Tribal Warfare

*DISCLAIMER* This post is a little ranty. It’s not about gear, tactics, or training. 

So it’s a rapidly growing trope that you literally can’t say anything online these days without someone taking offense and/or arguing. Everyone is quick with whatever the epitaph du jour is: “triggered”, “snowflake”, “fudd”, “boomer”, “gamer”, “Timmy”, “pansy”, “coward”, etc. There is rampant tribalism online, both within the ecosystem of gun owners and on social media in general.

The common, almost comical examples these days are the “9 vs. 45”, “red dot vs. iron sights”, “AR vs. AK” camps, that almost immediately degrade into an almost Spy vs. Spy level of competition. When confronted with an opposing opinion, the offended party tends to resort to the same formulaic response:

  • Get louder
  • Resort to ad hominem attacks
  • Aggressively establish a superior posture
  • Entrench themselves in their position, digging in their heels
  • Ensures that everyone participating knows just how right they are
  • Has zero concern as to whether they’re advancing the conversation

The MO these days seems to be more focused on being right than actually influencing the opinions of others. And so many of the subject matter experts, and keepers of good information are either too busy or too exhausted to engage with every misinformed opinion on the Dunning Kruger curve. Matt Landfair had an approach that I like, about being good stewards of information. The idea being that:

  1. You’re absolutely not going to win over whomever you’re talking with by being belligerent and combative and
  2. If you’re being an asshole, any 3rd party observers that are not participating in the exchange are more likely to be alienated by that behavior, and more resistant to your point of view. 

It’s as if people’s sense of self is tied directly to them being right. As if them being misinformed would somehow cause their marriage to break up, their house to be foreclosed on, and their employer to go under all in the same day. 

I saw this firsthand the other day. A casual post about how concealment can be tricky, and there are people that pay attention to subtle tells and cues. If you’re interested, you can find the post here. The majority of responses were some flavor of “printing isn’t illegal” or “who cares, nobody ever pays attention anyways”. A few got a bit more antagonistic, demanding examples and proof that exposed firearms are problematic. The most common evidence cited was this article from Greg Ellifritz and these two videos from Varg Freeborn . They were rejected outright. 

Well the funny thing is, there’s a psychological effect called Motivated Reasoning where essentially, when confronted with evidence that challenges a thought process, it’s immediately dismissed as false to reduce the cognitive dissonance. And that’s exactly what I encountered. Despite being presented with that info, some insisted it didn’t matter. Others hurled accusations of shaming or fear mongering. Of the 600+ comments at the time of writing this, maybe 10 of them were constructive. Most of the counterpoints were dismissive. Nobody tried to build an actual case. 

I encountered this again a couple of days ago. In one of the groups I’m a part of, someone had posted an article, taking exception to the term “assault weapon” as a made up term. I’d suggested that, instead of getting hung up on pedantic nomenclature, it would be more productive to try and engage the opposition at the root of their argument, and attempt to shed light on our pro-gun perspectives. Again, this was immediately met with ad hominem attacks and resorting to a variation of the “shall not be infringed” talking point. I merely suggested that it’s more productive to pose a scenario of “Here’s something you may not have considered” instead of “Here’s a list of all the reasons why you’re wrong”. The other participants in the thread seemed far more concerned with building up their castle of being right. 

The Carry Trainer podcast that I mentioned last week addressed the necessity of both verbal agility and social fluency. Those two things seem to be severely lacking within the ranks of gun carriers. It’s astonishing how, within a community that espouses avoidance and de-escalation, people are so willing to immediately resort to the verbal equivalent of grenades.

Oddly enough this seems appropriate to follow last week’s post, because interpersonal communication seems to be the most woefully lacking “tool in the toolbox” of not just gun carriers, but the general public at large. I’m going to suggest a radical idea:

Lighten the fuck up, and don’t assume everyone’s wrong, stupid, or out to get you! Let’s take a breath, and assume that we all ultimately want the same thing: to improve the world at least a little bit. Just because someone’s opinion doesn’t immediately align with ours doesn’t mean they hate us. We may just not understand each other. And it’s unfair to expect someone else to see things from our perspective if they don’t have our context.

Don’t assume everyone else is an asshole. Hanlon’s Razor (with slight modification): Don’t attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by ignorance or misunderstanding.


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