Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Let's Take a Post-Sandy Hook Massacre Virtual Tour of the Gun Right's Websites Such as ""

Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre, we are in the midst of a "national conversation" about gun violence. As I suggested here, if history is any guide the lobbyists and the Gun Right are too powerful a force, with a hold too strong over the government, and a low-information public with a limited attention span, for reasonable gun control initiatives to be successfully passed by Congress.

Come next week, the now "enraged" public will return its focus be back to Honey Boo Boo, the Voice, and other assorted nonsense. A bunch of people will get killed in a month or two (again). The cycle continues unabated. We feed the gun god our young. He is always hungry for more.

Despite the news media's superficially exhaustive coverage of the Sandy Hook Massacre and gun violence this week, I have not seen the Gun Right and its foot soldier members given a "fair" voice. Of course, the NRA is in duck and cover mode.

Yes, there have been gun fetishists trotted out by Fox and MSNBC to be publicly sacrificed as they try to excuse-make, offer up magical thinking about the cause of the Sandy Hook killing spree by Adam Lanza (more prayer in schools to somehow protect kids from bullets), and also suggest equally foolish solutions such as arming teachers, as well as teaching kids to swarm a shooter.

Finding out what the gun crowd thinks about Sandy Hook and its potential political fallout is not difficult. You can talk to real people. A researcher can do surveys. A person could become a participant observer.

In the world of the Internet, the easiest thing is to just search online for the community you would like to observe in action. This method is hardly representative, as there is no way to confirm the identities of the people you are studying. They can be liars, charlatans, posers, frauds, or the like. But, even in that role, they are channeling some sense of what it means--real or imagined--to be a member of a given social body. Consequently, the ways in which members of that online community respond to them is an insight into its collective identity.

To point. I have been surveying websites which cater to gun owner/fans of the AR-15 assault rifle (basically the same weapon used by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School). There are several online and they are easy to find. By definition, the folks who go to those websites are outliers--much like anyone who talks about politics or other matters online and on a routine basis. Nevertheless, the comments on the site are still examples of what others in the broader gun community may in fact be thinking, but for reasons of time, energy, personality type, or other commitments, are not sharing online in that forum.

In my short survey, which I conducted over the last few days over at, I have come upon a few recurring themes.

1. The crowd are fanboys. Like fanboys or hobbyists in any other online community, they have their own hierarchy, inside language, rituals, routines for appealing to "the truth," and unstated priors about the nature of the world. Communities and societies all need to reproduce themselves in order to stay vibrant and alive. They also need to have a sense of internal order and coherence in order to remain whole. The difference with the Gun Right crowd is that their hobby is not innocent: it is potentially very lethal.

2. For all of the obligatory technical conversations and related esoterica on the site, the commenters participating in the discussion about the Sandy Hook Massacre (and in the general/politics threads) are sincerely scared. They have brought into a vision of a country where they are an embattled minority, where the State is coming for their precious guns, and their "right" to own said guns is forever imperiled.

3. Guns are freedom. The fetish object that is the gun is a symbol of power and citizenship for them. There is also a very Hobbesian worldview present at which is common to the survivalist crowd. Society is not prefaced on mutual support and collaboration. It is a state of war where one is against all. Many of these folks are willing to kill in order to win. As such, violent rhetoric is used very casually.

4. These people hate President Obama. Although, he has done nothing to strengthen gun control laws he is evil incarnate. Much of the rage is talking point Right-wing claptrap. Nonetheless, the anger is real. There is also no small amount of white identity politics on display with its obligatory hostility to people of color. At present, conservatism and racism have overlapped in the United States. The survivalist and militia crowd have long been an organ of white nationalism. As such, the overlap of white racial resentment and extreme gun culture is not a surprise. This is especially true given the role of guns in maintaining white power in a country that for centuries was a Constitutionally mandated formal Racial State.

5. The United States is literally awash in guns. Yet, there is a threat to the "freedom" to own them. Interestingly, there appears to be no cognitive dissonance as the commenters on do not even try to reconcile those facts.

6. I am suspicious of psychoanalytical frameworks which reductively claim that guns are a substitute for the penis. However, the obsession with owning more guns, even when said person claims to have a large arsenal, and is stockpiling millions of rounds (to hand down to the kids and future grand kids) is highly suggestive of a type of sexual paraphilia and/or issues of masculine identity and insecurity. The constant competition to outdo the other commenters with tales of gun ownership and ammunition purchases could be read as a type of phallocentrism.

7. Despite the rhetoric by the NRA and others that guns are the province of hunters and sportsmen. The rhetoric at, and also by other spokespeople for the Gun Right, suggests that these folks imagine themselves to be "patriots" by the mere fact of having a gun, and that they are a peoples militia who will fight the government.

I would not go so far as to say this speech is treasonous or seditious--although it is mighty close--but given the political environment of the United States, and the routine use of eliminationist rhetoric by the Right-wing media against anyone not white, male, heterosexual, Christian, middle class, and conservative, one would have to be a fool to not be concerned about a bunch of heavily armed people that imagine themselves as uber patriots and 21st century guardians of "democracy."

Do take a virtual field trip to or other such sites and report your findings. What is the Gun Right discussing on social media? For those of you who do reconnaissance in the Deep Web, what is going on Post-Sandy Hook there? How are the Gun Right and its fetishists positioning themselves at present? Is their worldview disrupted? Is the Right-wing media bubble of epistemic closure burst by the Sandy Hook Massacre?


Anonymous said...

I don't need to go to the internet. I unfortunately have daily opportunities to meet these people in the flesh. They are saying guns are not at fault, that this is a punishment because we live in a godless society, that if God were in the schools everything would be okay and magic shields would protect all the kids. All we have to do is pray. They use any explanation imaginable other than guns. They blame Lanza's mother for not locking up her guns. I don't know. After a while I just stop listening.

chaunceydevega said...

@anon. Where do you meet them? Does god love their guns? Are they pagans i.e. in the sense of practicing idolatry?

abeeb said...

Negro plz

krpind said...

The assertion that is racist is ridiculous. The site has a completely diverse membership with every race participating. The Code of Conduct specifically forbids comments that are derogatory of any race or racist in any way. Racists are banned quickly. You may want to investigate the heritage of the owners of the site. Gun owners of all colors are welcomed to join The great thing about an internet forum is your message is colorblind. No one can possible know the color of your skin unless you make a point of it.

Chris Johnson said... sure do have a distorted mindset to take all that away from a visit to that site. I disagree with virtually everything you said. I see no racism but I do see people who are utterly realistic about local, regional, and national crime statistics as correlated to ethnicity. I see no desire on their part to "fight the government" except in the case of this government turning into a true tyranny, which is something EVERY good citizen should do IF that happens. You would not do well in a debate against their "right wing talking points" as they're dead right and logically sound. You'd have to fall back on emotional thinking and insults and NOT answer pointed questions aimed at destroying your liberal fantasies.