No Paradox

. Instapundit seems pleased with this story by the BBC’s Justin Webb. Mr Webb has been a frequent target of this blog, as you’ll see if you do a search for his name. Nonetheless recently there has been a conscious effort by Mr Webb to address mindless anti-Americanism, and the BBC’s anti-Americanism in particular. Good for him.

But he isn’t out of the bubble yet. Mr Webb sees the fact that lots of guns can be combined with a safe atmosphere. He sees it and reports it – many of his colleagues have not stretched the skin of the bubble so far. However the only cause suggested for this tranquility is the lack of public drunkeness. For all I know that is so, but it is far from unusual for people outside the bubble to put forward another cause: the guns themselves. As Instapundit quoting Heinlein said, “An armed society is a polite society.”

I’m not saying Mr Webb should have stated that hypothesis as fact. But it could, and should, quite easily and naturally have been included as another potential explanation. After all, an apparent solution to a paradox ought to be part of a story about a paradox.

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94 Responses to No Paradox

  1. GCooper says:

    I listened to Webb’s report, with growing astonishment, when it was broadcast.

    In the end I was unable to reach a conclusion. Either the man is an imbecile, because he failed to wonder if the widespread ownership of guns might have contributed to the relative peacefulness of US society, or, alternatively, is he actually rather clever and had reasoned that not to suggest such a potential link would ensure BBC approval, while raising a knowing smile with the brighter listener.


  2. Glock says:


    I think you are being unfair on Webb.

    Though the ‘armed society is a polite society’ explanation for public tranquility might apply in London, Texas, it cannot explain the relative peace on the streets of Manhattan, upon which phenomenon Webb digresses at some length.

    New York’s gun laws are among the strictest and most intrusive.

    Webb (rightly) discerns a high level of peacefulness right across America – in states with draconian firearms restrictions as well as in those with concealed carry liberties.

    Correctly, therefore, he holds back from suggesting that guns constitute a sufficient explanation for this state of affairs.

    I don’t see that as a cop out at all.


  3. GCooper says:

    Glock – he didn’t even raise it as a possibiltiy, which, clearly, it is.


  4. Mailman says:

    The reason NY is so “peaceful” is simply due to the fact zero tolerance for crime actually means zero tolerance of crime.

    Reminds me of a guided tour around singapore a couple years ago when the tour guide quipped that in Singapore they enforce the law, not talk about it.



  5. WoAD says:



  6. Jason says:

    Absolutely right Mailman – the streets of New York City are only relatively safe these days since mayor Giuliani ordered the NYPD to kick thug ass on the streets and show zero tolerance. Those doing the ass kicking are police armed with guns.

    What was New York City, with its strict gun laws, like before then? It was anything but polite! The thugs ruled the streets and ordinary citizens had no legal means to protect themselves. The murder rate was three times higher than todays. Taking the subway at night was considered taking a serious risk. Huge crowds of kids would regularly swarm out of subway exits in Greenwich Village at the weekend and charge through the streets, punching random people, trashing and looting stores and kicking over the tables and chairs of sidewalk cafes. It was hell!


  7. deegee says:

    Is anyone seriously claiming that their is a direct correlation between the level of gun ownership and the level of politeness? On the ‘evidence’ of a trip to London, Texas? Because people are scared of being shot if they push infront of you at the supermarket check-out?

    This is coming from a country which won’t allow you to bring a bottle of water on plane and inspects your shoes for explosives.

    If it was true, how do you measure politeness , anyway, perhaps we should distribute handguns in areas where rudeness is a problem?

    “Excuse me Sir. Is that a .460 Smith & Wesson Magnum handgun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” 😉


  8. Bryan says:

    Is anyone seriously claiming that their is a direct correlation between the level of gun ownership and the level of politeness?

    deegee | 28.04.08 – 6:51 am

    I tend to agree. Politeness has less to do with the number of guns around than the level of civilised restraint on the part of those armed with them and of course the restraints that the legal system puts on those who consider using their guns.

    From the evidence in your links, Natalie, Justin Webb at least has the honesty to acknowledge that the BBC’s ‘journalism’ on America is putrid. So I suppose we should be thankful for small mercies.

