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Ted Nugent vs. Logic

Ted Nugent vs. Logic

Ted Nugent forced his way back into the news Saturday morning after he appeared on The Joe Pags Show and called Parkland students "poor, pathetic liars with no soul."

Oh boy.

In it's entirety, per Media Matters, the quote reads as follows:

TED NUGENT: The level of ignorance goes beyond stupidity. Again, the National Rifle Association are a bunch of American families who have a voice to stand up for our God-given Constitutionally-guaranteed right to keep and bear arms. We have no blood on our hands. No NRA member have ever been involved in any mass shootings at all, in fact the National Rifle Association is the lone organization that has taught firearm safety in schools, and for law enforcement, and for military, and for childrens organizations and family organizations around the country for 100 years. So once again, this poor pathetic individual is a liar.

JOE PAGLIARULO (HOST): I’m going to pick it up from there. And then she continues and then the David Hogg kid who everybody’s talking about lately jumps

NUGENT: The dumbing down of America is manifested in the culture deprivation of our academia that have taught these kids the lies, media that have prodded and encouraged and provided these kids lies. I really feel sorry for them because it’s not only ignorant and dangerously stupid, but it’s soulless. To attack the good law-abiding families of America when well known predictable murderers commit these horrors is deep in the category of soulless. These poor children, I’m afraid to say this and it hurts me to say this, but the evidence is irrefutable, they have no soul.
— Media Matters

Yeah. I bet you thought the excerpt I chose to quote at the beginning of this article was inflammatory click bait to get you to read on. How I wish you were right.

We'll unpack that quote in a minute. But before that it's important to understand who Ted Nugent is -- not just because it's fair to be confused and uninformed as to who Ted Nugent is and why, in 2018, his views were given a bigger platform than any other angry Twitter user -- but also because when you examine the views of another human being it's deeply important to know who they are.

We are all the sum of our experiences and those experiences frame and shape the way we see the world. So, who is Ted Nugent?

Ted and Music

Among other things -- which matter quite a bit and we will get to -- Nugent used to be a successful musician.

Nugent's career peaked in 1977 with the release of Cat Scratch Fever, an album that went triple platinum and climbed as high as 17th on the US Billboard Charts.

However, since 1980's Scream Dream: Nugent has not seen an album of his be certified as gold status or better; his work hasn't charted higher than 26th on the US Billboard and has failed to chart anywhere outside of the United States; he has 1.2 million monthly listeners on Spotify and 268,000 followers which, as I just learned, is not enough to qualify for Spotify's global rankings.

It's fair to question whether or not Nugent's work and by extension Nugent himself resonate with the American people -- or any people -- in 2018. 

But he's still touring and so some sector of America must be buying his tickets which means he and his work still speak to at least some number of people.

It's also fair to wonder why he isn't being told to shut up and strum while other politically active celebrities such as LeBron James have been publicly criticized by media outlets for taking a stance and exercising their first amendment rights. 

But it's also important to recognize that throughout his career Nugent has been politically active in ways that are all at once good and bad and surprising and alarming.

If we choose to set aside all the other reasons why LeBron was singled out, for the moment at least, then maybe we can use Nugent's political history as a reason for why his voice carries weight now.

Ted and Politics

Since the 1970's Nugent has promoted anti-drug and anti-alcohol stances and is a national spokesperson for D.A.R.E - Drug Abuse Resistance Education. 

Although the reasons why a person becomes addicted to drugs are nuanced and varied, it ought to be common ground that drug abuse is a bad thing and therefore advocating against drug abuse is a good thing.

Unfortunately that's the end of his political ventures that fit into tidy and simple boxes.

In an interview a few months after Nelson Mandela was released during the negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa, Nugent stated:

"Apartheid isn't that cut-and-dry. All men are not created equal."

He went on to describe South Africans as "a different breed of man" who "still put bones in their noses, they still walk around naked, they wipe their butts with their hands."

I'll just let that one sink in. You will certainly feel a way about it, and no matter what that way is, there is no combination of words that exist in any language of the world that will make you feel the other way about it.

He has also been a vocal opponent of animal rights.

During a 1992 radio interview, Nugent called Heidi Prescott -- who at the time was working for The Fund for Animalsan organization that supports animal protection through national advocacy campaigns, rescue operations, and the operation of animal care facilities -- a "worthless whore" and a "shallow slut" and then went on to ask "who needs to club a seal, when you can club a Heidi?"  

There were a lot of ways Nugent could have conveyed his point that he believes animals shouldn't have rights. Although it is widely accepted in the scientific community that animals feel negative stimuli, whether or not they experience pain in the same way humans do is less clear and is deserving of further research.

He could have said that.

