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Jan 19 2013

Comedy Central on the gun control debate

On Thursday’s show, Stephen Colbert discussed the meaning of the second amendment of the US constitution, raising many of the issues that were discussed on this blog earlier that day.

The discussions in the comments that followed my blog post were notable for their reasoned quality around what is a highly charged topic. Why are such sober discussions so rare in the media and in government? The Daily Show had two segments that provided many examples of how quickly people resort to hyperbole so that the Godwin’s Law limit is reached in a remarkably short time.

(These clips were aired on January 17, 2013. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post.)

12 comments

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  1. 1
    kyoseki

    People are extremely passionate about the subject, all it takes is one person on either side making an asinine statement and any chance at a meaningful debate quickly disappears.

    I honestly wish we could see more reasoned debate in the media, but when you have a media that’s driven by advertising revenue than journalistic integrity, they tend to play up the discord rather than trying to seek a consensus.

    I actually thought that the discussion on Real Time with Bill Maher last night was pretty calm and reasonable (though obviously HBO is subscription driven), compare that with the idiocy you see on CNN (or Fox) where they basically have people like Piers Morgan and Alex Jones shouting at each other for an hour.

    Like Maher, I am not a proud gun owner, just like I’m not a proud hammer drill owner, there’s nothing to take pride in there.

  2. 2
    kyoseki

    I should point out that it’s certainly not just the firearms debate that the media plays up, look at the hyperbole surrounding the Fiscal Cliff….

    … what I wouldn’t give for access to BBC News 24 :/

  3. 3
    Francisco Bacopa

    You might be interested to know that the Nazi government in Germany in many ways relaxed gun control laws. Scroll down to the section “1938 German Weapons Act” in this article:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Germany

  4. 4
    Bob

    How about a Scalia like “Original Intent” of the second amendment, meaning that the gun nuts would be allowed to have as many muzzle loading black powder flintlock muskets as they wanted. Those were the “Arms” that the founders intended the “militia” to have. Those were the only “arms” envisioned by our founders. This would be in line with other “original intent” interpretations that the far right justices have had.

  5. 5
    machintelligence

    I remember reading that when allied airmen were shot down over Germany, they faced locals armed with guns.
    German aircrews who landed in England were greeted by Brits armed with shovels and pitchforks.

  6. 6
    kyoseki

    If this is the case (ignoring DC vs Heller which decided otherwise) then gay and interracial marriage should be illegal because the founders (and people writing the further amendments) clearly didn’t envisage that either.

    Still sure you want to press that viewpoint?

  7. 7
    kyoseki

    Sorry, I should rephrase, “gay and interracial marriage should not be Constitutionally protected” …

    (not that I’m saying that they’re not, but then I don’t make the argument that anything invented after the amendment was written isn’t also bound by that amendment).

  8. 8
    Marcus Ranum

    I am fascinated to watch how comedians have become the most important source of news and commentary in the country. St Sam once said “never argue with a comedian” and damn if he wasn’t right.

    The downside is that a comedian can just rely on flip remarks and timing to throw their opponent off. But Stewart and Colbert are making very sly and wickedly accurate political commentary. Which, in a well-run world, would be the niche occupied by – ummm – political commentators.

    I hope I live long enough to see the Comedy Central generation grow up and take over America. Sarcasm, skepticism and nihilism are going to be important mental skills as the American Empire collapses. Understanding the underlying funniness of the whole thing will probably help them keep level heads.

  9. 9
    Marcus Ranum

    meaning that the gun nuts would be allowed to have as many muzzle loading black powder flintlock muskets as they wanted

    I think they should be told to join the national guard. That way they can be part of a well-regulated militia, and maybe drive a tank or whatever on weekends. And they can wear uniforms and do disaster response and drive around in humvees and talk like the tough guys do on teevee. What’s not to like?

    When I was in the well-regulated militia I got to carry an M-60 machine gun! Woot! Only… the damn thing got heavy after a while. And one day I realized that it’s not really a tool you want to use, so I learned how to drive a forklift instead. Now, a forklift driven by a 21 year-old…? That’s a lethal weapon. But it was amusing how quickly the guys in my platoon who were “gun nuts” started to complain how heavy their M-16s were after they had to carry them for a while…

  10. 10
    garnetstar

    Colbert makes a great point about those who wish to defend themselves against the government with guns. Have they never heard of long-range artillery?

    But then, logic is not a strong point against emotionally-derived delusion, as the persistence of religion shows us.

  11. 11
    Marcus Ranum

    Garry Wills has a really interesting article on the degree to which right the right wing is funding legal treatment of the 2nd amendment.

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1995/sep/21/to-keep-and-bear-arms/

    Over the last decade, an industrious band of lawyers, historians, and criminologists has created a vast outpouring of articles justifying individual gun ownership on the basis of the Second Amendment: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

    This body of commentary, much of it published in refereed law journals, has changed attitudes toward the Second Amendment. The National Rifle Association’s lobbyists distribute it to legislators. Journalists like Michael Kinsley and George Will disseminate this school’s views. Members of it now claim, on the basis of their work’s quantity and what they believe is its quality, that scholarship on this subject is now all theirs—so that even to hold an opposing view is enough to “discredit its supporters,” according to the historian Joyce Lee Malcolm.1
    etc.

  12. 12
    Lassi Hippeläinen

    “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

    So the right to own arms is limited to members of a well-regulated militia? The NRA seems to have missed that point.

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