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Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre, we are in the midst of a "national conversation" about gun violence. As I suggested here, if history is any guide the lobbyists and the Gun Right are too powerful a force, with a hold too strong over the government, and a low-information public with a limited attention span, for reasonable gun control initiatives to be successfully passed by Congress.

Come next week, the now "enraged" public will return its focus be back to Honey Boo Boo, the Voice, and other assorted nonsense. A bunch of people will get killed in a month or two (again). The cycle continues unabated. We feed the gun god our young. He is always hungry for more.

Despite the news media's superficially exhaustive coverage of the Sandy Hook Massacre and gun violence this week, I have not seen the Gun Right and its foot soldier members given a "fair" voice. Of course, the NRA is in duck and cover mode. There have been gun fetishists trotted out by Fox and MSNBC to be public sacrificed as they try to excuse-make, and also offer up magical thinking about the cause of the Sandy Hook killing spree by Adam Lanza (more prayer in schools to somehow protect kids from bullets), and suggest equally foolish solutions such as arming teachers, and teaching kids to swarm a shooter.

Finding out what the gun crowd thinks about Sandy Hook and its potential political fallout is not difficult. You can talk to real people. A researcher can do surveys. A person could become a participant observant.

In the world of the Internet, the easiest thing is to just search online for the community you would like to observe in action. This method is hardly representative, as there is no way to confirm the identities of the people you are studying. They can be liars, charlatans, posers, frauds, or the like. But, even in that role, they are channeling some sense of what it means--real or imagined--to be a member of a given social body. Consequently, the ways in which members of that online community respond to them is an insight into its collective identity.

To point. I have been surveying websites which cater to gun owner/fans of the AR-15 assault rifle (basically the same weapon used by Adam Lanza). There are several online and they are easy to find. By definition, the folks who go to those websites are outliers--much like anyone who talks about politics or other matters online and on a routine basis. Nevertheless, the comments on the AR15.com site are still examples of what others in the broader gun community may in fact be thinking, but for reasons of time, energy, personality type, or other commitments, are not sharing online in that forum.

In my short survey, which I conducted over the last few days over at AR-15.com, I have come upon a few recurring themes.

In the world of the Internet, the easiest thing is to just search online for the community you would like to observe in action. This method is hardly representative, as there is no way to confirm the identities of the people you are studying. They can be liars, charlatans, posers, frauds, or the like. But, even in that role, they are channeling some sense of what it means--real or imagined--to be a member of a given social body. Consequently, the ways in which members of that online community respond to them is an insight into its collective identity.

To point. I have been surveying websites which cater to gun owner/fans of the AR-15 assault rifle. There are several online and they are easy to find. By definition, the folks who go to those websites are outliers--much like anyone who talks about politics or other matters online and on a routine basis. Nevertheless, the comments on the AR15.com site are still examples of what others in the broader gun community may in fact be thinking, but for reasons of time, energy, personality type, or other commitments, are not sharing online in that forum.

In my short survey, which I conducted over the last few days over at AR15.com, I have come upon a few recurring themes.

1. The AR15.com crowd are fanboys. Like fanboys or hobbyists in any other online community, they have their own hierarchy, inside language, rituals, routines for appealing to "the truth," and unstated priors about the nature of the world. Communities and societies all need to reproduce themselves in order to stay vibrant and alive. They also need to have a sense of internal order and coherence in order to remain whole. The difference with the Gun Right crowd is that their hobby is not innocent: it is potentially very lethal.

2. For all of the obligatory technical conversations and related esoterica on the site, the commenters participating in the discussion about the Sandy Hook Massacre (and in the general/politics threads) are sincerely scared. They have brought into a vision of a country where they are an embattled minority, where the State is coming for their precious guns, and their "right" to own said guns is forever imperiled.

