Taking Advantage of the Newtown Massacre

December 17th, 2012

By Dan Miller

The spotlight brings glory, even posthumously. Glory is politically useful.

There have been more “news” reports than there has been substantive, confirmed news about the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. That’s to be expected. At some level horror is relished — even by sane adults — provided it can be relished vicariously. That’s why motion pictures, video games and similar forms of entertainment providing vicarious enjoyment of horror are popular. We cannot (consistently with the First Amendment) prohibit the media from publicizing massacres and other horrors; without the First Amendment we could do so.

There have been calls for more “gun control,” with little explanation of what is meant or what good, if any, would have been accomplished at Newtown or would be accomplished there or elsewhere in the future. That’s to be expected as well.  However, we cannot (consistently with the Second Amendment) impose sufficiently draconian restrictions on firearm ownership and use to prevent their use for wanton massacres of great numbers of people. Without the Second Amendment we could create laws to do so, probably with massive, highly restrictive and prohibitively expensive law enforcement efforts. However, neither the Second Amendment nor common sense limits the ability of armed citizens to deter such massacres.  

Because seconds matter in school attacks, only the arming of school staff by means of concealed handguns can possibly deter attacks and save lives.

Millions of Americans, including teachers, already have concealed carry permits issued by the states and form a ready pool of the qualified.

The deterrent effect of concealed carry in schools can be considerable. Any potential attacker, knowing that a given school district allows concealed carry but takes pains to keep the identities and numbers of teachers on a given campus carrying handguns secret, is conferring the benefit of deterrence on every school in that district.

Police officers know criminals fear armed citizens far more than they fear the police.

Only armed and capable school staff, ready to respond to an armed attack when and where it occurs, can possibly save lives – perhaps, even stop an attack before it begins. Even an armed teacher in another hallway when the first shot rings out will be able to stop an attacker far sooner than any police officer still minutes from even receiving a radio call. (Emphasis added)

Most lawful owners of firearms probably exercise substantial self-restraint and common sense in how they safeguard and use them. That is not likely to be the case for many who own and use firearms criminally. Nor do the mass media often exercise substantial self-restraint in dealing with horrific crimes such as at Newtown.

bertrand_russellI have read, and it seems to be accurate, that mass murderers such as the one at Newtown generally have little interest in their victims beyond the glory that comes to them, even posthumously, from their victims’ deaths. Bertrand Russell delivered a Nobel Prize lecture in 1950 on politically important desires. He argued that love of power and vanity are the two most important. As to vanity, he stated

Vanity is a motive of immense potency. Anyone who has much to do with children knows how they are constantly performing some antic, and saying «Look at me». «Look at me» is one of the most fundamental desires of the human heart. It can take innumerable forms, from buffoonery to the pursuit of posthumous fame. There was a Renaissance Italian princeling who was asked by the priest on his deathbed if he had anything to repent of. «Yes», he said, «there is one thing. On one occasion I had a visit from the Emperor and the Pope simultaneously. I took them to the top of my tower to see the view, and I neglected the opportunity to throw them both down, which would have given me immortal fame». History does not relate whether the priest gave him absolution. One of the troubles about vanity is that it grows with what it feeds on. The more you are talked about, the more you will wish to be talked about. The condemned murderer who is allowed to see the account of his trial in the press is indignant if he finds a newspaper which has reported it inadequately. And the more he finds about himself in other newspapers, the more indignant he will be with the one whose reports are meagre. Politicians and literary men are in the same case. And the more famous they become, the more difficult the press-cutting agency finds it to satisfy them. It is scarcely possible to exaggerate the influence of vanity throughout the range of human life, from the child of three to the potentate at whose frown the world trembles.

Whatever power the Newtown murderer may have sought over his victims ended with their deaths and his. Whatever glory he may have sought did not; he now has great posthumous glory and it will persist for as long as the media continue to heap damnation upon him; although sane people generally find their own damnation by the media offensive, many lunatics seem to welcome it. As often happens, copycat efforts followed. There was one at a shopping mall in Newport Beach, California, there was one in Cedar Lake, Indiana and there was another in Uruguay. Would they have happened if there had been less media coverage of the Newtown “man caused disaster”?

It is sometimes easier to achieve glory by doing evil than by doing good, and I suspect that more people now know of Newtown and the lunatic who infested the place than know of most recent Medal of Honor winners, living or dead. It seems unlikely that any Medal of Honor holder sought The Medal or the glory it should bring, or that many strive for posthumous celebrity by exploring creative ways to win The Medal.

