In Which a Teacher Writes Back to His Congressman, Gently Correcting His Writing and Thinking Errors

Categories: OC Bookly
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I am this Sunday morning postponing my terrific and much-anticipated (by me, at least!) reviews of a first novel by OC's own Peggy Hesketh, the new short-story collection by Gary Amdahl of Redlands, and Gold Line chapbook award winner Alisa Slaughter's short stories to offer--completely unsolicited--a modest public service.

I confess to a chillingly unfamiliar, if welcome, shiver of sentiment a few weeks back, standing in sight of San Diego's County historic Administration Center on the waterfront, a gorgeous 1938 Works Progress Administration complex bearing the unshy motto, "The noblest motive is the public good."  So, blame FDR for this week's post, my public open letter cum critical evaluation of the rhetorical offerings of my pathetic congressman, above with -- yes, of course, naturally -- the flag. 

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Do-gooder

The quotation that caused me to tremble is attributed to Virgil. The San Diego Supervisors may hold different motivations. Our democracy is a sometimes weak gesture in the way of any kind of good at all, but I stood there nonetheless, adjacent the bay and the strolling tourists, and tucked those words away in my head, where I found them today while rereading the woefully inadequate, even insulting letter I received from Representative John Bayard Taylor Campbell III after mailing him a Valentine's Day post card asking his support for the president's modest initiatives toward gun control. Campbell, whose cozy spot on the beach got taken in redistricting, now represents me and my canyon community.  He has moved east a bit courtesy of the brave citizen activists who tried to de-gerrymander South Orange County, a national political-sacrifice zone despite their good efforts. Still, I imagined, after years of the odious and criminal Representative Gary "Civil War Dress-Up" Miller, Campbell would at least be different, maybe even better. At least somebody who might engage his constituents. This guy doesn't even recognize them, it turns out. And here's the really funny part. In my day job as a booster of civic literacy and teacher of critical thinking to undergrad writing students who don't even know that John Campbell exists (lucky them), I assure these kids that one way to participate in our government, its institutions and democratic process is to write -- write letters and arguments, and, yes, write them well. Hard not to reconsider this pedagogical strategy in light of what I reproduce below.
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Yes, it is with genuine and sincere (adjectives I am loathe to embrace too often) disappointment that I review and share excerpts from the truly remarkable email epistle sent to me by Congressman Campbell. And with no small amount of real sadness. Granted, this is Orange County. Granted, he is a Republican. Granted, it's possible he didn't actually write this silly Reader's Digest homily himself. Granted, he is a former car salesman, and yes, he likes to substitute-host The Hugh Hewitt Show on right-wing AM talk radio. I mention that because I made the mistake of tuning in on a recent afternoon when Campbell was behind the microphone, only to be disappointed when Mr. C. gave most of the show to Paul Ryan, the newest boy-Newt of the GOP, followed by an obnoxious (is there any other kind?) gloat-fest about the Congress member's allegiance to a famous local rich kids' university whose mascot is, inexplicably, a prophylactic. Fight on, already.

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Big thinker!
In his Feb. 28 letter to me, Campbell first thanks me, alludes to his "daily prayers" and suggests we have a "reasoned and serious debate about . . . causes and potential solutions."  Then he says he is not going to make the argument that gun control itself causes (!) gun violence, instead relating he will "leave that argument for others to make" and moves on to his next paragraph with "So, there is no record of gun control in this country resulting in less gun violence" and offering in his "humble opinion" that "the real problem here is that there is something societal going on."  Let's pause here to observe with awe and disbelief that this is like saying there is something oxygen going on, but let's not linger there, no, because the incredibly humble Mr. Campbell further offers that there has been a "behavioral shift . . . a result of an interconnected web of conditions in society that has changed . . . how we view the world around us."  Something is happening, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

News flash. In case you didn't know that the former car dealer wasn't trained in this variety of elevated critical thinking, here is his helpful caveat:  "Now, I am no social scientist, but I will offer up six conditions that I believe have changed during my lifetime [sic] in the culture of America that are directly contributing to the violence we are witnessing."  Not a social scientist?  

