Saturday, July 1, 2017

About that NRA Ad

Have you seen the NRA video that juxtaposes video footage with a carefully written script (voiced intensely by conservative talk show host Dana Loesch) to call gun-owners to arms against their fellow citizens?

Several million people have seen it so far. I hope most are like me, watching it with their jaws at maximum drop. I was going to write about it but I've since seen two other pieces of writing that say it all for me.

One is from Bill Moyers:

Take a look at the ad and ask whether the National Rifle Association can go any lower. Ponder this flagrant call for violence, this insidious advocacy of hate delivered with a sneer, this threat of civil war, this despicable use of propaganda to arouse rebellion against the rule of law and the ideals of democracy.

On the surface this is a recruitment video for the National Rifle Association. But [it's really] a call for white supremacy and armed insurrection, each word and image deliberately chosen to stir the feral instincts of troubled souls who lash out in anger and fear.

Disgusting. Dishonorable. Dangerous. But also deliberate. Everything deplored by the NRA in the ad is committed by “they” — a classic manipulation turning anyone who disagrees with your point of view into “The Other” — something alien, evil, foreign.

“They use their media to assassinate real news,” “They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler,” “They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again.”

“And then they use their ex-president to endorse the resistance.”

Well, we all know who “they” are, don’t we? This is the vitriol that has been spewed like garbage since the days of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, blasted from lynch mobs and demagogues and fascistic factions of political parties that turn racial and religious minorities into grotesque caricatures, the better to demean and diminish and dominate.

It is the nature of such malevolent human beings to hate those whom they have injured, and the NRA has enabled more injury to more marginalized and vulnerable people than can be imagined. Note how the words “guns” or “firearms” are never mentioned once in the ad and yet we know that the NRA is death on steroids. And behind it are the arms merchants — the gun makers and gun sellers — who profit from selling automatic rifles to deranged people who shoot down politicians playing intramural baseball, or slaughter children in their classrooms in schools named Sandy Hook, or who massacre black folks at Bible study in a Charleston church, or murderously infiltrate a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Watching this expertly produced ad, we thought of how the Nazis produced slick propaganda like this to demonize the Jews, round up gypsies and homosexuals, foment mobs, burn books, crush critics, justify torture and incite support for state violence.

It’s the crack in the Liberty Bell, this ad: the dropped stitch in the American flag, the dregs at the bottom of the cup of freedom. It’s a Trump-sized lie invoked to bolster his base, discredit critics, end dissent. Joseph McCarthy must be smiling in hell at such a powerful incarnation on earth of his wretched, twisted soul.

With this savage ad, every Democrat, every liberal, every person of color, every immigrant or anyone who carries a protest sign or raises a voice in disagreement becomes a target in the diseased mind of some tormented viewer. Heavily armed Americans are encouraged to lock and load and be ready for the ballistic solution to any who oppose the systematic looting of Washington by an authoritarian regime led by a deeply disturbed barracuda of a man who tweets personal insults, throws tantrums and degrades everything he touches.

Look again at the ad. Ask yourself: What kind of fools are they at the NRA to turn America into a killing ground for sport? To be choked with hate is a terrible fate, and it is worst for those on whom it is visited.

Take one more look, and ask: Why do they get away with it? What is happening to us? How long do we have before the fire this time?
The second piece is by screenwriter Rider Strong, and it was shared on Facebook by a friend who introduced it with her own analysis:
Read all of this! The NRA has had zero to say about Philando Castille. Blue Lives Matter silent on off duty black cop shot by fellow officer when he came to help at a crime scene. And the ramped up talk from Trump and his surrogates about Chicago lately make this incredibly troubling.
Strong's words:
The 2nd Amendment ostensibly exists as a bulwark against an oppressive government. Under Obama, this was the argument opposed to any attempts at licensing or regulation: if we don’t preserve our constitutional right to defend ourselves with firearms, then the government — the military, the police — could take advantage of us. They could force their agenda via violence, and before you know it, we could lose our representative democracy. That’s why we, the people, need our guns.

But now, with a reliably pro-gun party in both legislative and executive branches power, Dana Loesch's NRA spot insists the 2nd Amendement is the only tool to protect “us” from “them.”

And just who are they?

“They” are never named. “They” are an ambiguous other. A fill-in-the-blank, an open collective that manages to string together looters, violent extremists, Black Lives protestors, the media, Hollywood elites, school teachers, even mere Obama supporters — Obama is “their" ex-president, not “ours.”

Incredibly, the ad makes no distinctions between modalities of protest. A stand-up comedian, that teacher, that Obama voter — they are all the same as an anarchist who breaks a window in Berkeley.

But here’s the point: “they" are citizens. They are people of this country who, for a variety of reasons, might stand against the policies of the current administration.

And in this context, post-Obama, it is the police who is on “our” side. And now, it is necessary to rise in defense of these overwhelmed agents of the state. As Loesch spits and fumes in the final frames, we must "fight this violence of lies” with the “clenched fist of truth.”

That is some sophisticated verbal jujitsu.

"Violence of lies” is, notably, not actual violence. But it SOUNDS violent. 'Cause, you know, there’s the word violence in there. (Just like that opening line, which declares “they" use “the media to ASSASSINATE real news.”)

But luckily, for Loesch, there’s a “clenched fist of truth.” Which doesn’t SOUND like violence, does it? It sounds noble, defensive, maybe it's a hand raised in a power salute...

…except when you couple that phrase with an NRA logo.

When you do that, those words change, and the message becomes clear. That fist is clenched around a pistol grip. Or you know what, maybe that interpretation is giving her writing too much credit. Maybe it’s simpler than that, because I know what an NRA logo stands for, and Loesch does too. It stands for defense of GUN RIGHTS.

So in one clever sentence, the abstract words of protestors (lies) is rendered violent, while the actual violence (guns) is abstracted to the realm of truth-telling.

Since the ad has gotten attention in the last couple days, Loesch has been posting and tweeting and twisting herself in more verbal knots to ensure that everyone knows the ad was intended as a criticism of the violence of the left, and she continues to point to the instances where this has occurred (most notably, the Berkeley Yiannopoulous riots).

She does so as if no one on the left condemned these actions, and, most importantly, as if her ad was not made by and in support of **a weapons’ rights interest group.**

She is correct in that she was careful enough to not have her script actually say the words, “Go out and hurt people you disagree with.” She can continue to cower behind her own cleverness and wordplay, but she can not avoid the underlying logic of her ad, which should upset even her supporters on the right. Namely, that in 60 seconds, Dana Loesch manages to not only subvert the basis for the 2nd Amendment — the guns of the people are there to to defend from an oppressive government — BUT ALSO TO COMPLETELY REVERSE IT: the guns of the people are there to help the government shut down dissent.

In her formulation, those who agree with the electorally legitimized authority (the non-protestors, the non-looters, the non-complainers) must “fight” in support of the government aaaaaand CUE NRA LOGO.

In other words, “we with guns” must stand against our fellow citizens who dare to feel oppressed, those who have the audacity to disagree.

This is advocation of violence in the name of the state. To borrow from Max Weber, this is a call to extend the monopoly of violence from the state to the private citizens who agree with its current, dominant party.

This is the most chilling message I have heard these days. Because this is not Fox news encouraging your uncle to rant about “the lefty snowflakes” at your Thanksgiving dinner; this is one of the most well funded lobbying group in the country encouraging him to bring a gun to the table.

It is, literally, a call to arms.
Hell in a handbasket, indeed. Meanwhile, the county where Portland, Oregon, is located is deputizing right wing militias like the Oath Keepers to "help" police at protests.

No comments: