Post-Factualism

This morning David Ignatius wrote a beautiful op-ed titled “Why facts don’t matter to Trump’s supporters”. It’s worth a read even if you’re not a flaming liberal like me. I don’t want to get into the specifics of Ignatius’s claims as they relate to Trump supporters (or Clinton supporters, or Sanders supporters, who honestly are probably the best example of confirmation bias when it came to polling.)

Instead I want to address something in the same realm: Post-Factual Society.

We live in a world where facts no longer matter today — instead we go with what we feel. Consider Newt Gingrich in this interview. Despite the undeniable fact that we are getting safer and safer, Gingrich repeatedly insists these are just statements concocted by “theoreticians” and that he would go with what people “feel.” That’s kind of alarming to me, but it’s popped up all over the place. Here’s Trump on the unemployment rate. It’s the same thing. Trump thinks the unemployment rate is just whatever he feels like it is. And his supporters believe him, despite unemployment now being the lowest it’s been since 2008. Here’s a graph of unemployment since 1992, but if this post means anything it’s that the graph is useless for arguing my point.

This isn’t just an American phenomenon either. Look at Brexit, where politicians like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson made all sorts of outlandish and impossible claims about what Brexit would bring, promptly disappearing or cutting back rhetoric when they realized it wasn’t going to bring those things. But for the right-wing of British politics, the reality of the economic hit they would take by leaving wasn’t as “true” as the non-reality of the Muslims coming to rape their women and kill their children. (Yes, there were other factors in Brexit, but it seems like the racial one was a pretty big undertone.)

I guess this is just an admission of my confusion. We live in an age where information is everywhere, are we not giving children (or adults) the proper tools to be skeptical of new information, but to accept the weight of evidence when it’s there?

F*** it, let’s talk about guns

Guns.

I have to preface this conversation by saying that yes, I can shoot a gun. I enjoy shooting — anything from rifles to handguns to a shotgun a few times. I’m by no means a professional, but I do have experience with them. The reason I have to state this ahead of time is that gun advocates get really defensive when people who have never used a gun want to regulate (or in rare cases, remove) them, and honestly, I can see why. It’s kind of weird to believe that in a democracy someone could vote against a right that they wouldn’t exercise — I mean, why should straight people get a say in same-sex marriage if they’re very unlikely to exercise their right to marry someone of the same sex?

The difference here is that in one of these cases, you can’t really claim to be affected by it. Gay marriage has never infringed on my liberty or made me feel unsafe. On the other hand, the fact that a mentally unstable person, or a terrorist, etc. could obtain one in my country is kind of ridiculous. I’m writing this mostly for myself, honestly, because I need to see if my view is consistent/logical. Warning: this will be a little disorganized.

This kind of rhetoric really sets me off, for a number of reasons, but we’ll get there.

First, the Second Amendment.

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Problem 1: People don’t know how to read 18th century grammar. Maybe it’s because I have experience in the KJV translation of the Bible, but it’s pretty clear when you run on statements with commas like this you’re showing reasoning. In other words, I am of the opinion that the Amendment could be rephrased in Modern American English as

Because a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the Government will not infringe on the right of the people to keep and bear arms.

We can’t pretend to know what the Founding Fathers thought 250 years ago anywhere where we don’t have direct records, but it’s very clear that the Second Amendment is conditional — if a militia is no longer required to maintain the security of our free state, the right to keep and bear arms is no longer necessary. One of the earliest major 2nd Amendment cases brought before the Supreme Court was in 1939, when the court stated in summary:

“The Court cannot take judicial notice that a shotgun having a barrel less than 18 inches long has today any reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, and therefore cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees to the citizen the right to keep and bear such a weapon.”

You can read Cornell’s summary and the Court’s opinion here.

Problem 2: People Make the Constitution Say Things it Definitely Doesn’t

My claim against the self-defense argument for gun ownership also stems from this interpretation of the constitution — this Amendment makes no reference to the defense of one’s self, home or property — only the security of the state. (Or in other words, I would say I subscribe to a weird version of the collective rights interpretation.) Here’s the funny part about all of this — the reasoning that the right is a personal one is actually a modern invention. I have a semi-conspiracy theory that compromise politics probably ended in the 80s because of the right wing’s concerted effort to mobilize Christians by making totally amoral issues into matters of life and death and that’s where this interpretation of the amendment gains a lot of steam from, but suffice it to say the right wing has succeeded into making some issues impossible to compromise on when in reality we would have been able to do that 40 years ago.

