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Something to Think About

On the idea that you can promote social change through shocking behavior, the analogy to homosexuality is probably a bit overwrought, so I’ll put it in a different context. If there was a proposal to close down a sex shop in some given town, and a local S&M club took exception to this, and showed up at the meeting in full blown leather, with the women on a leash and with whips in their hand, while one of their spokesman got up to speak against the ordinance to close the sex shop, would you consider that to be just as effective than if they had all shown up in business suits? Would it change anything if you pointed out they go around in full leather all the time, and it’s their right?

I agree it’s their right, and they can’t, and shouldn’t be arrested for it. But people will spend more time listening and considering to what they have to say if they are dressed in business suits. The media isn’t going to be distracted by the spectacle, and you’re message isn’t going to get muddled and confused. It also definitely wouldn’t help if the town council decided maybe they’ll let the sex shop stay open, but we might want to look into that leather shop down the street too.

People have similar attitudes toward S&M as they do toward guns. Some people are unabashedly in favor of it, or practice it. Some people think it’s weird, but accept it. Others aren’t sure what they think, and might vague support sexual freedom, but aren’t sure about S&M, and still others are just downright offended or put off by it. You don’t want to piss off the middle two groups, and don’t want to give ammunition to the latter group to use to make arguments against sexual freedom.

The sexual freedom argument is probably going to keep the sex shop open, but S&M turns some people off if they think that’s what sexual freedom is going to mean. If you want to make an argument for social change through shock therapy, you can do so, it just seems like a weak case to me.

29 Responses to “Something to Think About”

  1. cybrus says:

    It’s a good thing Rosa Parks moved to the back of the bus rather than do something that a large majority of people found offensive at the time. Just think what might have happened if she’d stayed put!

  2. Sebastian says:

    There’s a difference between what Rosa Parks did and what the open carry people are doing in Pennsylvania. First, open carry is not illegal in Pennsylvania. There’s no connection to civil disobedience there, because there’s no law against it.

    Second, Parks actions were part of a carefully coordinated and carefully planned strategy. The only strategy I’ve seen from the open carry folks is that if we just open carry, it’ll become accepted. Great. What do I get after that? Most people aren’t going to open carry even if it is widely accepted.

    I’ve written about this before here.

  3. Robb Allen says:

    The goal isn’t to get more open carry. It’s to get more people accustomed to seeing people exercising their rights without shame.

    The only strategy I’ve seen from the open carry folks is that if we just open carry, it’ll become accepted. Great. What do I get after that?

    Umm, why does there have to be something after that? It’s like saying “Great. We got the ability to speak freely against our government. Now what?”

  4. Bob S. says:

    Sebastian,

    First, I disagree with your assumption that Open Carry is “shocking behavior”. It isn’t, unusual yes, but not shocking.

    How can something become usual if people do practice it?

    You don’t like Open Carry, I get that. But to equate it to fetish behavior is playing into the hands of the antis.

    YOU provide the quotes, YOU provide them with images for them to use….see even some pro-gunnies don’t think it is right to Open Carry.

    But people will spend more time listening and considering to what they have to say if they are dressed in business suits.

    People will spend more time listening and considering what is said if it is said by people just like them. Not everyone wears suits and not everyone trust people who do.
    Let the media and the average person sees that Open Carry is done by the average person.

    Kinda hard to portray everyone as extremist when they are on your bowling league or bake sale team at the PTA.

    You certainly don’t seem to be helping move the right forward by portraying those who Open Carry in such negative light

  5. cybrus says:

    As a Pittsburgh resident, I’m quite aware that OC is legal here in Pennsylvania. At least in theory. On the other hand, it’s also very likely to get you hassled and/or arrested. Getting hassled may just cost you a bit of time while you deal with overzealous or uninformed police officers. Getting arrested will cost you a great deal of time, even more money, and, possibly most damaging of all, put you a google search away from being fired or skipped over at your next job interview.

    As a result of the pervasive legal-but-not-legal mindset of many police officers and citizens, I think that this is a very important form of civil disobedience.

