Saturday, January 26, 2013

Discussion: David Mamet, Conservative

David Mamet - Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Oscar nominated screenwriter, essayist, novelist, and Conservative. His body of work to date includes such thought-provoking plays such as Glengarry Glen Ross (currently in revival on Broadway starring Al Pacino) and Speed-The-Plow and screenplays for The Verdict and Wag The Dog, he took time out to pen this piece for Newsweek-slash-Daily Beast (a/k/a "News-Beast" or "Beastly-News"). It is kind of surprising that this op/ed piece actually got passed Evan Thomas and the editors at News-Beast. Who knows why, but please read it and let's discuss. So without further adieu...

Gun Laws and the Fools of Chelm written by David Mamet


AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Stephen "the A-hole" King wrote his own anti-gun diatribe and is selling it at Amazon for 99 cents. I guess the issue is so important that he decided to make a few bucks on it. I'm not going to read it because I trust nothing he has to say. But I'm glad to see that Mamet took the other approach and also put his out there where people could read it.

DUQ said...

I always liked Mamet's work. This was an interesting article. I think you kind of need to be a true believer to accept it because it leans heavily on "this his how the Founders wanted it," but it's still a good argument.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, I think the best arguments against gun control are actually:

1. It doesn't work and it's an evasion for the real problem, which is ____.

2. Taking guns out of the hands of people, especially women, makes them easy prey for strong, violent killers... who will never obey the laws.

3. The Second Amendment is a guarantee of the right of individuals to defend themselves against all dangers. It does not grant the government the right to decide when you can protect yourself.

T-Rav said...

Always nice to see someone in Hollywood out of the closet (not that closet; it really isn't one in Tinseltown, anyway).

I will say that practically no educator I know wants to see either armed guards or armed teachers/principals in the schools. I don't think the candle would be worth the game in this case, but it would be nice to at least have a discussion about it, without the reflexive "guns are bad" position.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I think that arming teachers would be a mistake. I think it would lead to way more problems than it would cause. A better approach would be to put trained cops at schools.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - your points are exactly spot on. I have liked Mamet's work. He is a "Hollywood" person who has actually shown courage, because he has come out with views that dare go against the powers that make and break careers in that industry. I really like his television series on Delta Force, but sadly, nobody seemed to watch it.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Jed. I think those points make sense because they cover so much of America. Women understand the protection thing. The public knows that criminals don't respect laws. Conservatives and minorities don't trust the government to protect them. That's pretty much everybody except white liberals and even a lot of them are closeted gun owners.

So to me, it makes sense to make those arguments.

It's when you start getting into "the Founders" that people tune out because few people worship them like Gods. And it's when you get into "but hunters need guns" that you end up losing city dweller and animal lovers -- who make up most of America.

I say, stick with the best arguments and leave the esoteric stuff for small meetings of fanatics.

Kit said...

"It's when you start getting into "the Founders" that people tune out because few people worship them like Gods. And it's when you get into "but hunters need guns" that you end up losing city dweller and animal lovers -- who make up most of America."


AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Exactly. It's fine to make those arguments to those groups, but they should not be the primary arguments our side makes. We should focus on the bigger picture of why non-political people should support us. And that's all about personal safety.

Tennessee Jed said...

it might actually be a fun exercise to "re-write" the constitution in modern day language to underscore some of these arguments. E.g. lose the rhetoric about "well-regulated militias" and concentrate on the "congress shall make no laws to abridge the people's right to bear arms." If it is felt necessary to provide reasoning, what could be better than "the right of all citizens to protect themselves from danger." The founders may not resonate, but there is a good slippery slop argument. Those say, well we just want to regulate assault weapons, starts down that path.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I think that's a good idea. I think it would be very good for conservatives as a group to look at all of their arguments and put them in simple, modern terms.

That might help people understand what they really believe, what the limits are on those beliefs, why their arguments do or don't sell, and it might help conservatives learn to focus on the things that are important to people as compared to talking in theoretical tone.

It would also help us sharpen our beliefs because it's too easy to hide a lot of ambiguity in a "term of art" from the past, like "shall not be abridged." When you put that into modern English, all of the things you gloss over suddenly get exposed. Like, do we really mean "you can't restrict this in any way?" or do we mean something lesser?

T-Rav said...

Andrew, adding armed cops would be okay for the larger districts, not so much for the smaller districts as it would involve all kind of budget costs and so on.

Armed teachers are almost unanimously seen as a bad idea by anyone with experience in education. Schools being what they are, it'll quickly get around which teachers are armed and where they keep their guns, and if some mentally unstable kid is mad and gets an impulse--well, things could get hairy. The cons would probably outweigh the pros.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Agreed. You would end up with guns constantly being stolen and maybe or maybe not used. It's just a bad idea.

