In February 2018, a wise#neveragain child asked me, "With so many guns around, how do we learn who's the good guy with the gun, and who's the bad guy with the gun?" In brief, that's a majorly serious problem! A Yofiel study in 2015 found half of 350 Tea Party members ready to shoot children for stealing apples off an apple tree. Who is good and who is bad? I wrote this to send John Oliver on the topic, and you can see his video on NRA TV below.

Apparently innocuous, this follows the first paragraph of how Hitler described hate propaganda: division into black and white, right and wrong, good and bad
Apparently innocuous, this follows the first paragraph of how Hitler described hate propaganda: division into black and white, right and wrong, good and bad
The 2/18 REPORT: CONCLUSIONS ON GUNS FROM THE APPLETREE
[1.] Who's the Good Guy with a Gun?
[2.] Is it Fair to View NRA's Marketing as Propaganda?
[3.] he Motive: Profit
[4.] Hate Rhetoric: Creating a Subconscious, Predatory, Killing Machine
[5.] The Consequence: Peer Pressure to Disdain Innocent Deaths
[6.] Shooting Children in Backyard Appletrees

John Oliver's Response on Guns and Hate Propaganda

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1. Who's the Good Guy with a Gun?

First I explain why this #neveragain child asked such a good question. In 2015, I was overly surprised how many Tea Party members ready to shoot invisible strangers, even if they turned out to be children stealing apples off a backyard apple tree. So I asked some more and counted it out. Out of 400, half of 350 otherwise righteous people were saying they'd shoot children (the exact number is difficult to know due to unintelligible responses, and ~10% could not be called righteous by any stretch of imagination). These 350 WERE normal people, so it's almost impossible to answer whether they are good or bad. It is possible to explain why they are stating something that would be considered totally insane in any other nation. They have been programmed to behave like psychopathic killers by hate propaganda, because gun sellers just want to make money, and with so many guns, it's those susceptible to such mind manipulation that provide the most profit.

When I shared my findings from Tea Party forums in Feb~May 2015, no one believed me at first except Europeans. These days no one even doubts it, but a few heatedly complain I'm biased and demand I'm banned from sharing it, repeatedly, almost everywhere. It's been very painful to me, not because of the bans (which are only tiresome). but because I saw Trump's hate speeches coming long before virtually everyone else. I don't swear very often, but the amount of fucking hate propaganda took me by surprise too, as did the speed of it. Even the Russians joined in. I had to wait out the consequences before National attention would return to this issue. Consequently, I knew this 4 years of study would take this long to get right. This time I did get it right, and it's done.

Washington Post Counts an Average of 4~8 Guns in Gun-owning Households
Washington Post Counts an Average of 4~8 Guns in Gun-owning Households

2. Is it Fair to View NRA's Marketing as Propaganda?

Homicide due to felonious crime by strangers accounts for <6% of all firearm fatalities
Homicide due to felonious crime by strangers accounts for <6% of all firearm fatalities

Next, I compare NRA's frequent claim on 'more guns, less crime' with actual numbers. Most people haven't seen this data view. It takes several hundred CDC database searches, plus merging of 30 FBI spreadsheets, to unify death and injury subdata sets, just over a single decade.

The NRA considers only criminal homicide, denying all other casualties as irrelevant due to the 2nd Amendment. But when people are shot to death, it's much more than their own rights to bear arms that's infringed. Therefore it's right to examine all firearm casualties, even if only to defend the 2nd Amendment rights of those who are about to be shot dead next.

2.1. Current Firearm Casualties

The following projection from prior data shows USA's firearm casualties for this year. Friends and family account for about thrice as many homicides than attacks by strangers, and six times as many as the FBI states are gang related (too small a number to show up here). From available data, domestic violence and suicide are far more serious problems, but the NRA repeatedly blames crime and gangs for all gun casualties. Gun owners are moreover eight times more likely to kill their own family and friends, half intentionally and half by accident, than to kill a criminal during justified self defense.

