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Old November 22, 2008, 12:18 AM   #1
melchloboo
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When Facts, Logic and Reason Fail

I may be biased, but it seems to me that we gun owners attempt to advance our views through appeals to facts, logic and reason. And yet, we are only marginally successful. Some might argue we are losing ground.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the way other "special interest" groups have been successful in this country. They don't use logic and reason. They use emotional appeals. They use glamor (Hollywood). They use peer pressure.

In my view, there are plenty of judges/justices who are more swayed by those kinds of appeals (though they would never admit it) than by facts, reason, and logic. I believe from a social and political standpoint it may be time for a different approach to gun rights.

In my lifetime a number of "special interest" groups have led the courts to "discover" new rights, yet we struggle to defend one we've always had. What are they doing and right and what are we doing wrong?

Before I more formally write my thoughts, I'd like some input from the forum on my general theme.
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Old November 22, 2008, 08:05 AM   #2
Double Naught Spy
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Quote:
I may be biased, but it seems to me that we gun owners attempt to advance our views through appeals to facts, logic and reason.
If you think the pro-gun argument isn't based in large part on emotion like other special interests, then you have missed a significant part of the arguments being made. The historical patriotism angle is just one emotional aspect as is the proclamation that it is a "God-given right" as I have seen so many places. The aspect of invoking God is an appeal to disembodied authority as well as to emotion.

While not so much as argument as a proclamation for the justification for steadfastness on the issue, "From my cold, dead hands" is a battle cry of gun owners that is pure emotion-based and meant to be such.

Something else to keep in mind that many of our facts and logic are perspective-based. The 'facts' are always covered with layers of interpretation and that interpretation is often with a perspective bias that is presented as a form of logic.

Many of the facts are cherry-picked facts. In other words, only the data that support a given perspective are presented. The facts may be accurate, but when presented without the other facts that aren't so supportive, the presentation is then biased and potentially dishonest.

Back in the early days of the MMM gaining popularity with Rosie doing her thing, they had a press release that cited data from a CDC report and claimed it supported their views for gun control. I also found where the NRA had cited the same study in making their argument against gun control. Both groups fudged their numbers from the original data to give the impression that their arguments were stronger than they really were. They did this by cherry-picking what they wanted from the studies.

You see, you have already biased, the discussion in your opening by proclaiming that gun owners try to promote our cause with facts and logic and not emotion when 1) emotion is still a big part of it, and 2) the fact and logic are fraught with biases. You proclaim that it appears that judges are more swayed by emotional arguments than by said facts and logic. My guess that is because you fail to recognize the facts and logic of the opposition or the aspect that many of the facts and logic on the pro gun side are tainted with all sorts of emotion.

Suffice it to say that spin-doctoring is alive and well on both sides of the issue.
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Old November 22, 2008, 10:49 AM   #3
melchloboo
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I think you misunderstand what I believe needs to happen. I believe the emotional appeals and bias need to expand, not contract. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the NRA does distort CDC studies, recognize that such is still an appeal to logic and reason by presenting statistics to the audience. I am beginning to believe that even if correct statistics are presented, it is still the wrong approach.

To illustrate--In terms of emotional appeals, lets consider celebrity endorsements. There is no rational basis to assume that a person who plays make-believe for a living is a persuasive authority on who would be most qualified for office, what kind of drugs will cure your illness, or which toothpaste is best. Nonetheless, we know that significant numbers of Americans are influenced by celebrity appeals. The NRA briefly pursued this approach with Heston (although it is dubious as to whether he appealed to broad demographics).

So what I am getting at is not to avoid bias, but rather to admit that we have them and exploit them. I am not suggesting we take the moral high ground. I am suggesting its time to get down and dirty and win the marketing game.

