bookmark_borderHochul’s disturbing comments about “radicalization”

“I have called upon and am working closely with our Attorney General to identify what’s going on on social media, and those questions are now part of our background checks. So, just like in the old days, you’d talk to someone’s neighbor. Now you can talk to their neighbors online and find out whether or not this person has been spouting philosophies that indicate that they have been radicalized. And that’s how we protect our citizens as well.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul made these comments at a press conference on August 24. Hochul is referring to her state’s new law which requires applicants for gun licenses to provide their social media usernames so that police can ensure that the content of their posts is acceptable before issuing a license.

These comments are disturbing for several reasons:

First, the use of the word “radicalized” presumes that radical views are something that originates outside of a person, as opposed to from within. It follows from this presumption that radical views are bad and wrong. After all, if certain beliefs can only come to be held due to outside influences, and not due to thoughtful, deliberate reflection, then those beliefs must be irrational and incorrect. But there is nothing inherently bad about radical views, and they are just as likely to be correct as moderate ones. A person can come to hold radical views through careful deliberation, just as a person can come to hold moderate views through such deliberation. In fact, one could argue that radical views are more, not less, likely than moderate ones to be a result of philosophical reasoning and analysis.

Second, it is deeply wrong to base permission to exercise fundamental rights on whether or not a person’s views are considered acceptable. According to Hochul, if an applicant has been “spouting philosophies that indicate that they have been radicalized,” then that is reason to deny their application. In other words, Hochul believes that exercise of Second Amendment rights should be limited to people whose views are deemed sufficiently mainstream and moderate. This is, to put it bluntly, absurd. Holding radical views is absolutely not a valid reason for denial of a gun license. As explained above, whether a person’s views are radical or moderate has nothing to do with whether those views are right or wrong. But beyond that, people’s philosophies, beliefs, and views should have no bearing whatsoever on whether their gun license applications are granted, because people’s philosophies, beliefs, and views are none of the government’s business. Even if an applicant holds beliefs that are completely and utterly wrong, that is no reason to deny them the ability to exercise fundamental rights. 

Third, by conditioning the granting of Second Amendment rights on the acceptability of people’s social media posts, Hochul is treating these rights not as rights at all, but as privileges. Gun ownership is a fundamental right. In criminal law, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty, because the consequence of being found guilty is for the person’s freedom to be taken away. Similarly, denying a person permission to own and carry a gun takes away a fundamental freedom. Therefore, decisions with regard to gun ownership must use the presumption of innocence standard as well: as long as the government does not have proof that a particular person is unfit to hold a license, the government has a moral obligation to issue the license. Applying for a gun license should not be treated like applying for a job. This is not a situation in which the government can set any standards that it wants and restrict licenses to only the applicants who meet those standards. The government should not be investigating or evaluating a person’s reputation, statements, philosophies, or beliefs, whether by talking to neighbors or by viewing social media profiles. To view rights as something that should be granted only if a person passes these evaluations is to view rights as privileges. And rights are not privileges; they are rights.

In conclusion, Hochul demonstrates two highly disturbing and false assumptions: First, that when it comes to political and moral philosophies, moderate equals good and radical equals bad. Second, that the ability to exercise gun rights should be conditioned on whether or not a person holds “good” political and moral philosophies. Not only is it authoritarian to restrict freedoms to people who hold the correct views, but it is even more authoritarian to presume that the correctness of someone’s views is a function of how popular and widely held those views are. Yet this is exactly what Hochul is doing. The purpose of the Bill of Rights is to protect the rights of minorities against a tyrannical, bullying majority. By openly stating that the expression of unusual views is a legitimate reason to deny a person rights, Hochul is completely defeating the entire purpose of the Bill of Rights and completely disregarding the concept of individual liberty. It is beyond disturbing that any public official would demonstrate such mindless conformity, such moral bankruptcy, and such disrespect for people who think differently than she does, as Hochul has demonstrated through her public statements. It is not okay for the government to limit rights to only those people whose philosophies it has deemed acceptable.

