Calling Some Bluffs: Firewalling 3D-Printed Gun Designs and The Influence of Deceptive Media


While I am by no means a fan of any major media news outlets, I must admit (almost reluctantly) that I do occasionally find some noteworthy bits of viable information hidden amongst the detritus of Fox News’ daily selection of articles.  Given that all of the mainstream news sources in the United States are politically slanted towards either the neo-conservative right (Fox News) or the collectivist, ultra-statist left (CNN, MSNBC, etc.), it can oftentimes be quite difficult to sift through the practically endless slew of erroneous fluff pieces and deceitful propaganda write-ups that masquerade as sources of relevant information.  However, despite the dismal modern landscape of back-handed intentions, subversive product advertisements, and halfheartedly disguised political party rhetoric that comprises 21st century American journalism, I can say without any intention of boasting that I am rather confident in my abilities to weed out any noteworthy “golden nuggets” of concrete, unadulterated information that occasionally turn up.  Enlightening though they are, such bits of unbiased, factual information that haven’t already been deliberately custom-edited by their news sources of origin in order to better suit the aims of a specific agenda (usually political in nature) are unfortunately rare.  For some stretches of time, it has seemed to me as though there was no real news being printed at all: not a single news story was able to check out as having been one hundred percent accurate or unaltered due to bias, especially regarding the soundness of the story’s core details.  After finding the process of trying to maintain a basic understanding of significant world affairs to be difficult as a result of an overabundance of media bias,  I find myself inclined nowadays to regularly revisit those few news sources, usually websites, from which I have previously managed to find useful information of generally-acceptable integrity.  It has been my experience that Fox News manages to provide some pretty significant news gems within its articles on a semi-frequent basis, and in my observation, tends to do so somewhat more consistently than any other of its equally-corrupt competition in the industry.  However, this argument is hardly intended to serve as a definitive statement about either the integrity or overall quality of news provided by Fox as a whole–it is simply a little insight into the general routine I use when combing through various news sources, and a little background about why I have appreciated certain instances of Fox’s reporting in the past.

With regards to a recent Fox News/Digital Trends article that I had the misfortune of discovering during the course of my daily reading routine, however, none of these relatively-praiseworthy observations were exhibited whatsoever.  Written by a certain Graeme McMillan, apparently for the tehno-savvy website Digital Trends before being picked up by the Fox network, the news story in question discusses an emerging new device called the 3D printer.  A cutting-edge technology that has only recently been made available to the public and which possesses the potential to physically replicate digital designs from an almost infinite catalog of possibilities, its appearance in the market has sent ripples of controversy throughout nearly every industry.  Nearly any item imaginable can be transferred from the realm of the imaginary to the tangibility of the physical using the innovation of 3D printing.  Such a wide range of production possibilities creates the potential for all sorts of manufacturing applications, some of which have naturally managed to generate significant controversy in recent times.  At the forefront of the debates surrounding 3D printing technology is the recent development of an open-sourced, downloadable blueprint for the creation of individual parts necessary for the assemblage of the world’s first-ever 3D-printed gun.  The model, entitled the “Liberator”, has been made available to the public for free download as an open-sourced design, and for the first time in history, the ability to create a gun from basically out of thin air may now be utilized by literally anyone.  As might be expected, the Liberator’s creation has caused quite a stir over whether or not the ability to manufacture and possess a working firearm from one’s own home is indeed a human right (as supporters of the technology claim), and what, if anything, can be done to suppress such an idea if it’s not.

I was disappointed to find that Fox’s and Digital Trends’ discussion about the issue was situated comfortably alongside the regularly-scheduled programming of what I have affectionately nicknamed the “Communist News Network” (formally known as CNN).  The reason I rechristened the network as such in the first place was due to the nature of its general content, which is consistently comprised of unabashed liberal psychobabble, generally in the form of news reports catered to reflect the opinions of the network (opinions which in reality are not actually grounded in sound economic theory).  To my disappointment, the entire work itself was comparable to any of CNN’s finest efforts to distort current events by means of utilizing a subversive journalistic style which passively conveys the doctrines of collectivism to readers while simultaneously providing them with essential daily news.  The outcome of such a method is that many of its readers often develop a carefully molded opinion about whatever information is being presented to them, almost as quickly as they learn the facts necessary for understanding the key details that had made the story significant enough to be deemed “newsworthy” at all.

