Amazing Secret Weapon of the Gun Control Movement
computer bulletin boards is permitted for informational purposes
only. Printed here with author permission. Copyright ©1995, 2000
"The metaphor is perhaps one of
man's most fruitful potentialities. Its efficacy
verges on magic." -- Jose Ortega y Gassett
"All perception of truth is the
detection of an analogy." -- Henry David Thoreau
Self-help guru Anthony Robbins often meets with President Bill Clinton.
Robbins and other motivational counselors
like Steven Covey, Werner Erhard (remember
"est"?), et al., should not be taken lightly.
"Many corporations (FedEx, Xerox,
IBM, etc.) swear that they have benefited
from [these] advisers."* Erhard's programs, dating back to the
early 70s, invented phrases like
"paradigm shift" and "making a difference"
-- slogans that are now part of our national vocabulary and consciousness.
A major premise of Erhard's seminars is that "life is (like)
a conversation." If you change the conversation, you change your
life. LIFE IS A CONVERSATION is, of course,
a metaphor. Most of these gurus are
masters of metaphor. I call them "metaphoricians."
What does this have to do with gun
I am going to attempt to introduce a new
way of looking at how we might better
protect our Second Amendment rights. In marketing, "new" usually
means more, better, and different.
I would like to think that my approach is
beyond merely "new." NEW usually means
"changed." But there are many degrees of change. Change can be
cosmetic, or truly profound. Change can be
revolutionary, but even a revolution
might only be the rearrangement of the same old ingredients. However,
TRANSFORMATION is the highest form of change: the ingredients themselves
are transformed, and become something totally different. The caterpillar
becomes a butterfly.
When a transformational idea is first
presented, it may be quickly discounted,
dismissed, or denounced because it is difficult to understand, or
cannot be seen as fitting in to or replacing current ideas and thinking.
Transformational tactics can automatically be rejected because their
applications are not clear, or, more simply, they have just not been
Transformational solutions, especially
when presented to older organizations,
are commonly rejected because they are initially perceived (in
knee jerk fashion) as impractical, taking too long to implement, too
obtuse, or too expensive. We must be
practical and action-oriented; if we can't
sink our teeth into it, we throw it away. Portions of a transformational
idea may be sufficiently familiar to elicit the response, "I
already knew that," or, "Shucks, this is just old stuff in a new
Heavily borrowing from Eastern
philosophy, the gurus of the new transformational
technologies divide human knowledge into three domains. First,
we know what we know (e.g., we know that we know the English language).
Second, we know what we don't know (e.g., we know that we don't
know how to speak Russian). Third, we don't know what we don't know
(e.g., some of us don't know that we don't
know how to speak Russian because the
thought simply never occurred to us).
The gurus assert that in our personal
lifetimes, what we "don't know that we
don't know" actually affects most of the content of our personal
lives. It shapes what we have, what
we do, and what we are -- it largely determines
what happens to us, our personal destiny or fate. In their seminars,
the metaphoricians enable and empower the average person to get his
or her hands on the actual levers and controls of what actually determines
the outcomes of their lives.
A final illustration of resistance to
The Student and the Master were having
tea. The tea was very hot, and they
waited for their cups to cool.
"I am ready for my lesson," the
The Master picked up the tea pot and
began pouring more tea into the Student's
cup. The tea spilled over the rim of the cup and onto the table and
floor. The Master continued pouring!
"Master, what are you doing?"
cried the astonished Student.
"I am showing you that your teacup
is like your mind," the master replied.
"It is already full of ideas and opinions. There is no room for
learning, or information, or the truth."
I will now make my opening assertions:
We are losing our Second Amendment rights
-- and will continue to do so -- primarily
because our opponents are fully exploiting the dynamics of transformational
METAPHORS. It is as if we have been hypnotized without our
knowing it. Like martial arts experts, the anti-gun intellectuals are
turning the energy of our own movements back
If we are unable or unwilling to
understand this brilliant exploitation, we
will ultimately lose our right to keep and bear arms. Our immediate
task must be to comprehend their use of
transformational metaphors, and, hopefully,
to discover or invent new metaphors for our position, and to enroll
METAPHORS WE LIVE BY**, by Professors
Lakoff and Johnson, was a breakthrough
book on this subject. Metaphors are not mere poetical or rhetorical
embellishments, but are part of everyday speech that affect the ways
in which we perceive, think and act.