P.S. Although this is not directly relevant to the topic of this blog post, I would be remiss not to mention Hochul’s recent decision to order all Republicans to leave her state. “Just jump on a bus and head down to Florida where you belong,” she said at a campaign rally. “You are not New Yorkers.” Needless to say, these appalling comments are additional evidence of Hochul’s bigotry and intolerance towards people who think differently than she does. So much for progressivism being the philosophy of tolerance, diversity, and inclusion.

bookmark_borderMaren Morris is a scumbag human (continued)

The mean, nasty, and bullying behavior of country singer Maren Morris continues to reach new lows. As I wrote about earlier, Morris decided to call Brittany Aldean, country singer Jason Aldean’s wife, a “scumbag human” and told her to “sell your clip-ins and zip it, Insurrection Barbie” in response to Brittany’s opinion that parents shouldn’t allow their kids to have sex change surgeries.

Morris’s husband, Ryan Hurd, joined in the nasty and bullying behavior by tweeting: “Scoring quick points by picking on trans kids isn’t something that is brave at all. And I’m proud of Maren for sticking up for them. Badge of honor to have CO engage in completely normal discourse, too. Shut up and sing only applies to those who you disagree with.”

These comments are wrong for several reasons. First of all, Brittany’s comments actually were brave, because they went against the prevailing attitudes of our society. Additionally, Brittany was neither “scoring quick points” nor “picking on” anyone, and Maren was not “sticking up for” anyone. In fact, by using the term “insurrection” as an insult, Maren was picking on not only Brittany, but every person in the world who believes in thinking for oneself and standing up to authority. And finally, “shut up and sing”? Really? I’m not sure what Hurd is talking about here, because the only person telling others to shut up is his wife. It is Maren who literally wrote “sell your clip-ins and zip it” in response to a person voicing an opinion that she disagreed with. Telling someone to “zip it” is synonymous with telling someone to “shut up.” Therefore, if Hurd has a problem with people telling others to shut up, his wife is the person that he should be criticizing, because she is the person who is doing this.

Making this situation even more ridiculous is the fact that Morris recently complained that she does not feel comfortable attending the CMA Awards because Brittany and Jason Aldean are going to be there. This is bizarre and makes no sense whatsoever. Maren is the one who created the situation that she is complaining makes her uncomfortable. She chose to viciously criticize both Brittany and every person in the world who believes in thinking for oneself and standing up to authority. No one forced her to write the disgusting things that she wrote; she went out of her way to write them. And now she, the one who created the entire situation, is complaining that she is uncomfortable. In other words, a bully is complaining about having to be at the same event as her victims.

Maren Morris needs to look in the mirror and think about her role in this situation. She is the aggressor, she is the one who did something wrong, and she is the one who went out of her way to insult and harm other people. By using the concept of resistance to authority as an insult, Maren Morris has acted reprehensibly. She does not hold the moral high ground. In fact, Morris shouldn’t be allowed to attend the CMA Awards at all, given that she decided to attack and bully other members of the country music community. Morgan Wallen was suspended by his record label, ruled ineligible for major awards, and had all major radio stations stop playing his music, all for far less objectionable behavior than Morris’s. Morris deserves to be treated the way that Wallen was, because she has truly acted in a bigoted and intolerant manner.

bookmark_borderMaren Morris is a scumbag human

Recently, country singer Maren Morris decided to viciously insult Brittany Aldean, the wife of country singer Jason Aldean. Brittany Aldean had made comments on social media criticizing the idea of performing sex change surgeries on children, and in response, Morris wrote the following:

“It’s so easy to, like, not be a scumbag human? Sell your clip-ins and zip it, Insurrection Barbie.”

These comments are truly appalling, and the moral bankruptcy that Morris has demonstrated is breathtaking. It is, indeed, easy to not be a scumbag human. In order to do so, one needs merely to refrain from insulting innocent people who have done nothing wrong. Yet it is Morris, not Aldean, who has utterly failed to accomplish this. For some reason, Morris, completely without provocation, decided to viciously insult not only Brittany Aldean, but every person in the world who thinks independently and holds beliefs that differ from the establishment view.

According to Dictionary.com, the word “insurrection” is defined as “an act or instance of rising in revolt, rebellion, or resistance against civil authority or an established government.” As you can see from this definition, there is nothing inherently bad about an insurrection. Insurrection means to revolt, rebel, or resist. It means being opposed to authority and the establishment. There is nothing inherently bad about revolting against, rebelling against, or resisting authority or the establishment. In fact, when the established government violates people’s fundamental rights and takes away everything that makes live worth living, as the current administration is doing, then insurrection is very much a good thing, which should be praised and encouraged. Yet Morris chose to use the very idea of resistance to authority as an insult. Apparently, to her, obedience and conformity are synonymous with goodness, while rebellion and nonconformity are synonymous with badness. By using the term “Insurrection Barbie” as an insult, Morris demonstrates not only egregious cruelty and nastiness, but also mindless conformity and authoritarianism. 

