Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Spheres of Competence, Gun Violence

I'm going to be up front. I don't know anything about football. I accept that as a fact, and because of that, the only time I make pronouncements about football is in a tongue in cheek manner, like that the Mets will win the Super Bowl. It is one of the greatest gifts for any speaker to ever get to learn their spheres of competency and know when they are about to say something that will not go over well. Many of these people, if they something stupid enough, cause a backlash against either their brand, business, employer, religion or political party.

Unless you are Bob Costas. Then, everyone, I guess, just sort of accepts that you were an idiot saying idiotic things. Here are the three things that Costas appeared to want to be talking about in the "90-second weekly spot:" “The football culture, the gun culture [and] domestic violence.”

Which of those three things do you think had the most to do with a man killing the woman he lived with? Note: That's really the most important part of the story. I don't care that the man later killed himself; we certainly should not refer to it as a murder-suicide, as that implies a sort of willing agreement to enter into a sort of despair-filled pact. But, you know, if I had 90-seconds to talk about this murder, I would have chosen to focus on the most important part of that trifecta:Domestic violence.

Rather, Costas tells us this:  “And what I was trying to say was, that if you want some perspective on this, there are a number of issues related to this that we could begin to talk about and think about." So, what issue did Costas think was the most important? Not that a man committed a crime and killed someone. No; Costas chose, instead, to focus on the weapon of choice the killer used.

"The problem was that I didn’t have enough time to get to many of them," Costas said. No, I think the problem was that Costas mis-prioritized the things he wanted to talk about. You can even see it in the weakness of Costas' thinking when he does have more time to talk about the issue. Costas has no intention of dealing with the actual, thorny issues relating to domestic violence, or gun and football culture. All he is mentally capable of doing is constructing, then dramatically destroying, strawmen:

"There are people who honestly believe that in Aurora [Colo.] if only a dozen or so people there to watch the Batman movie had been packin’, they would have been able to take down the nut job in full body armor with military-type guns," he said. There are, likewise, people who honestly believe that simply having put up a sign that no guns were allowed should have prevented that from happening. The reason we don't argue with those people is the same way we don't argue with Costas' imaginary strawmen: Because serious policy discussions are not happening around the fringe fictional Wild West position and the peace and rainbow Hippie position.

Costas asks us: "Why do you need a semi-automatic weapon? What possible use is there?" Well, there's two problems with this. First, guns as old as the M1-Garand are semi-automatics. All a semi-automatic means is that the gun self-loads. Which is different from a fully automatic weapon, which you see misused in action films all the time. So, the question Costas is basically asking is: "Why do you need a commonly available, easy to use weapon? What possible use is there?"I'll even concede that the handgun probably was semi-automatic. So, what possible use is there for a handgun?

"Sometimes a gun prevents a rape from happening again. On October 31, 2008, a Missouri woman shot and killed Ronnie W.Preyer, 47, 'a registered sex offender who had broken into her home early one morning with the intention of raping her a second time.'" That is a perfect example of Costas' sloppy thinking. Guns are tools; sometimes bad people have them. Sometimes, potential victims can have them to keep themselves from becoming victims. This is a complicated issue that is not made easier by blithely pretending your opponents are idiots.

We could go in further, but I'm not an expert on gun violence. But, neither is Costas. This guy, however, is. Oddly enough, there is one point Costas and I do agree on: "There are reasonable disagreements, and I respect that," He said. "But then there are things that come from every angle, where you just have to say to yourself ‘sometimes the quality of the thinking of those who oppose you speaks for itself.'"

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P.S.,

“This is simply a case of: some people don’t agree with it, or they don’t agree with what they think I was saying, and therefore, it would be okay if I was booted off the air … ‘let’s fire everybody we don’t agree with.’ It’s just absurd.” -- Don't worry Costas, CNN and Time will keep a known plagiarist on staff, I'm pretty sure NBC will have no problem keeping a known idiot on staff.

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