Hello non-existent readers. It’s been ages since I posted anything here, and long enough that perusing my old posts makes me cringe at the titles alone. Partially to comfort myself, I’d like to reaffirm that while my jimmies occasionally do get rustled and thereby prompt a salty post here, everything I write is backed primarily by a motivation to spark reasonable discourse. Disgusted by something I wrote a few years ago? In all likelihood, me too. Drop a comment and we can talk about how shitty some of those older posts are.
Moving forward, I’m going to be starting (attempting to start) a new post series that I think has some potential, and is important to me given the goal of this blog. In this post I’ll both pitch this new post series and its goals, and offer my first prompt on the topic. Here’s the pitch.
This day and age, while nothing “new,” it seems we’re becoming increasingly likely to let others do our thinking for us. Clever little visual puns and one-liner “arguments” float around on pictures that are shared on social media, as if a substitute for robust intellectual discussion, or at least sufficient to drive the sharer’s proposed point home. 99% of the time, the rhetoric being used on these types of posts, is utter garbage. There are very few intelligent nuanced and robust arguments on complex issues that can be reduced to half a sentence. If you find one that really does work, treat it like a diamond, because they’re way more rare than those.
The point is, more often than not, these argument pacifiers of sorts are floating around and blinding people with contentment. They’re stopping real conversations short at horribly oversimplified and watered down points, feeding an unwillingness to think and encounter things that we disagree with. We see ones we already agree with, chuckle over the pun or simplicity of it and our own intellectual superiority, hit the share and/or like button, and done.
That’s legitimately dangerous for intellectualism, and any hopes for reaching real understanding and conclusions on important issues.
Rarely, someone will see the post and comment, prompting a real discussion, which is the goal, in which case, great. But when we become complacent with these pre-packaged pieces of putrid pontification (don’t judge me I needed a P word) we’re killing discourse in its crib. And when we kill discourse in its crib, we breed an ignorant stubborn populace. And when we breed an ignorant stubborn populace, society breaks down. Basically bad things happen, and we should push against these.
So, without further ado, the first Rubbish Recycled Rhetoric:
The point here is pretty clear and simple (as it always is): light sabers don’t slaughter defenseless innocents, Jedi tripping balls do. It’s a ham fisted argument by analogy to “guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Don’t blame the instrument, blame the culprit.”
For those that haven’t seen the Star Wars movies (it’s okay, they’re not even actually that good, everyone is just nostalgia’d blind) this is a scene in which the main character has been blinded by emotional desperation and turns to the Dark Side under the guide of the bad guy of the series who has him slaughtering all the Jedi, which included small children in training. He does go through with it.
The supposition runs like this: Anakin is now a Bad Guy, and no one wants to ban light sabers, they just want to stop the Bad Guy. So, extending it to real life, we should just be trying to stop Bad Guys, not banning guns.
The problem is, the analogy doesn’t function to deliver the desired conclusion, which is to push against gun control.
Light sabers in the Star Wars universe are presumably pretty heavily regulated pieces of equipment. You can’t just go and buy one from Star-Mart. As featured in the very picture being shared, you’re obligated to start training as a very small child under the direct supervision of Jedi masters. You dedicate your life to becoming a master of the weapon, and learning the Jedi code, which includes pretty stringent ethical requirements.
Anakin was even banned from becoming a Jedi in Episode 1, because he was fearful for his mother. Yoda (little green Jedi master guy with funny grammar), in a famous scene, suggests:
This means that light sabers are crazy more regulated in the Star Wars universe than guns are in ours.
But hey, if you want some 900 year old dude looking into the heart of children when they’re 10 to decide whether they’re allowed to own a gun, requiring that they must dedicate their lives to a prescribed moral code and way of life surrounding protecting others, I’m on board.
On the other hand, if you want to make a point about how guns don’t kill people and therefore shouldn’t be punished when someone does something bad with them, Star Wars is NOT the model you want to use to illustrate your point.
So, all that being said, the idea behind the argument isn’t in itself horrible. I mean, it’s not great, but it’s not inherently flawed. To suggest that one ought not blame a tool, but instead the agent using it works in some situations. Even if it were used in a better scenario, it’s not strong enough to stand on its own, and would need some serious heavy lifting performed by other pieces of argument. So this piece of recycled rhetoric could be worse. Rubbish ranking?
Go ahead, read it in the voice. I won’t stop you.
It’s primarily an issue of a really bad example used to back a shady-at-best piece of reasoning. The reasoning itself could theoretically be augmented by a better argument, but Star Wars and lightsabers were really not the route to go. Better luck next time. Just remember, there is no “try.”