Firearm Casualties: 2018 Projection from Prior Data
Firearm Casualties: 2018 Projection from Prior Data

While it is true gun homicides are dropping, all OTHER top-level metrics are increasing, at a greater rate. Even violent injuries are increasing faster. Violent injuries also outnumber all other casualties combined, providing the largest datapool which, logically, is the most fruitful source of information. Therefore, logically, it should the be source of the most research. However, the NRA successfully blocked more government research into gun casualties as unwarranted, via the Dickey amendment in 1996. Hence, there is no further data whatsoever on violent injuries, because the CDC can find no justification for the expense, within the scope of the funding requirements it receives. That's as much as the CDC can give us: a vast block of increasing 'violent injuries.' Mass shootings, which are frequently the only focus, are also increasing, but again don't show up here, because their number is so comparatively tiny.

Actual firearm casualty trends, top level, as best can be stated
Actual firearm casualty trends, top level, as best can be stated

These projections are from 10 years of data from CDC WONDER, WISQARS, and the FBI's annual expanded homicide data charts (population-growth-rate adjusted, with proportionally weighted distribution of unsolved and unknown causes as best possible within available subdata sets). For full statistical data, please seeThe 9/16 Report on this site.

2.3. Propaganda versus Fact

The NRA acknowledges and misrepresents one single metric: homicides due to felonious crime, confusing it with a statistically undefined term, 'violent crime.' It ignores all other metrics, all of which are contrary to its statements in general, including violent injuries. It prevents further research, perpetuating ignorance. It is thus indisputable that the NRA is engaging in propaganda.

In parallel, the number of firearm fatalities alone passed half a million since 9/11 in May last year, 100 times more than killed by terrorists, in which we invested some trillions of dollars in killing too. So this should not be the ignored topic which it largely has been to this date.

3. The Real Motive: Profit

Next, the NRA's primary focus has to be on more profit for gun manufacturers and sellers, because private memberships are a tiny fraction of its income (perhaps 1% compared to corporate contributions). As there are now more people selling guns than working in McDonald's, Starbucks, and all supermarkets combined, a very large number of gun profiteers are sponsoring the NRA. Most the revenue data is public. Even the distributions to senators are much smaller than one would expect, for the amount of its success in creating a no-compromise, unified front against anything that reduces profit. Perhaps the real way forward to a fair and balanced government is to offer matching grants from an opposition.

NRA income and distributions, from opensecrets.org
NRA income and distributions, from opensecrets.org

The NRA has a growing problem with trying to sell to gun fans who already own somewhere between 4 and 8 firearms per gun-loving household, on average. The full consequences of this are rarely considered, even while the already astonishing number of guns in the USA is frequently noted. So the NRA is stuck with a very difficult sales agenda.

With so many guns already, who could possibly want more?

3.1. Selling to Children

One tactic the NRA actively pursued was is to seek lowering the minimum age to buy a gun, to 12 years old (Sugarmann, 2016). So the NRA has started rewriting fairy stories, for example, Little Red Riding Hood's granny now shoots the wolf with an assault rifle (NRA Family, 2016).

NRA rewriting fairy stories with guns, planning to sell to 12-year-old kids
NRA rewriting fairy stories with guns, planning to sell to 12-year-old kids

However the revenue increase by selling to those who are not yet even teenagers runs into limits of the youth's discretionary income, and moreover could reduce later sales, as they've stocked up already by the time they are 18. At this time, this NRA effort only emphasizes the unlikelihood of the NRA approving the raising of age limits. It's unclear how much putting assault rifles in infant nursery stories affects the situation, there being no research on it. But there are other far, far more serious issues to consider.

