Logic of Violence with Billy Johnson

The newest contributor to NRA News, Billy argues that our political leaders focus on the tools of violence rather than the logic of violence, and this inevitably leads to bad policy.

Video Transcript

According to FBI statistics there are a total of 3,297 violent crimes committed in the US every day, that’s approximately 2.3 violent crimes every minute.

Since the Newton tragedy there have been a lot of different people talking about guns, violence, and gun related violence. What strikes me about these conversations is many people are proposing solutions, but very few are talking about the causes of violence. How can we even begin to propose and assess potential solutions to a problem that we’ve neither defined nor do we fully understand? Let me give you an example: When the FBI is called in to help solve a crime they typically bring in a profiler, someone who can help them get into the mind of the criminal. A profiler works under the basic assumption that there is a logic to violence and that if they can find that logic, they can predict, prevent, and solve violent crime. And yet, when we start talking about potential policies to curb violent activity, we skip this vital step.

In order to identify the logic behind violence, a profiler has to set aside judgments of right and wrong and ask what drives people to violence. What are the conditions in which violence makes sense? Violence is inherently primal and therefore follows an evolutionary logic.

Let me break that down a bit.

One of the primary reasons people engage in violence is because they perceive it will elevate (or simply maintain) their status in their social system.

We see this all the time. Violence is rife in gang-dominated cultures. Violence is the way that people in that system prove that they are a leader or a loyal follower. It is also the way that different gangs within the system vie for power and access to resources. In these examples, violence is a type of currency. Whoever has or displays the most, wins.

You might be thinking this is unique to gang culture, it’s not. The same is true in mainstream culture. If someone has regularly been kept on the outside of the system– maybe they are a social outcast, or they just don’t fit in. And then, we reward violence, especially national tragedies like Newtown or Columbine, with infamy and immediate celebrity, it follows that violence might be an attractive choice. It follows a logic, it will elevate their status within their social system. It’s important to note here, that this isn’t about actual threats to one’s survival it’s about the perception of threat, real or faint. If someone perceives a threat to their livelihood, they can often justify and will often choose violence.

The quest for survival, or even security, is one of the key drivers of state-sponsored violence, something I will discuss in more detail in a later video. But it also happens on a micro level.

When someone has an addiction to, say drugs, a threat to their access to that drug may very well seem like a threat to their survival. If violence can rectify that, it might make sense. It’s a logical choice if it assures their survival.

Survival isn’t only, or perhaps even primarily, physical. People commit violence to protect their financial status, their political status, and various other aspects of their livelihood. A perceived threat to any of those things can instigate a violent reaction.

I am not saying that violence is justified in any of these situations, nor am I saying it is not. That isn’t the point. The point is that there is a logic to violence. It follows identifiable and predictable patterns. The FBI calls this profiling, law enforcement calls this a motive, I call it the logic of violence. And yet, none of our policymakers seem to be talking about it at all.

If most violent crimes follow a logic, identifying that logic gives us access to the tools necessary to begin to curb violence. We can make policies to mitigate logical violence if we understand the logic. But instead of using this knowledge as a tool, we are constantly being asked to focus instead on a tool, a gun, that is sometimes used to commit violence. And that, is the most illogical thing of all.

According to the stats I began this video with, 10.3 violent crimes have been committed while you were watching. There is a good chance that none of those crimes involved a gun.

There is an equally good chance that all of those crimes followed a logic.

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Comments (14)

  1. The logic of violence and the logic of “gun control” have different goals. The logic of violence is mentioned in the article. The logic of “gun control” would have to be defined in terms of removing anything that could be a weapon from the hands of everyone (except military and some police) in order to control the people. They are not related. Don’t let them dictate the terms of the argument.

  2. this is a good article, except this idea repeated a couple times:

    “the logic of violence. And yet, none of our policymakers seem to be talking about it at all.”

    everyone of us needs to quit thinking “they” are trying to solve problems or make anyone safe, they are absolutely not attempting that at all, they are trying amass total control of the entire population.

    you must know their true goal if you are to handle them properly; trying to argue logic with oppressors is begging for a crumb of food from the violent thief who just beat you severely and stole your food. don’t allow yourself to be in that position, don’t “argue”, “debate”, “talk”, with someone who is bashing your skull in with a pipe.

    here’s some violence logic for you: respond to lethal threats with lethal force, always, period. would a bear in the woods do any less? are you of less value than an animal?

  3. Evil is every where. Evil men (and women) perpetrate violence on an unsuspecting population for personal gain, thrills or some other unlawful reason. THAT is what evil does. It seeks to place its will on you and me as law abiding citizens. I submit that guns do not kill people. Stupid, mentally defective, violent people or those who abuse the public trust and are permitted by law to use a gun in the commission of their duties gun kill other people in the name of justice.