McMillan’s article about a new software that blocks the ability to create guns with 3D printers utilizes a toolkit of similarly devious tactics and is, in my opinion, every bit as worthy of an outpouring of my most harshly-intended criticisms as any piece of writing I have ever read.  Taking into consideration that the article was intended to inform members of the general public about a promising new device, while bringing awareness to several solutions for dilemmas that have come about as a result of its recent market availability, it is disturbing to realize that the article’s writing appears to have a very specific agenda embedded within it.  It would appear as though–and these are strictly my own thoughts and perspectives–the write-up seeks to preemptively manipulate opinions about potential uses of 3D printers in order to draw public support for new software that would act as a firewall to block the printing of certain essential components required to construct a working firearm.  Worthy of more concern, it may be attempting to do so even to the extent of having been composed with the unstated aim of drawing support for potential legislation that would make anti-gun firewall software mandatory in the future.  However, the flagrancy and arrogance with which McMillan’s attempt at doing so has been carried out has served only to reduce his puff piece’s treacherous potential to succeed: rather than posing any tangible threat to the freedom of 3D printing technology, it serves predominantly as an embarrassment for anyone foolish enough to have regarded the article’s content with any measure of reverence.

The failure of Graeme McMillan to convince the public that software designed to limit the freedom of individuals to create whatever they choose is somehow necessary or desirable to society has been made all the more palpable due to certain aspects of his presentation that are unable to withstand even basic scrutiny. The very foundation of his persuasive arguments on the matter relies entirely upon the assumption that those who read the work know absolutely nothing about 3D printing technology whatsoever.  That being the case, I will follow in his stead, then, and make a personal assumption of my own: McMillan had most likely expected that those reading his article would, in doing so, be learning about 3D-printed gun technologies for the very first time.  In fact, it is presumable that McMillan himself had only just recently become aware of this innovation, which even now is so fresh and new to the market that word of its existence is still only just beginning to spread, and that he seized what little window of opportunity there was to misinform people before they could manage to learn the facts about the story from a more reliable source.  For anyone who has already been familiarized with both 3D printers and 3D-printed firearms, the most generous way of describing McMillan’s concerns about the matter (as well as his assertions) would be to say that they have been presented “without context”–a description which even still lends undeserved credit to the boldly misleading statements found in his article.

Still more provocative of speculation is the consistent undertone of support for this particular technology, which seems to have been subtly glorified by means of near-subliminal insinuation present throughout the writing.  The initial tone of the piece,  upon which I will further elaborate momentarily, is one of wariness towards the potential risks of a device that possesses the ability to create virtually anything, including weapons, from almost out of thin air.  The general prevalence of distrust that is rampant throughout the early half of McMillan’s “coverage” serves later to lend support for this new 3D printer firewall software.  This new firewall software is then specifically advertised, revealed to have been developed by a Danish company that calls itself Create It Real (an interesting company name for a firm that offers products intended to interrupt and prevent the creation of certain items).  In truth, the write-up may merely be some sort of public relations piece attempting to appeal to potential product buyers, ultimately representing nothing more than an advertisement disguised as valuable information.  However, more importantly, what may be little more than an insignificant ad might conversely be rendered dangerous by its strategy of communication with readers, and the possibility that such writing tactics might be persuasively-arranged enough to mold public opinion during the process of selling the firm’s software.  Even more unsettling to consider is the reality that there are countless other articles out there just like this one; some are more deliberate than others, but advertisements which masquerade as news content are by their very nature designed to generate some level of emotional response within the reader.  Formats such as the one I am about describe are not uncommon, scattered across the spectrum of today’s media current.  Some may end up being more successful than others at shifting opinions at least enough to sell a product, but there are an inevitable few who manage to achieve far more in terms of their social influence.  The particular piece in question represents merely one of the inconceivably numerous formats that may be used in the pursuit of such goals.  Hopefully, advertising detritus such as this that poses as non-fiction will prove transparent enough that readers will pick up on its ulterior motives and recognize it (along with any other article of similar character) for the cheap grab at wallets and consciences that it truly is.

