Imagine you’re a playwright whose chief talent is finding creative ways to use the word “fuck.” Imagine, too, that the more you use the word “fuck,” the richer you become. And the richer you become, the further removed you are from reality. Imagine you become richer and richer and further and further removed from reality, till you morph into one of your own characters, hurling invective into the void of cyberspace.
You’ve just become David Mamet.
Mamet, who is, let’s face it, a fucking genius when it comes to saying “fuck,” is considerably less talented when it comes to understanding American history. And when it comes to understanding the U.S. Constitution, well, he’s a fucking idiot. On those topics, he has all the analytical skills of an eleven year old boy obsessed with comic books and superheroes – not altogether unlike the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre, who responded to the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School thusly: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Today, Mamet provided a sterling example his pre-adolescent, superhero-worshipping take on our history and our Constitution in an article entitled “Gun Laws And The Fools Of Chelm,” on Newsweek’s Daily Beast website. Mamet’s piece is comical both in terms of it’s razor-thin analysis (“Karl Marx summed up Communism as ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’”) and its desperate attempt to appear intellectual (“This is a chillingly familiar set of grievances; and its recrudescence was foreseen by the Founders”); but its most damnable feature is that it’s utterly devoid of facts. Mamet doesn’t cite or link to a single source anywhere in the piece, even when he quotes the Declaration Of Independence. (See, that wasn’t so hard.)
Although Mamet’s article is supposed to address Pres. Obama’s proposals for gun safety legislation, he doesn’t address a single recommendation the President made. In fact, he barely touches on guns at all until about the last quarter of the piece. The bulk of Mamet’s diatribe focuses on his comic-book understanding of the Constitution, with brilliant, albeit delusional, passages like this:
Healthy government, as that based upon our Constitution, is strife. It awakens anxiety, passion, fervor, and, indeed, hatred and chicanery, both in pursuit of private gain and of public good. Those who promise to relieve us of the burden through their personal or ideological excellence, those who claim to hold the Magic Beans, are simply confidence men. Their emergence is inevitable, and our individual opposition to and rejection of them, as they emerge, must be blunt and sure; if they are arrogant, willful, duplicitous, or simply wrong, they must be replaced, else they will consolidate power, and use the treasury to buy votes, and deprive us of our liberties. It was to guard us against this inevitable decay of government that the Constitution was written. Its purpose was and is not to enthrone a Government superior to an imperfect and confused electorate, but to protect us from such a government.
Actually, no. The purpose of the Constitution, Dave, was to create and define the powers of each branch of the federal government. Yes, the federal government was intended to be a government of limited powers, but not so for the states; the Constitution as originally drafted imposed very few limitations on the powers of state government. And if you take the time to read Article I, Section 8, you’ll see that even the federal government was granted considerable power. Including, by the way, the power to “call[ ] forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.”
(Insert evil laugh here.)
Anyway, when Mamet finally gets to the point of his pseudo-intellectual treatise – you know, that guns = freedom – he mangles the lone factual assertion in the entire piece:
Violence by firearms is most prevalent in big cities with the strictest gun laws. In Chicago and Washington, D.C., for example, it is only the criminals who have guns, the law-abiding populace having been disarmed, and so crime runs riot.
Ah, that old saw. Tough gun laws don’t stop crime, because – Chicago! Only Mamet, unlike most who repeat this trope, hilariously misfires by including Washington, D.C. in the gun-laws-equal-more-crime argument. As it happens, the 2012 murder rate in the nation’s capital was the lowest it’s been since 1963.
But he is correct that the murder rate spiked in Chicago last year. It probably has nothing to do with the city’s “tough” gun laws, though; and, in fact, the opposite may be the case. As I’ve explained before, Chicago had a handgun ban in place until the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down in 2010. Meanwhile, according to the 2011 Chicago Murder Analysis published by the Chicago Police Department (.pdf file), the city’s murder rate declined more or less steadily from well over 900 murders a year in the early 1990s to around 435 murders per year in 2010 and 2011. 2011 Chicago Murder Analysis, p. 4. So, the facts, Dave, are these: Chicago’s murder rate declined by more than half from the early 1990s to 2010, all while the city’s handgun ban was in effect; but two and a half years after the handgun ban was stricken down, Chicago’s murder rate ticked up by about 17% (from 433 in 2011 to 506 in 2012). Whether or not the recent increase in Chicago’s murders is related to the Court striking down the city’s handgun ban, you simply can’t argue that the opposite is true, because the murder rate plummeted under even tougher gun laws than Chicago has today.
Facts, man. They always get in the way of the narrative.
Anyway, here’s the thing, Dave. The Constitution isn’t for amateurs. It’s not for playwrights who specialize in the use of the word “fuck.” It’s for grown ups who know how to do a little research.
And for closers, of course. The Constitution’s for closers, too.
[Special thanks to the inimitable Lizz Winstead for sharing the link to Mamet’s Daily Beast article.]