3.2. Gun Tax Credits

There are more rational solutions that are consistent with the 2nd amendment. For example, I present one previously unexamined possibility by the public: a gun-violence tax on the guns in the USA now could be redistributed to everyone as a tax credit. If scaled to actual costs of gun violence, the tax would be $240/year per gun, redistributed to all taxpayers as a $720 tax credit (from the most recent year of its sponsored study which, despite its amount, was eight years ago). As the tax credit is more than the gun tax, people who don't own guns could use the tax credit to buy a gun for less than they can now, so it does not conflict with the 2nd amendment. Then, a universal wish to reduce the gun tax would cause gun violence to fall, reducing the gun-violence tax and leaving the tax credit the same, for all to enjoy. Thus this utilitarian solution actually enables more guns, supports the 2nd amendment, AND increases liberty. However gun owners don't see it that way, because they only want more guns for themselves, basically (they are quick to attack a gun-violence tax, but have no idea how to respond to a corresponding tax credit, except to repeat, hesitantly, the already nullified objections).it transpires 2nd-Amendment activists are less keen if it means they have to help those who don't guns, or become guilty for infringing on other's rights themselves if they don't pay for it. So the NRA doesn't suggest that, however much its opposition infringes on the rights of those killed as a consequence.

3.3. The Reason for Assault Guns

For the NRA, lowering the age limit is only a stop-gap solution to increasing sales. Those who want guns already own so many, it's far more lucrative to make as many kinds of increasingly lethal assault weapons available as possible. That will appeal the most to the violent and anarchistic radicals who want to build an even bigger arsenal--now the gun industry's biggest customers in an over-saturated market. This strategy has been markedly effective, though few recognize it for what it is.

So the NRA has turned towards to those most likely to buy more guns: those wanting more lethal weapons. It first needed to reverse the ban on assault guns, designed for the most lethal forms of destruction, and wait for a while, so the events would not be consciously related. Then the NRA increasingly turned to hate propaganda, which works in a markedly different way from sales propaganda. It's required no real scientific research, little development cost, and needs little recurring revenue to support, and so has been markedly successful in increasing profit, which is most likely why the NRA does it. They are, after all, very intelligent people, and wouldn't bother with hate rhetoric at all if it didn't add to their bottom line. The organization only needs to increase the desire for these more lethal weapons without people consciously realizing they are being programmed into killers, and to reject any other resulting casualties from firearms due to 'cognitive dissonance,' which this article explains after detailing how the NRA is using mind manipulation. It's their job, they may not like it, we may not like it, but we all know jobs mean people sometimes need to do things they don't really want to, or even think is right themselves.

4. Hate Rhetoric: Creating a Subconscious, Predatory Killing Machine

Is Hate Propaganda Criminal? According toQueens University (Canada), hate propaganda is "asserting that all members of a certain group deserve to be harmed or killed...Describing certain groups of people, particularly historically equity-seeking groups, as subhuman...Asserting that groups identifiable by race, sexual orientation, religion etc. are conspirators responsible for the degeneration and collapse of society." While that is definition resulted in the death sentence, and still punishable by life imprisonment, in international courts, understanding when and why it can be considered criminal requires knowing how it works. That starts with understanding what propaganda actually is, and how the psychology of it works.

4.1. How does Sales Propaganda Work?

While propaganda's been around a long time, current theories are directly psychological in basis, and even calculable in effect (see Section 4 below). But when Edward Bernays published the first book about propaganda in the USA, (1928) it was a bright and friendly thing. He mostly considered it a good way to help people enjoy the pleasures of consumerism and thus improve the economy. Simply put, it applies 'Pavlovian' theory to associate things we like with things we buy, The created subconscious connection of otherwise unrelated states and events results in more consumer pleasure and more sales, to the benefit of all involved. A few objected to treating human beings like Pavlov's dogs, salivating at the sound of their dinner bell. Pavlov would say such 'behavioral conditioning' without conscious knowledge is innate, and there is no way to stop us forming these connections. For example, a pretty girl holding a beer bottle in a commercial causes a man's increased pleasure while drinking the beer. One can actually measure a commercial's effectiveness, by measuring the saliva left in the bee bottle afterwards.