    Now what we need is an equivalent of Alchoholics Anonymous for BBC hacks addicted to their pernicious agendas.

    I have this image of Jeremy Bowen standing up in a meeeting…


  9. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    I think it’s more likely that he’d be bowing towards Mecca.


  10. knacker says:

    The US is civilized in ways long lost in the UK. US-based BBC employees who’ve lived there for more than, say, three years will know that full well, but can’t or won’t talk about it and instead file News of the World tales about revolting and atypical aspects of American life.

    You can decide for yourselves what that makes Frei and his peers, and how they regard the domestic UK audience. Webb is resilient enough to file an occasional story that deflects heat from him and onto others. He’s the BBC’s Vicar of Bray, the survivor who will outlast the others, and he’s smart enough to know his life in the US is far, far better than it ever could be in today’s UK.

    This isn’t much of a problem for me, an American, but it is for you: the word is out in the US about what Britain has become. You have been tarred with the BBC’s brush and are now widely perceived as arrogant, ignorant, smug and in helpless and terminal decline. Don’t kid yourself this view is limited to stump-toothed banjo players and Stormfront fanatics; the ranks of the A’s and B’s are filled with folks who’ve been to the UK in recent years, have seen the squalor and chaotic mess directly, and assessed it (and the BBC’s role) accurately.

    The sad truth is you need us a lot more than we need you. We still have a healthy democracy. You don’t. I suspect you’ll all learn what that means in the years ahead. Really, what did you expect?


  11. Cockney says:

    Sorry guys, at what point did the US become a ‘relatively peaceful socienty’, ‘civilized in ways long lost in the UK’??

    This doesn’t match my experience, or indeed statistics. I’m sure there’s some very peaceful, civil rural areas, but the the Malvern Hills are hardly overflowing with violence either and frankly I’d rather have a night out in Brixton than South Central LA.


  12. Cockney says:

    “You…. and are now widely perceived as arrogant, ignorant, smug and in helpless and terminal decline.”

    that’s a pretty arrogant, smug and spectacularly ignorant perception. funnily enough it’s also what most more ignorant brits think about the US. good job there’s some more civilized elements in both countries who know better…


  13. Cockney says:

    returning to natalie’s post, another point ignored by webb is religion. far too many brits who have perhaps understandably rejected active religious worship seem to have also thrown out the concept of treating others as you would like to be treated yourself – which is surely basic common sense rather than spiritual guidance.


  14. Andy says:


    Stop writhing. As a Brit knacker’s comments are difficult to endure but he is 100% correct.

    The Malvern Hills are a world apart from most British cities, which have become squalid and intimidating places at night due to drunken louts and our leaders inability to deal with the problem.

    Ditto knackers comments about Frei and his cohorts.

    There is no level to which this moron Frei will stoop to show his contempt for the US and its President, who is (a) far more intelligent and (b) more popular than the likes of Frei will ever be.

    What Frei does cannot be described as journalism, but pathetic and condescending sneering. He is a buffoon who long ago should have been kicked out of the States as an unwelcome guest.

    What really gets to Frei is how a country which is not in lockstep with his beliefs can be so successful, and the people so decent.


  15. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    “that’s a pretty arrogant, smug and spectacularly ignorant perception” – as someone who knows (large parts of) both countries reasonably well, I would say that your statement is the one that’s arrogant, smug and ignorant. Most Americans I know do regard this country with affection, but also with sorrow at the mess it’s become, which is an accurate description.
    Malvern Hills? I rather doubt that Farmington Hills in outer Detroit is any more violent than the heart of England.


  16. thud says:

    I live for a part of the year in america and I feel incredibly safer thier than in the country of my birth.Americans are politer in general anyway and when coupled with the fact that public drunkeness is frowned upon life is much easier.The beeb hate guns like all statists as it makes taking the freedom from the populace much harder.For many of my friends and family in america a gun is just a tool like many around the house…not an object of evil.On my next vist I too will be hopefully exercising my right to bear arms.


  17. Rob says:

    “Is anyone seriously claiming that their is a direct correlation between the level of gun ownership and the level of politeness? On the ‘evidence’ of a trip to London, Texas? Because people are scared of being shot if they push infront of you at the supermarket check-out?”

