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:
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.””
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:
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.