The Right Opinion

Aiming at the Wrong Targets

By Arnold Ahlert · Jan. 23, 2013

Back in 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a highly controversial paper entitled “The Negro Family: A Case for National Action.” In it he warned that “there is one unmistakable lesson in American history: a community that allows large numbers of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future – that community asks for and gets chaos.” It is precisely that chaos the forms the center of gun violence in the United States.

Columnist Larry Elder reveals the ugly truth. “The face of gun violence is not Sandy Hook. It is Chicago,” he writes. “In 2012, President Barack Obama’s adopted hometown had 506 murders, including more than 60 children. Philadelphia, a city that local television newscasters frequently call ‘Killadelphia,” saw 331 killed last year. In Detroit, 386 people were murdered. Of the 11,000 to 12,000 gun murders each year, more than half involve both black killers and black victims, mostly in urban areas and mostly gang-related. The No. 1 cause of preventable death for young black men is not auto accidents or accidental drowning, but homicide.“

60 dead children in Chicago is triple the number killed in Newtown. So why no national outrage? Two reasons come immediately to mind. First, the steady drip, drip of murder never elicits the same attention as a mass killing. That is a function of both human nature and a media that feeds on sensationalism, as opposed to relative insignificance, by comparison. Second, while killings in white, upper-middle class suburbs are relatively rare, dead black children in inner-city Chicago is "business as usual.”

Why does the nation tolerate such business as usual?

Moynihan explained why in 1993, when he coined the phrase, “defining deviancy down.” Moynihan was convinced that once society’s tolerance for bad behavior reached its limit, the ensuing moral “deregulation” would lead to an overall lowering of standards. A overall lowering of standards has produced a number of unpleasant realities, including the desensitization to rotten behavior in general, and violence in particular.

Enter the Hollywood moguls and violent video game manufacturers who have both cultivated that deregulation and exploited it. This has elicited demands that their First Amendment rights be limited much in the way the Obama administration is trying to undermine Second Amendment rights. That’s an easy trap to fall into, because the political divide, as in gun owners and their supporters tend to be conservative, while Hollywood, et al, is unabashedly liberal, makes the temptation to extract “payback” by the former group from the latter group hard to resist. But it should be resisted for a couple of reasons: this administration’s contempt for the Constitution doesn’t need buttressing; and two wrongs don’t make a right.

Yet it is remarkable that no one talks about what the entertainment industry used to do before they willingly jumped headlong into the cultural sewer: they used to censor themselves. Or, more accurately, they used to have a sense of now anachronistic concepts known as decency, decorum and good taste. During his task force meetings, the ones where violent video game manufacturers and Hollywood entertainment moguls were given a pass for their undeniable and ongoing contributions to “business as usual” – which they all naturally denied – Vice President Joe Biden wondered aloud what was “coarsening our culture.”

Here’s a hint, Joe. Take the avalanche of social dysfunction that can be traced directly back to the cataclysmic changes precipitated during Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” initiative, which made it financially practical for fathers of families collecting welfare to abandon their children. Add in the American left’s never-ending efforts to define deviancy down under the auspices of moral relativism, multiculturalism and non-judgmentalism – every one of which is designed to elevate pure emotionalism over rational thought – and you get what you got.

Thus the obvious question arises. Who benefits most when substantial numbers of Americans remain infatuated by the terminal adolescence that is defined by elevating emotionalism over reason? The journey this nation has taken from 1965 to the present could never have happened were it not for the most pernicious reality of all: the Democrat party needs a certain level of social dysfunction and/or moral decay such terminal adolescence elicits, to maintain their power base.

A substantial part of their constituency are Americans who are not only dependent on government, but who have less and less moral qualms about being so, irrespective of all the social dysfunction that inevitably emerges from that reality. It is Democrats who are constantly reminding minority Americans that they are victims of a terminally racist nation with no hope of succeeding on their own. It is Democrats who celebrate the “diversity” of family structures, even as millions of single-parent families endure the far higher percentages of social pathologies and economic deprivation than those that afflict two-parent households. It is Democrats who have taught entire generations of public school children what to believe, instead of how to think. It is Democrats for whom “success” is measured by how many people they can get on government programs, as opposed to off government programs.

In a genuine conversation about the “coarsening of our culture” Democrats might be forced to explain why they are so willing to maintain their political power at the expense of millions of under-educated, morally confused and government-dependent Americans, who provide the fodder for our ever-expanding welfare state. It is rather remarkable that Barack Obama has ridiculed Republicans on several occasions for desiring an “on your own” society, and precious few Americans can grasp the utter absurdity of the spirit-crushing, bankruptcy-inducing, freedom-sapping collectivist alternative this president and his fellow Democrats embrace.

Make no mistake: few things define deviancy down better than Democrats and Obama sending the message to millions of Americans that self-reliance, ambition, and individual liberty are really selfishness, greed and mean-spiritedness in disguise. It is a testament to Moynihan’s prescience that we have reached a point where four words of overt historical revisionism – “you didn’t’ build that” – can trump more than two centuries of American exceptionalism in the addled minds of so many Americans.

It doesn’t get more deviant than that – with the possible exception of using 20 dead school children in Newtown, and a few more as stage props in Washington, to advance the progressive agenda on gun control, even as Obama and his fellow travelers calculatingly ignore the cultural calamity of dependency and moral confusion for which they bear the lion’s share – if not complete – responsibility.

Bottom line: the progressive agenda has done far more to damage this nation than guns ever will. When we have a conversation about that, maybe America will finally begin to heal itself.