The animal pain debate isn't a post 2000's discussion, it would have been articulate and intelligent and factually correct.

Instead he chose to personally attack his opposition.

Perhaps then it should come as little surprise that 26 years later, Nugent -- now a member of the Board of Directors for the National Rifle Association (NRA) -- decided to attack the survivors of the Parkland shooting instead of fleshing out a thorough argument against their points. 

Depending on your sensibilities and where your views fall on the political spectrum, it might be tempting to toss Nugent's comments aside as the ramblings of a sexist, racist, washed up rock star.

But to do that would be responding to Ted the same way he responded to the Parkland students - by ignoring their words and resorting to name calling.

We can do better. We can take a look at his comments and pick them apart with a handy tool that humans have developed over our existence called logic.

Ted versus Logic

Okay. Let's do this. We'll go point for point and keep score and see if, on the balance, Ted's comments hold any merit. 

Ted: 0, Logic: 0

Round One

Again, the National Rifle Association are a bunch of American families who have a voice to stand up for our God-given Constitutionally-guaranteed right to keep and bear arms.

This starts off as being factual, which is good. The NRA is indeed an organization composed of American families who have a voice. But then Ted keeps talking.

The American constitution was not "God-given", it was written in 1787 by men and then ratified in 1788 by more men. If you believe in God, then the 10 Commandments were God-given. The American constitution on the other hand was man-made.

Semantics aside, Ted is correct here that the constitution gives American citizens the right to bear arms. That is a fact. It's called the second amendment. 

It's an interesting thing to note however that any reference to the second amendment is also a reference to the fact that the American constitution can be amended to meet the changing needs of society.

That isn't novel.

The constitution has been amended 27 times since it's original ratification in 1788 -- as it should, the world is a wildly different place now than it was in 1788 -- therefore the main argument against changing gun laws carries within it proof that gun laws can be changed if society itself has changed enough that gun laws should change.

It's fair to disagree that those laws should be changed -- that's why gun control is a debate. As mentioned earlier, we are all the sum of our experiences and that sum will make people weigh the value of things differently.

However, arguing that gun control can't be changed solely because it is a second amendment right is a bad argument. Something being an amendment is proof that amendments to the constitution can be made, not proof that changes shouldn't occur. 

Ted: 0, Logic: 1

Round Two

We have no blood on our hands. No NRA member have ever been involved in any mass shootings at all, in fact the National Rifle Association is the lone organization that has taught firearm safety in schools, and for law enforcement, and for military, and for childrens organizations and family organizations around the country for 100 years.

Although "we have no blood on our hands" is an absolute statement that is factually wrong, it is fine enough if you look at it through the lens of what follows.

A 2016 report on gun violence by The Guardian in which senior reporter Lois Beckett parsed through this study found that each year more than 30,000 Americans are killed with guns and when you add in people who are violently injured with guns the total jumps to nearly 100,000.

Once you factor in incidents where offenders simply have or display a firearm, the count hits close to 500,000 total firearm victimizations a year.

These numbers are staggering at face value but like any statistic it is how you interpret it that matters. Beckett nails this by pointing out that there are roughly 300 million guns in civilian hands, which means that even if you take the larger number and say there are 500,000 victims of gun violence a year, the numbers based conclusion is clear:

The majority of guns are not being used in crimes and the majority of gun owners are not committing crimes. 

It's both fair and necessary to point out that 500,000 victims is a massive number and that it only encompasses people directly affected by a violent gun act -- not the ramifications for their families and communities.

It's also fair to say that the ratio of 500,000 people being directly affected by gun violence compared to the 300 million guns in civilian hands doesn't actually argue against changing gun laws, but rather is evidence changes must be made.

Those are valid interpretations of those numbers and they lead to further discussions on the use of statistics and gun control that won't be had here now. 

The point is that although Ted's sentence is not factually wrong, it does not logically support the argument he is making.

That's a point for logic.

However what Ted said about NRA members' involvement in mass shootings is correct, and the spirit of his comments regarding the NRA and their members is not factually wrong and so he must also be rewarded at least one point here. 

Ted: 1, Logic: 2

Round Three

So once again, this poor pathetic individual is a liar.

Damn it Ted I just gave you a point for saying things that can be interpreted as being smart enough to not be wrong and then you had to go and do this. 

Here is where the berating of people who survived a mass shooting begins. 

Beyond being unnecessary, it's also a semantically wrong way to go about attacking someone for their views on gun control.

If a point raised in a debate is factually wrong, it means the person who raised it was wrong about the facts of that point. It does not make them a liar. A liar is someone who knows the truth and purposely says something that is not the truth instead. 

Calling Parkland students liars in this debate is, at this time, an unsubstantiated claim and is therefore wrong.

