Smart Guns, the NRA, and What We Really Can Agree On

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I saw this article yesterday about how an 18-year-old may have created the “world’s Capturesafest gun” and it struck me as particularly strange.  Basically, Kai Kloepfer is developing a gun with “an advanced fingerprint sensor that’s outfitted on the grip of a gun.”  It scans the user’s fingerprint and won’t fire unless there is a match to the owner of the gun.

There are two reasons why this article was odd to me.  First, and I don’t want to take any credit away from Kloepfer who is obviously a very smart and dedicated inventor, but this idea isn’t at all new.  “Smart Guns,” as they are known, have been in development since the late 90s.  This is a new twist as others have used radio technology, magnetic spectrum tags, etc. but the concept is very similar; link the gun to a particular person somehow and only allow it to fire if that person is holding it.

Much more strange, though, was the opening of the article:

To say that gun control is a complex topic in American culture is a massive understatement, but there’s one point we can probably all agree on: Fatal accidents involving firearms are heartbreaking tragedies and any measure we can take to try to reduce or eliminate them is something we as a society need to consider. That said, 18 year-old Kai Kloepfer has a plan that could help end them for good.

Sadly this is not a point we can “probably all agree on.”  The National Rifle Association (NRA) has been fighting smart gun technology since the beginning.  Some doubt the reliability of the technology.  Would it really work in an emergency… and what if it fails?  However, the objection from the NRA appears to be much broader than the reliability issue.  To quote the NRA-Institute for Legislative Action:

NRA does not oppose new technological developments in firearms; however, we are opposed to government mandates that require the use of expensive, unreliable features, such as grips that would read your fingerprints before the gun will fire.  And NRA recognizes that the “smart guns” issue clearly has the potential to mesh with the anti-gunner’s agenda, opening the door to a ban on all guns that do not possess the government-required technology.

In other words, the development of such guns might lead to laws that regulate the sale of guns and they won’t stand for that.  They’re worried about the slippery slope that might lead up to the slippery slope.

In fact, Katie Trumbly of Highbrow Magazine argues that the NRA is actively working to prevent the sale of smart guns because of a particular law in New Jersey (New Jersey Law S1223).  The law has been on the books since 2002 and “would require all handguns sold in New Jersey to be childproofed within three years of the state Attorney General determining that childproof handguns are available for the consumer market.”  In other words, within three years of smart guns becoming available for sale in the U.S., only smart guns could legally be sold in New Jersey.  Trumbly suggests that the NRA is actively working to suppress the development of smart gun technology and sale of smart guns to prevent this law from taking effect.

To get back to my original point, we need to be honest about goals and what we can agree on.  We can’t grant the premise that the NRA actually cares about reducing fatal accidents involving firearms.  We simply have no evidence for that.  And even if they do care, the evidence we have clearly tells us that they don’t care nearly as much about safety as they do suppressing gun regulation.

By Ryan Martin

On Being Hangry

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We’ve all been there. We haven’t eaten all day, so we try and grab a quick bite only to find out there’s a wait at our favorite restaurant. BAM, we snap.

Jimmy Johns

YOU’RE DEAD TO ME, JIMMY JOHNS!

You’ve been struck by “hanger,” the combination of hunger and anger, an insidious little monster that works its way into our lives and destroys relationships with both our loved ones…

Capture

and our favorite fast-food employees.

Mcdonalds

YES I WANT FRIES WITH THAT!

No one should be surprised by the existence of hanger. In fact, we should be surprised that we took so long to come up with a word for it.

IMG_4334

COME ON!

We recognize hanger in kids with no problem. In fact, a cursory glance at most parenting books will tell you that the vast majority of child crabbiness is explained by sleeplessness, hunger, or both.

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So what causes hangriness? Well, unlike shark anger, which remains a mystery despite my efforts, scientists actually know the answer to this one.

Here’s the key. Comparatively, food is fairly important when it comes to sustaining human life. We don’t live very long if we don’t eat, so our evolutionary history has provided us with a fairly simple set of eating reminders (stomach contractions and growling, low energy, difficulty concentrating, headaches, etc.). These reminders get more extreme the longer we go without food and feeling cranky, irritated, or frustrated falls in that moderate to severe food deprivation range.