The issue was whether such manipulation was ethical. Overall, Bernays' propaganda was widely accepted as benign, even if no more than for its intent to increase pleasure. Bernays' propaganda thus became the cornerstone of modern advertising. Here, perhaps the most significant point is that such propaganda is most effective when people don't know how it was designed, because then, the unconscious behavioral conditioning is more powerful.

4.2. How does Hate Propaganda Work?

Hitler, who was a big Bernays fan, figured out a different yet corollary approach that was extraordinarily successful in persuading a war-weary Germany to start war yet again: propaganda based on raw anger, rather than increased pleasure. Thus it is especially noteworthy how Hitler described himself the way to persuade the public. But due to understandable dislike of him, people do not read it. As a result, those intent on persuading the public with anger are incredibly successful using Hitler's techniques. After all, if you are a serious businessman intent on winning government control against opposition perceived as hostile, what more effective way could there be than to emulate Hitler, especially when most people can't even imagine how Hitler did it?

Hitler's Own Description of Propaganda
"Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people. All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses. The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating mass of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another. The great majority of a nation is so feminine in its character and outlook that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but HAS ONLY the negative and positive notions of LOVE AND HATRED, RIGHT AND WRONG, TRUTH AND FALSEHOOD.

Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favorable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favorable to its own side..... Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These SLOGANS SHOULD BE PERSISTENTLY REPEATED until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward. Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasize the same conclusion. The leading slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula."
-Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler (Berlin, 1928)

Hate propaganda works similarly, but differently from sales propaganda, because its aim is to wipe out any conscious idea that the hate might be wrong, by instilling base, overriding, raw emotions which reject any facts to the contrary. There is no pleasure involved, but it still works at a subconscious level. Like sales propaganda, it works best if its targets are unaware of the manipulation. The more primal the emotions, the more predictable the result. The most primal emotions (anger, fear, and hatred) are the most powerful emotions produced from ancient genetics, thus called 'the lizard brain' by psychologists. it is the root of the 'fight/flight response,' which pumps adrenaline through us to reduce our response time and make faster decisions when in danger, first of all, whether to attack or flee. Because decisions made at this time are accompanied by strong emotions, they are very persistent. Just as some may be rational, others will be highly irrational, but the people making these decisions have trouble discerning the difference if they are not aware how they were manipulated. Now of course, unlike lizards etc, we are omnivores, so also have a choice between regarding ourselves as predatory or communally protective. So we have more sophisticated emotions than just the lizard brain. Sophisticated hate propaganda wipes out any decisions not based on the lizard brain, turning us into instinctive, communal predators.

Psychologists designed the banners behind Hitler's rallies to be the color of blood by night illumination, because subconscious manipulation is more effective in the dark. It was on armbands too. Germans saw blood on their friends everywhere.
Psychologists designed the banners behind Hitler's rallies to be the color of blood by night illumination, because subconscious manipulation is more effective in the dark. It was on armbands too. Germans saw blood on their friends everywhere.

It was the intentional instilling of these primal emotions, so strongly as to eradicate any doubt as to the rightfulness of the result, which spurred the Nazis to war. It was why Hitler's rallies were bathed in blood-red light. It was why he shook his fist. Each shake of that fist was timed to manipulate 'the vacillating mass of human children' into a completely unified, predatory killing machine: and it is right to call it a machine, because it was programmed into them without their knowledge.

4.3. Hate Rhetoric versus Protection of Liberty

In response to this, some complain that I am making an unfair comparison of the NRA to Hitler. To clarify, I am only comparing the gun lobby's rhetoric to Hitler's rhetoric. Is the NRA rhetoric simply protecting our liberty?