On the armed guards, I would suggest state funding, rather than district funding.

Individualist said...


I concur with the article.

Anthony said...

Not familiar with Mamet's work (not a big play guy) but Mamet kind of goes around the mulberry bush when making his argument (he could have cut out the first half).

I agree with his broad point though I come to the same conclusion he does for different reasons (I think that trying to ban something widely available and broadly popular is pointless) but his argument is filled with fake numbers and false assumptions.

He decrys a phantom stastic (chance of accidental shooting vs crime prevention)without giving the numbers and then throws out his own phantom statistic (2.5 million crimes prevent a year, the high end of a study from the early 90's whose low side was 800K).

Its bizarre that he ignores a much more recent (completed last year) Cato Institute study which drew the same conclusions (the overwhelming majority of gun owners are responsible and responsible gun use doesn't make the news while irresponsible use does) as the 2.5 million study but determined that crimes prevented were in the tens of thousands, not the millions.

The CATO study concludes that the prior study was sloppy (wildy exaggerating the numbers) and took place at a time when crime was much higher.

Also, if Mamet thinks most of the crime that happens in say, DC is armed thugs attacking ordinary unarmed civilians he is either a liar or not as bright as all of the awards would make one think.

A lot of violence is armed gang members/drug dealers killing other armed gang members/drug dealers which is why often a big deal isn't made about their deaths (the life of a thug is tragic, the death, not so much).

If it were just drug dealers shooting other drug dealers I would watch and eat popcorn but a sizable minority of the killings are gangs killing non-gang members (personal grudges, getting rid of witnesses, sloppy shooting) and that is intolerable.

Flooding cities with even more guns won't make things worse but it won't solve anything (they are not the problem, but they are also not the solution). The problem is the social breakdown which has led to the creation of all of these gang members and keeps replenishing their ranks.

The solutions (besides of course, better individual decisions) are law enforcement (to put out of action those who refuse to obey the law) and community activism in the form of mentoring programs and suchlike (to help those that want to be helped).

Kit said...

"If it were just drug dealers shooting other drug dealers I would watch and eat popcorn but a sizable minority of the killings are gangs killing non-gang members (personal grudges, getting rid of witnesses, sloppy shooting) and that is intolerable."

Agree. It is sickening.

The sloppy shooting recently caused an incident a few months ago in NY where a 4-yr old kid was shot when at least two gang members fired shots at each other near a schoolground.

Patriot said...

Why don't we leave the right to concealed carry up to each individual community? If a state/city/community says the individual community can make that choice, then do it. Let the big cities regulate guns and ownership. We will never win that argument for the obvious reasons. Yet if a Newtown CT decides that in IT'S schools, here are the precautions we will be taking to ensure we are protecting OUR children while they are assembled in a public place, then what is the argument.

Again, this all goes back to an argument Andrew has had again and again, stop trying to win the BIG argument and start winning individually. So, if the pundits, reporters and editorialists in DC, NY, LA and the large influential cities want to keep their communities "gun free" then this will expose their true aims...."Look, we want to impose OUR beliefs on all of YOU in direct contradiction of the second most important right this country was founded upon." I say, you go right ahead and disarm your cities citizens, but let the individual communities choose how they want to protect their children.

As far as the argument that the 2nd Amendment helps protect against a tyrannical government, one could always counter the liberal talking points by asking if they think a government would ever try and suppress its citizens? I ask my leftist friends if they ever thought a Bush, Gingrich or an Akin would ever use the power of government to run roughshod over its citizens. When they look at it in those terms, they see how the need for the citizens to have the means to fight back is central to the founding of this country. I don't let them win the argument that a "government" is a non-personalized benevolent is made up of people, some nefarious, that would round up their "enemies" and put them in re-education camps. And I use "right-wing" bogeymen to make my point. For example, "I know Obama and his admin would never do this, but what if the next Republican President abuses their power and starts arresting people who protest their imposition of Executive Orders arresting news reporters who write out against the government?!" "How will those reporters protect themselves against that?" Inevitably, they come to the 1st Amendment and that what the Repub President could do would be unconstitutional.....then the light goes off and I inevitably get.."Oh...I see what you mean about the 2nd Amendment."

Patriot said...

Rant continued:

I say, use Repubs as the straw men in order to make your point. Leftists are as adamant about their points of view about the role of government as we conservs are. A little creative argument is on order to have them "get it."

We need to use, and explain, the Constitution as a vehicle and approach that fits both Left and Right.

I can't remember who said it, but their point was, when arguing with a leftist (think a Piers Morgan, Chris Matthews, etc...) agree with their premise and then simply state..."And then what?" Use this for any point they make that is ludicrous, such as banning guns.