Problem 3: There’s No Nuance on the Internet

Let’s face it, on the internet there’s rarely room for nuance. This is still pretty true for any issue where a lot of people have strong opinions, but the problem is that nuance is lost in text too often — how many times have you tried to be sarcastic on the internet and had someone take you seriously? I see this especially with gun control. Either you’re a gun-totin’ God-fearin’ republican who wants everyone and their dog to own a gun except Muslims, or you’re a pot-smoking hippy liberal who wants Obama to take away everyone’s guns so the Muslims can kill us all. People devolve into caricatures very quickly, especially over a socially desensitizing media like anonymous message boards. It’s much easier for someone to be a dick to your text than it is for them to be a dick to you in person — if you are equally a dick in both situations however, you’re probably just a dick. The problem is “expanded background checks” becomes “government gun hunt” and “gun ownership” becomes “An AK-47 for every man, woman and child” really fast, and that’s bad.

I think most people agree violent criminals shouldn’t be allowed to own weapons. I have no citation for this statistic for this, and there’s definitely a proximity bias (most people I know lean towards more regulation on guns) but the VPC does have this excellent write-up on how the NRA has made efforts to arm convicted felons. The Supreme Court has ruled it constitutional to bar felons from voting, so it definitely shouldn’t be out of the question to bar them from weapon ownership — at least within the interpretation we have thus far. What I’m getting at here is that we already recognize that the rights guaranteed by the constitution are not absolute. You do have a right to vote (or not have your vote discriminated against, I guess), but it’s suspended if you’re a felon. You do have a right to bear arms, but the government can regulate them — that’s not an infringement on your right to bear arms.

In fact, most Americans support increasing regulation in some fashion — close to 90% favor expanded background checks using a national registry rather than incomplete or inaccurate state databases. So let’s go back to cars again. The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the “right to travel” pretty consistently for the last 30 years, as a basic human right. That said, the court has ruled almost always that restrictions and regulations on cars are constitutional.

So seriously, what if we regulated guns as well as cars?

Every owner should be licensed (and the license should need to be renewed every few years), which has required training or a probationary period — and honestly, if you can’t have a driver’s license, in general you shouldn’t be able to own a gun (with an exception for things like people who lose their legs, of course. All I’m saying is that if you can’t see the road, you can’t see where you’re shooting). The specifics of this can still be left up to individual states. Every owner should be insured — guns do kill people, but if your gun kills someone because you didn’t store it properly or maintained it poorly, that’s your fault. Guns should all be registered in a national database, as well as the names of gun owners. Gun transfers should still need to be registered somehow — I’ve heard a pretty good argument made that using Police Stations as places to conduct registered private gun sales would work, but I honestly haven’t done enough research there to form a conclusion.

Absolutely none of this infringes on your right to own a gun — not even as much as a 2-day waiting period would. And honestly, I think this would help people feel safer — even if statistically it didn’t change much. Honestly though, given how many guns used in crimes are obtained legally, clearly we need to find a way to stop some people from getting guns legally.

I mean, personally, I would be all for government gun buybacks — it worked pretty well for Australia (admittedly an island, but it’s easier to get a gun in the States than it is in either of it’s neighbors, since there’s literally only one gun store in Mexico and Canadians are sane.) In fact, in doing some research before writing here, I learned that the ATF actually allowed a ton of guns from Arizona into Mexico in an attempt to trace them to cartel leaders, and here’s Politifact on the claim that 70% of guns used in drug crimes in Mexico come from the US.  (TL;DR: it’s mostly true.)

I doubt anyone is going to change their mind on this issue. In fact, I would say no one should until we have a larger body of research on the issue. There’s a problem though,since the CDC is still afraid to do research on guns because the last time it happened, the NRA lobbied to have the agency lose funding, and even today the agency doesn’t have enough money. As most Republicans would agree, however, there’s no need to be afraid if you’ve got nothing to hide — the NRA doesn’t need to fear research into guns if all of it’s misinformation and distortion is actually true. 😉

I’m publishing this as is, so there’s likely errors left over. If you’d like to talk to me about the contents of what I’ve written civilly and respectfully, you’re welcome to leave a comment or send me a message on Facebook.

