How do you maintain message discipline in a group? Behold one method.
Recently a Maryland gun dealer, who was planning to sell a smart gun, got death threats from gun-rights activists. The threats worked! He dropped his plan to sell smart guns. This is why the government tippy toes around their activists at Bundy protests and locks up ours at Occupy events.
Here is the video, cued up to the point where he talks about the response he got from the gun loving radicals in charge of messaging: Warning Strong Fucking Language.
“Obviously I received numerous death threats today. I really fucking appreciate that. That’s fucking classy. That’s a great thing for gun rights when you threaten to shoot somebody. That was really splendid.
“If you’re going to kill somebody, shoot the politicians who make these fucking [gun violence prevention] laws. If that’s who you want to fucking go at, shoot the people who make these laws. Take ‘em out in the street, and gun ‘em the fuck down. There’s a goddamn reason why we got these fucking things [guns]. There’s a fucking reason why we got ‘em. And that’s to defend our fucking freedom. Don’t fucking come at me with this shit. That’s to the people who called up and threatened to fucking kill me.”
– Andy Raymond, owner of Engage Armament LLC in Rockville, Maryland
If you watch the whole video you can hear him explain how he was for smart guns as a way to bring people on the fence into the fold. He saw this as a way to make money, and convert some people. You see his anger at people he thought would be supporters. He’s saying “Take the bulls eye off of me! Why not put it on the people who are the real threat? If you are so eager to threaten and kill, why not do it and see what that gets you?”
He starts the video explaining “I’ve been drinking” and says he doesn’t know how to edit the video. That’s bad for him, but insightful for us. Who knows how this will hurt him, but it is helpful to us to see the kind of pressure moderates are in in the gun culture. Remember when we heard RW radio and TV hosts complaining that the moderate Muslims should “reign in” the radical Muslims? Maybe people who are moderates have more stories to tell but afraid. I don’t blame them.
It’s too bad that he didn’t capture some of the death threat calls with phone numbers or identifying IP information. I suppose ‘ratting out’ those people is seen as less honorable than shooting yourself in the foot on video before the nation. Besides, who would he turn the information over too? The FBI? Local law enforcement? What would they do to them? Take away their guns?
Each and every step he might take would repudiate what these people stand for. Sometimes I envy the hierarchical right with their “everything is on the table” discipline options for people who don’t toe the party line. But most of the time I don’t. I’m not a death threat kind of guy. I think it’s illegal, but don’t quote me.
Oh and by the way, if you want to help out the people who are trying to deescalate the violence? Take these actions suggested by my friends at the Center to Prevent Gun Violence. But I won’t threaten you if you don’t. That’s not how I roll.
Garrison Bespoke weaves nanotech into a snazzy suit that looks sharp and keeps bullets from getting through. -CNet
This past year, Garrison Bespoke worked alongside suppliers for the US 19th Special Forces in developing the custom bulletproof suit. Using nanotechnology, it’s comprised of the same carbon nanotubes designed for the US troops’ uniforms in Iraq. Yet, the patented suit material is a lot thinner and flexible; fifty percent lighter than Kevlar (the material commonly used in bullet-proof gear). The entire suit acts like a shield, with nanotubes in the fabric hardening to block force from penetrating through. – Garrison Bespoke
After every major shooting the media contact gun sellers in the area who gleefully report, “Sales have gone up!” They explain, “People are buying guns for protection.” Because as we all know from the NRA, the answer to gun violence is more guns. This conveniently sells more guns.
The NRA, like all trade associations, want their clients (in this case gun manufacturers) to sell more product.
What if there was a trade association that believed that protecting people from gun violence should be just that–protecting people from the bullets that come out of the guns. Their products would provide a different answer to the question, “What can we do about gun violence?”
When buying a gun people say, “It’s for protection.” But if you dig deeper you find that meaning isn’t complete. Meanings range from, “It makes me feel safer.” to “I feel more powerful and in control when I’m carrying it or have it handy.” and even to, “It allows me to imagine killing bad guys and being the hero.”
A handgun will give you protection from incoming bullets if they happen to shoot you in the holster area. However it does protect you if by showing it you stop someone from shooting at you. I’ve read dozens of examples of this in American Rifleman. “I showed them my gun and they walked away.” Ta da! It worked! Score one for a powerful visual, a bad guy who could see it and who will back down. I completely acknowledge this protection effect.
But imagine after a major shooting if the National Body Armor Association (NBAA) came forward and said, “We clearly aren’t going to do anything about getting rid of guns in the US, so let’s do something right now about protecting people from bullets. Check out our new lightweight bulletproof body armor and our low-cost conventional body armor. For less than the cost a fancy gun you and your loved ones can be protected. No licenses to get, no classes to take and no deadly accidents waiting to happen.” Conveniently, talking about this after a shooting would sell more of their product.
“But Spocko, isn’t this taking advantage of peoples’ fear to sell products without addressing the underlying issues?” you ask. Why yes, yes it is. Let’s think about another group that makes money by using fear to sell products. They seem pretty successful. I suppose saving lives in this passive way is weak or in bad taste. I can hear the critics now, ”What about head shots?! Stop politicizing body armor! The bodies aren’t even cold and you are trying to sell stuff that would prevent people from dying in the same situation. Sick! This is just a prelude to grabbing guns, because if you think you are safe with body armor you won’t carry a gun, but without the gun you can’t stop the bad guys from shooting all the people who aren’t wearing body armor! Argle bargle!”
For some, having a handgun acts as a talisman. It changes the way you “feel” when walking in a dangerous area. Now I’m all for talismans to evoke attitudes, but as we learn from history, a handgun isn’t going to stop a bullet, especially when you aren’t expecting it. If people were to start wearing bulletproof clothes it would be more than just a talisman, it would actually protect them. And because it is defensive, and not offensive, it wouldn’t necessarily lead to escalation.
Now I could go into all the pros and cons of body armor, but instead I want to bring up something that a gun gives people that no life-saving body armor can. Having and carrying a gun can give people years of enjoyable fantasies about using the gun. Sure you said you bought it “for protection.” but the cool things is you can constantly write yourself into the role of hero with a gun. With body armor you just keep living, and who wants that? Boring! I mean what’s Iron Man without the ability to shoot stuff back? The best defense is a good offense, good guy with a gun, yada yada yada.
All these thoughts were triggered (ha!) by the above article. What does it trigger in your head? Shoot me a line with your thoughts.
Now the National Body Armor Association doesn’t exist. But if they did at least the media could talk to someone who can make money on gun violence, while also saving lives. And isn’t making money what’s it’s really all about? With that kind of money they could make selling body armor they could hire me to be their spokesperson. I think I’d look good in one of those suits. Next up, a bulletproof fedora.
I’ve long held that the most powerful force in the country right now are lobbyists. And the lobbyist’s lobbyists are the NRA’s lobbyists.
If Spocko won the lottery ...
People always ask the boring ol’ question, “What would do you do if you won the lottery or a genie granted you one wish.”(For the record if I won the lottery I’d start a Progressive think tank that attacks right wing think tanks. If it was a genie I’d like a working spaceship.) But what would you do if you had NRA’s lobbyist power at your fingertips? I know what I’d do. I’d hire them to work against the weapons manufacturers and the NRA’s leadership.
I ask this question because on Thursday at 12:00 Noon EDT my buddy Cliff Schecter and a great group of people are protesting the K-Street Lobbyists in DC who are paid by the weapons manufacturers and the NRA to subvert the will of the people.
WASHINGTON, DC –Riding a wave of public anger at the Senate’s failure to pass even minimal gun control legislation, a coalition of activists, advocates and campaign finance reformers will lead a march on Washington firearms lobbyists this Thursday, April 25 at NOON. The goal is to drag the lobbyists out of the shadows where they prefer to operate and expose exactly how the National Rifle Association subverts democracy.
The event will begin with a news conference in McPherson Square, where gun violence prevention leaders will lay out the web of influence controlled by the NRA and unveil a new anti-NRA artwork by Shepard Fairey, who produced the most memorable image of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
The protest will then move along the K Street corridor, symbolically holding up giant checks from the NRA made out to key lobbying firms and delivering crime-scene photos illustrating the devastating effects of gun violence to those firms’ offices.
Now you’ve all heard the old saying, “Nobody is the villain in their own life narrative.” I’m sure that the people who convinced the senators to defy the desires of 90% of their constituents don’t think they are doing a bad thing. When I get the photos from the event I’ll put up pictures of the big checks made out to their firms. (“You are already a winner Mr. NRA Lobbyist!”)
Did you ever see the movie, Thank You for Smoking? It’s based on a very funny book written by the only funny conservative I know, Christopher Buckley. It’s about a tobacco lobbyist and how he convinces himself that what he is doing is right, and how it pays his mortgage. He works with two other lobbyists. One for the gun lobby and another for the liquor industry. They call themselves the MOD squad for Merchants Of Death.
