Weekly Standard article on the NRA

Skunk vs. Skunk The defense of the Second Amendment goes down-market. 2:40 AM, MAR 16, 2018 | By DAVE SHIFLETT If someone invented a television “raver filter” there would no doubt be national jubilation—until we realized that blocking the ravers would leave very little to watch. Everyone raves these days: sports announcers, politicians, airline executives, celebrities, cartoon characters, weather forecasters, dog trainers, and of course the growing army of what were once called “talking heads”—whose noggins have all gone nuclear in the Age of Trump. Add to the raver list the current flock of flacks deployed by the National Rifle Association. While former NRA president Charlton Heston could be a bit dramatic (declaring that Second Amendment foes would have to pry his musket from his “cold dead hands”), you expected as much from the man who played Moses, survived a seriously contested Roman chariot race, and bravely championed his species on the Planet of the Apes. Besides that, he’s weak tea compared with his successors. A little disclosure may be in order. As a native Southerner I of course keep a few shooting irons around the house. Nothing capable of bringing down a jetliner, to be sure, but enough to seriously harass a low-flying Gulfstream (we could bring down a Cessna with our cutlery). I have no problems with AR-15s—or Kalashnikovs—or with requiring purchasers to jump through a few more hoops. I don’t give money to the NRA, one reason being that every mass shooting seems to be followed by a fundraising call, the apparent formula being: “Lots of people just got shot so send us some money.” Nor do I believe the NRA is as powerful as its enemies—and, for that matter, its own PR material—assert. Politicians love money but they love votes more; those who supposedly “line up” with the NRA are voting the way their constituents want them to vote. All that said, defending the Second Amendment can be a noble calling, and as such it would seem reasonable for the NRA to present gun owners and advocates as calm, self-possessed, and thoughtful individuals. Among other things, that would distinguish them from many of their rabid critics. Yet it appears the new strategy is to out-rave the competition. Grant Stinchfield, for example, a man with a firm jaw and demeanor to match, stars in an advocacy video (at NRA TV) that begins with him watching a few anti-gun snippets on a television, then destroying the tube with a sledgehammer. Appliance smashing, to be sure, has some entertainment value, yet the idea that Stinchfield—and the NRA—might be every bit as rabid as the people who say guns should be melted down and repurposed as personhole covers easily comes to mind. In similar spirit Colion Noir, an African American with good pistol skills and a sharp wit, starts his video pleasantly enough, but soon insists that “the mainstream media love mass shootings” and have “a vested interest in the perpetuation of mass tragedy.” This doesn’t sound all that different, in tone and temperament, from claims that the NRA and its congressional allies don’t care if schoolchildren are massacred so long as AR-15s are easily available and the NRA cash keeps flowing. Neither of these gents is a match for Dana Loesch, a striking brunette who will appeal to friendly viewers as something of a Delphic oracle, while opponents may consider her an incarnation of Helga, She Wolf of the SS. At this year’s CPAC conference Loesch, the NRA’s premier spokesperson, paced the stage like a human flamethrower on black stiletto heels, proclaiming that the media “love mass shootings” and that “crying white mothers are ratings gold”—in contrast to the Chicago mothers of black homicide victims, who are largely ignored. The audience lapped it up, perhaps overlooking the fact that the simultaneous killing of a dozen or two people will always overshadow a death toll reached incrementally. Loesch is bright, knowledgeable about her subject (she’s brimming with details about FBI and local law enforcement screwups that may have allowed mass killers the freedom to act), and seems much at home in the lion’s den. She appeared at a town hall after the recent Florida school massacre, where (according to her) some audience members insisted she be burned alive. But she often sounds as if she has a brazier full of hot pokers just off-camera, in case anyone needs a little help fully accepting some of her message’s finer points. Consider a plug she did prior to starting a new talk show. So to every lying member of the media, to every Hollywood phony, to the role model athletes who use their free speech to alter and undermine