Back on January 18, I posted a column on the work that is being done by the RAND Corporation on gun violence, specifically the republication of a report in 2021 which carried a list of the more than 500 ‘experts’ who constitute the be-all and the end-all of expertise when it comes to helping RAND “establish a shared set of facts that will improve public discussions and support the development of fair and effective gun policies.”

              RAND has been helping America develop ‘fair and effective’ policies about various issues since the corporation was founded in 1948, and its tagline about producing ‘objective analysis, effective solutions,’ continues to guide the organization’s work in the many areas in which it gets involved, of which the most important areas – international affairs, national security, health, energy – are listed here.

              Gun violence hasn’t made it into the top tier of issues being studied by RAND but give it time. After all, we have only experienced a significant increase in gun fatalities over the last couple of years, with the 2020 number coming in at 44,000 and change. Before that, we were only running yearly gun deaths in the mid to high 30’s, so what’s the big friggin’ deal?

              I first heard about RAND in 1971, when The Failing New York Times published a series of articles based on documents known as the ‘pentagon papers,’ which had been swiped and given to the paper by Daniel Ellsberg, who had worked on a study of the Viet Nam War commissioned by the Pentagon but conducted by a team employed by RAND.

              The papers showed that the government had consciously and continuously lied about the war, in particular the fact that it wasn’t a civil war at all but was a military invasion of another country by the United States based on a strategy which was going to fail.

              In a 2002 memoir, Ellsberg claims he first began to doubt our role in Viet Nam when he attended an anti-war demonstration in 1969. I hate to break it to Ellsberg, but I got involved in anti-war activities in 1964, and I didn’t need a Ph.D. from Harvard or a fancy job at RAND to know that the presence and behavior of the United States in Southeast Asia was simply wrong.

              Not maybe wrong, but so wrong and so arrogant and so destructive, that the idea our decision to immolate tens of thousands, maybe several million Vietnamese and Cambodian peasants was something that could be made ‘right’ if we just changed our tactics a little bit here and there, only demonstrates how little serious research was conducted by Dan Ellsberg and his band of merry RAND men.

What RAND does with the money it gets from private donations and government research grants is to sit a group of so-called experts down in a room and get them to come up with ways to make it look like the government can plan and implement policies and programs which look more right than wrong.  

Come up with effective solutions to ‘pressing challenges’ facing the world today? Not one bit. Develop a storyline that will take the U.S. government off the hook for problems that the government creates? You’re goddamn right.

Ellsberg was part of the RAND team which in 1967 produced the first Viet Nam report. By the end of that year, we had lost some 20,000 men in combat, a number which would be exceeded by twice as many casualties over the next three years.

Know what was the conclusion of the RAND report? That the government needed to counteract media stories about how the war was being lost by promoting stories about all the good things we were doing in Viet Nam.

RAND’s so-called ‘fair and effective’ approach to solving problems reminds me of how Eisenhower used to answer questions at his press conferences: “On the one hand this, on the other hand that.” I can just see the experts hired by RAND develop a new plan to make the federal government look both like a protector of the public from gun violence while, at the same time protecting the gun owner’s Constitutional freedoms and ‘rights.’

Here’s how the new plan that RAND can promote which will not just reduce gun violence but get rid of it altogether. The CDC can stop counting the number of people who get shot with guns, and instead the Consumer Product Safety Commission can collect and publish data on how many guns are used in unsafe ways.

After all, why should guns be any different than skateboards or bikes?