Leftists know that people respond strongly to visual images and use them to great effect. If Republicans want to win, they need to start doing the same.
A picture is worth a thousand words. — Newspaper/advertising adage.
Some years ago, in a post I wrote about the Second Amendment, I noted the fact that one of the advantages the gun-grabbing crowd has when pushing its message is that it has the intense visuals of dead bodies (something the Left used with special force in the wake of the terrible Sandy Hook massacre). This means that these same anti-gun people are completely resistant to any data that doesn’t create powerful images.
When it comes to guns, the gun grabbers suffer from a very bizarre limitation: Their mental horizons allow them to see only those who died because of guns, not to recognize those who did not die thanks to guns. This myopia creates the giant intellectual chasm that separates those who oppose the Second Amendment from those who support it. The former see only the people who died in the past while the latter also see the ones who will live on into the future.
I then introduced Frédéric Bastiat’s magnificent Parable of the Broken Window, which the French economist wrote in 1850, to make the point that destruction doesn’t benefit the economy but instead has money flowing in a fairly meaningless loop. Thus, Bastiat noted how people consoled someone whose window had been broken by pointing out that the repair meant work for the glazier and the contractor and so on. These people, said Bastiat, saw positive economic energy without ever understanding that it was actually lost economic energy because the money could have been used to create, rather than repair. What appealed to me about Bastiat’s essay was the final paragraph (emphasis mine):
But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, “Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.”
It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.
After quoting the Parable, I dragged the issue around to the war that the Left is constantly waging against the Second Amendment:
Just as is the case with the economic illiterate who cannot imagine that money might be spent on something more useful than fixing a broken window, a gun control advocate’s world view “is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.” He counts those who have died, but cannot even begin to imagine those whose lives were saved or never threatened.
Point such an advocate to a story about an off-duty deputy who was able to stop a mall shooter, and he will say only that, “The gun still allowed the shooter to kill one or two people, and there’s no way to tell if the shooter intended to kill more people, so the armed deputy is not relevant.”
To the gun-control proponent, a story without dead bodies is no story at all and it certainly has no statistical validity in the debate over the Second Amendment. To one who believes in the Second Amendment, however, stories about people using concealed-carry guns to stop mass shooters matter because we, unlike the gun grabber, are able to take account of those people who survived what would otherwise have been a mass shooting.
Dead bodies resonate in our imagination. The absence of dead bodies, even when reported at excellent sites such as Ammo.com, which tracks stories about defensive gun use, is an empty space in the imagination. This is especially true because the media, even before it became fanatically determined to destroy the Second Amendment, always operated on the principle that “if it bleeds, it leads.” If it doesn’t bleed, it will at most be a feel good story in the last 30 seconds of the news or a squiblet on the last page of Section C in the local newspaper.
With no blood and no bodies, those who support the Second Amendment find themselves limited to statistics. The statistics, frankly, are spectacular, with an Obama-era study showing that people across the U.S. routinely and successfully use guns to defend themselves between 500,000 to 3 million times per year. Statistics, however, are not visual. Instead, they’re dead numbers on a page, exciting only to wonks and people who work well with abstract ideas. [Read more…]