2011 Advertisement for the Bushmaster ACR taken from the web.
(Click for larger image)
The ad heading, “Forces of Opposition, Bow Down” is designed to evoke strong emotions and convey the power to control. Considering the unspeakable events in Connecticut, it gives perspective to look at the ad above vs. websites about the Bushmaster ACR that was involved in the tragedy, and how we deal with complex issues that stir passions. The same type of gun was used by the DC Sniper.
The first is a youtube clip of a young male proudly displaying his Bushmaster ACR at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCUjYe7SpJE Notice the second magazine on the table.
The second reviews a ‘virtual’ Bushmaster, used in a violent shooter video game. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fx4AvVV6cHY (Not advised if gore bothers you)
And here is an ad for a large gun shop legally selling Bushmasters, except they seem to be sold out. http://www.budsgunshop.com/catalog/index.php/cPath/36_60/sort/6a/page/1
Depressed young people read these ads and it is shamefull that we grownups seem unable to discuss important issues in a way that reassures our children that we are indeed behaving as rational adults. We’re not reticent about either side in an argument scaring the heck out of our kids to drive home their points. Imagine what a child feels when they look at the following advertisement. Having behaved in a way that has made our children feel helpless, powerless and depressed about their future, we then show them websites laced with guns and violence. Why does the outcome surprise us?
Consider: violence, political extremism on any issue, heated rhetoric, assault rifles, extended ammo clips and threatened and murdered children. In situations as terrible as the Arizona tragedy, now Connecticut, it is almost impossible to look beyond our immediate perceptions. This makes it doubly important to try to understand and respond rationally. I found just such understanding in the work of Lewis Richardson, a British scientist born in 1881 of a Quaker family, educated in math and physics at Cambridge. He volunteered as an ambulance driver in World War One. Seeking to understand the nature of conflict as a way to prevent it, he listed all deaths from war and murders from 1820 to 1950, which he published as “The Statistics of Deadly Quarrels.” When I read his conclusions, it gave me quite a visceral reaction. In any given year, murder and war account for approximately one percent of all deaths, and thus are statistically insignificant. My first thought was that this simply could not be correct, but Richardson is right. The subject of deadly quarrels has emotional power out of all proportion to its demographic and statistical meaning. It triggers only the pathos, or empathic element of Aristotle’s three aspects of meaningful debate: logos, ethos and pathos.
The pathos is so strong that appeals to logos, or logic and ethos, or ethics have little or no impact. Richardson understood the ethos and pathos of his work, as well as the logos of statistical analysis. He lumped murder and combat together. To those who held that “murder is an abominable selfish crime, but war is a heroic and patriotic adventure” he replied: “One can find cases of homicide which one large group of people condemned as murder, while another large group condoned or praised them as legitimate war. Such things went on in Ireland in 1921, and are going on now in Palestine.” The fact that his two examples are equally relevant today speaks to the power of emotion to obstruct logical and ethical solutions. While our actions may be driven by pathos, we must turn to logic and understanding to prevent the destruction of the ethical structure of our society.
Consider the Connecticut tragedy evaluated in light of the political power structure. Start with the major U.S. commercial interests in the gun market, owned by Cerberus corporation, a private equity firm. Fueled by cheap takeover money, they started in 2006 to build the Freedom Group, which now owns 13 brands of guns and ammunition manufacturers, including many iconographic gunsmiths, such as Remington, Marlin, and the Bushmaster.
The Oct 19, 2009 Wall Street Journal Dossier on the group cites this 2007 statement by a gun industry source: “One positive aspect to Cerberus’ involvement in the gun industry is that the huge political clout Cerberus commands as the ‘rescuer’ of Chrysler Corp. (which Cerberus also acquired) should undermine efforts to ban AR-platform rifles if the Democrats score big in the 2008 elections. Cerberus is big enough to make waves in Washington. Money talks in politics and Cerberus has lots of it.” Cerberus filed with the SEC in October 2009 to take the Freedom Group public, but the bubble in ammo and gun profits, caused by propaganda feeding the fear that Obama would take away peoples’ weapons, collapsed.
First quarter 2010 profits were halved. Bloomberg/Businessweek ran a 28 October 2010 article entitled, “Misfires Aplenty at Cerberus Gun Unit’. Their premier new product, the Bushmaster ACR, has been recalled because of a dangerous, accidental tendency to go on full-automatic fire. This type of misfire should be no surprise from the company that mismanaged Chrysler and GMAC severely, was bailed out with several billion taxpayer dollars, then triggered a robo-signing mortgage crisis. Adding insult to injury, one of their board members and major investors was involved in the Madoff scandal and was a board member of GMAC under Cerberus ownership. He resigned shortly after the Federal Reserve gave bank-holding status tp GMAC, giving them access to $5 billion in taxpayer money via TARP. Former Vice President Dan Quayle and former Bush Treasury Secretary John W. Snow remain as senior management of Cerberus.
Not surprisingly, Cerberus Capital Management was the biggest contributor to the Ben Quayle (son of Dan Quayle) 2010 congressional campaign. Ben Quayle introduced pro-gun legislation during his one-term tenure in Congress, including the Second Amendment Sovereignty Act to block regulation under the United Nation’s Arms Trade Treaty, removing funding to negotiate or implement this treaty–shades of Congress recent killing the ratification of the international treaty on rights of the disabled, negotiated by George H.W. Bush and ratified by 126 countries. The illegal small-arms trade addressed by the Arms Trade treaty is worth $60 billion annually. Maybe money really is the root of all evil.
It is an extreme position to say that military weapons should be available to the general public, and it is equally extreme to say that all guns should be banned. We owe our children a meaningful debate, seeking a sensible middle ground between these extremes. To solve all these crucial issues, from gun control to the financial cliff to climate change, we need responsible politicians, who will take the risks of meaningful legislation, not piecemeal political grandstanding driven by the calculus of their own political advantage. We need a media who will report fully on not only the legislation, but the gun industry itself, and if (or perhaps inevitably when) our political and business leaders act with contemptible, self-serving stupidity, reveal the facts that expose them for the fools they are.
Otherwise, we will have no future, and go on trying to fool our children, lying to them until the very end.
The children know.
(Shortly after this article was posted to the Web, Cerberus announced that they would sell Freedom Works, which manufactures the Bushmaster. For an earlier article on the idiocy of some politicians, please see an earlier post, Politicians, Perspicacity and Paintball. However, it’s not funny any more)