Tag Archives: america

On Americans, And Guns

Some years ago we were on holiday in America, in the depths of Florida. We walked into a McDonald’s.

The waitress told us there were no fries. Odd. Then I saw that the drive-in customers were being served fries. I asked politely if we could not have some of those.

The waitress became hostile. I tried to explain, reasonably. The waitress became very, very aggressive indeed.

I realised that we were in the middle of nowhere, among people who shared our language, just, but few of our basic assumptions. That she had probably only heard my accent, middle class English, from villains in Hollywood movies, stroking a cat and planning their next outrage, and was conditioned to react against it.

That she probably had a boyfriend with a pick-up truck, and a rifle or shotgun in it. That the odds of our becoming the subject of a tragic story on the front page of the next day’s Daily Mail had just shortened significantly.

We left, chipless.

Words I never thought I would write: there was a brilliant interview on Radio 4 Today yesterday with Piers Morgan. He ran into trouble, while a chat show host in America, by criticising the country’s gun laws. Bizarre but true fact: more Americans have died since 1968 from gunshot wounds than on every battlefield since the Founding Fathers. 32,500 deaths a year. 15 school/university shootings so far this year.

Morgan spoke of interviewing Americans in the less enlightened parts of the country, shall we say. Why did they need weapons? Because of Barack Obama. Otherwise he might invade.

But Obama, and the Federal government, has the US Marines. And 5,000 nuclear weapons. How long would he, and his arms-bearing compatriots, last?

Who else were they defending themselves from? The United Nations, a body whose role our patriot did not seem entirely to understand, shall we say.

Graydon Carter, the US journalist, once pointed out that Michael Bloomberg, himself no fan of unlimited gun ownership but fanatically anti-smoking, tried to ban objects that encouraged the habit while Mayor of New York. Any country, Carter said, that allowed the ownership of a gun but criminalised the ownership of an ashtray had its priorities sadly wrong.


On Conspiracy Theories, Again

I wrote a few days back about America’s sometimes frightening addiction to conspiracy theories.

Now a professor who specialises in these – such academics apparently exist – has suggested the tendency is hardwired into the American psyche.

This is because America was born out of a huge conspiracy theory, that Britain was conspiring to do the colonists down and cheat them out of their rights, he claims.

Not implausible. Many of the perceived slights that triggered the American War of Independence may have been nothing of the kind, or no worse than the way Britain treated other parts of its empire.

I recall some years ago I was editing a humorous diary column and wrote about one of the original first men on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin, I think it was. He had taken to giving motivational talks, for a decent fee, to US corporates.

I said the talks involved all the usual stuff, how the Moon landings were faked up in a back lot in Burbank, California, the flag that hung the wrong way, etc, etc. I would have thought it fairly obvious I was being satirical.

The emails started to arrive. “So you KNOW about that, do you? Well listen to this…” Page after page of this stuff. Deeply worrying.

A New Dark Age

This is well worth reading:

The US is increasingly in the grip of irrational conspiracy theories. Obama is not American, Bush engineered 9/11. Vaccination is bad for you, but Big Pharma is hiding the truth to maximise profits.
The writer blames the Internet for allowing wingnuts, as the Americans call them, to congregate and share their theories. Present them with the facts, and this merely reinforces their views. “You would say that, wouldn’t you? That means you must be part of the conspiracy.”
America seems to be slipping into an abyss of irrationality and illogic, a new dark age. Free speech is increasingly challenged, in the media and in academe. As I have said before, the road to the Enlightenment is not a one-way street.