2797109-hulk_marvel_4

Don’t Make Me Hangry…. You Won’t Like Me When I’m Hangry.

More specifically, it has to do with blood sugar. When our blood sugar gets too low, we get anxious, uncomfortable, and irritable. Ultimately, glucose helps regulate self-control in the brain. Without it, we have a more difficult time controlling our emotions and behaviors.

This means that hunger affects anger on both the front end and the back end of the experience. People get angry when they appraise a situation as unfair or unpleasant. They get even angrier, though, when they’re in a negative state (tense, anxious, hungry, etc.) right before the unfair or unpleasant event (the front end). But, since glucose helps us regulate our behavior, hunger also makes it harder for us to control that anger, and we’re more likely to lash out (the back end).

bill-oreilly-angry-pointing

Can someone get Bill a sandwich or something?

So, can we avoid it? Yes, by eating.

Maya Cooper Michele Perchonok

I’ve cured hunger!

If you’re looking for more than that, here are some helpful resources.

If none of those work, though, there’s always this:

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Psychology Today: Opportunities to Feel

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tumblr_m1p3j9qln51qa5woeThis morning, before I had my first sip of coffee, I had learned the following: (1) my friends’ daughter was sick, (2) another friend, more distant, was pregnant, and (3) that legislators in my state have been embracing all sorts of policies I find harmful. That’s right, within ten minutes of waking up, Facebook had provided me with opportunities to feel sadness, joy, and anger. Contrast that with ten years ago, pre-Facebook, when I would have spent that time… staring out the window, probably. Honestly, what did I do while waiting for my coffee to brew before I had Facebook?

Read at Psychology Today

On Real Life Trolls

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The other night, I was enjoying dinner out with my wife and two young kids. When my wife and youngest son were in the bathroom, the man in the booth behind my son got out of his seat and came toward us. He looked angry and approached us aggressively enough that it made me uncomfortable. I reached out to protect my son when the man stopped and snapped at me, “Tell him to stop kicking the seat!”

I was confused. I hadn’t noticed or heard my son kicking anything so I said, “He’s kicking your seat?”

“Yes! Make him stop,” he snapped back and turned away before I could respond.

So, I said loudly enough for him to hear me (it was a very loud restaurant), “I’m sorry, sir. I’ll make sure he doesn’t do it again.”

No response. He just turned back and glared at me.

I told my son, who was obviously shaken up the exchange, that it was ok but that he needed to be more careful not to kick the seat. A moment later, my wife and youngest son returned from the bathroom. My oldest needed to move so she could get into the booth and, when he did, the man turned back and glared at me again, obviously annoyed with us. I explained the situation to my wife. My son heard me and said, “I’ll get up on my knees so I don’t kick the seat.”

Again, his movement annoyed the man behind him to the point that he glared back at us and this time started kicking our seat hard, over and over again. My wife started to say something to him but I asked her to stop. It seemed he was looking for a fight and I have no interest in such things. I called a waiter over, explained the situation, and asked to be moved to a different seat. The manager came over and took us to another seat. The man just glared at us as we left.

I didn’t want to move. It was inconvenient and unfair. I wasn’t the one being an asshole. Why should I have to move? But, I didn’t trust him. I didn’t like how close he was sitting to my wife and son, and, honestly, he struck me as just horrible enough to hurt a child if he lost his temper again. Getting far away from him was the smart thing to do.

Two quick things about this story before I get to the main point.

One, I put a premium on good behavior from my kids, especially when we are out in public. I have a very high bar for what I expect from them and I don’t hesitate to take them out of a public place if they are misbehaving. Had I known he was kicking the seat, intentionally or unintentionally, I would have stopped him. As big an asshole as this guy was being, I still feel badly that I didn’t notice my son was bothering him earlier.

Two, I’m perfectly willing to grant the premise that this guy was having a really bad day and that this wasn’t reflective of his behavior in general. I realize I only got a glimpse of what kind of person he is and, even though his behavior was deplorable, it may be that he’s normally a very different sort of person. We’ve all had bad moments and I like to imagine that he went home, embarrassed by how he acted, and wishing he could apologize.