The other day I was telling my friend Cary Grant (not his real name) about how sad, but unsurprised, I was that the NRA lobbyists had ensured that the Senate couldn’t pass a bill to increase gun safety. He said, “Why don’t you become a lobbyist?”
That kind of blew me away. I’ve been fascinated with the power of lobbyists for awhile now and like to hear and read stories how it’s “really done.” Not the TV versions, but the behind the scenes stuff where someone sends you a check for 200 million dollars and says, “Block this bill” or “Get the votes for this bill to pass, don’t tell me how you do it, just do it!” and then the team sits down, plans the strategy and then starts setting up meetings for doling out money to politicians, belief tanks, writers, pollsters, golf trips and restaurants.
I’ll bet there are the Power Point presentations with statistics and 3D Graphics with great ideas for Op-Eds to write. Do they still use hookers and blow these days? Do they come up with bumper sticker slogans? Catch phrases? (“When seconds count the police are only minutes away!” Is my current favorite.) I know they set up fake grass roots groups, I’m sure they have social media methods to amplify the words of true believers beyond their actual numbers.
They really are powerful, and if they are anything like the rich powerful people I know, they are pretty thin skinned and try hard not to be self reflective. So they will ignore the protest, won’t look at the giant checks with their names on it or the photos of the kid killed by guns. Why? Because 1) these people aren’t paying them 2) they are depressing. 3) mortgage is due every month.
Nobody wants to see pictures of dead kids mangled by guns, that’s so pre-Boston marathon. (BTW, I just watched the movie 9/11: The Falling Man and I wonder if seeing photos from Sandy Hook would have made a difference in the vote. I think showing them to the public wouldn’t have made a difference, but what if they were shown to the NRA lobbyists and our “representatives?”)
Now to do some lobbying jobs you need a certain amount of moral and intellectual flexibility, especially if you don’t believe in what the client is pushing. But most people doing this are either believers or can rationalize the belief for the mortgage.
I’m not going to throw stones at anyone (or should I say throw bullets?) I have my price, it’s in Quatloos, but I have one. If I was them instead of focusing on all the damage that weapons do, I’d focus on what I saw as all the good that they do. I’d never want to focus on the dead for three reasons. 1) They aren’t paying me. 2) they are depressing. 3) Mortgage. So I’d focus on positive things and abstract things. Don’t think of the 10′s of thousands of dead, think of the millions of non-dead. Don’t think of today’s headline dead:
I’ve been listening to the fringes of talk radio for years. The people running the media companies that distribute these shows usually don’t listen. If they did they would be appalled. The hosts often say things that would never be allowed if that host worked in that company’s office.
What would get someone fired for sexual harassment or bigotry is classified, “entertainment” since supposedly off the air the hosts follow the corporate HR guidelines and their words or actions are different.
While listening to Armed American Radio, carried nationwide by Salem Communications Corporation, (NASDAQ: SALM) I heard the two hosts talk about ignoring signs about no guns in the studio. I got confirmation they did bring their guns into the studio and it sounded like they violated the corporation policy when doing so. Salem is the top Christian broadcast radio company in the nation and the third ranked radio company overall, but no one from headquarters wanted to talk to me about the policies or consequences for violation so I wrote them one of my patented Spocko letters to ask about the apparent disconnect between their corporate stance on firearms and what their hosts are saying and doing on air. Some of my questions were:
How should a corporation act when the hosts both violate and mock a company’s policies about bringing firearms into the company’s office?
Did your HR people give them permission to violate your policies?
Have other employees been advised of guns in the office? Do other employees have any rights to safe working conditions?
Have people who work in the same building as the radio studio been advised of firearms in the building?
Do workers in surrounding offices have a right to know that some people either got a waiver to bring firearms into the building, or that there were/are no consequences for firearm violations?
Does the building management have a no firearms clause in their lease? Have they been alerted that it is being violated? Are there any consequences for violation of the lease?
Have the insurance companies who cover the liability of the corporation been alerted? Do they want to re-evaluate the premiums that the corporation is paying?
It’s been a week and HQ has not responded to my calls and letter, so I’m posting it here publicly. I’ll let you know if they respond.
Edward Astinger III, CEO Salem Communications Corp
Do you know that two of your radio hosts bring loaded firearms into your studios? Please listen to the following clip of hosts Mark Walters and his producer/sidekick Sean Young aka “Seanto” LINK.