  4. To all of those who posted that the mentally ill do not follow logic, I beg to differ. They follow their own twisted logic (which is why they are mentally ill). To them their actions are completely logical and rational, even if they are illogical (but not necessarily unpredictable) for the rest of us. The guy who attacked the workers at the Navy Yard was doing something logical (for him): he was attacking is (supposed) tormentors. Yet he could have been prevented from doing his awful deed if he had been forced to accept psychiatric care. One final comment: notice how there was not much publicity or outcry about the gun he used? Maybe because it was a shotgun (recommended by Joe Biden!) and not an “assault weapon”

  5. There’s a lot of truth in this article, but as others have said, it doesn’t capture all the reasons of human behaviour, particularly re. socio-paths etc.

    Why is the US the “richest” country in the world, yet has so much violence? I think it comes down to two basic key drivers, a very divided and unequal society and a glorification of violence in main stream media. It’s no moral excuse, but violence tends to flourish in down trodden poor groups of society without education and means of escape. As for the media, every TV cop/detective show like CSI has the key players whipping out pistols at some point in every episode. The opening credits roll, and the tough good guy is inevitably shown with a handgun. It even pervades the attitudes of your sun-glass wearing LEOs. Rectifying these issues takes years and years of policy, but if they can be addressed, watch your violent crime rates fall.

    You’ll always have thuggish, moronic and violent behaviour, where the protagonists indulge just for the fun of it. I’m from the UK and we have a lot of that back home. However, most of these thugs in the UK don’t have access to guns, so what could be a gunfight just ends up being a fistfight or beating. You’ll probably always have gang behaviour, the rewards from drug dealing too enticing. The obvious solution there is to de-criminalize drug use.

    So there’s the problem in the minds of liberals in the US. Given that the US is in the place that it is with regards to violence, there is an obvious argument that reducing the accessibility of guns will make it far more difficult for someone to kill, particularly multiple times in one episode. Pulling a trigger is far easier, less risky and less personal that getting close and (say) stabbing someone.

    I enjoy rifle and shotgun shooting purely for leisure in the US. I recognise that the US is so awash with guns that attempting to achieve UK and Australian levels of gun control is impossible. But we have to be honest; the price for our freedom to own guns in the US is a much larger death toll via guns across society. And before anyone says, the (total) murder rate by any means in the UK is ½ that of the US, and there are only ~20 gun murders per year (by civilians), so that level of gun control does ‘work’. I actually think the UK is similar in violence levels, but the inaccessibility of firearms mitigates the outcomes, i.e. fewer deaths.

    It need not be so, if US society were more equal and less obsessed with violence, then the gun control arguments may fade away. Canada have similar levels of gun ownership but far less gun crime. Gun violence is the symptom of a sick society, and there is an argument that removing the guns treats the symptom, but of course that doesn’t address the root causes.

  6. This premise may be applied to violence in otherwise “normal” people, trying to protect THEIR well being or status.( What are the conditions in which violence makes sense?) All of the horrendous mass actions of late (except Boston which was a religious act) can be traced to mental illness and or psychotropic drugs.

  7. This gentleman and the lawmakers are both wrong. The problem of violence in America is SIN. That which cometh out of the man defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, and evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. It is NOT evolutionary, it IS the GODLESS society America has brought upon her self by rejecting what God said. It is only going to get worse. Criminals are raised and America has been raising many crop generations of sinful wicked people and they are multiply like rats. Americans did this to themselves, by rejecting God’s truth. Repent or perish. You can take that to the bank.

  8. “Violence is inherently primal and therefore follows an evolutionary logic.”

    Not true! In cases involving schizophrenia, bipolar, and other mentally ill, violence is random, unpredictabile. Many cases of violence in society can be attribute to the mentally ill. Trying to formalize random acts by unstable individual to a specific formula is fools logic. Society cannot be decoded into a set of “evolutionar logic

  9. I would like to add one more comment. To quote above: “According to FBI statistics there are a total of 3,297 violent crimes committed in the US every day, that’s approximately 2.3 violent crimes every minute…” This statement means nothing unless definitions are established. A man punching a rival during a baseball game is called a violent crime. So is a domestic dispute in many states, where even a shouting match can get you arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence. Road rage where a guy breaks your windows is a violent crime. So is an armed robbery, of course. We need to break down the statistics into something meaningful. How many armed robberies and murders and aggravated assaults? Remember one more thing. There are over 330 million people in the country. That means one of these crimes — whatever they are — would be about one incident per 100,000 people per day. I would also submit that some of the worst offenders would offend several times a month, if not more often. Remember not to pay too much attention to undefined “statistics.”

  10. Very good post, Donna. Very good logic too. (Pun intended) Now, if everybody would just realize that. But we have people who believe a magazine is discarded once empty. We have people who believe the AR-15 is a weapon of war, that these semi-auto weapons belong in the hands of our troops!!! When all the people you hear voicing opinions on this quit even saying “assault weapon”, maybe this post and this concept will have been shared enough to make a positive difference.
    I find it hard to imagine how people so passionate about a crusade can pull a pull a word out of thin air (assault weapon), and re-write the Second Amendment over an object they so poorly understand, and know so little about, a gun. Now…………..where’s that logic?