I doubt it, though.

I suspect he goes through life looking for things that make him angry. I suspect he goes through life baiting people; trolling in real life. That sort of approach to life tends to work for people in the short term. The other night, he got exactly what he wanted… for us to leave. He threw a fit, and because it was more important to me to keep my family safe than it was to argue with him, he got what he wanted.

What’s interesting is that most people grow out of that sort of thing. As we get older, we stop looking for things that make us mad (or sad or scared) and start to turn our attention to things that make us happy. It’s called socioemotional selectivity (named by Dr. Laura Carstensen out of Stanford) and is rooted in the idea that as we get older, we realize life is short, and that negative emotions aren’t worth it. People shift their attention toward things that make them happy and avoid those things that make them sad, scared, or angry. It’s a mark of healthy emotional development to grow out of looking for things that anger us.

Put another way, if you go through life looking for things that make you mad, you’re going to find them and you’ll spend you entire life angry.

Do Sharks Get Mad?

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In honor of Shark Week, I wanted to tackle the question everyone (ok, just me) is asking. Do sharks get angry? I’ll be the first to admit that this post started as a somewhat desperate attempt at combining my professional passion: anger, with my personal passion: sharks. That said, as I started working on it, I realized that it is actually a much more interesting question than I originally realized (i.e., it’s way more complicated than Jaws 4 made it seem).

Jaws-the-Revenge-movie-posterSharks don’t get mad. They get even.

Here’s why it’s interesting… and complicated. There is no single, universally established, definition of an emotion. Psychologists (to say nothing of the other professionals who have a stake in defining emotion) don’t agree on what an emotion is and certainly haven’t been able to come up with something broad enough to capture all emotions (e.g., anger, sadness, guilt, curiosity) yet exclusive enough to keep out similar but non-emotional states (e.g., thirst, hunger).

A great white shark recently off the coast in MexicoOur inability to define emotions has led to grave difficulties in studying them (or, on a whim, trying to decide if sharks feel them). What most psychologists would tell you, though, is that emotions are psychological states that include physiological arousal, some fairly predictable behaviors, and certain types of cognitions or thoughts. When we are angry, our sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight system) kicks in so our heart-rate increases, our muscles tense up, our hair stands on end, etc. It’s a very similar physiological experience to fear.

In fact, the same structures in the brain that are associated with fear are associated with anger. Most notably, the amygdala, is our brain’s emotional computer. It takes in information from the senses and initiates emotional responses when necessary. Essentially, it tells the rest of the brain, “time to get angry” (or scared, sad, etc.). While it’s particularly relevant with fear (research shows that stimulating it causes a fear response and removing it leads to the absence of fear), it also plays an important role in initiating anger and aggression. Stimulating it can lead to aggressive outbursts and, in the past, amygdalectomies have been used as an approach to dealing with uncontrollable aggression.

Turning now to the shark brain, what we see is that they are relatively similar, structurally, to the human brain (they don’t look at all similar… but they have similar parts).

shark-brainMost importantly with regard to anger is that they do have an amygdala which coordinates their fight or flight response. From a purely physiological perspective, there’s no reason to think they aren’t capable of feeling angry.

With regard to angry behaviors, it becomes more complicated. While humans will engage in all sorts of behaviors when angry, animals tend to just lash out in aggressive ways. Of course, they do that when they are scared too, further complicating things. In humans, we also have the luxury of inferring emotions from facial expressions but this doesn’t get us very far with sharks.

It’s hard to tell this:

weeeeefrom this:

grrrrrrrrrr

Finally, the third part of the angry experience is the cognitions. In people these are thoughts of having been wronged, having our goals blocked, having someone to blame, and believing the situation is unfair. Obviously, the cognitive piece is what’s lacking in sharks. They are not known for being smart (unless you count Deep Blue Sea).

Deep Blue SeeWow, that is deep…

It’s probably unreasonable to say that a shark can feel wronged, unfairly treated, or even have the capacity to blame someone for something. They can have their goals blocked, though, and that can help us answer part of this question.

