Eric Holder: People Need to be ‘Brainwashed’ About Guns


I’ve always thought that Aaron Sorkin’s show, “The West Wing,” got an unnecessarily bad wrap from conservatives. Sure, it was packed to the gills with liberal pieties, but during its best-written seasons (which amounted to about half of its total run), conservative characters could get in a good riposte from time to time. 

For instance, in a second season episode entitled “In This White House”, the president has just survived an assassination attempt where one of his aides was also hit by a bullet. That sets up this exchange between Sam Seaborn, one of the president’s speechwriters, and Ainsley Hayes, a sharp Republican pundit who’s rebuffed an offer to work in the Democratic administration (this being TV, she eventually joins up):


You think because I don’t want to work here it’s because I can get a better gig on Geraldo? Gosh, let’s see if there could possibly be any other reason why I wouldn’t want to work in this White House? This White House that feels that government is better for children than parents are. That looks at forty years of degrading and humiliating free lunches handed out in a spectacularly failed effort to level the playing field and says, ‘Let’s try forty more.’ This White House that says of anyone that points that out to them, that they are cold and mean and racist, and then accuses Republicans of using the politics of fear. This White House that loves the Bill of Rights, all of them – except the second one.


This is the wrong place to talk about guns right now. I thought your column was idiotic.


Imagine my surprise.


But for a brilliant surgical team and two centimeters of a miracle, this guy’s [the injured aide] dead right now. From bullets fired from a gun bought legally.

They bought guns, they loaded them, they drove from Wheeling to Rosslyn, and until they pulled the trigger they had yet to commit a crime. I am so off-the-charts tired of the gun lobby tossing around words like ‘personal freedom’ and no one calling ’em on it. It’s not about personal freedom, and it certainly has to do with public safety. It’s just that some people like guns.


Yes, they do. But you know what’s more insidious than that? Your gun control position doesn’t have anything to do with public safety, and it’s certainly not about personal freedom. It’s about you don’t like people who do like guns. You don’t like the people. Think about that, the next time you make a joke about the South.

That dialogue came to mind when I saw the Media Research Center video that Drudge is linking to this afternoon. Culled from deep in the C-SPAN archives, it features then-U.S. Attorney Eric Holder suggesting that gun owners should be subjected to the same sense of societal shame as smokers (for the record, this would make me the most hated man in America) and suggesting an anti-gun media campaign that he compares to “brainwashing.” I’ve embedded an uncut excerpt below (the MRC version is edited, which I think is always unwise in gotcha situations like this).

Now — because our side tends to get too cute by half on these things — I think we should consider Holder’s message in total. His criticisms of a blood-drenched media don’t sound too far removed from what a lot of conservatives were saying in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting spree.

Candidly, I find that argument pretty unpersuasive regardless of which side of the aisle it’s coming from. If the overwhelming majority of the public can watch “Dexter” or play “Grand Theft Auto” without being compelled to embark on a murderous rampage, the real story there is how effectively we can separate fantasy from reality, not how blurry the line is. Certainly we ought to be looking at the factors that tie together the small handful of killers (like, just to pick something at random, mental instability) rather than the traits they share with a huge swath of the non-violent.

I do think Holder is on to something, though, when he talks about the fetishizing of guns among young men (though he slyly extrapolates it to all gun owners). But the story is incomplete. Abetted by examples in sports and music (especially hip-hop), guns have become an inner-city status symbol. I suppose, in some respects, you could interpret this as a sign of societal rot. The meanest streets in the nation are Hobbesian affairs. Respect can only be cultivated by force. Your Glock is going to earn more deference than that master’s degree from Tufts.

If there’s an urban vanguard, however, that’s arming itself as a show of dominance, it’s only logical that their neighbors — particularly in places where a call to the police might as well be a message in a bottle — are also going to acquire some firepower, purely as a matter of self-defense. All of the whiz-bang Madison Avenue PSAs of Holder’s dreams aren’t going to change that very basic calculus of personal safety and, ultimately, survival.

In the end, that’s what’s so troubling about Holder treating gun ownership as a social pathology. The big city scenario is only an exaggerated version of what the vast majority of gun owners are thinking. Most of us don’t purchase firearms to compliment our egos. In fact, most of us hope we’ll never have to use them anywhere except the range. Rather, we recognize that potentially life-threanting chaos could always be around the corner — and law enforcement may not.

One example: I have an elderly family member that lives in a high-rise outside of Los Angeles. One night, a man the size of a defensive lineman, fueled by alcohol and drugs, started beating on the door of the unit my family member and his wife live in, making violent threats because he was so mentally scrambled that he didn’t realize it wasn’t the home of his girlfriend (the source of his rage). The man threatened to beat the door down. My family member got his gun and repeatedly warned the man to leave, telling him that he had the wrong address and letting him know that he was armed and would fire if forced to. The police were called but didn’t arrive in time. The man broke down the door and charged him. Only because of the gun was the innocent man the one who lived. Needless to say (to Ricochet readers anyway, perhaps not to the Attorney General), my relation didn’t glory in that moment. In fact, it haunts him to this day.

An undifferentiated view of gun owners can’t account for this scenario. Seeing firearms purely as an instrument for bloodlust impedes recognizing how often they are a deterrent to–or even a remedy for–bloodlust. A gun, responsibly owned, is, in some sense, the very mark of a free person. For it says that the state, while it may have a monopoly on the legitimate initiation of force, does not have one on the legitimate repulsion of force. This is not a sentiment we can tolerate being “brainwashed” out of people.

These are all things, of course, that could be understood by politicians who weren’t motivated primarily by not liking people who like guns.