In fact, if rhetoric calls to increase, rather than reduce coonflict, then it is manipulating the free to break the 'social contract' underlying this nation. As defined by Locke (1690), when the social contract is broken then a 'state of war' increases; requiring intercession of force by those in power. That diminishes rights of authority to act in the interests of the people, and therefore, everyone loses rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (see Natural Law and Natural Rights). Hence, by the principles on which Jefferson declared independence from the British, any violence reduces freedom. However, on the same principles, overprotective restriction reduces freedom, and inequality inevitably creates rebellion.

balance of power in the USA
balance of power in the USA

Sadly however, Americans do not study this, because Locke's theories are theistic, and therefore not permitted to be taught in public schools. Instead, people believe they know the reasons for rights such as liberty intuitively. That was originally John Adams' addition to Jefferson's thought, enabling the illiterate to join the revolution in spirit. Hence, most Americans don't actually understand the empirical theory in the creation of our democracy that well either. This particular amalgam of ignorance and circumstance makes U.S. citizens especially susceptible to NRA's marketing in the 21st century, just as the same lack of recognition of hate rhetoric has increased hostility in partisan conflict. Many wonder about it, and the explanation for the increase in hate rhetoric overall is actually rather simple. No one recognizes it as the brilliant technique it is, even though almost all would agree Nazi mind manipulation is undesirable.

One indication that the NRA is indeed using Nazi mind-manipulation techniques is its conformance to a single, unified policy. It accepts no compromise. All political motions to regulate gun sales are challenged, with dozens of lawsuits every year. But the single, unified attack on everything contradictory to the hate propaganda is only a secondary indication, because the NRA directly publishes hate-rhetoric videos on its own site, with millions of viewers even on the Youtube copies. Before considering the consequences, this article presents three of the videos of which the NRA supporters are so proud.

First they just think it's funny when they yell insults. Flaming liberals became an idle pastime. The first step to a more rational dialog has to be recognition of the NRA's hate propaganda as Nazi-style mind manipulation.

4.4. LaPierre's Technique

With the pressure to sell into an already oversaturated market, the NRA has become increasingly obstructionist to government actions, even publishing hate videos against the government in 2016. Even five years ago, it was far more cooperative, but now it will not give an inch, modeling insurgent behavior to perfection. This, firstly, conforms to Hitler's statements on the necessity of raw appeal to a simple, single, base emotion, coupled with slogans like "more guns, less crime." It can't digress from the central point of fear, hatred, and killing to be successful But more importantly, and possibly not intended as much as it has come to be, this approach appeals the most to the "gun nuts" who are most likely to be violent, simply because they are the most likely to buy even more weapons. But it has had the sad side effect of increasing social tension and antagonism throughout the nation, because the NRA has terrorized gun owners into believing any motion to protect life at all is going to render them prisoners to the oppressive regime that the NRA apparently despises, while on the other side of the coin, paying the government under the table every way possible to garner more profit for its gun-industry clients. And that's its job.

Consequently, guns are just as easy to buy as ever, and mass shootings continue to increase; to which the NRA simply says people need to buy more weapons to protect themselves, especially from an increasingly evil administration. Meanwhile, everyone else who doesn't want to live in a Wild West saloon surrounded by gun hicksters everywhere they go, would rather not permit the sale of weapons to sociopaths, terrorists, and the mentally ill. So the NRA has far exacerbated the problem. Every time another lunatic goes on a killing spree, it takes even more advantage of fear, hatred, and rejection of authority to sell even more lethal hardware, while fighting assault-weapon bans tooth and nail.

4.4.1. Imprison 20M People

But it has to maintain a public facade that it cares. So as of 2016, the NRA CEO, Wayne LaPierre, states the solution to firearm fatality is to "take every felon with a gun, drug dealer with a gun and criminal gangbanger with a gun off the streets tomorrow and lock them up for five years or more" (NRA, LaPierre Episode One, 2016).

LaPierre: How to Stop Violent Crime
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So lets look at the actual numbers for this proposal. In 2010, ~20 million had felony convictions, projecting to 26 million this year, or about 1 in 10 adults (Suede, 2014). A third of all Americans have a gun, and there is no way to say which are going to kill someone (seeHousehold Gun Count,Meyer, 2014). So LaPierre is demanding locking up 1 in 30 of all adults, and criticizing President Obama for not doing so. But let's put that aside. The more important issue, even if it were feasible at all, is that it would make virtually no difference whatsoever to the number being killed by firearms anyway. Let's assume ALL robbers and thieves are incarcerated who would otherwise kill. Statistical mining showsCrime caused 6% of firearm fatalities in 2014. Compared to deaths caused by felonious crime, twice as many were due to involuntary manslaughter and acts by children. Three times as many were due to personal disputes. And twelve times as many were due to suicides.

