One of the most powerful political organizations in the United States is the National Rifle Association. The president of the United States recently claimed he wasn't afraid of the NRA, only to have an NRA spokesperson -- not the president himself -- later announce that the president had changed his mind. It was painful to watch the most powerful man in the free world be treated like a small child.
The cornerstone of the NRA's platform to sell more guns is the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Its original intent has been perverted over the years, and the language construed to mean something very different.
Well, right now, the Second Amendment is on deathwatch, largely because of a passionate bunch of kids and Twitter.
David Hogg, one of the survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, just disciplined one of the most powerful Fox News talking heads.
The efforts by Hogg and his impressive peers have resulted in one of the retired Supreme Court Justices calling for repeal of the Second Amendment. If this trend continues to advance, I expect it will be repealed.
Even in the face of substantial evidence, we still don't seem to get that Facebook was at the heart of what allowed a reality-TV star to become president, against all the odds. We still don't seem to get the scary power of social media and fake news.
I'll share some thoughts on the impressive power of social media and the massive risk of underestimating kids in this new digital world, and then close with my product of the week: the HP Notebook Computer that The Wall Street Journal called the best of the best.
Old vs. Young
By the time I really got to know him, my grandfather had retired from his career as a petrochemical CEO and engineer. One of my least fond memories was being at a party with his friends (I'm guessing I was around 12) and listening to him pontificate on nuclear power. His position was that people were stupid because they didn't want a nuclear power plant in their back yard.
I spoke up (which was unusual because I was pretty shy back then) and suggested that it likely was due to the fact that a recent movie, The China Syndrome, had shown what could happen if a plant failed, and the objectors probably didn't want to die.
My grandfather's response was something to the effect that I was too young to have a clue about what was going on and I should wander off and go watch TV or something. I recall being laughed at by his friends as I walked away. I still remember that event like it was yesterday, and still feel the anger.
Of course, the plant was built and then shut down, costing billions, because of safety concerns raised at the time. Regardless of my young age, I was right -- and I never thought of my grandfather as particularly smart after that. It was a pivotal moment in my life.
If you examine the responses of those who are positioned against the Stoneman Douglas kids, they are similar to the one my grandfather gave me. They basically are different versions of "I'm smarter than you -- you should just shut up and go back to school." This is way too similar to the old "because I told you so" response that's been the fallback of parents who can't justify a decision.
I'll bet you can recall a time when an adult failed to listen to your argument and instead implied you were too young to understand (and you and I both know it didn't matter if they were right). That approach likely didn't change your mind -- it made you mad. You dug in, and you may have thought less of the adult as a result.
Unlike the kids of today, you probably had to suck it up, as I did, and wait until you were an adult. Then you may have done the same thing to your own kid, emulating the adult who treated you so poorly years earlier.
Power of Social Media
Social media is a massive force multiplier. It is particularly powerful as a way to change opinions and drive boycotts. An impressive number of powerful people have lost their jobs as a result of social media boycott pressure (an impressive number off Fox News in particular).
Senators have been brought down, and CEOs have lost their jobs.
Even companies that likely would have weathered similar storms in the past have failed. That is because individuals like David Hogg, particularly kids, couldn't get a national voice in the past. That has changed. Now, with the right set of events and a little luck, you can drive an effective national agenda with unbelievable power.
It certainly helps that the leaders of the movement to implement stronger gun controls are articulate and smart, often seeming far more articulate and much smarter than the politicians who oppose them. (Some of the folks on the gun rights side aren't doing themselves any favors at the moment.)
The Perfect Storm
Most of us are hardwired to protect kids. Regardless of our stance on guns, I expect that if we were given the choice of protecting a child or giving up a gun, we'd hand in our gun without even thinking about it.
Kids are the voice of this latest gun control effort, and they have legitimate concerns about being shot -- particularly kids who have experienced a mass shooting.
Social media, particularly Twitter, has been shown to have the power to overturn governments. Kids seem to be more addicted to social media and more capable of using it, for good or ill, than adults.
