The decline of American journalism since the legacy media decided to stop so much as pretending to be non-partisan tellers of truth and became proud and wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Democrat Party, has been rapid and ugly. As a result, I’ve often turned to the British press, whose insight into American politics and culture, and whose journalistic ethics, have been a viable alternative. But no one and nothing is perfect, and deeply ingrained cultural beliefs commonly sneak into reporting. A recent story by American Ana Marie Cox in The Guardian is a case in point . . .
Titled “The NRA Has Declared War on America,” it promises a non-partisan look at a cultural phenomenon, but delivers predictable stereotypes.
“As the annual meeting of National Rifle Association members started here this weekend, the gentleman seated next to me said to settle in: ‘It’s mostly administrative stuff. We vote on things.’ He paused for emphasis: ‘It’s the law.’
He’s somewhat mistaken, of course. The NRA doesn’t have any state-mandated obligation to hold an annual meeting. What’s more, the NRA has very little respect for the law. A half an hour later, at that very meeting, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre exhorted the crowd to a morally obligated vigilantism. He drew a vivid picture of a United States in utter decay and fragmented beyond repair, Mad Max-meets-Hunger Games, divided by Soylent Green:
We know, in the world that surrounds us, there are terrorists and home invaders and drug cartels and car-jackers and knock-out gamers and rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping-mall killers, road-rage killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse the society that sustains us all.
LaPierre’s bleak vision is exaggerated dystopianism in service of sedition, a wide-ranging survey of targets that put justice against the intrusions of the IRS on a continuum with (as an advertisement he ran during his speech put it) workplace ‘bullies and liars.”
It is not an auspicious beginning. The “gentleman” was obviously referring to NRA bylaws, which do, in fact, require an annual meeting, regular elections, and votes on a variety of issues. Considering that Cox is in the very business that thrives on breathless and often sensationalized reporting on terrorists, home invaders, drug cartels, campus killers, etc. it’s a bit disingenuous of Cox to claim that LaPierre’s mere mention of what she and her colleagues cover every day—if it didn’t exist, would it be news?–is somehow paranoid and dangerous.
Cox would apparently have us believe that sedition amounts to no more than holding a negative opinion about government, a view fully in line with the Obama Administration and American Progressives. Fortunately, the law is rather more narrowly construed. 18 USC 2384:
“If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.”
Obviously, affirmative actions, actual steps toward violating the law rather than merely speaking disparagingly about political issues of national interest, is required. That darned First Amendment just keeps getting in the way. Cox, writing for a British paper, which does not enjoy the protections of a First Amendment, might be forgiven for not recognizing that distinction.
I suspect few Americans would meaningfully disagree with the assertion that the IRS under the Obama Administration are “workplace bullies and liars.” It is an epithet the IRS under Barack Obama has worked assiduously to earn., and more than justifiably so
Cox, while accusing the NRA of narrowly defining all Americans, engages in precisely that:
“The NRA is no longer concerned with merely protecting the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms – the gun lobby wants to use those arms on its fellow citizens. Or, as the NRA thinks of them: ‘the bad guys’.
It is useless to argue that the NRA is only targeting criminals with that line, because the NRA has defined ‘good guys’ so narrowly as to only include the NRA itself. What does that make everyone else?
‘I ask you,’ LaPierre grimaced at the end of his litany of doom. ‘Do you trust this government to protect you?’
This is not one of the items the membership voted upon. Indeed, Wayne LaPierre’s confidence in making this question rhetorical is one of its most frightening aspects, though of course it’s his prescription that truly alarmed me:
‘We are on our own. That is a certainty, no less certain than the absolute truth – a fact the powerful political and media elites continue to deny, just as sure as they would deny our right to save our very lives. The life or death truth that when you’re on your own, the surest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun!”
Notice that Cox does not provide any NRA definition—narrow or otherwise—of “good guys.” She also fails to understand—or pretends not to understand—that American trust in the Federal Government is at an all time, abysmal low, and more than justifiably so. In addition, the NRA, and all responsible gun owners, understand that one does not use deadly force unless it is lawfully justified by the actions of murderous criminals. They have no difficulty telling genuine good guys from bad guys.
And what “truly alarmed” Cox is nothing less than a fact of law and life, not only in America, but in England as well: government has no obligation whatever to protect any individual citizen. LaPierre is quite correct: when it comes to preserving our lives and the lives of those we love, we are, in law, practicality and fact, on our own. Politicians of a certain kind claim to care deeply for “the people,” but their actions—and the law—make plain “the people” are an abstraction. And while Cox and similar thinker dismiss it with a sneer, there is no question that “the surest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” In fact, this is the secondary purpose of the Second Amendment. Cox, unsurprising, does not agree:
“You cannot defend this as anything other than the dangerous ravings of a madman. LaPierre’s description of the world is demonstrably untrue, and not just in concrete, objective terms. To cite just one example: crime rates in the US have been falling for 20 years – a statistic that some gun rights advocates brandish as proof of the selectively defined cliché, “more guns, less crime.” Just as troubling is LaPierre’s internal inconsistency about what it means for NRA members to be “on their own”.
