VanCleave

The mainstream media industry isn’t your friend. Even your local newspaper or television station, unless it’s a small market, probably isn’t all that supportive of gun rights. (One litmus test:  Do they post their offices with “NO GUNS” signage?)

How do you handle an interview if you’ve been singled out or contacted to give your thoughts on a news story relating to guns, gun rights or similar issues? It might happen at a rally, or at your state capitol building or in some other public location. Dealing with the media and getting your message out without hurting your cause is much easier if you follow some basic tips.

Dress: Put your guns away, wear nice clothes and be well-groomed. Don’t wear your “Kill them all and let God sort ‘em out” t-shirt. Wear clothes that would be appropriate for church or better. If your version of church-going clothes includes camo or blaze orange, find and wear something nicer.

See the above photo of Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. He’s well-groomed, well-dressed and well-armed with the talking points he wants to make when he meets with the media. He represents gun rights very effectively and professionally.

Talking Points:  Identify two or three pithy talking points ahead of the interview and keep coming back to them, just like professional politicians do. Your talking points should be short and to the point. Did I mention you should keep coming back to them?

John Ross, the author of Unintended Consequences (find a copy and read it if you haven’t already), wrote a fantastic piece, Why Are You Losing Your Freedoms? The Semantics of ManipulationIn it are some great general talking points along with strategies for powerfully influencing others.

Hardware: The media often think “Gun guy? Get video/pictures of guns!” Don’t let them coax you into bringing out the guns if they don’t lend positive, pro-self-defense content to the story. Keep in mind the media love to prominently display photos or video of guns because it sensationalizes stories for ratings. Guns also intimidate many non-gun owners.

Don’t be this guy

Out of the mainstream
You can marginalize yourself and your message very easily. Look at the photo above. By wearing camo or a t-shirt while holding a scary gun in front of a bastardized American flag, this man stood as a poster child for every liberal’s bigoted stereotype of an illiterate, redneck, gun-owning wack-o.

The New York Times couldn’t get the above photo into print and online quickly enough to accompany their story about militias. Just think how much better this man’s message would have been received by the general public if he’d dressed in khakis and a dress shirt, stood in front of an American flag, and left his flippant t-shirt, his rifle and bastardized flag in the closet. No matter what he may have intended, he didn’t help the cause. At all.

 

56 Responses to Beginner’s Guide To Media Interviews

  1. If they don’t let you have your own recording of the interview, then it’s pretty clear where they stand and that they’ll likely carefully edit the interview (like Couric’s hit piece) to alter the meaning of your statements.

    • Starting at ~$60 for the paperback on Amazon, though … wow. I like buying books but have to say that’s pretty steep.

      • It costs so much because no one is printing that book anymore. Do a Google search and you will see that free PDF’s of the entire book are easy to find.

  2. Also, the shaved head and stubble. Sorry, guys, if you like that. It definitely sends a message. Visible tats? Try not to. You are trying to make your best impression.

    But frankly, if you look “normal”, and non-controversial, the media will try to find someone else to get on camera. The crazier-looking, the better for the narrative, you know.

    However, if the cameras get you and you aren’t looking your least-scary, take a breath and smile as nicely as you can. Speak correct English, not Redneck. Smile more. Be respectful, patient, gentlemanly and courteous to a fault.

    • “Speak correct English, not Redneck. Smile more. Be respectful.”

      What about Spanglish or Ebonics, those OK?

    • No shaved Head? Since my hair thinned out on top, I keep it shaved. Does that mean I lost my hair and my right to actively promote gun rights?

      • Yes, same as if your facial contours are naturally menacing like Alan Rickman, you probably shouldn’t be promoting a message on TV

        • Funny thing, everyone who knew Alan Rickman said he was the most deeply kind human being they had ever met. Just goes to show, don’t it.

          If the media ever does single me out of a crowd for comment, it’ll probably be because I look like that big, bearded-and-bald, vaguely menacing stereotype they’re looking for. I’m never going to manage Mr. Van Cleave’s look. But I’ll try my level best to speak like he would.

        • If you’re the male equivalent of Hillary Clinton (voice like nails on chalkboard) consider connecting someone better able to speak to the media goons.

          Remember that your failure to respond will be cast on the news as “________ (evil person) did not respond to our phone messages (within 5min) before broadcast time (there for has admitted they are evil/guilty). The WILL just make it up.

  3. Additional media tips:

    Be old, bald and avuncular, like the guy in the picture. The mustache is a nice, grandfatherly touch. Grandpa Jones doesn’t scare anyone. If you’re young and masculine or you’ve been regularly hitting the weight room and pounding Muscle Milk, let pappy do the talking. Better still, find a 95 pound, silver-haired grandma with a cane, who would be an ideal spokesperson. Just make sure that she remembered her Fixodent.

