A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

Tag: sandy hook shooting

A Consensus Is Building On Fighting The NRA

by evanmcmurry


Profit is what gives the NRA its real power; it lobbies less for the rights of its membership than for the right of weapons manufacturers to make a pile…You want to eliminate the guns? Take the profit out of them. Take the fight to the people who make the weapons, not to the people who sell them or the people who buy the politicians so that selling them will be easier. Take the fight to the huge media conglomerates that profit from what you perceive to be dehumanizing media spectaculars. Make guns — or bullets, as Chris Rock once argued — so expensive that people simply stop buying them. Haul the CEOs of the gun companies in front of Congress and the odd grand jury. Make the game not worth quite so much of the candle.

We have bought with our entire national soul the notion that the sale of anything legal in this country exists in a morality-free zone that protects the product from the consequences of its use. But that formulation broke down on tobacco. It can break down on guns.


Cerberus’ investors are indirect owners of Bushmaster, the company that made the weapon that brought evil to Newtown, Conn. It is time to determine pension fund by pension fund who has invested in Cerberus and bring pressure on those investors either to get out of Cerberus or have Cerberus change the way it runs the gun industry. If a major union pension fund or university endowment has an investment with Cerberus, it surely doesn’t want to be tarred as a passive owner of the company that sells semi-automatic weapons with no background checks or concern for the use of the weapons. Those investors have enormous leverage over the Cerberus. And all those investors collectively, if they spoke with one voice to the management team at Cerberus, could wield vast power. Ownership has both responsibility and power. It is time for every comptroller and pension fund manager with an investment in Cerberus to use that power.

And it is time for those of us on the “outside” to find out who those investors are, so that we can prod them to act. Every student at a university should ask the university if it is invested in Cerberus. Every member of a union should ask their pension-fund managers if they are invested. Information is the key first step. From there, action will quickly follow.

If this guy is right—and it would be the first time in ESPN history that one of their mouth machines was—then the gun industry cares more about the “industry” part of that name than the “gun” part. Perhaps those of us who have been focused on gun control really have been looking at it the wrong way. It’s not a legislative issue; it’s a profit issue. Coupled with meaningful legislation (ban on assault rifles, closing the gun show loophole, restricting large magazine sales), financial pressure might make a difference.

UPDATE (11:45 am): Looks like Cerberus is way ahead of all of you:

An investment firm that owns several major firearms manufacturers, including the company that produces the assault rifle used in last week’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, announced this morning that it intends to put its entire firearms portfolio up for sale.

“It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level,” Cerberus Capital Management said in its statement. “It is not our role to take positions, or attempt to shape or influence the gun control policy debate… There are, however, actions that we as a firm can take. Accordingly, we have determined to immediately engage in a formal process to sell our investment in Freedom Group.”

[…] According to Fortune’s Dan Primack, Cerberus’ sale of Freedom Group is “not a financial decision,” as the holding company’s value is “artificially low,” and a buyer will be hard to find.

However, it is worth noting that the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, one of Cerberus’ largest investors, said yesterday that it would review its indirect investment in Freedom Group in light of the Newtown tragedy.

There’s some strategery in there I’m not seeing, but still, it’s a start. Also, WTF, teachers retirement system?

Please Stop Posting That Morgan Freeman Meme

by evanmcmurry

By now you’ve seen the Morgan Freeman meme all over your FB news feed, and you’ve probably also heard it’s fake, if you didn’t already look at it and think, “That’s the fakest thing on the fakerwebs.” Yet still it gets posted, so it’s worth taking at least as long as it took to be written to refute it. In ascending order of importance, why this meme is dumb and counterproductive:

1. Morgan Freeman didn’t say it. Avoid posting things you know or even suspect to be untrue; it lowers the trustworthiness of everything else.

2. Morgan Freeman didn’t say it. This matters, because the main point of the little diatribe is that there exists a reality that the media is harming through its distortions. But that’s exactly what this meme is doing by falsely attributing its quote to a celebrity. I almost want to say it’s enacting its own criticism—but come on. Accusing the media of abusing reality and then attaching that claim to someone who never voiced it is self-refuting.

3.  The most pernicious part of this meme’s logic is hidden at the end, and I suspect smuggling this argument was actually the entire point: that mental health treatment and gun control are mutually exclusive. This is one of the most widely cited arguments since Friday (as it is after every mass shooting): that we shouldn’t be focusing on gun control to stop these events, we should be focusing on mental health treatments. This is ridiculous for two reasons. 1) As already stated, the two are not mutually exclusive, and those who argue for gun control usually do so in tandem with pushing for better mental health treatment. Nobody actually wants to ban guns; we want to stop incidents like Friday from happening, and the best way to do that is through better mental health treatment that identifies troubled people before they act and good gun control policy (waiting periods, assault bans etc.) that limits their likelihood to act. In no way do these two reforms exclude each other; if anything, they’re mutually reinforcing. 2) If you walked up to a gun rights advocate last Thursday and asked how they felt about increased funding for mental health facilities, you probably would have gotten a lecture on Kenyan Socialism and the culture of dependency. Now mental health reform is the most pressing issue facing America today? This is a dodge to avoid talking about the blaring, blaring, blaring need for better, more restrictive gun laws. I actually think the screed on the media was a dodge, too, which brings me to:

4. Blaming the media is a copout. It always is. Take the fake-Freeman rant and replace “sensationalist media” with “lamestream media” and “shooting” with any pet conservative cause like global warming or the war on women, and you have the average Sarah Palin Facebook post or Breitbart.com screed; replace it with “corporate media” and “East Timor” and you have a Noam Chomsky interview. This is because there is no coordinated entity that is “the media”—it’s an abstraction of a huge variety of mediums, each with different incentives and practices and standards and biases. Because “the media” doesn’t actually refer to one existing thing, it can refer to anything; “the media” can be blamed for whatever you want, and this phenomenological promiscuity should be a sign that causal logic has left the building.

Does the method of reporting these shootings amplify the shock value in a way that might encourage more? Maybe. But its effects are tertiary at worst. Impugning “the media” is not an argument; it’s a way to avoid having an argument by accusing an abstraction that can’t refute you.

Now, please, someone cut and paste this over Ian McKellan’s face so I can go viral.