Morris’s demand that Aldean “sell your clip-ins and zip it” is similarly appalling. With these words, Morris expresses complete and utter contempt for anyone who thinks differently than her. She orders all people with non-establishment views to just shut up, as if our feelings, thoughts, and perspectives don’t matter. As if it is an obvious fact that her own views are the only ones allowed to be expressed, and that any dissenting opinions must automatically be dismissed as illegitimate. It is impossible to overstate the sheer bigotry and intolerance demonstrated by these comments.

As if the above comments somehow weren’t bad enough, Morris continued to badmouth Aldean in a back and forth exchange with fellow country singer Cassadee Pope on Instagram:

“You know, I’m glad she didn’t become a boy either because we really don’t need another a–hole dude in the world. Sucks when Karens try to hide their homophobia/transphobia behind their ‘protectiveness of the children.’ Weren’t they putting their kids in ‘Biden-is-a-pedo’ shirts on social media? Sounds like a real safe way to protect them from millions of eyes! F— all the way off to Insurrection Barbie and the fellow IB’s trolling this comment section with their hypocritical, hateful a–es.”

So not only has Morris demonstrated an appalling level of nastiness, authoritarianism, and intolerance, but now she has decided to add sexism to the mix as well. It is Morris, not Aldean or any of the “fellow IB’s,” who is truly hypocritical and hateful. It is Morris’s actions that truly suck. And it is Morris who truly needs to f*** all the way off.

In conclusion, Maren Morris has proven herself to be a bully and a bigot with no sense of kindness, tolerance, or decency and no ability to engage in critical thinking. To use some of her own words, she is a scumbag human who needs to zip it and actually respect people who are different than her instead of viciously attacking them. It is beyond classless and beyond unprofessional for a public figure to ridicule, insult, and then gossip back and forth about another public figure, as Morris has done. You simply cannot call someone an “Insurrection Barbie.” It is unacceptable. Not only is this behavior incredibly mean and nasty towards Brittany Aldean, it is also incredibly mean and nasty towards all people who identify as rebels and all people who believe in resisting authority or standing up to the establishment. Morris is a talented singer and songwriter, but unfortunately an absolutely terrible person. I have really enjoyed her music over the years, but I will never be able to listen to it again without thinking of these disgusting comments.

It’s also worth mentioning that the biased media coverage of this situation is almost as despicable as Morris’s comments themselves.

For example, an article from Billboard characterized Aldean’s words as a “transphobic joke” and “transphobic comments.” The article also included a detailed explanation, including quotes by experts, of transgenderism and how it presents for children. Plus, the publication even went so far as to ask Mattel for their comments on the font that Aldean used in an Instagram post, which resembles the font that is used in the logo for Barbie dolls. The article places all this scrutiny on Aldean’s comments and the subject matter thereof, while placing no scrutiny whatsoever on Morris’s comments, other than merely quoting them. The article calls Aldean’s comments “transphobic” as if this is an established fact, without mentioning even the possibility that anything about Morris’s comments might be considered offensive of problematic in any way.

Additionally, an article from The Hill mentions that Fox News host Tucker Carlson “insulted” Morris by calling her a “lunatic country music person.” Similarly to the article described above, this article characterizes Carlson’s comments as an “insult” as if this is an established fact, without even mentioning the possibility that Morris’s comments might be insulting. And in a sad commentary on our society, the article also mentions that Morris decided to create and sell t-shirts with Carlson’s quote in order to raise money for transgender organizations. News flash: “Insurrection Barbie” is a far worse insult than “lunatic.” In fact, Carlson’s words were relatively kind. Morris is far worse than a lunatic; she is a bigot and a bully.

