Megan McArdle violates the Do Something Imperative, left freaks out (Updated)

by Sonny Bunch on December 18, 2012

Megan McArdle was subjected to a two-minute hate on Twitter last night for suggesting we instruct people that cowering in the face of mass violence is an ineffective way to stop said violence. Allow me to suggest, however, that liberals weren’t upset because of 74 words in a 4,591 word essay.

Nope. They were upset because she dared dismantle liberals’ Do Something Imperative.

In a calmly argued and entirely rational way, Megan McArdle showed that the urge to shout We must do something! from the rafters, while comforting, has very little chance of making any difference in the real world. As she puts it:

In this case, there probably is a policy which could stop mass shootings.  But we are not going to implement that policy. And since nothing else is going to work, we are not going to pass a law that will stop these sorts of mass shootings. We may pass a law, mind you. But whatever we do pass, we will have more of these evil happenings ahead of us.

You should really read the whole thing, as she explains point-by-point why knee-jerk responses to such a tragedy, while possibly comforting, are asinine and unlikely to make much of a difference. America’s combination of gun-saturation, Second Amendment protections, and democratic governance mean that the only law that would prevent such a killing—wholesale confiscation of firearms by the government from law-abiding residents—will never, ever, ever happen.

Sorry dudes.

But oh, the horror! Pointing out the reality of the situation—that the Do Something Imperative is comforting foolishness—could not be tolerated. So Twitterers do what Twitterers do and took their commands from Jonathan Chait and Josh Marshall and the rest of the very serious liberal set and heaped scorn upon McArdle for blowing up their worldview. Guess what, guys: Lashing out at Megan McArdle might make you feel better, but it will in no way, shape, or form change the facts on the ground. Get over it. Just because you’re a believer in the Theodor Herzl Theory of gun control policy—”If you will it, it is no dream”—doesn’t mean that you’re going to get what you want or that what you want even makes sense.

Update: McArdle wrote a followup pointing out just how insanely, deeply dishonest Chait’s original reply was. But of course it was dishonest. Because he, and others like him, are not actually interested in her point about people rushing a shooter. They want to tear her down for daring to point out that there is no effective policy response.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Sid December 18, 2012 at 9:57 am

Proof you don’t know anything about what you’re talking about — Marshall himself admitted it’ll be tough to “Do Something” in the face of tragedy:

He and Chait were objecting to McArdle’s ridiculous suggestion that kids should be trained to attack armed gunmen. They had a serious rebuttal to an unserious argument — something i dont’ think you’ve ever managed.


Joe December 18, 2012 at 2:44 pm

The government will not save you. You need to come to grips with this. The average “active shooter” incident lasts 6 minutes (first round fired to last round fired). That is not enough time for police to reliably arrive onscene and intervene in a meaningful way. On the other hand, most every shooter has intentionally sought out an environment of helpless victims (otherwise every city has a police station where he could have found a two-way fight). When active shooters make contact with armed resistance, they usually surrender or go to ground and kill themselves. One guy or gal at the mall returning fire is enough. Gun laws will not save you and the police will not save you, but the good news is you can save yourself.


Gabriel December 18, 2012 at 12:03 pm

It’s always dispiriting to read comment threads at high traffic blogs but it’s especially dispiriting to read that thread, most of which show no evidence of having read the article but simple take Chait’s slanderous caricature of it as “I really love me my guns so instead of doing something let’s just teach kids to form a flying wedge.”


DougJ December 18, 2012 at 2:19 pm

I’m a gun safety consultant, currently working with the Danish
government. While it’s easy to mock Megan McArdle for suggesting
shooter rushing, there is actually a long tradition of shooter rushing
in many of the Nordic countries, and these countries have
traditionally had among the lowest rates of mass shootings (Anders
Behring Breivik being a true outlier) of any western countries. It’s
counterintuitive, but most shooters “freeze” when run at by a group,
even a group of children.


Gabriel December 18, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Regarding the follow-up post, I’d always thought Megan was a native speaker of English but I’m wondering now that she used the phrase “Mr. Chait” when she seems to mean “slanderous sack of shit.” Maybe it’s a regional usage of New Yorkers.


Hatfield December 18, 2012 at 5:55 pm

It seems to me Ms. McArdle was saying that there are effective policy responses, but that the most effective was not going to happen, so what are the other possible policy responses. Magazine clip sizes and rushing gunmen. Parenthetically, she said that arming teachers was a bad idea. And I suspect that Mr. Chait is not the only one to think that a massive, nation-wide, presumably-compulsory program to train people to organize with strangers in moments of enormous stress might not work well. Compulsory health insurance is tyranny, compulsory kamikaze training, not so much.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: