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“As Charles Manson Once Argued, Personality Cults Are Completely Harmless.”

[ 94 ] December 15, 2012 |

Glenn Reynolds got off to a pretty good start yesterday. But never think he can’t top himself:

“After a shooting spree,” author William Burroughs once said, “they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it.” Burroughs continued: “I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.”

Wait, what?

author William Burroughs

Ah, yes, William Burroughs:

Their life in Mexico City was not especially happy. One September afternoon in 1951, they began to drink with friends. Eventually, Mr. Burroughs, who was quite drunk, took a handgun out of his travel bag and told his wife, ”It’s time for our William Tell act.” There never had been a William Tell act, but his wife laughed and put a water glass on her head. Mr. Burroughs fired the gun. The bullet entered her brain through her forehead, killing her instantly.

It’s the gun nut/misogynist exacta! In fairness, in addition to Burroughs he adds some scholarly heft by citing Mary Rosh. He has evidence that gun control doesn’t work! A survey proves it! Admittedly, he didn’t get a grant for it, and he doesn’t have any of the data, and nobody can remember having conducted it, and the results can’t be replicated by anyone else, but trust me, it’s all central to his point.

I suppose it goes without saying, but the argument Reynolds goes on to make after citing his favorite wife-killer is transparently specious. Yes, it’s true that “gun-free zones” in a context in which guns are otherwise widely available are of limited utility (although eliminating them would be overwhelmingly likely to make things even worse.) Limiting the widespread availability of guns and regulating those guns possessed by private citizens more tightly, on the other hand, does demonstrably reduce deaths from gun violence. You know, 5-year-olds getting killed, getting drunk and shooting your wife as a gag, those kind of trivialities. 50% of Guns and Ammo if you go thorough our Amazon Associates account!

UPDATE: After linking the ridiculous Reynolds column under review, Ann Althouse asks us to consider one of the real potential villains here. You know, Nancy Lanza:

Why did Adam, after killing his mother, travel to the school where she worked? Shouldn’t some suspicion fall on the mother? She looks like a victim, but could she and her son have been operating together?

Just for myself, if I was going to speculate that a murder victim was in fact a collaborator in the mass killing of elementary schoolchildren, I might want some evidence, perhaps even a remotely plausible theory, something like that there. But your mileage might vary.


Comments (94)

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  1. Barry Freed says:

    Also, abortions are only allowed if performed by Dr. Benway with a rusty sardine can.

  2. TT says:

    God, what a schmuck. Like most glibertarians. And no, (allegedly) opposing Bork’s Supreme Court nomination does not automatically win you favors from non-schmucks.

  3. Semanticleo says:

    Glennuendo never tires of trying to re-balance the imperfect ideology of his fellow Academics. He’s an Equalizer.

  4. Derelict says:

    I fear that there is no upper bound on the number of dead toddlers that will make lunatics like Reynolds rethink the role of guns on our society. As Dan Perkins pointed out, mass slayings like yesterday are just the price we have to pay over and over and over again so that a tiny minority of citizens can indulge their gun fetish.

    And despite the carnage of yesterday, I despair of us ever having any kind of discussion on this. Obama may try, but the brain-dead arguments of Wayne LaPierre and the ilk of Professor Corncob will instantly derail that.

    Digby called it perfectly when she noted that taking an issue off the table politically is exemplified by Democrats cheering Gabby Giffords being able to recite the pledge of allegiance after being shot in the head, yet those same Democrats never once even mentioning guns or gun control at that very same convention.

    • howard says:

      one thing i was thinking about last night: it’s not that long ago that drunk driving was regarded as perfectly normal and acceptable behavior, and the fact that drunk drivers killed just one of those things.

      and then along came mothers against drunk driving and the entire conversation began to change.

      so not to go too loomis here, insofar as there is any hope to change the culture, it will be through a social movement leading the way (and not democratic politicians who don’t see an upside here).

      • Informant says:

        The problem with this example is that there are basically no arguments in favor of drunk driving, i.e., there were no “pro-drunk drivers.” There are arguments in favor of allowing private ownership of firearms. You may not find them persuasive, but many people do and you’ll need to be able to out-organize/out-vote them to change the laws.

        • howard says:

          well, truth is, i have little confidence in any improvement from the status quo, but in order for their to be an improvement from the status quo, there will need to be a social movement agitating for change.

        • SatanicPanic says:

          I disagree, there are plenty of arguments for driving drunk. They’re not good ones (taking a cab is expensive!) but they’re not that much dumber than some of the pro-gun arguments.

          • brenda says:

            Right – there’s plenty of arguments, they just don’t sound that good to us anymore.

            Adults should be trusted to know their limits.

            Why punish the many for the few bad actors?

            People don’t all have access to taxis (or god forbid, the bus), are they supposed to not go out to dinner?

            Enforce the existing laws.

            And on and on.

            The difference is that the balance shifted and what once sounded like reasonable objections no longer carry the weight they did vs. the carnage on the roads. That’s a cultural change, not (just) a legal one.