Reality itself is defined by metaphor!
The authors explain that "The idea
that metaphors can create reality goes against
most traditional views of metaphor. The reason is that metaphor has
traditionally been viewed as a matter of mere language rather than primarily
as a means of structuring our conceptual system and the kinds of everyday
activities we perform. It is reasonable enough to assume that words
alone don't change reality. But changes in our conceptual system DO
CHANGE what is real for us and affect how we
perceive the world and act upon those
Anthony Robbins, Clinton's personal guru,
certainly must have read the above-mentioned
work. In his bestseller, AWAKEN THE GIANT WITHIN***, Robbins
devotes an entire chapter to the transformational power of metaphors.
Robbins asks, "What is a metaphor? Whenever we explain or communicate
a concept by likening it to something else, we are using a metaphor.
The two things may bear little actual resemblance to each other, but
our familiarity with one allows us to gain an understanding of the other.
Metaphors are symbols and, as such, they can create emotional intensity
even more quickly than the traditional words we use. Metaphors can
transform us instantly."
Like Stealth bombers, two major
metaphors have devastated our position. They
(1) GUNS ARE (LIKE) PEOPLE, and
(2) GUNS ARE (LIKE) DISEASE.
Or, guns-are-people, and
Never mind that both metaphors fail basic
tests of logic. These sensational
metaphors are now firmly embedded in the national mind and consciousness.
The effectiveness of a metaphor is not determined by its truth,
accuracy, or even that it is fully understood. An efficacious metaphor
merely requires belief from its adherents.
The term "ASSAULT WEAPON" IS A
I am convinced that Josh Sugarman, the
one-man anti-gun think tank, has fully
utilized transformational technologies. The term "assault
weapon" is based on the metaphor
that guns are like people. Like people, some guns are
more evil than others. The most evil-looking guns are labeled
"assault weapons." Our
opponents said, "Let's at least ban the most evil ones" --
and, presto, we got hit with the 1994 AW
Ban. The anti-gunners instantly enrolled
the general public into the perception that something non-human is
human (or has human characteristics).
Our movement has been decimated from the
fall out from this preemptive blast.
Every day now we hear the term
"gun" violence -- instead of "human" violence).
"Gun violence" is an outrageous metaphor that is largely accepted
and goes without challenge. (We never hear about "car violence"
or "plane violence.")
The transformational metaphor that guns
are (like) germs has created a national
gestalt allowing guns to be addressed as a public health issue by misguided
medical professionals. The tax-funded Center for Disease Control (CDC)
pretends to treat the "gun violence epidemic."
These new mainstream metaphors,
reinforced by a sympathetic liberal media, have
gone far beyond merely reframing the gun debate. They have created the
grounding itself for the debate. They have TRANSFORMED the playing field!
We find ourselves being relentlessly
battered, all the while trapped inside
the major metaphorical cages created by our opponents. We are forced
to use their weapons on their field, but their weapons were designed
only to be used on us! Because we are imprisoned in their metaphorical
cages, every time we speak and use their terms -- on their battlefield
-- we can only shoot ourselves in our collective foot! We only add
mass and density to their original metaphor.
When our side is not suicidally
reiterating the same metaphors as our opponents,
we usually revert by default to our worn-out but familiar BATTLEFIELD,
MILITARY, or WAR metaphors. We "stand guard," we
"fight" for the Second
Amendment, we try to "shoot down" their arguments, and we
develop new "strategies."
Unfortunately, many people are offended by military
terms. The WAR metaphor often limits us to defensive language, postures
and strategies. Trapped in our own old metaphor, we are often helplessly
reactive instead of being proactive.
And so long as we remain imprisoned in
the metaphors invented by our opponents,
all we can do is chatter helplessly amongst ourselves in the belly
of the anti-gun whale.
One example of a more practical and
powerful metaphor for our side -- and one
that must be stressed and further developed -- is the GUN RIGHTS ARE
CIVIL RIGHTS metaphor. Or, most simply, GUNS
ARE RIGHTS. (Guns are the right of
self-preservation, our basic human right to life itself. Our rights
are, of course, everyone's rights -- whether or not some choose not
to own firearms. GUN RIGHTS is a metaphor --
it actually means HUMAN RIGHTS. Often
there are no rights at all for a disarmed population.)
