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by Peter Moskos

December 21, 2012

Understanding the NRA World View: The Media is the Problem.

I listened to the NRA press conference with interest. It was strangely moderate, by NRA standards. Your opinion of what was said probably comes down to whether you want to live in a more armed or less armed society. I prefer less. That said, I'm happy to have students with guns in my school. I feel safer (actually, I don't think it about it much at all, but I don't feel less safe) knowing there are some armed off-duty police officers in my class. Armed security does have a role in society. I'm just not convinced that place is every elementary school.

What many of my liberal friends may not grasp from the press conference is how the NRA reflects the Conservative World View. Conservatives who have internalized this world view may not fully understand it either. (Mind you there's a Liberal World View, too, but that's not the subject du jour.) I don't post this to fault the conservative world view, but to educate the clueless.

To me, the key that NRA vice-president LaPierre was preaching to his fans came when he said, buried in his speech: "With all the foreign aid, with all the money in the federal budget..." This is a conservative talking point that his little to do with guns. It's just there to press all the right [right's?] buttons. People believe that a huge chunk of their tax dollars are wasted on "foreign aid." In truth, such aid a tiny fraction (almost a rounding error) of the federal budget.

The conservative world view believes in good and evil. There is a strong dose of religion. There is a non-relativist idea of right of wrong. There is a strong defensive sense of people being out to get you. There's an attempt to place blame. There is a heavy does of fear. Much of the conservative world view can be reprised with, "Be afraid. Be very afraid."

Another idea is the concept of true evil. I tend to see this as religiously based. Liberals like to think of people needing help and support. Call it New Testament. Conservatives like to believe in Good and Evil. Call it Zarathustrian (though you can call it Old Testament if you don't want to google Zarathustra). Here's the NRA:
The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day.
It's almost zombie like. And when the zombies come get to get me, even I'm gonna want a semi-automatic by my side.

One of my first introductions to this world view was in the police academy. One thing (along with a nostalgic longing for corporal punishment in child rearing) really struck me: the demonization of the media. This surprised me, but it's part of the reason for the rise of the ideologically "anti-mainstream media" Fox News. There's a market there. (It was also why it was so fun to see their version of the truth collapse on election night.)

I'm pro-media. I grew up in a pro-newspaper household. In school I was taught the importance of freedom of the press. My uncle was the fine editor of many a-fine newspapers in Red and Blue states. I started writing for real -- in print and for the public to see -- for The Evanstonian, my high school newspaper.

I do not believe the media is the problem.

In the NRA press conference, the "media" was called out by name nine times. These shootings, according to this conservative world view, is the fault of the media.

Mind you we all love scapegoats. Because otherwise we'd have to blame ourselves for the our problems. And that's no fun.
How can we possibly even guess how many [copycat killers are waiting in the wings], given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?
This one may not reflect a conservative world view. Regardless, I would like to highlight this statement about the mentally ill and also that the NRA is calling for the creation of a national database on US citizens. This is both horrible and strange.
...address the much larger and more lethal criminal class: Killers, robbers, rapists and gang members who have spread like cancer in every community in this country.
It's not that this criminal class doesn't exist. I don't deny it (though it's pretty small). But to say they "spread like cancer in every community." Be afraid. Be very afraid.
And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.
Again, the conspiratorial tone about the media. Them East Coast elites are all in cahoots, don't forget. This time they're marching hand-in-devil's-hand with [be afriad, be very afraid], "the vicious violent video game [industry]" [da dum]! It's their fault, along with the "media conglomerates [who] compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society."
And throughout it all, too many in our national media, their corporate owners, and their stockholders, act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators.... and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking.
He sounds like an Occupy person speaking here, doesn't he? Seriously.

The conservative part is believing that the media isn't just ignorant (like liberals are), but rather that they do actually know "the truth" and insist on purposefully feeding us lies.

[For instance, the media doesn't know their gun facts well and often confuse automatic and semi-automatic weaponry. This is true, by the way. But such ignorance is hardly to blame for the downfall of civilized society.]

Then LaPierre talks about 20,000 gun bans already in existence, which, alas, isn't true. But oh well.

[Reminds me of Animal House: “The Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” "Don’t stop him. He’s on a roll!”]
When you hear your glass breaking at 3am, and you call 911, you won’t be able to pray hard enough for a gun.
Conservatives always talk about "when" and not "if" someone breaks into your home, robs, or rapes you. It's the culture of fear. Be afraid. Be very afraid. If somebody does break into my home, I'll tell what I'm not going to do: waste time praying.

