Saturday, March 24, 2018

what red-pilling looks like

Sometimes, the only way to encourage people to leave the comfortable precincts of their ill-considered perspectives is to lure them out. While I'm not the biggest fan of "gotcha" moments, I did feel a measure of satisfaction at watching some folks wake up to the fact that there are at least two sides to any complicated issue.

If you'd rather not follow the link, here's the vid in question:

In the interest of fairness, I should note that the folks who get red-pilled in the video are civil, rational, and open-minded enough to admit they may need to do further reading and research before blindly choosing a side. I'm in favor of calm, reasoned discussion, especially in today's climate, where it seems no one is interested in discussing anything anymore.


Tony said...

Is there a reason why the fact about knives is coupled with gun rates for rifles and not guns in general? I'm guessing all the "facts" in this presentation should be subjected to the same scrutiny.

King Baeksu said...

Average voter in The Current Year: "I just kind of blindly chose a side on the whole issue without really thinking about facts."

Kevin Kim said...


These are good points. Thanks for commenting.

I can't speak for the people who made the video; I can only guess at their motives and reasoning. I'd speculate that the video's stats are responding to the anti-gun left, which has a fixation on banning "assault weapons," by which they usually mean a type of long gun, often one capable of automatic fire. The real problem, as the above video notes, is handguns, not rifles. (Choi Seung-hee, for example, killed over 30 people at Virginia Tech by using pistols, not a rifle.) By framing the matter as a knives-versus-rifles thing, the gun proponent shows how insignificant rifles actually are when it comes to mass shootings, while also demonstrating that knives—often ignored in debates about murder—play a far larger role in violent deaths in America. This leads to the question of why there are no national campaigns to eradicate knives, which in turn makes the anti-gun lobby appear hypocritical for focusing on a relative non-problem (rifles) while a bigger problem (knives) exists. (Knife attacks in China and Japan are no joke.)

"I'm guessing all the "facts" in this presentation should be subjected to the same scrutiny."

Bravo! I feel the same way, but I also think that, in the interest of fairness, we should admit that this is equally true of the anti-gun lobby, whose own "facts" ought to be submitted to the same level of scrutiny.

It's a real question, isn't it—whom can you trust? When people talk stats in the gun debate, they normally rely on police or FBI statistics, but as we've seen repeatedly, especially over the past couple of decades as we evolve into a mediatized, post-truth society, it's not always possible to trust that the police or the FBI have it right. So it's appropriate to ask whether any stats can be reliably and convincingly employed in any argument, or whether we should just stick to the level of principle when discussing gun-owners' rights and gun use.

King Baeksu said...

One in four Swiss own a gun, according to the video, and yet it has a gun-homicide rate of close to zero. It also happens to be a high-trust and relatively homogenous society dominated by ethnic Germans.

Do guns kill people, or guns plus a fractured, low-trust society?

Tony said...

I did a little more research, as suggested.

Florida lawmaker repeats dodgy claim about crimes committed by law enforcement

So ... not a fact.

It would be really really nice if the source for these "facts" (aside from the CDC for the first fact) had been included. That's the kind of omission that always raises a red flag for me when dealing with conservative "facts."

Tony said...

And further research turned up this on the "gun-free zones" talking point:

Do most mass shootings happen in gun-free zones?

You should always mention that John Lott is your source so that your readers can decided for themselves whether he has cherry-picked or manipulated his data more flagrantly than usual.

Kevin Kim said...


I don't know, man... Politifact has an awful track record. I'd consider it about as reliable and unbiased as InfoWars.

Tony said...

If you have any specific problems with anything I linked to at Politifact, please share. The article you linked to doesn't show a poor track record. Some people objected to hiring Alan Grayson, so they reviewed the decision and decided it was a bad idea. I think it would be more useful and relevant to provide a link to a critique of one of the Politifact articles that I linked to. (Which is what I did with the claims that are in the "facts video" you linked. I didn't merely say "conservatives are wildly unreliable on gun facts" and leave it that. I linked to relevant critiques of specific claims.)

Tony said...

Further research turns up some more facts:

America's unique gun violence problem

Kevin Kim said...


What I linked to wasn't just a single article: I linked to the search results at Instapundit after typing in the word "Politifact," hence my mention of "track record." Scroll down, and you'll see plenty of posts devoted to how Politifact eschews objectivity in favor of bending and twisting the truth in pursuit of its agenda. So, yes: a bad track record.

If you're trying to convince someone on the opposite side of the aisle, you have to speak that person's language and use sources that the interlocutor can respect. We could waste time all day long being dismissive of each other's sources. That's not a winning strategy, nor is it constructive, nor is it persuasive. I propose we stick to the specific claims made in the video, none of which you've debunked yet. For me, at least, it'll make for interesting homework to find out where those claims come from. It may turn out that I'll come to doubt those claims are "facts," or it may be that I'll be satisfied those claims withstand scrutiny.

Even better, it might be nice to keep the discussion on the level of principle, as philosopher William Vallicella does in that post I linked to a few comments ago (here's the link again). Vallicella's approach:

1. You have a right to life.
2. If you have a right to life, it's morally permissible to defend that life.
3. If it's morally permissible to defend that life, it's morally permissible to defend it using the best means available to you, which can and probably does include guns.

