Pop Ethics Quiz! What’s Wrong With This Picture?

speeding bullet

No, you don’t have to spot the mistake, now.  That’s too easy. The single, embarrassing mistake in this ad created for Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun group Everytown For Gun Safety is so obvious I’m pretty sure there are 5th graders who could spot it. A bullet doesn’t come out of the barrel with its casing. There would be no way to propel such a projectile. This ad couldn’t have been created or approved by anyone who ever fired a gun, saw one fired or watched a  Western, war movie or action flick.

The unethical conduct represented by the ad, however, are more numerous, though equally unforgivable:

  • It is incompetent and lazy. No one connected with the ad and its graphics bothered to do the minimum due diligence necessary to find out what a bullet coming out of a muzzle looks like, or how guns work.
  • It is untrue. Actually, anyone is faster than that bullet, which would drop harmlessly to the ground.
  • It negligently misinforms the public, passing along the ignorant misconceptions of the group and its hired artist to people who know as little as they do.

  • The ad is irresponsible advocacy. Those thumping for gun controls and ownership restrictions don’t have to be marksmen or firearms experts, but they are obligated to approach the issue at more than a purely visceral, emotional level—and since Sandy Hook, that has been the only level the anti-gun forces have been capable of. Utter disregard for the facts and details have poisoned the debate, and guaranteed a stand-off. It is impossible to respect the arguments of a group that revels in its own lack of interest in the subject matter beyond “Guns bad!”
  • It undermines the group’s own cause, and betrays the trust and loyalty of contributors, members and allies. The ad makes gun control activists look like silly, unserious fools….which, sadly, a critical mass of them are.
  • The ad invites distraction by opponents. Rather than forcing gun advocates to defend easy access to guns, the ad puts anti-gun forces on the defensive, and shifts the debate to “How can you advocate policy about something you know nothing about, and aren’t willing to make the effort to learn about?”
  • It is an insult to the public, which the group insults by presuming that a factually incorrect graphic will escape their notice.
  • It is arrogant. The ad irresponsibly trivializes the complexity of gun control debate, declaring that the subject isn’t important enough or difficult enough to devote a minimum of research to make a powerful argument that is grounded in fact. Proof of this is in the fact that despite the rampant and deserved ridicule the ad has attracted, it is still proudly posted on the group’s Facebook page.*

How did you do?

*Update 1: The Facebook page now seems to be gone.

Update 2: There is a revealing thread about this ad on the Democratic Underground (someone eventually cites Ethics Alarms), notable for the excuses and rationalizations offered to minimize the significance of the mistake. Most adopt the Hillary Clinton approach: “What difference does it make?”

18 thoughts on “Pop Ethics Quiz! What’s Wrong With This Picture?

  1. Eh, $10 says the creators will just say that focusing on gun technology or what a bullet in flight looks like is being pedantic and ducking the real issue, which is that guns kill people, then maybe put up a few injured folks or relatives of the deceased and say “it didn’t matter to them what the bullet looked like.” Of course the mainstream media will obediently play along, and portray those who criticize this ad as gun-fetishists who miss the main point of the ad, and say that that just makes the point that they can’t really grasp how dangerous their chosen toys are.

    • P.S., Jack, if that happens maybe you can throw something out there about situational ethics, where principles slide and the compass moves depending on the situation and who’s involved. Example: it’s perfectly ok for ACA advocates to go to the whiteboard and point out paragraph, chapter, and verse as to where Obamacare opponents are wrong and why, but weapon experts pointing out where this ad is untruthful is pedantic.

    • Except that it’s beyond stupid, and undermines the credibility of the advocates. It’s a graphic example of what gun advocates have been pointing out in the rhetoric, like misuse of the term “magazine” and “automatic” and “assault weapon.” THOSE seem pedantic. This is a graphic, and looks as dumb as photos of cave men riding dinosaurs in the evolution debates. You can’t make an accidentally idiotic and inaccurate ad and argue that the mistake is irrelevant to the main point.

