Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Jon Stewart slams failure to talk about gun control

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Just last month, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show tore into the reactionary airheads at Fox News for steadfastly refusing to ever talk about the U.S.’s absurd gun culture and necessary, commonsensical measures for reducing gun violence. Now, he’s back for more and lays down what may be the authoritative hammering of the Right-wing’s continued failure to accept that their blind infatuation with firearms may be stinting their ability to recognize that which is overwhelmingly obvious to everyone else (parts one and two):

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Transcript: (click the [+/-] to open/close →) []

JON STEWART: In the wake of some events that have happened – Newtown, Aurora, Portland, Tucson – it’s a 22-minute show, so I’m not gonna list everything. But finally, everyone from the NRA to the Marin County Kumbaya Patrol is ready to talk about gun violence. Though, to be fair to Kumbaya Patrol, they’ve been ready for quite some time, now.

So let’s have that conversation, people. Nothing’s off the table, no bad ideas, a safe space. Let’s start the discussion on gun violence. Let’s start with the discussion of gun control.

NRA EXECUTIVE VP WAYNE LAPIERRE [12/23/12]: Gun control […] it’s not gonna make any kids safer. We gotta get to the real problem, the real causes.

STEWART: Oh, I’m sorry. I just assumed that beginning the conversation on gun control meant starting with … guns. But you, uh … you wanna talk about the non-gun causes of … gun violence. Well, you know what? It’s a conversation. No bad ideas. Maybe there are other factors we should look at. Let’s see – what other non-gun causes are we talking about, here?

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN [01/06/13]: With have so much violence surrounding us that we think is okay.

LAPIERRE [12/21/12]: Violent videogames with names like Bulletstorm […] Grand Theft Auto […] Mortal Kombat […] Splatterhouse […] Blood-soaked films out there. […] American Psycho […] Natural Born Killers[.]

STEWART: Natural Born Killers and American Psycho? Holy …! Has it been that long since we’ve had a conversation about gun control? Been that long since we deflected the gun control argument with the “corrupt Hollywood media culture” argument?

But actually, you know what? That French guy has a point. It may be an indirect influence, but there is no question that we glorify violence in our culture and it’s something we have to consider. If a massacre occurs in a schoolhouse and TV network heads have to scramble to see if that storyline’s gonna bump up against the network’s prime-time episodic schedule, that’s a [fucking] problem. “Oh, is this terrible massacre gonna affect our new show, Massacre, Fridays at 8? The hot new lead-in to Corpse Raper Intent: SVU? Starring …” I dunno who that is. Nick Carter and young Gallagher.

Look, man. As for violent videogames, yeah, I guess they’re out there, but then again, the Dutch spend more than twice as much on videogames as we do and have less than a tenth of the gun violence. Although, to be fair, most of their games are of the first-person dike-plugger genre.

So, yeah. Maybe we need to talk about whether our culture is adding to the soup. That’s gotta be on the table. But if we’re gonna talk about that, let’s look at all of our culture. The Right likes to talk about Hollywood’s influence on that, but are there other media influences that must also be examined?

FOX ANCHOR #1 [02/26/03]: Are there terror cells in your neighborhood?

FOX ANCHOR #2 [11/06/12]: The New Black Panther Party’s outside a polling place.

DICK MORRIS [08/18/10]: These Sharia mosques have become the command centers for terrorists.

SEAN HANNITY [04/07/10]: The end of Capitalism in America.

RUSH LIMBAUGH [11/08/12]: We’re four years into tyranny winning!

HANNITY [09/24/12]: This is indoctrination of kids.

GLENN BECK [11/07/12]: If you live in the East, may I recommend: Get the hell out of the East.

BILL O’REILLY [08/04/08]: It’s gonna be Armageddon.

BECK [11/07/12]: Your religion is gonna come under attack.

HANNITY GUEST [10/01/12]: If Obama’s reelected, this country’s over!

Stewart clutches toy AR-15 assault rifle in fear.

STEWART: What? I’m not sure what happened; I’m sorry, I blacked out in the middle of that and woke up with an AK in my, I dunno! Or whatever this is. I’m sure I’ll get letters about what this really is … which is plastic, is what it really is.

Stewart puts the gun away.

STEWART: But it puts us back to the more direct issue of guns.

FOX GUEST [06/29/10]: Gun control doesn’t work.

STEWART: … Or not. I keep forgetting. What else?

LAPIERRE: We have a mental health system in this country that is completely and totally collapsed.

