Megan McArdle is a libertarian journalist who occasionally makes waves by being intelligent and independent-minded and willing to say publicly what she thinks. Her latest wave-making exercise: There’s Little We Can Do to Prevent Another Massacre.
I saw it satirized by Kathleen Geier in Political Animal, who wrote:
McArdle is the libertarian super-genius who thinks training little kids to gang-rush crazed gunmen, kamikaze-style, would be a far saner and more effective policy to stop gun violence than some latte-sipping liberal conspiracy like stricter gun laws. The idiocy of this suggestion is so perfect it’s downright inspiring. A zillion points for Gryffindor!
Yeah, well, no. McArdle may be wrong, but she’s not wrong in the way mocked by Geier. Personally, I’ve been avoiding the week-long national outpouring of televised grief-and-outrage porn. I’m deeply offended by the media’s response to the shootings, and don’t feel like lending it my attention. And I think gun control makes a lot of (obvious) sense, and the thinking that underlies the Second Amendment is no longer valid. But I also don’t have an answer to annoyingly intelligent and rational gun-enthusiast McArdle, when she argues that “the things that would work are impractical and unconstitutional. The things we can do won’t work.”
I think the point McArdle is making is animated at some level by the same disgust I feel with the media response. Yes, I get that you feel really, really badly about the senseless killing of lots of innocent children and their teachers. Guess what? Everybody else feels exactly the same way. But the problem of an event like the Newtown shooting is an actual problem in the real world. It will be solved (or not) by reasoned action, not by your outraged feelings.
Toward the end of her piece, McArdle writes this:
There’s a terrible syllogism that tends to follow on tragedies like this:
1. Something must be done
2. This is something
3. Therefore this must be done.
. . . and hello, Gulf War II.
Yup. Emotion is a terrible guide to action, because emotional outrage is such a ready handle for manipulation by the irrational and unscrupulous.