            • SatanicPanic says:

              Exactly. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the social profile of the pro-gun people is pretty much the same. I’m actually hopeful about gun control in the future, because the trend is actually towards a lower percentage of the population owning guns. The pro-gunners are turning into a loud and obnoxious minority.

              • nitwit says:

                The decline in overall gun ownership is linked to the decline in number of people who hunt. That population has aged (50% are over 48) and younger people from hunting areas either are not interested or have moved away. The more telling numbers are probably handgun ownership.

                The surveys on gun ownership are a bit of a mess.
                The NPOR

              • paranoia says:

                The decline in overall gun ownership is linked to the decline in number of people who hunt. That population has aged and is not being replaced. The more telling numbers are probably handgun ownership.

                The surveys on gun ownership are often contradictory. In 2011 the NORC reported gun ownership down to 32% of households while Gallup reported 47% of households own guns, the highest percentage since 1993. Certainly appears gun ownership ticks up when a Democrat is president.

        • drkrick says:

          There were lots of politicians and other powerful people who were accustomed to the “one-for-the-road” drinking practices of the Mad Men era. They may not have been exactly pro-drunk driving but were pretty strongly if quietly anti-stiff drunk driving penalties. Out-organizing and out-voting them (in part by forcing them to either make those arguments in public or back down) was exactly what MADD did.

    • I despair of us ever having any kind of discussion on this. Obama may try, but the brain-dead arguments of Wayne LaPierre and the ilk of Professor Corncob will instantly derail that.

      These things change. Look at the stranglehold the Republicans had on foreign policy in 2003, or 1987.

      If a fight breaks out right now about gun control and the electorate is polarized along that issue, which side do younger and middle-aged suburban blue collar women end up on?

    • wjts says:

      I fear that there is no upper bound on the number of dead toddlers that will make lunatics like Reynolds rethink the role of guns on our society.

      America’s Finest News Source addressed this question seven months ago.

    • Marc says:

      They should have booed her instead? Good God, the impulse to attack Democrats under all circumstances gets incredibly tiresome.

  5. DrDick says:

    From actual evidence, we see a strong link between the availability of guns and homicide rates. The US also leads the world in gun ownership and has the twelfth highest rate of firearms deaths.

  6. Emily says:

    Althouse seems to have a thing about who’s a victim and who’s not. She was upset just a little while ago because the woman who was shot by the KC Chief guy was called a victim by ThinkProgress.

  7. donna says:

    CBS News reported this morning the mother did NOT work at the school. Still figuring out the school connection.

  8. Random says:

    His behavior with guns even after he shot his wife to death was about the opposite of basic gun safety guidelines. There’s a documentary I saw a while back where, in a moment of playfulness, he pulls his pistol out of his pocket and points it towards his buddies and goes “Bang!”.

    Anyway, anytime I hear a ‘deep observation’ from him, he always strikes me as kind of the Chauncy Gardner of Beat novelists.

    • Hob says:

      It may be that Reynolds thinks quoting Burroughs is a devastating rhetorical move, since of course Burroughs is a personal role model and political hero to all leftists– after all, he was gay and did a lot of drugs.

      Of course it’s also possible that Reynolds knows literally nothing about Burroughs at all, and doesn’t give a crap whether anything he just typed makes any sense to anyone.

      • J. Otto Pohl says:

        Politically I don’t think Burroughs can be classed as a leftist. In so far as he expressed political opinions they do not really fit universally into modern day “progressive thought.” He was gay and a heavy drug user. But, he was certainly not any type of socialist. He also loved guns.

    • Belle Waring says:

      William S. Burroughs is no Chauncy Gardiner. He is a great writer, one of the best American writers of the 20th century. Bad person, obviously, and perhaps you shouldn’t listen to his advice, but that doesn’t change his being a great artist.

      • J. Otto Pohl says:

        Some of his work is good. I liked Junkie and Queer. Other things he wrote like Naked Lunch were rubbish. He was the best Beatnik writer, but hardly one of the best writers of the 20th century. I can see Junkie making some kind of list because of its very realistic portrayal of heroin use. But, stuff like the Naked Lunch is just incoherent rubbish.

        • The Dark Avenger says:

          But what about his Stalinist tendencies?

          • J. Otto Pohl says:

            As far as I can tell Burroughs did not write or say anything that could be interpreted in any possible way as Stalinist. But, then again I haven’t read absolutely everything he wrote. However, seeing that Stalin banned male homosexuality in the USSR, I am highly skeptical that Burroughs would have anything positive to say about the regime.

            Interestingly enough the banning of male homosexual acts in the USSR by Stalin was only one of two times when Stalin overrode existing republican laws regarding non-security issues. The other time was to ban the recognition of unregistered marriages. Every other instance of such override had to do with issues of “security.” So it seems that Stalin had a personal animus against gay men.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          Of the three, Junkie is undoubtably the best as well as the most accessible. Queer is ok. Naked Lunch has flashes of extreme brilliance but is a giant mess overall.

  9. MeadeBot 2012 says:

    Typical refusal of you Liberals to takes Ann’s well thought out arguments seriously, it’s really too bad that Pol Pot isn’t around to enjoy LGM’s freedom hating agenda.

