Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Shotgun" Politics: When You Don't Get Your Way, Bring a Gun!

If I had not known better, I would have thought that this picture (By Jack Kurtz -- Associated Press) taken at a political event was produced in a country where guerrilla warfare was occurring, or where there was a type of military government, or something similar. But I now know better. Indeed, that this occurred here, in the US, at a political rally where Obama was in Arizona. The armed protesters might have acted within the law, as Alexi Mostrous reports for the Washington Post:

The past week has seen a spate of men carrying firearms while milling outside meetings Obama has held to defend his health-care reform effort. On Monday, a man with an AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle strapped to his shoulder was outside a veterans' event in Phoenix. He was one of a dozen men who reportedly had guns outside the forum.

Regardless of whether these armed protesters pointed their gun at anyone or not, this is “shotgun” politics--and it is not democratic.

What do I mean by "Shotgun" politics? I mean the use of force (implied deadly force) used to influence the outcome of a debate or a political action. Why is this not democratic? Democracy requires deliberation on a wide scale (national and local community) and on a small scale (family discussion, water cooler talks, BSing at the watering hole or hang out). For democracy to flourish, deliberation must be free and not directed or forced. For this to occur, participants who are engaging in any political discourse must not feel threatened and instead feel free to express her or his feelings, support those feelings openly, and present their arguments in a logical way. Talking around someone who is carrying an “AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle strapped to his shoulder,” does not allow for a free and nonthreatening space of political deliberation. Democratic argumentation cannot occur under these conditions—only a form of terror and coercion. Terror is defined here as the following (using the good ol’

The use of extreme fear in order to coerce people (especially for political reasons); ‘he used terror to make them confess.'

Sadly, shotgun politics is not only happening in Arizona (the dear state of my birth), but other places including on the net.

Meet Hal Turner (Picture by Jessica Hill for the Associated Press and used by the Washington Post), the internet radio host who decided to use his blog to protest the ruling of three federal judges when they “rejected the National Rifle Association’s attempt to overturn a pair of handgun bans.” As reported by Peter Slevin for the Washington Post, in his story titled "Blogger's Case Could Test the Limits of Political Speech: New Jersey Man was Arrested After Writing That 3 Judges 'Deserve to Killed'," Hal Turner, angry that he is not getting his way, announced the following on June 6th:

“Let me be the first to say this plainly: These Judges deserve to be killed.”

The next day, we are told, he proceeded to post not only photographs of the Judges he thinks should be killed but also a map of the courthouse where they worked and “noting the placement of ‘anti-truck bomb barriers’” which might, the reader is left to gather, impede any killing potential—should one of Hal’s readers feel up to the task? This too is shotgun politics.

There is nothing democratic about shotgun politics and I do not care which political party you are supporting while strapping on your metal for political commentary or meetings. Such tactics equates ethical egoism in its worse form, stating loud and clear: only my self-interest matters here and the hell with the rest of you. Me, me, me, me. Democracy is not about ME but about US. Get with the program and play nicely with your fellow humans – Please.



  1. Hal Turner's a real scumbag. This guy has been riding his butt for a while, including talking with the FBI about him.

  2. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the note, I could not get your link to work - could you send it again? R

  3. I'll try it another way...

    Go here and search for Hal Turner. This guy really doesnt like Turner.


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