    Don’t be technical. It’s not a barrel shroud. It’s a thing that goes up. It’s not an AR chambered in 5.56 NATO. It’s a target rifle. It’s not the “stand your ground” law. It’s the “don’t get shot in the ass while you’re running away” law. Keep it simple for the simpletons.

    Don’t mention the words “freedom” or “tyranny.” The media laughs at the first and doesn’t believe in the second. But do tell them that you are an Ethical Ovolactovegetarian and that you identify as some obscure gender that nobody never heard of and that you only crap in Target. The media love that.

    Drive a Prius. Do I need to explain?

    If someone plays the National Anthem, kneel. The media love that too.

    Follow these simple rules and you will be well on your way to becoming a great spokesperson. Or a politician.

    • “The media laughs at the first and doesn’t believe in the second. ”

      For a second there I didn’t realize you were talking about the previous sentence. Still very fitting though.

  4. I used to be involved in journalism in high school and college in the 80’s and early 90’s, until it became clear that my values of truth, justice, and the American Way was no longer compatible or welcome. While I very much want to, and still do, support the First Amendment and freedom of the press, the sad truth is that the vast majority of the press is an enemy of our country, and to be treated as such as far as I am concerned. Oh sure, there’s a few small time rural papers and the like out there but you’ll have better luck finding hen’s teeth than a genuinely red-blooded, pro-gun American. I just wish I knew what to do about it. Actually, I do, but I just can’t say it out loud. So until then, I would recommend, among other things, recording EVERYTHING and even better yet, demanding written and notarized agreement to refrain from slander, libel, and treason. Answer only yes or no. Or failing that, answer questions with a question of your own. And sure as hell don’t let them into your home, shop, store, or anyplace they can record something to use against you. Remind them of the legal consequences of lying and fabrication. And no matter how nice and pleasant and guileless they might deign to be, never, ever, not even forget for one nanosecond that they are your mortal enemy, because that is exactly what YOU are to them.

    Oh, and if anyone foolishly asks me for any kind of interview: eat my shit and die.

    Tom

  5. Phil Van Cleave, president of the VCDL (pictured) is the Jedi Master of gun rights spokespersons IMHO. I have been a few feet away seeing him talk to anti-gunners and the media and he is amazing. He comes across like this kindly uncle or grandfather benevolently imparting the wisdom of the ages and he rarely seems argumentative, but he is so sharp he just quietly destroys the logic of whatever anti-gun BS gets thrown at him. The anti-gunner or reporter is left babbling, like, “Well, yeah, but, uh…” Phil should give seminars on how to do this, if it can even be taught.

    • Got any links to his interviews?

      I’ve never heard of him, so i googled the his name, and what came up were dozens of hits from a 2013 interview on “the Daily Show” with John Oliver, which was cited by many anti-gunners as a “win” for gun control logic.
      I’d be curious to see other interviews with him, to see if this one was possibly “creatively edited” like the Katy Couric situation…

      • Yeah, I think he took a hit on that one. You don’t win ’em all.

        If you go to the link below, you can see him on “60 Minutes” and on “Nightline,” where I think he did a great job. Also, he has done really well on local and regional media. Keep in mind the main focus of the VCDL is on Virginia gun rights and he does not seek out the national spotlight. It is kind of a phenomenon that they seem to seek him out.

        http://www.vcdl.org/VCDL-TV

    • I don’t understand why the NRA isn’t getting Colion Noir into PR. One of his latest “I am the NRA” was excellent.

      I guess it’s possible that he isn’t as good in a live back-and-forth but I don’t get that sense. Don’t understand why the NRA doesn’t take their support of him to the next level.

      Lastly, Ben Shapiro is ultra fast and with some additional boning up on the positions he would be an outstanding pit bull. I say he needs a little more tuning because I saw him get tripped up once on a full auto question. He would be money well spent.

      The two would be a great tag team, I’d pay money to see them rip apart some gun-grabbers on a stage.

      • The only problem I see with your comment is that the people who are willing to put up money for that stage are generally gun-grabbing anti 2A people themselves and would never allow the two of them to tag-team on that stage.

        They would most likely go with the Bill Maher tactic: Book a pro-gun or otherwise conservative whipping-boy and then surround him/her with three or more vehement opponents, then watch the fun as they try to defend themselves against the host and the other guests all at the same time while the host controls who gets the most time to speak and interrupts you every time it looks like you are going to make a reasonable point.

  6. It’s pretty sad that people have to be taught how to present themselves in a public situation without alienating everyone. People are people, and everyone profiles — no matter how much they deny it. If you want to represent your cause and be accepted as a reasonable person, dress as if you want to cash a $1,000 check at a bank you’ve never been to before. If you don’t understand what that requires, then you shouldn’t do it at all.

