I just watched one of the best YouTube videos on guns that I have ever seen. It is posted by the Brady Campaign and you can view it directly on YouTube or pull it down from the new Brady website called crimadvisor.com. The website, like the video, is a tongue-in-cheek riff on a campaign the Brady folks have been running for years which correlates rates of gun violence with state gun laws, the idea being that states with stricter gun controls experience less gun violence. Brady’s new effort to sell this idea is a website that spoofs TripAdvisor and a remarkably original video that sets a new standard for the gun debate on both sides.
The bizarre notion that we protect ourselves with laws is a direct challenge to the NRA mantra which says that the best way to protect ourselves is with guns. If it were up to the NRA, we’d go back and undo the GCA68, get rid of background checks entirely and let all those ‘law-abiding’ folks out there walk around with their unlicensed guns and protect the rest of us from the criminals and the thugs. The NRA promotes this armed citizen nonsense through its video channel that features a group of very serious-minded folks didactically delivering one boring commentary after another on the hows and whys of carrying guns.
I have never been comfortable at the extent to which the pro-gun community uses video to promote its agenda if only because so much of the content used to create their digital messaging simply isn’t true. For example, last year one of the NRA commentators, Billy Johnson, criticized the General Social Survey which showed that gun ownership had declined from 50% of all households to just 34% over the previous twenty years, citing a Gallup Poll which stated that more than 40% of all American households actually contained guns. The only problem is that what Johnson didn’t say was that while Gallup had a higher number for gun-owning households, its survey had also shown a decline in gun ownership over the same period of time. By omitting this critical information, Johnson was able to pretend that the GSS finding about declining gun ownership wasn’t true. What was really true was the way in which Johnson distorted the evidence to support his own point of view.
But the whole point of video is that it’s not the facts per se that gets your message across to the audience, but the personality, stagecraft and overall artistry of what viewers are watching which drives the message home. And here is where, when it comes to the gun world, the new Brady video has absolutely no peer. Close my eyes for a second and I thought I was listening to Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis in Natural Born Killers, the 1994 Oliver Stone – Quentin Tarantino movie where two psychopaths go roaming around the Southwest attacking everyone and everything in sight with their guns.
But while the on-screen antics of the Brady gun-toting wannabes create an element of satire and cleverness that’s just plain fun, it’s not that difficult to slip behind the sarcastic message of this production and perceive the basic argument of the Brady campaign that localities with weak gun regulations make us less, not more safe from crimes with guns. If you need some hard data to convince you further about where Brady stands, the video moves easily and seamlessly to the website where you can examine the gun-law environment in all 50 states.
I hope that Brady’s video goes viral and that this will be the first of a series of productions in which our two as-yet unnamed characters hold forth on a variety of relevant issues related to guns. The real challenge in social media is not reaching the folks who are already committed to what you believe; it’s reaching the folks who can become committed because they like the way you say it, and this video says it better than it’s ever been said.
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