STEWART: Okay, okay – again, 100% correct. Thank you, Wayne LaPierre, for bringing this up. We closed the mental institutions in many respects, and now, our mentally ill live on the streets or are in prison, and it is untenable. It is up to us to help them find compassionate, proactive care. This is what we have to address in our mental health system. I’m assuming that’s what you mean.

LAPIERRE: We have no national database of these lunatics.

STEWART: Or that. Or that. I was gonna say compassionate, total care of mental illness, or … “lunatic database”. Although, isn’t that what the Internet is? Isn’t that a national lunatic database? What would be the criterion for the lunatic database? What are the kinds of things you would say to get on it?

LAPIERRE [07/05/12]: Americans don’t wanna be added to that pile of dead people that have been left defenseless by the U.N. policies.

STEWART: [writing on paper] “LaPierre” with two ‘r’s or one?

Look – I don’t wanna kill the conversation before it starts. Yes, mental healthcare absolutely has to be on the table, has to be improved. But someone’s always gonna slip through the cracks, and our mental health problem leads to other problems: crime, guns, violence …

MIKE HUCKABEE [07/21/12]: Ultimately, we don’t have a crime problem, or a gun problem, or even a violence problem. What we have is a sin problem.

STEWART: [beat] Is this about me masturbating? Is that what this is about? Look, I didn’t know … that that is considered a national issue.

Look. We can dance around the issue all we want. We can blame movies, or videogames, or the mentally ill, or God – it’s a complex problem and all solutions have to be on the table, but it is time we talk about guns.

ERIC BOLLING [12/17/12]: I don’t wanna do this. I don’t wanna do this gun control discussion right now. There’s a day, a place and a time for all that […]

STEWART: It’s today. Right now. It is absolutely time to talk about gun control, and nothing is – [puts finger to ear] Wait, I’m sorry. I just heard we need to take a commercial break. Guess we’ll talk about guns when we come back. We’ll be right back.

STEWART: We’ve learned in our conversation about this country’s staggering number of gun-related deaths that it’s based on a surprising amount of non-gun factors: God, media, and crazy people.

GRAPHIC: God, cable news channels, and man in straightjacket

STEWART: Wow. That’s a pretty busy graphic. Can we streamline that, and yet also represent all three constituencies?

CLIP: Mike Huckabee talking on Fox News.

STEWART: There you go. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that this conversation is taking place between parties of good faith, and that all of us, on any side of the debate, are anti-massacre. If some commonsense firearms regulations might cut the number of these killings, why not try?

SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO [01/07/13]: We have many, many laws pertaining to guns already. We oughta enforce those laws.

MAN [01/07/13]: We already have laws banning murder, but we still have murders.

JESSE VENTURA [09/17/12]: Drunk driving. Do we go to the Ford Motor Company and tell them “stop making these automobiles because people get drunk and kill people in cars”?

STEWART: No, but we do enact stricter blood-alcohol limits, raise the drinking age, ramp up enforcement and penalties insurance, charge bartenders who serve drunks, and launch huge public awareness campaigns to stigmatize the dangerous behavior in question, and we do all those things because it might just help bring drunk driving down, I don’t know, by 2/3 in a few decades.

GRAPHIC: Drunk driving rates: 7.5% in 1973, 5.4% in 1986, 4.3% in 1996, 2.2% in 2007

STEWART: Like magazine sizes. Smaller magazines for guns make these crazy people have to reload more.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC) [12/23/12]: Changing a magazine, I can do that pretty quick.

STEWART: Yeah, but you’re Fast-Fingers Graham! The foremost gun enthusiast-slash-speed origami champion in the world! He made that in three seconds. How he uses his heavily callused gun hands to make such delicate paper art … why, it’s a mystery.

All right, magazine restrictions won’t help. How ’bout we keep all the guns except weapons designed purely to efficiently shred enemy soldiers?

NRA PRES. DAVID A. KEENE [12/23/12]: We’ve had a so-called assault weapons ban for ten years. […] The Justice Department, others who study it, said it made no difference.

FOX GUEST #2 [12/24/12]: The original assault weapons ban was ill-conceived and didn’t work properly.

STEWART: Well, you know what they say: If at first you don’t succeed, [fuck] it.

Again! None of these will ever be perfect! We’re not looking for some magic … flying, solving projectile. We’re looking for a series of steps for different areas that, over time, can improve the situation. As opposed to what we have now, which is legislative riders snuck into appropriations bills that prevent the ATF from inspecting gun dealers’ inventories, and bills that make it harder to put disturbed individuals on “do not buy” lists, and laws exempting gun-makers from any legal accountability for their product.

