June 29, 2017
The world is in chaos.
The chaos came on slowly, apparently—first, the news media grew corrupted, then the schools, then those with social clout, then those with political power—and suddenly, there was blood in the streets, the screaming of “racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia,” shutting down of interstates and airports, burning, and blood-covered faces.
And, according to conservative talk show host Dana Loesch, “the only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.”
Wait. What? Those metaphors came a little fast. Ms. Loesch doesn’t stop with them though: “I’m the National Rifle Association of America, and I’m freedom’s safest place.”
The NRA has posted its newest recruitment video online, and it’s nothing short of a call to war. But what’s most terrifying and infuriating about the video is how it uses the real violence suffered by real people in this country to create a false sense of victimization—and fear—among those who are the safest.
“They use their media to assassinate real news,” says Loesch at the beginning of the video, speaking directly to the camera over churning music. Then the camera cuts to the New York Times building. We can infer that “they” is, for lack of a better term, the “mainstream media.” Her statement is not only false, it’s inverted. Any recent attacks on news media have come from Trump and his administration. Trump himself and his close associates have declared “war” on news. The White House Press Secretaries have shut down questions and even shut off cameras. Press freedom is in danger, but not from the so-called “they.”
“They use their schools to teach their children that their president is another Hitler.” This statement is a rhetorical fallacy: a faulty generalization—what you’d call jumping to a conclusion. One teacher in Mountain View, California, compared Trump to Hitler—and he was immediately removed from his teaching duties. Two parents made similar allegations in Saratoga Springs, New York, but those allegations were incorrect. (Nevertheless, the parents still got their 15 minutes of fame on Fox and Friends). And that’s it. Two teachers—that’s all Fox News itself could dig up. That’s not a systemic problem. But since when does the NRA care about facts?
“They use their movie stars, and singers, and comedy shows, and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again.”
(As a side note, criticizing folks in the public eye is hilarious and hypocritical coming from Ms. Loesch, given that she spends so much time putting herself in the public eye—she’s even a former CNN commentator.)
Can we pause for a minute and repeat the question: Who is this mysterious “they”? Who, like literally who, made Stephen Colbert say “cock holster"? Can anyone make him do anything? How and by whom are movie stars being “used”? Who is using Beyoncé? She's Beyoncé, she's pop-cultural royalty. You might not have liked "Formation" or its video, Ms. Loesch, but no one made her do that.
The repetitive use of the term “they” has a job in this NRA video, though: It creates a monolithic enemy—a group of bad guys that the good guys need to fight. There is no big group of “theys” out there. There are no secret lefty clubs where we have secret meetings to plan our secret media-takedown, Trump-is-Hitler teaching, award-show-using narrative. (What narrative?)
But crafting an enemy to fight is the whole point of this recruitment video. Without an enemy, you don’t have a war. And if you don’t have a war, you don’t need guns.
The next line goes like this: “And then they use their ex-president…”
Wait. Stop. No one is using President Obama. That’s just ludicrous.
The video takes a turn from the ridiculous to downright frightening. Because after that, Ms. Loesch attacks people's humanity. The purpose of all those things “they” are doing: It was “to make them march.”
She spends the first half of this video creating a completely false reason for why Americans are protesting right now under Trump, and why they were protesting last year, and the year before that, following the deaths of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, and following every other wrongful death at the hands of the state. She ignores why Black Lives Matter became a necessary movement. She ignores the real reasons behind the Women's Marches around the world.
According to Ms. Loesch, people are protesting because a mysterious “they” is being rabble-roused by “their media” and “their movie stars” and “their ex-president” to take to the streets and destroy freedom.
It actually gets worse.
Ms. Loesch takes a massive leap—she’s set up a world in which “they” control a “narrative” that has created a “resistance” (she doesn’t explain what the resistance is resisting), and that resistance is marching and protesting. The video’s imagery of these protests is violent and scary: quick cuts, monochrome film, dark tones, and nighttime shots. The video, of course, does not show the peaceful sit-ins or the massive Women’s March with the pink hats. It instead focuses on the few violent scenes in order to stoke fear in viewers.
“They scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia,” she says—the kinds of scourges that Ms. Loesch, and indeed the NRA believes to be figments of the American imagination, or at least forms of hatred that are completely valid: After all, to them, is not racist to disparage Black people if they believe they are predisposed to violence, right? And homosexuality is a sin! There’s a war on against American values, and Ms. Loesch is leading the charge!
As ludicrous as this is, there is no room for jokes or even sarcasm, this video is so vile. It's the NRA coming clean about who they really are, they've taken off their white hoods and shown their white supremacist faces.
And through their fearmongering propaganda, they're trying to convince viewers that racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia are not real. Or not happening. Or at least not valid reasons to take to the streets. They—I—see it, and they—I—want it to stop. But that’s the evil trick this video is playing—Ms. Loesch is convincing her audience that the cries for help are the problem—not the underlying evils themselves.
We, the resistance, “smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports.” It’s true, in some instances during protests, protesters damaged property. It was so rare, however, that the few instances of it made the news. That’s another fallacy of faulty generalization. A half-million women marched on Washington on January 21, 2017—and millions more around the world, and not a single car was burned.
Yes, interstates and airports have been shut down—by peaceful protesters. As for the airports—those were shut down by President Trump himself and his Muslim ban that he signed late on a Friday, causing mass international chaos. At this point, Ms. Loesch is inverting the facts again. To borrow a Trump phrase, this is "fake news." To use a proper word, this is propaganda.
The video takes an even more terrifying turn: Ms. Loesch drops metaphorical language altogether—except for the omnipresent and fearsome “they”: They “bully and terrorize the law-abiding until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness.”
Now who is this “they”? Suddenly it’s become really, really important to know who is doing the terrorizing. In the mythic world that this video has created the “law-abiding” are put on one side of the battlelines, and the “they” are on the other. But that’s not the reality we live in. Philando Castile did not commit a capital crime. The cop who shot him did. We all bore witness to it.
But in the mythic world of this video, when the police “do their jobs,” according to Ms. Loesch, “they’ll use it as an excuse for their outrage.”
When the police kill unarmed Black people over and over again, when they brutalize Black bodies, Black women and Black children—on video—and that’s still not enough for justice, when they kill people with disabilities because people with disabilities cannot get ourselves seen as actual people, when the police take to the streets armed like special-forces soldiers but with 1/100th of the physical and mental training of special-forces soldiers—do we really need an excuse for our outrage?
The police, according to Ms. Loesch, can’t do their jobs because of this outrage. And now, the battlelines are drawn explicitly, with the first clear mention of the other side—the we: “The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.”
Our country. Our freedom.
Now we see what Ms. Loesch has been building to all along. A “they” that is outside the bounds of the law, of even citizenship, of any protections whatsoever, of liberty—of even life.
That’s the NRA. And we, the “they,” wants us to be afraid. This is a declaration of war. A civil war.