By Antonio White
What can today’s Presidential hopefuls learn from Environmental strategists who have gained new political ground by “pinching” the work of a controversial stand-up comic?
“We don’t need gun control, we need bullet control.” –Chris Rock
Has Chris Rock, an alum of Saturday Night Live, indirectly, become the first comedian to craft legislation for citizens to voluntarily decrease their use of firearms?
Mr. Rock, in his 1999 HBO special, suggests the way around controlling the use of handguns without interfering with our right to bare arms--his idea, make bullets cost $5,000 each.
The popular comic believes that if bullets cost $5,000 each, people would have greater pause before they chose to shoot someone. In his observation, “If a bullet cost $5,000, there would be no more innocent bystanders.”
“Unlike the Right, the Left does not think strategically.” –George Lakoff
Mr. Rock’s clever comedic strategy reminds me of George Lakoff’s political strategy from his book, Don't Think of an Elephant. Mr. Lakoff states that, “We [Progressives] generally do not try to figure out what minimal change we can enact that will have effects across many issues.” He also remarks about “Slippery Slope initiatives”, and how legislative ideas sometimes take non-direct routes to produce a higher strategic goal. Mr. Lakoff comments about how hot-button issues such as Vigilantism and Abortion have competing political groups in a frantic race to gain the hearts and minds of voters. Mr. Lakoff writes, “Conservatives are particularly adept at slippery slope issues.”
Too much of a stretch?
I shudder to think that this is happenstance-- and I’m taking a shoe off right now in case I’m forced to put my foot in my mouth, but here it goes… Environmentalists who largely want to ban hunting, may be starting to decipher and play from the GOPs strategic playbook-- case and point: Using the protection of the California Condor as a slippery slope to reduce hunting in California National Parks, and ultimately throughout the US.
A 2006 report in the USA Today states that “…environmental groups are considering suing California to enforce a ban on lead ammunition by hunters of wild game in the area.” They site research that reveals lead poisoning is harmful to the wildlife, particularly the California Condor, and endangered species which the state has spent nearly $40 million dollars to bring back from near extinction.
The compromise? The substitution of copper bullets in ammunition used for hunting. Here’s the interesting part, copper bullets are two to two and-a-half times more expensive than their lead counterparts. It’s a far cry from Chris Rock’s $5,000 price tag, but it starts slippery slope nonetheless. While I won't say if I agree with the idea, I certainly can appreciate the creativity behind it.
One can hope, the Mr. Rock gets credit for the idea can’t he? Foot is en route to mouth as we speak.
Winning the White House is not a forgone conclusion for either party. For those who are investing so much of other people’s money to accomplish this end, they would be well served to consider some of the strategic thinking proposed by Mr. Rock, Mr. Lakoff, et. al.
If you need a little more evidence to support my advice, consider this: as of the publishing of this article, a Google search for “Bullet Control” yielded 11,600,000 results. Within the statements context, nearly every result of the 300 Google links I reviewed are directly attributable to Mr. Rock. A search for “Gun Control” yielded only twice as many results (22,700,000) and is not attributable, as a whole, to any specific author.
To think about the impact of Mr. Rock’s statement, President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” blunder only yielded 5,900,000 results from Google--less than half than Mr. Rock’s--and Mr. Rock’s comments were made three years before the President’s.
The Lead Bullet legislation is to be voted on April 13, 2007. Stay tuned.
Chris Rock on You Tube: “$5,000 Bullet”: From “Chris Rock, Bigger and Blacker,” HBO Films 1999 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juLQBeZXmPU
George Lakoff, Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives
USA Today 2006: Lead Poisoning Eyed as Threat to California Condor http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-10-23-condor_x.htm
Contra Costa Times 2007: Lead Bullet ban gains Steam in Senate http://www.contracostatimes.com/search/ci_5546213
KQED March 2007: Discuss the Condor vs. lead Bullets” Story by Chris Bauer: http://www.kqed.org/quest/blog/2007/02/20/discuss-the-“condors-vs-lead-bullets”-tv-story/?notice=MAIL_LIST_RETURN&domain=kqedtvfm&subscription=ema%5fquest&email=antoniowhite%40mac%2eco
National Resources Defense Council (NRDC): http://www.nrdc.org/media/pressreleases/060711.asp
National Sport Shooters Foundation: http://www.nssf.org/share/BP2/2007/031207.htm?AoI=generic
Side Note: Upon editing this article, I discovered an article entitled, “Chris Rock, Economist.” While my work was developed independently, I do appreciate an economist who gets the idea about learning lessons from outside his industry or comfort zone. Here is a link to Chris Makler’s enjoyable article for econ students: shttp://econblog.aplia.com/2006/01/chris-rock-economist.html