Op Ed

Takedown: Who Do You Trust?

This week’s takedown is in the form of a picture. It is meant to highlight the similar views (on the right to bear arms) between Barack Obama and historical tyrants, so as to convince the reader that Obama is a tyrant. Clever, no?

Here it is, in all its glory:

These people support your right to bear arms.  These people don't.  Who do you trust?
I don't think that the person who posted this picture actually wants to know who(m) I trust.

Should this crapdate show up in your news feed, here is a short answer response:

“Obama’s time in office has been marked by support for guns, including passing a law that let people bring concealed firearms into national parks. Before that, the last president to sign a bill into law regarding firearms was Reagan, when he made it harder to get a gun. The more you know!”

And the longer answer:

First, the entire premise of the picture is simply wrong. Obama, as president of the United States, has sworn to uphold the constitution; part and parcel with that is the second amendment, which gives citizens the right to bear arms.

Now, there are a lot of propaganda-toting organizations that claim that Obama wants to repeal the 2nd amendment, or that he wants to disarm the people. As far as I can tell, this is because he is a democrat, and the NRA is closely aligned with the republican party. Democrats tend to endorse regulation that makes it more difficult to purchase a gun (such as background checks, or the ability to track bullets used in a crime) and Republicans are more likely to vote for reduced regulations, as is consistent with the typical philosophy of each party. Because of this, it is easy to point at Obama, a democrat, and say that he hates the second amendment.

The NRA has recently warned that to elect Obama is to elect for a repeal of the second amendment. Of course they take that line. The thing is ““ extra regulations are not good for the NRA, and they are a hassle. They also could be construed as the first step toward a repeal of the second amendment, so the NRA does not like them. That’s the NRA’s schtick.

And because they have a goal, they are effective users of propaganda. The Soviets taught us that the best propaganda is a little bit of truth, a lot of room for interpretation, and inflammatory language. If the NRA can take nuggets of truth (he has appointed liberal Supreme Court judges), throw in conjecture (THERE MIGHT BE SOME MORE OF THAT IN THE FUTURE!) and use terrifying language, feelings overtake logic and people are convinced without having to think things through. From the article above:

“And with the possibility of two or more Supreme Court justice positions opening during the next four years, the NRA official warned that gun ownership would be in jeopardy if Mr. Obama stays in office.

“If we get one more like those three, the Second Amendment is finished,” he said. “It’ll be the end of our freedom forever.””


But how accurate is it?

In 2008 Obama said:

“I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe in people’s lawful right to bear arms. I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won’t take your handgun away. .. There are some common-sense gun safety laws that I believe in. But I am not going to take your guns away.”

And his record since then? From the same article: “He signed a law permitting guns to be taken into national parks. He signed another allowing guns as checked baggage on Amtrak. He acted to preserve an existing law limiting the use of government information on firearms it has traced.”

Actually, the last serious regulation that went into gun control was made by everybody’s favorite republican, Ronald Reagan, in 1994. The Brady Bill, passed into law 18 years ago, restricted citizens’ access to guns by requiring a background check and a waiting period. Since then, Bill Clinton implemented a buy back program to try to purchase guns off the street, and George W. Bush stopped that program. And then Obama came in and loosened existing restrictions.

But the point of the graphic is not to make you think. Instead, like all good propaganda, it is supposed to make you feel. Obama is just like Hitler!!!!!!!!!!

Even if Obama were anti-gun (his record shows he is not), the graphic would fail the test of critical thinking. Gun control is a tricky topic, and many people feel strongly one way or another. However, taking one side of the issue or the other has nothing to do with trust; especially when nobody is arguing that the second amendment should be repealed, but instead, that the sale of firearms should be regulated to maintain order and increase safety.

Let’s look at a re-do of the graphic:

These men support the separation of church and state. These men believe that the state is the church. Who do you trust?
The maker of this graphic (yours truly) is also not putting it up because she wants to find out who(m) you trust.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I really, really dislike Rick Santorum and all that he stands for. However, to suggest that the fact that he wants to interpret the constitution to allow prayer in school means he is akin to Hilter, Castro, Stalin, Amin, and Lenin is hyperbole of a disgusting kind.

Beyond it being a gross misrepresentation of reality, it has two terrible results: first, it exacerbates the “us vs. “them” philosophy that we see all over politics. When you see an elected official as no different than a tyrant because of one small facet of his or her beliefs, which has been misrepresented and exaggerated, civilized discourse is even harder; second, it kills discourse amongst the regular population. I personally think that there should be more regulations for owning firearms. Does this mean that I am a murderous tyrant? If a friend of mine wants to keep “In God We Trust” on the penny, does that make him my mortal enemy? How are we going to talk things through and learn to understand each other if we are so quick to dig in our heels and consider anybody with slightly differing opinions on the interpretation of a 200-year-old document? If there is a leap from “he supports legislation to increase the hoops you have to jump through to get a gun” or “she wants to allow a nativity scene in school” to “this person is the moral equivalent of Stalin,” there is no place for common ground. Or even a hope to get there.

The thing is, so many of these internet memes require little thought. When I say that, I don’t mean that they ask for little from you, what I mean is that they require little from you. Close your mind, press like and share, be validated when others do the same. But whether you are for gun control or against it, democrat or republican, this graphic simply fails both in terms of facts and of logic, and only serves to make civil discourse that much less of a reality.

So who(m) do I trust? The person who is willing to think critically about these types of graphics, instead of simply sharing the crapdate.

By Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

34 replies on “Takedown: Who Do You Trust?”

The first picture, as sad as it is that some people believe that, made me go LOL.

And then I saw the second one and started giggling like mad.

On a more serious note, the trend in American politics of yoinking things Founding Fathers said out of context to go “THIS HERE IS WHAT REAL WISE PEOPLE SAID” bothers me. Like most things, if you take a random quote and use it as an authority, you can say juuust about anything.

I just want to make a comment from the perspective of someone who owns a gun for self protection and supports 2nd amendment rights AND gun regulation/ safety laws. I come from a gun owning family and my father hunted for sustenance when he was growing up. I have never hunted animals but I do go to the range for fun sometimes to brush up on my skills/ safety knowledge. I feel safer knowing that if someone comes to my home with the intent to harm me or my family, I can defend us. I probably will never have to, but I feel more secure knowing it’s there. I don’t think Obama is conspiring to take our guns away and I am really embarrassed by people that post bullshit comparisons like the one above. I am also really disappointed that my state governor recently signed a law that allows people to carry guns in bars. Because guns + alcohol = awesome! *Headdesk* I can completely understand the other side of this issue, especially with laws like that being signed. I just wanted to post to show that reasonable gun owners who are very concerned about safety do exist!

It’s true, gun ownership is a little like religion. Most of the people involved are just normal people, but the super-vocal zealots give “outsiders” the impression that everyone who owns a gun/goes to this church must be a little crazy.

And yes, firearms + alcohol= WTF are you thinking?

I really want to comment on this because I agree wholeheartedly. I really want a gun.

America is a big place with different cultures and living situations scattered around.

We don’t all live in a place where we can call the cops, hide in a closet, and know the cops will be there in less than 40 minutes.

Apropos of nothing, but I didn’t know how to fit it into the article:  I hate the founding fathers.  Not the men themselves, or their ideas, or their courage.  But the very fact that when we talk about what America means, you can’t talk about it without “the founding fathers.”  As though women had no role in it, and our voices never mattered.  Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate.

Susan, I just get so excited when I see that tiger icon.

