Due to technical difficulties with my ISP this is arriving a day later than normal. My apologies for that delay.
Welcome to the fourth issue of The Outsider Perspective, brought to you by The Beltway Outsiders.
For those new this week, the previous issues are up on the website right now. Please feel free to forward this to friends and family. It’s the only way these types of newsletters grow. If you received this as a forward, please sign up here and welcome aboard! Today I’ll cover some of the new columns on the site, go into some analysis of stories and themes this week, and then hit the links for the week.
This week I wrote two pieces on the tragic jihadist terrorist attack in Orlando. In the first column I write about watching the horrific story develop over the day. The Orlando attack began at 2 am eastern time in the US. Most of the early coverage overseas, particularly from the BBC, covered it as America’s Bataclan, the ISIS terrorist attacks in Paris, France. When the American media began coverage that morning, they immediately flipped the coverage to a gun control problem. This allowed a number of myths and false narratives to pop up and dominate the news, which I cover and debunk in my second piece.
The disturbing trend with Orlando is the Democratic Party is using gun control to prevent an honest discussion of the ISIS problem in America. I’m going to touch on some of those issues here today. First, ideas in political discourse and why “radical Islamists” matter. Second, the uselessness of the no-fly list in preventing gun sales. Finally, I’ll look at the assault weapons ban and why it is a useless policy. As always, links after the analysis.
1. Ideas have power and consequences – we must engage them to defeat ISIS
One word is continually used when describing ISIS/ISIL/Daesh: metastasizing. They are a problem that is not shrinking. The Obama administration uses a drone strike strategy to cut off the snake’s head, striking ISIS leadership. The presumption is, like al-Qaeda, you can knock the snake’s head off and reduce the rest of the organization to rubble. This strategy might leave ISIS less organized on the ground in Syria and Iraq, but that misunderstands the goal of ISIS. While they certainly want to develop a “country” in the Middle East, they also seek to radicalize Muslims in other countries to attack those countries. It is this second point that happened in Orlando and San Bernardino: self-radicalization. The Obama administration shows great anger and disgust when people challenge them on not calling the problem what is: radicalized Islamists. Clinton and Obama say it doesn’t matter what the problem is called, there is no magic word. The problem is this: ideas have consequences and by refusing to confront these ideas, Obama and Clinton allows those ideas to metastasize further.
We aren’t at war against just a group of guerrilla fighters. The President calls them a radical nihilist organization. An organization with a radical belief in… nothing. And then says “we don’t know the motivations of the terrorist nightclub shooter.” This is dangerously out of touch with reality. ISIS as a group has a set of beliefs they’re using to recruit, proselytize, and brainwash new jihadists. New ISIS recruits aren’t being born into the group, they’re recruited via social media. ISIS relies on ideas being transmitted to grow. Their idea is a form of radicalized Islam used to convince others to kill others and themselves for the cause. Nor is ISIS radically opposed to all forms of authority, they seek to impose their own iron rule. Suicide attackers aren’t nihilist or mere military operators; they are true believers in a movement attacking society. You don’t convince someone to kill others or themselves with nihilism, you use ideas. We know the motivations of the Orlando terrorist: he was a radicalized jihadist fulfilling an ISIS worldview.
We are at war with an idea. This is not the first time this has happened. The West, and America, have been in wars of ideas for nearly our entire existence. The Revolutionary War was over our independence and right to rule ourselves. The Civil War was whether or not slavery would be legal. WWII was about stopping authoritarian Nazism. The Cold War was entirely over the differences between Capitalism and Communism. Go look at the Russian propaganda. They saw themselves at war not just at war with America, but with American ideals. ISIS follows this pattern. They are convincing people to convert tp radicalized jihadist ideas. When the President refuses to say radical Islam or acknowledge the war of ideas, he’s refusing to face reality. This isn’t PC run amok, it’s a vastly inaccurate view of the world. This isn’t a war against a religion, it’s a war against a specific set of radicalized ideas. When the President bans terms like jihadist from intelligence briefings, he’s refusing to see reality and living in an echo chamber.
Ben Rhodes may laugh about his self-created echo chamber, but the administration is the one in an echo chamber. That echo chamber is blaming gun control and refusing to acknowledge what is murdering innocent Americans. We’re fighting an asymmetrical war against a group seeking to turn American citizens against their country. Since 9/11, we‘ve seen 86 plots or attacks on American soil, Orlando marked the 22nd since the start of 2015. Of the 11 successful attacks on American soil, 5 have come in the last 12 months. People are being swayed by ISIS ideology. Not many. But enough to cause damage. Al-Qaeda made large attacks. We can stop those by protecting hard targets. ISIS has set out to attack America’s heart, by attacking soft targets. That requires a different strategy. We cannot back away from this war or its ideas. We must confront both to survive. Pretending this is a gun control issue is dangerous.