They talk about ignoring signs saying “no food and drink in the studio” and ignoring signs that say “no guns.” To determine if they actually had guns in the studio, I contacted Mike Moran, the general manager at your Atlanta studio from which Walters was broadcasting on Sunday, January 25.
Moran spoke to Walters who confirmed that he had in fact brought firearms into the studio that day. Additionally, Walters admitted to the GM he had brought firearms into the studio(s) in the past. I haven’t yet confirmed if Young was also carrying that day, however I am copying John Peroyea, VP of Operations & GM for your Dallas/Ft. Worth station on this letter. He may be able to determine when and how often Young carried while in your Dallas studios.
Moran believes Salem has a strict policy that does not permit employees, independent contractors, customers and/or their guests to bring weapons onto your premises. Can you confirm this, and does the policy apply to your properties and leased studios nationwide? I attempted to get a copy of your firearms policies but neither Christopher Henderson, your VP of Legal and HR, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary nor Russel Shubin, Director of your National News and Public Affairs responded.
The reason I want to know your policies on firearms is because many of your company’s hosts and our nation are engaging in a national discussion on public safety. Specifically we are looking at the causes of, and solutions for, violent gun deaths. As a leader in the Christian and conservative communities, your corporate policies on this issue and how you respond to people violating your own policies regarding firearms is important.
Moran told me that Walters assured him that he won’t bring his firearms to the studio again, however, I wonder about the reliability of someone who has flagrantly disregarded your rules in the past and who ends every show with, “Carry on, carry off, carry everywhere. NEVER leave your cave without your club.” Can Walters be trusted to put the safety of others and compliance with your policies ahead of his own “carry everywhere” brand?
I’m not sure why your staff didn’t respond to my questions or why your policies aren’t published on your website. Perhaps you consider it a private internal matter, however, considering you are the co-creator of the petition site Support Second Amendment which you and your SRN hosts plan to present to congress, I think the public has a right to know your views on firearms in your own offices and studios.
I know you can’t oversee all your employees or contractors who rent out your studios, that’s why you set up policies. I look forward to hearing back from you or your staff.
I hear people talking about how hard it will be to get this new public safety bill passed. The media pick this up and include it in all their stories, as if the playing field didn’t change after Newtown. They are being told that the NRA post Newtown has the same power as pre-Newton.
I’m an activist, not a politician, so I understand the logic of the right wing rhetoric. They want everyone, especially the media, to believe that a minority of people will defeat this bill. They are pushing the idea that popular support will fade away like in the past. Some people who follow politics cynically agree with this. This makes the NRA smile.
The NRA leadership want you discouraged and thinking, “What’s the point? There are millions of guns out there. The NRA is too powerful. They will rally their troops and call their bought off representatives. I’m not going to win. I should just give up,”
It doesn’t have to be that way. We need public safety enthusiasts to act. And Biden, the consummate politician, knows this.
Yesterday Joe Biden was talking about gun violence in America. He talked about a lot of things but he said something that reflected his view of reality in DC.
“Elected officials respond to intensity. If number ten on your list of things you want your congressman to do is something about gun safety, that’s not going to get you very far, if there is a smaller group that its number one on their list to make sure nothing is done, guess who they hear from? So make your voices heard.”
I started thinking, what can increase our actions and the intensity of them? Yes, we have short attention spans, but studies of memory like described in the book, The Seven Sins of Memory, talk about setting up reminders based on location or context. Let’s use how our brain works to help us:
Every time you hear about a story about one or more people getting killed by a gun that’s your reminder to make a call or send an email to support public safety bills.
And by the way, don’t just focus on the federal and state level. Here’s today’s hot tip. Contact your local school board. They need to hear that you DON’T want to arm teachers, administrators, janitors and custodians.
Right now the gun enthusiasts are pushing school boards to do this. If the only people they hear from are them, they might think there is consensus. You no longer can rely on your school board members thinking. “Arming teachers it a terrible idea.” Pathetically, some school boards pick up the crazy and incorrect NRA rhetoric on guns. Check out this story from Ohio.
State Board of Education President Debe Terhar said she was not comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler when she posted a photograph of the Nazi leader on her Facebook page with a message critical of the administration’s new gun-control efforts.
When I listen to right wing gun podcasts and radio, I hear about their methods to beat back sensible laws. I hear them talking about how they will lobby school boards to send their teachers to gun training classes (two whole days of training! Woot! You are practically an FBI sharpshooter after two days!) I hear them ratcheting up the fear and downplaying the death of innocents.