Ted: 1, Logic: 3

Round Four

The dumbing down of America is manifested in the culture deprivation of our academia that have taught these kids the lies, media that have prodded and encouraged and provided these kids lies

Have you ever been in an argument with someone and they start using multi-syllabic words to make their points sound more intelligent because the points themselves have no real merit? 

That's what this is. 

In essence, he just blamed both academia and the media for the "dumbing" down of America. 

It's an odd stance to take given that there hasn't been a time in recorded history in which any source of news and media outlet is this readily available to any person in America. Within three seconds of opening your phone you can be reading the latest take from any journalist from any place on the political spectrum.

This does a lot of things.

The worst of them arguably being how easy it is to create an echo chamber in which the only views you seek out are the ones that match your own, and the best of them being that you can find different insights instantly.

Whether you decide the information era is a good thing or a bad thing, it's wrong to blame media outlets for articulating a point of view instead of placing the responsibility on the consumer of news to use the tools available to them and seek out information.

News outlets are rivers of information that provide a stream of ideas. If you choose to sit by the river and never look at the ocean beyond it, that's on you as a consumer.

It's hard to see exactly what Ted's point is about academia but it feels odd to take socio-cultural advice from a man who once said: "what's a feminist anyways? A fat pig who doesn't get it often enough?"

If he's referring to the scientific community then perhaps he should take a closer look at how the scientific community works.

The process by which science goes from research, to literature, to disseminated knowledge is slow and calculated. There is a gate-keeping process -- researchers do not just roll out of bed and get on a morning radio show and ramble off their theories and call it fact. 

All research is subject to extensive peer review before it can become published academic literature. Academic literature then gets examined by the scientific community in search of any small hole that might make it wrong. Then that literature slowly makes it's way into public knowledge as more and more people read about it.

I'm not sure what part of that process involves "dumbing down" but I am very sure I cannot give Ted a point here.

Ted: 1, Logic: 4

Round Five

I really feel sorry for them because it’s not only ignorant and dangerously stupid, but it’s soulless. To attack the good law-abiding families of America when well known predictable murderers commit these horrors is deep in the category of soulless. 

In case you thought this quote hadn't gone off the rails already, here's this. 

Framing the gun control debate as "an attack on the good law-abiding families of America" is inherently problematic. It's like opening an abortion debate by saying "I don't think we should be allowed to kill babies". 

It's presenting an argument no one will disagree with -- law-abiding American families shouldn't be attacked; no one thinks we should kill babies -- but it isn't actually representative of the discussion being had.

The debate here is whether or not more thorough gun control laws should be implemented. Laws are not attacks on people. They are regulations to impose restrictions on things for the betterment of society.

If someone is directly harmed by a law -- which the use of the word attack here implies -- they either broke the law and are now faced with the consequences of doing so, which by definition would make them not a law-abiding citizen, or the law infringes so greatly upon their day to day living that they cannot enjoy the quality of life they once had.

Common sense gun control laws are harmful to people who break common sense gun control laws -- people who are inherently not the law-abiding citizens Nugent refers to -- and do not infringe upon day to day quality of life.

A quick note: if you make the claim that not having an assault rifle would infringe on your day to day life, I would ask you to take a moment to consider why you need an assault rifle in the first place -- not whether the constitution says you can have one or not, but why you actually need one -- and then use that as a starting point to figure out how to address the problems that make you feel you need such a weapon. 

Ted: 1, Logic: 5

Round Six

These poor children, I’m afraid to say this and it hurts me to say this, but the evidence is irrefutable, they have no soul.

Fuck, Ted. Why won't you let me give you more than one point?

I might give him one just because he says "these poor children" and that almost sounds like he cares about these kids but then I can't even do that because the reason he thinks they're "poor" isn't that they endured a tragedy but that their desire to have stricter gun control has deprived them of a soul. 

Let's make this quick because there is no reason for it to be any other way. 

If we grant the existence of souls (which we don't have to), and we grant that Ted has the ability to deem whether or not someone has a soul based on nothing more than his opinion (which we don't have to), then this statement is still both asinine and useless.

There aren't very many things that are irrefutable, in order for something to reach that level of sureness it must be true beyond any shred of reasonable doubt.

Gravity is irrefutable because we don't float away.

The sun existing is irrefutable because we can wake up and step outside and see a bright thing in the sky that we call the sun.

Children dying because bullets pierced through their internal organs is irrefutable because it has happened 17 times in American schools in 2018.

Not only is the evidence that Parkland students are soulless refutable, it doesn't exist at all. 

Ted: 1, Logic: 6.

Final Score.

To the surprise of no one, logic wins.

 

Photograph courtesy: Getty Images

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