Most Americans want gun control – yet the nation remains hostage to a tiny weapon obsessed cult called the NRA

On his 99th day in office President Donald Trump addressed an 80,000 strong crowd of predominantly white, male, National Rifle Association members.

“You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you,” Trump told the cheering crowd: “The eight year assault on your Second Amendment rights has come to a crashing end.”

Six months later, the lives of 54 Americans and 4 Canadians did ‘come to a crashing end’ as a lone gunman murdered them and wounded 851 more from the window of a Las Vegas hotel – in the worst shooting in modern American history. The killer (whose name is not worthy of mention) had no criminal record and had purchased his high powered machine gun perfectly legally.

“How could this happen?” Everyone asked as everyone asks each time these things happen and then yesterday – it happened again. A 19 year old boy – armed with a murderous assault rifle was able to march into his school and slaughter 17 of his former classmates with a legally bought semi-automatic machine gun – in cold blood.

So far in 2018 alone there have been 41 mass shootings in the USA. Since January 1st the country has had 6,575 gun incidents in total with 3,144 people injured and 1,827 dead. Of those killed or injured 69 were aged 0-11 and 333 12-17 years old. These figures exclude the approx. 1,833 Americans who take their own lives with weapons every single month.

Now – as a Brit – these stats are just mind blowing. Yes gun and knife crime remains an issue in the UK – but the figures just pale in comparison. Since 1996 just 30 people (still too many) have died in mass shootings in the UK. By way of comparison, that is eight fewer in a 22 year period than have died in mass shootings in the USA in the month of February 2018 – so far.

Yes – illegal guns still kill people in the United Kingdom – but you don’t need to have a diploma in statistics to see what a difference strict gun control makes.

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Gun related killings – via BBC news

“Oh those crazy Americans! Why don’t they do something?” Goes up the cry whenever a terrible incident like this happens, but the truth is that the vast majority of US citizens are already, overwhelmingly in favour of stricter controls.

Gallup data demonstrates that overwhelmingly, over time, the American public has wanted harsher curbs on domestic ownership of weapons (currently 62%) and that a similar number (59%) don’t actually own a firearm at all. Indeed – only 38% of Americans want gun controls kept as they are (33%) or less strict (5%).

So what the hell is going on? In three letters – NRA. The National Rifle Association with its (claimed) 5 million members (1.5% of the population) continues to hold the USA by the balls. With a highly active and political membership the organisation has consistently backed anti-gun control candidates. In the last Presidential election, according to the Guardian

“The NRA (made) independent expenditures worth $53.4m. And the cash seemed to have been well spent. The NRA poured $14.4m into supporting 44 candidates who won and $34.4m opposing 19 candidates who lost.”

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A clear majority of Ameicans want stricter gun control (Gallup)

Truth may not belong to those who shout loudest, but it seems that in modern America the will of a firearm obsessed minority continues to take precedence over the will and indeed safety of the majority and the basic principles of sanity.

In a mature democracy nobody, least of all a 19 year old with known behavioural issues, should be able to get their hands on a murderous, military grade, semi-automatic gun. It’s clearly time for the majority of sane and rational Americans to take back control.

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AR15 as used in Florida

My DIY: this week Donald Trump talks about his favorite Home Improvement projects

Are you an active DIY-er?

I love Home Improvement. It’s a beautiful thing to paint a door or build a cabinet and then look at it and think I did that. I built that. It’s a cabinet I built and it’s a beautiful cabinet.

Do you build anything else other than cabinets?

I’ll tell you the truth. I’ve never built a cabinet. I never said that. If you look at your notes. Fake news! Fake interviewer. You have sensational legs by the way and that isn’t sexist. It’s OK to tell someone they have good legs.  If I told a giraffe it had good legs would that be sexist? Of course not. I have a cabinet. It’s a solid – it’s a teak cabinet which by the way also has sensational legs. Is that sexist? No. I have it and it goes everywhere with me. But I did not build the cabinet. I was given it by Steven Seagal – who by the way also has terrific legs. I can appreciate his sexuality even if I am not attracted to him just as I can a giraffe. When two powerful individuals who have made millions out of their respective careers meet – you can expect a sexual dynamic. Unless you’re an asexual of course. I can tell you that Steven Seagal is not. He’s so un-asexual. Terrific guy. Big personality. Huge star. Loves to build cabinets.

