Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Bitter, Low Hanging Fruit Begins to Fall

Richard Andrew Poplawski - Myspace
Pennsylavnia cop killer obsessed with conspiracy theories:
"Richard Andrew Poplawski was a young man convinced the nation was secretly controlled by a cabal that would eradicate freedom of speech, take away his guns and use the military to enslave the citizenry.

His online profile suggests someone at once lonely and seething. He wrote of burning the backs of both of his hands, the first time with a cigarette, the second time for symmetry. He subscribed to conspiracy theories and, by January 2007, was posting photographs of his tattoos on white supremacist Web site Stormfront. Among his ambitions: 'to accumulate enough 'I punched that [expletive] so hard' stories to match my old man.'"
It seems like I've been writing about this sort of thing from various angles for years now. Bad ethics, poor education, bad fellowship, gullibility and probably some combination of depression and early trauma came together to create a lethal mixture.

Whether that lethality is the result of deliberate policy or simply toxic waste from a conspicuously tactical political agenda is, sadly, immaterial. Cause leads to effect, regardless of intent. Part of the effect of this attempt to "defend the Second Amendment" is to become far more a threat to legitimate recreational, survivalist and well balanced self-defense advocates than any "left wing" agenda.

It's not the tools. It's not the
cause. It's the culture that has gotten stuck to the cause and the tools; it's like gun grease; You just can't get the smell off your hands.

For most of us, this sort ignorant, testosterone-fueled gullibility passes soon enough; we grow up, we get a life, we get married and begin careers. All of these things tend to socialize us, give us the opportunity to reality-check our views about other people, politics and life. But this only works if we allow it to work; if we do not expressly reject all the countervailing hints that life is an exercise in pastels and shades of gray, not black and white with Red White and Blue. (Or Red and White, domestically speaking.)

When you isolate yourself, surround yourself with like minded people and rigidly maintain an authoritarian world view - well, let's just say that it's a failure-prone situation. Maintaining that zone of absolute control requires an "or else." The more absolute the control, the greater the violence that you have to promise as a consequence of "misbehavior."


Police: Dad killed 5 kids because wife was leaving
Tammy Dettwiler, right, and her sister Penny Flansburg, left, are comforted by Dettwiler's son, Tim Martin, center, Saturday, at trailer park near near Graham, Wash., where the bodies of five children belonging to the women's niece Angela Harrison were discovered dead in their home Saturday afternoon. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
The night before, the father and his eldest daughter went in search of the wife, Angela Harrison. The daughter used a GPS feature in her mother's cell phone to find her with another man at a convenience store in Auburn, said Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff.

The woman told her husband she was not coming home, and was leaving him for the man with her at the store. The father and the daughter left, distraught, Troyer said. Sometime after the children went to sleep, he shot them each multiple times. Four died in their beds. The fifth was found in the mobile home's bathroom, surrounded by signs of violent struggle.

You might be tempted to dismiss this as inexplicable, the sort of insanity that simply cannot be predicted or anticipated. But in fact, it makes perfect sense to an extremely authoritarian parent, and the patterns of that sort of authoritarian personality [pdf] are there for anyone to see. Isolation. Micromanagement. Control. Restrictions on behavior, thought control, arbitrary rules that control every aspect of life. And no matter how it's packaged, no matter what excuses or doctrines are presented, it is always about power and control. I guarandamntee you that that home will be filled with symbols and totems that underline the maculine authoritarian right to dominate and control, much as Poplawski chose to conspicuously tattoo himself with a Teutonic eagle.

James Harrison's world was wrecked by his wife's break for freedom; his self-worth depended entirely upon controlling and dominating his family - and his wife was the keystone. Without her example of mute compliance, how long would it be before his children escaped? This was of particular urgency, given that his eldest was already older than when he impregnated her mother - who was 13. He'd already "had to" commit a "minor assault" on one of his children in a way that his exercise of control was noticed by others. He could feel his grip slipping - and this translated into anger and fear, which turned inward and was focused upon his own children.

