That is the purpose of the thing. When you focus only on the object and ignore the societal baggage, it is still a device designed for the singular purpose of killing or damaging in such as way as to render the target incapacitated.

Roscoe said...

I think my point, though, was that you're looking for a rational assessment of facts... Man has a gun, Man has legal right to carry that gun, etc...

But you're looking AT a medium that is, frankly, not about a rational assessment of facts, but of extrapolation and prediction.

Political Media is, at it's core, an attempt to look at what's going on, and project from that, what might happen. Because, w/out that projection, there's no real story in, or purpose to politics.

That seems to be the crux of your issue, really. That you're looking for fresh-water fish in the ocean, looking for something that doesn't naturally exist in the medium you're looking at.

_J_ said...

"The difference is that a gun when used properly should kill."

The purpose of a gun is to accurately propel a bullet to the target.

Caleb said...

The purpose of a gun is to accurately propel a bullet to the target.

J wins. I'm always rooting for him, and I often don't see why exactly he should win; but it is always marvelous when he does.