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A complete shutdown of muslin

What is the biggest Home Improvement Project you’ve worked on recently?

I moved to the White House and you know the problem with the White House is that literally everything in it is white. White walls. White busts. Lovely white busts. I love white. White is under threat. Have you heard about “white genocide?” It’s a thing. But I believe in diversity as well. And there are all these curtains – drapes – very long and I kept tripping over them and I said to Steve Bannon who was my Strategist when I moved in – great guy Steve by the way – philanthropist and humanitarian but the best thing about him is he stands very straight. Beautiful posture. I said: “Steve what is all this white fabric? I keep tripping over it.” And he goes: “Muslin Mr President” and I said “I want a complete shutdown of muslin until we’ve decided whether it is safe..”

Who are your biggest design inspirations?

Melania is an incredible designer.  She’s got an eye. Two eyes in fact. One on either side of her nose. Incredibly talented woman and my wife and she has two eyes. You don’t get much better than that. Although you’d never see that in the Washington Post by the way.

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Great writer Genesis – talented guy – should have written more.

What is your favourite period in architecture?

Las Vegas. I don’t know what that period is exactly, but the architecture is incredible. Built by the Italians of course. A lot of people might say Roman architecture but when you’ve been to the Strip you can see immediately that the Italians are better. Good people. A great, great people. The Romans on the other hand were terrible at construction. I was in Scotland, where I have a lot of business and a lot of friends and I heard about this Hadrian’s wall on the border with England and so we drove down there and the way they had done it – just very disappointing and literally falling down. Whole sections missing. I said to the folks I was with: “that has to be the worst wall I ever saw.” When you’ve been in construction as long as I have you can tell instantly whether the quality is there. I said there and then: “one day I will build a better wall than this – and I will make Mexico pay for it.”

What is your favourite building?

A lot of people might expect me to say Trump Tower but actually it’s the home where I grew up. It was a modest place in Brooklyn. Just 9 bedrooms and a six acre garden but we made up for what we didn’t have by filling the place with love. Not love between family members which by the way is something which is illegal. I’m really rich now but back then we were just an ordinary rich family. We had books. We had a Bible. The Bible is the most special book of those books and I would often read the Bible. Great, great book. Fantastic read. You never hear the guys in the MSN talk up the Bible. Never hear about that on CNN.

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Is there any Home Improvement skill you wish you had?

There was this one story. I think it’s by Genesis. Great writer Genesis – talented guy – should have written more. Anyway one of the stories is about the Tower of Babel. You know that story? These folks build a tower – I don’t know where – somewhere in the Mid-East I guess and God gets very angry. “Why have you built that Tower without my planning consent?” You know – and the little guys just get on with it – these downtrodden blue-collar people who just want a break and a job and to make a few bucks building a Tower. And you know what God does? He destroys it. Knocks it down and then makes everyone dumb and speak a load of languages. A lot of people ask me why I went into politics. Read Genesis and see. Great writer. Incredible guy. I want to help the little people build those towers and walls. And not have God knock them down. That’s my DIY philosophy.

Mr President – thank you.

Hopkins, Trump and the Resistable Rise of Stupidism.

I know nothing about football. I know what a football is and I did watch a game once, honest, but try and engage me on who scored what in the last Milk Cup and I will stare at you blankly.

The idea that all opinions are equally valid is palpable nonsense. My knowledge of the beautiful game could fill the inner circle of a pin-head. Should it therefore have as much merit as Gary Lineker’s? Of course not. When it comes to football, chemistry, micro-biology and the economy of Tuvalu I am very happy to admit that I’m ignorant.

Nowadays – that makes me an expert.

Over the last decade, the stock in stupidity and uninformed opinions has risen exponentially. Writing in his classic 1992 treatise The Flanshaw Infants* on the potential of the World Wide Web, futurologist Dr. Terence Dobson wrote: “with too much information at their disposal, people (might) choose to take facts as given rather than question sources or open minds to the endless possibilities of knowledge and truth that the internet will provide.”

