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Finding a novel use for my two-quote format..

[ by Charles Cameron — on straight shooting, but more about logic than guns ]


If you tie me down across some railroad tracks (no, that’s not me) and I can feel a train coming and you say you’ll cut me loose if and only if I vote for or against “gun control” I’ll hastily but reluctantly admit to being for it.

The haste, you’ll understand, comes from my not wishing to be cut in three or four by the onrushing train, while the reluctance comes from my sense that my political opinions, such as they are, are usually more indicative of my generally kindly nature than of any rigorous analysis of likely first, second, third and nth order impacts of whatever it is we’re discussing.

But okay, my sympathies are with gun control — while my awareness of my own ignorance prompts me not to put much stock in those sympathies.


But then I come across this article in Forbes, which disturbs me enough to prompt me into a new idea, a novel use for my SPECS or DoubleQuotes format.

I’ll use that format to present you with two paragraphs from that article, one of them slightly abridged, which follow one another directly. And my question for you, as you read them, is how can the authors get from the top paragraph, with all its questions and cautious qualifications, to the one immediately below it, with its claim of unquestioning certainty.

I’d say that the paragraph that immediately follows the first one doesn’t follow from it at all, logically speaking — I’d say there’s a non sequitur in there. And for me, that’s a novel use of the two quotes format — to suggest that someone is taking an impermissible leap.


Because as far as I can see, the only way to get from the first paragraph to the second is via a leap of hope — a determination, present from the beginning, to arrive at a fixed conclusion, in this case, that firing guns is addictive.

As I’ve said, I have some sympathy with gun control legislation — but I don’t much like it when sympathies masquerade as science, even when I share them.

So what do we call that kind of leap?

Leaping to a hasty conclusion? Jumping the gun, perhaps? Jumping the shark?

12 Responses to “Finding a novel use for my two-quote format..”

  1. Norm DeLisle Says:

    If I had to make a guess, it would be that the connecting material was edited out to reduce the length of the piece.

    I’m a combat vet, so I’ve used weapons for their apparent purpose. I thought of my M-16 and the various pistols I carried as tools over the time I was in Vietnam ( I carried a pistol along with the M-16 because most of my combat experience was on helicopters where it is very easy to lose an M-16 in a crash), but there were plenty of other soldiers who saw them (perhaps one special one or a class of weapons) as numinous, possessing inherent special almost spiritual meaning. Much like a St. Christopher medal in my view, because I don’t see that special meaning. Calling that an addiction strikes me as political spin, but that doesn’t mean that the attachment to weapons is rational. 

    I don’t think that people who have a special experience with weapons should be setting policy about their availability and use. Imagine what would happen if the military put no boundaries on what individual soldiers could purchase or use for their personal weapons, the kinds of ammunition they used, where the weapons were carried (because of Newton, a bill passed in the Michigan legislature allowing concealed carry in churches and schools was vetoed. Newton was the only reason it was vetoed, and I’m sure it will be reintroduced in the next session), and so on.

  2. Cheryl Rofer Says:

    Charles – I could give you a, um, load of examples of what you’re showing with those two quotes from the last two or three weeks. The way I think of them is in terms of that cartoon that goes from a mess of mathematics to the conclusion via “And then a miracle happens.”
    The author of that Forbes article, one Steven Kotler, invokes the authority of Steven Pinker early on, incorrectly. And then a little miracle happens:
    So the question becomes why is violence overall declining, yet gun violence still on the rise? The answer, we suspect, might be dopamine.
    By repeating the incorrect interpretation of Pinker and using the first person plural, all of a sudden this “science writer” manufactures his own credibility. What you mean we, kemo sabe?
    So it’s Steven Kotler who thinks it’s dopamine and addiction, no doubt from his reading of authors like himself. The rest of the article is just piling on from this unfortunate start. As you note, the first box simply does not justify the second box. In fact, he’d be hard put to justify that connection from Better Angels, because Pinker discusses the complications of that kind of brain chemistry and concludes that that simple connection just doesn’t exist. So, having read that book myself, I conclude that Kotler didn’t.
    There are a lot of science and other reporters who don’t understand how science works – the two I’ve been debunking this week are George Jahn and David Ignatius. But there’s so much of it around, it’s like a disease. I find it very troubling. 
    Norm – Thank you for making a point about that spiritual meaning. I’ve been referring to some of the attachment to guns as talisman-like, a magic thing that will save and protect the holder, decoupled from the holder’s competence in using guns. I too think this is a very dangerous position from which to make policy.

