The liberal elite's culture of ignorance

May 30, 1999|By Tony Snow

WASHINGTON -- If you want to appreciate the culture of ignorance now flourishing in these United States, consider some recent pronouncements by Rosie O'Donnell and Spike Lee.

Ms. O'Donnell is posing as the Joan of Arc of gun control, having experienced an epiphany when she sank her incisors into actor Tom Selleck, who was a "guest" on her syndicated talk show.

Even though Mr. Selleck is the nicest guy in show business, she treated him like meat.

As hausfraus and tourists shouted "You go, girl!" the klatchmistress assailed his affiliation with the National Rifle Association, insinuating that he condoned the massacre of innocents at Columbine High School.

Liberal vanity

One seldom gets such a perfect example of liberal moral vanity. The show's producers had promised Mr. Selleck the conversation would focus on his new movie, not guns.

But Rosie broke the compact and ambuscaded the poor fellow. Then again, she may have had her reasons. Mr. Selleck often shoots objects -- sporting clays -- that otherwise might carry food.

In any case, Rosie's attack was notable for its imbecility and hypocrisy. Begin with the dim-wit part: Gun violence in the United States has been declining for the better part of a decade.

Research indicates that states with relatively permissive gun laws also have the lowest levels of gun crime -- presumably because bad guys never know whether their intended victims are packing heat.

Moreover, the nostrums recently approved by the U.S. Senate -- trigger locks and background checks -- would have saved no one at Columbine High School and could make it more difficult for citizens (such as, say, battered wives) to defend themselves.

The hostess also picked the wrong prey. Tom Selleck regularly helps high-school kids without inviting camera crews or issuing press releases.

He joined the NRA to defend members against charges that they're a bunch of sadists awaiting the Fuehrer. Indeed, the NRA spends considerable time and money advocating the vigorous prosecution of goons who use guns against others.

This leads us to the hypocrisy part. The Clinton administration has promoted more federal gun legislation than any in history, but it hasn't enforced the statutes.

The Justice Department has prosecuted exactly one person in four years for violating the much-touted Brady Law and the feds have gone after 20 juvenile gun-thugs in the last three years -- out of an estimated 20,000 cases.

Cut to the moral core of the controversy. The NRA never has condoned the murder of innocents. This distinguishes it from the Clinton White House -- which is considering the legal harvest of babies for medical purposes -- and Planned Parenthood.

If Rosie were truly concerned about preventable deaths, she might want to ambush Democrats who support partial-birth abortion.

Or she might want to bushwhack Spike Lee, who recently told the New York Post that the National Rifle Association ought to shut its doors and that someone ought to shoot NRA president Charlton Heston -- not only a nice guy, but a Freedom Marcher in the 1960s -- "with a .44-caliber Bulldog."

Double standard

Talk about double standards! If some right-wing cracker were to suggest similar justice for Spike Lee, Janet Reno would be convening a hate-crimes tribunal and prescribing a year's worth of sensitivity training for the foul-mouthed malefactor.

Don't hold your breath for someone to tell Spike to put a sock in it. Among liberal elites these days, Mr. Lee is a man of conscience, and the pope, who believes in the sanctity of all human life, is an "extremist."

Consider a few more piquant contrasts. The NRA doesn't support the deliberate shooting of unarmed civilians -- unlike, say, the FBI, which has defended in court the right of an agent to murder Vicky Weaver on her porch.

The NRA didn't make possible the importation of hundreds of thousands of automatic firearms from China -- as the Clinton administration did just four years ago.

Then there's the drive-by war in Kosovo, a model for those who believe the best way to resolve disagreements is through random use of deadly force.

One more: Democrats fret about the easy availability of guns but refuse to hold hearings on the fact that this administration has made nuclear technology easily available to governments and terrorists that would love to murder lots of Americans.

The chief danger in any democracy is that ignorance will drive out reflection. (There is substantial and growing scholarly literature on this subject).

By choosing to demonize the NRA instead of targeting some more potent threats to our well-being -- absentee fathers, cruddy schools, parents who treat kids as ornaments rather than blessings -- would-be saints like Rosie and Spike have chosen to do violence to truth rather than to seek truth about violence.

Tony Snow writes a syndicated column.

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