Joe Scarborough vs Free Speech: Liner Notes

I have a new column up at The Federalist today, “Only Joe Scarborough’s Ego Can Explain His Gun Control Flip-Flop,” the headline perhaps overstating the point, as headlines often do.  It was prompted by his recent attack on NRATV, a question that has more to do with freedom of speech than the right to self-defense.

Regular readers know I’m a fan of the old adage that “great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; [and] small minds discuss people.”  So when I write something focused on a person, I at least try to be making a larger point.  In this case, it is that while Scarborough claimed his conversion on some gun issues represented a triumph over ideology, the tendency is that one shift tends to beget others in a new ideological direction.

Also, as Jonah Goldberg notes in The Tyranny of Cliches, the claim that one is abandoning ideology for pragmatism is generally a rhetorical cover for progressivism.  This was another difficult aspect about writing the column.  As a general rule, I try to avoid focusing questions of personal motive.  Unfortunately, Scarborough claims his shift on some second amendment issues was based almost entirely on certain personal motivations, which renders it almost impossible from an analysis of his various shifts in position.

Sadly, Scarborough’s conversion is of a piece with what we are seeing in the aftermath of the horrific shooting in Parkland, where activists and the media are choosing to make traumatized teens the face of their arguments, such as they are.  By mashing people’s emotional hot buttons, those pushing their position — or changing it — attempt to immunize themselves from having to defend their position — or shift thereof — on the merits.

And argument from emotion — a staple of progressivism inherited from Rousseau — becomes an addictive crutch.  What starts out as two flips on guns becomes a disregard for the speech of people who support the second amendment or the due process rights of people who would like to purchase guns.  And from there, it becomes all too easy to make political claims based on whatever stokes one’s emotions at the moment, regardless of what one may have said before.

In this case, as a consequence, rather than discussing proposals that at least have a prospect of bipartisan consideration, Scarborough and others flack for an assault weapons ban — a cosmetic exercise with no demonstrable effect on gun violence.

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