Renaming killers – the idea spreads

Folks have been writing in, ever since I posted the latest version of my “Names of Infamy” essay.  In fact, during just the last few days there has been a noticeable media swell – – a growing movement not to mention the name of the Aurora/Batman shooter.

As reported by Molly Hennesy-Fiske of the Los Angeles Times:  “Jordan Ghawi, 26, of San Antonio became frustrated by how much of news coverage focused on the 24-year-old Holmes. ‘Let us remember the names of the victims and not the name of the coward who committed this act,’ Ghawi tweeted Friday afternoon. The tweet went viral. When some Twitter followers noticed Holmes’ name trending on Twitter – something Ghawi said bothered his mother – they started a campaign to promote (a victim’s) name instead.”

On Sunday, Mr. Ghawi made his pitch directly to President Obama, who chose not to mention the shooter by name, in his public remarks.

Not a new idea, this worthy notion goes back to the last century, even long before I proposed it publicly in Salon Magazine (1999), describing the “Herostratos Effect” in which ancient peoples would sometimes expunge the names of those committing heinous crimes.

The pros and cons and means of doing this in a modern context, while preserving full memory, accountability and freedom of speech, lead to some interesting possibilities.

Although my most recent posted version of the Herostratos essay led to some radio time,  I imagine Mr. Ghawi and the others thought of this notion independently — and more power to them! Good ideas sometimes take time, before finally gaining traction.

Still,  the intellectual/historical side of things may be of interest, if this idea is to build momentum and become a factor in solving a terrible human problem.

=== The absurd nostrums on “gun control” ==

My “names of infamy” proposal is actually quite separate from another matter — the endless tussle over gun control.

And yet, the two topics inevitably get conflated at a time like this. At least, they were in a flood of emails, comments and assertions on facebook, twitter and this web log, proclaiming that “this sort of thing brings out  hordes of liberals campaigning to eliminate the Second Amendment and gun owner rights.”

Speaking as a Smithian libertarian, but one who finds liberals worthy to talk-to, may I respond with a simple request? Will someone please show me this campaign?  Point to specific bills, or sustained efforts, even solidly backed proposals with even a slight chance of enactment.

They don’t exist.  And this simple little cartoon from Tom Tomorrow sums it up neatly.

Only one serious gun control notion is getting even tepid mention: to restore the requirement that people get checked out and licensed before blithely purchasing full-on assault rifles with mega-sized magazines.  The very law that would have prevented the Aurora shooter-nut from easily acquiring his means to spray mass death.

That rule was passed, way back in the sane 20th Century, by an old thing called negotiated consensus between sober democratic and republican leaders… a pragmatic measure that led to no “slippery slope,” nor any decay in reasonable gun-owner rights. Alas, it was flushed away by the later, crazier breed controlling Congress in 2005.

Now before you call me a lefty nut, please pause for perspective: those who denounced the assault gun licensing requirement  — and who howl now against its restoration — seem to have no problem with the ongoing, 70 year old rule against private ownership of full-scale machine guns. So then, it’s just a matter of where you choose to draw lines, right?

Raising this question: when one whacko can kill or wound 72 people in a couple of minutes, so quickly that no brave bystander gets a chance to tackle him, isn’t that a “machine gun” style situation? Can you contemplate that maybe – just maybe – your line-in-the-sand may have been drawn just a tad too far? Is it possible to rediscover the sane art of pragmatic compromise, without fainting away or screeching in dread of a Slippery Slope?

I have shown a possible national compromise that would be a win-win… actually strengthening the constitutional guarantees of basic, essential gun ownership, while at the same time allowing pragmatic measures to be taken that reduce some of the worst calamities… all without a slippery slope.  (That is, I have shown it to the half dozen people who still have both curiosity and the patience to read careful arguments. If you choose not to actually read that proposal, please don’t gush forth generalized comments here, about what you presume it to be.)

Anyway, it’s all much, much simpler than that.

The Slippery Slope does not exist. Not anymore.  It’s a fantasy. And I can prove it.

The fact is – and, again let me remind you that I say this not as a “liberal” but as a Heinleinian-Smithian Libertarian – the right seems completely unaware of a seismic shift that happened under G.W. Bush —

— when many liberals started arming themselves.

Yes, they are. As is their perfect right.

Now tell that to your crazy uncle and watch multiple expressions pass across his face, as it sinks in.



Filed under psychology, society

2 responses to “Renaming killers – the idea spreads

  1. Actually, those of us on the gun rights side do find the strict regulations on fully automatic weapons to be silly. Full auto encourages the shooter to dump all his ammunition quickly, which is why the military insists on a three-round burst setting.

    But you asked for an example of an attempt to pass more gun control. Look here:

    Senator Schumer is trying to get a magazine capacity ban attached to a cybersecurity bill right now–this, despite the possibility that the Aurora shooter’s hundred-round magazine jammed, thereby impeding his attack. (Those C-Mag magazines are known to do that–known by those of us who study these matters.)

    What we have here is the rare case of someone who is insane enough to want to do this act, but also is organized enough to pull it off. With his level of intelligence, he could have put together explosive devices that would have been much more effective–devices made from legal products. The fact is that risk is a part of life, especially life in a free society.

  2. Sebastian

    ” Full auto encourages the shooter to dump all his ammunition quickly”

    Which *totally* means the shooter wouldn’t do as much damage in a very, very crowded public space, right?

    But OK then, let’s humour you. You think high-caliber fully automatic weapons should be available to the public. What about Grenade Launchers? Mortars? Howitzers? Tanks? Strategic Bombers? Thermonuclear Devices?
    After all, the 2nd Ammendment says absolutely nothing about guns, just the ” right of the people to keep and bear arms”. Under a totally literalist approach, shouldn’t that mean any arms? Or is there maybe a line that needs to be drawn somewhere, with regards to public saftey? After all – coming back to the point about machine guns – I’m pretty fucking sure that someone with, say, an M60 and some ammo belts would do a lot more damage in a packed movie theatre than someone with a couple of handguns, or even an assault rifle.

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