A current, virally popular Internet meme template is “Woman Yelling At A Cat,” which depicts Real Housewife of Beverly Hills Taylor Armstrong crying and pointing at a smug-looking (aren’t they all?) white cat, with a caption that mocks the woman for reading or getting something wrong. Google “woman yelling at a cat meme,” and much merriment will be had.

One particularly bizarre one, shared to the right, mocks a Huffington Post lament about the availability of “Military-Grade Night Vision Gear” to civilians. Curious, I searched out the original article. It starts out with some possibly-legitimate narrative about technology exports, but veers into expected banalities about “not the tool of sportsmen” and mass shootings. The writer, again as expected given the political leanings of HuffPo, lamented the lack of regulation of such products. That the site would devote space to this should not surprise us, and the reason for that non-surprise lies in a troubling truth about leftist thinking.

Two social media comments stood out for me. The first,

Military grade sounds great… unless you’ve been in the military.

points out two matters: the use of “military grade” as a fear-inducer, and the oft-mistaken belief that “military grade” means “super-duper,”

The second,

“We don’t know what this stuff is, so we think it should be banned!” -Every leftist news source,

goes to the crux of progressive philosophy – a crux I’ve rephrased as:

I don’t understand it, therefore it scares me, therefore you can’t have it.

This is especially true of all things firearms-related. Spend any time talking gun politics, and you will come to an inevitable conclusion: that the LARGE majority of gun-banners are horrifically ignorant when it comes to guns. It also extends into countless other areas of (current and potential) public policy: GMO crops, vaccines, agricultural chemicals, artificial intelligence, single-use plastic consumer goods, and nuclear power, just to name a few.

Putting forth public policy proposals when one’s opinion is rooted in ignorance (or with political slant that ignores basic facts) is not just unfortunate, it is arrogant. If you are making demands that affect the freedom of other people to own or do stuff, it should be incumbent on you to have a working knowledge of the subject. Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to believe that our opinions are of value apart from facts. Or, worse, if they’re rooted in falsehoods, if those opinions are “truthy” or feel intuitively correct to us. Spend any time arguing on the internet, and you’ll discover how incredibly difficult it is to break an opinion that runs contrary to facts, no matter how many facts or how much logic you present.

If such opinions were merely individual wallowing in blissful ignorance, we could ignore them. But, ignorance –> fear –> bans is not something we can ignore, because it affects us. It is the mindset behind that chain that’s taking over our society. Policy born of fear-based ignorance is all too common, and it’s getting worse. Because of social media and the Internet, more and more people grow used to the notion that their half-baked opinions carry weight, are worth sharing, and demand heeding.

I come back to my oft-cited quote by Harlan Ellison:

We are not entitled to our opinions; we are entitled to our informed opinions. Without research, without background, without understanding, it’s nothing.

If you don’t understand something, how can you justify your demand that it be banned?

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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