The bottom line is that regardless of what one thinks about transgender rights or the appropriateness of children being able to make their own gender decisions, Morris’s comments are far more offensive, problematic, insulting, harmful, and just plain mean than either Aldean’s or Carlson’s. It is beyond disturbing that the media, along with much of society as a whole, fails to see this obvious truth. For having the audacity to state her opinion that children should not be able to change their gender, Aldean has been insulted, condemned, and mercilessly scrutinized. Plus, her husband Jason Aldean has been dropped by his PR agency. Meanwhile, Morris, who flippantly attacked the very idea of resistance to authority by using the word “insurrection” as an insult, faces no negative consequences whatsoever. She gets to spew vicious and bigoted insults and then continue on her merry way, gloating about how much money she raised and basking in her mindless and hypocritical self-righteousness. This situation, in which people who did nothing wrong are shamed and punished while cruel bullies are rewarded and praised, is emblematic of our society’s warped sense of values.

bookmark_borderWhy student loan forgiveness is unjust

In the debate about student loan forgiveness, people often point out that many people opposed to loan forgiveness had their college education paid for by their parents, Therefore, the implication is, the opposition to loan forgiveness is illegitimate, because opponents are so “privileged” that they never had to take out loans themselves.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact that some parents saved up to pay for their children’s college education demonstrates exactly why student loan forgiveness is unjust.

Student loan forgiveness is unjust not because it is essentially a government-funded bailout of the rich, as many conservatives argue. It is not unjust because it subsidizes colleges, thereby allowing them to continue increasing their prices (although this is probably true). It is not unjust because it forces people who chose blue-collar careers to subsidize people who chose to study less practical subjects such as gender studies (although this is probably true, too). It’s not even unjust because it goes against the principle of personal responsibility by letting people off the hook for the financial ramifications of their decisions (although this is true as well).

Student loan forgiveness is unjust because it changes the rules after people have already made decisions based on the old rules.

Before student loan forgiveness was introduced as a possibility, it was assumed that if someone goes to college, they must pay for it. This is, after all, the way that things work with any product or service. If a person chooses to purchase a product or service, then the person must pay what the product or service costs. For some products and services, including college, there is the option to pay the cost now, as well as the option to pay the cost later, usually with interest added (also known as taking out a loan). Given that they would need to pay the cost at some point regardless, my parents chose to save up money so that they could pay at the beginning, rather than taking out a loan and facing the likelihood of having to pay interest.

But then, thanks to Joe Biden, the rules changed so that people who chose the second option (taking out a loan) are now being told that they don’t have to pay at all! (Technically, they have to pay $10,000 less as opposed to nothing at all, but the same principle applies). This means that my parents, after having already made the decision to pay at the beginning to avoid being charged interest, are now being told that if they had chosen the second option instead, they would be charged a smaller, not a larger, total amount of money. But it is too late for my parents to change their decision, because they have already paid. And there is no way for them to get their money back, because instead of treating people equally, the Biden administration is bestowing the $10,000 discount upon only those people who chose the second payment option (taking out a loan). 

Needless to say, had my parents known that they would receive a $10,000 discount if they had simply not paid and taken out a loan instead, they would have chosen this option. Choosing the first option (paying at the beginning) required my parents to save up money, and they made sacrifices in order to do this, such as working full time and foregoing other purchases. If they could have saved up less money with zero negative financial ramifications, my parents would have been able to take more vacations, make improvements to their home, or buy additional clothes and toys, to give just a few examples. It is patently unjust that parents who chose the vacations or the home improvements (or perhaps who chose not to work at all) instead of saving up money are now going to be rewarded for their choices with a $10,000 discount, while my parents are stuck having paid the full price with no way to get any of their money back. 

In conclusion, there is definitely a need to make college less expensive. But the problem with student loan forgiveness is that it makes college less expensive retroactively, after some people have already paid the full amount. Student loan forgiveness makes it so that one of two payment options comes with a discount… and people are not told this at the time when they must make a decision, but only after the decision has already been made. In other words, student loan forgiveness changes the rules after people have already made decisions based on the existing rules. This is what makes it unjust. When loans are forgiven, a situation is created in which people like my parents, who made sacrifices to save up money, turn out to have saved up that money for nothing. If people with student debt are going to get $10,000 of their debt forgiven, then people who have already paid must receive a $10,000 refund.

bookmark_borderWhen it comes to rights, you don’t need to demonstrate a need

One of the most common arguments in the gun rights debate is the idea that certain types of guns (or guns in general) are “not needed.” It is frustrating to see this argument being made again and again, because it is 100% wrong and demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the nature of rights.

