Fear and Guns, Fear of Diversity, and Conservative Misogyny

For today, current events items about

  • How gun buyers are motivated by fear
  • How Republican politicians are motivated by fear of change, and fear of the other
  • How Trump and his fans expose conservative misogyny

For later, I need to move away from my preoccupation with Republican and conservative issues, even though they are important and evidence, to me, that the US is tearing itself apart through the re-emergence of primitive ideology and anti-intellectualism. Yet I suspect this has always been the case. Human society has always been a three steps forward, two steps back, matter. We’re currently, in the US, in a step back. The steps forward will eventually prevail, because steps back are ultimately unproductive, and we live in a competitive world. I need to shift my focus to forward steps. More on that tomorrow.

Washington Post, Christine Emba, 15 May 2023: Opinion | Why do Americans want guns? It comes down to one word.

And I guessed the word before reading the article.

At the Nation’s Gun Show in Chantilly, spirits seemed high. People wandered from booth to booth, and the scent of popcorn filled the air. It could have been mistaken for a state fair or weekend flea market were it not for the rows of weapons and accessories — gun parts, AR build kits and body armor — laid out on every surface. It was easy to overlook the one common emotion underlying the event: fear.


For all the talk of protection, gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States. Yet over and over, people told me they needed their guns to keep themselves safe.

Safe from what? Most couldn’t answer; they simply had a feeling that the world had become a more dangerous place. How would they use their guns in a crisis? Their confidence in their own abilities seemed inflated.

This manifested in the constant invocation of the word “tactical” — a gun-industry buzzword used to suggest that buyers of weapons, body armor and shooting courses will be able to engage with enemies like trained soldiers. In other words, a fantasy.

And this: just what I concluded a few posts ago.

Republican leaders, including Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, have resisted calls for increased gun regulation after shooting deaths, arguing that the root problem is mental illness. But the paranoia that fuels gun-buying has come to seem like a mental health issue in its own right.

Of course, statistics show that gun violence is far more common in homes that have guns. But you can’t expect people motivated by fear to understand the implications of statistics.

On the matter of fear, I suspect this spreading fear of danger everywhere is another manifestation of social media. Not just recently: I noted once before that I’ve seen statistics (but could not find links to, outside pay-walled academic papers) that there’s more violence depicted on a week’s worth of TV shows than there actually is in society over a week. And now there’s social media, with sites like Next Door providing an opportunity for people to report every car break in and every shady looking person walking down the street. So it’s easy, especially for the easily frightened, to think that America is an increasingly dangerous place… Whereas in fact current crime rates are far below those in the 1990s. Still, conservatives are highly motivated by fear.


Washington Post, Jack Stripling, 15 May 2023: DeSantis signs bill to defund DEI programs at Florida’s public colleges

The same word explains everything going on in Florida, and with anti-woke campaigns everywhere.

The Florida legislation has been met with backlash at both the state and national level, where higher-education experts and First Amendment advocates say the state is trampling on academic freedom. They say the law will have an immediate chilling effect on faculty members, who may avoid covering controversial subjects altogether.

“It’s basically state-mandated censorship, which has no place in a democracy,” Irene Mulvey, president of the American Association of University Professors, said in a recent interview with The Washington Post.

Mulvey called the bill in Florida and other legislation like it a “dog whistle appeal” to the conservative base, and part of a “coordinated campaign to maintain White supremacy.”

Fear of change, fear of the other, in a state full of old white people who’ve moved there to escape the modern world.

And again, another example of Republican legislation to control freedom and the market-place; see my post two days ago.


Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 15 May 2023: Trump’s dogwhistle to the Christian right is a permission slip to openly hate women, subtitled “As Trump doubles down on ‘grab ’em by the p*ssy,’ the Christian right gets comfy admitting they love male dominance”

Recalling Trump’s Town Hall meeting.

When host Kaitlin Collins asked if it is good or bad if powerful men can sexually assault without consequence, Trump replied, “Fortunately,” adding cheekily, “Or unfortunately for her.”

The MAGA audience ate it up, making it clear that they agree with Trump that rape is a hilarious punishment to inflict on women for “crimes” like being independent or sexual.

Sadly, however, this reaction will likely not make a dent in the Beltway wisdom that Christian conservatives dislike Trump’s violent misogyny, and are merely overlooking it out of political expedience. Most of the people squealing in laughter at Trump’s victim-blaming likely consider themselves “Christians.” Sounds an awful lot like those “Christians” are just fine with sexual violence. Trump declared that Carroll deserved to be raped and bragged that he was entitled to do it. And they clapped.


This is, of course, what has always been at the heart of the anti-abortion movement: A belief that women are men’s property. But that is widely viewed as a deplorable opinion. For one thing, if you believe men are entitled to force childbirth on women, then it’s not much of a leap to argue that they also have a right to lock women up in the house, block them from having jobs, hit them, or hit them, or rape them. So the anti-choice movement has played games for decades, pretending their motive is anything but the misogyny it is. But when the leader of the GOP uses the word “fortunately” to describe a man’s privilege to rape, that sends a signal to his followers. The Christian right base is listening and is done pretending they don’t also hate women.

The biggest thing I’ve changed my mind about, over the past twenty years, is that I thought most people were decent, and basically rational. That seems not to be the case. (And I understand why.)

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