        • NOTHING will stop them, true enough. But they must be combatted, nonetheless, because they will not stop for anything, if it is in the way of disarming law-abiding citizens. Sad and sorry, but true.

  2. The gun-blogosphere was all over this yesterday. Even there, where the anti-gun partisans are often accused of being dangerously stupid, a lot of people thought this had to be a hoax. It does make me wonder.

    Someone invoked Poe’s Law, but I think this is actually the reverse: A sincere message taken to its extreme will become indistinguishable from parody.

  3. If pendantry is an issue then the “bullet” in the picture looks to be a chromed souvenir cartridge of some kind and is unlikely to contain powder or a primer.

    More distressingly, the ‘gun’ in question has a red barrel which indicates it is a toy gun, and as it is an air or spring launcher toy gun it could send out the bullet in the casing. Using a picture of a toy as if it were an actual firearm defeats the entire purpose of the red barrels for toys regulation, some innocent child might be killed for using a toy because a cop or security guard sees this ad and mistakes a toy for a threat. For more pendantry there are several people who are faster than “speeding bullet[s]” when those bullets are sent speeding by spring launched toys.

  4. At http://bearingarms.com/the-last-word-on-everytown-cartridge-fail/ an Everytown spokesperson says it’s the work of one of the “cybersquatters” that moved in when they forgot to lock up their Facebook real-estate before publicly launching their group.

    But this graphic still exists on just about the only Everytown Facebook page that hasn’t been taken down. I think they just don’t want to admit to being clueless bunglers. Boy, it sure is difficult keeping those grassroots out of your astroturf these days.

  5. I may have previously mentioned a gun discussion I was involved in where one of the anti-gun people insisted that a loaded gun sitting in a closed drawer could still “go off” and shoot someone without any human action.
    They do believe their ignorance.

  6. Well I guess in a “four-alarm fire situation where the house or building goes up and the gun gets red hot with the smoke alarm not going off it conceivably could happen 😉 Then again, there could be aliens on Mars. You never know.

  7. Well, that graphic’s error sailed right over me, as I’ve never held a gun, owned a gun, or seen the detailed loading of bullets in action flicks. I supposed this was an exotic bullet like is shown in crime shows. Just because I haven’t owned a gun doesn’t mean I should be scorned for not knowing the graphic error. I don’t need that trivia to spot the idiotic conflation of fiction and real life..

    • It’s not exactly trivia — but you’re right, it’s not something everyone has to know, either.

      Although personally, I think every American should try firing a gun at least once, just like everyone should march in a protest (any protest will do), insult the president in public (any president will do), attend a church they don’t belong to at least once, and pray in public at least once (whether you’re the praying type or not).

      Do it just to prove you can. It’s your right.

      I bet you know someone who owns a gun and practices with it. Ask them if they’ll take you to the range and show you how to use it. Odds are they’ll be more than happy to say yes (I would; in fact, I hope people will ask). Heck, you might even have fun.

      You don’t have to like guns or enjoy them or ever even use one. But it’d be a shame to have that right all your life and never know what it felt like to use it.

      Okay…sorry about the sermon. Didn’t mean to preach, it just kind of happened. 🙂

      • It’s far from trivia, if you are a group standing for a “commonsense” approach to gun safety. It is only common sense to understand what it is you are trying to make more safe.

        • Ah, there’s the rub. In Everytown, common sense is just a euphemism for uncritical belief: letting unfounded fear run free. And gun safety is NOT what they’re about. Safety is a euphemism for authoritarian control. They don’t want to make guns safer, they want to make people safer — by taking away their right to choose and forcing dependence on a (supposedly) benevolent state.

          But you probably knew that. 🙂

  8. Indeed, that image was all over the internet. As Jack says (and as did many others), how can you advocate for or against something when you can’t even get its basic operational parameters right? Of course, it’s also true that the picture was likely aimed at either core supporters or the ignorant to whom this might make some sense.

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