3. Guns are freedom. The fetish object that is the gun is a symbol of power and citizenship for them. There is also a very Hobbesian worldview present at AR15.com which is common to the survivalist crowd. Society is not prefaced on mutual support and collaboration. It is a state of war where one is against all. Many of these folks are willing to kill in order to win. As such, violent rhetoric is used very casually.

4. These people hate President Obama. Although, he has done nothing to strengthen gun control laws he is evil incarnate. Much of the rage is talking point Right-wing claptrap. Nonetheless, the anger is real. There is also no small amount of white identity politics on display with its obligatory hostility to people of color. At present, conservatism and racism have overlapped in the United States. The survivalist and militia crowd have long been an organ of white nationalism. As such, the overlap of white racial resentment and extreme gun culture is not a surprise. This is especially true given the role of guns in maintaining white power in a country that for centuries was a Constitutionally mandated formal Racial State.

5. The United States is literally awash in guns. Yet, there is a threat to the "freedom" to own them. Interestingly, there appears to be no cognitive dissonance as the commenters on AR15.com do not even try to reconcile those facts.

6. I am suspicious of psychoanalytical frameworks which reductively claim that guns are a substitute for the penis. However, the obsession with owning more guns, even when said person claims to have a large arsenal, and is stockpiling millions of rounds (to hand down to the kids and future grand kids) is highly suggestive of a type of sexual paraphilia and/or issues of masculine identity and insecurity. The constant competition to outdo the other commenters with tales of gun ownership and ammunition purchases could be read as a type of phallocentrism.

7. Despite the rhetoric by the NRA and others that guns are the province of hunters and sportsmen. The rhetoric at AR15.com, and also by other spokespeople for the Gun Right, suggests that these folks imagine themselves to be "patriots" by the mere fact of having a gun, and that they are a peoples militia who will fight the government.

I would not go so far as to say this speech is treasonous or seditious--although it is mighty close--but given the political environment of the United States, and the routine use of eliminationist rhetoric by the Right-wing media against anyone not white, male, heterosexual, Christian, middle class, and conservative, one would have to be a fool to not be concerned about a bunch of heavily armed people that imagine themselves as uber patriots and 21st century guardians of "democracy."

Do take a virtual field trip to AR15.com or other such sites and share your findings.

What is the Gun Right discussing on social media? For those of you who do reconnaissance in the Deep Web, what is going on Post-Sandy Hook there? How are the Gun Right and its fetishists positioning themselves at present? Is their worldview disrupted? Is the Right-wing media bubble of epistemic closure burst by the Sandy Hook Massacre?

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Comment Preferences

  •  I've been doing a lot of reading at carry sites. (4+ / 0-)

    They seem to come in all flavors, but one clue about their politics lies in their 2012 ballot recommendations which are 99% GOP.

    And yes, there is such hatred for the president and anyone that doesn't exploit that or (dare!) speaks out on the president's behalf is roundly criticized and often brow-beaten. There is both open and "dog whistle" racism found on many sites, without any kind of correction or even enlightened suggestion.

    I have yet to see one statement of anyone supporting the re-thinking of aspects of gun control other that flat-out opposition. It's more guns make us safer, on the one hand, but guns don't kill people on the other. So weaponry is both innocent and potentially guilty and the dissonance of that is never called out.

    Because open carry issues involve loaded/unloaded, hand gun and long gun, the discussions are variable given the various laws across the country, but guns at Starbucks seems to be a favorite place to make their "stand" [I guess it's the 2000's version of the saloon?].

    They have advanced the discussion not one iota, from everything I have read, so far, but seemingly hunker down on acquiring high capacity clips/drums and ammo etc. given most of them already appear to have multiple weapons. One complained that gun owners' paranoia was driving up prices for other gun owners, which seems not only to be true from others' perspectives, but interestingly, a self limiting factor when it comes to arms acquisition.

    Litigation is frequently spoken of in terms of their view that the 2nd has NO restrictions applicable to anyone, anytime, anywhere when it comes to owning, handling, carrying etc. weapons.

