An ever-present dichotomy in the nation’s conversation over the place of firearms in our society is how the two sides chose to argue their points in the debate.
Citizen control groups such as Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Moms Demand Action, the Violence Policy Center, Brady Coalition (or whatever they’re on now), Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and their allies, tend to make the same anecdote-based arguments time and again in order to attempt to persuade people on an emotional level. They then reinforce their arguments with the entire raft of logical fallacies, and in some cases, simply choose to tell half-truths to blatant falsehoods.
A recent long-form ad hominem attack on the National Rifle Association by activist/journalist Bill Moyers is just the latest example of their style of argument.
Moyers started out with the sort of well-reasoned, rational headline we’ve come to expect.
The NRA has our children’s blood on their hands
This is, sadly, as rational as Moyers and his peers generally allow themselves to get.
Keep in mind that this headline could have just as easily been on the New York Daily News or Times, or on a CNN or MSNBC chyron appearing under a red-faced personality spitting at the screen in well-practiced rage. Citizen control arguments are based upon brute force frontal assaults, overwhelming reason, logic, and data with emotion and invective. The first paragraph is a shining example of this.
This grim anniversary of the Newtown, Conn., killings, with 28 dead, reminded us of that moment back in 2000 when Charlton Heston made his defiant boast at the NRA convention that gun control advocates would have to pry his rifle from his “cold, dead hands.” You would have thought he had returned to that fantasy world of Hollywood where, in a previous incarnation, he portrayed those famous Indian killers Andrew Jackson and Buffalo Bill Cody, whose Wild West, as Cody marketed it, still courses through the bloodstream of American mythology.
Moyers brings up Sandy Hook as an appeal to emotion in what is now a rote act for citizen control advocates. He then quickly devolves into a personal attack against a dead actor who was once the face of the NRA. Moyers manages to get a secondary dig in at Heston, choosing to curiously pick two of more than 100 characters Heston portrayed in a long career, grossly oversimplifying and mischaracterizing the lives of both Jackson and Cody in the process.
Perhaps it isn’t too late to mention that character assassination is also a favored tactic.
For sure, Heston wasn’t channeling his most famous role, as Moses in The Ten Commandments, striding down from Mount Sinai with a stone tablet on which had been chiseled God’s blueprint for a civilized society, including, “Thou Shalt Not Kill!”
Curiously, Moyers once claimed to be a Baptist pastor. He knows that he’s misquoting the Bible. The correct and most accurate translation, and the only one that makes sense with the rest of a Bible filled with warriors, is “thou shall not murder.” The Bible is against unlawful killing. Moyers knows this. He doesn’t care.