Start off your week with a short thread from Patrick McKenzie (@patio11), who’s known in tech circles as an expert on how products (and ideas) find adherents:
Distributed communities on the Internet are an extremely powerful acculturating force, often derided for being low status, disruptive, or somehow unserious.
I think we’re not really anywhere close to reckoning with this, or current and future implications on society.
This applies to everything from the online feeder system to startupdom to Extremely Online political factions to online radicalization to parasocial relationships spawning tribes to ...
And I think people pervasively underestimate all of the above because in many cases they don’t look like traditional belief systems or economic networks.
But eventually it’s just a numbers game, right?
You can’t come anywhere close to replicating the number of words of dogma that e.g. Catholicism has with one hundred talented writers spending 20 hours a week for two years, but you can very easily create something which is robust enough to consume all of someone’s time.
And if you think “How many hours does an institution get with X prior to them being thoroughly aligned with it?”, some employers might say maybe 10k, schooling laughs and bids 15k, mainstream religions bid a few hundred, most brands say tens, and then have you seen mobile stats.
Not to mention the platforms are basically licensing out extremely effective technology to attract, sort, engage, and retain communities, including economic engines for them, and teaching people (including kids) the art and science of community management.
And it goes on from there a bit. Connecting this to guns underlines a point we made in “Guns are a virus. But not in the way people think.” — that point being that gun culture is extremely contagious once the right tools are in place. And the internet provides those tools. As the essay put it (after a passage where we modeled the outbreak of a meme spreading through a population):
Second, remember the final animation, where the outbreak blazes through high-density patches in the network? That matters not just for the high-density patch; it also makes nodes in the low-density patches more likely to catch the meme. The lesson, then, is simple: build high-density patches. And again, the gun meme benefits from the happenstance of existing in modern times: the internet is the most powerful tool ever created for building high-density networks. The networks are easier to build than ever, possible to build denser than ever, and possible to build bigger than ever. So we’ve got an exponentially growing set of networks (because the internet itself is a contagion with outrageously high R0) that are unprecedentedly numerous, dense, and large. If your goal is “build high-density patches”, that’s very good news. If your goal is to put brakes on the contagion, it’s … well, it’s bad.
Make it a great week, gang.
This week’s links
This’ll be review for a lot of you, but for anyone who needs an explainer, this is one of the best videos out there on the history, status, definition, and tradeoffs of pistol braces and SBRs. Side note: Lucky Gunner’s YouTube channel is criminally undersubscribed. Their stuff is consistently top-notch, check it out.
This article from CNN is mostly not about guns, but has some rare inside info about Supreme Court deliberations on the recent batch of ten Second Amendment cases they declined to hear:
Roberts also sent enough signals during internal deliberations on firearms restrictions, sources said, to convince fellow conservatives he would not provide a critical fifth vote anytime soon to overturn gun control regulations. As a result, the justices in June denied several petitions regarding Second Amendment rights.
After hearing a New York City gun regulation challenge in December, the majority decided the case was moot because the city had amended its ordinance which banned the transporting of guns to firing ranges or second homes outside the city.
CNN has learned that resolution of that case took many twists and multiple draft opinions. Guided by Roberts, Justice Brett Kavanaugh crafted much of what turned out to be an unsigned "per curiam" opinion -- joined by six justices, including Roberts -- returning the case to lower court judges. Kavanaugh also wrote a separate statement -- this one he signed -- suggesting it was time for the justices to resolve conflicting interpretations of Second Amendment rights.
Challenges to other firearms regulations were pending and conservatives who had wanted to clarify the scope of the Second Amendment had to consider whether to bring the issue back to the justices.
It takes four votes to accept a case and five to rule on it, and sources have told CNN that the justices on the right did not believe they could depend on a fifth vote from Roberts, who had in 2008 and 2010 voted for milestone gun-rights rulings but more recently seemed to balk at the fractious issue.
Ian McCollum on a little-known provision of the Gun Control Act.
A good summary video on something we mentioned back in OSD 51:
Following up on a story they first covered back in October, CNN ran an interview with former ATF agent Dan O’Kelly this week. The issue is straightforward, but very big: the regulatory definition of firearm receiver — “that part of a firearm which provides housing for the hammer, bolt or breechblock, and firing mechanism, and which is usually threaded at its forward portion to receive the barrel” — doesn’t cover AR lowers. In fact, O’Kelly estimates that it doesn’t apply to about 60% of the guns in the US.
The bigger problem, from the ATF’s perspective, is that judges have started to agree. The CNN piece describes several recent prosecutions where, after seeing where the cases were headed, ATF chose to drop its charges rather than give the judges a chance to make a binding ruling that would turn AR lowers (and potentially most semi-auto handguns in the country) into, legally, paperweights.
Quite long, but this classic is one of the definitive sources of background info on the legal aspects of defensive gun use (disclaimer: we’re not lawyers, and you should consult a lawyer for any actual legal advice). Cool VHS vibes, too.
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