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Shampoo. Then condition six times  
But before we get to the Six Conditions (patent pending), let's recap. Gun control probably causes violence and does not limit it; the culture of America has changed -- imagine that! --  since John Campbell III was born in 1955; and no, he is not going to talk about actual guns, gun control, a semi-automatic weapons ban, unregulated sales at gun shows or the president's appeal. 

Here, then, à la every self-help huckster ever, every erroneous zone salesman, every pulpit pounder, religious scold or snake-oil salesman, the Six Conditions offered by an actual elected official in America -- a "moderate" Republican -- in the early part of the 21st Century after the deaths of dozens in just months by way of ignoring, rejecting and dismissing the mostly benign call by President Barack Obama to please do something to stop gun deaths.  I kid you not, summarized and quoted here (mercifully excerpted), with brief responses from Mr. Bib. Again, this is real, folks, not fiction by George Saunders or some clever, sarcastic social commentator or send-up scribe.

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Good driver, societal. With beard
1.  The "Me" Society.  (Cribbed from the Me Generation, maybe?) Campbell offers that he is originally from Los Angeles and offers that when he started driving, road rage was rare.  Today, people cut other people off, which is naughty and selfish.  That's why it's called the "me" society.  Connection to gun violence?  You decide!

2.  The Irresponsible Society. John the C complains, "Nothing that goes wrong is our own fault any more" and, "Others get success by luck, and my [our, your] failures are their fault. This is increasingly the thinking of a society that continues to diminish the concept of personal responsibility. With this comes the desire for revenge."  No kidding?  Revenge.  Revenge? On gun owners?  By gun owners? Hard to know. But, fear not, there are four more. . . .

3.  The Secular Society.  I know you saw this one coming.  Too easy, but Campbell can't resist.  He says that "regular attendance of church or synagogue has declined in recent decades."  And, sisters and brothers, we know what that means! Rhetorical interrogative flourish:  "Has removing God from so much of our lives today created a nurturing environment for evil to take root?"  Well, has it, friends?

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God







  
4.  The Non-Family Society.  Hearkening back to the 1950s, when he started driving--in Los Angeles!--and people were nice, our own Dr. Wayne Dyer of the U.S. House of Representatives offers, "A village [clever right-wingy dig at the former Secretary of State, get it?] cannot fully replace the emotional support of a family and neither can friends."  Lesson:  Family "unit" good, village bad. Relation to guns?  Well, actually, most people get shot by somebody they know, Dr. Dobson. 

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More religion, please. 
5.  The "Just Win Baby" (sic) Society. This is a new one on me. Be afraid, sports fans.  Just Win Baby?  Or does he mean, Just Win, comma, Baby? Either way, this might mean you.  Baby. In this section, Mr. C. asks if the ends justify the means and laments, "In the financial world, it seems many play by these rules."  No kidding. And your position on regulating Wall Street and the banking industry?   

6. The Violence Society.  No surprises here.  TV shows, movies, song lyrics "have changed over the decades.There is much more celebrated and gratuitous violence." I can just see the young JC driving politely and listening to the radio, softly.  And not cutting anybody off or pulling out an Uzi and shooting them dead.  And, no, he doesn't like Quentin Tarantino, in particular, in case there were any questions about that.  

There's more God.  Lots more.  Besides not being a sociologist, Campbell admits he himself is no saint.  No shit!.  He says there are absolutely no laws we can pass to deal with these societal problems.  No gun control laws, that is.  But here's the big take-away from the Reverend Johnny Campbell:  

"The confluence of the six societal characteristics that I described above lead to a lot of angry people making rude gestures or using bad words. But, without question, for a few people, this anger drives to pick up a weapon and use it."


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I dare you!
Road rage and divorce, and the next thing you know, Columbine or Sandy Hook.  And,no, there is nothing we or anybody can do about it except invoke even more God and "confront the difficult problems" above. So, no, nothing about actual public policy; about gun violence as a safety or public health issue, economic or regulatory problem; about the success of a murderous industry or the power of the gun manufacturers and their stooges, the National Rifle Association, or the good work of the Brady Campaign; none of that.  Or of Gabby Giffords, his House colleague.

