Thursday, November 2, 2017

The NRA in light of STA:C and TIMN: libertine and tribal — not truly conservative:

An excerpt from an old 2016 post, prompted in part by seeing reactions by the NRA and its cohorts to the recent mass-murder shooting in Las Vegas:

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My work on people’s space-time-action orientations and their import for cognition and culture (STA:C) indicates that conservatives think largely in terms of boundaries, far more so than progressives (they think more in terms of horizons). The NRA and its Republican cohorts claim to be highly conservative. Yet their views about guns are so lacking in boundaries as to mean they are not truly conservative — instead, they seem virtually libertine.

There are only a few issue areas where Republican conservatives favor largely unbounded policies. Guns is one such area, perhaps the major one. Here, their alignment with the NRA’s policies and positions is said to express conservatism. Yet, from what I’ve seen, the NRA and its fans have little sense of boundaries regarding gun production, technology, marketing, and ownership. They evidently believe that the more guns and the fewer the boundaries, the better for themselves and for American society and culture. Thus, if I look at the cognitive underpinnings from a STA:C perspective, the NRA’s positions are so unbounded that they contradict true conservatism.

Meanwhile, I gather some NRA proponents argue that the NRA is more a libertarian than a conservative actor. Some libertarians in particular seem to believe this. But the NRA has not embraced this view. Besides, a thorough libertarian would surely favor letting people acquire “smart guns” if that’s what they wanted, and wouldn’t necessarily oppose research on gun-related violence.

From all this, it seems reasonable to conclude, from a STA:C standpoint, that the NRA and its cohorts are not so conservative as they claim. Nor are they liberal in an old-fashioned pro-freedoms sense. And they’re not thoroughly libertarian either. Instead, when it comes to guns, their positions are essentially libertine — not quite in a dictionary-definition way, but close enough. For the NRA and its Republican cohorts espouse a kind of boundless “free love” for guns that seems a functional equivalent of the libertine “free love” for groins that Hippies used to tout in the 1960s. All self-servingly in the name of individualism, freedom, self-expression, and tribal identity — yet so lacking in boundaries as to contradict traditional conservatism.

Meanwhile, the NRA and its Republican cohorts have generated a significant boundary that is in keeping with today’s conservatism: a tribal boundary. The NRA and its cohorts seem to have evolved collectively much like a tribal identity movement built around “identity politics”, in ways that work to keep allies in line and outsiders at bay. The tribal boundary is the most important boundary I can find involving the NRA and its conservative Republican cohorts. (Tribalism has been evident among Republicans for years, as I once tried to lay out here.)

And how does this manifest itself? Extreme tribalists divide the world between “us” and “them”. They stress group identity, loyalty, and solidarity — kinships, brotherhoods, sisterhoods. They constantly talk about honor, pride, dignity, and respect. They flash totems and slogans. They claim tradition and purity for their side. They vilify and demonize opponents. They believe it’s morally okay — maybe not politically-correct, but tribally-correct for sure — to lie to and about outsiders. They readily turn combative and uncompromising. They force people to take sides, to become tribal. They shun moderates once on their side. They engage in magical and conspiratorial thinking about their prospects. Et cetera. And of course they accuse the other side — in this case, gun-control advocates — of tribalism.

This overall pattern of thought and action is common wherever people become susceptible to an excessive malignant tribalism. And it looks to me that the NRA has become bound up in it, partly as a way to advance its own institutional interests, but also as a way to claim a mantle of conservatism that, according to my understanding of STA:C, is questionable, if not in error.

I have no particular interest in the NRA. I’m fine with the Second Amendment and with owning some guns. I’m not steeped in gun policy matters, pro or con. I’ve no policy recommendations to push. And I suppose I’d be wiser to stay focused on other matters about STA:C and TIMN. But the NRA sure is an interesting creature from both STA:C and TIMN standpoints.

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Here’s a blog post from last year that elaborates on what I say above. I’d meant to go do a second post about how the NRA may correspond to what Jane Jacobs called “monstrous moral hybrids”, because of the ways the NRA mixes TIMN’s tribal, institutional, market, and network dynamics. Plus a third speculative post proposing that, if/as TIMN’s +N form takes hold in the decades ahead, creating a new commons sector that will subsume some of the resources and activities currently in the grip of our aging public and private sectors, then it may make sense to regard the Second Amendment as an assurance commons, having quite an effect on gun policy. But I’m not there yet…

[I posted an earlier write-up of this post on my Facebook page, on Oct 4.]

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