  10. Erin says:

    I’m sure Althouse has a theory, and she found it the same place she finds all of her theories: the bottom of a bottle of Chardonnay.

  11. dl says:

    It is too easy to call one’s political opponent “stupid,” but this Althouse argument, my God. She is a one-woman argument against tenure.

  12. Rarely Posts says:

    Althouse’s post should remove any (misguided) lingering doubt that she’s a crazy conservative. Because, what’s the goal of blaming it on the mom with almost no evidence? The goal, as far as I can tell, is to make sure that as much blame falls on individuals (and perhaps particularly women) rather than acknowledging any broader potential social responsibility or potential for attempting to address these problems as a society.

    Looking at his post, her theory seems to be that the man was mentally troubled and the mother was taking care of him, so of course she is to blame (??). But wouldn’t the obvious response be that we need to provide more government/social programs to help the mentally ill and their families (and to protect the rest of us from the mentally ill)? But, she wouldn’t go there, because she needs to establish that there is nothing anyone can do, and everything is the fault of some individual out there. And the man doesn’t make a sufficient villain because he killed himself and was almost certainly crazy. So, there has to be someone else, but it can’t be society as a whole and there is nothing we can do.

    This is one of the fundamental problems with conservatism. Its answer to each and every bad thing is – it’s someone’s fault, but we can do nothing about it, except possibly put people in jail. It’s not exactly a great motto.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The idea that they planned to attack the school together is nuts. But last night watching the news I got the impression that Nancy Lanza was a strict gun nut and it sounded like Adam was probably seriously mentally ill and not getting help. I wouldn’t call her a villain but she might not exactly be innocent.

    • Anonymous says:

      She didn’t deserve to be murdered of course.

    • laura says:

      Yes, a better run state would have (1) provided her more support for dealing with her developmentally challenged child so she didn’t lose her entire life (and apparently her job) staying home with him, and (2) put some restrictions on what kind of weaponry she could keep in the house with that child.

      As the details come out it looks like there are some pretty obvious policy implications, all of which are really unappealing to libertarians.

      • laura says:

        I’m not trying to sound unsympathetic to the mother. Having a developmentally challenged violent child is one of my nightmares, and I’ve seen it ruin plenty of people’s lives (marriages, jobs, social lives etc). There is so little state support even in Canada that you are often essentially on your own. She might have kept the guns for her own self defense or because shooting let her blow off tension. She still shouldn’t have been able to have them in the house with her child.

    • Belle Waring says:

      She’s obviously one of the victims of this heinous crime, but anyone that serious about guns should have had a GUN SAFE in her house, to which her mentally ill son did not have the combination. Surely he was a suicide risk? If she thought his potential need to defend the house from evil-doers outweighed the obvious suicide risk, she fucked up pretty bad, but only along an axis conservatives agree with.

  14. J.W. Hamner says:

    I guess she really took to heart that Romney thing about single mothers being responsible for gun violence.

  15. Roger Ailes says:

    If Nancy Lanza lived in a “gun free zone,” at least 27 more people would be alive today.

    Maybe Professor Cracker can explain how her gun ownership prevented violence.

    • Warren Terra says:

      Obviously, she needed more guns. After all, her son got the drop on her using at least three of her guns – but what if she’d had a gun in her hand at all times, ready to shoot back? What if she literally had so many guns that her son couldn’t get a clear shot at her, because of all the guns in the way? The answer is always more guns.

  16. I might want some evidence, perhaps even a remotely plausible theory, something like that there

    But then you wouldn’t be Althouse.

  17. […] while this is going on, sociopaths have now decided that apparently it is time to talk about gun control- as long as you are talking about […]

  18. pseudonymous in nc says:

    I can’t decide whether Teh Ole Perfesser had no idea about Burroughs, which makes him a ridiculous dumbass of a dickbag, or knew but didn’t care, which makes him a ridiculous troll of a dickbag, who continues to cost the state of Tennessee $150k a year while moonlighting his dickbaggery.

  19. almcq says:

    Burroughs had a lot to say about governments controlling the ruled population, as did the founding fathers. Since the supreme court has recognized an individual’s right to have arms it’s time to delineate how this right should be limited.

  20. […] “As Charles Manson Once Argued, Personality Cults Are Completely Harmless.” ( […]

  21. chris y says:

    A propos the actual post, I’m quite ashamed at how relaxed I would be at the prospect of Reynolds topping himself.

  22. Mrs Tilton says:

    Sometimes, when I read Paul Campos’s posts, I become gravely concerned about the state of American legal education. But then I see Reynolds and Althouse, and I am reassured.

  23. […] Prof. Lemieux points out, William Burroughs managed to shoot his wife through her forehead after asking her to ‚Äúplay […]

  24. Cody says:

    Shouldn’t Ann Althouse be tarred and feathered for this? I mean, seriously. Democrats have been publicly shamed for suggesting guns could hurt people, and she just accused a murder victim of mass murder.

    You don’t just do that without any kind of evidence…

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