As to whether or not judges are influenced by these things... If you are a lawyer then you went to law school, you kept in touch with your colleagues that went on to clerkships, judgeships and so-on. The judges I know are all human beings like the rest of us. I know guys who wear robes who were the biggest dope fiends in law school. We all know what goes on in chambers. Yes, the law is their anchor, but they have their own biases, prejudices, agendas. In other words they are human. Heller was 5-4, and the difference in opinion was not minor. I think there is no doubt that some judges are liberal, some conservative. They are very much affected by the society around them.

My suggestion is not to remove bias, but to tilt it in our direction. I do not think the approaches tried thus far are doing a good job of that. Biased statistics is one approach, but it only appeals to a small group of people that make decisions based on numbers.

As for "my cold dead hands", that appealed only to existing NRA members to renew, or existing gun owners to join. I doubt it did anything to sway the anti-gunners.

And when we say anti-gunners, I think we must recognize that within that group there is great variance in conviction. The question is, why are they anti-gun. We need to focus on the group that is anti-gun only because they have been raised to think that everyone else they know is anti-gun, or that because they don't have a gun they must be anti-gun (cognitive dissonance). That group is probably the most easily persuaded.
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Old November 22, 2008, 11:03 AM   #4
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Quote:
So what I am getting at is not to avoid bias, but rather to admit that we have them and exploit them. I am not suggesting we take the moral high ground. I am suggesting its time to get down and dirty and win the marketing game.
In order to do that, I believe that the news media needs to be "stolen back" (for lack of a better term) from the other side and brought over to ours. I believe a large amount of the reason the general public seems to be "anti" is because of the news media. Most people are not what can be considered deep thinkers in any sense of the term.

Years ago, my father was part of his high-school's shooting team. Thats right...a high school shooting team. He still has his old 22 bolt-action rifle that he bought for $30 at the local general store and used to good ends. Nowadays a gun within 500 ft of school property is a instant & free ticket to jail.

It seemed that every young boy back in my grandfather's day was EXPECTED to learn how to shoot, whether it was because every American boy was expected know how to shoot purely out of our heritage and tradition....or simply to augment the cooking pot. But that was when the rural population outnumbered the urban population.

That trend inverted after the great depression of '29. The media, especially the news media, has vilified the use of guns as a tool of bank robbers and gangsters since the roaring 1920's and the leaner 1930's. The news media has not changed its position or gotten any better since then. If we want to convince the population that guns are the only reason we can guarantee a democracy, the news media needs to brought on board.
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Old November 22, 2008, 01:07 PM   #5
melchloboo
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Well the question becomes is the news media a leader or follower, the classic chicken and egg question. I think both, and the key is to set the boat in the right direction.

Suppose for example a number of Hollywood celebs came out and said they enjoy shooting sports, and strongly support concealed carry. Or one or more of the American Idol contestants?

What if Brangelina did so? Well actually she did:
http://www.boston.com/ae/celebrity/a...un_confession/

And what did the NRA do about it? They should have offered her millions to become a spokeswoman, assuming my ideas are correct. They should have coaxed more celebs out of the woodwork. As it stands, I wager a number of readers of this forum are learning this fact for the first time. That shouldn't have been allowed to happen. I don't mean to blame the NRA, I just use them as short-hand for the entire pro-gun community.

And that is what I'm getting at. Forget about all the CDC stats and the cold dead hands. Make gun ownership cool. It is cool after all, isn't it?
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Old November 22, 2008, 01:07 PM   #6
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Quote:
I think you misunderstand what I believe needs to happen.
Nope. You said we need to go in a different direction because you were not aware of appeals to emotion being used on the gun front by us. You thought pro gun folks used logic and stats instead and that it wasn't working.

I simply stated that you had missed the boat for not realizing the emotion card was most definitely being played by pro gun groups and then noted how the facts and stats are often bogus and that both sides use them just like both sides use emotion.

Be that as it may, just what sort of emotion-based propaganda do you see being employed. What groups are you trying to win over? Are you thinking of a unicorns with guns campaign to entice the younger female generation?