In his 1950 address, Bertrand Russell also claimed that love of power is an even more important factor than love of glory in motivating those who have significant impacts on Government.

But great as is the influence of the motives we have been considering, there is one which outweighs them all. I mean the love of power. Love of power is closely akin to vanity, but it is not by any means the same thing. What vanity needs for its satisfaction is glory, and it is easy to have glory without power. The people who enjoy the greatest glory in the United States are film stars, but they can be put in their place by the Committee for Un-American Activities, which enjoys no glory whatever. In England, the King has more glory than the Prime Minister, but the Prime Minister has more power than the King. Many people prefer glory to power, but on the whole these people have less effect upon the course of events than those who prefer power to glory. When Blücher, in 1814, saw Napoleon’s palaces, he said, «Wasn’t he a fool to have all this and to go running after Moscow.» Napoleon, who certainly was not destitute of vanity, preferred power when he had to choose. To Blücher, this choice seemed foolish. Power, like vanity, is insatiable. Nothing short of omnipotence could satisfy it completely. And as it is especially the vice of energetic men, the causal efficacy of love of power is out of all proportion to its frequency. It is, indeed, by far the strongest motive in the lives of important men.

obama_gunIt is, of course, possible to seek glory as a path to greater power over others. President Obama seems to be improving even his already consummate mastery of the techniques. During his visit to Newtown following the massacre, he sought and obtained the spotlight by promising to do something. I do not know what he may have had in mind, but it probably involves Federal legislation, Executive Orders, regulatory changes that may go beyond the legislative authority granted by enabling statues and/or grants of Federal funding to states for imposing additional gun control measures, with further undisclosed measures to be included over time. The Second Amendment? We may not be allowed to put off doing something by such trivial technicalities because in any important crisis time is of the essence.

Obama: We can't wait!

Many of the difficulties President Obama would likely have had in expanding Federal power — and thereby his own — over others will likely be pushed aside as a result of the Newtown massacre crisis. His license to ignore those difficulties will continue for at least as long as the Newtown horrors remain front page news; and should they begin to fade away they can easily be revived in media coverage of whatever he wants to do.

The choir is singing lustily.

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” said President Obama’s former consigliere Rahm Emanuel, who is now the mayor of the strictly gun-controlled gun murder capital of the world, Chicago. So naturally the statist anti-gun utopians see opportunity in Friday’s Newtown school massacre to push the total gun ban they’ve been lusting after for so long. …

Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein, Dick Durbin, and Richard Blumenthal, among others, vowed to introduce gun-ban legislation immediately. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a man who never saw a human behavior he didn’t want the state to control, said in true totalitarian fashion that Obama has “to tell this country what to do.” …

When Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler from New York was asked on MSNBC’s The Ed Show whether the Newtown shooting could be the turning point in the gun control debate, he replied, “I think we will be there if the president exploits it, and otherwise we’ll go on to the next” incident [emphasis added]. Perhaps “exploit” was just a poor choice of words; more likely it is just unintentionally revealing about the Democrats’ Alinskyite manipulation.

As the choir continues to grow in size and loudness, the Newtown massacre should lead to better ways of protecting society from lunatics who seek to harm others physically. It may not, because there is current sensitivity about using the word “lunatic.”

You can say “lunatic” all you want, but you probably won’t have the government’s blessing.

The word “lunatic” will be stricken from federal law under legislation that passed the House Wednesday and is headed to President Barack Obama for his signature.

While the Newtown mass murderer probably was not motivated by lunar movements, his was lunacy in every other sense of the word. That is true of others who want to do as he did; no sane person could have and act upon such desires. The rights of lunatics are, to some extent, protected by the U.S. Constitution and those rights have in recent years become more expansive than the constitutional protections of the rights of sane people who want to own, carry and use lawful firearms for lawful purposes. Perhaps reviewing the need and ability — both practical and constitutional — of society to restrain lunatics from endangering others would be the most useful focus as we engage in self-flagellation and flagellation of others over the Newtown massacre.

Lunatic Asylum

If teachers and other school personnel must not be armed to deal with the problem due to Librul lunacy, the next best solution may be to do something about the lunatics (not the Libruls of course, the others).

(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)

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