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I was busy minding my own business the other day, when Fearless Leader calls me. “Brad, the Brady people have just released a commercial…it’s on HuffPo…I’m heading to the range…go forth and blog it for me.” And so I did. And it was good. (The response to the post. Not the commercial.) No, the commercial was something else. How do I loathe thee…let me count the ways… I found the spot to be totally disingenuous and dangerous, in the same way that that poisoned apple was dangerous to Snow White. It looked pretty, sounded good, but has a nasty payload, once you put the bite on it. Let me explain…
When I was six years old, President Kennedy was shot, just as he began the campaign for his re-election. As a result, it was ol’ Landslide Lyndon who ended up running against the spiritual father of the Conservative Reformation U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ). Lyndon had a rep for political dirty tricks, a reputation that was well-deserved. Barry was a formidable opponent. Johnson was successful in painting Goldwater as a warmonger, a man who you simply couldn’t trust to have his hand on the Big Red Button that would End The World As We Know It. Political analysts and historians agree that Johnson really tipped the scales in his favor with one bold stroke – a TV commercial.

Like Apple’s famous 1984 ad, “Daisy” ran only once – on NBC during a telecast of David and Bathsheba, on September 7, 1964. It was enough to sink Goldwater’s campaign for good, and turn Johnson’s ironic nickname into political fact. He won by a…landslide.

The ad was brilliant in it’s simplicity. In an age where we were all scared to death of nuclear war (my dad kept the trunk full of emergency rations, batteries, and other bug-out gear…we lived less than 3 miles from the largest SAC base in the nation), the ad made everything simple: young girl + mushroom cloud = instant death. Chilling.

Johnson’s team reveled in the controversy. They pulled the ad immediately, of course. That gave them the moral high ground, but allowed them to get one sucker punch in before trying to look nobel, in the same way that a criminal defense attorney will ask some question of a witness that completely corrupts the jury, then jumps in and says “I withdraw the question.” Too late. The damage has been done. Can’t un-ring a bell, hoss.

Of course, like any ad that is controversial in the extreme, the campaign got it aired for nothing, over and over again – on the evening news shows. And again. And again. Now I can’t tell you when I saw the ad. All I can tell you is that I DID see it, maybe more than once. And it scared the ever-lovin’ crap out of me. I had nightmares for weeks. To this day, the commercial elicits an almost visceral response in me, that few things do.

I bring all this up, because I don’t want TTAG’s Armed Intelligencia to discount the power of advertising, nor to overlook how the Brady Bunch’s commercial (for all it’s flaws, inaccuracies, and downright silliness) could have a major impact on the public. Remember Gerald Ford? Many in his campaign ascribe his loss to Jimmy Carter as much to the week-in, week-out mocking he received at the hands of Chevy Chase and SNL, as they did to anything Jimmy Carter did in the campaign.

So what should we, as pro-gun owners do? Frankly, I’m hoping the NRA comes up with an answer. But I doubt they will. Humor is not on the menu over at the National Rifle Association. They don’t seem to get the whole “we need to mock the other guys” or “we can spin this with humor.” Nope. They seem to be enamored of the “wrap ourselves in the flag/use a little fear-mongering about Constitutional rights/ask for money and call it a day” thing. Not gonna cut it. No, I’d recommend a viral response – perhaps a YouTube video, where they parody the Brady commercial and take it waaaay over-the-top, mocking it by making the whole thing look as ridiculous as it really is.

All I’m saying is to remember, even though WE know the difference between a “clip” and a “magazine,” and we know that there’s no such thing as an “assault clip,” and we realize that the argument that hi-cap mags are somehow more dangerous than a standard magazine, the general public doesn’t have a clue. Ignore the Brady Bunch’s little magnum opus (irony noted) at our own peril.

8 Responses to Media, Mind-games & Malice Aforethought.

  1. Humor is not on the menu over at the National Rifle Association. They don’t seem to get the whole “we need to mock the other guys” or “we can spin this with humor.” Nope. They seem to be enamored of the “wrap ourselves in the flag/use a little fear-mongering about Constitutional rights/ask for money and call it a day” thing.

    Ain’t it the truth? They clearly haven’t learned the awesome power of ridicule combined with humor. In the court of public opinion, get people laughing at your opponent and they’re as good as dead. I’m no ad man but for someone who’s talented, I have to believe you can make some very effective spots for the YouTubes that would be vastly more effective and reach a much wider audience than all the URGENT SECOND AMENDMENT THREAT mailings in the world.

  2. Perhaps a YouTube video, where they parody the Brady commercial

    I thought the commercial was self-parodying due to the “it’s only good for mass murder – see the guy target shooting – that proves these things can only be used in a mass murder” contradiction.

  3. Was this a double entendre’? Is it Nobel or Noble?

    “but allowed them to get one sucker punch in before trying to look nobel”

  4. It does make one wonder if there’s anyone on our side (e.g., supporting the right to armed self-defense) who can compete in the marketplace for ideas and opinions. The NRA does pretty good job lobbying Congress while other groups such as the SAF fund good litigation. But Brady et al seem pretty much unopposed when it comes to influencing public opinion and media spin.

    Where are the sophisticated thought leaders on our side?

    • “Where are the sophisticated thought leaders on our side?”

      We’re all right here — when we’re not out shooting.

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