I live in a really really red state.  Fire engine red to be exact.  It’s not unusual to see someone carrying a firearm into a restaurant or try and introduce legislation to allow firearms on college campuses.  Guns are a really really big deal here.  It’s hard for me because I did not grow up in a gun-toting family.  We didn’t hunt, or target shoot or anything so it’s difficult for me to see the draw.  The minute someone mentions Obama up here the discussion revolves around how he is going to sweep in and take all our guns.  Yeah, just like that.  A thief in the night, swooping in like a deranged Batman to take your .22.  Nice one, Elmer.

*sigh* I am so scared for this election

I think we have similar backgrounds.  And the thing is – I can understand being suspicious of somebody wanting to take away the second amendment.  I don’t agree with it, but I’m not going to say that people who defend it are wrong, we just don’t agree.  But it’s the hyperbole that gets me.  And a lot of other things, I guess.

And I’m scared, too.

I do not understand this obsession with guns in the US. I really and sincerely don’t understand why people are so determined to have guns in their possession, concealed on their person… Is it for protection? Is it really so dangerous in the United States that you have to carry a gun to prevent yourself from being attacked? Maybe I’m just a crazy Canadian who only sees guns used for hunting (though there is a whole thing where when regulation of long guns goes down, the amount of people killed by long guns goes up) and wonders why the hell so many people want to own firearms.

The internet has been such a wealth of knowledge and it makes me so frustrated that people still accept things without ever straying beyond their internet comfort zones… Even people who are self-proclaimed skeptics often only look for confirmation of their ideas instead of looking for potential problems.

Perhaps it’s time we start teaching our children about critical thinking and how to actually research something when presented with a topic. Most people that I know just Google something without ever taking into account the sources they are using. Television is the worst for this. I’ll often watch the news with my father and end up leaving in a huff when EVERYTHING they say is a blatant lie. At least on the internet, you can call people out on their bullshit.

Completely there with you. My first thought was ‘Yeah, so? Will America fall apart without a gun in every home?’ But that’s not completely the point of the topic here, so I’ll just say that I’ve luckily never seen any of these lovely them vs us memes in my feed, but they’re still tiring me pretty fast.

My husband has friends who are really into the gun thing, and from what I can tell under all the political posturing and whatnot, the most vocal gun people are the ones who just love guns. They are collectors, and it pisses them off that the government can make it harder to buy new toys, so they pull out the constitution and say “Look here, the second amendment specifically says I can have this giant, fully automatic weapon that I think is really cool and if you try to stop me from having it, you are violating my rights.”

I’m sure if any of them were to read this, they will tell me at length about why I am wrong, and that they are protecting our freedom. I firmly believe that we should have the right to keep and bear arms, because it is am important thing, but I still think most of them sound like spoiled children.

I got that impression from most people I’ve talked to about the issue. I still don’t get it entirely.

I mean when you consider the damage that could be caused by the guns when that amendment was written versus the amount of damage that could be caused by any number of high powered rifles available for purchase today… I just find it hard to believe that the founding fathers could have anticipated that discrepancy or they surely would have been a little less lenient with who gets to own firearms. I don’t think banning guns entirely is a solution for sure (at least not in the US), but being able to track who is shooting whom? I can’t ever see that being a bad thing.

Great point with the discrepancy.  When it comes to guns for the right of self defense or maintaining the ability to rise up against a despotic government, folks may as well collect rocks as rifles.  I think the Myth Busters should do an episode debunking the idea of rifles, shotguns, and handguns being a legitimate means of sovereign defense in postmodern developed nations…

Most of my family members are also very pro-gun hunters and enthusiasts, but (despite my personal commitment to non-violence and veganism) it is not them who scare me.  My fear is reserved for the handful of guys with whom I went to high school who are now deeply involved in stockpiling weapons and practicing their sniper skills and guerilla tactics.  They do not think it a distant possibility that they will need to rise up against their government, they consider it a foregone conclusion to be manifested soon.  They are in your face, and openly declare all non-allies as enemies, and I don’t want them to have guns…I guess that practically makes me Hitler.