    I have read about a dozen sites now, but there are many more.

    202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

    by cany on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 03:09:17 PM PST

  •  You should take a look at the RKBA diaries on DK. (3+ / 0-)

    They have an interesting take on Civil Rights history.

  •  I'll pass on your invitation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hey338Too

    to take the virtual field trip of AR15.com, but I sincerely appreciate your doing it for us and sharing the info.

    Thank you!  Good diary!

  •   "However, the obsession with owning more guns, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sandino

    even when said person claims to have a large arsenal, and is stockpiling millions of rounds (to hand down to the kids and future grand kids) is highly suggestive of a type of sexual paraphilia and/or issues of masculine identity and insecurity."

    "Millions of rounds"... one person, millions of rounds.  This person is mad and needs to be reported to authorities immediately.

    "And now we know that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob." -- FDR

    by Mogolori on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 05:54:52 PM PST

  •  Your #6 -- (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greycat, Sandino

    -- struggles with the 'male' aspect of this.  I just ran across some things you might like to read --

    1. a HuffPo article, written by a Jackson Somebody, who points out that the 'gendered' nature of this and similar events needs to be part of the conversation.  Males, and white males, their socialization & social expectations shapes these events.  (Sorry, lost the link).  He points to --

    2. this article -- http://www.examiner.com/...

    Rachel Kalish and Michael Kimmel (2010) proposed a mechanism that might well explain why white males are routinely going crazy and killing people. It's called "aggrieved entitlement." According to the authors, it is "a gendered emotion, a fusion of that humiliating loss of manhood and the moral obligation and entitlement to get it back. And its gender is masculine."

    [...]

     I'd like to propose a very simple and elegant explanation for not only school shootings but a host of other barbaric acts in recent years: White men are having a crisis of both aggrievement and entitlement. One need only look at the 2012 election season to see less brutal but equally mind-numbing examples of white men going mad because they are losing their power. The "Republican Meltdown" is a perfect example of men who previously had all the control escalating to madness when that control was lost.

    3. The Kalish/Kimmel (2010) can be found here --  http://logicalliving.blog.com/...  (not too long); title:
    Suicide by mass murder: Masculinity, aggrieved entitlement, and rampage school shootings

    a key graf:

    For this analysis, however, we focus on one aspect: gender. These perpetrators were not just misguided ‘kids’, or ‘youth’ or ‘troubled teens’ – they’re boys. They are a group of boys, deeply aggrieved by a system that they may feel is cruel or demeaning. Feeling aggrieved, wronged by the world – these are typical adolescent feelings, common to many boys and girls. What
    transforms the aggrieved into mass murders is also a sense of entitlement, a sense of using violence against others, making others hurt as you, yourself, might hurt. Aggrieved entitlement inspires revenge against those who have wronged you; it is the compensation for humiliation. Humiliation is emasculation: humiliate someone and you take away his manhood. For
    many men, humiliation must be avenged, or you cease to be a man. Aggrieved entitlement is a gendered emotion, a fusion of that humiliating loss of manhood and the moral obligation and entitlement to get it back. And its gender is masculine.
    So, this white-male 'aggrieved entitlement' can be found (imo) in (1) rampage shooters; (2) your ar-15 guys (I visited a page -- whew, spooky!), with them as one expression of (3) the beyond-logic branch of A2/gun extremists -- but also in (4) the GOP's post-election meltdown, (5) Tea Partiers and extreme right-wingers, (6) the current GOP in general and (7) The Southern 'Lost Cause' myth.

    Now, I'm not saying that each group has the 'aggrieved entitlement' thing in the same way or to the same degree.  But as a shared ideation, a shared emotional construct -- almost a shared chord or shared (musical) key.

    Anyway.  I thought this might interest you.

    PS -- the HufPo article also mentions Kalish/Kimmel -- this might help you find it if it has already scrolled away.

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