Interesting point, it is harder to sway folks into a position for them to support if 1) they don't believe it is beneficial to them, and 2) if it might cost them $.

How many avid pro-gun people do you know that aren't gun owners or aren't the spouses of gun owners? You probably won't know many. How many adult members of the NRA are non-gun owners or spouses of owners?

If they don't have some sort of vested interest in the topic, they are likely to be ambivalent at best, against it at worst.

Non-gun owners are much less worried about losing a right they don't exercise than gun owners who exercise the right.

So getting people to be pro gun is going to mean, most likely, getting there to be more gun owners and thereby getting more folks to have a vested interest in this right.
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Old November 22, 2008, 01:13 PM   #7
melchloboo
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Double Naught-
I agree with what you are saying and thank you for refining what I am trying to say. I agree emotion is used, but I don't think it is being used effectively, nor appealing to the right emotions.

And yes I agree 100% the ultimate goal is more ownership, that it is doubtful to get support without also ownership. For if one is pro-gun, then one is most likely very much against not personally having one.

I think you did identify the emotional tactics being used: fear of crime, fear of rights being taken away. But I think these aren't working so well, or could be supplemented.

Great feedback, thanks again.
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Old November 22, 2008, 03:42 PM   #8
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Double Naught, you're correct about the emotional nature of most of the arguments, both pro and con. But I think we need to think about this a bit more specifically, and to make some distinctions about who's doing the arguing, what's being argued, and to whom the arguments are directed.

Who: To name the obvious ones: gun owners who feel strongly about protecting their rights; gun control advocates who want to limit or eliminate legal gun ownership on the grounds that society will somehow be "safer" if this is done; non gun owners who don't know much about guns and find them sort of scary; and third parties who have a vested interest in making sure this issue remains as divisive, as polarizing, as possible: politicians on both the right and the left who can use it to ensure the support of people whose self-interest isn't, necessarily, well-served by their other policies; gun manufacturers who want to keep sales as high as possible (Think they're not implicated in getting our knickers in such a twist over the policies of the next administration? Think again!), as well as other commercial interests, such as the news media, which benefit from a politics of fear and hysteria.

What: I'm not going to try to list all the catch-phrases and arguments, since you all have noted enough of them to be going on with: "God-given right," "cold dead hands," the misuse of statistics by both sides... I'll mention just a couple of others, favored by the antis: "assault weapons," "urban predators"... we've all heard this stuff.

To whom: I think this is an important point, and easy to overlook. Most of the "arguing" around this issue is, I think, preaching to the converted. When Charlton Heston used to stand up for the NRA and rant about his "cold dead hands," was the goal really to persuade anti-gunners that guns are a good idea? Of course not -- the goal was to whip up the faithful to support the NRA. Similarly, when gun-control advocates talk about keeping guns out of the hands of "urban predators," they also are using a fear-based argument that's intended to energize their supporters. And the last is also an effective ploy to use with a lot of nervous non gun owners who just haven't thought about the issue very much...

Which brings me to my main point: the anti's have been more effective at reaching that group, which is, I think, the only one that matters in terms of changing public opinion on this issue.

melchloboo is correct:
Quote:
We need to focus on the group that is anti-gun only because they have been raised to think that everyone else they know is anti-gun, or that because they don't have a gun they must be anti-gun (cognitive dissonance). That group is probably the most easily persuaded.
So, the question is how to make our case with those folks, who are nervous around guns because they're not familiar with them, worried about crime, worried about their kids (Oh, did I mention "school shootings" as a really great whipper-up of fear?) -- and worried about "gun nuts," too, for that matter.