There's more. My editor suggested sharing the entire letter. I'll spare you that and conclude instead with a Campbellian doozy:  "Societal norms, which in the past would have restrained such an extreme level of reactive behavior, seem to no longer exist." Norms? Norms is a coffee shop, thank you. Societal norms might once have required an elected 
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Condition Seven
official to seriously address an urgent problem of powerful and well-funded and organized violence-pimps bullying the rest of us. Societal norms might have demanded that a representative of our health and safety speak out against gun thugs. Societal norms might anticipate a constituency calling a silly and hypocritical elected official on his failure to act on their behalf to save lives.  Just sayin', as they say on FOX News.

My composition students in Writing 39 C, "Argument and Research," will have a jolly time this week assessing Campbell's profound misunderstanding of the "rhetorical situation," his totally inappropriate tone, his total lack of evidence, his lack of citation or appeals based on credibility or fact, not to mention failing to construct an actual argument. If he were a student in my class, he'd fail. 

Representative John Campbell
20 Pacifica, Suite 660
Irvine  CA  92618
(949) 756-2244

Andrew Tonkovich hosts the Wednesday-night, literary-arts program Bibliocracy Radio on KPKF-FM 90.7 in Southern California.

Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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24 comments
Mitchell_Young
Mitchell_Young topcommenter

" a gorgeous 1938 Works Progress Administration complex bearing the unshy motto"

It's actually rather fascist looking -- exactly like buildings in Berlin, or London -- of that era. Then again, Fascists really did have good aesthetic sense. 

shantih
shantih

Comrade @unabauer : You're laboring under the false assumption that I'm making an argument.  I'm not.  I'm reviewing this pitiful excuse for an article on purely stylistic grounds.  I'm making fun of poor  Tonkavich for his threadbare pretensions to argument, mainly because he clearly doesn't know what one is, but approves of the general idea of making one when the opportunity arises.  

You've got a similar issue: you tend to argue against your own, conveniently weak versions of your opponents' arguments.  Limiting the scope of one's conclusions is a fairly important element of successful argumentation, as you certainly know.  Drawing unwarranted, i.e. overly broad conclusions leaves one vulnerable.  Where Campbell limits his scope, however, you're happy to expand it and then noisily claim victory.  

Whatever. 

unabauer
unabauer

Campbell refers to three distinct proposals in response to recent extreme gun violence: (1) “increased gun control legislation”; (2) “increased mental health funding and reporting”; and (3) “armed guards in schools.”

I agree with his rejection of the 3rd proposal. I’ll focus on the other two: “increased gun control” and “increased mental health funding and reporting.”

Campbell rejects these proposals, evidently because they only deal with “the symptoms rather than the causes of such violence.” That’s a murky claim. It produces a cloud of smoke in which he hides his failure to have anything helpful to say.

Campbell’s case against “gun control” and improved mental health detection/services is marred by “straw man” reasoning. Proponents do not suppose that “the cause” of gun violence is the availability of guns and weaknesses in our mental health services. Those who advocate stronger gun control assume that, where people are disposed to violence, easy gun availability is unwise, whatever the cause of those dispositions might be. And, again, those who advocate improving mental health services (etc.) do not argue that poor services “cause” the violence; rather, they argue that improved services would detect and possibly divert mental health problems that lead to violence, whatever the cause of those mental health problems.

Campbell notes that, “as gun control has increased, so has gun violence.” In truth, this factoid does not imply that gun control is bad policy, since, obviously, matters might have become worse than they have in fact become absent the feeble gun control that has been enacted.

Campbell suggests that gun control is actually counterproductive, but, here, he plays games. Despite declaring that he will not argue the point, he then does so, noting that “statistics” support his conclusion. But he fails to cite any statistics.

According to Campbell, “the real problem here is that there is something societal going on.” Just who would disagree with the thesis that “something societal” is going on and that, no doubt, the roots of American violence go deep?

According to Campbell, something “new” has happened: “What is new … is that societal norms which in the past would have restrained such an extreme level of reactive behavior seem to no longer exist.”