Seven years later in 1999 social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger carried out a study into the phenomenon of “illusory superiority” wherein people of low ability imagine themselves to be very good at something. The results were astounding. They concluded that:

“In many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”

The study was inspired in part by the case of a criminal who went around robbing banks with lemon juice on his face – because someone told him it made you invisible to surveillance cameras. Laugh if you like – and then type “flat earth” into Youtube.

1999 saw a huge growth in global internet usage and the theory was timely. Look around – the Dunning-Kruger effect is in evidence everywhere.

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“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool” (As You Like It)

Tune into any talk radio shows any day of the week and you will have presenters inviting ordinary members of the public to opine on complex issues like global warming, or the crisis in Catalonia, or the best way to solve Brexit, or the ethics of genetic engineering. Sometimes of course a real expert might phone in – or someone may give a powerful testimony born out of personal experience – but a great deal of talk radio could be summarised as:  ‘people who know very little reinforcing other people’s prejudices with unreasoned arguments, based on hearsay in an unchallenged environment.’

On social media things are a whole lot worse. Twitter and Facebook have both made stars out of stupid. Donald Trump might be the first reality star President, but he is also the first Twitter Political Superstar. That is where his supporters meet; it is where they concur it is where they look for validation of their idiotic viewpoints from other absurd twitter celebrities like Alex Jones.

If the 1930s was the age of Communism and Fascism we are now living in the era of ‘Stupidism’. As with those movements it has its Karl Marx figures, its evangelists and its exponents. The Uncle Jo Stalin of Stupid sits in the White House firing off ignorance in 140 character decrees while his Pravda-esque Breitbart and Fox News Network spread the creed. Truth was the first victim of the internet age – and every week facts and accuracy are carted off to the labour camps to join it.

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Twitter – a rich hunting ground for collectors of stupid

Stupidism in its most populist form is a simple credo to understand. It has its slogans, its terms for enemies of the state of stupid, its own imagery and iconography.

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Why bother with the reasons behind immigration into the United States when you can say “let’s build a wall and make Mexico pay!” Why trouble yourself with understanding the EU and Britain’s intricate relationship when you can brand the whole thing the “EUSSR” call all those who support it “snowflakes” and add a crying emoji.

Stupidism is liberating. Stupid is easy. You don’t even have to read a book. In fact it is the first doctrine in history in which never having read a book is a requirement. Years of pent up rage bent double under that chip on your shoulder because you failed history GCSE can be washed away with the aid of 700k twitter followers reinforcing your witlessness.

Sure you were wrong – but if enough groupies say you are right then frankly who cares.

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Even a stopped clock is right twice a day

Inveterate tweeter Paul Watson may be the Trotsky of Stupid but in Britain at least – Katie Hopkins is its Lenin.

Katie Hopkins is tongue-tied. Katie Hopkins is uninformed. Katie Hopkins is not gifted with a sense of humour or an ability to write. She claims to be a patriot but works tirelessly to undermine the country. Is that what she thinks she is doing? Probably not. I suspect Ms Hopkins imagines herself to be of very high ability indeed.

And yet – here I am writing about her. Katie Hopkins has prospered and continues to do so. She, along with Stupidism’s fellow travellers, has indeed got rich on the back of it. Stupidism is profitable because it reinforces and articulates the base ill-informed opinions of a very large segment of society. There is an eager market for it.

What can be done?

I was talking to a bloke in the pub about this on Saturday and we both agreed that critical thinking should be taught as a compulsory core subject in schools. Neither of us are experts in the field and we both broadly agreed with each other so our opinion matters.

Until the children come and save us from this nightmare, it’s up to us all to fight it. Call out the stupid when you see it. Fight stupid and we will defeat it. There is a prevailing attitude that people like Hopkins or the ridiculous Paul Watson should “be ignored and starved of oxygen” or worse that we should listen to everybody – no matter how ill-informed they are. Do that and Stupidism will prosper.

*If you want to read more about The Flanshaw Infants (and trust me you do) by  Dr. Terence Dobson – it’s here