These tweets are a recent example: 

What this person, and so many others, fail to grasp is the fact that a person doesn’t need to need something in order to be allowed to have it. Fundamental rights exist regardless of need. If something is a fundamental right, as owning and possessing guns is, then people have the right to do it, whether they need to or not. 

Melissa is correct in stating that carrying a gun into Target or Subway is not needed. But so what? So only activities that are needed should be allowed? That’s interesting, because getting married is not needed, yet gay rights advocates treat it as an obvious truth that people have a right to marry the person that they love. (See this post for more examples of things that are not needed, but that everyone would agree people have a right to do.)

Next, Melissa pompously demands that gun rights supporters “demonstrate a need.” Well, no. That’s not how it works. If something is a fundamental right, as gun ownership is, then no one is obligated to demonstrate any need in order to exercise it. If something is a fundamental right, then people can do it for any reason at all, or for no reason.

With regards to the question that Melissa asks, obviously it is not good to have a situation in which anyone “goes and mowes [sic] down some people.” But the way to avoid such situations is simply for people not to use their guns to mow down people. The way to avoid such situations is not to require people to prove that they are not going to mow anyone down, because such requirements invade the privacy of all people and therefore violate everyone’s rights. 

Contrary to what Melissa is implying, it actually would be a good idea for “some closeted racist POS fresh out of HS, to legally ‘qualify’ to carry just because he’s 18.” Obviously, racism is not a good thing. But you can’t require people to prove that they are not racist before allowing them to exercise fundamental rights. If something is a fundamental right, as carrying guns is, then being 18 is completely sufficient to qualify. If something is a fundamental right, then everyone has the right to do it. If something is a fundamental right, then racist people are going to have the ability to do it along with everyone else.

Just as people are not obligated to demonstrate a need in order to exercise fundamental rights, people are not obligated to demonstrate a lack of racism, either. Rights are not privileges reserved for those who have demonstrated sufficient need or moral character. Rights are rights.

bookmark_borderSkepticism of institutions is not the problem; the institutions are the problem

When I first saw this tweet, my immediate reaction was, “You consider this to be a bad thing… why?”

There is nothing inherently bad about wanting to abolish government agencies or wanting to impeach and/or imprison government officials. Whether wanting such things is good or bad depends entirely on whether the agencies or officials have done anything wrong to deserve abolition, impeachment, and/or imprisonment. Yet the author of this tweet is ridiculing Republicans for their wishes with regards to government agencies and officials. And while doing this, he is not even bothering to argue that these government agencies and officials are good, and therefore not deserving of abolition, impeachment, and/or imprisonment. He is simply presuming that wanting to abolish, impeach, and/or imprison government agencies and officials is intrinsically bad. This viewpoint is disturbingly authoritarian. According to Filipkowski, trusting and respecting the government is inherently good, and disliking or criticizing the government is inherently bad. According to Filipkowski, the government is apparently worthy of trust and respect merely by virtue of being the government.

If the FBI, CIA, IRS, and Department of Education are acting wrongly, then they deserve to be abolished. If the President, Vice President, DHS Secretary, and Attorney General are acting wrongly, then they deserve to be impeached. And if the NIH Director is acting wrongly, then he deserves to be put in prison. In my opinion, all of these agencies and officials are, indeed, acting wrongly, and therefore Republicans are correct in wanting their abolishment, impeachment, and imprisonment. Instead of criticizing Republicans in this situation, one must ask what, if anything, government agencies and officials have done to cause people to hold such negative attitudes towards them. One must at least consider the possibility that the government agencies and officials in question are actually to blame for people’s negative evaluations of them, and therefore that the negative evaluations are correct. In my opinion, this is exactly what is the case in this situation.

Below is another example of the illogical and authoritarian attitude that societal institutions are inherently good and inherently worthy of trust and respect:

As you can see, Alex Young has taken it upon himself to ridicule the completely valid and reasonable criticisms that the Firearms Policy Coalition makes of the institutions of the ballot box, jury box, and soapbox. He demonstrates the same type of disturbing authoritarianism as Filipkowski does. By ridiculing the FPC for expressing disillusionment with societal institutions, Young is presuming that societal institutions automatically ought to be treated with reverence, merely by virtue of being institutions. To Young, if someone voices criticism of societal institutions, that reflects badly on said person, and makes them deserving of dismissal and ridicule. Like Filipkowski, he fails to even consider the possibility that it is actually the institutions that are flawed, and that the person making the criticisms is therefore correct in doing so.

