Tuesday, December 18, 2012

DISMAL NON-SCIENCE

Megan McArdle's suggestion, on her Daily Beast blog, that "young people" should "gang rush mass shooters" ("even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once") amused and appalled a lot of people yesterday. It's a ridiculous suggestion, and many of her other pronouncements were equally ridiculous.

But I had trouble just getting past the opening paragraphs of McArdle's post:
There just aren't good words to talk about Newtown. It is a crime that literally defies imagination--hell, it flings imagination down and dances upon its head. No one reading this can imagine strolling into an elementary school and opening fire on a bunch of small children. You can't imagine even wanting to.

Most crimes are motivated by unlovely impulses that are at least comprehensible: the desire for money, sex, respect, revenge. We don't do these things because we have been taught that "good people don't do that!"--and we want to think of ourselves as good people, or at least have the neighbors and our parents think of us as good people. Or perhaps we're merely afraid of getting caught and punished. But we can understand why people want to--we know what someone is after when they hold up a liquor store, or even kills their spouse for the insurance money. Understanding is not sanction: these crimes still have the power to anger and horrify. But they're comprehensible, and that comprehensibility is surprisingly comforting.

The alternative is Newtown. When one tries to picture the mind that plans it, one quickly comes to a dead end. Even if I had been raised with no moral laws at all, even if there were no cops and no prisons, I'm pretty sure that I still wouldn't want to spend a crisp Friday morning shooting cowering children. 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.
Really, Megan? You're a writer, and you live in a large city, and yet you have so little interest in the complexities of human psychology that you literally can't conceive of a mind crazy and delusional enough to do this? You've never considered individual extremes of rage or irrationality or cruelty and measured them against your own moments of anger and lack of self-restraint, and wondered about the distance between what you're capable of and what leads to the worst acts imaginable?

I know you couldn't do what Adam Lanza did. I couldn't, either. But I can imagine schizophrenia or psychopathy acting on a brain like my (relatively) sane one in such a way that horrifying acts seem thinkable, or even compellingly necessary. I can even imagine my "normal" brain being driven to less extreme but still appalling levels of brutality by Milgram-esque abuse of authority.

You find all this literally incomprehensible?

I shouldn't be surprised. McArdle is a right-wing libertarian. Such people seem to regard human beings as algorithmic trading programs with alimentary canals attached. They think poor and non-white voters do a sophisticated calculation of benefits received and choose to maximize their receipt of unearned boodle by voting Democratic; the desire for self-respect, for jobs, for careers, never enters into Democratic voters' thinking, according to the right. The right believes delusional madmen choose targets based on the fact that they're gun-free zones -- ignoring the number of criminals (including many spree killers) who get into lethal confrontations with cops, and ignoring the fact that schools and malls and movie theaters are where you find crowds of innocent people with their guards down, which is what certain strains of murderous insanity crave, and where you find large numbers of people happily socializing, a fact that fills many killers with contempt and extreme envy.

I bring all this up because if you think people are nothing more than selfish supercomputers that unfailingly calculate ways of maximizing utility, no wonder you lose sight of the fact that people are human beings. No wonder you don't shed a tear when a factory in a one-industry town closes down a week before Christmas -- can't those people just pack up en masse in a matter of days and "vote with their feet" by going where the jobs are? What is this "sense of community" of which you speak?

Yes, what libertarians know about people is true, as far as it goes. Yes, rationality enters into our thinking about what we do. But that's not the whole story, and the libertarian right doesn't understand that.

10 comments:

Buford said...

I have nothing but contempt and derision for these wingers...I wouldn't piss on them if they were on fire....my point is...I want these wingers to experience the pain of losing a child...that moment when that information hits the brain, whammo...there are no words...there is NOTHING worse than to hear those words...I KNOW THIS for a fact as having lost three children...I want these pro assholes to feel the pain...the anguish...the self recrimination of not doing enough to protect any child...you cannot even begin to imagine the pain...HATE...I was taught not to hate...the burning in my heart, the black hole of loss is not to be marginalized yet they try...I don't know all the answers by any means...but these assholes need a lesson in compassion, and to reject the false teachings of the rest of the winger culture...

Victor said...

That, teaching unarmed children to bum-rush the shooter, BONZAI-style! - THAT, has to be, by universal acclimation, the single fucking stupidest fucking "idea" in the whole fuckin history of fucking mankind, let alone fucking internet history!!!

This is a dose of “TEH STOOOOOOPID!!!” so great, that this, THIS, is what probably really caused all of the Great Extinctions in the Earth’s history!
I’m not sure I can survive even writing about it.

"...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.”

To her credit, 8-12 unarmed dead children IS less than the 20 killed in Newtown – sometimes (almost always - oh, fuck it - yeah: ALWAYS!), her math skills leave a lot to be desired, so we should give her some dap when she finally gets something right.

So, in Meg’s twisted Libertarian mind, 8-12 dead, unarmed children, is an acceptable price for stopping a killing spree.

This is a fusillade of STUPID that would cause a Village Idiot’s Convention to duck and cover!!!

OY!
How does she keep her job!
Maybe she's writing pieces like this, hoping to get a staff position at The Onion?

Palli said...

1. She is calling for universal Martyrdom?
2. Would she do it? I think not.

Victor said...

Palli,
Yeah, my thoughts exactly - "Ok, Meg, you first!!!"

proverbialleadballoon said...

Would Ayn Rand sacrifice her own life to save another, by bum rushing a gun nut? Self-sacrifice for the collective benefit of society is for other people to do, especially 6-year old kids.

flarenut said...

But if you look at their arguments closely, people like McArdle are nothing near the rational machines they contend others are. They are bundles of prejudices and neuroses and quirks and unexamined assumptions like the rest of us. They even feel love. It's only the "others" who are economic machines.

(And even those machines act according to conveniently-made-up rules of the moment, e.g. CEObots respond to higher taxes by working less, but poorbots respond to higher taxes by working more.)

stella - a view from the bottom said...

It is only a matter of time before they bring up the Thurston High shooter from here in my town. In that instance a group of students did rush the shooter and stop him from killing more people. They will forget to tell us all that it was senior football players rushing a much smaller kid who was not armed with a military weapon or the kind of bullets "designed to bounce around for a while once they enter the body"(Not sure where I read that). I think we tried what she is describing in world war 1 and the Japanese tried it in world war 2. It just makes my stomach churn to think of sending small children out to do that. She needs to be locked up!

Ten Bears said...

Nay homie, she and her ilk don't need to be locked up, they need be removed. I too marked time till the allusion to Thurston, though to the crotch-shots' credit not by name or, as you point out, actions.

It's interesting they haven't found a way to tie the Portland shooting

William Miller said...

"Honey, when you see a man come in the room with a gun, you need to jump up and run right at him and then jump on him."

"Okay, mommy!"

I don't think so.

Kaleberg said...

Sorry, but a human wave rushing an automatic weapon just means a dead human wave. We've known this since the US Civil War, and the world got its face rubbed in it during WWI. McArdle and her ilk need to learn some military history and tactics and stop playing bogus video games.

Of course, McArdle is a fan of Ayn Rand, and if Ayn Rand and Adam Lanza were alive today, Rand would be writing Lanza mash notes. He wouldn't have been the first serial killer she cozied up to.

When I was a kid I couldn't quite understand the motives in the Leopold-Loeb case. As I grew older, I realized that their ideas and impulses were fairly wide spread, and now and then would get an outlet. Sometimes it was WWII. Sometimes it was just some asshole with a gun.