    What ignorant nonsense. People might be so polite as to not push in front, they do not fear geting shot. The people who will get shot are home invaders like the scum who broke into Tony Martin’s house. They won’t be doing any more burglaries after that will they?


  18. Barry says:

    Thud: “Americans are politer in general anyway…”

    I also know both countries well and I agree that, on a certain level, Americans are probably politer. This can be very attractive, no doubt about it. However, on many occasions I have been alarmed at how swiftly the mood can change when they don’t think they are getting what they want. The most recent occasion was seeing a young, poor, Indonesian tour guide being bullied mercilessly by a couple of educated New Yorkers who should have known better.


  19. Cockney says:

    Andy, nice whitewashing but wholly incorrect. I’m aware that British rural areas are different from cities. I’m also aware that US rural areas are different from cities, it’s not a homogenous swathe of niceness and civility. Frei is patronising but has generally made some effort at fairness to Bush (in contrast to most of his colleagues) whilst acknowledging that he’s been neither the most loved or most successful president in history even in the US.

    NO – you’re now arguing that the US isn’t worse than the UK?? I was argiung that the UK isn’t worse than the US??? same thing???? most Americans I know are perfectly respectful about the UK as we are generally back to them – being civilized and polite people they wouldn’t be arrogant, smug and ignorant enough to do otherwise. Dunno how you managed to find all the rude hypocritical ones.


  20. Jack Bauer says:

    thud — you are correct. (Oh — and LA and New York are NOT America, even Americans in flyover country look upon these two metropoli as alien.)

    From the simplest task to getting information from a shop worker, to people you meet, the general observation is that Americans seem invariably far more polite and respectful than this people in this country,

    WE USED to be a polite society, but that has long since devolved into yob kulture.

    My working class Liverpudlian granddad would have back-handed any of his kids who dared be anything but polite. As usual, I blame successive supine governments (but especially Nu-A-holes), the neo-commie/marxist controlled Teachers unions and the Institutionally Leftist elites, like the BBC.


  21. Jack Bauer says:

    “bullied mercilessly by a couple of educated New Yorkers who should have known better.”

    They wpuld be knee-jerk liberals, probably Obama supporters…

    And as I pointed out to thud, if you think New Yorkers are in any way representative Americans, you don’t know jack about the States.


  22. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    “What ignorant nonsense. People might be so polite as to not push in front, they do not fear geting shot” –

    – Yes, you sure do talk ignorant nonsense. In some parts of quite polite America, I was warned not to stand behind a car reversing out of a parking space and indicate to oncoming drivers to wait and let it come out, which I would do in most parts of the UK without thinking about it, because I might give rise to road rage from those oncoming drivers.


  23. Andy says:


    Have you actually met or worked with many Americans or visited the United States, South Central LA for example? I’d be interested in your answer to see how comprehensively hypnotized you have allowed yourself to become by our media.

    I have personally found Americans to be almost invariably hospitable and polite, in spite of Sneerboy Frei’s comments to the contrary.

    “I’m aware that British rural areas are different from cities”

    [cough] er, yes! The reality is that many rural areas are no more free of anti-social behaviour than towns and cities.


  24. Phil says:

    There’s an interesting discussion in David Hackett Fischer’s cultural history of colonial America “Albion’s Seed” which analyses murder rates by folkway. Gun ownership isn’t the most important factor so much as who settled the place first. Puritan and Dissenter states have lower murder rates than those settled by Southern English cavaliers or, most of all, by the Scotch-Irish.

    Most Americans in my experience are much more considerate of others than are most Brits nowadays.


  25. Cockney says:

    Andy, yes yes and yes. I’m very glad that your experiences with Americans are universally pleasant and sad that your experiences in the UK are horrendous. Not so in my case. I would suggest either that you’re extarordinarily lucky/unlucky or that you’ve been comprehensively hypnotised by sections of our media.


  26. Barry says:

    Jack Bauer “And as I pointed out to thud, if you think New Yorkers are in any way representative Americans, you don’t know jack about the States.”

    I didn’t say they were representative but they are still Americans, like it or not.