  3. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi Norm, Cheryl:
    Cheryl writes: 

    I’ve been referring to some of the attachment to guns as talisman-like, a magic thing that will save and protect the holder, decoupled from the holder’s competence in using guns.

    I spent a while yesterday reading some of the Bunker & Sullivan materials on narcocultura, and specifically on the cults of Jesus Malverde and Santa Muerte, and I’m fascinated by the degree to which magical and/or religious thinking finds its way into criminal enterprises.  
    Talismans? Exactly. And you’re not alone.  Pamela & Robert Bunker’s The Spiritual Significance of ¿Plato O Plomo? specifically mentions this “virtue” in guns.  The Bunkers write: 

    Corruption taints the soul and we are increasingly finding ourselves besieged by growing ranks of such lost souls with their Cuerno de Chivo (Goat’s Horn— AK-47 assault rifle) talisman in hand.

    My personal interest here is to find out what I can of the religious, magical and or anthropological aspects of this kind of thinking, so as to bring some perspectives from comparative religion to bear. As with Ken Guest‘s ICRC report Dynamic interplay between religion and armed conflict in Afghanistan which I was reading recently, I imagine the “interplay between religion and armed conflict” in Mexico is worth considerable interdisciplinary attention.

  4. Charles Cameron Says:

    I imagine there’s a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek at work — but also a hint of the “talismanic virtue” of guns — in this Bushmaster ad, which seems to have provoked some criticism in the wake of the Newtown school shooting:
    Here’s the card itself:

    If the small print on the back of the card is to be believed, manliness apparently qualifies one “to belch without apology”.
    With tongue in cheek, one hopes?

  5. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    manliness apparently qualifies one “to belch without apology”
    Nicely correlated with this recent story:

  6. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    I think the talisman connection is helpful.  I have also used the idea of totem for this.
    The problem you run into, however, is the fact that pretty much everything on this planet and even beyond works in this way: via symbolism.  I approach the idea through the idea of performativity and say that these are performances and we humans naturally infer far more than we actually see.   So it is possible to reduce our cognitive relationship to these things to mere talismanic or totemic attachments; but, too much is being elided when we do.
    Take an odd correlation:   A stop sign on a street is mere symbol, but it actually does direct traffic.  We might say that we have elevated stop signs into talismans and totems largely without knowing that we have, insofar as nearly all human drivers respect their authority and know that violating their authority can lead to some major consequences, from traffic tickets to potential death.  We have reverence for these things.  Same could — and will — be said of guns in the political debates:  If you see a gun held by most private citizens, you are likely to read the sign as a caution marker if not an outright call to STOP!  Some people respect stop signs more than others.

  7. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    If I am going to compare and contrast traffic signs and guns, I might as well include for consideration where they intersect:
    “Don’t tread on me.”
    The totemic aspect, insofar as it exists, might rest on an understanding of where the authority for, first, placing the marker, and, second, for enforcing the marker originates.  

  8. larrydunbar Says:

    I think you are right Curtis, the totem has always been a narrative and not an idol to the Native Americans. Your piece about the stop sign make me wonder if it still is.

  9. carl Says:

    Cheryl Rofer:
    About this statement:
    “I’ve been referring to some of the attachment to guns as talisman-like, a magic thing that will save and protect the holder, decoupled from the holder’s competence in using guns.”
    The mere possession of a weapon is a very great advantage whether or not the bearer knows how to use it.  This is especially true for firearms.  The reason is any potential opponent has to assume that a person in possession of a weapon knows how to use it.  That fact alone considerably complicates the problem facing the opponent.  It is prudent to assume a person armed with a firearm knows how to use it because they are easy to learn to use and the consequences not assuming they know how to use it are so grave.  So the mere possession of a firearm, whether or not the bearer knows how to use it, does serve to increase ones chances.  Mere possession does protect and can save, if the opponent knows or even suspects he will face a gun.

  10. Jim Parker Says:

    I would say the second argument is at best a hasty generalization since the relationship between dopamine and addiction is not established in every case.

  11. larrydunbar Says:

    “The mere possession of a weapon is a very great advantage whether or not the bearer knows how to use it.  This is especially true for firearms.”

    Sorry Carl, it doesn’t seem like you know of what you speak. Taking a knife to a gun fight is not always a disadvantage. It is just something a person trained to use a gun says to confuse his enemy.

  12. carl Says:

    Larry Dunbar:
    There is a rhetorical convention that people use in spoken conversation to express in one word a sort of mildly incredulous skepticism of something said.  It is a bit trite but it is useful at times.  It consists of saying the word ‘really’ in a questioning tone. 
    So in response to your somewhat puzzling statement in 11. above:

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