I know what you mean. Whenever I hear about people discussing “The Man” or any other anti-government conspiracy theories, I get really uneasy. And to be fair to them, governments are capable of tremendously evil and horrible acts, so I understand how they can jump to completely insane conclusions. I also don’t feel comfortable with the idea that someone who cannot even properly discern fact from fiction could be toting around a gun capable of smooshing my brains out.

Oh yes, governments can be bad, but bad governments are made of bad people, and there are bad people outside of the government, too.  I am just so tired of this outdated idea that having arms is the only way to deter the use of arms….An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, right?  Though Freud was stupid to think women are jealous of penises, penis-envy between men has sure made governments dangerous to social health.

In addition to what the others have said, I’ll add that a sense of self-sufficiency and independence is a large part of our national ethos (if there is such a thing), and I think that gun ownership is tied up in that for a lot of people. Also, I think white Americans also tend to romanticize our frontiersy past (see Frontier Land or whatever at the Disney parks), and guns are a part of that as well.

I take a special kind of pleasure when I come across something that is clearly bullshit, take 2 seconds to google it and then set the poster straight.

So far, I’ve had to point out fake abortion videos, sexist statements that have no likelihood of being true, BS that libertarians spout…luckily, I don’t come across too much right wing crap. But I’m sure that day will come.

More articles like this please! :)

Excellent. :)

Really? Wow. I had a flurry of FB statuses once with some bullshit about raising cancer awareness and called it out in a status. Everyone surprisingly agreed with me…even some people who posted the dumb thing in the first place! I said if you want to do something post a damn link to charity or to something you can actually do! A FB status is meaningless. You would think that would be obvious…

And the country which has had a longstanding “special” relationship with the US is in the opposition, too (with regard to our own laws). Thanks for this Susan, it’s interesting to learn about these things. Right now, the significant thing in my mind is that I’m glad I’m in the UK. Albeit, less glad that there are some American’s who would seemingly be happy to lump our politics in with the worst of recent historys dictators.

I mean, I can make the jump.  One of the reasons that the United States has this almost first in the constitution is that the citizenry should be able to defend themselves against tyrants.  You know who wants to limit those right?  Tyrants.  But it isn’t a 1-1 correlation – lots and lots and lots and lots of people think a well-armed citizenry is a bad idea.  And many more think that there should be SOME restrictions.

But if you just close your mind and don’t think critically – I can see how the thought process works.  1) Tyrants do not like citizens to be armed.  2) Barack Obama does not like citizens to be armed.  3) Barack Obama is a tyrant.


Something I find strange is that, okay, there are those that want to defend themselves against tyranny by making sure they defend their right to bear arms and yet there remains a lot of support for quite oppresive legislation. But I’m getting out of my depth here, I think. It’s good to know it’s not a stance all Americans take (IE leap from tyrants to Obama etc).

This is actually so apt a comment, not just because it is true but because it points to the whole point reason the concept of amendments were instituted in the U.S. Constitution: people grow, beliefs change, we become smarter and less ignorant (hopefully, though Susan points to how emotional extremes force us to stay dumb), and when we do we need to be able to reinterpret what is best for our people.  The Constitution is very much a misogynist document, but that doesn’t mean we have to remain a misogynist nation.  Guns are guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment, but that does not mean they have to be readily available, especially in all their forms, or that (*gasp*) we might not decide as a nation that they are no longer in our best interests.  I don’t hold the Founders as irrefutable saints, but the most important legacy of the government they established is its ability to change.

As for the article, great read as always Susan.  That is the thing about propaganda: it’s so much easier to propagate messages of fear and lunacy than reason and peace.  In a moment of boredom I made a graphic supporting equality last week and posted it on my Gurujessewriting Facebook page, but it is really hard to get people excited about equality and social freedom.  Give them an opportunity to get fired up about their ability to shoot someone, though, and everything changes…

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