  6. Sebastian says:

    Robb:

    I should note that I’m primarily speaking about Pennsylvania here. Florida still has a struggle to make open carry legal, which changes things a bit. But I think the number of people who will benefit from open carry are relatively small compared to the number of people who will benefit from, say, getting rid of our registration system, or largely kicking MAIG out of Pennsylvania.

  7. windex1 says:

    One thing I’ve noticed: Most of the open-carriers are well dressed and average looking.

    What will happen when the more crazy looking people start open carrying? How would the people of Virginia respond if they started seeing a lot of guys with shaved heads and gang tats on their necks carrying black rifles on Main Street?

  8. Sebastian says:

    As a result of the pervasive legal-but-not-legal mindset of many police officers and citizens, I think that this is a very important form of civil disobedience.

    I’m not all that unsympathetic to fixing the attitudes of law enforcement in regards to open carry, and I don’t see a good way to accomplish that without doing it, but I still think one can exercise discretion in terms of time and place where one does it, as to minimize what other people’s impression will be when it’s inevitably picked up by the media.

  9. Robb Allen says:

    windex1, let me help you with that

    One thing I’ve noticed: Most of the free-speech people are well dressed and average looking.

    What will happen when the more crazy looking people start practicing free speech? How would the people of Virginia respond if they started seeing a lot of KKK members holding a parade on Main Street?

    Same thing. You can always find an easy way to give up rights when you start fearing “the other” using those rights as well.

  10. Sebastian says:

    First, I disagree with your assumption that Open Carry is “shocking behavior”. It isn’t, unusual yes, but not shocking.

    I don’t know, the behavior seemed to be pretty frowned upon by the media and by the Scranton city council.

    Let the media and the average person sees that Open Carry is done by the average person.

    Except by virtue of strapping on a firearm, you’re automatically outside the space of “average person” because average people do not carry. What you want to convince people is that people who carry are normal, well adjusted individuals. But in order to do that, you have to carry in a manner, and in circumstances that people can relate to. Whether it’s correct or not, the average person has a difficult time understanding why someone would show up to a city council meeting openly armed, and many of the reasons they might imagine are not positive.

  11. DirtCrashr says:

    Well, it would probably work in San Francisco…if it were guys in BDSM gear and all that. :-)

  12. Peter says:

    Speaking of ‘overwrought’, you might start with the unsupported assertion that open carry is ‘shocking’.

    Take a look at Tom’s comments in the earlier post. He has drunk the evangelical kool-aid that claims that homosexulaity is some sort of ‘lifestyle choice’ without considering that no sane individual would ‘choose’ to be a social outcast in some circles and a viable target to others. The very best that can be hoped in this instance is that those sharing Tom’s attitude will grumble, shake their heads, and walk away. They will never accept homosexuality, even if it is couched as an unknowable part of God’s Plan.

    And from there, we come to the thoroughly secular issue of Open Carry. There are people who will never ever accept that. For those folks, a holstered pistol will always be ‘shocking’. We cannot be held hostage to people who lose control of their bladder at the sight of some carefully engineered metal or polymer.

  13. Sebastian says:

    Well, San Francisco for gay BDSM is kind of like Tombstone, AZ is for open carry. There are certainly some places where it’s normal and accepted, and I don’t think it ought to change, or people who open carry there doing something awful. But there are places where it doesn’t help, just as you’re not going to get rural Texans to accept gay BDSM by going there and engaging in gay BDSM in public, you’re not going to get San Franciscans to accept carry by doing so openly (assuming it was legal).

  14. Bob S. says:

    Sebastian,

    Except by virtue of strapping on a firearm, you’re automatically outside the space of “average person” because average people do not carry

    That is exactly the point, we are letting the media and the anti’s define what is “average” by not showing the “average person” does carry.

    As long as a firearm is concealed, people don’t know the Meleanie Hahn’s or the doctor next door or the computer guy is carrying. Putting Open Carry out there, suddenly the average person is carrying.

    Don’t confuse average with normal, carrying a firearm isn’t widespread, but we are pretty average in most ways. Not too rich, not too poor, working class folks with or without kids….that is average.

    hether it’s correct or not, the average person has a difficult time understanding why someone would show up to a city council meeting openly armed,

    And not showing up openly armed gains us what?
    Nothing, not a a darn thing.
    Not a chance to talk to the people and explain.
    Not a chance to show that people can be armed and not violent.
    Not a chance for a friend, family, or neighbor to share they also carry just concealed.