what our flag represents, to the politicians who would rather watch America burn than lose one ounce of their own personal power, to the late-night hosts who think their opinions are the only opinions that matter, to the Joy-Ann Reids, the Morning Joes, the Mikas, to those who stain honest reporting with partisanship, to those who bring bias and propaganda to CNN, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. Listen up! Your time is running out. The clock starts now. One wonders if Joe and Mika, who seem easily spooked, have ordered Willie Geist to poison test the morning coffee. Maybe Willie will one day let us know. Meantime, even a casual observer is likely to wonder if Loesch has a side gig writing for the White House or vice versa. Not only does her anti-media message sound like it just flew from the president’s lips. She’s also Big Orange’s loyal wingman: “We are witnesses to the most ruthless attack on a president and the people who voted for him and the free system that allowed it to happen in American history,” she says in one NRA spot. “We’ve had enough of the lies, the sanctimony, the arrogance, the hatred, the pettiness, the fake news. .  .  . We are done with your agenda to undermine voters’ will and individual liberty in America.” We live in shrill times, and maybe it’s necessary to shriek a bit in order to be heard. And for all we know Loesch is not so much defending the Second Amendment as laying the foundation for a run at higher office. A victory would not be surprising. Plenty of voters would no doubt rather watch her strut her stuff than watch Nancy Pelosi chew her cud. At the same time, Loesch and her colleagues are neutralizing the argument that their opponents are uniquely sanctimonious, shrill, crazed, and fearful. What a fat target to surrender: They not only fear guns (according to the standard indictment) but also the sun, salt, alcohol, diet soda, and a million other things. These are the fiends who came up with words like “bombogenesis” to spook old people who are just trying to watch the weather. Why cast all this aside? While there may be genius at work here, on the surface this looks like bad asset management. While most Americans, it’s safe to say, head to the can when gun debaters appear on their TV screens, the conflict does illuminate a phenomenon worth keeping an eye on: the belief that the Constitution was written for a population far different from ours and needs “fixing.” Gun control advocates insist the Founders never envisioned modern weaponry when the Second Amendment was written. Opponents respond that the Founders never envisioned 12-year-olds downloading pornography on their cell phones or a hyperviolent entertainment culture that allegedly inspires nihilism and a desire to commit mass murder. Ergo, if the Second Amendment goes in for a trim, so should the First. Invoking the Founders, of course, is a shaky proposition. If that honored assembly suddenly reappeared and took power, many of us would likely wind up in prison or dangling from the end of a rope. The only thing left on television would be the fishing shows. Perhaps a different consensus should be encouraged: The best (and safest) way to honor the Founders is to let anyone attempting to rewrite their Constitution have it with both barrels. What does the future hold? We’ve all got our private crystal balls. Mine indicates the “assault weapon” debate will become moot after the crazies learn to make bombs that will overshadow the 1927 school bombing in Bath Township, Mich, that killed 44 people. Once hundreds of people are killed in single attacks, shooting a few dozen will be no big shakes and may even brand the perpetrator a loser. Not a happy viewpoint to be sure, yet history teaches that you can’t be too grim in this world. Yet we can also dream—perhaps envisioning a time when the NRA leavens its bile by publicizing the stories of a far chiller breed of gun rights advocate. I nominate Keith Richards, who used to carry a pistol to pacify belligerent drug dealers. A truly responsible and inspiring use of firearms! Fellow Rolling Stone member Ronnie Wood would make another nice cameo. Wood reports that after Richards threatened him with a derringer he responded by drawing his own weapon—a .44 Magnum, no less. Imagine the possibilities: Dana Loesch: Well, Keef, tell us why you think protecting the Second Amendment is important. KR: I’ll do better than that, love. Pour us a few drinks and I’ll show you me pistol. Just make sure nobody mentions Phil Spector. Dave Shiflett posts his writing and original music at www.Daveshiflett.com

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