Earlier this week, the pro-gun blog Guns America sent out an email alerting the firearms and ammunition community that there are “anti-gun trolls” lurking on pro-Second Amendment forums and gun blogs with a clear cut agenda: provoke gun owners into making themselves look bad.
“The anti-gunners have a plan, and that plan is to make gun people look stupid, heartless, and separate from the values of mainstream America,” Guns America warned in its email.
According to Guns America, these aren’t just random dolts with a simple predilection for stirring the pot, but hired-help serving a larger pro-gun control agenda. Consequently, GA has nicknamed these cave-dwelling contrarians “Bloomberg shills” and has opted to delete any and all comments that contradict or challenge the pro-gun ethos of GA.
“We have ceased to allow any anti-gun comments on our articles. This was a difficult decision, but we only did so after calling out several of the commenters and directly accusing them of being hired Bloomberg shills,” GA explained, noting that the accused never denied the allegation that they were operatives for a pro-gun control outfit.
GA further postulated that gun control organizations are “hiring what are probably unemployed young people in New York City to fish around in pro-2nd Amendment social media to plant seeds of division, trying to hook the emotions of the vulnerable and anti-depressant medicated.”
After pointing to a specific example of suspected trolling related to the recent terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon, GA ended with the following plea to pro-gun social media:
It is your choice how you treat and respond to anti-gun comments in a pro-2nd Amendment environment here on the Internet. Please just be aware that these Bloomberg shills are lurking in your comments and on your boards, and that this is most likely only one of what will be many attempts to make 2nd Amendment defenders appear to have different ideals than mainstream America.
For starters, Guns.com totally appreciates where GA is coming from. There are trolls out there. There are individuals who want to get the goat of the gun community while in the process making gun owners appear like zealots, radicals, antediluvian reactionaries, etc.
However, aside for the deletion and censorship of certain inflammatory racial slurs or threats of violence which crop up on rare occasions, Guns.com does not believe in censorship or trying to protect gun owners from themselves. To quote Associate Justice Potter Stewart, “Censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.”
Yes, there are trolls scouring the Internet angling to prey upon the fears and prejudices of those who are easily rattled. But there are also knuckleheads within the gun community who will, regardless of the presence of trolls, say something stupid that will impugn or undermine the reputation of all gun owners. It happens. It’s unavoidable.
Therefore, we’ve found that the best way to defeat trolling or to deal with — let’s call it what it is — stupidity is to do the exact opposite of what GA is suggesting. That is, create a forum where there is critical discourse and the free exchange of ideas. This, in turns, fosters an environment where community policing becomes the norm because there’s no Big Brother monitoring the discussion. Participants feel compelled to act, to hold others accountable, to keep one another in check for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do.
From our experience, if there’s a troll or if someone says something dumb or radical in reaction to a troll, 9 out of 10 times they both get called out for being stupid. It’s a beautiful thing. And when it happens it illuminates the true mores of the gun community.
As John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty, 1859:
The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
Perhaps a little lofty for a Friday.
In any event, what are your thoughts? Should the Guns.com staff take a more active roll in censoring anti-gun comments on our forums and articles?