    As it happens, I know the States very well and I did say that I have experienced this on many occasions. How about Fort Worth – or is that not American either? Sacramento then?


  27. Andy says:


    So that s a yes you have been to South Central LA? What was your experience? How did it compare with Brixton?


  28. Jason says:

    My years in America have shown me one indisputable fact – you’re far less likely to get into a fight here on a night out. I really mean this – and I’ve been all over the states. Drunken yobs in Britain treat fighting as a sport and it’s obvious that they fight for the sake of it. You only have to look at soccer hooliganism for proof. Violence for the sake of violence!


  29. Jack Bauer says:

    Hey Barry… no need to parse my words.

    I DID NOT say New York was not “American” — that would be dumb, as I just this second noticed it was in America. Gosh — thank goodness for maps.

    I said is was not “America,” in the sense that one can take it (my fave city in the whole word, by the way) as being representative of the gigantic country that is the USA.

    Most of America is NOT like LA or NY. The west and east coasts are unrepresentative of the values and attitudes of the vast swathes of the 250 million Americans in-between.

    As for the capital of California… please. San Francisco and California values are a dirty word for the aforementioned America.

    Isn’t Fort Worth the gay capital of Texas?


  30. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    SF (my favourite city in America, followed by Chicago) is not the capital of CA.


  31. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    And … it’s very far from a ‘dirty word’ to the people I know in Illinois and Michigan, who all love CA. Please avoid such generalisations, they make you look … well, not very serious …


  32. Jack Bauer says:

    NO — I see you are still a self-important, sneering person with an over-hyped belief in your own intelligence. Or lack thereof.

    You can lead an Ox to water, but you can’t make him think.

    Oh so you “know” “some” “people” “somewhere” in the US who like California. Wow.

    That’s conclusive then.


  33. knacker says:

    Cockney: I’ve racked up more than 20 years in the UK and I’d venture I’ve seen more of the bleak bits of the UK than you have. Brixton? Hell, I recall the Isle of Dogs in the 1970s and the (then) nastier bits of Glasgow (ever heard of Bells Hill or Easterhouse, home of the ‘chip and stripe’?). More recently, last year I was in the greasier parts of Leeds, Bradford, Middlesbrough and Nottingham. I also know S Central LA rather well: I lived on S Vermont for a year just before Rodney King’s 30 min of fame.

    You can bluster all you want. You still come across as arrogant, ignorant and pathetically out of touch. Your choices are actually quite clear. Somehow, I think you prefer denial. How veddy British.


  34. Jack Bauer says:

    knacker – straight outta Compton…

    You a fan of The Shield? Not on the BBC, thank goodness!


  35. Barry says:

    Jack Bauer: The list is growing. So far you’ve discounted New York, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and Fort Worth.

    Could you put together a list of acceptable places for my next visit please?


  36. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    Jack, you really are one sad, ignorant, pompous little tosser. Your scare quotes may impress your mother, you little boy, but not anyone here with a shred of intelligence. Your screeching response to my post proves that you should not be allowed out of the house without someone holding your hand.

    I know many, many people in flyover country, as I made perfectly clear (not ‘somewhere’, you illiterate jerk – do get some basic reading lessons and stop embarrassing yourself). They share my enthusiasm for Californian values.


  37. Iain says:

    Jack B – how about Alaska?

    Or is that too Russian?


  38. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    Knacker: 😉


  39. Cockney says:

    knacker – “arrogant, ignorant and pathetically out of touch”??!! hahaha – in the context of your comments I’m assuming that you discovered irony in your 20 years here??

    look, i really don’t care whether our crap areas are quite as bad as your crap areas, was just amused by the suggestion that (Frei is) “smart enough to know his life in the US is far, far better than it ever could be in today’s UK”. now i’m assuming that frei earns a decent salary and he seems like a generally witty and amusing chap. This being the case I’d have said the exact opposite statement given my experiences of being sent to the NYC and DC offices for faaaar too many tedious months, however I’m insufficiently arrogant and impolite to put that opinion forward.


  40. Jack Bauer says:

    barry — what are you talking about? I haven’t “discounted” anywhere.

    Like the Oxfordian era, it appears you haven’t even read my post, or are just playing dumb.