Plainly, those norms still exist. His point, I suppose, is that, though they exist, they are less successful than previously in restraining some people from violence. First, an increase in violence does not establish that point, since the population has grown, making an increase in violence likely, apart from any new causes, but I am nevertheless willing to grant it. That these “norms” have undergone this change is consistent, of course, with the thesis that, given the presence of people disposed to violence, making firearms readily available is unwise. And it is consistent with the thesis that, given the presence of mentally ill people disposed to violence, improving mental health detection and services is wise.

As for Congressman Campbell’s assertion that “mass killers…are unhappy people who are mad at the world and/or blame specific individuals for their lot in life”—that seems plausible, I suppose, but it leaves untouched the wisdom of gun control and improved medical health services proposals. That these people blame and are angry at others does not mean that they are not mentally ill or that it would not be unwise to make firearms less available to them.

Campbell lists six “societal problems” that are the (real? ultimate?) cause of violence: (1) The "Me" Society, (2) The Irresponsible Society, (3) The Secular Society, (4) The Non-Family Society, (5) The "Just Win Baby" Society, and (6) The Violence Society. (One might note that, much of the time, Campbell’s own party seems to be particularly enthusiastic about these “societal problems,” with the exception, I suppose, of #3.)

Two obvious points: First, that these “problems” are the real or ultimate causes of violence in our society (I claim agnosticism about that) simply fails to address the advisability of the “gun control” and “mental health funding” proposals, neither of which claim to address the real or ultimate causes of violence. Two, even if Campbell’s amateur sociology were compelling, it does not entitle him to conclude, as he does, that “There are no laws we can or should pass to deal with these societal problems.” --

Roy Bauer

Logic/Philosophy instructor

unabauer
unabauer

Campbell refers to three distinct proposals in response to recent extreme gun violence: (1) “increased gun control legislation”; (2) “increased mental health funding and reporting”; and (3) “armed guards in schools.”

I agree with his rejection of the 3rd proposal. I’ll focus on the other two: “increased gun control” and “increased mental health funding and reporting.”

Campbell rejects these proposals, evidently because they only deal with “the symptoms rather than the causes of such violence.” That’s a murky claim. It produces a cloud of smoke in which he hides his failure to have anything helpful to say.

Campbell’s case against “gun control” and improved mental health detection/services is marred by “straw man” reasoning. Proponents do not suppose that “the cause” of gun violence is the availability of guns and weaknesses in our mental health services. Those who advocate stronger gun control assume that, where people are disposed to violence, easy gun availability is unwise, whatever the cause of those dispositions might be. And, again, those who advocate improving mental health services (etc.) do not argue that poor services “cause” the violence; rather, they argue that improved services would detect and possibly divert mental health problems that lead to violence, whatever the cause of those mental health problems.

Campbell notes that, “as gun control has increased, so has gun violence.” In truth, this factoid does not imply that gun control is bad policy, since, obviously, matters might have become worse than they have in fact become absent the feeble gun control that has been enacted.

Campbell suggests that gun control is actually counterproductive, but, here, he plays games. Despite declaring that he will not argue the point, he then does so, noting that “statistics” support his conclusion. But he fails to cite any statistics.

According to Campbell, “the real problem here is that there is something societal going on.” Just who would disagree with the thesis that “something societal” is going on and that, no doubt, the roots of American violence go deep?

According to Campbell, something “new” has happened: “What is new … is that societal norms which in the past would have restrained such an extreme level of reactive behavior seem to no longer exist.”

Plainly, those norms still exist. His point, I suppose, is that, though they exist, they are less successful than previously in restraining some people from violence. First, an increase in violence does not establish that point, since the population has grown, making an increase in violence likely, apart from any new causes, but I am nevertheless willing to grant it. That these “norms” have undergone this change is consistent, of course, with the thesis that, given the presence of people disposed to violence, making firearms readily available is unwise. And it is consistent with the thesis that, given the presence of mentally ill people disposed to violence, improving mental health detection and services is wise.

As for Congressman Campbell’s assertion that “mass killers…are unhappy people who are mad at the world and/or blame specific individuals for their lot in life”—that seems plausible, I suppose, but it leaves untouched the wisdom of gun control and improved medical health services proposals. That these people blame and are angry at others does not mean that they are not mentally ill or that it would not be unwise to make firearms less available to them.

Campbell lists six “societal problems” that are the (real? ultimate?) cause of violence: (1) The "Me" Society, (2) The Irresponsible Society, (3) The Secular Society, (4) The Non-Family Society, (5) The "Just Win Baby" Society, and (6) The Violence Society. (One might note that, much of the time, Campbell’s own party seems to be particularly enthusiastic about these “societal problems,” with the exception, I suppose, of #3.)

Two obvious points: First, that these “problems” are the real or ultimate causes of violence in our society (I claim agnosticism about that) simply fails to address the advisability of the “gun control” and “mental health funding” proposals, neither of which claim to address the real or ultimate causes of violence. Two, even if Campbell’s amateur sociology were compelling, it does not entitle him to conclude, as he does, that “There are no laws we can or should pass to deal with these societal problems.”

Roy Bauer

Logic/Philosophy instructor

shantih
shantih

Well that was pretty boring.  You wrote a dissertation when you could have just said, "Really, it would be best if you all acknowledged the fact that I'm a better person than the rest of you."


On a separate note, this is OCWeekly, not Buzzfeed.  Posting clip art isn't clever.  It's derivative and sad, and smells faintly of cat urine and loneliness.  

Happy bien pensanting!

atonkovi
atonkovi

You asked for it.  I removed only my home address, and had to cut and paste in two sections.  Knock yourself out.

atonkovi
atonkovi

Far from it, actually. Instead, I think this behavioral shift is a result of an interconnected web of conditions in society that has changed, and is still changing, how we view the world around us and how we react to it. Now, I am no social scientist, but I will offer up six conditions that I believe have changed during my lifetime in the culture of America that are directly contributing to the violence we are witnessing: · The "Me" Society: I grew up in Los Angeles . The freeways were jammed even when I got my drivers' license, but road rage was rare. Today, it is uncommon to not witness road rage on my drive to work. Why? I suggest that this is part of the "me" society and the "me" generation. "My" time is more valuable than anyone else's time. People cut off someone driving a little slower than they with an indignant attitude of, "How dare that person interfere with my valuable mission, which is clearly more important than his or hers?!" Achieving "my" wants is a goal that should not be interrupted by the lesser wants of others. These days, it seems, it is all about "me." If it's all about "me," clearly the person next to me doesn't matter. · The Irresponsible Society: Nothing that goes wrong is our own fault any more. It may be the fault of a teacher, a parent, or maybe an ex-girl or boyfriend. The ads on TV tell me that it's the fault of my employer, or the people who made my soft drink, or someone who assembled my car without a warning. One thing's for sure, it's not "my fault!!" Phil Mickelson was lucky! Steve Jobs "didn't build that," someone else did it and he was just lucky enough to get the credit. I could have been the world's best golfer or have had all kinds of success if "the man" (whoever you believe "the man" to be) hadn't kept me down. Others get success by luck and my failures are their fault. This is increasingly the thinking of a society that continues to diminish the concept of personal responsibility. With this comes the desire for revenge against whomever I deem to have caused my problems - since it clearly wasn't me. · The Secular Society: Regular attendance of church or synagogue has declined in recent decades. Fewer people consider themselves religious. We have removed God from our schools and, increasingly, from all institutions of government. This society based on Judeo-Christian values is becoming less Judeo-Christian. The values, principles and standards of behavior in the Bible can never be replaced by a social studies textbook. Has removing God from so much of our lives today created a nurturing environment for evil to take root? · The Non-Family Society: The much maligned "nuclear family" was not so bad a thing after all. But, whether your family is "nuclear" or otherwise structured, the centrality of the family unit to modern culture has been undoubtedly diminished. Family units are much more likely to break up than ever before with the end result of leaving many people adrift. A village cannot fully replace the emotional support of a family and neither can friends. We should place more value on the family unit and on keeping it together. · The "Just Win Baby" Society: Play harder! Be tougher! Win at all costs! Really? At all costs? Is that what we are about now? The end justifies the means? In the financial world, it seems many play by these rules. But, this mindset is not unique to that world. If it's OK to climb the ladder by stepping on the dreams of others, what else is OK? · The Violence Society: Hollywood , and other purveyors of entertainment, have a profit motive. As such, I often think they do not lead society, but try to reflect it. But, there is no doubt that they have an influence. There is no doubt that the characteristics of TV, movies and song lyrics have changed over the decades. There is much more celebrated and gratuitous violence. In response to the question, "Why does anyone need a gun like that?" I recently heard someone say, "Well, why does anyone need a Quentin Tarantino movie?" Good point. Of course, I am far from a saint. I have grown up in and through these societal changes and have not been unaffected by them. I've made some impolite moves on the road because I thought my time was more important than that of another driver. I've watched and enjoyed some violent movies, and I skipped church for a good decade while I questioned my own faith in a God I could not see. The point of my writing this is not to serve me up as any kind of example. It is to make us all question what we each are doing to contribute to the degradation of our society. And, even more importantly, what can each of us do to fix it? There are no laws we can or should pass to deal with these societal problems. But, we need to have the discussion. We need leadership from a lot more places than Washington in order to deeply examine ourselves and the society we are creating. I am not suggesting that we try to go back to anything. You cannot "go back" nor should you as there are plenty of elements of society 50 years ago to which we do not want to return. But, we should be building a society around respect, personal responsibility, family, faith, and compassion. Indeed, we should begin to start paying attention to how we treat others. Not just how we treat some people. How we treat everyone. I'm not sure we've been doing that over the last few decades. In my view, the confluence of the six societal characteristics that I described above lead to a lot of angry people making rude gestures or using bad words. But, without question, for a few people, this anger drives them to pick up a weapon and use it. As we seek to find and solve the root causes of these tragedies, I am convinced that the true remedies will not come from the top down. We must all engage in this difficult conversation together. I need to hear your thoughts, your ideas, your responses to my questions, and, ultimately, an honest assessment of your own self-examination. There is no quick-fix solution to this terribly complex issue, but I guarantee you that there are answers out there if we have the patience and determination to find them. None of us ever want to again see the faces of tiny children cut down by a maniac. But, the way to prevent these tragedies will not be as simple as passing new legislation. Let us have the courage to confront the much more difficult, but much more substantive problems in society together. May God bless us on that quest as He has long blessed this country. Thank you again for taking  the time to contact me. Having the benefit of your views is important, and I appreciate you sharing them with me.    