For example: In order to decrease the chances of our children being slaughtered in school, we need to ban "semi-automatic weapons." Agree....excellent, that will get them off the street. Then what? What about semi-automatic pistols? Non semi-automatic weapons? What would stop a lunatic Tea Partier Youth to bring pistols, a shotgun (which would be more destructive by the way) and grenades into our schools to slaughter our children? Watch their responses. It will inevitably lead to disarming the citizens of ALL weapons. Okay....then what? Will all the guns then be off our street? How would we know if we got every gun off? Because you know in a lot of gun murders, the weapons have been stolen. Will the criminals turn in their guns? Watch the hilarity ensue!

Anyway, enough dreaming. I'm still waiting for another conserv like Reagan who can put in simple, easy to understand arguments of why we should treat our government warily.

Another example, ask "who did the founders of this country invest the power in?" It was the people who had the power over the government. Show them that this unique approach to government power had never been tried before, as power had always been invested in the government over the people. Ask them which way they thought our country should be governed. With "Power to the People, or Power to the Government?" Watch the hilarity ensue!

You all know Andrew's, T-Rav's and Bev's methods.....use them!

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, I think that gangs are a large part of the problem. Drugs are another part of the problem. People on drugs steal for a living. Then they raise kids who steal for a living. You see this every day in the criminal justice system.

AndrewPrice said...

Patriot, That's absolutely right about using the right boogeymen to frame an argument. Liberals will never grasp that power is bad in and of itself, but they will easily see that power is bad when exorcised by someone on the right. So when you speak to liberals, you need to use examples like Bush or they just won't get it.

On the community thing, I think that's a good idea. The one caveat is that liberals have already found a way to explain away their own failures -- "people can buy guns in those evil places like Virginia and then bring them to NYC." It's the same argument they use to justify imposing socialism on everyone -- we can't let people "cheat."

Still, it's a good idea.

tryanmax said...

In reading through the comments--and I may have missed a sentence or two--I think it has been forgotten that Mamet "switched sides," so to speak. His coming out was really more of a public realization that he had been playing for the wrong team. I say that because that is the context in which his words should be understood.

Thus, he is able to cite "The Founders" without the same tune-out effect. Both sides like the claim the Founders and both sides know that about the other side. So the tune-out doesn't have anything to do with who does or does not revere the Founders, but with the assumptions each side makes about the other side's assumption about the Founders. It's all very meta, I know, but it is what it is. Mamet can, to a degree, escape this multi-assumptive dismissal on the grounds that he ostensibly is talking about the Founders as the Left understands them, having been one of them once.

As to statistics, assuming Mamet is familiar with Cato Institute (an assumption I wouldn't feel ashamed in being wrong about) I would still expect him to avoid citing them. This would serve to retain the degree of goodwill he manages to maintain with the left even as a "turncoat," as he is undoubtedly regarded by some. This is the cost of allowing your rhetoric to resonate.

Furthermore, who on the left would dare use Cato to contradict Mamet's assertion? That would lend legitimacy to an organization that the left generally regards as illegitimate and biased. And at the end of the day, it's not really about the numbers, as the usual leftist pattern of thought is that "if just one X can be prevented..." Which is why Mamet abandons numbers altogether at that point and jumps straight into an absurd illustration.

In other words, the purpose of bringing statistics into the conversation was not to make some positivist point (thanks T-Rav) about the best form of crime prevention. It was to illustrate that the statistics will always serve the party using them and so not to rely on them.

I really have to appreciate Mamet's expository writing style. He is clearly writing from a level of deep thought on the matter and is trying to bring it down to the incidental ponderer without condescending (too much). It's a great feat and I personally cannot fault him for not executing it with absolute perfection. Bravo, David!

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I think Mamet can make a "Founders argument" with more credibility than others on the right... but I still don't think the argument resonates. One of the surest ways I've found to get non-wonks to tune out is to start talking about the Founders or the Constitution.

That said, we don't know who Mamet is speaking to either in this article. He may or may not be speaking to moderates or to conservatives. He's certainly smart enough to know how to reach the audience he wants and to know he can't reach all audiences at once.

tryanmax said...

It's all very Marshall McLuhanat base. Though it's been my experience that the ones most turned off by talk of the Founders are the ones not listening to either side. Mamet is clearly speaking to the open-eared. I note that he chooses his words carefully, referring to the Left and never to liberals. Liberals like being liberals, but "the Left" sounds a little more radical. If you ask me, I think he's speaking to moderate liberals by triangulating against those further to the left. None of this diminishes the idea that Mamet is uniquely qualified to talk about the Founders in the way he does.

AndrewPrice said...

I noticed that too that he talked about "the left." I think that is very smart because it drives a wedge between progressives and "liberals." And tells liberals, hey, you're with us, not them.

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