The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: “Gun Rights” in America

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A Russian student provides the easy recipe for how to spy on America: tell people you believe in gun rights.

Maria Butina, a Russian college graduate, student, spy or “aspiring businesswoman,” according to one’s point of view, found a way of ingratiating herself to most of the Republican establishment in the US — or at least having her picture taken with their luminaries — before being arrested by the FBI as an agent of Vladimir Putin for “infiltrating” the National Rifle Association (NRA).

In a video featured by The Guardian, she proudly proclaims that the basis of “any freedom is of course gun rights, the economy … and I’d like to know more and bring this knowledge to Russia.”

Here is today’s 3D definition:

Gun rights:

The bizarre idea shared by many Americans that an early amendment to the US Constitution, establishing the authority of state-controlled militias as a counterweight to a federal army, endowed guns (and in particular automatic weapons) with inviolable rights that humans could never hope to have.

Contextual note

Proponents of an aggressive gun culture will of course claim that the notion of “gun rights” does not refer to the rights granted to guns themselves, but rather to gun owners, citizens, sometimes referred to as “good guys.” But in the actual debate (as British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen recently demonstrated), it is difficult to escape the impression that these people believe guns are the equivalent of human beings, threatened by their enemies and deserving the protection of the community and the government. This transfer of affection from the animate to the inanimate parallels the widely accepted assertion, endorsed by the Supreme Court, that “corporations are people,” notably proclaimed by presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

Butina successfully flattered a number of people by echoing their most absurd beliefs, just like Baron Cohen’s character, Colonel Erran Morad, seduced gun rights activist Philip Van Cleave into recording a TV program teaching 3-year-olds to load a pistol and kill the “bad man” by pointing at his “big fat tummy.” Both Butina and Baron Cohen used a strategy that could be called, “If you believe guns are more important than people, we have something to talk about.”

Butina is accused of attempting to “penetrate the US national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian federation.” The implications of the charge merit reflection. This implicitly elevates the NRA to a “decision-making apparatus” rather than a mere lobby and paints Republican officials, from senators and congressmen to governors, as the gullible tools of anyone — Russian or American — posing as a gun nut.

The real question the media should be asking is not how the Russians can be stopped from infiltrating our political system (and not just elections), but rather how we stop a dangerous, violent and lunatic cult built around the belief in a single pseudo-historical myth (the Second Amendment) from controlling the minds and voting patterns of a generation of legislators.

This story tells us less about Russian interference with US politics than the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the entire political class in America. The Republicans don’t get their political platform or ideology from Russia. They invented it all by themselves. And they have used every means possible to establish it as the law of the land, under Democrats as well as Republicans. They have no scruples about receiving Russian money and Russian encouragement. But they have consistently remained faithful to their hyper-nationalistic, corporatist platform.

And yet the Democrats appear worried that if Republicans so much as speak to Russians, they will have signed a deal with Mephistopheles. They would do better to acknowledge what the Russians have understood: That the true weakness at the core of the US is its hyper-nationalistic ideology that embraces exceptionalism (the modern-day avatar of “manifest destiny”), gun culture and trickle-down economics.

Even when in power, Democrats do nothing significant to oppose these dominant memes, which the rest of the world — including Russians — finds either tragically misguided or downright laughable.

Historical note

The Atlantic article, “’Corporations Are People’ Is Built on an Incredible 19th-Century Lie,” confirms that fact that many of the dominant political memes in the US today are the result of constantly repeated lies. The notion of gun rights is based on wilful ignorance. It requires forgetting this obvious, non-controversial historical truth: “During the Revolutionary War era, ‘militia’ referred to groups of men who banded together to protect their communities, towns, colonies and eventually states, once the United States declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776.”

Since militias simply no longer exist (nor could be allowed to exist), any debate about the “meaning” of the Second Amendment becomes similar to the old scholastic chestnut speculating about the number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin.

The utter irrationality of proponents of gun rights — cited as the basis of “any freedom” — made Butina’s job (whatever its final aim) incredibly easy.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news. Updated: July 26, 2018, at 09:40 GMT.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Joe Belanger / Shutterstock.com

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