Blogs > Liberty and Power > The University of Alabama at Huntsville (Another "Gun Free Zone")

Feb 13, 2010 7:01 pm

The University of Alabama at Huntsville (Another "Gun Free Zone")

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Gun Free Zone

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Maarja Krusten - 2/17/2010

Micro means you focus on the gun issue and keep trying to draw me out on an issue on which I expressed no opinion publicly. My interest lies in the macro issue -- why authors of essays on HNN rarely respond to people who post under their items. As a federal employee, I'd rather not get caught in the crossfire regarding policy issues such as the one involving guns. As a result, I view expressing an opinion on that issue here as off limits. I do feel comfortable discussing broader issues, such as communication, which I've spent some time studying. Again, that is why I engaged with Jonathan.

Had I wanted to discuss the gun issue, I would have written, "For Dr. Beito." Look at the header of the conversation you've joined, "For Jonathan." If you would like to join my conversation with Jonathan and discuss the broader (macro) issue of authors who don't engage with posters that I raised, I'd be happy to debate that. But if you keep asking me what I think of the gun issue, and consider that a sufficient effort at engagement when I'm looking at a broader issue retrospectively, we're just going to end up going in circles.

William J. Stepp - 2/17/2010

I don't understand the difference between a "micro" response and a "macro" response. David answered with a substantive response to the issue. I replied to your post by inviting you to do the same by engaging his substantive point. Your response to being invited to participate in a discussion is (1) to avoid the issue ("Look beyond this particular essay") and (2) to claim that there is no engagement, so therefore why bother formulating a carefully constructed response.

"Don't hold your breath" indeed.

Maarja Krusten - 2/17/2010

Once again, a well intended micro response when the problem is macro. Look beyond this particular essay. As anyone who has worked as a boss or manager knows, it’s not enough to say “my door is always open. See;bheaders=1#140146
which draws on my experiences in working with Nixon’s tapes as a federal employee. And;bheaders=1#139679
which starts out “I’d like to draw you out” but ends up like the one above as a standalone, single comment, never addressed by the blogger. Why would anyone take the time to look up data or formulate a carefully constructed response on a blog when there is no engagement? I addressed my original posting to Jonathan to say, “don’t hold your breath.”

Too late, far too late.

William J. Stepp - 2/17/2010

Maarja Krusten writes:

"negative feedback either is ignored or dismissed out of hand. It may sound a little tough to take but it's meant well."

I think the people who post on this blog, as well as people who comment, would welcome constructive negative feedback. This means a reasoned argument, perhaps with disconfirming empirical observations or counter examples. I don't know if you've read this blog before, but some of the posts have certainly led to this sort of discussion. JD's response was unique, I think; if memory serves, the last previous comment he made, also in response to something David Beito wrote, was on the order of "this will be the last time I comment here." I for one would like to see criticism of libertarian views; I'll bet others would as well.

She continues:
"Why shouldn't the bloggers here take the feedback that resulted from this posting as an opportunity for learning? They could ask people such as us who occasionally look in here, 'what can we do to encourage more people to read our postings and engage with us?' "

Well, I see nothing either you or JD wrote that even addressed the issue David commented on in the previous post. You are more than welcome to do so; there's no "censorship" here to the best of my knowledge.

Reasonable people can disagree on this issue, as I assume you and JD do. But disagreement should be expressed in a reasonable argument that tackles the issue.
That said, have at it.

Maarja Krusten - 2/17/2010

Please overlook all my typos, no disrespect intended. I read your responses at home while I was eating dinner but trying to type and eat at the same time doesn't work very well, obviously. Again, no disrespect intended.

Maarja Krusten - 2/17/2010

Please consider that I'm looking at metamessages here. If you go back to my comment, you can see that I don't express views of any kind on the issues of guns on campus. Although I'm an historian, I don't work on a campus so it's not an issue I follow that closely. I addressed my comment to Jonathan because I know he has a long association with HNN and because I doubted he would receive a response other than the brushoff he received by a reader. My comment reflects years of following HNN and essays posted on the main page and by bloggers and studying patterns, messages, and metamessages.

Peter Clarke, who used to comment here on HNN, once observed that people tend to write essays and disappear, that is, they rarely appear on the main page to engage with the people who post comments. I've noticed that many bloggers, too, remain silent when posters ask questions or post counter arguments. Consequently, I see some missed opportunities. Jeremy Young, who is working on his PhD in history, discussed several years ago how he believes historians can engage with a wide range of readers in the world of web 2.0. I happen to agree with him that many such resources are underutilized.

I commented on this blog in January on an issue related to federal employees -- an issue I thought was mispresented in a "useless bureaucrats" type article to which a blogger here linked -- but never saw the author post a response. I wasn't surprised. Sure, people are busy. But I've sometimes checked back weeks later and found no responses on some posted comments. As Jonathan said, it takes a lot of energy and a certain envirohnment to keep a blog going. I've long wished HNN were more robust than it is but don't see it changing.

One does occasionally see an exchange among fellow bloggers, as below. But occasions where people who work in different environments exchange thoughts and share differing perspectives seem few and far between. Again, I'm looking at the overall approach here on HNN, not at a particular issue. The resignation I expressed in the commented I posted for Jonathan reflects my sense of an underutilized resource for outreach.

David T. Beito - 2/16/2010

Well said. This makes my point exactly.

As you indicate, enforcement of the current gun free zones pretty rests on an unenforceable honor system.

Unless we want to institute metal detectors or searches, terrorists and killers, such as Bishop, can freely ignore them. Responsible people who obey the rules, by contrast, are helpless to defend themselves.

