Written by Daniel Greenfield
As Gabrielle Giffords continues her recovery and Jared Loughner winds his way through the justice system, it is worth taking a look back five months at the consequences and implications of that day in Arizona.
Giffords survived the attack, but it was free speech that took the bullet. The end of Glenn Beck's run at FOX may be attributed to paranoia whipped up by a media looking for an easy target. For several days the absurd notion that an electoral map caused a mentally ill man to go on a shooting spree was taken seriously. And the death of a Republican judge and the wounding of a Democratic congresswoman was placed at the feet of the political opposition.
Some liberal pundits are using the occasion of Giffords' recovery to call for a renewed gun control effort and more restrictions on free speech. Yet the Giffords shooting speaks to the failures of the left's regulatory state, and the insanity of its ambitions.
When something goes wrong, the left looks for something it can ban. Like a giant nanny, it swoops down searching for something the bad child shouldn't be allowed to play with anymore. Is there an obesity problem? Let's ban everything from salt to Happy Meal toys (a case of the government literally taking away the toys). What about a madman going on a shooting spree? Let's ban sharp words and extended magazines. That will fix that. But of course it doesn't.
Where most people saw the Loughner shootings as the crazed actions of one man, the left insisted on viewing it as a sign of a larger behavioral problem that had to be treated. Despite the abundance of material about his views that Loughner had put online, the media did its best to talk about the 'climate' rather than the person, diffusing the responsibility from him to a larger group. A group that can be controlled by applying a collective solution.
To tell them that Loughner was crazy answers nothing. Insanity is individual. A private and personal malfunctioning of neurons. "Insanity is no explanation," as many of them have argued, "because most insane people don't kill anyone." There lies their logic. What goes for the group, also goes for the individual. If Loughner killed, then he must be part of a group that kills. A missing piece in a set. A climate. A trend. An underlying sociological movement of Loughners, all with shaved heads, packing Glocks and muttering about the government. Then it makes sense to them.
It has to be that way because the left only deals in collective solutions. It has nothing meaningful to say about a man who was slowly losing his mind because of an accident of genetics, but it has plenty to say about the "culture of violence", right-wing talk radio, the dangers of gun ownership and all the other collective answers that fit Loughner into a group. A collective threat that they can push back against.
But there is no pushing back against Loughner. Because Loughner was individualism taken to the farthest extreme. His insanity so detached him from the world that he no longer even shared any but a very passing sense of reality with the rest of the human race. He is also a reminder of why collective solutions fail. Such assumptions are always based on generalizations, but there are few generalizations that would have applied to Loughner. He didn't act based on economic interests or any comprehensible political ideology. He wasn't a member of any group. Only a group of one.
Had Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Glenn Beck all been sent to Gitmo at the start of this administration-- the odds of Loughner doing what he did would have been exactly the same. Had all firearms been banned, the odds are quite good that he would have gotten his hands on a weapon anyway. The real problem was not the climate or the extended magazines, it was always Loughner himself. Not a collective, but an individual.
Weapons bans are collective solutions which presume that every would-be gun buyer is equally motivated yet unable to obtain a firearm. Such a condition does not hold for any commodity. The key factor in the ability of an individual to obtain a widely extant item that is banned by law is motivation. The 'Desirability' of the item. And the most motivated buyers are destructive users. That is why the War on Drugs hasn't stopped the most destructive users from getting their hands on drugs anyway. Similarly criminals, the most destructive users of weapons, will keep on getting them anyway. Those who will lose out are constructive users of weapons, who will have no means of self-defense against them. Bans affect the least destructive users the most, because they are less willing to participate in an illegal economy. But the destructive user is often already part of an illegal economy or does not care anymore. That is the paradox of collective solutions, they apply the least to those whom they are meant to apply to the most.
Treating all weapons as collectively bad, because of the actions of individuals, is to mistake the tool for the person. But for those who cannot see Loughner as an individual, similarly cannot see that it is the individual who uses the weapon, rather than the other way around. Like Plato's Cave, they can only see Loughner's shadow. The shadow of his gun. The shadow of his act. A shadow which they merge group together with all other guns and all other killings. A set they can recognize. A group they can control.
For the left, there are no individuals, only great social movements. The clash of revolution and reaction. The privileged and the oppressed. The progressive and the reactionary. The organized and the disorganized. Only by placing Loughner somewhere within that giant Risk board, can they understand his place in the greater scheme of things. Since he shot a Democratic congresswoman, then he must be a reactionary. His individual beliefs don't really matter, only pinning the tail on the donkey, or in this case the elephant, in order to deny the randomness of a world teeming with billions of individuals. A randomness that insures their collective solutions will always fail.
Taking away guns will not make the country any safer. On the contrary. Nor will removing kids toys from happy meals make them any thinner. Such laws are based on the illusion of control. An illusion because people will act in accordance with their basic drives, more so than the laws of any government. That is why when attempting to create a new system of government, the Founders used Natural Law as the base. It does not mean that we do not need and should not have any other laws, but that such laws will always fall short when they conflict with human nature. A man cannot lift himself by his own belt. Neither can his laws.
Systems of central control overspecialize to the point where they are no longer even capable of maintaining themselves. That is how empires and great nations fall. We are creating a vast multi-tiered governmental entity that tries to control everything from Happy Meal toys to intercontinental ballistic missiles, but cannot even control itself. Like the man lifting himself by his own belt, there is a great deal of strain and struggle, but nothing happens. The lifters themselves are only human. And they cannot lift themselves.
All law that is aimed at controlling the behavior of groups, is limited by the individualism within those groups. Conformity becomes a collective project, and individualism is regarded with paranoia as a sign of a greater conspiracy. A group within the group. Loughner's massacre being grouped within a set is a symptom of that paranoia. A vast conspiracy of grammar and math reactionaries. Gun owners with extended magazines. When in truth, Loughner was by his nature, unpredictable. He was not a group, but a madman whose act testifies to the unpredictability of the individual, and the failure of collective efforts to create a perfectly predictable state.
No system can hope to control everything. A system that tries slowly goes insane. There are parallels between the paranoia and detachment from reality of Jared Loughner, and the paranoia and detachment from reality of the system that tries to control everything. Loughner did his worst that day in Arizona, but the creeping insanity the system will not be over with so easily.
As a system commits itself to absolute control, it it loses touch with the human community. It begins to see people as a collective threatening mass. And much as Loughner did, it becomes schizophrenic. It literally creates its own reality. Manifestations of that appear in the economic and foreign policy decisions of governments which behave as if reality conforms to their ideology. That is why systems are so dangerous. A mad individual can only do so much harm no matter what weapons he carries. A mad system can bring everything down with it.
From NY to Jerusalem , Daniel Greenfield Covers the Stories Behind the News. Daniel Greenfield is a blogger, author and columnists covering international affairs, the rising threat of terrorism and the growing problems of socialism. His daily blog can be viewed at Sultan Knish.