LaPierre also said this:
How have our nation’s priorities gotten so far out of order. Think about it. We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, court houses, even sports stadiums are all protected by armed security.

We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by Capitol Police officers. Yet, when it comes to our most beloved, innocent, and vulnerable members of the American family, our children, we as a society leave them every day utterly defenseless, and the monsters and the predators of the world know it, and exploit it.
At first glance this makes sense. I took me a bit longer to figure out what is wrong with this logic.

The president and flying are special events. They doesn't affect most of us on a day-to-day level. People who handle and transport large amounts of money are particularly at risk of robbery. They need to protect themselves and "target harden." And anytime you get tens of thousands of random people together, it's good to have a few cops around. Nobody argues with that.

And out of all of that, none of it affects our day-to-day lives unless you work in a bank, are a professional athletes, or the president. What the NRA is advocating -- what they have always advocated -- is that we bring guns into our day-to-day lives. What the NRA does not understand is the most people do not want to. And what's more, we do not have to.

Most Americans want to live in a society where their six year old is not protected with a gun. Why? Because then we've let the terrorists win. The world simply isn't that evil. America isn't so evil. At least not unless Americans are so much more intrinsically evil (or so much stupider and thus demonically influenced by the media, movies, and video game conglomerates) than the rest of the civilized world. It is possible to live without a ubiquitously armed society.

Let's remember that in large parts of the world -- England, Ireland, Japan, Scandinavia -- even police don't need to carry guns. Though I doubt we'll ever see a time when the majority of police in America are unarmed, the whole point of civilization remember that such a world is possible. If we forget that and abandon our ideals, we will have entered a true dark age.

What says the NRA?
Is the press and political class here in Washington so consumed by fear and hatred of the NRA and America’s gun owners that you’re willing [to die at the hands of "evil monsters."]
Consumed with fear and hatred? Perhaps the NRA doth protest too much, methinks!

[My answer, not that you asked: ban guns that use magazines. Keep your six shooters. Keep your shotguns. No more glocks (in civilian hands). No more semi-automatic assault rifles. Regulate and ban guns to the limits of the 2nd Amendment. Also, just for the hell of it, I'll make a prediction and say all this brouhaha will create no real change in our gun laws or public safety. And we'll just keep having these things happen again and again.]


Anonymous said...

You make some very good points, especially about the NRA mixing unrelated conservative blather with their gun politics.

I must say, though, the media is undoubtedly part of this problem. They should not be publicizing the names or showing pictures of these mass murderers. No, we can’t pass a law to accomplish this, but can’t we pressure major media outlets to take a pledge that the next time this happens, the killer’s face and name won’t make it onto the airwaves? The media have a self-aggrandizing view of their role in “getting to the bottom” of these tragedies and “informing the public.” Pull together a panel of mental health experts, law enforcement, and some of the victims’ family members and ask whether they think these killers’ names should be reported. What result?

Also, there’s too much buzz about how *this* is the problem or *that* is the problem. There are multiple causes, and multiple solutions. Better mental health care, trained and armed security in schools, responsible concealed carry permit holders, and bans on military-style weapons can all offer something, and we can debate the merits of each of those proposals. But the easiest, most immediate, and most efficacious solution is for media to start denying these killers the posthumous "glory" that they seek.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem is not guns but the failure of both "mental health,"and the "legal system" in that psychiatrists who put unstable people on drugs with known dangerous violent side effects, and then don't use the proper oversight for such a risky situation. I started a Whitehouse petition thatI thought you might like.

Anonymous said...

Very well said!

Gotti Rules said...

Hey Pete,
From a mutual friend, the words "What do you mean you don't like guns?" comes to mind. As you know, now being retired police and working security in the school systems, the idea of some of these guys carrying guns scares the crap out of me. Do you remember your training in the academy one of the most important parts of shooting is backdrop? Well in the school system, students are the backdrop. God forbid someone missing a bad guy and hitting a student in the background. What is this world coming to? Me and the Mrs. are off to Jamaica! Have a Merry Christmas!

Batman said...

Word on the "answer" at botoom: [My answer, not that you asked: ban guns that use magazines. Keep your six shooters. Keep your shotguns. No more glocks (in civilian hands). No more semi-automatic assault rifles. Regulate and ban guns to the limits of the 2nd Amendment. Also, just for the hell of it, I'll make a prediction and say all this brouhaha will create no real change in our gun laws or public safety. And we'll just keep having these things happen again and again.]

