Coastal Post Online


October, 2002

Caveman Declares War On Smoking Guns
By Jim Scanlon

Report From The Front Lines

For many years now, a battered, exhausted CAVEMAN has been in the trenches fighting a long desperate linguistic war against the widespread misuse of violent metaphors, like combat, battle war, brawl, Crusade and jihad, his only weapon a word processor and the Coastal Post: his ammunition, previously limited to quality publications, has now been vastly increased by The "Crusade Against Violent Metaphors Euphemisms and Nouns" (CAVEMAN) is now entering its decisive battle, Good against the Pure Evil of mediocrity and lax habits of mind. The situation, although basically hopeless, does not appear serious as light now seems to be appearing at the end of the barrel of the gun.

Recently CAVEMAN learned that "Rosie" the slick magazine morphed from McCalls has had it's "plug pulled" by Rosie O'Donnell, the former stand up comedienne and talk show host because of a decline in newsstand sales which , "... set off a war inside the magazine that proved fatal." Obviously this sort of thing left everyone shellshocked and deeply wounded.

This reminded CAVEMAN of a front page NY Times article some time ago, "House Undertakes Days Long Battle On Youth Violence." The congressional debate, which for some strange reason never sought to limit youth access to guns, was described as a "fiery plunge" into the "nation's culture wars" and a "free for all," finally recommended longer prison sentences for juvenile crime.

Of course we live in perpetual fear of natural storms that threaten, menace, paralyze, cripple and assault peaceful communities, laying waste to landscapes and imprisoning terrified residents in their battered homes. But it is sometimes difficult to know how to react to news stories. For example the Times reported that a "... [German Defense] Minister had been badly wounded last September by a scandal over his use of government planes to pursue a love relationship." At first glance this might be confused with "Love Triangle Double-Slay Suicide in Times Square" in which three people, all survivors of the terrorist attack on the North Tower of the World Trade Center lost their lives.

And when we see in the newspaper, "Lawmakers Battling Over WTC Plates," that "Drug Fears Rout Fashion Show" and that "DOW Rises As War Fear Boosts Defense Stocks" and even an ad "Ammunition for the War on Bad Breath" quoting a NY Times Sunday Magazine article "The War On Stink." It seems that we Americans are perpetually in a mind set of W.W.II like combat. You hear this sort of thing all the time. Just last night on "Book Notes," an editor said his purpose was to "make war on the literary establishment."

The violent delusional world we live in has reached such absurd extremes that Newsweek saw fit to put out a cover with the words, "The War On War." Can you imagine what a foreigner with a limited knowledge of English thinks? A recent Simon and Schuster book about income tax is called "The Great Tax Wars" and subtitled, "Lincoln to Wilson: The Fierce Battles Over Money and Power that Transformed the Nation."

In the June third issue of Newsweek, we see "Make Peace With War."

"A battle is brewing over the Atlantic, but it's mostly a war of words between Europe's left-wing intellectuals and America's conservative commentators. Britain's Will Hutton fires off a book accusing America of having turned into a cruel, Darwinian society. [whatever that is!] George Will volleys back, "At least we're not anti Semites"--or words to that effect. France's Ignacio Ramonet charges America with seeking global hegemony. Charles Krauthammer responds..."

An exchange between pundits is turned into an animated cartoon of scholars shooting it out at the OK Corral. It's scary! A NY Times Editorial (9/16/02) "Warning Shots on Iraq" is not about the unending bombing of that country, but a warning by Brent Scowcroft, a former National Security Advisor to be careful in expanding the bombing!

According to NYC Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelley. "New Yorkers are engaged in a war that has no foreseeable end" (on terrorism --- not crime or drugs or parking violations, which are other wars without end.) On December 4, 1998, the head of the CIA, George Tennant "declared war on al Qaeda" saying, according to the Times, "I want no resource or people spared," yet also according to the Times, "... few of the FBI agents interviewed had ever heard of the declaration." So perhaps Tennant declared war, but didn't tell very many people, or, maybe he just "whispered" war.

