The Fact is People Don't Like Facts. But They Sure Do Love Their Guns.

The Fact is People Don't Like Facts. But They Sure Do Love Their Guns.

It's true. Most people don't like facts as much as they like ideologies. There's probably some kind of explanation for this rooted in tribalism. Whether we do it consciously or not, we all want to be a part of a group, and we think, speak, act, and eat like the other people in the group that we're in so that we can fit in and keep getting invited to parties. Tribalism is kind of an old-time-y way of talking about things like the suburbs and housing additions and Jeep owners. It's where people come together around some shared behaviors, preferences, or values, which are held with a strong sense of loyalty.

When you become a part of a tribe, you end up putting bumper stickers on your car and referring to yourself as a "proud blank" (with blank being replaced with the name of the tribe). In the case of Jeep owners, I think they even have a secret wave for when you pass each other on the street, but I don't know this for sure because I am not a Jeep owner, and as of this writing, I don't foresee becoming one just to be clued in on this alleged wave, solely so I can complete the content of this article. What happens is that tribal membership is associated with one's identity. You ARE a Jeep owner, rather than you own a Jeep. You ARE a vegan, rather than you like to eat that dense bread stuff posing as meat. You ARE a Democrat or Republican rather than you vote Democrat or Republican (or Libertarian, I guess).

Often, when someone holds to a thought process or vehicle preference as a part of their identity, the sharing of those values within a tribal community is gratifying. It is a kind of positive reinforcement when others around you share the same values, making it more likely you will adopt those values if you haven't and hold more tightly to them. When someone criticizes your tribally shared views, they are essentially criticizing you personally and all of your friends (and your kids too). That's why fights break out at sporting events because people don't just enjoy watching their preferred team, but their team is a part of their identity, and the other teams are the enemy.  This creates a kind of blindness where you favor your team and disfavor the other. Besides the bumper stickers, people will say things like "not my president" to be sure that you know that they are not to be mistaken as part of the other tribe. They will edit the names of the leaders of the enemy tribes to position them as a deplorable person from whom no good idea can ever come.

Think about yourself in this scenario. Have you ever defended your kid because they were your kids? Yes. You have. Because that's your tribe, and we stick together. What about trusting something your friend said and being skeptical of something your worst enemy says? We've all done that. That is known as source bias, where any idea coming from a particular source is presumed bad or untrustworthy, and any idea coming from my tribe is surely good or at least worth discussion.

The other day I retweeted something from someone named Peter Boghossian. It went as follows.

Now, if I'm being honest, I don't know who this guy is or what he was talking about. I just see that what he is saying has merit. The responses, on the other hand, showed that people loved their tribe (or party aisle side) at the cost of loving any principal that may have been the impetus to form that tribe. Boghossian presented a truth about truth, and I thought it was true. The source of a statement has no bearing on its truthfulness.

We often hold onto our beliefs very tightly when they come from a place of identity, like being a Colts fan and thinking that Tom Brady is a trash person. Nothing has a tighter grip than belonging to a tribe. Every idea or belief that is associated with your tribe is associated with who you are, and any challenge of that is an attack on your very own identity.

So this can play out in some bad ways, but also in some that are more positive. For example, perhaps it is a part of your identity that you are a cancer survivor (check Twitter to look at bio). I can imagine you may be able to offer a lot of hope to others that face cancer. When it comes to football, it is acceptable to make fun of Patriots fans if you are a Colts fan. It's also okay to make fun of Colts fans if you basically always win.  But what about the forbidden topic? Politics. Let's start with our beloved rights. The Right the Bear Arms.

Now, I am going to admit that I typed the word "bear" several different ways, and this sent me on a tangent. First, I pictured a small man with the arms of a large grizzly. Next, I pictured a fully dressed man with scrawny unclothed arms. Eventually, I Googled to make sure I was spelling things correctly.


Consider this example. Many people are pro-gun because they are pro-gun. Not because there is something better or more sound about that position. Not because it makes a better world, makes them safer, makes their pants fit better, or anything else. It is simply a part of their identity as a Texan, an American or a Republican or something else. When people build their ideological position on ideology alone, you may catch them using some kind of logic to justify their position, like “it makes people safer” or “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”.  It positions gun ownership as important or even virtuous. This is much like what Ted Cruz did on April 28th. He said, "But one thing is abundantly clear - if the objective is to stop violent crime, restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens doesn't work. In fact, it typically makes crime worse because when you disarm law-abiding citizens, you make them more likely to be victims." This is pretty goofy logic, considering that it's clear that the data doesn't support Ted's claims. As a matter of fact, The United States has the 32nd highest gun deaths. The facts do not matter to Senator Cruz. The ideology does.

To be fair, there may be many good reasons to be pro-gun, but those reasons are not the ones Ted says. Once you look at the data on the subject, you find that his claims are not based on reality. Recently, I found this daily email from New York Times quite interesting. The conclusion is obvious, though. People are not safer because law-abiding citizens have guns (because we have a lot of them).

That doesn't mean Ted or anyone else shouldn't be pro-gun. It just means that they are basing their position on a feculent tale. Senator Cruz is pro-gun in spite of the facts and claiming otherwise to rationalize his ideology, and his constituents are following along because it is part of their identity. We are a tribe, and we stick together.

It's okay to be pro-gun, but you should probably be honest with yourself and others about why. You should also know that the US is among the top 10 nations for the volume of gun deaths and is in the top 3rd of nations for murders in general -- trailing behind most developed and democratic nations. Facts aside, it is your right, and facts are not a good enough reason to change your ideology.