As you point out, that was the whole point of the cartoon! Interestingly, nobody has dispute the underlying premise of the cartoon e.g. terrorists and other killers have no incentive (other than the honor system) to abide by gun zones.

IMHO, our critics have some obligation to either the defend the status quo or put forward an alternative approach to better improve student safety.

Aeon J. Skoble - 2/16/2010

Aeon J. Skoble - 2/16/2010

A few points - 1, David Beito isn't a cheap-shot kind of guy, nor is he a "I am not going to engage in dialogue with you" kind of guy. 2, I've made this exact point before, here at L&P, after VA Tech: calling something a "gun-free zone" doesn't make people safer. This cartoon, while not MPFC-level humor, effectively and sucinctly makes the point that a would-be violent criminal is not going to be deterred by the fact that some place has been designated "gun-free" - but what will be the case is that sane, law-abiding people will have become unarmed, since they actually _will_ be deterred by such a label. That's the argument I made after VA Tech, and I take it that's David's point in posting the cartoon. If anyone has a counter-argument, let's hear it. I don't think anyone here is avoiding dialogue.

David T. Beito - 2/16/2010

What kind of dialogue do you want? Given the shooting on campus, my point seems entirely valid. Why not allow faculty to carry concealed weapons on campus? If you reject that alternative, what is your alternative approach to problem of campus shootings? Metal detectors at every door? Doubling the size of the campus police force? Repeal of the second amendment? Let's have some dialogue....but at this point is hard for me to respond since you haven't raised any specific points other than to say I am guilty of "cheap shot" and never say precisely why.

David T. Beito - 2/16/2010

Not welcoming? I only posted this on Saturday and have been quite busy since then.

Maarja Krusten - 2/16/2010

As a young employee at the National Archives, I had a boss who used to tell us, "If you have a problem but you don't tell me about it, then there isn't a problem." In other words, speak up, I need to know. He knew how to draw out us out and as a result rarely was blind sided, which can harm a group when it occurs. As was the case with most of his subordinates, his undergraduate and graduate degrees were in history.
He was widely admired by his subordinates, in part because he instinctively displayed the types of skills that contributed to what the authors of a later book, Driving Fear Out of the Workplace listed a decade later as being characteristic of a high performing organization. He had the ability to minimize what management experts refer to as "undiscussables" within an organization.

Jonathan and I both spoke up to say that this site doesn't seem welcoming. That isn't particularly easy in the world of blogging, where pats on the back and attaboys often are shared by the like minded and negative feedback either is ignored or dismissed out of hand. It may sound a little tough to take but it's meant well. Why shouldn't the bloggers here take the feedback that resulted from this posting as an opportunity for learning? They could ask people such as us who occasionally look in here, "what can we do to encourage more people to read our postings and engage with us?"

Allan Walstad - 2/16/2010

"I have several substantive points which I could make, but I see no point in performing for an audience which is actively hostile to serious discussion."
In all the verbiage you have posted I see no substantive points, only gratuitous posturing. Silence on your part would indeed be preferable, as far as this occasional visitor is concerned.

Maarja Krusten - 2/15/2010

Thank you, Jonathan, I very much appreciate the thoughtful response. I understand what your're saying.



Jonathan Dresner - 2/15/2010

Maarja (and anyone else who happens by),

Though I'm not a libertarian of any sort, I used to comment on L&P quite regularly, and some of the discussions were interesting. Over time, though, I came to feel that the interaction was no longer of any benefit to myself, nor to the regular posters and commenters here, and stopped. Too many posts like this one -- knee-jerk political pot-shots -- and too much material coming from perspectives that I consider not only flawed, but actively offensive, even dangerous, led me to give up my role as a consistent interlocuter. But, both because of my position with HNN and because I still believe that there's value in reading a wide range of perspectives, I still keep L&P in my RSS feeds.

In this case I was shocked and offended, and moved to comment, but I see no reason to expect actual dialogue within this venue. I have several substantive points which I could make, but I see no point in performing for an audience which is actively hostile to serious discussion. I will return to my former, more productive, silence here.

With regard to your larger point, I think there are places on the web where active and diverse groups come together for serious discourse, but most of the time it's an episodic thing, where one issue or one post will draw in a group that, for whatever reason, decides to engage. It's very difficult to engineer that and sustain it: it takes a lot of energy to be part of that process and even more to manage it successfully.

Maarja Krusten - 2/14/2010

Jonathan, I think this is one of those issues where opinions largely are calcified. That being the case, I think dialogue is unlikely. (When is the last time you saw the author of anyone posted on HNN chat with posters?)

I don't have the sense that the posting was meant to draw out people and encourage them to discuss the various sides of the issue, any more than most postings on various blogs are. Most of the blogs I look at seem to be "here I stand" type places. So, I've become pretty resigned to the fact that Bill Bishop may be right, that there's "A Big Sort," even on HNN. It looks to me as if places where people write in an effort to elicit reactions and then comfortably chat about their views with people who look at things differently -- as well as with those who agree with them -- are few in number. For better or worse, I think we have to accept that we live in a pretty tribal age. ("Hooray for us, the heck with the rest of you.") That's not to say people shouldn't try to engage each other, it's just very unlikely that it will lead to V-8 moments or better understanding of why people think as they do. Regardless of where people stand ideologically, saying "here I stand" and then turning away just seems to be the prevailing mindset of the age we live in.

Allan Walstad - 2/14/2010

The cartoon is entirely apt and makes a valid point.

Jonathan Dresner - 2/14/2010

There are people I would expect this kind of cheap shot from. There was a time when you weren't one of them.

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