I mean – people, God forbid McDonald’s doesn’t tell you how hot their hot, steaming coffee is! That happens, and you’re taking the money train to McPunitive Damage Town. But an epidemic of gun violence? “Oh, we can’t! Our hands our tied! We can’t do anything!” We are a nation of overreacters to everything. We have, step-by-step, child-proofed this entire country. Twenty years ago, a guy threw a rock over an overpass and it hit a car windshield, and now, every overpass in the country is like a Habitrail! It’s just got a giant [?]! Football stadiums have giant nets behind the goalposts so you don’t get hit by the ball you’re supposed to be watching!

We can’t do anything about this? How about we make assault weapons available, but only at shooting ranges? Make guns less sexy so they won’t be considered so cool by young people? The next Jason Bourne movie stars Woody Allen, how ’bout that? “I’m not really a gun person. It’s not so much the killing, but the loading and the cleaning; it’s just – it’s a lotta work.” Or even better: creative sound editing to take away the “cool gun” factor.

MONTAGE: Movie shootout scenes with gunfire replaced with random amusing sound effects.

STEWART: See? Those silly sound effects completely dulled my desire to get caught in a violent and bloody three-way Mexican standoff.

And if you don’t like any of those solutions, please, we’d love to hear yours! There are no bad ideas.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX) [01/04/13]: I refuse to play the game of assault weapon because that’s any weapon. It’s a hammer, it’s – article came out this week; the massive number that are killed with hammers […]

STEWART: Okay, uh … if you wanna regulate … hammers, we could try that. Would it be possible also to regulate bags of hammers, or anyone as dumb as that?

But aside from hammer control – which, by the way, was a great MC Hammer album – do you have any other ideas for reducing gun violence?

LAPIERRE [12/21/12]: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

STEWART: So, the school principal with a gun is gonna stop a guy with an assault rifle and a bulletproof vest? You know, I don’t think Principal Belding is as badass as you think he might be.

Here’s the problem. Technology has democratized carnage. And it’s very weird to me that gun enthusiasts won’t even entertain – let me amend that: some gun enthusiasts won’t entertain the idea of commonsense law enforcement supporting small-bore, so to speak, moves to try and reign in this violence. What’s really going on, here?

REP. RICHARD HUDSON (R-NC) [01/06/13]: We have Constitutional freedom – the right to keep and bear arms in this country.

STEWART: Yeah, yeah, “for a well regulated militia”, not a personal arsenal free-for-all. There’s all sorts of stuff you can’t have already: tanks, F-16 fighter jets, surface-to-air anything. When that Constitution was written, people had muskets. So … okay, you can have all the muskets you want. You can even have assault muskets for all I care. Jazz it up with a bayonet. Go [fucking] nuts. But why is it that there is no other issue in this country, with as dire public safety consequences as this, that we are unable to make even the most basic steps towards putting together a complex plan of action to stop this epidemic’s spread? What is really going on, here?

STEVE DOOCY [01/07/13]: I think you, like a lot of people, Joshua, are worried that the federal government’s gonna come after our guns.

STEWART: Now we’re getting somewhere. So, this isn’t really about the Constitution, or efficacy of regulation, or intruder defense. It’s about how perilously close some people in this country feel they’re living to a tyrant’s rule.

MARINE CPL. JOSHUA BOSTON [01/07/13]: It’s something we’ve seen happen time and time again in history, with Stalin, happened in Cambodia, and then, of course, the Third Reich. No-one saw that coming until it was too late.

ALEX JONES [01/07/13]: Hitler took the guns! Stalin took the guns! Mao took the guns! Fidel Castro took the guns! Hugo Chavez took the guns! And I’m here to tell you: 1776 will commence again if you take our firearms!

STEWART: Holy [shit]! No-one’s taking away all the guns. But now, I get it. Now, I see what’s happening. So, this is what it is. Their paranoid fear of a possible dystopic future prevents us from addressing our actual dystopic present. We can’t even begin to address 30,000 gun deaths that are actually, in reality, happening in this country every year because a few of us must remain vigilant against the rise of Imaginary Hitler.

The only nits I have to pick are with Stewart’s uncritical usage of the vague and misleading “assault weapons” term (there are “assault rifles”, but virtually any item can be labeled an “assault weapon” by parties seeking to restrict their availability) and his repeated assertion that gun violence is an “epidemic” in the U.S., given that gun-related homicides and other violent crimes have been steadily decreasing for decades. It’s always important to remember that as horrible as they are, one of the reasons these mass shootings are so shocking is precisely because they’re outliers.

Nonetheless, the U.S. will never gain any foothold on the path to exorcising its gun-related demons until the Second-Amendment-fetishizing camp decides to start acting like reasonable adults and open the lines of communication.