"He wanted the kids dead," Troyer said. "It wasn't like he shot a few rounds. He shot several rounds."

The woman told her husband she was not coming home, and was leaving him for the man with her at the store. The father and the daughter left, distraught, Troyer said. Sometime after the children went to sleep, he shot them each multiple times. Four died in their beds. The fifth was found in the mobile home's bathroom, surrounded by signs of violent struggle.

"He wanted the kids dead," Troyer said. "It wasn't like he shot a few rounds. He shot several rounds."

Investigators believe he then returned to the area near the convenience store looking for his wife. His body was found near the store, Troyer said.

"A working theory is that he probably went back up there looking for her, wasn't able to find her, realized the gravity of what he'd done and shot himself," Troyer said.

The story mentions that several weapons were found in the home. Given the personality type, we can safely assume that they were as much symbols of authority as hunting or sport weapons.

From a Buzzflash review of Gun Show Nation, by Joan Burbick

Guns do more than just shoot; they are powerful iconic symbols in American culture and have been used to label who's in and who's out; who is a "real American" and who is not.

More disturbingly:
"She found hate literature at all the guns show that she attended, except for one. That should tell you something in itself."

I'm not saying that Harrison was exactly the same sort of nut as conspiracy-theorist Richard Andrew Poplawski, I'm not saying Harrison took Limbaugh or Beck as Serious People With Opinions That Matter. What we DO know about him is a related syndrome - a wide streak of authoritarianism, a need for control and the willingness to use violence to get his way.

Candy Johnson, Angela Harrison's aunt, described James Harrison as a strict, controlling husband and father who didn't allow his wife to make any decisions without asking him first.

"My niece has been so controlled from the time she was young," Johnson said, adding that James Harrison had impregnated Angela when she was 13.

"It's unbelievable," Johnson said. "My whole family is in shock. How does this happen? How does anyone do that?"


Others will tend to blame the guns and ammunition. I disagree - guns are in some ways innocent victims of "gun culture." If it's simply about killing people, In this day and age, it's not at all difficult to come up with truly lethal substitutes for conventional munitions. I could easily create such a text - but as tempting as it is to make a small fortune selling it to Paladin Press, I shall refrain.

Just take my word for it that available materials - electronics, compressed gasses, commonly available explosives, easily available high strength materials and common, Yankee ingenuity have already managed to come up with some pretty damn terrifying ideas.



Now, that's what you can accomplish with a spare bulldozer and a little jack-leg engineering skill. "Killdozer" could have gone one on one with many WWI tanks and turned them into scrap metal. Now, imagine if it had mounted a slightly more sophisticated variation of this terrifying device developed for - of all people - the US Department of Agriculture!


(Joel Suprise previous owner of spudtech.com)

Above is a picture of the massive custom air cannon that was built for the US Dept. of Agriculture a few years back. It's a tornado simulator designed to fire a 12 foot long, 15 pound 2 x 4 at a wall at 100 MPH. Testing this monster was a RUSH!!!! Believe it or not... 22 of these "pneumatic artillery pieces" have been built. Click HERE for a video.

Trust me - if you are even slightly male, you want to see the video.

Of course, it has no reloading mechanism, no elevation controller, no way of aiming it, and two-by-fours are hardly aerodynamically stable. So, as is, it doesn't seem all that terrifying a weapon.

Until you realize that the only reason that it's a lousy weapon is because nobody has added possibly fifty dollars worth of extra parts and a small computer. With that tiny addition - and an easily added breach mechanism - this monster could be flinging spears, metal and concrete projectiles, explosives, or anything else with impressive accuracy. This is damn impressive artillery - and it's actually more sophisticated than a field mortar.

Here's the problem; you cannot outlaw physics. This is why the right to bear arms is in fact an inalienable right. Pass all the laws you wish; it's quite immaterial, if the people you legislate against having weapons feel safer having them then not. This thing could easily be used to level a police station, in either direct or indirect fire mode. Even more fearsome things can be created with a trip to a junk yard and a welder's ticket. "Punkin' Chunkin" air cannon can fling a pumpkin - not the most ideal projectile in the universe - over a mile. Imagine the same device being used to launch a fin-stabilized projectile?

