The Washington Post likes to think of itself as the wall between freedom and authoritarianism. Beneath the masthead, it reads “Democracy dies in darkness,” as if they’re the ones who will preserve it for us.
And, to be sure, the media is a vital tool for protecting us from tyranny.
Yet they’re not the only tool. In fact, while the press is vital, it can also easily become the tool of the oppressor, calling for any number of actions that would erode our freedoms.
Enter the Washington Post, which ran an op-ed on Thursday titled, “America’s gun culture is priming us for authoritarianism.”
What is driving democratic decline in America? Disinformation, election subversion, Donald Trump’s authoritarian leader cult and institutionalized racism leap out at you. But there’s another factor that is all the more dangerous because it’s part of our everyday reality: civilian access to lethal weapons, and the mass death that enables.
The scale and scope of gun violence in America doesn’t just desensitize us to violence. It also cheapens the value of life. It fosters political, social and psychological conditions that are propitious for autocracy. The omission of gun law reform from discussions of democracy protection is symptomatic of our normalization of this tragic situation. The Jan. 6 insurrection shows us how dangerous that blind spot has become.
Yet no amount of loss seems enough to deter the supporters of a brutal gun rights culture that factors in harm to some so that the freedoms and privilege of others can continue, and accepts mass death and trauma in the name of “liberty.” Add in an uptick of activity by extremists that preach violence and extralegal action as a way of changing history, and you have a high potential for political destabilization. Guns were prominent at the storming of the Michigan Capitol in May 2020 by militia members. They also featured at the Jan. 6 insurrection, which brought many strains of armed political extremism together: militia members, retired and active-duty law enforcement and military and radicalized civilians.
Interestingly, the author fails to note a whole lot of other things.
In fairness, there are only so many words a single op-ed can contain, so it’s impossible to talk on a large subject and not miss some points.
However, where she fails even more is to actually make her case that our gun rights actually can lead to authoritarianism.
Her entire argument is “people I don’t like did things I don’t like, thus authoritarianism.”
That’s not really how things work, and most people who have completed fifth grade understand that. You need to make a real, meaningful argument supporting your position. Frankly, I didn’t see anything of the kind.
Not that I’m overly surprised.
Look, when it comes to the potentiality of authoritarianism rising in this country, guns do play a role. It’s just not the one the writer thinks.
At one point, she invokes the “militia” storming the Michigan statehouse. What she neglects to mention is that they were protesting draconian lockdown rules–an authoritarian act if ever there were one–and demanding their freedom.
How is that rising authoritarianism?
She goes on to bring up 1/6, unsurprisingly. However, she fails to note that not a single firearm was in evidence during that entire thing. This wasn’t an armed uprising by any stretch of the imagination.
While she does acknowledge the growing demographics buying guns–women and minorities–she fails to note that they’re buying those guns in response to the growing lawlessness many see in their communities. They’re arming themselves to combat the tyranny of the thug, something some could argue is another brand of authoritarianism.
The truth of the matter is that for as long as Americans have access to guns, we cannot have real authoritarianism. We have the ability to rise up and combat that in a very literal sense. We can stand up and protect ourselves and our nation.
That keeps authoritarians in check.
It’s only when people can’t fight back that you’ll see the real rise of what she fears. Some of us are dedicated to making sure that never happens. After all, we’ve had access to guns for centuries. How is it just now leading us down this dark path?