So going forward here’s what I’d like you to do:
1) Read about a gun death. 2) Find out who your local school board, state or federal representative is 3) Call or email your thoughts to them. 4) Repeat as necessary.
Be intense. Be a public safety enthusiast. Be an intense public safety enthusiast. Things can get better if you act.
It was exactly what the NRA wanted; a discussion a month after the last big shooting so that the conversational focus can move away from the emotional pain of 20 dead kids. It was all very rational. And that pissed me off.
During the conversation Hammond threw in the perfunctory line, “our hearts and minds go out to the victims of that horrible shooting.” How many times have you heard that line right before they switch to talking about the needs of a small group of entitled, self-indulgent jerks who think their desire to go “pew pew pew” with real army weapons outweighs everyone else’s rights?
I’ve been listening to lots of gun enthusiasts’ podcasts lately. They are desperate to show how this shooting has nothing to do with their obstruction of sane gun laws and gun hawking. If they didn’t personally put the semi-automatic into the person’s hand and said, “Go shoot ‘em.” they think they are fine. The reality is that they have spent years developing policies, blocking laws or creating laws that ensure these shootings happen on a regular basis. Their work ranges from laws blocking research on gun violence at the CDC to outlawing the use of computers to keep track of weapons.
My friend Anat Shenker-Osorio had mentioned a book, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman about how when we switch to numbers and statistics during a conversation it actually removes the blood from our brain’s emotional center. In some cases this is a good thing. Especially if you know you will lose an emotional argument and you know that you can cheat on your “intellectual” argument. In this case it helps the Gun Owners of America’s spokesperson because it enables him to transition from talking about dead kids to talking about abstract data. The listeners and others are then busy working to counter the abstract data. They are thinking, is what he is saying right or wrong? What is the source? What is my comeback?” Julie Leftwich, legal director for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, did a fine job of countering him and refrained from calling him a bald face liar. Then, while we spend our time refuting them, the NRA and GOA move focus away from dead bodies sacrificed on the altar of their extremist members who can’t be denied their fun.
Soon we will move into the policy discussions revolving around Biden’s recommendations. I want everyone to remember how we felt one month ago. My friend Cliff Schecter, who does work for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, says that things are different this time. I believe him. Cliff is usually right. Things will change. But let’s be prepared for the planned push back.
“We are mobilizing for a fight,” NRA President David Keene told CNN. “We will engage our members.”
The association is planning to send mailings to its members urging them to contact members of Congress with their opposition to new gun laws. “Let them know you feel strongly,” is how Keene summarized the group’s message to member.
Kids of Australia: 'It sure is hot, but we're not shot!'
So my question to you my friends in the public safety movement is, “What are you going to do to beat them?”
The NRA went into yesterday’s meeting with Vice-President Biden knowing they weren’t going to agree to any suggestions or make any concessions. How do I know? They had their statement written to send out before the meeting even started. Although I don’t have a time stamped copy, I’ve worked with organizations who put out statements. It takes days, sometimes weeks to get one put together. They are working hard to get the discussion back on their terms and on their turf. The NRA says,“Come on America, stop focusing on dead kids! Think of yourself!” I’m going to bet 200 Quatloos that there wasn’t a press release version that said, “It was a very productive meeting, we are looking forward to co-authoring bills that will save lives and reduced gun deaths and gun violence.”
Keen and the NRA leadership are going into this in the same way that the right wing has been going into governing meetings for years. They start as hardline as can be, even to the point of suggesting that they are the true victims. No crumbs given, no hint of compromise, because it makes their base angry. The key is to activate their base on something scary (even something that will not be done, something they will be willing to die, or even kill for.) What are they really saying to their base?
“They are going to take all of your guns! They are going to limit your rights! If you let them do that you are weak. Will you let that, that… woman, Feinstein, take your gun? She is taking your mancard! What do we do when someone tries to take what is ours? We don’t just defend, we attack.”
Note how they move from the issue at hand to:
“This is about you. You need to act. You are under attack. You don’t want to be a victim, you want to be the victor. You need to be in control. Don’t listen to them talking about how your gun wouldn’t make a difference. YOU know you could have saved the day if you were there in Sandy Hook. Don’t you want to have that chance to save lives? Think about how bad you would feel if that woman takes away your guns and you couldn’t protect yourself or family. She uses guns to protect herself! Hypocrite! If she was really brave she wouldn’t let her security guards carry.”