    I’ve talked more about firearms and our rights since the media carried the stories of people openly carrying then I did prior. Conversations I didn’t start either. This wouldn’t have been possible with concealed carry. Many people didn’t realize it was legal or didn’t realize the draw backs of carrying concealed.

    Without someone Openly Carrying, they would have never talked about it.

    What we don’t need is people who are on our side making analogies that provide ammunition to those against us.

    Isn’t that your argument?

  15. Sean Sorrentino says:

    Strangely enough, there is a parallel to be made here. there are a lot of kinky people out there. someone who is attuned to the signs, and who is willing to run the freak flag up will meet a lot of them.

    it is kind of disappointing that running the gun flag up doesn’t really get more attention. disappointing in a perverse sort of way, because it really is heartening if you look at it the right way. since no one really cares in your day to day life, it reminds you that the anti-gun people are a distinct minority.

    being out of the Gun Safe allows you to make it easier for the next guy to come out himself. Maybe that’s what we should call it instead of Open Carry. Let’s call it “Coming out of the Gun Safe.”

  16. markofafreeman says:

    Sean Sorrentino: “since no one really cares in your day to day life, it reminds you that the anti-gun people are a distinct minority. ”

    Excellent point, Sean. I think it was Sebastian himself who did the research into VPCs funding source and found membership dues to be zero dollars. There is *no* grassroots in the anti-gun movement. The “average” person out there could care less if you carry a gun on your hip. Politicians and the media and the gun banning organizations are the exceptions, not the rule.

    In places like PA where both concealed (licensed, at least) is permitted and open carry is not unconstitutionally prohibited by statute (plus the added benefit of pre-emption), why not use it as an opportunity to mentioned to the complainers, “hey, would you rather 50 out of the 100 people here be carrying weapons and you *not* knowing it? Wouldn’t you rather *know* who is armed?” Of course, there’s always the risk (but I think quite minor) that the complaining politician will wan’t to repeal the conceal carry provision, but given the precedent of 40 states and not one of them repealing it (because, duh, there’s been only miniscule problems with conceal carriers), the barrier is quite high.

    The point is, that it’s what most of these open carriers apparently do. Why should they stop doing it just because of a negative reaction when it’s still a wonderful opportunity to talk about the issues?

  17. Sebastian says:

    Excellent point, Sean. I think it was Sebastian himself who did the research into VPCs funding source and found membership dues to be zero dollars. There is *no* grassroots in the anti-gun movement. The “average” person out there could care less if you carry a gun on your hip. Politicians and the media and the gun banning organizations are the exceptions, not the rule.

    That’s an awfully big leap to make, and I can find more than a few incidents where people freaked out who were in none of the categories.

    And try this on for size — you better care what the politicians think because they make the laws. That’s the last group I want getting upset about open carry.

  18. Robb Allen says:

    Should we not protest our masters either, lest they try to make a law against that too?

  19. markofafreeman says:

    I also want to call your attention, Sebastian, to something you said in a post a week ago today titled “High Public Approval for Hunting” and hold you to it:

    ‘The danger I see is that hunters have not yet accepted the “no one gets thrown off the lifeboat” philosophy that most in the shooting community have come to understand.’

    Zumbo got an awakening when he threw 10s of millions of gun owners off the lifeboat. I wouldn’t put what you’re doing in the same category.

    Yet.

    You are entitled to your opinion, as I affirmed on Snarkybytes, but the more you rant about this and the more you jump on every opportunity to give open carriers a hard time for just doing what they do, and in situations only *they* can be the judge of, since it is *they* who are in those situations, the more you come across as a politician rather than someone fighting for our freedoms.

    You don’t like open carry. We get that.

    I’d mention another blog that’s not specifically about gun rights, but I don’t want to give him air time. Let’s just say that he’s let a couple of issues dominate his blog that sent him off the deep end and over the cliff into what’s nearly the leftist camp. And he bans people for differing opinions frequently. I stopped reading him long ago.