In this case, the FPC is indeed correct in pointing out that the ballot box, jury box, and soapbox do not serve as effective “boxes of liberty.” What Young states so flippantly and dismissively is actually true. Indeed, it is a bummer that people’s fundamental rights are subject to majority rule, that the jury box is illusory, and that large corporations have the power to decide what speech is acceptable. These things are actual problems that need to be taken seriously, and it is both despicable and bizarre that someone would react to a problematic situation not by criticizing it, but by criticizing (particularly in such a flippant and dismissive tone) the organization that is pointing out the problem. Young needs to acknowledge that what is going on in our society actually is a bummer, to put it lightly. Instead of flippantly dismissing the FPC’s observations and ridiculing the organization for making them, Young should be praising the FPC for drawing attention to real and important problems with our government and society.

bookmark_borderRebutting a bully

“Today I looked Robert E. Lee in the eye and said, ‘You have no power over me.’ Now the healing can begin.”

This is what someone wrote in a social media post after Richmond, Virginia’s statue of Robert E. Lee was wrongly and disgracefully removed.

These words could not be more wrong. In this person’s warped version of reality, the losing side of a war that took place over 150 years ago is somehow the side that has always held power, and rubbing salt in the wounds of those who are already suffering somehow constitutes healing.

What I would say to the person who wrote this is, Robert E. Lee has never had any power over you. The Confederacy lost the Civil War in 1865. The Confederacy is the losing side of the war, while the Union is the winning side. Why are you so eager to inflict a new level of defeat upon people who were brutally and mercilessly defeated more than 100 years before you were born? You, and people like you, are the ones who hold power in our society, while the people who share the ideals of the Confederacy (liberty, individual rights, and resistance to authority) are the ones who hold no power.

Dear person who wrote this: Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy were rebels who fought back against authority, while you represent authority and the establishment. Robert E. Lee represents thinking for oneself and daring to be different, while you represent mindless conformity. Robert E. Lee represents the oppressed, while you are the oppressor. Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy were the underdogs, while you are a bully. 

In other words, people like you are the powerful. People like Robert E. Lee are the powerless. It really is that simple. Monuments to Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy by their very nature represent rebellion and resistance to authority. For reasons that I will never fully comprehend, it is these ideals that you and so many other people demonstrate such a vicious, sadistic, and mindless eagerness to tear down and stomp on, both literally and figuratively.

In no way, shape, or form does it make sense for a bully to gloat that their victim – a person who has never hurt them in any way and who died over 150 years ago – does not hold power over them.

Dear person who wrote this: You, not Robert E. Lee, are the one who holds power and who always has. 

How dare you – a person who has always been part of the winning side, the majority, the mainstream, the establishment – gloat about inflicting further pain on an unpopular and powerless minority? You have no right to paint yourself as the victim. That distinction belongs to Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy.

Dear person who wrote this: You write about healing being able to begin, when you have nothing to heal from, because you are the one inflicting the pain, not the one enduring it. What has taken place over the past few years with regards to Confederate statues is an example of the winning side rubbing salt in the wounds of the losing side, of the advantaged stomping on the already disadvantaged. What you characterize as “healing” is actually the infliction of horrific pain on innocent people who have done nothing to deserve it and who have already suffered unimaginable losses. How dare you use the word “healing” to describe something that is its polar opposite?

Dear person who wrote this: You have things completely backwards. You are the authority, you are the majority, you are the mainstream, you are the establishment, you are the winning side of the Civil War, and you are the bully. It is disgraceful that you would gloat about inflicting further pain on those who are already suffering, and then call it healing.

bookmark_borderThere is nothing deplorable about calling out wrongdoing

In the latest example of our society treating protests against injustice as the problem as opposed to the injustice itself, FBI Director Christopher Wray recently called criticism of his agency “deplorable and dangerous” after FBI agents ransacked the home of former president Trump. “Violence against law enforcement is not the answer, no matter who you’re upset with,” Wray added.