It has been documented that the lack of empathy is a trait of hardcore conservatives. The NRA wants to move the debate away from situations where normal people show empathy. (And by the way, hardcore conservatives do show empathy, but primarily for members of their own family, tribe.) They are going to ask their enthusiasts to show up at debates, write letters and comment on this issue from the position of focusing on their own lifestyle and needs rather than those of someone else in another place.
Now my question to you is, “What would it take for you to have this same level of activism?” Is it because you don’t care enough or you have come to accept that we just have to live with this level of death by way of guns? Is it because you have accepted the frames of the people who are having this discussion? Do you even use their terms? “Pro-gun, anti-gun? “Gun rights?”
Now I’ve been cautioned not to evoke the individual names of the dead children in getting people to act. So I won’t. But I also know that reluctance to return the focus on humans and their decisions and consequences fits perfectly into the status quo the NRA extremists want. Don’t talk about the dead and the specific reasons for their death. Move the focus elsewhere. Talk about being under siege, throw around numbers, statistics, slogans, choice to focus on only one part of the constitution. There was an example of this just this week.
Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-5) is the chair of a congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Last night he started holding three town hall meetings in Northern California on reducing and preventing gun violence. From his Facebook page:
I will be holding a series of town hall meetings on reducing and preventing gun violence. On Tuesday at 7 p.m. we will be at Napa City Hall in the Council Chambers at 955 School Street. (done)
On Wednesday at 7 p.m. we will be at Vallejo City Hall at 555 Santa Clara Street.
And on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. we will be at the Board of Supervisors meeting room in Santa Rosa at 575 Administration Drive. I want to hear from you. Please join us if you can.
Illustration by Peter Stevens, via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license
If you live in these areas I encourage you to attend. I’d love to hear about it. If you are pro-public safety and want to talk, please go and get your body and voice on the record. I can guarantee you that the people at Cal Guns are going to turn out the bodies, their noble talking points and their subtle intimidation comments. Since they don’t have control of all their members they will also have extremists speak. These are the ones I’d really like to hear from, since they represent the leadership of the NRA.
I don’t really like “Town Hall” style meetings. Politicians like to hold them to give the illusion of listening. Usually their minds are made up in advance by looking at the polling data or which “very serious people” have set up meetings to discuss the issue with them.
They also will note calls, emails, tweets (@RepThompson), and Facebook posts (FB page). You get more points if you are in their district, but being a rich rich donor helps. Yes, politicians are “listening” but they mostly listen to people who are important to them, those who can deliver votes or money. For years the NRA produced both. But that’s changing. If the politicians start hearing from dedicated, ferocious public-safety enthusiasts they will notice.
I personally don’t like the Town Hall format. Partly because too often progressives don’t know how to use it effectively in the media (hint, don’t wait for the media’s coverage–make your own. Don’t go for high profile events where the media will be there with their standard frame, “He shouted She shouted the Truth lies somewhere in the middle.”)
One of the things I learned by taking on and successfully defunding right wing media is that even if you could “win the conversation” if there is no leverage that leads to actual change, you won’t reach your ultimate goal. Especially when they constantly lie, change the subject, change the definition of words, move the goalposts and yell to “win.”
The TV media coverage only looks at the extremes at Town Hall events, so unless the other side does something stupid (bring their guns?) or your side does something clever (like the Silent Student Protest after the pepper spraying in Davis) the media always does the same story Here is my prediction:
Segment opens on long shot of pro and anti signs. Zoom in or people in costume or with props. One or two clever signs. Let people get an idea of number of bodies per side. Cut to someone dressed in camouflage saying something contrary, “I’m a vet and I say ban AR-15s and semi-automatics!” Cut to woman saying her hand gun saved her life. Cut to Thompson listening during meeting. Cut to head of “Gun Rights” group for 7 second quote. Cut to someone from Brady Campaign group for 7 second quote. Include a educator or mental health professional talking. End with Live stand up after the meeting is over to explain, “This hotly contested issue will be continued tomorrow in blank. Reporting live from Orange County I’m Gustavo Almadovar.“
Does this mean you shouldn’t attend? No. If we can’t control the message we can at least not let their extremists flood the venue. Because this is exactly the kind of thing where the NRA gets their extreme members organized to attend. It is one of the many communications strategies they use. But it’s not their most powerful. The powerful stuff is hidden.
