Guns, white males, and false public semiotics

I hope I have not been misleading in my use of the term “public semiotic,” which I probably coined.

By public semiotic, I mean a semiotic or bundle of semiotics that most people within a culture recognize. A meme is a narrowly focused public semiotic. The reason I use the term public semiotic is there are many sorts of public semiotics that are broader or vaguer than sharply focused memes.

One of them is “white males commit a disproportionate number of rampage killings,” as Michael Moore implied shortly after the Rodger rampage killing in California. A simple check of rampage statistics in the USA reveals that “white males” commit rampage killings at slightly less than or about the same as their percentage of the US population.

Another false public semiotic is that “guns cause America’s high murder rate.” Moore implied that one, too. Why do people who have a loud public voice not even bother to check with the science before speaking? Here is a short, recent study by eminent criminologists that refutes Moore’s claims about guns causing violence: Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?

The answer is no. Surely Moore can read studies like this one (and there are many of them) that refute his emotionally charged errors before pontificating yet again on this subject.

If it were only Moore who made mistakes like this, I might not have bothered to write this post. But Mayor Bloomberg himself, arch foe of gun ownership, actually makes two major mistakes in this short video: Bloomberg Doesnt Know SemiAuto from Auto.

The Mayor is wrong about how semi-automatics work and he is wrong about the meme that legally owning a gun makes it “statistically 22 times more likely” that a family member or friend will be shot with that gun. Read the study above for a complete refutation of that falsehood.

How can two of the most prominent anti-gun spokespeople (don’t get me started on Dianne Feinstein) persist in making such elementary mistakes in their oft repeated comments? Is it any wonder the public does not trust them and hardly listens anymore?

False public semiotics are usually deliberately employed emotional statements that sound convincing because they are frequently repeated.

Fortunately, the American public is better informed than Moore or Bloomberg on guns. But there are so many issues it is hard to keep up. Notice how often emotional public semiotics are at the forefront of the side that is lying, whether it be to start a war in Iraq, reduce internet freedom, permit violations of the Fourth Amendement, and so on.

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