    I’ve been reading you, I think, for over a year, now, and though I don’t agree with you a good amount of the time, I think you are doing useful writing and activism. But the more you beat this issue to death the more you at risk you are to become a single micro-issue blog where every other post is a bash against open carry. You let the frustration of disagreement get to you enough that you blurted out something that is the opposite of what you really believe. Do that often enough and it could hurt you’re case in *any* discussion.

  20. Linoge says:

    And try this on for size — you better care what the politicians think because they make the laws. That’s the last group I want getting upset about open carry.

    So, Sebastian – when did you make the transition from “citizen” to “subject“?

  21. Sebastian says:

    You’re only getting thrown off the lifeboat if I suggest open carry ought to be illegal, or suggest I won’t do anything to defend it as a legal practice. Neither are true.

  22. Sebastian says:

    Robb, Linoge:

    Like it or not they make the law. You can lobby them to vote for this or that, or not vote for this or that, or work to try to get them out of office if they displease you, but that’s about it. Generally speaking, you won’t give very far if you aren’t concerned with making a reasonable case for your point of view.

  23. Sean Sorrentino says:

    “Like it or not they make the law. You can lobby them to vote for this or that, or not vote for this or that, or work to try to get them out of office if they displease you, but that’s about it.”

    i’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt here and not pretend you mean something much more insidious than the simple statements of fact. to a certain extent, they are vastly more powerful people than any one of us individually.

    I wonder, however, how you approach lobbying. Are you asking people to change their minds or are you asking them to justify their previously unchallenged attitudes? I have found that it is a lot easier to make people think when you force them to justify their attitudes than if you try to get them to adopt yours. Using OC as an issue here, when someone says, “you can’t do that!” you ask them why not. (we are assuming you are not on their private property) When they say, “it’s against the law,” you ask them which law.

    Sometimes a stupid look and a question will get you a lot further than a book length recitation of the facts. Once they get their minds open to the fact that they might possibly be incorrect, without once being told that they are foolish sheeple idiots, you can hand them the PA Gun Rights Flyer

    http://paopencarry.org/pdfs/Pennsylvania_Gun_Rights.pdf

    and smile. It’s the smile that seals it. a warm, welcoming smile that just absolutely forces the recipient to tell his friends what a nice young man that gun nut was, and so knowlegeable too.

    as only a recent convert to the whole open carry thing, it isn’t what i expected. the stuff you learned when you started CCing about avoiding trouble and being polite goes double. there just isn’t any in-your-face about it. an aggressive jerk is enough of a problem. and aggressive jerk with a gun gets a visit from Officer Friendly and all his buddies. the key here is, don’t be aggressive and don’t be a jerk.

    i try to leave happy people in my wake. the funny thing about it is that all my forced cheerfullness makes me happier as a result. when you are friendly to others, they almost can’t help but to be friendly back. it’s amazing how many friendly people there are around.

    come over to the Dark Side, Sebastian. Even if you decide not to stay, you will get a deeper understanding of the actual reactions of others, rather than the distorted picture presented by our political opponents in the general media.

  24. illspirit says:

    If you’re trying to keep the S&M club from being closed, then, yea showing up at town hall in a gimp suit might backfire. If, however, you’re just trying to make it so people don’t grab their children and run away screaming when they see a well dressed gay or lesbian couple walk past them holding hands, having parades filled with fabulous, mustachioed men wearing nothing but leather chaps and cock rings works rather well for making the aforementioned couple seem tame by contrast.

    Most of the noise over open carry lately has been because of the guys at an event where the President was kinda sorta near. I saw a half dozen or so people open carrying at a Tea Party in VA back in April, and it wasn’t in breathless headlines anywhere. Do you think that would be the case if the VCDL, OCDO, et al hadn’t done so much to desensitize the press to ‘man with gun’ sightings?

    While the guy with the AR at the town hall in Arizona might make a few fence-sitters unhappy next time they see someone open carrying a pistol, I would imagine most would be like “oh, that’s not so bad, at least it’s not an EBR and the President isn’t here.”

    Sorta like that nice gay couple nobody really notices on the street anymore because it takes a man in a crotchless Las Vegas showgirl costume to shock them now.

  25. Sebastian says:

    I think that’s a reasonable theory, and open carry people have Virginia to point to as a state where open carry was made to be more normal, and no longer risks much confrontation with law enforcement. But not all states are Virginia, and I would note that the open carry movement in Virginia originally started as a way to get them to change the laws on concealed carry in restaurants.

