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Disunity and dishonesty

Here are a few comments that begin with Dana Loesch’s NRA ad, and Bill Moyer’s response to it. Moyer correctly labels Loesch’s thirty-second video as propaganda. What is interesting is that he responds to the ad in kind, which is to say his response is also propaganda. He does not seem to recognize it. That is where we have arrived: each side tries to rile up its base. That’s a brief definition of propaganda: it speaks only to the already persuaded, in a way designed to rile them up against others not part of the already persuaded.

Why did the national unity that followed 9/11 last so short a time? Why are we headed for divorce just sixteen years later? The answer is easy: American actions after 9/11 were based on dishonest statements, otherwise known as lies. Even if you think three steel-framed skyscrapers collapsed due to fire, even if you think Osama bin Laden sponsored the attack, what followed was dishonest. What followed occurred because the United States used the 9/11 attacks as a pretext to launch an imperial war in Iraq, a war which kindled many more conflicts.

Dishonesty that fundamental would transform any nation for the worse, especially if the national security state responsible for war does not report to anyone. The combination of power, complete autonomy, and no need to tell the truth leads to government disconnected from people. Such a loss of connecting tissue ends nationhood. That is our current destination, unless we find leadership that prevents such a grim outcome.

NRA’s new image

Dana Loesch’s ad for the NRA fired up Twitter, but the controversy so far has overlooked an interesting question. Why did NRA decide to go so partisan with its recruitment ads? Do they think no Democrat is a gun owner who might be interested in Second Amendment rights? Why did the organization decide they would no longer simply represent gun owners and their interests? They used to promote gun safety. Now they sound like the advance guard for the coming civil war.

That’s a significant development. In the past, you never saw anything out of the NRA tinged with hatred, resentment, defensiveness, aggressive partisanship, or an appeal to base fear. They simply wanted to advocate for gun owners, whether those owners like to collect, hunt, go to the shooting range, or have a gun in the house for self protection.

Loesch’s ad departs from that stance drastically. It shows the NRA as an almost vicious participant in the culture wars. As such, I don’t see how the ad can help it recruit new members. Even if everything the ad says is true, people who like its message and its mode of presentation would likely be members already. Others would not be especially interested in paying dues to an organization that portrays itself that way, or that appeals to their emotions so blatantly.

That does not answer the question, though. Why did the NRA decide to change its public image in that way? Did it have marketing data to indicate that an ad like that would in fact help it recruit new members? Was it an experiment? If the nation’s premier defender of Second Amendment rights wants to present itself as one more propaganda machine, now and for the future, they have made a mistake.