Of those locked up by LaPierre, about half of those 6% would still be arrested again, according to federal data on recidivism (Markman et al, 2016). Let's optimistically say only half those recidivists don't shoot someone, and get convicted for another crime. That's a total reduction in firearm fatalities by 3/4 of 6%, or one life out of every 22 currently killed by a gun. LaPierre's solution of locking all felons up for five years, at best, would save one in twenty of those killed by guns. So according to NRA, the other 95% whose lives would have been saved by gun-control legislation will just have to die.

4.4.2. Kill, Kill, Kill

But it does not matter how many times one repeats this fact to those who have already been programmed by hate propaganda into hating, desiring to kill, and not least importantly, resisting all government authority. In this next 60-second sample, 'freedom' is invoked five times (including the title), 'fear' three times, and various kinds of violence four times. The emotive link:freedom equals violence (NRA, LaPierre Episode Three, 2016).

Freedom's Safest Place: Demons at Our Door
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4.4.3. Hate, Hate, Hate

The greatest irony with the anger propagandists is that they are always most vicious when attacking others who are like themselves; just as the tiny and scrawny Hitler nobilified 'tall blonde Aryan Germans,' calling for people with his own Jewish physique to be persecuted. As a final example, in this news video, NRA's CEO scorns politicians as 'elites', saying "They work together in some newsrooms and boardrooms, and Washington back rooms, and star-studded champagne fundraisers, to decide for the rest of us...These elites threaten our very survival, and to them we say: We don't trust you, we don't fear you, and we don't need you. Take your hands off your future" (NRA, LaPierre Episode Nine, 2016).

LaPierre: We Don't Need You
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After finishing in the newsroom persuading the armed to spite authority even more, in the NRA boardrooms and Washington backrooms, in star-studded champagne boondoggles paid for by the gun industry, Wayne LaPierre then himself dishes out millions to the politicians he scorns, on condition they vote only as he directs. Anger propagandists are always most vicious when attacking others who are like themselves. This is a clear indication, in fact, that the NRA executives know their marketing is no more than propaganda, or it would not be so bold to demand violence against the very administrative hands that it feeds.

I should not need to point out that NRA's LaPierre is directly inciting armed rebellion. On a video on NRA's own site.

As mentioned on the outset, this is only the NRA doing its job, to sell more firearms to its best customers. It could not possibly even believe its own rhetoric, or it would not be distributing so much money on the hill.

That concludes the exploration of exactly why and how the NRA is using hate propaganda.

5. The Consequence: Social Pressure to Disdain and Kill

"Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices."
- Voltaire, Questions sur les Miracles (Paris, 1765)

I started by mentioning my social-media study of 400 Tea Party members in 2015, finding ~50% stating they'd shoot children merely for stealing apples off a backyard apple tree. If you have read this far, you also are puzzled by how so many people, normally kind and considerate beings, could be incited to say they'd shoot children in their back yards. Could so many really be fooled so easily? Even since the war in Iraq, there has been serious sociological research on rhetoric, but there's much older and certain knowledge. The main scientific model to explain the susceptibility to persuasion against reason is called Cognitive Dissonance, which refers to how individuals resist accepting facts that are contrary to those preferred by peers. In this section, I present four studies in social psychology relating to measurement and prediction of the resulting violence.

5.1.1. Asch: Conform to Peers

Even with direct sensory evidence we are wrong, out of three of us will deny the evidence of our senses rather than contradict peers. This was first established by Solomon Asch (1951), who showed people the following card.

