Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Princess And The Pea Brain

It's all just a game.

This is what sounds smart to a dumb person. For the real problem with Megan McArdle is not her utter lack of empathy for anyone outside of her immediate circle, her mystification at the idea of journalistic ethics, or her vacuous worship of consumerism and all the rilly nice people who provide her with new kitchen gadgets. It's her intellectual capacity. She's dumb. She has the brain the size of a pea. She doesn't have two brain cells to rub together and she would probably end up setting herself on fire if she tried.

But she's dumb in a very special way. McArdle repeats what smarter people say, pretending that she was able to reason out the issue as well. She links to intellectual-looking resources but those works contradict or do not support what she claims. She examines every aspect of the situation in excruciating length, substituting verbiage for analysis. But the words are all empty; meaningless pseudo-intellectual garbage. There is no supporting evidence, no analysis, no chain of argument. There is nothing but a not-very-clever woman who thinks she is being smart, sophisticated and an intellectual leader when she says that children should rush a gunman who is opening fire on them.

Why make such a stupid statement? Because she is stupid. McArdle does not like the idea of gun control because she does not like the idea of people telling her what to do.
I wasn't going to buy a gun, because, hey, what would I do with it? But the chicken guano rules that DC is imposing make me want to buy a handgun just to annoy the twopenny tyrants who thought them up:

[snipped quote]

May I really carry it inside my home without a license, just as if I were a free citizen in a country that respects individual liberty? I am overcome with gratitude, really overwhelmed with the state's generosity . . . permission to cry, sir?
Stupid people do not realize that they are making knee-jerk, adolescent decisions based on a disproportionate sense of self-importance, spite, and greedy anticipation of grabbing everything they want (or might want some time in the future) before anyone else can take it away or keep it for themselves. Stupid people think they are following their ideology to its logical conclusion. They ignore common sense, logic, reason, and empathy because they they have an ax to grind.

Stupid people are also superstitious. The larger framing of McArdle's stupidity is the belief in a universal struggle between good and evil.
Trying to climb this mountain of wickedness is like trying to climb a glass wall with your bare hands. What happened there is pure evil, and evil, unlike common badness, gives an ordinary mind no foothold.
But I doubt we're going to tell people to gang rush mass shooters, because that would involve admitting that there is no mental health service or "reasonable gun control" which is going to prevent all of these attacks. Which is to say, admitting that we have no box big enough to completely contain evil.
Believing in evil is very convenient and satisfying. People are either good or bad. Good people almost always do good things (we are Fallen, after all) and bad people always do bad things. Therefore if anyone that McArdle considers good--corporate CEOs, titans of industry, hedge fund managers--does something bad, McArdle is easily able to deny that those bad actions ever occurred. If McArdle does not like the idea of gun control she can choose to believe that bad people are born that way and there is nothing anyone can do to stop their bad actions. Whether or not McArdle actually believes this is immaterial. Many people unconsciously choose to pretend that they believe in something if it is to their advantage.

The normal reaction to the mass shooting of a bunch of small children is horror and grief, in varying degrees of course. But McArdle does not want to be horrified because she is wrestling with even stronger emotions, her allegiances to those who ally with the gun lobby. McArdle doesn't care about guns much herself and certainly is not happy to see them used to kill kids. But McArdle is a libertarian married to another libertarian, Peter Suderman, who works for Reason, which has a long history of fighting gun control. She does not like to see her views and the views of people like her under attack. So she decides that gun control just wouldn't work, and in her infinite wisdom she shares all the reasons with us little people on her blog.

Most of her reasons consist of saying that nothing can be done to stop someone who wants to shoot people. They will carry out their plans no matter what they circumstances. That might be true but McArdle does not think that it would be any use to try to stop them. Mental health facilities? They already exist, so nothing more need be done. More gun laws? Gun laws already exist, so more will fail. Less lethal guns? They'll just use more guns instead. She has an excuse for everything to insure the nation is inactive in the face of mass shootings. But her excuses are based on willful denial, the refusal to feel any horror at the strange fruits of our gun culture so she can continue to ally herself with libertarians and conservatives. In McArdle's tribal thinking, libertarians are for guns and liberals are against guns, and McArdle finds it extremely gratifying to imagine her side is winning an argument against the side of her enemies.

Conservatives who argue that a total ban wouldn't lower the homicide rate are being ridiculous.   
America would still have a higher homicide rate than anywhere else, because for whatever reason, America is an incredibly violent place.
America has more guns than many other countries and America has many more deaths because of all those guns, but she cannot figure out why America is such a violent place. Bullshit. Of course she can. She just does not want to, and her willful ignorance makes her stupid.

But I think there's no question that our homicide rate would be lower than it is now, simply because fewer killings would succeed.

Nor am I going to go through the various cost-benefit reasons that we might want to allow guns, such as defensive uses. I find some of these arguments compelling, others less so. I will say that liberals who argue that defensive uses never save lives are being just as ridiculous as conservatives who claim that guns don't increase the death rate. We don't know the number of defensive uses, but we do know that they happen, because there are many well-documented cases. 