I remain respectfully,

JOHN CAMPBELL
Member of Congress

atonkovi
atonkovi

February 28, 2013

Mr. Andrew Tonkovich   Dear Mr. Tonkovich: Thank you for contacting me concerning gun control legislation in response to the horrific killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and other places around the country.  I appreciate hearing from you on this matter. Let me start by joining in the mixture of sorrow, disgust and anguish that is universally felt by all Americans at the recent spate of killings resulting in the deaths of children and students in schools and colleges around the country. The Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy is one that will not, and should not, leave our collective memories for many years. My daily prayers include the families of these young victims. There is no disagreement that such violence is on the increase in our country. There is similarly no dispute that we must have a reasoned and serious debate about its causes and potential solutions. With a few exceptions, the proposals to reduce such violence have been focused on increased gun control legislation. Some have also talked about increased mental health funding and reporting, while others have suggested armed guards in schools as a solution. I believe that these proposals all deal with the symptoms rather than the causes of such violence. Furthermore, I believe that most of these proposals are actually counterproductive in that they distract us from what perhaps are much more difficult and deep-seated issues that we are fearful of or simply unwilling to address. Fifty years ago, there were far fewer gun controls than exist today. Increasingly restrictive gun control legislation has been passed at all levels of government in a continual manner over the last 50 years. But, unfortunately, as gun control has increased, so has gun violence. These sorts of killings did not occur nearly to the degree they do now in the 50s or 60s, when gun control legislation was just beginning to be enacted. Now, I am not going to make the argument that more gun control leads to more gun violence. Many will make this argument legitimately by pointing out that gun control disarms law-abiding citizens while those who desire to commit murder (which is, by the way, illegal) are not bothered by breaking gun laws to do so. Thereby, the lawless can be more reckless knowing that the lawful will be unarmed. This argument has standing and certainly the statistics support this conclusion. But, as I said, I will leave that argument for others to make. So, there is no record of gun control in this country resulting in less gun violence. As far as the other commonly mentioned "solutions" to this growing problem, mental health restrictions have their own issues - which I won't get into in detail here. And, if we are going to have armed guards in all schools, why stop there? What about movie theaters? Or shopping centers? Or any other place where a number of people gather? A society where we have a policeman on every block is not a society that any of us should want to approach. In my humble opinion, the real problem here is that there is something societal going on. Something that may not have anything to do with laws at all, but with changes in our culture over the last 50 years that have made horrific acts of violence a more commonplace and more acceptable behavior than was ever before the case. Moreover, these acts appear to be more justifiable in the minds of those perpetrating the violence. Mass killers or want-to-be killers are unhappy people who are mad at the world and/or blame specific individuals for their lot in life. This is not new. What is new, however, is that societal norms which in the past would have restrained such an extreme level of reactive behavior seem to no longer exist. What has caused this? I don't think there is any one cause. 

Passerby
Passerby

I disagree with the axioms you use, Mr.  Tonkovich,  as the underpinnings of your  tendentiousness.   It is apparent that you are able only to apply your gimlet eye and reasoning skills in one direction.  But, that is a different argument, and you have no demonstrated facility with those critical reasoning skills needed to come to the conclusion.  You - clearly - just accept premises if you happen to agree with the source.

That is a discussion for another time.

In the here-and-now, Mr. Tonkin, please post the original exchange.  You could ask the Representative for permission, if you deem it necessary.   Given your demonstrable self-congratulatory nature it seems appropriate that the readers to judge for themselves Rep. John Campbell's assessment of, in your words, the "rhetorical situation."  

Certainly, we should be able to gauge for ourselves your assessment of Rep. Campbell's, in your words "epistle."  And whether his tone was "totally inappropriate."  Whether there is a "total lack of evidence." Whether Rep. Campbell's "epistle" lacks "citation" or if he makes "appeals based on credibility or fact." And, lastly, whether or not Rep. Campbell  fails to "construct an actual argument."

Bear in mind, my good UCI Lecturer, that these judgments will be made in comparison to your effort.   

So, when can we - the audience - see this document, this "epistle" that you reviewed?   Or are you in the habit of not allowing people to judge for themselves?

qdpsteve
qdpsteve

Yawn. All that's missing is the obligatory "GOP=nazis" equation. Below is a much better example of political- and public health-related argumentation:


http://blogs.ocweekly.com/stickaforkinit/2012/11/the_case_for_proposition_37.php?page=3


Note the distinct lack of namecalling and partisanship, plus the actual MAKING OF AN ARGUMENT as opposed to just thorwing heaps of ridicule on the opposition. But then, we all know Dave's a secret plant at OCW for the eeeevil Bushies and Rupert Murdoch, right? ;-)

ldalvarez
ldalvarez

@Mitchell_Young Yes, when exactly was fascism in vogue in London during the mid-20th century?  Do tell.  Before or after the blitz?



ldalvarez
ldalvarez

@Mitchell_Young  Interesting critique of mid-century British architectural stylings.  I am unaware of the Brits' embrace of fascism in stone masonry or politics. 

Mitchell_Young
Mitchell_Young topcommenter

@shantih @unabauer Exactly, you can't do this sort of 'Fisking' of an article (or email) without actually publishing the article. 

I sort of feel sorry for Mr. (Dr.?Prof?)Tonkovich. But I truly feel sorry for the kids that are learning 'English Composition' from him.

unabauer
unabauer

@shantih @unabauer "Comrade"? Learn some logic, my friend. Start with the fallacies (i.e., avoiding them), especially ad hominem. Here's some basic logic for you: people who make bold or controversial assertions--like you, like Campbell--are obliged to back them with good reasons.

Tonkovich wrote his Congressman about policies to address gun violence. Campbell wrote back, rejecting the two proposals Tonkovich and others feel that he should endorse. Campbell backed up that rejection with bad reasoning and an odd bit of sociology that supposedly identifies the ultimate causes of gun violence, without explaining how any of this addresses the suggestion that, where there are mentally ill people disposed to violence, efforts should be made to detect them and to keep guns away from them. Campbell clearly fails to support his thesis. OK? It ain't rocket science.

And really: learn about "ad hominem." You clearly don't get it.

shantih
shantih

@unabauerStraw Man 1: "First, that these “problems” are the real or ultimate causes of violence in our society..."

 Straw Man 2: "...Campbell’s amateur sociology were compelling, it does not entitle him to conclude, as he does, that 'There are no laws we can or should pass to deal with these societal problems.'”

 Mr. Bauer, I assume you're familiar with the concept of burden of proof.  It's not Campbell's responsibility to offer a definitive argument against gun control's effectiveness.  On the contrary, as you well know, it's the responsibility of gun control proponents to offer a definitive argument for gun control's effectiveness.  So far, they've utterly failed to do so.   Straw-manning Campbell doesn't count, I'm afraid.

atonkovi
atonkovi

@qdpsteve I make a clear argument.  Campbell responds to a constituent asking for action in terms of public policy regarding guns, gun control, public safety.  His answer?  A cliche-ridden self-help faux sociology rap which, had I been even funnier than I already am, I might have linked to the odious Highly Effective People-type books.  

unabauer
unabauer

@shantih @unabauerNonsense. Campbell unmistakably argues that “there are no laws we can or should pass” to deal with the violence and that the “gun control” and “mental health funding” proposals should be rejected. Obviously, he has the burden of proving what he claims to prove.

shantih
shantih

@atonkovi @qdpsteve I'm not sure you understand what an argument actually is.  You spend the entire article straw-manning, appealing to authority, and begging the question.  It's primarily a self-congratulatory recapitulation of a form letter, with a few gratuitous swipes at the religious, gun-thugs (no imprecise terminology here! lol), and Fox News.  

 I can't imagine what you think you contribute to your students' ability to argue and research.  I'm doing you a favor in telling you this.  You're a deeply boring, intellectually constipated man, Tonkovich.  You've said nothing here that couldn't be found in a few hundred thousand wild-eyed comments on a hundred Huffington Post articles.  Same abject fear of freedom.  Same lurid paranoia.  Same unreasoning, hyperventilating hatred for the Other.  Same sneering condescension hiding a deep-seated consciousness of inferiority.  What a hell you must inhabit, never deviating from the Party Line.

In all honesty, the only differences I can spot between you and the average Huffer are your use of bigger words and the pictures of shampoo bottles.  Neither of these elements, incidentally, mitigate the Ambien-like effects of reading your work.  God Almighty.

unabauer
unabauer

@shantih @unabauer At the start of his letter, Campbell clearly implies that we should reject (1) gun control and (2) improving mental health services (among other proposals). He rejects these proposals on the grounds that they do not deal with the ultimate causes of violence, despite the fact that neither proposal claims to address ultimate causes. Again, even if Campbell's later identification of these causes were compelling, he is not warranted, logically, in concluding that we should reject the gun control and improved mental health services proposals. And so he offers a thesis and then fails to back it up. You're missing the obvious and playing rhetorical games. You need to begin to read more carefully and to reason more honestly.

shantih
shantih

@unabauer@shantihYou're intentionally misquoting Campbell.  Why not include the rest of the sentence?  "There are no laws we can or should pass TO DEAL WITH THESE SOCIETAL PROBLEMS."  

 In other words, Campbell is a libertarian-leaning conservative, not a social conservative.  The Six Big Societal Problems he addresses are what is outside the reach of legislation.  This is obvious from his use of the phrase "THESE SOCIETAL PROBLEMS."  

 Of course he's mentioned them in the context of gun control, but you're deliberately trying to conflate that with an argument directly against gun control, something it's clearly not meant to be.  Your characterization can be safely ignored as a straw man.

unabauer
unabauer

@shantih @atonkovi @qdpsteve Gosh, you sound like someone who has swallowed a logic textbook--but who has not bothered to read it first. Your comment attacks Tonkovich, disregarding his points and arguments. Upchuck that logic book and look up "ad hominem." You'll find it under the heading: "fallacies of irrelevance."

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