Actually, Wray has things completely backward with these comments. The actions of the FBI – which involved a group of approximately 30 agents ransacking Trump’s private residence because of concerns that he took home documents that should have been given to the National Archives – were truly deplorable. Therefore, it is 100% correct for people to be angry about these actions and call them out as wrong. Yet Wray opts to completely ignore the wrongness of his own agency’s actions and instead to condemn the people who are (correctly) objecting to these actions! Contrary to what Wray seems to believe, pointing out that someone has done something wrong is not deplorable; doing something wrong is. If someone has done something wrong, as the FBI has in this case, they deserve to be criticized and called out. Neither criticizing, nor calling out, not being angry about wrongdoing is a problem. The wrongdoing itself is the problem, and that is what needs to be condemned, not the people voicing their opposition and anger.

And while I agree that committing and/or threatening violence against anyone is not an ideal way to express one’s anger, Wray in his comment about violence similarly ignores the wrongdoing of his own agency in his haste to condemn his agency’s critics. Instead of scrutinizing and condemning the ways in which people voice their upset, Wray should be scrutinizing and condemning what his agency did to cause people to be upset in the first place. But as usual in our society, the people who actually did something wrong are given a free pass. The FBI is painted as the victim instead of being held accountable for its role in causing the angry and hostile situation.

Making matters worse, the LA Times’s coverage of the FBI raid and the reaction to it demonstrates the same mindless and morally bankrupt belief that expressing anger in response to an injustice is the problem, as opposed to the injustice itself. The article focuses, using a blatantly critical and condescending tone, on the people who have expressed criticism of, and anger with, the FBI raid, while letting the perpetrators of the raid completely off the hook. The article bemoans the “threats and calls to arms in those corners of the internet favored by right-wing extremists” and quotes several alleged examples found on the social media app Gab, which the article describes as “popular with white supremacists and antisemites.” As is the norm among the media establishment, 100% of the scrutiny and criticism falls upon those protesting against injustice, angered by mistreatment, and speaking out against wrongdoing, as opposed to the actual perpetrators of the injustice, mistreatment, and wrongdoing.

Shame on the political and media establishment for treating protesting against wrongdoing as the problem, as opposed to the wrongdoing itself. 

bookmark_borderThe war on “ghost guns” is a war on privacy

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York City Corporation Counsel Sylvia Hinds-Radix, and New York Attorney General Letitia James recently announced federal lawsuits against companies that sell gun component parts. Their beef is that these retailers distributed parts that people can use to assemble untraceable firearms, also known as “ghost guns.” The fact that New York public officials decided to ban (via a law that took effect in February 2020) something that does not hurt anyone, and subsequently to file a lawsuit against companies that did not hurt anyone, is immoral. And in their public comments, these officials made numerous false and illogical statements that demonstrate their incorrect understanding of morality, justice, and rights.

In his public statement announcing the unjust lawsuit, Adams said: “Whether they are hidden in the trunks of cars or packed in a plain brown box, ghost guns are illegal in our city, and we will take every lawful action possible to stop gun retailers from profiting at the expense of the safety of our city… We will not stand by while illegal operators flout the law, endanger our communities, and kill our young people.”

But companies that make ghost gun parts do not “kill our young people.” The people who fatally shoot people are the ones who kill those people, not the companies that make the guns (or the parts used to make the guns). I’m also not sure why Adams chose to mention the age of the people that he falsely accuses companies of killing. Age is not a morally relevant characteristic. Would Adams consider it less problematic if the people being killed were old? 

Hinds-Radix said: “Sadly, people in our city, including children, have been shot or killed with ghost guns… The companies should be forced to assist the city in recovering illegal, untraceable ghost guns they delivered here.”

The same point about age not being a morally relevant characteristic also applies here. Why mention that some of the people killed were children? But more importantly, there is no reason why companies should be forced to assist the city in recovering ghost guns. Ghost guns do not hurt anyone; it is the people who shoot other people who hurt people. Companies who sell the parts used to make ghost guns are not doing anything wrong. Therefore, they shouldn’t be forced to do anything. It is the people who choose to shoot other people, not the companies that sell component parts, that should be punished. 

New York Sheriff Anthony Miranda announced his intention to “hold these retailers accountable for willfully endangering the health and well-being of New Yorkers.” 

But the retailers did not do anything wrong. People who shoot other people, not the retailers that sell component parts, are the ones who have done something wrong and therefore should be held accountable. It is unjust for companies to be held accountable for something that they did not do.