But now is not a good time to have a cost-benefit discussion, and there may never be a good time. The two sides are too far apart: gun control is mostly advocated by people who do not own guns, or want to own guns, and for them it is therefore a zero cost policy. Maybe a negative cost policy, because--apart from the violence--they have a fairly intense cultural antipathy for people who spend a lot of time playing with guns. Randall Collins notes that "US surveys indicate the favorite TV shows of liberal Democrats are comedians satirizing conservatives; conservatives' favorites are college football." However right they may be, those people are not in a good position to persuade gun owners that they shouldn't want to own guns, or that having them taken away is a negligible cost in the bigger picture. Nor have gun owners had any better luck explaining to the other side why they might want to own guns even though some people abuse them.

So I'll merely point out what Jeffrey Goldberg has already said, better and at greater length, in The Atlantic: the discussion is moot. You can't ban guns. That ship has sailed.

It seems strawmen, not diamonds, are a girl's best friend.  They enable McArdle to indulge in her favorite activity: pretending to be an intellectual Big Thinker dispensing her wisdom to the less elite. Nuance is ignored so Miss Megan can play Pretty Pretty Princess, earning her plastic jewels hard-earned pay as a reward for her specialness. All liberals hate guns, for whatever reason, so of course they want to ban all guns. It's in their culture, which mindlessly controls their every move. Meanwhile conservatives, for whatever reason, "spend a lot of time playing with guns." It's in their culture, evidently, to covet gun ownership. So gun control is impossible, just as caring for the mentally ill is impossible and public safety is impossible and everything else that Megan McArdle considers liberal is impossible.

But one thing, perhaps is possible. It is conservative and libertarian to unload all of the burdens of society on the individual, so Megan McArdle says that it should be individuals who stop mass shootings. It sounds perfectly logical to her!
My guess is that we're going to get a law anyway, and my hope is that it will consist of small measures that might have some tiny actual effect, like restrictions on magazine capacity. I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. Would it work? Would people do it? I have no idea; all I can say is that both these things would be more effective than banning rifles with pistol grips.

Yes, Megan McArdle just said that the "young people" should  rush the gunman or men and take them down. Because only a fucking moron would say that kindergartners should be trained assassins, McArdle fudges the issue a little but the point is not gun control or little kids' lives or the mental health of our nation. The point is that Megan McArdle is right and all those stoopid liberals are wrong. How does she know this? A rich lady is paying her a ton of money to give such opinions. She has to be right.

And what is the agonizing tragedy of little children's death next to Megan McArdle's need to stroke her own ego and revel in her own specialness?


BDR said...

Figured you were busy, knew you'd get here. Thanks.

Downpuppy said...

The sheer number of words in Megan's posts left me (and just about everyone) with only : TL;DR.

Nice to see you back in action.

Both Sides Do It said...

Was eagerly anticipating this. Did not disappoint.

"It seems strawmen, not diamonds, are a girl's best friend."

"And what is the agonizing tragedy of little children's death next to Megan McArdle's need to stroke her own ego and revel in her own specialness?"


Landru said...

I was also waiting eagerly for you to take this one on. Thanks.

Ufotofu9 said...

I was waiting for your response to this, the unofficial winner of "Worst Punditry about Sandy Hook Massacre."

Matt said...

Kudos. I too looked forward to your weighing in on McArgleBargle's asshattery. You never disappoint.

atat said...

It seems like the standard excuse for her evil stupidity this time around is that her "gang rush" comments were "tongue in cheek."

They obviously weren't, but I guess that goes without saying around these parts. She really does have a knack for appearing intelligent and reasonable to dumb people.

Adam Eli Clem said...

Nice work, Susan.

Anonymous said...

Oh look, a double down with a distortion and in the comments claiming someone else misread her.

Of course, everyone always misreads her. Poor persecuted Megan.

Susan of Texas said...

Thanks, guys.

antonello said...

Children rushing a killer en masse, potentially sacrificing their lives for the greater good? McArdle, libertarian pharisee, wrote that?

No wonder she sourly lies about what she has written. Consistency is not her virtue. What she ought to have suggested, of course, was that the children should have thrown some other child at the gunman: preferably the child who is the most working-class and therefore likely to grow up to be a whining parasite.

Little Ayn Rand wouldn't have thrown herself at the killer, would she? Hell, no. Not her. Actually, considering Rand's documented infatuation with sociopaths, she might have had an instant crush on the gunman; perhaps she would have offered to help him kill.

But really, Susan, you must be taken to task. You said that McArdle was being callous about the children. Why, didn't she write these very words:

"This is not because I don't care about dead children; my heart, like yours, broke about a thousand times this weekend."

Her heart broke a thousand times! How could you possibly overlook such an operatic line? But this is perhaps the effect of McArdle's prose: one gets so accustomed to the grandstanding mediocrity that her pretensions have a nullifying effect.

Clever Pseudonym said...

Jesus effing Christ. It is my turn to be heartless and at Christmas, no less. Anyone, trained or otherwise, who argues that ordinary civilians of any age should rush a crazed gunman deserves to be locked in a room with one. I have faced gunfire and trust me, the first instinct is to duck, cover, run away....SURVIVE. The most selfless you get is possibly protecting the youngest around you. I'm sickened by these bastards who insist they would have saved the day under circumstances they've never bloody suffered a day in their toffee-nosed lives.

Fuck Megan McArdle. She's pissed me off with her vacuous, self-absorbed stupidity a lot, but never like this.