Generally speaking, though, even liberal thinkers like Stephen Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature) say that violence in general is trending downward overall, globally speaking, including in countries with plenty of guns like the US (see also the recent Styx video I linked to). This calls into question many of the wild-eyed correlations that are so important to anti-gun-rights arguments. The claim that "despite more guns, gun violence has been decreasing on the whole," which is made in the video, seems solid to me. Then, of course, there's also Switzerland to consider...

Kevin Kim said...


Regarding the "America's unique gun violence problem" article:

We'll first note the article is from Vox, which definitely has an agenda, so we can dispense with the idea that this article's aim is somehow objective. We'll also note that, despite probable non-objectivity, the article reaffirms that gun violence has been in a general decline, in line with Stephen Pinker's well-researched argument about global trends. Little spikes and hiccups in that downward graph are to be expected, as Pinker himself affirms, but the overall trend has been and likely will be inevitably downward. In the meantime, this fact needs to be squared with the constant rise in US gun ownership. Not to say that gun ownership is causing the downward trend in gun violence (I'd agree that that has yet to be proven), but at the very least, the numbers indicate a lack of correlation between gun violence and gun ownership.

The article's author, German Lopez, contradicts himself at the end when he writes, "For people who believe the empirical evidence that more guns mean more violence, this contradiction is the source of a lot of frustration." As he himself pointed out in chart #9, "gun homicides (like all homicides) have declined over the past couple decades." So it is manifestly not the empirical case that "more guns mean more [gun] violence." Again: the chart doesn't establish that owning guns is the cause of decreased violence, but it does clearly establish there is no connection between gun ownership and incidence of gun violence.

Liberals have one ironclad argument when it comes to guns: if there are no guns, there can be no gun violence. This is indisputably true. But there is no way American society will ever be gun-free: even if guns are taken away from all US citizens, there will still be guns in the hands of the police, local security, and the military.

(This leads to the meta-question of why guns are needed by the above forces at all. Surely they aren't necessary for local security, peacekeeping in cities and counties, and national defense?)

Chart #8 says, "States with tighter gun control laws have fewer gun-related deaths." Even if I accept this as true, it's also true that, if we think in terms of cities, not states, incidence of gun violence is clearly higher in urban areas where, ironically, gun-control laws tend to be tougher.

This source notes that gun-inflicted injury rates for youth due to assault tend to be much higher in the cities, while injury rates from accidental discharges tend to be higher in rural areas. This source contains a very telling map that shows how "violence-related firearm deaths" are concentrated in the big cities. Conservatives point out the irony that Democrat-run big cities, which are fully in thrall to liberal social-policy agendas, are the worst when it comes to gun crime, interracial violence and conflict, and poverty, despite anti-poverty programs, promotion of diversity and racial harmony, and gun-control measures.

Kevin Kim said...

And while we're on the subject of "facts" versus facts, let's talk about how anti-gunners tend to get their "facts" wrong. These good folks really ought to study up on guns before daring to talk about them. There's a lot of ignorance and misinformation out there. I can say that while agreeing that many pro-gun arguments are similarly specious and shaky.

Kevin Kim said...

And more downward-trending graphs here. Of note from the article:

"American children do not “risk their lives” when they show up to school each morning — or at least, not nearly as much as they do whenever they ride in a car, swim in a pool, or put food in their mouths (an American’s lifetime odds of dying in a mass shooting committed in any location is 1 in 11,125; of dying in a car accident is 1 and 491; of drowning is 1 in 1,133; and of choking on food is 1 in 3,461). Criminal victimization in American schools has collapsed in tandem with the overall crime rate, leaving U.S. classrooms safer today than at any time in recent memory."

The above is paired with a graph from the National Center for Education Statistics. Also:

"And, perhaps most critically, there is no epidemic of mass shootings in American schools — at least, not under the conventional definitions of those terms.

In the immediate aftermath of the Parkland shooting, progressive activists and commentators (including this one) repeatedly claimed that there had been 18 school shootings since the start of this year. This proved to be a gross exaggeration. In reality, according to new research from Northeastern University, there have been a grand total of eight mass shootings (shootings that kill at least four people) at K-through-12 schools in the United States since 1996. Meanwhile, over the past 20 years, the number of fatal shootings in American schools (of any kind) has plummeted."


"If mass school shootings were the only form of gun violence in the United States, the case for treating the regulation of firearms as a pressing policy issue would actually be fairly weak. For the past quarter-century, there has been an average of one mass murder (a killing of four or more people committed with any weapon, as opposed to just firearms) in an American school each year. Every one of those atrocities is a blight on humanity. But it is nearly impossible to design a policy that can bring the incidence of an already exceptionally rare crime down to zero — and given the inherently limited nature of legislative time and resources, it would make little sense to prioritize such a marginal and difficult issue over public health challenges that kill exponentially more people.

There is no “school safety” crisis in the U.S.; only a gun violence epidemic that consists primarily of suicides, accidents, and single-victim homicides committed with handguns. In the decades since Columbine, progressives have often led the public to believe otherwise."

Whom to believe... whom to believe...

Interesting that this is all from a New Yorker article.

Kevin Kim said...

It's been over 24 hours since my interlocutor's last salvo, and there's been no reply to anything I've written, so I'm closing this thread. You snooze, you lose.