Limiting the Spectrum of Acceptable Opinions

The longer this gun control debate rages on the more I’m reminded of Noam Chomsky’s quote, “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” Currently the gun control debate seems to involve three acceptable opinions: guns are the problem, violent media is the problem, or mental health is the problem. During its press conference the National Rifle Association (NRA) moved to pin blame for mass shootings on violent media and the mentally ill. John Riccitiello, the head of Electronic Arts, recently made a statement opposing the idea that violent video games lead to real violence. Advocates of gun control state that addressing the mental health issue isn’t enough. What’s interesting is that each faction seems to agree on one thing, the state needs to control something more.

Those who believe guns are the problem are advocating for stricter state control over guns and gun owners. People who believe mental illness is the problem are advocating for stricter state control over the mentally ill. The final group, those who believe violent media is the problem, are advocating for stricter state control over video games and other media. All three factions are holding a very lively debate within a very narrow spectrum. It seems that the only acceptable opinion is that the state must get involved and the only disagreement is how the state should get involved. The conversation has been controlled in such a way that no matter what the result is the state will increase its power. So thorough is this control that all three sides seem poised to attack anybody with an opinion that falls outside of the narrow spectrum. Those of us outside of the spectrum are told we’re crazy, our ideas are unworkable, and that we’re not helping.

If nothing else I believe this gun control debate has shown us how pervasive the state’s influence over our lives truly is.