Divided, not 1-sided

Why do people find it so difficult to listen to opposing views?

Our understanding of reality is limited and often imperfect. Some aspects of our understanding of the world around us are more ingrained than others because they are associated with our core beliefs. As a result, we all tend to develop “authoritative” rules and some of us holding positions of political power are influenced by those rules which become authoritative laws.

However, these ingrained beliefs may develop inconsistencies and errors. So rather than identify and resolve those inconsistencies and errors, which can be time-consuming and sometimes psychologically painful we avoid them.

It is natural for some people, if not most people, to quickly reject any information that does not fit with our core beliefs.

The aspect that received the most attention:

Whilst the bill is about many aspects, for example, a capacity for effective self-defence against rape (i.e stalker/rapist/pepper-spray/late-shift/Eve Q Public) what was learnt during the past 6 months of research is that those in opposition to the bill ignore the other aspects, including the example given above, and focus almost entirely on the aspect of “the firearm”.

Divided, not one-sided:

Using the website Change.org the number of views, supporters, and shares were obtained independently of the author(s) of the petition which is an outline of the Preservation of Life – Community Protection Bill.

Over 48% that viewed the page containing the outline of the Bill invested a few minutes of their time before provided personal details and a valid email address. Of those that viewed over 12% shared the page to others.

The 3 datasets as a binary survey were:

  • Ones (1,819);
  • Zeros or Ones (488);
  • Zeros (1,945)

As there is an option to share without signing in support it is not possible to tell how many “ones” also” shared” or how many “zeros” not willing to invest time to support simply “shared” as a low effort “in support” action. Some of the “shares” may also be “fence-sitters”, however the percentage of those undecided on the bill can not be known from this binary survey.

In any case, it is reasonable to conclude that the responses are almost equally divided, and clearly not one-sided “for” or “against”.

No targeted promotion of the petition webpage was carried out and a genuine attempt to share the information with those demonstrating opposing views was made.

No advertising in the mainstream media or magazines was conducted, and the information of the bill via the petition webpage was present only occasionally through various Facebook groups, mostly political debate sites that displayed no aspects specific content within the context of the bill.

What are the opposing views and why?

Because many people tended to focus only on the aspect, “the firearm” the following information relates mainly to this aspect of the bill.

The responses were classified as either ‘offensive” or “defensive” responses because it was found that the comments made to posts about the bill were either focussed on the “aggressor” or the “protector” depending on their views.

Those that were in opposition to the bill typically cited “Port Arthur” as the primary reason for their view within the context that the type of weapon used in this incident enabled the aggressor to take many lives.

The matter of automatic and semi-automatic rifles, which are largely legally unavailable today, is not an aspect of the bill, and whilst this was pointed out to those holding the above-mentioned view, the aspects that are within the contents of the Bill were almost completely ignored.

For example, notwithstanding the creation of non-profit security firms, the bill adds very little to the number of legal firearms in circulation and it does not add anything to the number of legal automatic and semi-automatic rifles already in legal circulation.

The core aspect of the bill is about “legal protection” within the context that possession of the regulated device for self-defense is not evil in and of itself i.e. Malum prohibitum is no longer applicable in modern society.

When these aspects were presented there were no further comments/responses on these matters and respondents often reverted to their original rationales.

It is possible that the reason other aspects were ignored is there is a linkage between admitting that capacity for effective self-defense is “legitimate” in specific circumstances that agrees with the opposing view?

In support of this opinion was the following “thought experiment” that was posted 93 times over the past 6 months to those that demonstrated clear opposition to the bill.

Words to the effect:

“Imagine you are a farmer and have a firearm for pest control. In your farmhouse is your spouse and your young children. At 3 in the morning, one of your children comes to your bedside and says, “There was a man at my bedroom window, he was trying to get in.” You get out of bed and look through the window to see a man with a knife. Then you hear this man attempting to gain entry to your back door. You live in a remote area and the police are unlikely to arrive within the hour. What do you do?

Your primary options are:

(A) Do nothing and hope the door holds and the knifeman is of reasonable character;

OR

(B) Go to the kitchen and get a knife, or laundry for the iron, or dining room for a chair in preparation for hand to hand combat in the event the door does not hold;

OR

(C) Go to your safe and get a rifle in the hope that your advantage in the situation will deter the knifeman from entering the house.

Almost all that had a view in opposition to the Bill failed to make a choice and those that responded revert back to their original rationale that had no relevance to the thought experiment.

The Port Arthur Discussions:

When the matter of Port Arthur was raised with regard to a post about the bill the following response, words to the effect was given to prompt further conversation:

“Because of evolved desk top and garage manufacturing technologies, and the advent of the internet the ghost gun has rendered gun control legislation obsolete because criminals and the terrorists can make any firearm they want. Today about 30% of the firearms used in the commission of a crime is a ghost gun, and that percentage is growing. Sadly the next mass murder will be a terrorist attack. ”

Almost all that had a view in opposition to the Bill reverted back to their original rationale and the conversations did not progress further.

The offensive and defensive views:

A flight response is to look for a solution that deprives a future attacker of having the capacity to act offensively.  Conversely, a fight response is to look for a solution that enables a future protector a capacity to act defensively.  

Some may feel that “flight” is an offensive descriptor as they may see themselves engaging an attacker rather than to take flight from them. To clarify, the descriptors of “flight” and “fight” has nothing to do with the character of any person and are evolutionary descriptors related to decision making and forming viewpoints.

The evolutionary outcome of the fight-or-flight response is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.  The fight-or-flight response (also called hyperarousal) was first described in 1932 by Professor Walter Bradford Cannon, Harvard Medical School.

It is reasonable to say that an attack that defeats the survival of many such as a mass murder or act of terrorism will cause an emotional state of hyperarousal in many people that are the third person witnesses through the medium of audio and high definition visual news reporting.

In other words, the Port Arthur event caused an emotional response that was divided in the community, not one-sided within the community. In support of this opinion is that the Howard Government almost lost an election to One Nation, an outsider.

The rationale of those of the “offensive camp” is that the police are obliged to have weapons and citizens must be denied possession of a regulated weapon for the purpose of self-defense because the weapon could be stolen if not properly secured or misused for personal motives by a few people.

The rationale of those of the “defensive camp” is that locks are for honest people, and in outlawing the weapon only outlaws (not victims) have weapons because the knowledge of how to manufacture weapons cannot be eradicated.

The paradox:

The paradox is the rationales are mutually exclusive opinions. Yet neither can be said to be the prevailing wisdom. 

Therefore it is submitted that the probability of each representing a possible solution is the sum of their possibilities.

The Preservation of Life – Community Protection Bill takes into account the probability of each of the views representing a solution.