Infants and toddlers aren’t capable of understanding fairness either but we do know that they still get angry.

photo(1)Enter the frustration-aggression hypothesis, which says that aggression results from having one’s goals blocked. Aggression, a behavior, is not the same as anger, an emotion, but it’s also the primary way that animals will act when they are angry.

Caribbean_reef_sharkThankfully, passive-aggression is rare in sharks

Essentially, when you interfere with what a person or animal really wants, it lashes out. They have studied frustration-aggression with mice, cats, dogs and, of course, humans (but not sharks). With infants, the studies look like this. Something the infant wants is placed where he or she can’t get to it (out of reach, behind glass, etc.). Infant tries to reach it, fails, and they observe how the infant reacts. Infants will do a lot of different things in this situation (cry, scream, move on to something else, etc.) but, sometimes, he or she will lash out by banging a fist or throwing something.

So, what would this study look like in sharks? Well, we would put something the shark wanted in a place it couldn’t get to.

jaws1Like Richard Dreyfuss perhaps

Then we would watch how it reacted.

My grant request for the funds to run this study is still pending.

memorFingers Crossed

On the off chance my funding doesn’t come through, we can turn to some other sources.

Starting with this video here:

1That shark seems angry to me. Part of what we need to discern, though, is whether it’s anger, hunger, or even curiosity.

Same thing here:

2And here:

3Taken together, I’m inclined to believe that, yes, sharks do feel anger. It’s probably not the same sensation of anger that humans feel as, without the intellectual capacity to evaluate and interpret events, it’s likely experienced very differently. However, at the core, anger is a primitive emotional state that likely exists because it provided the evolutionary advantage of energizing creatures to confront abuse or mistreatment. We know other animals experience emotions. Dogs get happy, elephants get sad, birds….

Angry_birds_wallpaper_3

I wonder if they’ve tried meditation….

And recent evidence suggests that animals are even capable of feeling much more complex emotions like jealousy.

So why not sharks?hulk

Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

Understanding the “Drive-By Nasty”

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Last week, I did an interview with Christopher Gabriel on WDAY about online anger (you can hear it here). He asked me, specifically, about some angry tweets that he labeled “drive-by nasties.” These are tweets or Facebook posts where the author doesn’t attempt to have a dialogue or any sort of civil discourse but, rather, just says something cruel or hurtful and disappears.

I took a look today and found a couple of examples (I didn’t have to look very hard).

A tweet about the economy from President Obama was met with this.

Tweet1

A Guardian Facebook post about Hillary Clinton was met with this (note how many times it was “liked” as well).

Facebook1

A Huffington Post Facebook post about Washington state’s new marijuana law that says that you can’t sell anything that may appeal strongly to kids was met with this.

Facebook2

And even a Huffington Post Facebook post with cute pictures of dogs and babies was met with this.

Facebook3

I’ve addressed online anger plenty here but these are particularly interesting because the authors don’t seem to want to have a discussion. In many cases, people responded to these posts but the authors didn’t respond back. It’s not that they were trying to start a fight, necessarily. It’s more that they just want to unload without having to deal with the consequences.

So what are these drive-bys all about?

It seems like there are a couple of thing going on. Obviously, we have people who are angry, judgmental, and disproving. They are upset about something and they want to let the world know about it. That’s actually a lot of people, though, and most of us don’t take to Twitter or Facebook to tell people off and then run away from the conflict that follows. What really stands out here is that they don’t want to be challenged in response. They want to be heard but they don’t want to listen.

I can’t help but wonder if at the root of these is a lack of confidence. They have strong beliefs but don’t really feel comfortable in defending those beliefs. People who feel secure in their positions are willing to stick around and discuss them. It’s likely insecurity that drives people away from the post-comment argument.

It’s unfortunate because social networking provides such great potential to have real conversations about complex issues. It could be (and is) used to bring smart people together from across the globe to discuss and solve problems. We can’t do that, though, if people continue to use it as dumping ground for their disapproval and frustration.

U Mad, BRA? Why we let sports-related anger get the best of us

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It’s a bit of an understatement to say that there are some people across the globe who take their soccer seriously.  This World Cup has given us more than enough examples of fan taking things to a new level.

image

Um….

All joking aside, things have gotten serious in the last few days with threats, violence, and riots.

Let’s start with Juan Zuniga, the Colombian player who injured Brazilian star-player, Neymar.  Even before the 7-1 loss to Germany, Zuniga was getting death threats from Brazilian fans.  In fact, the Colombian Soccer Federation has had to provide him with additional security.

Meanwhile, Brazil broke out into chaos after the loss with fights among fans and riots in multiple locations.  In fact, 12 buses in Sao Paulo were set on fire by angry Brazilian fans after the loss.
image

Likewise, Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, is taking considerable flack for the loss and some believe this will lead to her losing her next election.

Make no mistake about it; this isn’t just one soccer-obsessed country overreacting to the result of a game.  We see this sort of anger elsewhere as well.  The South Korean team was pelted with toffee by angry fans when they returned home and English fans set fire to an Italian flag in response to a loss.

So why does all this happen?  Why to people find them themselves getting too riled up over sports?  After all, it’s only a game, right?

Well, as it turns out, there are several basic psychological phenomena that make anger a likely reaction to disappointing outcomes in sports.

Basking in Reflected Glory: One concept, originally described by Robert Cialdini and relevant to sports viewership, is the tendency of people to bask in the reflected glory (BIRG) of successful others.  You often hear this in the language they use to discuss their favorite team.  Fans respond to victory by saying “we” won, “we” played great, and who do “we” play next.  Even though they themselves have done nothing concrete to have earned the victory, they still see themselves as part of the team and, therefore, partially responsible for the victory.  The tendency to BIRG is even more likely in a county like Brazil that receives so much of its esteem from soccer.

Tension: Once you acknowledge that fans care about the outcome because they identify with the team (i.e., they BIRG), it’s easy to understand the tension that accompanies viewing a sporting event.  This becomes even more true as the stakes get higher.  The more important the game, the greater the tension and, as was discussed under Anger Basics, people experience greater anger in response to negative events if they are already feeling tense or on edge.

Elevated Status and Meaning: It is not uncommon to hear fans describe sporting events as hugely important or even monumental occasions, elevating the status and meaning of the events well beyond their actual implications.  Attaching so much importance to an event will certainly lead to frustration and anger when there is an undesired outcome.  In other words, if someone thinks that watching their team win will be the best thing that ever happened to them, watching them lose will probably feel like the worst thing that has ever happened to them.  It certainly doesn’t help that the Brazilian press has been using words like “catastrophic” and “a historic humiliation” to describe the loss.

Perceptions of Unfairness: It’s easy to find controversy or some reason why the outcome was not fair or deserved. Ambiguous calls by officials, poor play by a player, or poor coaching all fall into the category of reasons why a team “should” have won and otherwise “would” have won.  It all feeds into the feeling that the desired outcome was taken from the fan and gives the fan a specific target to be angry with (e.g., coach, referees). In this case, it’s easy for fans to look at Neymar’s injury as the primary (and unfair) reason for the loss.  Hence, it’s easy to target Zuniga as the offending party.

Secondary Gain: Finally, for some, the outcome of the game has actual consequences.  Typically, these consequences are manufactured by the person ahead of time through gambling, fantasy sports, or even just through banter with a friend who supports the opposition (i.e., “smack talk”).  For such people, the outcome has very real financial or social implications and it is easy to have an emotional reaction to the idea of lost money or damaged pride.

The good news is that no one is doomed to feel angry every time his or her team loses.  There are some fairly simple steps that can be taken to help decrease unwanted feelings of anger.

  1. Keep it in Perspective: It is important, not just during the game but in the time leading up to it, to remember the real implications of things not going the way you want them to.  It may be easier said than done but try to keep in mind what it will really mean if your team loses or wins (i.e., is this really “catastrophic”).
  2. Awareness and Relaxation: Being aware of feelings of tension and anger in the moment and introducing relaxation approaches can be a valuable way to decrease unwanted anger.  Useful relaxation approaches can include deep breathing, counting, progressive muscle relaxing and others.
  3. Limit the Banter: Friendly banter can become unfriendly in a hurry so it’s a good idea to remember not to dish out any more than you can take.  Adding damaged pride to a loss only makes it worse and there’s a good chance that the targets of your excessive smack talk will come back at you when you are down.
  4. Avoidance: Ultimately, it might make sense for people to consider whether or not they want to invite something into their life that makes them so angry.  Watching sports is a choice, even for people who are really passionate about them, and you can choose not to watch if it isn’t healthy for you or the people around you.

