Shannon and the Everytown chicks have just posted a new video which you should watch and push out to all your friends. It’s a collection of excerpts from various appearances by Wayne-o starting with a rather statesmanlike comment quoting Churchill to a descent into lunacy about how a Glock or S&W will protect you from destruction of the national power grid. The NRA didn’t invent the culture of fear, but they go out of their way to convince their members that the world is going to hell in a hand basket unless everyone goes out and buys a gun.
I like Everytown’s video for two reasons. First, it’s artistically done and its theme, “fear is not the American way,” is a strong response to the endless fear-mongering by the NRA to promote the false idea that we are weak and therefore need to be afraid. I also like this video is because it’s funny as hell. The five kids are remarkably cute; they riff their lines with a combination of innocent panache and joyful delight – the video-ending flip of the script is a moment to behold and I guarantee that you’ll play those few seconds again and again.
What both disarms and concerns me about pro-gun video messaging is they take themselves so friggin’ seriously. I have watched hundreds of minutes of Billy Johnson, Colion Noir, Dom Raso and other NRA commentators, and they never crack a smile, not even a little grin. The NSSF video on gun safety featuring Julie Golob had some good-looking kids giving brief testimonials, but if you turned off the sound you’d think they were all describing a funeral or some other tragic event.
I shouldn’t be surprised by the lack of humor on the pro-gun side. The last time I went to the NRA show the featured comic at the banquet was Dennis Miller, who’s about as funny as swallowing a bar of soap. But the real reason the marketers promoting the NRA brand take themselves and their message so seriously is because they don’t want their audience, or their would-be audience, to misunderstand what guns are all about.
The NRA began selling guns for self-protection back in the late 1980s when urban crime appeared to briefly spiral out of control. In 1992 the violent crime rate was 757 per 100,000, in 1983 it was 538, an increase of 40% in just nine years. Nine years later, in 2001, it had dropped back down to 504, but the psychological damage had been done. At the beginning of the twenty-first century Americans believed they were under threat from crime; they still believe today that crime is seriously on the rise.
It doesn’t really matter whether guns can or cannot protect us from crime. What matters is what people think about the world around them, particularly the world in which they work and live. And as Barry Glassner, the foremost authority on the culture of fear reminds us, “Americans have remained inordinately fearful of unlikely dangers,” and when the danger is unlikely, the response, such as carrying a gun, is just as misdirected as the fear itself.
Next week the NRA comes to Nashville for the annual big-deal event, and I can guarantee you that speakers like Perry, Santorum, Rubio, Cruz and Palin will be trying to outbash each other to see who can ratchet up the highest level of fear; fear of Obama, fear of Isis, fear of losing all those guns. It’s too late for this year but maybe in 2016 the gun-sense groups can get together and hold their own big event. Every organization can have a booth, there won’t be any problem finding vendors to sell the usual junk and most of the big-time rock bands would probably show up for free. I’ll even read some of my gun blogs – that would draw quite a crowd. Call it the Convention of Hope; that’s a nice antidote to the NRA’s peddling of fear. And it just might work. It might.