Properly cultivated -- ideas are like
plants, another metaphor! -- the GUNS
ARE RIGHTS metaphor may lead us to new insights and levels of understanding.
I had the following online public dialog (slightly edited here),
in Time Magazine's Forum on AOL, with Richard Duncan, then Executive
Editor of Time Magazine:
JASPAR: Society is not giving us
pro-gunners the protection, status, and
empowerment usually offered to victims who
are denied their civil rights. Gun
owners are clearly losing rights with each new gun law. Society may
have an implicit or hidden list of
"good" victims and "bad" victims. Gunners,
as "bad" victims, are not given
any of the standard entitlements available
to those with victim status. This may be because liberals often
view conservatives as "bad" (e.g., extremists), while conservatives
tend to see liberals as "misinformed."
DUNCAN: Liberals see
conservatives as bad, and conservatives see liberals
as misinformed. Very good. Hence in the
gun debates, the gunners are frantically
trying to correct statistics, bring up yet another example,
demonstrate yet one more misunderstanding of the mechanical arcania
of firearms. And the gun banners don't even want to be educated because
they are convinced regardless of all that information that the real
problem is that the (evil) gunners have hate and violence in their
hearts. Following which a number of gunners can be counted on to make
hateful and violent statements, and a couple of banners will usually
mistake a revolver for a shotgun. And off we go. Gun attitude is
JASPAR: There may be a
congenital predisposition if not an actual undiscovered
gunner (and banner) gene! Gunners are from Mars, Banners are from
Venus. A hopeless dance. How do we deconstruct this ballroom? Using
the secret weapon of transformational metaphor, the gun control movement
has TRANSFORMED the national conversation -- and reality itself --
regarding guns and gun rights.
OUR IMMEDIATE JOB IS TO TRANSFORM THE
CONVERSATION ONCE AGAIN.
In summary, and on a positive note, I
suspect that at least some of our other
current and related problems (e.g., the primary media's bias), will
automatically take care of themselves (the
New Media [internet] is expanding
geometrically). Even though Napoleon received mail every day, he
usually waited a full month before opening it. He felt that most of the
problems described in breathlessly urgent
daily letters tended to be resolved
by the time he got around to opening his mail.
But the anti-gunners' metaphors will not
wait for us. They are already here.
We are IN them. We must acknowledge that our opponents are using much
more effective metaphors than we are currently using. We must see the
almost complete vulnerability of our present
The logistics and strategies of the
repeal of the AW ban, the right to carry,
and other issues, are probably much less important than the envelope
-- the metaphor! -- in which these issues are displayed and delivered
to us and to the general public.
If we do not immediately develop and
implement new metaphors for our cause,
we will continue to be USED -- and gunned down! -- by our opponents'
masterful manipulation of metaphor-bullets!
Hopefully, this brief essay has moved
some of us from the domain of "we don't
know what we don't know" to the domain of "we NOW know what we
didn't know that we didn't know." The
new technology of transformational metaphors
profoundly affects our perceptions, ideas, attitudes, arguments, personal
lives, our rights, and reality itself.
The discovery, invention and use of
transformational metaphors by our side will
put us solidly in the domain of "we know what we know" regarding
metaphors. This is the place we must be.
Succeeding, like winning, is always an
ongoing process. Winning is never final,
and there is no permanent condition of "success." We all know
well that our vigilance must be
eternal. But our present vigilance must shift swiftly
into this new, all-powerful domain of knowledge. It is the place where
we are now fighting, if only we can be taught to see it. It is a frightening
place that we have not chosen for ourselves, and we continue to
suffer critical losses.
Like it or not, it is the place where the
coming major battles will be fought.
It is a new and unfamiliar terrain. We need new maps, and we need them
Or we are going to lose the war.
* U.S. News & World Report, (Jan. 23,
1995). p. 19.
** George Lakoff and Mark Johnson,
"Metaphors We Live By," University of Chicago
Press, 1980 (paperback)., pp. 145-46. Amazingly, the authors devote
about a dozen pages on the idea of GUNS AS METAPHOR! No doubt our opponents
read this book!
*** Anthony Robbins, "Awaken the
Giant Within," Summit Books, 1991, pp. 237-256.
Reproduction on computer bulletin boards
is permitted for informational purposes
only. Printed here with author permission. Copyright © 1995, 2000 by JASPAR@aol.com
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