    #1. I just wrote that New York was my favorite city in the WHOLE word. What is it about that statement you don’t understand.

    #2. You can visit anywhere you please. What have my posts got to do with your tourism plans.

    #3. You want to visit Forth Worth, or cruise the Castro, go for it.

    But there’s no need to parse my words. How about arguing on point?
    #3. I passed no judgments on the places you mention. If you wish to comment on my assertions as to LA/NY being in no way representative of fly-over country, chip in.


  41. Jack Bauer says:

    Oxfordian Era — tsk tsk tsk — there you go again.

    To think you used to be a “teacher.” You’re a real mensch.


  42. Jack Bauer says:

    Oxfordian Era — on reflection, I will agree that you have a “shred” of intelligence. Are you happy now?

    Oh — and I may be or may not be a jerk, but I am not illiterate. Please try to get your insults right. That’s very important.


  43. Jim Miller says:

    FWIW, I have been, at least briefly, in 47 of the 50 American states, and have visited Britain 4 times now, most recently in January. (And I hope to add Alaska, Hawaii, and Louisiana to my list, eventually.)

    In general, I have treated politely wherever I went in both countries. (Though a few Britons seem to think it their duty to tell me how American politicians were going wrong.)

    Even with 4 visits, I don’t think I know enough about Britain to make judgments on politeness there. But I can say something about politeness in the US.

    There are regional differences in the United States and urban-rural differences. People become more overtly friendly as you go west in the United States, and as you go from large cities to small towns.

    A small example: Almost everywhere in the United States, a pedestrian has the right of way in cross walks. However, it would be unwise for a pedestrian to rely on that in New York or Chicago, where the law is almost completely ignored. In Seattle, car drivers stop for pedestrians about half the time. In my Seattle suburb, more than half the time. And in some rural areas, especially in the West, almost all the time.

    I don’t think gun ownership has much to do with those differences, though it is true — generally — that the more polite places in the US also have more guns. But they are also more religious, and more community minded.

    (It’s been a while since I visited Canada, but when I did, I observed regional and urban-rural differences similar to those in the US.)


  44. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    “Like the Oxfordian era, it appears you haven’t even read my post” — this, from an idiot who hasn’t bothered to read mine (or at least, was unable to comprehend simple nouns, verbs and names such as ‘people’, ‘know’, ‘Illinois’ and ‘Michigan’), in response to his stupid generalisation.


  45. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    “There are regional differences in the United States and urban-rural differences. People become more overtly friendly as you go west in the United States, and as you go from large cities to small towns” – that’s been exactly my experience.


  46. Anonymous says:

    Phil | 28.04.08 – 1:29 pm

    Puritan and Dissenter states have lower murder rates than those settled by Southern English cavaliers or, most of all, by the Scotch-Irish.

    Charming but somehow implausible.

    Has anyone researched the relationship between levels of gun crime and the racial make-up of a city?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if gun crime levels were higher in areas of high African-American and Latino population.

    Cultural factors (gang culture, machismo etc) and economic factors (high unemployment) are bound to be part of the equation.


  47. rightofcentre says:

    Cockney | 28.04.08 – 3:13 pm |

    I`ve always viewed your posts as someone who is passionate about London.
    Probably why you use the moniker Cockney.
    Fair enough.

    But when you describe Frei-
    “he seems like a generally witty and amusing chap”

    I think you are just trying to wind people up.


  48. Andy says:


    Can you limit your use of ad hominems and general all-round nastiness please, as this benefits nobody.


  49. Phil says:


    “Charming but somehow implausible”

    Well, there’d seem to be a correlation looking at his data. Given that so much of the distinct cultures of the various regions settled by different groups of Btitish still differ so widely, there could well be differences in terms of attitudes to gun owmership and use. Mark Steyn writes every year about how he never has to lock his door in his bit of New Hampshire, simply because everyone assumes everyone else is packing heat.


  50. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    Sorry, Andy, when people respond to factual statements and reasonable opinion with personal abuse as Jack has done, I will continue to respond as I have. Perhaps you can address your complaint to him. The same goes for Cockney. Your complaint is not remotely even-handed.