You have probably noticed that the NRA stays quiet after a major shooting, but they didn’t stop talking in the background in states to expand laws that help more guns get sold or weaken laws that prevent guns from getting sold. They won’t stop on the work they can control. They can’t totally control the media, but they do a pretty good job.
Did you notice that the media respected the NRA’s wishes to not speak following a major shooting? It’s like he’s Al Capone in The Untouchables the way the media keep respecting weapons lobbyist Wayne LaPierre’s feelings. A “press conference” with no questions? LaPierre’s policies and actions helped facilitate a mass shooting, why should he be spared the uncomfortable hot seat right after the shooting? Why does he get time to collect his thoughts and write his speech? The mothers and fathers of the dead didn’t. Besides, isn’t that why they pay him so well? I know that journalists feel that it wasn’t fair to ambush him with questions until he was ready. But it’s not fair that the people ambushed at a mass shooting can’t ask questions either.
I’ve already told you what kind of media coverage I expect to come out of the Town Halls. If there are some real extremists there will the media downplay them? I doubt it, this time it’s different. Based on my experience the guns everywhere people will make threatening comments, comments showing their selfishness and lack of empathy and brag about the steps they will take if anyone tried to confiscate their guns. They will talk about killing people, usually the black clad government agents who are coming to take their legal hunting shotgun or rifle. If they do talk to the press and it makes the news nobody will challenge them on these comments. ”Really? Your desires for ‘target practice’ with an AR-15 or other semi-automatize weapon outweigh the health and safety of others? Really?” They will say they are joking if asked seriously, but they aren’t.
They do not care about your children’s safety, they do not care about other’s safety in public, if they did they would be trying to help rather than making threats. These are the kind of people that I hope Mike Thompson and his task force vice chairs meet tonight and over the next few weeks.
Right now the NRA is primarily a marketing and sales organization. Sure they do other things like offer gun safety training programs and threaten politicians to push some laws and crush others. But I believe a lot of their power comes from the development and training of their members in communication skills and providing them with the right words, phrases and concepts to achieve their current goal: guns everywhere.
If you have become pro-public safety, like I have, you’ll want to figure out ways to convince others of your views and then develop ways to reach your goals. Also, when you see the NRA for what it really is, how they make the public less safe, and can work on ways to increase public safety.
Ever since reading, the brilliant and funny book by Christopher Buckley, “Thank you for Smoking.” I’ve been impressed with the tobacco industry’s communications strategies. Those of a certain age can complete this line, while singing the melody. “You can take Salem out of the country but…” If you sang the rest of the line in your head, their marketing worked. In the book the guns, alcohol and tobacco lobbyists all meet and talk about their work as “MODs” (Merchants of Death.) The tobacco industry’s savvy communications, PR, advertising and lobbying led to their primary goal. Sell more tobacco.
The NRA didn’t just “take a page from the tobacco industries book” they went deep into the hearts and minds of men (and women) and so they could keep answering the same question of their actions, “How will this help sell more guns?”
The methods of the NRA-trained operatives vary from the subtle–like ALEC bill authoring and strategic lobbying/threatening of politicians; to the crass –”Cold Dead Hands” bumper stickers and rhyming “logic” for the masses. The New York Times says they also have “virtually unmatched ferocity in advancing [their] political and legislative interests.”
Anyone who has ever engaged someone on this issue knows they can expect debate techniques ranging from aggressive, threatening logic that blames the victims for not carrying a weapon, to well-thought-out positions. I’ve seen how they use clever parsing of words in laws they create and how they attack terms or definitions to defeat laws they hate. ”It’s not an automatic, it’s a semi-automatic. There is no such thing as an assault rifle! You have no credibility with me! (unless you use the terms exactly as we have defined them…)”
Bringing Words to a Word Fight
Over the years the NRA has gone from selling ideas like the importance of gun safety to selling the idea that your identity is tied to your possession of a gun. Linking your identity to a product is a very powerful thing to do, and marketers try to do this all the time. ”We say the product is cool, when you own it you become cool –and women will want to have sex with you.” (I just added that last part because it usually goes unspoken, but it’s implied.) Because of this linking of identity to product, people are willing to pay more for a product, as well as create multiple reasons why they must have this product. But the marketers at the NRA also recognize that it’s childish for people to say, “I want it because I want it!” Therefore, they suggest quoting parts of the 2nd Amendment and hypothetical life or death scenarios where the gun owner is the hero to prove their case to anyone who questions them.