Two out of three will agree with everyone else, if all others say the line on the left card is the same length as line 3
Two out of three will agree with everyone else, if all others say the line on the left card is the same length as line 3

If everyone else in the room said the long line on the left was the same length as the short line on the right, two thirds of all volunteers would not only agree, but afterwards, swear they actually saw the line as shorter than it is.

5.1.2. Milgram: Authority to Inflict Pain and Death

In the absence of direct human interaction, desensitization to the feelings of others progresses as horrifying speed.Milgram (1961) first found that unsupervised volunteers would administer potentially lethal shocks to others merely because they had been told to so. You can see them doing it. It even happened if the lab supervisor had left the room. By this time, the results were captured on film, because of pervasive disbelief in Asch's findings, even though they have been replicated many times.

Milgram's Electric Shock Experiment

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5.1.3. Zimbardo: Peer Support to Torture

Later research as Stanford demonstrated that peer pressure in an authority group can even cause torture, during theStanford Prison Experiment. It found that volunteers acting as prison guards started to torture other volunteers acting as prison inmates within two weeks (Zimbardo, 1971; Zimbardo, 2007; andprisonexp.org). Zimbardo has also made a rather bowdlerized movie portraying the experience, below (there are videos of the original experiment, but they were so horrifying, they were banned in this country. I did see the original film in Oxford while at college. You could search for them on youtube, but don't say I didn't warn you).

The Stanford Prison Experiment

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The results were so horrific, in fact, further research on the topic was entirely discontinued, as too inhumane beyond any justification, and for further study, one has to turn to actual events, such as Americans torturing prisoners in Abu'Ghraib.

Real-world corroboration by unsupervised American soldiers in Iraqi prisons
Real-world corroboration by unsupervised American soldiers in Iraqi prisons

Subsequent research found about half of all Americans believed the USA invaded Iraq because Iraq destroyed the world trade center, and therefore deserved everything that happened to it (Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11). When asked how they knew this, those who responded said they heard President Bush say it on TV. While the results were corroborated independently, most reviewers found the discoveries too outlandish even to consider, and they were not even published in academic journals, thinking there must have been some invisible mistake. Maybe there wasn't, and it was during time of war, so we won't know. Whichever the case, the point remains that people will commit the most horrific acts when given permission by authority to make others suffer, when not directly supervised.

5.2. Explanations for Illusory Superiority

The above findings combined into the modern theory of cognitive dissonance, which states that most people will deny even the evidence of their senses in order to conform socially, and will generally be unware they are even doing so. In 1999,Kruger and Dunning found that people with lower IQs tend to over-rate their intelligence. Logically then, people with lower IQs are also more likely to over-rate the value of their beliefs after being persuaded by rhetoric.Prasad et al. (2004) found that people with lower IQs believed Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, without being able to cite any reason why they believed it.Nisbet and Garrett (2010) found that people would continue to believe nasty rumors about activities in an Islamic mosque even after learning facts proving the rumors wrong. And the actual situation is further worsening, because an increasing number of Americans, especially the younger generations, rely on hearsay on social media for all their news. While in the past there were many reputable magazines and newspapers, which provided educated opinions within the context of an editorial bias, the new media has decimated quality journalism.

6. Social Media and Shooting Children in Backyards

At first I did not believe that people's minds could be so twisted. When I started working on this topic, I asked 400 people in Tea Party groups if they would shoot a suspected robber merely for breaking and entering ("American Delusions 1: the Right to Murder",Meyer, 2016). Of the 400, over 90% not only said they would, even though all law requires an actual threat to be present before armed self defense is justified. If I asked how they knew the law, 75% simply said "the 2nd amendment give me the right (to kill)" and knew nothing more about it. If I asked where they had learned this or what books they had read on the subject, stating my own schooling in a friendly way, I was almost invariably told something like "only idiots go to college, and only morons read books. I am much smarter than you." I would say, there are more definitions than one of natural rights, such as by Grotius, Hobbes, Locke, Jefferson, Rawls, and Hare. How do you know your definition of your rights is better than theirs?"