He rattled the audience with a listicle of abuses of power that included Solyndra and and Benghazi (those are Second Amendment issues now, I guess!), but consoled those gathered with the factoid that there are 100m gun owners in America – a third of the country. He railed against “the elites'” rejection of the NRA’s “more guns in schools” solution to Sandy Hook, but reassured his listeners that “city after county after school board after statehouse” adopted the strategy anyway.
You cannot have it both ways. You cannot be both winning and losing, alone but united, the minority but the majority. It is almost (almost!) as if Wayne LaPierre intended to mislead his audience with this whiplash oratory, intended to dizzy them into acceptance of his underlying message, which is almost disappointingly mundane: give us money. Give the NRA money. Give us money so we can create the legal environment that allows gun manufacturers to make more money so that they can give us more money.”
And how, pray tell, is LaPierre wrong? Solyndra and Benghazi are only two of a great many bits of evidence of a lawless government slouching toward tyranny, a matter of concern to the NRA, all organizations that exist to defend the Constitution and all aware Americans. What Cox dismisses as “factoid” is in fact, fact. The “selectively defined cliché” is the title of a famous book by Scholar John R. Lott in its third edition that proves conclusively that higher rates of gun ownership have a substantial crime suppressive effect. Elites have indeed rejected the mere idea of arming school staff, even of armed security guards, while across the nation, schools and state governments are warming to and implementing the policy.
As to the winning and losing distinction Cox tries to draw, I’m reminded of a 2007 article by James Taranto:
The Chicago Tribune editorializes on “Illinois’ Crime Riddle”:
“No one theory explains why crime rates have declined in Illinois and around the country since the early 1990s. A decline in drug and alcohol abuse has been a welcome contributor. Community policing has been effective in many places. Crime tends to be an occupation of the young, but the population is aging. More people have been locked up and kept off the streets. The economy has been strong, unemployment low.
All have been factors in a welcome reduction in crime.
What’s harder to explain is why, though crime has fallen so sharply, prison admissions have continued to rise.”
Hmmm. More felons in prison; less crime. Could there be a correlation? In the same way, if criminals know that anyone they accost could be armed, could that contribute to a lower crime rate? Obviously, such elementary cause/effect relationships are too simplistic for the elite and highly nuanced.
As one might expect, Cox throws in an obligatory mention of income inequality in causing all societal woes. Of course, LaPierre ignores that most important issue, but he, according to Cox, well knows his audience of unsophisticates:
“The members of the NRA who cheered LaPierre, I’m quite sure, don’t think that they’ve turned against their country; they believe the country has turned on them – a distinction that the seceding states of the south made as well, but the distinction only really matters after the war is over and someone gets to write the history.”
Surely Cox isn’t playing the race card? Perhaps she is unaware that it was the Democrat party that held sway in the slave and segregated south, and the gun control is deeply rooted in denying Black Americans their civil rights? A great many Americans, including members of the NRA unquestionably believe the current Administration has turned against America, and no less a luminary than Progressive law professor Jonathan Turley agrees.
“My view [is] that the president, has in fact, exceeded his authority in a way that is creating a destabilizing influence in a three branch system,’ he said.”
But it is not Mr. Obama’s usurpation of the constitutional roles of the Legislative branch that concerns Cox:
“I could scare you with a sketch of what America might look like in a world where LaPierre’s urging leads to concrete and lasting political change. I think it would be grim and dangerous, though not as dangerous to LaPierre’s allies as it would be to everyone else. But that dystopia is beside the point, because I don’t believe LaPierre and his cronies actually want an armed uprising, or complete political supremacy.”
Despite Cox apparently finding an America where government stays within the boundaries of the Constitution to be “grim and dangerous,” she doesn’t believe that the NRA is pursuing sedition, but she makes the thinly-veiled accusation nonetheless.
Cox tries to be at least moderately even-handed, and expresses surprise that people at the convention are polite and friendly and less than paranoid, but accuses them of paranoia anyway:
“And throughout, I marveled: these are friendly, apparently prosperous people, surrounded by physical evidence that their belief system is thriving – Over 9 Acres of Guns and Gear! – both economically and culturally. Why are they so incredibly frightened?”
The analysis that eludes Cox is that they are not frightened. They are instead among the best-informed, most educated and prosperous Americans. As a consequence, they realize that LaPierre is correct: they are on their own, government is overstepping its boundaries, and they accept personal responsibility. They do not expect anyone to provide for or to rescue them. They voluntarily associate themselves with the NRA because it exists to support and defend the Second Amendment, without which, American could easily devolve into just another banana republic.
The NRA exists because more than five million patriotic Americans were willing to invest their time and money in the organization for the primary purpose not of imposing their political will on others, but to uphold the Constitution for all. This is the exercise of democracy and liberty.
Free nations have to deal with crime and violence. It is a consequence of freedom. NRA members of any political stripe believe not in paranoia but in preparedness. And even those of a more statist bent understand that government will not be there—it cannot be there—to protect them. Cox appears unable–due to culture or philosophy–to acknowledge this.
The story is told of a young, eager newspaper reporter interviewing an elderly and well-armed woman.
“You have all these guns; what are you afraid of?” asked the shocked reporter.
“Not a damned thing,” she calmly replied.
I suspect Cox wouldn’t get that either.
Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.