By Ryan C. Martin

Note: This is update to a 2011 post, The Inciting World of Sports

It’s Madness All Right….

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Right now, Guns and Ammo is running a March Madness themed ad campaign on its website.

Here’s how it works.  Like the NCAA tournament, there are four divisions: Handguns, Rifles, Modern Sporting Rifles, and Shotguns.  Within each division, there are 16 types of guns listed that face off against one another.  They are seeded.  For instance, in the first round, the “Smith & Wesson M&P 10” is a 1-seed, facing off against the 16th seeded “Salient Arms Tier 1.” (Presumably, the seeds are based on how they did in the regular season?)  Fans vote on their favorite and the winner moves on to the next round until we get to the final and can finally learn the answer to the question we’ve all been waiting for… most popular gun.

I want to mention first that I’ve never seen so many advertisements on one website.  The contest is brought to you Galco Gunleather.  The rifles are brought to you by Burris; handguns by Laserlyte, and so on.  There’s a banner for Smith & Wesson at the top (maybe that’s why they’re a 1-seed), another banner for a thermosight at the bottom, and ads for various magazines on both sides.  It’s almost as though advertisers have found the perfect place to target an overly-devoted and obsessive group of consumers.

Aside from wandering into an advertising nightmare, the entire contest is weird as hell.  Guns are tools.  This is a contest where people go vote for their favorite tool.  I’m pretty sure Bosch isn’t sponsoring a March Madness-themed contest where people vote for their favorite power-drill or sander.  I did go check, though, just to be sure and, no, they’re not.  And if they were, I’m pretty sure no one would go vote because there are very few power-drill enthusiasts out there.

Here’s the thing, though.  It would be less weird for people to go vote on their favorite power tools.  Power tools are not designed with the explicit purpose of killing people like many of these guns.  The Smith & Wesson M&P 10 is designed for “multiple uses” but at least two of those uses, tactical and defensive, include killing people.  I can’t find as much information about the Salient Arms Tier 1 (I’m beginning to understand why it was a 16-seed) but it would appear to have a similar purpose.  What qualities are people voting on?

On top of all that, though, there’s strangeness in the fiery passion with which people are trying to defend their choices.  On Facebook, where the campaign is being advertised, people are taking to the comments to defend their choice and sway others.  Respondents are angry over how few people appreciate their preferred gun.  Some are indignant over even being asked which they prefer, as though they are being forced to decide which child they love most.  How dare you even ask?  These guns are each special in their own way!

I’m not trying to make light of it.  I’ve often found the culture of gun-enthusiasm a bit haunting.  I remember once listening to two kids in the bookstore of an airport arguing over which assault rifle was better, the same way two kids might talk about whether or not Michigan State had a chance to win the east as a 4-seed.  Unlike basketball, though, this isn’t a game.  It simply can’t be healthy to think about guns this way yet, right now, there are tens of thousands of people doing just that and several massive companies making millions by promoting it.

By Ryan C. Martin

Mob Creation

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In the interest of full disclosure, I want to start by saying I have no strong feelings about Duck Dynasty as a show.  Until about three weeks ago, I barely knew what it was.  And now that I do, I still don’t really have any strong feelings other than that Phil Robertson is quite the bigot and appears to have some ridiculous opinions about a great many things.

I do, however, have strong feelings about the online mob that was created in response to his suspension.  As an anger researcher who is particularly interested in the way people express their rage online, I watched with fascination as an angry, online mob gathered their pitchforks  and went after A&E, non-Christians, and liberals.

I watched as Twitter erupted with angry tweets from Duck Dynasty fans.  I watched people I’m friends with on Facebook, who almost never post anything, post article after article in defense of Phil Robertson.