Under a huge headline "WAR" with a small "?" after it, Susan Sontag, a great woman, a respected intellectual and essayist, wrote a sensible analysis of the "unending war" problem in the Times. She states, "When a president ... declares war on cancer or poverty or drugs, we know that "war" --- is a metaphor. Does anyone think that this war --- the war that America has declared on terrorism --- is a metaphor?"

CAVEMAN, respectfully disagrees with the implied answer to Susan's rhetorical question: the vast majority of the American public --- not just Joe Sixpac --- don't not know the difference since they live in a metaphorical world of Reaganism, Bible Think, TV pundit overload, action movie violence overload all of which clearly mask underlying desperation complicated by compulsive eating, prescription drug and soft alcohol abuse --- which is to say, a psychotic state defining what the "normal." Any shred of mental health is deviance. All she has to do is really listen to our Attorney General and then think about what he says.

The Smoking Gun

Even the worlds' most prestigious scientific journals are succumbing to the magical irrational power of the metaphor. Is it from watching cartoons as a child or from computer graphics and simulations? In any event, Nature, on 4 April 2002, (the British write dates this way), writes "Smoking gun for Altzheimer's. Small clump of misfolded proteins wreak havoc." And continues, " Stopping rogue proteins ganging up [ e.g.: Axis of Evil proteins! ] might prevent or reverse this or other diseases." And, "... we've put a smoking gun in the hand of the amaloyd beta oligomer according to [a] Harvard Medical school researcher studying ...rat brains," Who would have dared imagined an organic molecule with hands? The English language does not seem safe even in the hands of the educated British!

American science editors don't seem much better. In the August 23, 2002 issue of Science, on page 1336 CAVEMAN notes an article titled, " Mechanisms of Adaptation in a Predator-Prey Arms Race: TTX-Resistant Sodium channels." The paper is on a species of garter snake that eats a highly toxic newt. The "arms race" metaphor is repeated several times along with other errors, by two reviewers in "Perspectives: Neuroscience and Evolution".

An "arms race" is a contest for dominance between societies occurring since the Bronze Age. Societies do arm themselves to prevent absorption but this is hardly comparable to snakes eating newts. Individual Newts have to die so that snakes can learn not to eat them. There is no plan, no design, no intention.

Corporations seeking to prevent hostile take overs by aggressive Corporate Raiders and Take Over Artists frequently take on debt to make the firm unattractive to the predator in a "poison pill' strategy. This is an appropriate metaphor but this metaphors --- really any metaphor --- implies volition and intent. A species can't "want" or "intend" anything except in a cartoon or a cartoon conditioned mind.

This is not only a projection of violent mental images on nature, but a peculiarly male projection. The patriarchy just won't go away.

Smoking gun clichŽs are ubiquitous. They are inescapable. A simple Google search reveals "," a design and code sit; "The Smoking Gun Archive", unusual court documents; "Smoking Gun Productions," computer game development; and examples of the use of words like "A smoking gun has been released by the IRS..." Hundreds of hits, on and on.

Guns don't use smoking power and haven't for almost a hundred years when black powder was phased out. "Finding a smoking gun" is synonymous with "conclusive proof" in the legal sense, in that the defendant was seen with a smoking gun in his or her hand with the corpse in plain sight. CAVEMAN thinks it is safe to say that there is no such thing as conclusive proof in any legal proceeding. Lawyers frequently claim they have it, but quite naturally opposing attorneys deny it. Mostly though, "no smoking gun" means the lawyer's client is innocent and all that other blood and DNA evidence means nothing.

Even if one found or saw a "smoking gun" it would mean that the murder had been committed, and finding it would only make sense in establishing guilt or blame and therefore punishment. This would hardly be a goal for prevention. It is just another violent metaphor to confuse the onlookers.

Actually, no guns means no smoking guns. No nuclear weapons means no nuclear war. Many have been killed with swords and daggers but certainly not on a World War I & II scale --- these are the old days that CAVEMAN yearns for.



Coastal Post Home Page