Cynic that I am, I am deriving a great deal of amusement from some of the media-political-general public storms whipped up in the wake of the horribly tragic Newtown shootings, and the deaths of two firefighters in an ambush set by an ex-convict in upstate New York. As if the shootings weren’t horrible and tragic enough in themselves, now we get to enjoy the reflexive Kabuki dance of ‘we must ban those horrid gun-things!’ being played out – especially since some of the very loudest voices in this chorus are politicians and celebrities who live with a very high degree of security at their workplaces and homes, and whose children attend rather well-protected schools. Such choruses appear to be completely oblivious to the fact that for many of the ordinary rest of us, poor and middle-class alike, the forces of law and order are not johnny-on-the-spot in the event of an attempted robbery, rape, break-in or home invasion. To rely on the oft-used cliché, when moments count, the police are minutes away. In the case of rural areas in the thinly-populated flyover states law enforcement aid and assistance might be closer to being hours away.
That ordinary and law-abiding citizens might have darned good reasons to have a private arms collection – and a legal right right to do so under the terms of the Constitution – appears to have escaped certain minions of the mainstream press. Many in broadcast media have leapt into the fray, vigorously performing the gun-ban-kabuki-dance and enthusiastically denigrating those citizens who disagree with them. Piers Morgan is not the only, although the most obnoxious example. As a side-bar, I thought we had enough home-grown condescending a-holes that we didn’t need to import any more from England … but it appears that Mr. Morgan has enthusiastically taken advantage of the protections offered by First Amendment to tear down the Second. Admittedly, there is no legal justification for throwing him out of the United States on that basis, but it is jolly good fun watching him squirm under the lash of flyover-country contempt. You want to get up on your CNN bully pulpit, Mr. Morgan? OK, then – become accustomed to dodging the metaphorical spitballs, rotten eggs and moldy vegetables flying in your direction. As the man advised us – punch back twice as hard.
Punch-back is also happening to the publishers and staff of a hitherto relatively unknown local newspaper who thought it was a brilliant stratagem to post an interactive map of gun permit holders. Which is a bad idea on several levels; although the publisher is trying to veil it in the thin justification of the public’s right to know in the wake of the Newtown murders. The list may not be entirely current, it may endanger women targeted by abusive exes and stalkers, having a permit doesn’t necessarily mean gun ownership, the permit database says nothing about rifles and shotguns, it may have the effect of telling the criminally-inclined where small arms might be found – or not … but it appears that the main motivation in publishing it in a readily-accessible form was to encourage the naming and shaming of permit holders … all a part of the gun-ban-kabuki-dance, of course. Tit for tat is being administered to the publisher, staff, owners and all of the Journal News – in that bloggers have been enthusiastically researching and posting every bit of information findable on them, including pictures of the publisher’s residence lifted from Zillow. It’s all very good fun for those members of the public and the bloggerati who are most particularly annoyed by Mr. Morgan’s condescension, and the arrogance of the Westchester Journal News, but in a larger sense it is dead serious business. They are responding to a concerted attempt to demonize ‘the Other’ – in this particular case, the ‘Other’ are law-abiding and responsible owners of any kind of firearm.
This ‘Othering’ that I have been noticing for about the last five years or so – although it might have been going on in a more subtle way for decades before then. It’s a process that’s more in the open now, voiced in stronger language, and from the mouths and keyboards of people – like newspaper publishers, TV news anchors, politicians and actors – who once were more circumspect in voicing them, and thereby appeared to be either evenly balanced or above the fray entirely. It’s a dangerous business, since once it has gone beyond a certain point, those designated as ‘others’ are removed from consideration due to fellow citizens and human beings. They have essentially been declared – as is the title of this essay – a wolf’s head; “an outlawed felon considered a pariah – a lone wolf – open to attack by anyone.” A wolf’s head – the end product of systematic ‘othering’ through social conditioning, the legal system, or a combination of both – deserves no protection under the law, no consideration from the upright and the right-thinking, who may be disposed of whenever convenient without a second thought. And that is what is motivating a lot of the fury; the suspicion that legal possession of firearms under the terms of the Constitution is the only thing which will prevent ‘othering’ from running its full and deadly course.