It quickly became about much more than whether or not the show would air or whether or not his comments were appropriate. In reading through the tweets, it was clear that to his fans his suspension was an attack on hunters, the first amendment, and all Christians everywhere.

These memes flooded Twitter in the days after his suspension:

One could, of course, go through and pick these apart, as they all defy basic common sense.  Had liberals really been defending Miley Cyrus?  And were liberals the ones who suspended Robertson?   When were his constitutional rights violated, when did this become about Islam, and are you really comparing the Robertsons to the apostles?

Some of this can be explained by basic social psychology.  When members of any group (in this case, hunters, Christians, conservatives, etc.) feel attacked, they tend to lash out at the perceived attackers.  In this case, the perceived attackers were liberals, A&E and the rest of the media, non-hunters, and non-Christians.  Robertson’s supporters circled the wagons and responded the way groups that feel threatened often do.

But some of this was manufactured and that’s the part that concerns me most.  In the days after Robertson’s comments, the following was said by various Republican leaders across the country:

Former Vice-Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin (December 18th, 2013, via Facebook): “Free speech is an endangered species. Those ‘intolerants’ hatin and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.”

Governor Bobby Jindal (December 19th, 2013, via a statement released by his office): “I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.”

Senator Ted Cruz (December 19th, 2013, via Twitter): “If you believe in free speech or religious liberty, you should be deeply dismayed over treatment of Phil Robertson”

So we have three (and there have been many others) prominent conservatives who are actively working to fuel the fire.  That alone isn’t a problem.  Politicians often try to drum up anger as a way of gaining support (here’s why, by the way).  What is a problem, though, is that they are lying to their followers as they do it.  Robertson’s first amendment rights were absolutely not violated in any way and Palin, Jindal, and Cruz must know that (see here for an explanation of how free speech doesn’t guarantee you a TV show).  I supposed it’s possible their understanding of the first amendment is so limited that they actually think this is a violation of Robertson’s first amendment rights.  But I doubt it.  Their position on this is actually inconsistent with the corporate-personhood cause they have been championing these last years (i.e., if corporations have rights, why doesn’t A&E have the right to suspend an employee for voicing something that may damage the company image).

What’s more likely is that Palin, Jindal, and Cruz knew their supporters would have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea that liberals were attacking the constitution and they deliberately lied to them in order to feed the rage and create a mob.

Such behavior is shameful and dangerous.  To that point, on December 20th, A&E had to increase security at their headquarters due to death threats and “suspicious looking packages” in response to the Robertson suspension.  It’s not fair to suggest a direct link between their comments and these death threats, but it is fair to say that their dishonest comments escalated an already emotionally charged situation.  There are consequences to mob creation.

I’m not asking them to keep quiet.  They have every right to express their opinions on this and anything else.  I’m just asking them to be honest as they do it.  I’m asking them to recognize the responsibility that comes with having so many supporters and not to fan the flames of the online mob with their dishonest rhetoric.

By Ryan C. Martin

If “Hanger” Can be a Thing, Why Not These?

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According to a recent Huffington Post article, 10 Things Hangry People Do, hanger is when people are both hungry and angry.  It seems to lead to all sorts of problems like a need for butter and starch and “chocolate freak-outs.”

It got me thinking, though; why not combine anger with other emotional/cognitive/behavioral states to create more fun new words.  In that spirit, here are a handful of portmanteaus (a word I totally knew on my own and didn’t have to ask my colleagues in the English department about) we should embrace:

  • Temperature Tantrums: An uncontrollable outburst of anger because you are either too hot or too cold.
  • Lustration: Intense sexual desire… for someone who’s just not that into you.
  • Checkoutrage: The frustration from consistently choosing the wrong line at the grocery store.
  • Inferiation: An inaccurate deduction that leads to infuriation.
  • Resetment: The feeling of betrayal and irritation that comes with having to restore your cellphone to factory settings.
  • Madderall: The drug prescribed for people with anger and attention problems.
  • Pollyannoyed: Feeling irritated by another’s joyful outlook on life.

This is intended to be just the start.  Please feel free to add others to the comments below.

By Ryan C. Martin