  11. Hey Tommy,

    If you take out the physical violence and leave in most of the rest (I’m sure he has feelings for Queen Michelle and the princesses), isn’t that a pretty close description of Obama and his Constitution-hating, political hacks?

    Is narcissism a characteristic of sociopathic behavior? If so, we are getting warmer!

  12. There is a glaring error in this line of reasoning. The existence of psychopaths is completely ignored. Psychopaths (also called sociopaths) do not have the capability of feeling empathy or any other emotion towards other human beings. They are born that way, and they grow up that way. In their view, a normal human concern for other people’s feelings is a weakness. They are incapable of finding any joy or contentment with human companionship or interaction. Many of them, however, can fake it when it suits their purposes. So, one of these fakers can suddenly, if so motivated, commit an entirely illogical violent act. In their view, other humans are simply objects: to be ignored, manipulated, or taken advantage of at will. Therefore, many psychopaths have zero compunction about killing or inflicting pain or cheating or stealing — as long as they can get away with it; as long as they don’t get caught. Therefore, the notion in this blog that there is a logic to violence does not apply in this case. These people, these psychopaths, do not use any kind of logic that we understand. They are all different, but the one thing that they have in common is an inability to feel any compassion, remorse, or pity. Any formula that deals with violent crime needs to take this into account. [Note: for a good read on this phenomenon, read “The Sociopath Next Door” by Dr. Martha Stout.] One person in 25, that is four percent, are psychopaths. Thankfully, most of them do not commit heinous crimes. However, most, if not all, of the really horrible, violent criminals are psychopaths. They are not logical in any way that we can predict.

  13. Billy’s argument makes sense.However it is not the whole picture.

    For as long as there have been more then two people on the planet, there is competition-for just about anything. this follows Billy’s track.

    However, there are those who perpetrate violence for its own sake, or boredom, or for the thrill. Some folks are just no damn good and harm others as a matter of course.

    In an earlier, different, post I spoke of human compassion being lost as an element of humanity. This too, I believe is a cause of violence. But I digress.

    This country is run by a cadre of instant-gratification junkies. Feel good, now. Narcissistic aggrandizement. Why does this matter? Because it is fast and easy, and it sounds really good. That is, until analysis yields that the core issue is deliberately overlooked for the sake of window dressing. Politicians love irrelevant sound bites. “Gun control (actually gun confiscation)” from honest people seems to them to be the easy way to feel good. Why not think so? Certainly the criminals are not going to give them up. But, maybe those who respect the “law’ will be an easier target because those folks follow the rule of law. The Gutless pols never make any material, true, effort to take guns from illegal possessors. Of course not-they will shoot them if you try. law-abiding citizens will just hand them over (or so they think). Maybe some will. I think many will follow “Molon Labe”.

    The pols know who the bad guys are, where they are, and have the resources to get them. The pols are savvy enough to realize this will be a tough, dangerous, undertaking. It is much easier and presumably less risky to trample honest people. It sure makes for good headlines for the ivory tower crowd who have no interest in logic or getting their hands dirty. Taking firearms from those dangerous, law-abiding, citizens will make the streets safe. Yeah, right.

    I can’t wait until more atrocities are visited on the “beautiful people’ by real criminals. I’ll wait patiently for their fearless leaders to explain that away. But not too long since no reasoned, truthful, response will be forthcoming.

    The truth is, they are full of nonsense. And, they know it. But as long as the beautiful ones continue to vote them into office, the BS will continue.

    I do not think this is going to be fixed for a long time, if ever. We have no one but ourselves (the “baby boomers”) because we created a generation of “feel goods” who in turn did the same thing, except even worse.

    Many great civilizations have imploded, rotting from within. What makes us think this is not happening right now? Look out there. What do you see or, more appropriately, what do you not see? may I suggest missing from the mores of the general population are: honesty, integrity, responsibility, work ethic, family values, respect, etc, etc. Are these virtues non-existent? Of course not. But I am pretty certain they are far in the minority.

    My parents were the “greatest generation”, no doubt about that. Starting with my generation, each successive generation seems to lose more and more of the humanity we took for granted for so long. Soon we will be at critical mass. I shudder to think how that will work out.

  14. How can we set this guy up so that every elected official, or at least every known gungrabbing-inclined official, has to watch his video before they can do anything else on their computer, upon boot-up at the start of every day, and at least once per hour throughout the day, and failing to watch when prompted or trying to close the window in which the video runs will initiate a shut-down sequence without opportunity to save open items being worked on, locking out all keyboard and mouse inputs, along with tallying who suffers these shutdowns by somebody like NRA, Second Amendment Foundation, National Association for Gun Rights, Gun Owners of America, etc. ?

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