  7. Way back in the proverbial day, I was in media relations for a global demolition outfit. Got to meet some really interesting people, and and a few of those we would all like to see on food stamps.

    One afternoon, I got to sit in on a filmed interview conducted by ABC’s Ted Koppel. It was one of the most memorable interactions with the press I ever experienced. The short of it is, do not believe any on-screen interview you see where the interviewer and the subject are not on camera at the same time. It is all in the editing, people. All in the editing.

  8. Never, ever trust a member of the media. They are never on your side. Ever. I’ve done dozens of interviews, almost all of them were cut to nothing or never aired. Eventually, they just make things up. I had no less than 6 retractions and corrections printed in one year. I even had the Dallas Morning News print that although I did not actually attend an event, they provided a statement that I “would have made” if I “had actually been there”.
    My last interview with the media went exactly like this:

    Got a pen?
    Yes.
    Got some paper?
    Yes.
    Write this down.
    Ok
    Go fu(k yourself.

    After that the office never let me do an interview again. Mission accomplished.

  9. Unless you’re an official of a recognized pro-gun group like the NRA or GOA, the best advice is don’t talk to the press at all. Suggest they submit any questions in writing and tell them you’ll answer any that make any sense. Nine out of ten times, you won’t need to reply.

  10. My general rule is :don’t talk to the media.

    I was a witness to a shooting at one point. The shooting occured around 10 at night and I was being interviewed by one cop after another until past 2am. They told me to sit on a wall and wait to be released. So I was sitting there smoking a cigarette around 3am when the news media put a camera in my face.

    I talked to them quite pleasantly for maybe 15 minutes until they suggested that, being white, I was in the area to buy narcotics. I told them no, and that I lived a few doors down and that the shooting occured in front of my house. They then started suggesting that I was in fact a narcotics dealer and that I was somehow involved.

    After a few minutes of this I lost my cool and told them to get the camera out of my face using my best French.

    The next day I was on the news. They took a few seconds out of a 20 or so minute interview, cut it up and ran a story that made the neighborhood look bad (it was) and made me look like a gun nut asshole out to gun people down for fun.

    Don’t talk to the media unless it’s your job. If it’s not your job then Cypress Hill got it right “Fuck ’em and feed ’em. I won’t join ’em if I can beat ’em”

  11. That John Ross article. Thanks for the pointer. That. Exactly that.

    This is the stuff I harp on round here all the time. Not as well as Mr. Ross. But, sometimes, kinda close.

  12. Dealing with the media and getting your message out without hurting your cause is much easier if you follow some basic tips is virtually impossible.

    Fixed it for you.

    I’ve said it here several times before, but it bears repeating: the media is not going to tell your story. They’re going to tell their story, which was decided on and written before the reporter even left the office.

      • Actually, it’s far worse. If they were actually state-run (instead of state-worshiping), everyone would know whose point of view they were getting in the news. Instead, the thin veneer of honesty and impartiality that still clings to their profession makes their corrosive effort all the more effective.

  13. 1. It also pays to study a bit of formal logic and philosophy. Learn the logical fallacies that are most commonly used. Here’s a neat little taxonomy of logical fallacies:

    http://www.fallacyfiles.org/taxonnew.htm

    2. Do some research on the reporter/journalist/etc that you might be dealing with. When I had to deal with the media, I started to keep a database on reporters/journalists, and the transgressions they had committed in their stories, even if I wasn’t involved even remotely. I always wanted to know more about them than they knew about me.

    Today, I’d be putting their personal information into my database as well as their past forays into the gun issue.

    3. Record your encounter with any reporter/journalist – or better yet, have someone else do it while you wear a wireless microphone. Do not ever trust a journalist, and trust their editors & producers even less.

    • Bookmarked the Fallacy Files. Great site. It made my head hurt, but mostly in a good way; one of those hours that feel only ten minutes long disappeared while I was poking around in it.

      Still, I think https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/ is a better place to send people for an introduction or a refresher on logical fallacies, considering that most of us (me included) don’t actually study logic. It’s much simpler and much less intimidating, and also much easier on the eyes. I keep their free poster printout on the wall above my desk. Makes for a good conversation piece sometimes.

  14. I assume all reporters are liars, traitors and enemies of humanity not worth my time to speak to. Besides, I work in the oilfield so it’s like I’m doubly evil for them. Especially since I used to work for Halliburton.

