Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How cultists read: gun nuts and the Constitution, SJWs and the Letter from a Birmingham Jail

For new readers: I often criticize extremists whose goals I share  for the same reason George Orwell, a democratic socialist, criticized authoritarian socialists and for the same reason governments insert provocateurs into protest movements: people who do bad things for good causes can be the greatest threat to those causes. In this case, I oppose banning guns, and I've actively opposed racism ever since I marched for integration as a child in the 1960s.


I'm writing about SJWs again because I recently learned I'm mentioned in Why ‘social justice warrior,’ a Gamergate insult, is now a dictionary entry and in the RationalWiki's Social justice warrior. The RationalWiki says I'm guilty of "tone policing" and links to their entry on Tone argument, which has a take on Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail that calls for ignoring both text and context.

Which reminded me of how gun extremists read the Constitution to conclude Americans have a right to keep guns to oppose domestic tyranny and, therefore, the government may not regulate gun ownership.

Here's 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.
Gun nuts ignore the "well regulated Militia" in two ways. Some say it's only an explanation for the right to have guns. They fail to note that none of the other amendments waste words on explanations. Others say a "well regulated Milita" consists of gun owners who may gather to overthrow democratically elected officials if they don't like what those officials are doing.

The Constitution has two useful bits about militias. From Article I, Section 8:
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; 
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
From Article II, Section 2:
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States...
Militias obey the President and suppress insurrections—George Washington made that clear when he used the militia to end the Whiskey Rebellion. To believe the Constitution has anything to do with opposing what you believe is domestic tyranny calls for being in thrall to a delusion that prevents you from understanding the words before you.

As for the "well regulated" phrase, any student of history knows militias have always had regulations about training and sometimes specified the kinds of weapons militia members should keep. Switzerland today may be the best example of a culture with a well-regulated militia: adults are expected to have guns, and strict laws regulate their use.

But cultists protect their belief systems by reading through warped lenses. A fine example: the RationalWiki's Tone argument insists, "Dr King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail[wp]" was fundamentally a response to white tone trolls and concern trolls" and quotes this part of his letter:
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season."
RationalWiki's interpretation illustrates two parts of the SJW worldview:

1. SJWs believe words are deeds, so when they rage on the internet, they think they're being "activists". They can't see that the white moderates King mentions were not complaining about his tone or suggesting that he should be more civil to be more effective. They were opposing the civil rights movement's "methods of direct action", the marches and demonstrations and all the things they did which were conducted peacefully and respectfully. Because the civil rights leaders believed in being civil, King's critics could not criticize his tone—he always strove to treat everyone with love and respect. In the Birmingham letter, he talks about being an "extremist for love" standing between the extremes of complacency and violence.

2. SJWs prioritize race over class, so they miss that fact that the letter is about "white moderates" who are "more devoted to "order" than to justice" and also about "middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security ... have become insensitive to the problems of the masses." King's use of "insensitive to the problems of the masses" is essential—it anticipates the current situation where black Americans are so divided by class that nearly 40% of them think it's wrong to speak of black Americans as a single race, and where privileged black graduates from expensive schools are far more concerned with issues of identity than economics.

King's letter has nothing to do with "tone trolls" or "concern trolls"—it's about privileged white and black people who do not act to end what he called in 1967 the "giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism."

I'll end with two King quotes, one that I've shared often and one that I haven't shared enough:

"This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept—so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force—has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life."

“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.”