Request a response from NRA asap!!

Andrew Moskos said...

If we go the more guns route (which is a reassonable option at first glance), who is responsible for mistakes?

In the chaos and smoke of the midnight batman screaning, what if I shoot a suprise actor or an usher? Everyone said at first they thought it was part of the show.

Will it be an acceptible defense that I thought the usher was a gun toting henchman of the deranged "Joker" called Maroon and Jacket?

How will a (tipsy?) citizen be supposed to make life or death decisions in that darkened cinema or school?

What, it was just a flash mob? (middle class definition)

That was a halloween costume?

I'm very sorry, but I shot the (weird) gym teacher (or the off duty cop) thinking he was a second gunman.

Are we going to send the well intended Good Gun Samaritans to jail for manslaighter for an American get-tough-of-crime sentence?

In the NRA's video game view of real life, good guys shoot bad buys, but what happens when (sort of) good guys shoot real good guys?

Anonymous said...

There is that pesky problem, the Constitution. The 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with hunting or recreation. The people that wrote it did so to reserve the right to have a 2nd revolution if government became too oppressive. If the 2nd Amendment protects anything, it is the right of a private individual to own the same weaponry as your typical member of the National Guard. AR-15s and Beretta 92s with high capacity magazines.

PCM said...

That's cute you think so. It's also wrong. Neither you nor I but the Supreme Court decides such pesky matters. And last I heard -- in D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago -- they respectfully disagree with your constitutional interpretation.

Anonymous said...

Where, pray tell, in either opinion do you find refutation of my interpretation? Having been a felony prosecutor for 24 years, I would appreciate a citation. There is a statement in dicta in Heller concerning the fully automatic M-16, but the thrust of the remainder of the case supports my proposition.

PCM said...

The burden of proof should be on you for saying the Supreme Court gives private individuals a 2nd Amendment right to National Guard weaponry.

You do accept that the court said we don't have a right to keep and bear machine guns, right?

What follows is all from Heller (emphasis added) and, as far as I know, it represents the thrust of their opinion on the right of the government to regulate and ban certain kinds of guns:

Rather, it was [in Miller] that the type of weapon at issue [emphasis in original] was not eligible for Second Amendment protection: “In the absence of any evidence tending to show that the possession or use of a [short barreled shotgun] at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument.”
Miller stands only for the proposition that the Second Amendment right, whatever its nature, extends only to certain types of weapons.
We therefore read Miller to say only that the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns.

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.... [C]ourts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.

It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service -- M-16 rifles and the like -- may be banned [which means they may be], then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause.... But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.

Anonymous said...

I would note that there is a protracted discussion concerning firearms "typically used by law abiding citizens". By some estimates, there are more than 3 million AR-15s alone in the US. The Court upheld private ownership of weapons used in 953 homicides in California last year. You seriously believe that the Court would uphold a ban of weapons that killed only 59 people in the same period: . That is ALL rifles, not just the ugly black ones you don't like.

Anonymous said...


PCM said...

I think I'm done. But going back to your(?) original statement about the 2nd Amendment "protecting the right of a private individual to own the same weaponry as your typical member of the National Guard"... It is wrong. The [5-person conservative pro-gun majority of the] Supreme Court addressed that issue and explicitly rejected the concept.

Anonymous said...

Ah the bleeding heart liberal cop! How quaint! I notice that on the blog there are only white cops. Does that mean only black cops commit crime? What irrelevant drivel!

PCM said...

I have no idea what you're talking about. There's only *one* cop on this blog. Me.

Anonymous said...


This dude is just out for trolling while lawyering. He's just looking to looking to compare sizes.

-Another "liberal" cop since he doesn't watch Fox News.

Anonymous said...

Here's a way to look at the issue. If someone you love dearly was trapped in a mall bathroom and there's a gunman blasting away at ever person he finds, do you want your loved one, aged 18 or over, to have a .38 2 inch bbl. to defend theirselves, or, do you prefer just waiting for police reponse to save your loved one's life?

PCM said...

Given that choice, I'd prefer to have a gun. But here's another way to look at the issue: if you determine your worldview, set national policy, and plan your life based on the small chance you're trapped in a mall bathroom and there's a gunman blasting away at every person he finds, I feel very sorry for you.