© Darrell Arnold Ph.D.– (Reprinted with Permission)
Here’s a to-be-expected reaction to the [recent] mass shooting in El Paso … The governor of Texas states “The problem is not guns, it’s hearts without God.” People like the governor who propose this view—and you’ll hear it all day long … on Fox—are not phased in the least by the fact that Sweden, which is 50%-85% agnostic and atheist, has a homicide rate four to five times lower than ours. In fact, you’ll see an array of European counties with high rates of atheism and agnosticism have homicide rates four to six times lower than that in the US. Conversely, some countries with higher percentages of religious than the US (like Brazil) have higher homicide rates. But facts be damned! Our Republican politicians will be highlighting it and news media will again be reporting it as if it had some value. It’s a part of the US mass delusion—treated as a rational explanation.
This governor … is not some fringe figure but the leader of the second most populous state in the United States. He’s also just one of multiple Republican “leaders” we’ll hear today who is doing the same thing. And this is just one of many issues about which the governor and those like him are contributing to mass delusion. We see similar Republican talking points on climate change. The news will report non-scientific views on this [topic] too as if they deserve merit because they are widespread. Widespread views for which there is no good evidence don’t deserve equal coverage with ideas for which there is factual support. The US media will nonetheless pretend they do and fuel the flames of ignorance. Mass delusion in these cases is cultivated by disingenuous politicians and mass media.
In this, dark money is a serious problem, coupled with media bubbles in which propaganda is touted as truth. Since the 1970s the Koch brothers have financed think tanks that have supported the hard right-wing ideology and placed hacks in the public sphere. Every time there is a mass shooting, we now get people calling for the conversion of hearts. We get people talking of the problem of video games. We get people talking of mental illness. And we get alleged experts repeating stupid tropes like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It’s a sideshow. But it’s enough to satisfy non-curious and non-critical minds.
Look at the data. No one bothers. It’s enough to offer some “explanation” that sounds plausible enough to those who have time for 20 seconds of reflection on the questions. The last statement about people killing people really gets me. I grew up with a billboard outside of my hometown that had those words on it. We could of course also say that nuclear bombs don’t kill people, people kill people. Somehow, though, this doesn’t lead us to want to arm everyone with a nuclear weapon. We realize that nuclear weapons make it easy to kill many people at the push of the button. Similarly, of course, guns make it easier to kill people at the pull of a trigger. This is much simpler than with knives or spoons or one’s bare hands. Where we see a problem like ours with guns, we might think it wise to regulate them.
But this suggestion will be rejected by the crowd busy blaming the violence on anti-religiosity, or even the lack of guns. For God’s sake, this nonsense is tiring. You’d think that we’d hit a critical mass of dead children where people would have enough and would demand action. But don’t hold your breath. There seems to be little interest in a critical analysis when the superficial one gets you what you want — policies that support open markets and continued access to money from gun sales. Every policymaker needs his priorities. We could surely see what the priorities of our own policymakers are if we cared to open our eyes to see how they are manipulating public opinion.