  26. markofafreeman says:

    There was another interesting thing about the town hall meetings throughout the summer congressional recess that’s really just a theory of mine.

    There was no violence to speak of from the town hall attendees and protestors. UNTIL the leftist thugs from SEIU showed up and beat up a black man who was doing nothing but handing out Gadsen flags.

    Not long after that started, Mr. Kostric showed up with his pistol with a “It’s time to water the tree of liberty” sign, and then there was “Chris” carrying the AR-15 along with several others open carrying (which was a planned event, by the way…the police were notified in advance and the guy doing the long interview with him helped plan it…but nothing was secret about it).

    Maybe there was some overlap, but I would have expected the violence to continue as SEIU PSTs kept showing up at the town halls, bussed in from all over the place. But the reports of violence all but stopped (save one missing finger). I don’t claim to know what conversations took place on SEIU forums or behind closed doors, but it did make me wonder at the time if the halt to the violence had something to do with the potential of (White House endorsed) armed citizens ready to put a stop to any attacks.

    Now this is an entirely different scenario that most of what’s being presented here, but it does show that there are times that it makes sense to display a show of force to ward off would be attackers in known volatile situations and simultaneous make it part of the protest (though I suspect many of them, like Kostric, were just doing what they normally do every day). I’m absolutely aware of the huge risk it *could* be due to the high emotions at some of these protests, but sometimes it just makes sense.

    The more I think about it the more I believe that this is an absolutely perfect example of a time when the 2nd amendment has successfully been exercised for precisely the purpose of defending the 1st.

    (PSTs = Purple Shirted Thugs, as opposed to JBTs ;-))

  27. illspirit says:

    No, not all States are like VA, but maybe more of them would be if more of us came out of the proverbial closet. ;) Granted, it wouldn’t work well as an activist tactic in, say, NY, but perhaps we can normalize it in most of the country and outnumber them in Congress and such.

    As for restaurant carry, we’d have had that this year if it weren’t for Kaine’s veto. How much of our public and legislative support might have come from nervous fence-sitters facing a somewhat Hegelian choice between seeing the spooky guns (thesis) and putting them out of sight and mind (synthesis) because banning them (antithesis) wasn’t an option? And how many joined our side (or at least stopped being afraid) when they saw that holstered guns don’t jump out and massacre busloads of nuns of their own free will like the Brady Bunch would have them think?

    Either way, we’ve moved towards fixing our carry laws and pretty much normalized open carry in most parts of the Commonwealth in the process.

  28. elmo iscariot says:

    For what it’s worth, this scenario just played out in my area a couple months ago. Some nattering moralists tried to close down a local BDSM shop and its associated dungeon space (open only to members). A middlin’ protest group turned up to demonstrate at the city council meetings, many of whom–including the business owner–did the whole routine with leather, paraphernalia, and submissives on leashes. The city ultimately decided to drop its zoning objections and leave the place alone, but having spoken to some residents involved with the city’s politics, the protestors had about zero influence on the decision.

    With regard to open carry, I do think it’s reasonable to point out that you have the greatest impact when you choose a prudent order to fight your battles in. The opposition knows well enough to focus on “the gun show loophole”, and build steam from there. We’re accomplishing things I’d previously thought were impossible by going carefully and deliberately through some building steps: we’ve taken a SCOTUS affirmation of individual 2A rights into a near-certain incorporation against the states. From there we can sue to strike down other irrational state and local laws, like bans on light carbines that look like assault rifles, arbitrary licensing requirements, outright and de facto bans on _any_ carry, and arbitrary ammo restrictions. Normalizing open carry is a great goal (just as repealing the NFA and GCA are), but insisting on getting everything we want right now without any concern for whether the public is ready for the parts of our agenda that are further outside their experience will dramatically decrease our chances of success.

    MAIG knows well enough not to put full gun registration, carry bans, semiauto bans, and ammo restrictions on its agenda up front. Can we really afford to be less publicity savvy than MAIG? Being right doesn’t mean you’ll win. If you have the strongest idea in the world and market it badly, it won’t sell.

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