During last year's presidential campaign, journalist Buzz Bissinger got some attention for writing an opinion piece explaining that he was voting for Mitt Romney because Barack Obama hasn't done enough to end poverty, which is kind of like saying you're switching from salad to Big Macs for lunch because you're trying to lose weight and salad has calories. For people familiar with Bissinger's extraordinary reportage, including books like Friday Night Lights and A Prayer for the City (one of the best books about big-city politics ever written), it was a shock. How could such a great reporter produce something so infantile and bereft of the simplest familiarity with logic? Then people took a look at Bissinger's Twitter feed and discovered that he spews out a puzzling combination of incomprehensibility and general assholishness. (sample tweet: "Romney lost was a suck candidate as it turned out. But every fucking liberal who whines about pro football should be forced to play it." Um, okaaay.) It was so puzzling because the traits that make one a good reporter—curiosity, hard work, a willingness to see things from as many perspectives as possible—seemed to have deserted Bissinger in his non-reporting endeavors. Which brings us to the strange case of David Mamet, one of the most celebrated American playwrights of the last forty years.
Newsweek has just published an article in which Mamet, who became a hard-core conservative some years ago, goes after Barack Obama for wanting to take away his guns. While there may be an intelligent, cogently argued case to make for Mamet's position, this piece certainly isn't it. From the opening cliché about Karl Marx, you know you're not in for something that will change anyone's mind, but it only gets worse. He moves on to insane assertions about government ("'One-size-fits-all,' and that size determined by the State has a name, and that name is 'slavery.'") moves through a comparison of Barack Obama to King George, and then hits you with the kind of "logic" with which any parent of an eight-year-old is familiar. "The Left loves a phantom statistic that a firearm in the hands of a citizen is X times more likely to cause accidental damage than to be used in the prevention of crime, but what is there about criminals that ensures that their gun use is accident-free?" Mamet asks. "If, indeed, a firearm were more dangerous to its possessors than to potential aggressors, would it not make sense for the government to arm all criminals, and let them accidentally shoot themselves?" You really got us there, Sparky. By the time he repeats the NRA's argument that Barack Obama is hypocritical for having the Secret Service protect his children and at the same time wanting some modest measures to limit gun proliferation— measures which, by the way, will restrict David Mamet's ability to buy as many guns as he wants not one whit—you're left shaking your head.