  15. Please, tell us more how staying on message and polishing arguments will enable us to effectively represent our message to the nation through Goebbels Multimedia Incorporated. Part of strategy is knowing when a battlefield is pointlessly inadvantageous, and relocating the conflict to more suitable terrain. The big-name media outlets have no intention of representing gun issues fairly or accurately, it is madness to think we can ‘trick’ our way past that net of interference to reach the broader public at this time. The proper solution is clearly to dictate the terms of coverage, selecting only outlets favorable or fair to these issues, denying all access to those against us. This is how modern American heads of state operate, and frankly it is effective. The NRA/etc need to be careful in doling out their contact info, giving it to fairly small-time actors too little to be already bought by the conglomerates, and support them in increasing their prominence. When the media learn that slandering gun owners is a great way to lose out on scoops and ratings and ad revenue, and fair or favorable coverage is the path the fame & riches, only then is it time to come to them.

    Gun owners are at least 1/3 of the US population; the notion these ad-news people don’t need us is laughable.\

    “By wearing camo or a t-shirt while holding a scary gun in front of a bastardized American flag, this man stood as a poster child for every liberal’s bigoted stereotype of an illiterate, redneck, gun-owning wack-o.”
    Pretty sure the US flag in that configuration is a white supremacist thing (why wouldn’t it be?) which makes me about 90% sure the character in question is neither a supporter of gun rights, nor white supremacy. He’s probably an anti-gun plant inserted to spoil the demonstration and mean-mug for the eager (if not conspiratorial) cameras. Mission accomplished.

    • True enough, even on Fox, a supposedly “Conservative” news outlet, they use the term “assault weapon” or “assault rifle” to describe the AR platform on a regular basis.

      There’s no way a group as large, well funded and with as many researchers as Fox has doesn’t know damn right well that the term is a meaningless and invented term to make it seem like an AR is a M16 or M4. So I am forced to conclude, since they use the term as loosely as they do, that they don’t give a shit about the truth and want to push an anti-gun agenda.

      • Fox very much wants to push an anti gun agenda. They’re just different about it. They rarely allow a pro gun voice on, and only one member of the whole fox cast really knows how to argue the pro gun message. The rest of the time they play ignorance, and then use the crime/race angle to push anti gun propaganda, like Bill Orielly.

  16. I don’t have to worry about being interviewed. Well spoken black men with guns offend their sterotype.
    Quoting racist gun control history also makes them very nervous.

  17. Another tip: the reporter is not your friend.

    Yet another: assume the camera is on whether or not the interview seems to have started. Nothing is off the record.

  18. The blatant bigotry, stereotyping, and generalizations by Boch (a closeted Liberal Jew perhaps) against fellow gun owners and supporters of the 2nd Amendment in this piece is troubling. I for one wouldn’t be caught dead in a Cabal of Modern Night Satanists (Mormon)/ “Church” of Scientology costume consisting of khakis, button-up (dress) shirt and loafers.

  19. If I ever got the chance to do an interview about gun rights, I’d probably be caught off guard. People could try and throw a bunch of stats and whatnot at the interviewer, if they knew them well enough, sure. I for one, I would probably boil it down as simply as I could and try and relate to the people who are against guns, in a language they comprehend. I would tell them that gun rights are EQUAL RIGHTS. And they are. Liberals and progressives, real liberals, in the classical sense of the word, they SHOULD be for gun rights. That they aren’t simply exposes them as what they really are, statists: https://mattsamerica.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/why-progressives-should-love-the-2nd-amendment/

  20. Just remember this line:

    NO COMMENT.

    At my range we have standing instructions, which everyone understands. Do not talk to the media, and refer them to the organization’s executive committee members. Some are very experienced with dealing with the media from their professional careers.

  21. I agree with the idea that the NRA needs to get Colion Noir out there more. I would add Dana Loesch.

    Another person I’ll suggest I know I will get a lot of push back on, but I would say two things: 1) Go on YouTube and actually watch some of her interviews on gun rights. She does an incredible job on that issue. 2) She is not affiliated with any gun rights organization, so she does not come across as being a spokesperson for any interest.

    That person is Ann Coulter.

    • Done right, it’s actually a team sport.

      You need the “firebrand” who will never get elected to say the unacceptable thing, clearing the way for a viable candidate to say it, once it becomes acceptable.

      The Stupid Party’s political malpractice is so encompassing they don’t get even this. As they say, if you can’t help your guys get elected, what good are you?

  22. “Wear clothes that would be appropriate for church or better. If your version of church-going clothes includes camo or blaze orange, find and wear something nicer.”
    —————
    What if you don’t go to church?
    My nicest clothes are a pair of jeans/shorts and a t shirt

  23. Rule 1: The media will use any interview to lie about you and about all gun owners, so why talk to them at all?

    If it helps, don’t think of them as the “news media”. thinkk of them as what they really are: the Democrat Propaganda Ministry

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