Opinion: Mightier than the sword: Pen of mass destruction

August 7, 2019

Well, here we go, everyone at each other’s throats again. So far this morning I’ve seen people blaming immigrants, white men, abortion, gays, Trump and the border wall. 

 

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

 

We’ve all heard that. And what it means is that language, written language, can do more damage, kill more people, than a weapon can.

 

That is the problem we have in America and the West in general. The sword AND the pen. And I think it’s mostly the pen.

 

The Internet is the pen of today. It is an instrument to write words, language, arguments and rhetoric. It is an instrument to promote ideas and incite feelings in people. It is a propagandist’s tool. We use it to spread our opinions. Our fears. Our hate.

 

I’ve seen it said on many occasions that the nation’s founders never intended the 2nd Amendment to include war weapons of the kind modern technology has invented. “They were talking about muskets!” I’ve seen said. “Not ‘assault rifles.’”

 

And that is a fair argument. What did they envision as they took out their pens and wrote on a piece of paper a Constitution that reshaped government and brought democratic principles to not only the U.S., but other nations across the world?

 

I don’t know what they expected weapons would evolve into. But I also don’t imagine they knew what the pen would evolve into either. They didn’t expect the Internet.

 

If they could not imagine a gun that could shoot 30 bullets, how could they imagine a pen that could write something that could be read instantly by millions and even billions of people? Instantly! For them, the printing press was the Pen of Mass Destruction.

 

We can debate whether to ban “assault” style rifles. We can debate whether to ban all guns. Which will have to be done to curtail these shootings, by the way. 

 

They have to be banned and confiscated. That is the only way. If you truly believe the sword is the problem and not the pen, then you need to stop pussyfooting around and admit that is what needs to be done. At least by acknowledging it, the argument can be genuine. 

 

But that won’t change the problem of the pen.

 

As long as people are spreading hate and fear. As long as people are bullying one another. As long as Republicans are demonizing Democrats. And liberals are demonizing conservatives. As long as white nationalists are spreading hate toward immigrants. As long as people are demonizing gays. As long as people are demonizing white men. ... As long as we all keep so easily and willingly spreading our hate and vitriol against these people or those, always on this modern version of the pen accusing and blaming, we will keep driving the fringes, the weak, the bullied, the furious, the threatened people to the sword.

 

That is how the sword and pen work. They work together. The founders may never have foreseen an AR15. But if so, they certainly never foresaw the Internet.

 

You want to ban the AR? Do it. Ban the sword. But you ought to decide whether “we the people” ought to have such free access to the pen of our age too. Because that is where the damage starts. 

 

It starts with you.

 

• • •

 

Former Maderan John Daulton is an author of fantasy, science fiction and quite a few viewpoints on the real world. He can be reached at daultonbooks.com via email.

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