The Daily Banter Mail Bag! Gun Control! Conspiracy Theories! And Lance Armstrong!

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Welcome to this week's edition of The Daily Banter Mailbag! Today, Bob, Ben and Chez discuss the chances for new gun control laws, the Golden Age of Conspiracy Theories and Lance Armstrong's confession.

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The questions:

1) What do you think the chances are of President Obama getting an assault weapons ban through Congress?
--SR

Chez: I think it's gonna be tough. I like the idea of Obama being in a fighting mood and really trying to push a lot through with regard to gun control and safety instead of hedging right off the bat, but at least one arm of Congress is practically run by the NRA. Add to that the fact that this is one of those Rubicon issues for the right, the kind of thing they simply won't budge an inch on because gun lust is encoded in their DNA, and I think we're going to see a lot more of what's already starting: cries for impeachment, threats of everything from secession to nullification to outright violence and so on. It's going to get very, very ugly, but that's why the vast majority of this country that wants sensible gun regulation needs to keep up the pressure and not forget why this is so damn important.

Bob: Honestly, the odds of the president passing a new and stronger assault weapons ban, as well as a ban on extended magazines, is very, very slim, given the House Republicans, not to mention NRA shills in the Democratic Party like Rep. John Barrow (D-GA). Those odds become even slimmer if pro-gun-control voters don't keep the issue on the front-burner and get involved in the fight. But if liberals stay home and ignore gun control, the NRA will absolutely win. In fact, the NRA is counting on us to get bored and move on.

Ben: Close to zero. Congress is controlled by Republicans and there's no way they are going to pass a bill banning assault rifles. It won't pass in the Democratic controlled Senate either - too many Democrats won't vote for it. I think something will get done, but it won't be anywhere near what Obama wants. It's a good place to start though, and it looks as if Obama is learning how to negotiate properly (ie. start from the left instead of the center). As I've said before, I'm going to be very interested to see how this plays out as it we'll really get to see whether America is capable of pulling together on a very, very important issue.

2) First it was the 9/11 truthers, then the birthers, then the Sandy Hook truthers, and now in case you haven't heard there's the T'eo truthers, who have all kinds of weird beliefs about what was really behind the Notre Dame player scandal. What's going on, are we living in a new golden age of conspiracy theories?
-- Trish

Bob: Anyone with a YouTube account and a browser bookmark to InfoWars can start their own conspiracy theory and spread it to thousands of their schizo paranoid friends via social media. Consequently, yes, this is The Golden Age of Conspiracy Theories, and Trish, you get full credit for coining that one. I hadn't thought of it that way, but you're absolutely correct. And it's more than a little dangerous because, as Chez and I talked about on The After Party podcast, there are a few legitimate conspiracies and outing them will be more difficult because too many wackaloons have cried wolf.

Ben: Yes, we are Trish. It's partly the internet, but it's also the bizarrely fractured culture that is quite unique to America. On the one hand you have latte sipping liberals wandering around the bohemian enclaves of their native cities with copies of the New York Times rolled under their arms and ipods playing the theme music to whatever HBO series happens to be trendy, and on the other hand, you have gun wielding lunatics staking out forests in the Mid West in preparation for the upcoming Armageddon against the federal government. America is a country of extremes and completely contradictory cultures. It makes it fascinating and exciting, but also completely bonkers. I'm no longer surprised when some group comes out with another crack pot theory on whatever scandal happens to be big, and I rarely pay them any attention. 9/11 truth seekers, moon landing conspiracy nuts, beliefs on what 'really happened' Notre Dame - it's all the same. Just bored people looking for controversy and meaning in their lives.

Chez: Yes. Yes, we are. We're living in a new golden age of conspiracy theory because the internet has allowed the fucking nut-jobs who used to be alone in their paranoia -- or at the very least separated from others who believed the same nonsense they did -- to find each other than create a hive mind of dumb. The internet is all about the democratization of ideas, minus any kind of filtering by responsible parties, and that means that every idea can technically be given the same level of consideration no matter how divorced from reality it might be. I think between that and the pervading feeling that there's something very wrong with our world -- there is, but it's not because we're living in the Matrix -- and you're going to see more and more idiots unwilling to believe anything they see or hear and willing to transmit that paranoia out to others in the hopes of finding somebody to share in their delusion.

3) Okay so Lance Armstrong is admitting he doped. Why should I care?
-- Brian

Chez: I have no idea. I don't care. Talk to Bob about this one.

Bob: You really shouldn't care, unless you're into the integrity of professional cycling (like I am). Other than that, for non-cycling fans, it's no more important than any other celebrity scandal that poops it's way down the tabloid hole. Whether you care is entirely up to you.

Ben: Good question. I guess Armstrong's guilt and confession is a major blow to the whole athlete-hero complex that makes hundeds of millions of dollars peddling mythology. Armstrong was the epitome of hard work and success - the America dream summed up in freakish athletic ability and spandex. More than that, he was a modern day super hero who everyone could look up to. Thing is, it was all bullshit, and now we all know that super humans don't exist. Armstrong's accomplishments were nothing short of incredible, but they weren't real. It's a parable that translates into other aspects of our society too - like the mega wealthy on Wall St, who previous to the crash in 08 were heralded as super achieving wealth creators that could do no wrong. Turns out they were buying and selling toxic crap while putting the entire international financial system at catastrophic levels of risk, and now everyone hates them. Armstrong's case should serve as a reminder that no one is above the law and no one can defy gravity no matter how much we want them to be able to.

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