From its very introductory sentence, McMillan’s creation immediately attempts to instill a sense of worry and permeable dread by playing upon the veritable “sitting duck” of humanity’s fears. Doubling as both a phobia and an instinctual trait held in common among all humans and shared throughout all generations, mankind’s fear of the unknown is a means through which our innate instincts help to protect us from getting into harm’s way.  Unfortunately, however, the universality of this human wariness of the unknown is common enough (and existentially powerful enough) to be preyed upon by media megaliths on virtually a daily basis.  After beginning the piece with such a likely hook for the audience to latch onto, the write-up next wastes no time before attempting to make use of the dull and ambition-stunting pangs of personal, shameful insecurity (an emotion that is equally as ubiquitous to everyone as the fear of the unknown).  Take, for example, this quote, which serves as the article’s transition from its introductory paragraph to the start of its general body and refers to an imbecile’s hypothetical attempt at 3D printing: “What if you make a mistake in your designs, and what you had intended to be a table ends up as some kind of arcane killing device?  Maybe you were trying to make something relatively innocuous like a shoe, but end up adding in a trigger, targeting scope, and place to insert bullets?”  With these statements, which he poses to readers in the form of questions, McMillan attempts to utilize punctuation as a tool for persuasion: nearly all of the most fear-invoking and deliberately misleading claims that are made throughout the piece are posed to the reader in the form of personally-directed rhetorical questions.

Adding to the text a sense of intimate immediacy, the use of interrogative sentence structure aids in creating the illusion of compassionate understanding.  The series of questions comprising the introduction and most of the body of the “article”  also seek to create a falsely-perceived commonality that has been fabricated in an attempt to create a sense of unity in the mind of the reader between himself, the author, and society as a whole.  The common bond to which McMillan alludes here through his use of inquisitive probing is at its core a sense of obligation to uphold one’s personal civic duty on behalf of the total well-being of society.  By phrasing his points as questions, he invites readers to reach this rather misleading conclusion simply by managing to simulate the thought processes inherent within one’s own common sense.   Readers who are fooled by this tactic will make the assumption that the answers to his questions must be obvious and unanimously-relevant for the sheer reason alone that his inquiries were delivered in such an overtly obvious manner to the general public.  Since the target audience is so obviously meant to include every single one of society’s minimally-literate members, each with their own varying degrees of intellect, those who are less prone to engage themselves in spats of analytical reasoning will jump to the conclusion that the answers to each question posed must naturally be common knowledge of an almost instinctual nature.  In short, the average idiot will assume that the questions were intended to be able to be answered by anyone, otherwise they wouldn’t have been asked of everyone.  By directing the reader toward questioning whether or not he or she is competent enough to handle such technologies without literally killing someone else, statements such as these are a means of making individuals feel afraid and, as a result, in need of protection.  Still more importantly, questions such as these infer to readers that it is even their civic duty to demand such protection.  Whether or not the idea of needing a preemptive defense against other people who might kill another person (intentionally or accidentally) with a 3D-printed gun had previously crossed the reader’s mind, the interrogative wording of the article demands that he or she personally address the issue, and then attempts to guide them into reaching a very specific conclusion.

Despite all of this, to someone with a good moral compass and the general ability to self-govern, and/or to someone who has already become knowledgeable about 3D printing technology, the concept of needing protection from whatever someone might do with their 3D printer naturally seems irrational, egregious, and utterly unnecessary.  For someone else, however, who may perhaps lack a moral compass strong enough to keep him or herself under control and who, as a result, feels the need for other individuals to provide both protection and guidance, these services might appear necessary or even desirable.  In terms of the target audience that the article was specifically written for (which is, again, primarily comprised of readers who are receiving their first exposure to 3D printing through McMillan’s article, and who could potentially find the story’s subject matter to reside within the previously-discussed realm of the terrifying unknown), members of this unenlightened bunch will almost certainly deem such protection technologies that block the ability to print gun components to be of absolute necessity.  Even more dangerously, many of these individuals will even demand that measures be taken to guarantee that public safety is not compromised by too much freedom in the hands of those with 3D printer technology, and create an outcry for the force of the state to be used to put a put a halt to such endeavors altogether.  Until such conclusions cease to be reached, and the aggression of the state and all other forms of violence are rejected altogether, the risk that laws which could be devastating to individual liberty, safety, and prosperity might be passed will continue to exist.  Without violence, laws are merely suggestions, and without the consent of the governed, government is nothing more than a gang of violent brutes with nothing to wield but their inarticulate, charmless fists.  For now, 3D printing technology remains both open-sourced and unhindered by the confines of legal restriction.  Hopefully this will continue to be the case, and enough individuals will begin to wise up to the devious tactics of spin pieces such as this one, as well as to the plethora of others like it, recognizing them for what they are and rejecting their manipulative insinuations.  Especially when such clarity may be coupled with the aforementioned rejection and unwavering intolerance for initiations of aggression (specifically those perpetrated on a mass, everyday basis by the state), individuals will be able to make fully-informed, unbiased decisions that will help them to shape their everyday lives into the peaceful, abundant, and above all else free legacies that every human being dreams of and deserves to leave behind.