2. Gun bans based on the “terrorist watch list” (no-fly list) are unconstitutional
Democrats are doubling down on pushing a bill that would deny people the ability to purchase guns if they are listed on the terrorist watch list (no-fly list). Even if a person was removed from the list, Democrats want a 5 year buffer where you can still be denied a weapon for 5 years after being removed from the list.
I expect the bill to be voted down. Not because the NRA is paying off people. But because the law is unconstitutional.
Here’s the logic of that law: if the FBI places you on that list, the government can deny you fundamental rights without due process of law. The list is not created based on having probable cause to arrest. Oftentimes, it’s either a mistake (most people on there shouldn’t be) or because the government cannot prove a person is a potential terrorist. In other words, the government can’t prove everyone on the list is a terrorist. Nor have all the people on there committed crimes at all. And, contrary to what the President says, visiting an ISIS website does not mean you lose fundamental rights as an American. Visiting a website or even talking about ISIS propaganda is not enough to deprive due process rights.
If the government denies you the right to purchase a gun based purely on that list, they’re saying they can deny a fundamental right without due process. That is unconstitutional.
An analogy would be this: police in NYC preventing people from purchasing guns who have ever been stopped and frisked, for any reason, and no charges were filed. The mere act having been stopped and frisked would be considered enough to deprive a person of a fundamental right (and given NYC’s history, they used racial profiling). That’s unconstitutional. It’s also the same logic in this bill.
The FBI has a long history of keeping lists. Pretty much the entire Civil Rights movement was on FBI lists. Martin Luther King Jr. was infamously turned down for a gun permit by Southern whites because they didn’t trust a black man with a gun. Under Democratic Party logic, these people should be denied 2nd (gun) and 5th (due process) amendment rights purely because they are potential suspects on a list. Government power has never proven trustworthy with hidden lists that are unaccountable. And, if Republicans had announced a similar plan, Democrats would oppose it on the same ground. Here is how you can test this point: If former Vice President Dick Cheney declared he wanted to start a hidden list of Americans, these Americans could be denied due process rights due to their inclusion on the list, no one on the list would know until they tried to use their rights, and the list had no accountability, would the Democrats support this measure? The answer is a resounding no.
The short version of the story is this: the government cannot deprive a person of a fundamental right without due process of law. Period. That’s not the NRA, that’s the law. And it goes for every right.
3. The Assault Weapons Ban will do nothing to stop terrorism except raise gun prices
The assault weapon ban (AWB) being proposed is, quite simply, useless. Ignoring any Constitutional problems, the AWB is a solution in search of a problem. Guns like the AR-15 are used so infrequently in crimes involving a gun that the FBI does not bother keeping individual statistics on it. AR’s get thrown in a general rifle category which accounts for an incredibly small percentage of gun shootings. It’s so small, that making sweeping policies on it is nonsensical. It shows Democrats are not serious on solving real problems. AR’s are not a problem and there is no evidence they need to be solved. National Review’s editors line up good evidence against the proposal. I’m going to touch on one of them.
The US Justice Department funded a study of the effectiveness of the 1994 Assault Weapon’s ban. You can read it here. That study found that the ban on so-called assault weapons had no measurable effect on crimes involving guns. The only real effect it had was to raise the price of guns. In other words: Democrats are currently pushing a bill they know will have no real effect on any problem in America. It’s political grandstanding and they are not serious about pursuing terrorism. It’s a distraction from their 8 years of failed foreign policy.
Gun bans do not work. They are a political distraction used to cover up the utter failure of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. Gun control allows the media to throw up smoke so the public ignores the main issues in the Orlando shooting.
Must Reads and Quick Slants:
Response to Orlando
The gun control debate
What I’m Reading
Graphic Novel: “Y: The Last Man, Vol 1: Unmanned” by Brian K. Vaughan (no relation to me).
I picked this up after hearing a recommendation for it during a segment of the Federalist Radio Hour. Author Stephen King called it the “Best graphic novel” he had ever read and it won 3 Eisner Awards. So I had high expectations for this graphic novel going into it. Expectations were met and exceeded.
The premise for Y: The Last Man is as follows: something causes every male mammal on earth to all die at once. Every human or mammal with a Y chromosome immediately dies at the same time all across the world. The only two males left are the protagonist Yorick Brown and his pet male monkey. Together they end up setting off on a trip from home, to DC, and across America in search of what caused the death and how to pass that along. The rest of the world is dealing with the dystopian aftermath of all men dying at once at whatever job they were doing.
What I’m listening to
Podcast: The Federalist Radio Hour: “Yuval Levin on a Fragmented Culture and Bipartisan American Nostalgia.”
Great interview with Levin who discusses how modern political parties are pining after a time that is not coming back.
What I’m watching
The Ultimate Slingshot Ride Compilation.
Apparently in Orlando there is a carnival ride called the Slingshot that causes people to either scream for their lives or faint. The fainters are the best. Enjoy.
Thanks for reading!