I'd argue, for starters, that we need to find ways of lowering, not raising, the levels of fear and hatred around all of this.
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Old November 22, 2008, 11:47 PM   #9
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If we need to focus on converting anti-gun people, then what is the catch that will do it. What is going to make anti-gun people believe that the 2nd amendment is something that they need to support instead of fight? What emotional strings can be pulled to do this? What interest would they have in becoming pro-gun? How can they be convinced that being pro-gun is beneficial to them?
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Old November 23, 2008, 03:16 AM   #10
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Quote:
How can they be convinced that being pro-gun is beneficial to them?
For a dyed in the wool anti gunner, only a traumatic event that touches their personal life would do it. Their child's life being saved by a CCW holder, or something equally earth shaking.
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Old November 23, 2008, 03:49 PM   #11
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For a dyed in the wool anti gunner, only a traumatic event that touches their personal life would do it. Their child's life being saved by a CCW holder, or something equally earth shaking.
I doubt that even that would change their mind. To change their mind would be an admission that they were wrong. Most people will refuse to admit that on such an emotional issue. Also, it takes humility and maturity to admit that you are wrong on such an emotional issue; very few people are that mature, and even fewer are that humble.
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Old November 24, 2008, 06:58 PM   #12
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One thing I've found effective with some non gun owners, ones who are open to a more or less libertarian argument, is to make a case for a right to own guns that's independent of the 2nd Amendment: if it's wrong (and bad policy) to legislate against other activities which harm no one (examples: recreational drug use, consensual sexual conduct between adults, etc.), how is gun ownership any different?

And when they cite the possibility of guns being stolen and used to commit crimes, or the potential of harm (via accident or misuse) to children or innocent bystanders, automobile ownership is a useful counterexample: it's possible to make the same arguments about cars, but no one is proposing to ban them... despite the fact that they probably do a lot more harm than guns when used as they're meant to be. (Pollution, using up scarce resources...) And annual mortality related to the two (guns and cars) is roughly equivalent, at least in terms of absolute numbers...
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Old November 30, 2008, 06:39 PM   #13
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People, the answer is in our closets and safes! We have things that go boom and make distant objects explode. That's going to make all guys and some gals grin. Take someone shooting. Plant a seed.
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Old December 1, 2008, 02:58 AM   #14
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The big lie

something well known to propagandists for many years now. And it doesn't have to be a big lie, just a lie. Tell it. tell it often. No matter how much evidence refuting it is presented, just keep telling it. Over time, more and more people will come to believe it.

Guns are bad. Only people doing bad things have and use guns. This is the line the mainstream media had been taking for over 40 years. Whole generations have grown up believing it, and having that belief constantly re-enforced virtually daily, by the news ONLY showing guns associated with crime. They often put up a picture of a gun on the screen whenever they report on ANY violent crime. The people who sell us the news have an agenda, and it is not in our best interest, only theirs.

Quote:
If we need to focus on converting anti-gun people, then what is the catch that will do it. What is going to make anti-gun people believe that the 2nd amendment is something that they need to support instead of fight?
The old joke is that a staunchest conservative is a liberal who got mugged. It is not entirely untrue.

anybody besides me remember Carl Rowan? DC news columnist, who for years put his opinion that only the police and the military should have guns, in print everytime he got the chance. "defended" his backyard against an underwear clad teenager (shot him in the wrist) with a handgun he held illegally under DC law. Basically skated on the gun charges, and proudly claimed that "as long as this city is awash in crime, drugs.." he would defend his family. That was a long time ago now, but the hipocracy continues.

If they don't have private paid protection ( and sometimes even if they do), they have a gun. Its all right for them, they are responsible.

But it isn't alright for the rest of us. Not in their eyes. We are dangerous if we are allowed to have guns. They don't feel safe if we have guns, only if they have them and we do not.
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Old December 2, 2008, 04:15 PM   #15
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This is a classic discussion of the two routes to persuasion - standard in psych, business or marketing.

Google it - for instance:

http://www.ciadvertising.org/studies...pagethree.html

and see many more lectures on it.

The emotional route is easier for most. BTW, IMHO - it is a risk for the RKBA.

Very powerful images of dead kids may have more impact that some RKBA advocate discussing why he should own the same 'assault' rifle that a nut used.

Read up a bit before you try the emotional appeal.
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