That usually ended the conversation. For a very small number, the very prospect of being able to use their guns in self defense so much thrilled them with vigilante zeal, often coupled with religious statements about God protecting the holy from evil, that they pursued me with evangelical zest. I ignored the profanity often littering such statements and continued to determine the depth of their determination to inflict wounds and death on others. While I asked how big a threat would cause them to kill, ~10% led other respondents in congratulated themselves and others on their enthusiasm to defend themselves, further profanely rebuking any doubt or hesitation. The remainder were challenged to speak against them.

I asked if they would look to see it it was a child first. At least half would kill at once, without even looking if it were a child. They stated they had a right to kill anyway, so why should they care how old the person was that they were shooting? One in ten continued to argue extensively that they had a right to murder anyone infringing on their property without qualification, even children in their back yard picking apples of one of their trees. I patiently repeated over a 100 times that constitutional rights result in many other contrary situations where rights of each other are infringed. Taking the life of a hungry teenager who is taking an apple off a tree in your back yard is depriving them of rights too..the gun toters were just losing an apple....The children were losing their lives. But it made no difference, no matter how many ways I tried to say it. To the contrary, more than several even accused me of being a coward because I would not immediately shoot someone breaking into my property. By refusing to shoot a child, they said I was proving myself not only a coward but their inferior.

By angrily scorning refusal to shoot a child
as cowardice
Pro-gun activists are desensitizing each other
from aggressive action,
enabling insurgency, revolution, and terrorism

Social media has allowed the aggregation of hostile and bigoted groups in ways not before possible, cutting across social strata with anonymity. Perhaps in absence of any guidance otherwise, the desensitization is evolving into a callous hatred of anything which remotely 'infringes' (a popular word) on a misconceived, pseudo-divine right to violence and control, so deeply rooted in gun-seller propaganda that it rejects any reasonable reply outright, no matter how sensible the statement.

6.1. The Effectiveness of NRA's Hate Propaganda

Via social media for the Tea Party and 2nd Amendment forums, gun activists vociferously support each other for agreeing to kill without hesitation. Just as in the Stanford Prison Experiment, they are urging each other to even greater inhumane travesties. The results indicate that the NRA propaganda is indeed creating a ripe ground for those seeking to find support for insurgency, revolution, and terrorism. The peer pressure to kill indiscriminately has already desensitized 10%-50% of gun activists to the point where they are ready for proactive violence against invisible strangers, even if they turn out only to be children stealing apples off a backyard apple tree.

With the advent of Breitbart and the election of President Trump, the progression has already escalated to a stage where it might be impossible to predict without yet another 4 years of continual study. When I started, it was relatively easy to gather so many responses, but now, with thousands voicing parallel insults and vulgar humor, it is impossible to obtain so many responses simply from chatting on social media forums directly. Repeating the results would be far more expensive, and the opportunity for such rapid data gathering has passed.

Shorty after gathering my experimental results, Maria Konnikova wrote in theNew Yorker "All else being equal, we act as we think we're expected to act, especially if that expectation comes from above. Suggest, as the Stanford setup did, that we should behave in stereotypical tough-guard fashion, and we strive to fit that role." Gun owners have been subconsciously programmed to be tough guards, and just as in the Stanford Prison Experiment, the aggression only escalates outside direct supervision. In the past, people might have talked about shooting children with actual human beings, like their parents, who should rapidly indicate they are being sociopathic. But with anonymous social media as peer support and even guidance, the tough can only get tougher. They callously argue about statistics, objecting to every single measure one might attempt to save lives, ignoring how they are complicit to innocent deaths, and with total oblivion to their inhumanity. How big or small is the step from such attitudes to outright militant aggression? After I first asked that question, there was a militant insurrection in Oregon, two months later. Since them the Trump hate rallies appear to have defused alot of the anger and refocused it on the illegal immigrants who grow our food for less than minimum wage in this country. But it's difficult to say exactly what is going on, as the NRA has blocked government funding of research into violent crime.