Oh, and did you know there are amateur rockets that can launch a bowling ball over a thousand feet - straight UP?

The problem is not one of availability or even of effective lethality. It's all about symbolism, will and intent. Punkin' chunkers and amateur rocketeers don't belong to toxic subcultures. They are gleeful, playful kinetic engineers. They don't sit in the dark jacking their slides and fantasizing about putting a full mag into someone deserving.

While amateur rockets and air-powered kenetic weapons are, or could be devastatingly lethal, they simply don't communicate to the psyche the way an AK-47, a Colt .45 or an M16. It's not what the weapon can do - it's about the associational values and the culture they serve as totemic badges.

Let me illustrate by counterexample.

This weapon fires
11 3/4 mm lead ball (.463" caliber) with air pressure supplied by a bike pump.

It was created in WWII by a French bicycle-maker turned partisan, out of what appears to be common plumbing pipes. And it very likely has several bodies on it.

It's capable of perhaps 10 or 20 shots at useful power, and it's a true semi-auto.

By useful power, I mean somewhere in the neighborhood of
".38 Special area of modern firearms, or even, as probably overstated by Fred Baer (1973) into the range of the .45 ACP cartridge, famous in pistols and submachine guns favored by police, gangsters, and the military for several wars of the 20th century." -Beeman

That is certainly impressive lethality
- but it's cultural connotation would be "child's toy." Even though it will cheerfully create messes like this, it's a seen as a geeky, steampunk curiosity, although it should be intuitively seen as a truly amazing survival tool, easily capable of taking deer and smaller game.

You can build your own with parts from any hardware store.
The ammunition is cheap or free. It's perfect for recreational shooting - if that shooting is not about conspicuous consumption and vicarious violence. If your "recreational shooting" is about proving that you can afford to feed your weapon, and therefore that you are a "solid citizen," an air rifle simply will not serve your needs.

Even though it actually would - if shooting was about feeding and defending your family.

Weapons of this sort are used even today as very serious hunting weapons, capable of firing a wide range of lethal projectiles. Are they part of American Gun Culture? Nope. Nobody takes you seriously if you brandish an air rifle - because they don't go "bang."

I see the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot as being a malignant devolution of Potlatch culture - an exercise in white male bonding and cultural immersion. It glorifies violence, paranoia and authoritarian group-think. And this is the culture that produces people like Richard Andrew Poplawski
and James Harrison.

It's all about the upbringing, the culture and the associations. The guns, as I said, are innocent bystanders - chosen for their appearance of power, rather than their functional effectiveness.

I hate to say this - but we have to. This is NOT a "Second Amendment" problem. It's a "First Amendment" problem. It comes directly from willful misinformation; lies and deceit. I think it's time to talk about means to regulate culture. I don't favor a legal approach - what I do favor is a far stronger and more effective cultural approach. We - sane, freedom loving people - need to take over the soapboxes. We need to verbally and materially demonstrate our displeasure with and informed dissent with xenophobic idiocy and special interest sedition.

Real Men don't shoot kids. They don't excuse it as "the price of freedom," either. Rational people - even rational paranoids - don't create pretexts to kill people, to "defend their rights." And most particularly, they don't kill pointlessly, just to make a conspicuous show of their demise. That's not patriotism, it's terrorism.

So, when you see cultures like this - and you hear them howling about being "profiled" due to their association with various political groups and activist associations known for their problematic - nay, wackadoodle belief structures - respond with a horselaugh. They are potential terrorists. Tim McVeigh came from JUST such a subculture. So did these two. They all have a common thread - the belief that they are - or were - right, and have the right to use force to impose their world view.

They belive they have the right to freely assemble in order to present an "or else" to the rest of us. Well, I suppose, strictly speakiing, that's true. But they don't have the right to do so without the rest of us taking notice - and a few reasonable individual and collective precautions.

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