Americans have never historically liked to admit we have class struggles. I guess it sounds a bit too Marxist, even though now we love ourselves some socialism now. Well, at least we love it to the extent the kids these days even know what socialism is. I don’t really hear too many young people singing the praises of Marx. Socialism has come to mean Scandinavian-style welfare states (which are not very socialist anymore). Do young people who dig “socialism” even know who Marx is? I’ve never had a young person tell me they are socialist and want to discuss Marxist theory. Anyway, I digress.
We don’t historically like Marxist-sounding class struggles, so we use proxy issues. Gun control is one of those fights. For the most part, the monied elite of Silicon Valley and New York City don’t like the idea of ordinary people being armed, and don’t much like the kind of people who insist on it. When I started blogging, we were enjoying a lot of cultural success. What were the elements at work then? In no particular order:
- We developed shooting sports that didn’t require large amounts of open space.
- We had found new ways to self-organize on the Internet.
- We were introducing a lot of people to shooting and promoting an evangelistic gun culture.
- Gun control forces were disorganized and out of money.
- The Supreme Court blessed our long-held viewpoint of the 2nd Amendment being an individual right. This worked! Even the reinvigorated gun control movement isn’t talking handgun bans. They want to ban semi-auto rifles now.
The question that I’ve been mulling around in my head is whether our current predicament is a backlash to our earlier success. Back then we were making a lot of noises about bringing our culture to New York City and preaching to the heathen there. We were optimistic. Then the Supreme Court toppled Chicago’s handgun ban, and further guidance from the 7th Circuit forced the establishment of a shall-issue regime. I think there’s a good argument for the idea that our success put people like Bloomberg, and a lot of his very rich friends, into an utter panic about the idea that they might end up living near those kinds of people. The idea that the courts might start letting the wrong kind of people exercise some semblance of personal dignity and autonomy, why, they might start getting the idea that their opinions ought to matter. We might have to endure *gasp* gun talk in our social circles. Wouldn’t that just be the worst?
I understand that Mike Bloomberg is an aviation enthusiast, and I’ve never understood how enthusiasts in anything don’t instinctively get other enthusiasts, because it’s all the same. But aviation is a good way to signal status, I suppose. Not guns. I know plumbers who have collections that put mine to shame. Can’t use that. In this day in age, there isn’t much to signal status for the wealthy. You basically have what? Houses, cars, yachts, and aircraft? I guess if you’re really wealthy, you can signal with your own space program, but I’d say that’s a subset of aircraft. I don’t think jewelry and furs do it much anymore. The rich have stopped signaling with dress in the 21st century, and signaling being very important, they have to make some distinction, right?
The difficult part for us is a small handful of wealthy people deciding to fund a backlash can accomplish quite a lot. Because there’s a lot of people who want to be upwardly, socially mobile, and will imitate the attitudes and behaviors of the Right Kind of People.Â The rise of the twin evils of the Google search monopoly and social media has had a powerful effect at amplifying elite opinion. Google has been a search monopoly for a while, but I think only recently they’ve started to understand they can use that monopoly to shape public opinion and started using it to that effect. I would argue the elite have never had such an effective toolbox for manipulating public opinion. William Randolph HearstÂ could have never dreamed about having the kind of power the Silicon Valley elite now wield.
Glenn Reynolds says about gun control, and I think he’s completely right about this: “It’s meant to humiliate the flyover rubies and show them who’s boss.” We don’t like class struggle in American politics so we couch it in other issues. A lot of people I know have gotten more strident about gun control because they are getting a lot of reinforcing signals on Social Media and the Internet that the Right Kind of People support gun control, and the Wrong Kind of People, a Bad Kind of People who want dead children, oppose it. Also, the Orange Man, who is Very Bad, sides with these warped gun people.
So what do we do? One thing is for sure, we can’t just shut up. We have to keep doing what we were doing that built on our initial success. But I have to admit, I don’t really engage in open political discussion on Facebook, and I deleted my Twitter presence a while ago. I have taken a course of disengagement with Social Media, except for a handful of communities that are carefully cultivated. It’s not that I shy from debate, or want to live in a bubble. I miss intelligent disagreement. I’m happy to advocate for things I believe in. But I can’t tolerate the mindless conformity, self-importance, and virtue signaling social media promotes. I’m always willing to discuss an issue. But I’m not willing to subject myself to being called a monster for disagreeing, or to waste my time watching other people preen for their peers. Social Media is full of that. Are we shooting ourselves in the foot by disengaging? What is a winning strategy in today’s world? Is there one? These are things I wrestle with.