But what happens when the thing that makes you cool or defines you is taken away? That will make them angry. And when they are angry they stop using polite words and turn to threats. I sometimes wonder if the reason pro-public safety people don’t like to engage gun enthusiasts is because of this unstated (or stated) threat. For every responsible gun owner who will explain to me, “I’m not threatening you with my gun, I’m just having a discussion.” there are two who will tell me about their “2nd Amendment solutions” to “anti-gunners.”
Will You Become Ferocious in Advancing Your Political, Cultural and Legislative Interests?
Now let’s say that people have finally had enough with the way the NRA leadership is driving “the discussion”. Let’s also say that words like mine and the new pro-public safety public starts having a cognitive impact on the public at large. What can you, (insert your own name here) do, to make a difference? Well to begin, start thinking of what you are for, as well as what you are against.
I’m pro-public safety so when the details about the latest shooting comes out, I apply that view to the problem. In some cases the shooter will have a mental health problem. A pro-public safety person can push the states to have better laws that get violent mentally ill into the National Instant Criminal background check System. My doctor hunting friends in the midwest could easily get behind that action. If their buddies, who are extremists in the NRA, call them “anti-gunners” they can make it clear you want to protect people from those who are violently mentally ill, even if they also were going to kill someone with a knife, hammer or car, (since they love to bring up those examples of other “killing tools.”)
If the shooter obtained weapons though a gun show loophole you could support state and federal efforts to ban specific items as well as support the need for better tracking in general.
Every shooting is an opportunity for change for a safer future, if we act.
Here are some specific actions you can take to match your personality:
Want to help convince corporations, other than gun manufacturers, to get in the game? Try my friends at The National Gun Victims Action Council. Personally I always thought that Mars Corporation should be donating big corporate dollars to end gun violence, after all, there were Skittles in the hands of Trayvon Martin when he was shot. They might want more kids to grow up to eat candy rather than a bullet.
Want to know what your city is doing? Check out Mayors Against Illegal Guns. See if your city’s mayor is a member, (list) If not, drop your mayor a line. My friends at MAIG would love more member mayors. That’s a four minute doable action. Go!
Want to get educated on issues and on policy? Go look at the Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. Get on their mailing list, they provide great information if you want to engage a gun enthusiasts. If you want to simply go over the gun enthusiasts heads they have easy ways to help you go directly to people who can change laws.
I try to help a lot of non-profit groups in this area beyond the Brady Campaign because I believe in multiple strategies to reach difference audiences. Donate or volunteer depending on your interests and how active you want to be. Remember, if you don’t do anything the terrorists NRA wins.
On May 30th, police believe Ian L. Stawicki was armed when he entered Café Racer in the University District in Seattle at 11 a.m. He opened fire, killing four people and wounding another.
About a half hour later, Stawicki shot and killed 52-year-old Gloria Leonidas at Eighth Avenue and Seneca Street, near Town Hall on Seattle’s First Hill, according to police.
Yesterday the ABC affiliate station KOMO ran a story revealing Ian Stawick had a concealed weapons permit and that Walt Stawicki, the father of accused killer, says he knew his son was troubled and was getting more volatile, but believed there was nothing the family could do to get the concealed carry permit revoked.
In the rest of the story you hear of a family that knows there is a problem, but doesn’t know what to do to protect the safety of others. The father was hoping there was some minor incident with his son that would allow an intervention.
♦ How would you help this father if he came to you asking for advice?
Instead of going to the usual experts I wondered what if Walt Stawicki had asked someone who strongly believes the best way to protect his children involves arming himself and others like Stawicki’s son. Imagine if two weeks ago Walt took this son’s problem to Tim Schmidt, the head of the United States Concealed Carry Association.
“Dear Tim. “My son has a CCW. He is starting to act more volatile and I’m now worried for the safety of the people around him. The police say, “There’s nothing we can do, he’s not a threat to himself or others, or we haven’t had a report of it, or we haven’t had to pick him up – call us when its worse,”
If he goes off and shoots someone I’ll feel terrible. I’m especially concerned when he is out in public with his CCW. What can I do to get his CCW revoked? What is the process? After it is revoked, what can I do to keep guns away from him? What steps do you suggest? “
-Signed, Imaginary Walt Stawicki, Seattle Washington.
This is a scenario that I’m sure many families and communities have had to deal with. I know the fear of a partner getting violent drives a lot of restraining orders, but how is the matter complicated when the person has a concealed carry permit? Read the rest of this entry →
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