Attorney General James stated: “While families mourned loved ones lost to senseless gun violence, gun sellers avoided accountability for the illegal and dangerous weapons they sold. There should be no more immunity for gun distributors bringing harm and havoc to New York. My office’s lawsuit holds 10 gun sellers accountable for fueling the gun violence crisis and endangering New Yorkers. Illegal guns do not belong on our streets or in our communities and we will use every tool necessary to root them out.”

I’m not sure why James considers it a bad thing for gun sellers to avoid accountability, given that they have not done anything wrong. For the same reason, I’m not sure why she thinks that there should be “no more immunity for gun distributors.” If a party or entity hasn’t done anything wrong, then immunity is exactly what they should have, and avoiding accountability is exactly what should happen. 

In addition to the mistaken idea that gun distributors should be held accountable for other people’s actions, another thing that strikes me about these statements is their emphasis on safety and communalism, and their complete disregard for the rights of individuals. There is no mention of individual rights, liberty, or freedom in any of these statements. Instead, the politicians go on and on about “the safety of our city” and “the health and well-being of New Yorkers.” They bemoan the fact that gun distributors “endanger our communities” and the “harm and havoc” that they bring. Again and again, they mention the impact on “communities,” “families,” and “loved ones,” as opposed to considering people as individuals.

If our leaders actually thought of people as individuals, as opposed to mere members of families and communities, they would realize that ghost guns are actually beneficial, rather than harmful. Because they are untraceable, ghost guns enable people to maintain privacy with regards to gun ownership. This is unequivocally a benefit to individuals. But, as is all too often the case, individual rights such as the right to privacy go completely unrecognized and disregarded by people who care only about safety, health, and the common good.

By criminalizing ghost guns, our society is taking away people’s right to maintain privacy with regards to gun ownership. Perhaps coincidentally and perhaps not, shortly after filing the ghost gun lawsuit, Adams announced a similar crackdown on “ghost cars” – cars that can’t be traced. These actions illustrate a trend towards treating privacy not as a fundamental right that should be protected, but instead as something that should be made illegal. And unlike ghost guns and ghost cars, disregard for privacy rights is truly harmful.

bookmark_borderSignature collectors targeted by bullies

In Massachusetts, proponents of a ballot initiative regarding driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants have been targeted by a campaign of vicious bullying. According to a Massachusetts Republican Party press release, volunteers who set up tables to gather signatures for the petition were harassed, attacked, and accosted on numerous occasions by people who oppose the petition. For example, State Sen. Jamie Eldridge stood in front of table that had been set up outside a Cabela’s store in Hudson in order to physically block people from signing the petition. At a Market Basket in Waltham, City Councilor Jonathan Paz and other protesters did the same thing while holding insulting signs. Protesters did something similar at a Market Basket in Tewksbury. And worst of all, at a Hannaford supermarket in Chelmsford, people ripped up completed signature sheets.

It shouldn’t even need to be stated, but ripping up signature sheets and/or physically blocking access to a table is not acceptable, and anyone who does this is a bully. Dismayingly, when the MassGOP tweeted about these instances of bullying, several people responded not by condemning these actions but by taking the side of the bullies.

The fact that people chose to respond in this way is disgraceful. Bullies insulted and harassed innocent people, violently destroyed their property, and physically blocked people from signing a petition, and yet somehow, the victims of these actions, as opposed to the perpetrators, are the ones being criticized. As you can see from the above screenshots, people chose to ridicule bullying victims and to pick apart their actions – criticizing a photo of smiling volunteers and an alleged lack of photographic evidence* – as opposed to criticizing the actual bullies. And then there’s Chip Jones, who accused MassGOP chair Jim Lyons of somehow being “anti business” and “anti private property” and “attacking conservative principles” for believing that he is entitled to do something that Massachusetts civil rights law specifically grants him the right to do. I wasn’t aware that destroying other people’s property and blocking dissenting views from being expressed were considered conservative principles.

Ripping up people’s property and forcibly preventing people from signing a petition is unacceptable, full stop. When bullying occurs, the correct thing to do is to criticize the bullies, not their victims. Anyone who considers it more important to police the words and actions of bullying victims than to condemn the bullies is themselves a bully. By choosing to split hairs about whether the MassGOP worded its statements perfectly or included definitive photo evidence, these twitter users are siding with people who rip up signature sheets and physically block people from doing something that they have a right to do. This is shameful and disgusting.

* The MassGOP’s press release includes a photo of the ripped-up signature sheets as well as several photos of protestors physically blocking tables.