I’m going to be more productive

Due to the massive amount of free time I have at my current jobs (tutoring and IT work for a research body attached to the University of Arizona) I’ve decided to be more productive. I don’t think I’ll keep this up for very long since this will be something like my 5th blog since I began internetting as a young child and I don’t think any of those blogs have more than a dozen posts (I just googled one now to see if it still existed, and not only did it, but also I was highly embarrassed.)

Fortunately for the reader, I’m mildly entertaining and probably have some unique insight into whatever I choose to write about, since I wouldn’t write about it otherwise.

This blog is relatively unfiltered in terms of style — I don’t intend to do a lot of editing, though I doubt it would improve the quality of my writing by a huge amount for a blog. Because of that, I may use dirty words sometimes (read: often) not because I never developed an adult vocabulary for talking about my feelings, but rather because sometimes nothing works quite like a dirty word. I’ll do my best to not be political here, if for no other reason than because that’s probably something I should do to make myself better as a person, but also because there’s no such thing as a nuanced discussion about politics on the internet (and admittedly, that’s a thing that barely exists in discussions in person as well.)

What I’m trying to say is, I’m going to do a lot of complaining here. And not even the good kind. Mostly I’m just developing an echo chamber so that people tell me I’m right (which happens pretty often already, why do you think I’m on the internet?)

Here are some things I’ll probably address at some point or another, if none of these things interests you, my site may not be for you (though do stick around, perhaps you’ll like it more than you think):

  • Vidya gaems: I like games. I like games that are fun. I enjoy playing games. I mostly like role-playing games — I would say I have a preference for JRPGs, but recently I’ve been playing some more simple CRPGs like Shadowrun (which I’ve actually enjoyed a lot from a story perspective, gameplay is a bit more lackluster). I like action-RPGs as well: I was a huge fan of Monster Hunter before it moved to the 3DS (and I don’t own one of those because I left the country shortly after they came out and decided I would wait for the next system) and similarish games like Dark Souls or Dragon’s Dogma — the new Zelda looks to be right up my alley. I mostly am a PC gamer at this point, but I do love my PS Vita and I’ve been nostalgia-playing games from the DS and GBA recently in the original language, some on the original system, but a lot of the JRPGs are just more suited to the PC because you can speed them up. I made it through Golden Sun in two sittings a couple weeks ago that way, and would highly recommend it.
  • Translation: Translation is an interesting one and I’ll probably mostly use this blog to shit on Namco Bandai because they’re horrible and need to fire their whole localization department. I was reminded of this again while playing through Tales of Zestiria on Steam, but that awful Sword Art Online game on the Vita is still in recent memory. This isn’t just armchair criticism though — I am a Japanese speaker and I have done some translation criticism before. I recognize the difficulty that comes with doing the job correctly, but that doesn’t excuse it for being bad.
  • Japan: Japan was a great place to live. I could never raise a family there for far too many reasons to list, including but not limited to Japanese work culture, not being attracted to Japanese women, enjoying the fact I live close-ish to my family, the general cost of living being too high, the difficulty to own land or rent as a foreigner, etc. That said, I would totally live there again if I didn’t have children in the equation. We’ll see how that one goes.
  • TV: Apparently I am a talented binge-watcher. I’m not sure if that is the truth, but I do binge too much. I like most of what I see on TV, but unless it’s very high-quality television (that requires my full attention) I feel very unproductive watching and will do something else to supplement that (recently, this has been a replay through Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2 and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker.) I don’t think it’s much more productive to play games while watching TV, but it feels that way while I’m doing it so I’ll probably continue. It’s really difficult for me to play high action or story-intensive games while watching though, so I end up with something kind of grindy. Before the current games, it was post-game content in Tales of Zestiria, and before that I think it was Dragon Quest IX.
  • Working in IT: This is where the most entertaining stories will likely come from. I won’t share any personal details about those involved, but some of the stories are too good to waste.
  • Pretty much anything else: I don’t have any incredibly deep hobbies, but I do think I have a wide set of interests (I think Valve uses the metaphor of being “T-shaped” and I’d say my hobbies probably satisfy that.)

So that’s it, for now I guess (and mostly because it’s 3:00 now and I’m out of here.)