P.S. — I’m keeping the smokes too. Stuff it, Eric.

There are 16 comments.

  1. Inactive

    If we were to create a profile (RACIST) of an average shooter, it wouldn’t look anything like a smoker outside a building.

    The bile rises asI struggle to choose the metaphor, Covington et al ?

    Packing the DOJ with radicals ?

    Marc Rich ?

    Fast n furious ?

    I melt into a puddle of rage, knowing that I don’t own a newspaper.

    Damnit the NYT is correct, I must be another wicked witch of the right !

    • #1
    • January 11, 2013 at 6:09 am
    • Like
  2. Inactive

    Very well said.

    • #2
    • January 11, 2013 at 7:14 am
    • Like
  3. Member
    Great post. It’s probably true that guns are an urban status symbol, but I suspect that problem only arises because guns are a practical necessity in the drug trade. Decriminalize drugs and I think urban disarmament would follow. Holder’s speech reminded me of this scene from the movie “Friday”:
    • #3
    • January 11, 2013 at 7:14 am
    • Like
  4. Thatcher
    What I can’t stand about The West Wing is that all scenes go like this:Character A: Monologue.

    Character B: Monologue.

    Character A: Riposte.

    Character B: Monologue.

    Character A: Monologue.

    Albert: Yawn.

    • #4
    • January 11, 2013 at 7:17 am
    • Like
  5. Member


    Well Mr. Senik whatever your intent you have convinced me of one matter with this column of yours.

    When I fill up for gas tomorrow I’ll be picking up a pack of Marlboro Reds at the same time, I’ll be sure to curse Governor Brown and his cretin Legislature as I do so. 

    • #5
    • January 11, 2013 at 7:45 am
    • Like
  6. Inactive

    Stuff it, Eric.

    Well played, sir. And, may I suggest, a new bumper sticker slogan for 2013.

    • #6
    • January 11, 2013 at 7:50 am
    • Like
  7. Member

    I hope I see the day where Holder is punished for his numerous crimes. He hides in plain sight,yet is a murderer and a thug.

    • #7
    • January 11, 2013 at 8:18 am
    • Like
  8. Inactive

    “when he talks about the fetishizing of guns among young men (though he slyly extrapolates it to all gun owners).”

    That’s the troubling thing! The Liberals are looking at the gang-bangers, thugs, drug dealers, etc. and think that legal gun owners are the same.

    They think that a 50 year old guy, working hard his whole life, owning a few guns and shooting a couple times a month, appreciating the beauty and precision of a fine firearm, is the same as a hopped up junkie or gangster wanna-be with his pants below his butt, shooting someone with a cheap pistol.

    It must be a political correctness deficit. They cannot bring themselves to differentiate between lawful and unlawful people, so the guns must be bad. Taking the guns away from the thugs and they won’t be thugs anymore, magically.

    After all, we are all the same. To a liberal, even men and women are the same.

    I think they are mentally deficient.

    • #8
    • January 11, 2013 at 8:22 am
    • Like
  9. Member
    Troy Senik, Ed.: P.S. — I’m keeping the smokes too. Stuff it, Eric. 

    Ah, our boyish Troy shows his true colors.


    • #9
    • January 11, 2013 at 8:32 am
    • Like
  10. Thatcher


    But what would he know?

    • #10
    • January 11, 2013 at 8:45 am
    • Like
  11. Member
    I. raptus: I agree with you both aboutThe West Wing. . .


    I hope to see posts from you about West Wing on the Member Feed.

    (And to “sawatdeeka” –sawatdeekrup!)


    • #11
    • January 11, 2013 at 8:57 am
    • Like
  12. Member

    You finally wrote something about West Wing. I hope to see more of your West Wing insights. 

    Today I was mulling that very scene you just described.

    • #12
    • January 11, 2013 at 9:19 am
    • Like
  13. Inactive

    Excellent job Mr. Senik. You done Ricochet proud!

    I’ve been watching the West Wing on Netflix …. were the women as smoking hot as Leos daughter when you were there?

    I know Iam PIG ……

    • #13
    • January 11, 2013 at 10:16 am
    • Like
  14. Member

    I agree with you both about The West Wing. It obviously ran out of steam once Sorkin left, and much of the last three seasons flat-out stunk. (It flipped back and forth between primary and general races for the next election and what was going on at the Bartlett White House, and while the former had some interesting tidbits, the latter was just awful.)

    But the first 2-3 seasons were excellent. It’s still one of my favorite television shows. Sure, it’s about a liberal White House — but what would you expect it to be about? An extreme right-winger who’s in everybody’s face? Guess how that would turn out?

    I suspect a lot of the criticism from the right/conservatives is from people who’ve never seen the show. Almost without fail, when someone on the other side of the aisle is present and makes a reasonable point, they implicitly win the argument (Ainsley Hayes being the most obvious example of this). Regular characters routinely go on rants about how their biggest problem being members of their own party. I could list many examples, but there’s that word limit.

    (And to “sawatdeeka” — sawatdeekrup!)

    • #14
    • January 11, 2013 at 12:45 pm
    • Like
  15. Thatcher
    Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    But what would he know? · 18 hours ago

    Jefferson also thought the French Revolution was a great idea…:-(

    • #15
    • January 12, 2013 at 3:12 am
    • Like
  16. Member
    Albert Arthur
    Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    But what would he know? · 18 hours ago

    Jefferson also thought the French Revolution was a great idea…:-( · 4 hours ago

    When you abandon hope what is left?

    At times you must embrace it even when all the odds call you a fool. You don’t always win, but if you abandon hope you will always lose. 

    • #16
    • January 12, 2013 at 7:36 am
    • Like