Republicans by and large are the greatest supporters of gun rights, and they are currently in power. However, the mechanisms that put them there have been dismantled to a great extent. Their power to swing elections -- largely thanks to Russian meddling -- has been significantly curtailed. The most visible analytics firm involved in that process, Cambridge Analytica, may not exist for much longer. (It is blocked from Facebook regardless.)
The NRA has made fixing the problem binary. Unless the Second Amendment is neutralized, kids won't be safe. It is betting that repeal is simply a bridge too far. However, when it comes to kids' safety, the NRA should realize that for most of us, there is no bridge too far.
Like many, I think the NRA has gone off the rails and is doing more harm to gun owners than good.
If, as it now appears will be the case, there is a purge of gun supporters in Congress at the mid-term elections, then it will send a message to those remaining that they have a choice: Keep their jobs, or repeal the Second Amendment. If presented with that choice, a critical mass of politicians will emerge to get repeal done.
Politicians are pragmatic; given a choice between keeping their jobs and almost anything else -- particularly given that the alternative will happen anyway if they are voted out -- they'll pick their jobs.
Wrapping Up: What Should Happen
Rather than disparaging (or politicizing) the kids, who are acting more adult than many of the adults at the moment, there should be a collaborative effort to address their concerns. This starts with listening to them and not attacking them.
To a great extent, it appears that the problem with the most recent shooting had little to do with gun access and a great deal to do with folks not taking the threat seriously enough. The shooter could have been stopped without any additional gun regulations.
The U.S. just spent billions on technology to stop terror attacks, so it would seem that same technology could be missioned to stop any attack on schools, ISIS-sourced or not.
We should use every avenue to showcase the consequences for the shooters in these situations, because we know the shooters aren't thinking of them. Just think what would happen if we were to have two or more mass school shootings at once?
If the kids, who rightly feel unsafe, are made to feel safe, then the likelihood of repealing the Second Amendment (and perhaps taking out the NRA in the process) would drop close to zero. If the kids continue to feel unsafe and their organized efforts increase, than the NRA and the Second Amendment are toast.
Attacking the victims is not the answer, and it is failing spectacularly. Attacking the problem is. Kids are our future -- guns aren't. Let's make the right choices for once.
One final thought, most of these young activists can't vote or run for office now, but I'll bet hard cash that changes. Do you really think they are going to forget? Would you?
(By the way, here is the latest report I could find from the American Academy of Pediatrics on gun deaths and children. While the number has been declining, the report still showcases an unacceptably high level of gun-sourced infant mortality. This likely is why the NRA has been blocking research. You can't fix a problem if you can't study it.)
It used to be that the WSJ's tech reviews, which generally were written by Walt Mossberg (who apparently really didn't like me), had one response to anything tech: Apple ruled. That was during the Steve Jobs years, and most of the top tech reporters seemed to be on Apple's leash.
If memory serves, Apple had only about 6 percent of the laptop market in its best year. While it always did have good, high-quality products, users en masse just didn't favor them. That was different from consumer behavior in other markets.
For instance, when the Toyota Camry polled as the best car model, it also enjoyed the highest sales. Right now, the people who live in my region seem to think the Subaru Forrester is the best car, and many buy it.
Well, the WSJ has changed a lot since Walt moved on. David Pierce wrote its latest review, and he approached laptop selection as you or I might approach it.
He picked a price point, mentioned what he liked, told you his reasoning, and then chose the best product. Coincidentally, it turned out to be one of the best-selling products, which suggests that most of us would agree with his choice.
The winner, with the best balance of looks, price, ports and power, was the HP Spectre x360. I know the HP chief experience officer well (ex-Microsoft exec Mike Nash), and he does splendid work.
HP Spectre x360
The WSJ also did nice work, and I agree with Pierce's conclusion. If you are looking for something in the US$1,000 range, the HP Spectre x360 (13-ae051nr) is the best in class and my product of the week.