As Congress is moving legislation limiting the right to keep and bear arms, we’ve seen a flood of anti-gun propaganda in recent weeks. Those behind it want to get people to accept that there’s not only a need for gun control, but a dire one.
Before I get into who’s likely behind this and how they’re operating, I need to give readers a quick overview of what propaganda is and why it works. Only then can we see the current effort for what it is and learn to be effective in countering it.
What Propaganda Is and Isn’t
The word “propaganda” has a negative connotation. That with which we agree is never propaganda. That which we disagree is usually discarded as “just propaganda” and by that we usually mean “lies.” The reality is actually more complicated. Propaganda isn’t good or evil any more than a gun is. What matters is who is using it and what they’re trying to get the public to do.
Propaganda is actually everywhere. It’s in advertising, religion, professional training, and, of course, politics.
At its core, propaganda repeating a simple, easily digested message over and over until it sticks. It works even better if you can connect the simple message to a symbol that mixes well with the myths a culture believes in (whether true or not). Propaganda is just techniques used to spread ideas and beliefs.
The most effective propaganda doesn’t try to change our beliefs. That’s a tough thing to get people to do. Where most people are malleable is in their attitudes. That’s the real genius of things like “I believe in the Second Amendment, but….” followed by something meant to sow fear in the audience.
Getting people to change their belief in gun rights isn’t going to work, but getting them to get emotional and bend a bit without losing the core belief completely can be very effective.
This Almost Never Happens By Accident
When you start to hear the same thing over and over from different politicians, academics, and media outlets, don’t ignore it. What you’re seeing is propaganda, pure and simple. There are professional propagandists (who don’t call themselves that, of course) working in an office somewhere for a powerful interest who come up with these messages to share with the population. Sometimes skilled amateurs get in on it and spread the ideas. We call these “memes.”
People on both the left and right do this. “Guns save lives” and “there are only two genders” are simple messages that people on the political right spread, and they can be very effective at transmitting the concepts.
Here’s a recent example of corporate news propaganda. In the video, we can see that the different news stations in different cities are all giving the same speech that someone at the corporate level ordered them to give.
Two Recent Anti-Gun Propaganda Campaigns
Let’s take a look at some recent news coverage of guns.
All of the local newspapers running that headline are part of the USA Today network, owned by Gannett, GateHouse Media, and Japan-based Softbank.
If you look at USA Today papers in other markets, you’ll find an attempt to sail against the wind in places where mass shootings are down. For example: “Mass Shootings Fall in New Mexico, but Nation Faces Record High”
“Heads, I win’ tails, you lose” isn’t a game you want to play with someone, unless you’re the one doing the winning.
When we see their attempt to have it both ways and spread an anti-gun message regardless of the facts, it’s obvious what they’re up to. Doing this during a push for federal gun laws is probably just a coincidence, right?
Another propaganda talking point that I’ve seen spreading in recent weeks is the claim that, “guns are bad for democracy.” One of The Truth About Guns‘ recent quotes of the day showed a good example of this. Instead of arguing that gun control laws promote public safety, civilian disarmament advocates are now spreading the idea that guns are a threat to majority rule and democratic decision-making. You can find a number of these at Google News.
Those of us who embrace the “Insurrectionary Theory of the Second Amendment” know that this is actually true. Pure democracy is a bad thing because the people who didn’t win the election would have no rights. There has to be a limit on the things that the majority is allowed to do if we want to have a functioning society and preserve human rights.
That’s why we have the Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, two senators per state, and other measures that limit government power and draw lines that the majority’s representatives are not allowed to cross.
What they’re trying to insinuate is the opposite, though. They want to equate democracy with human rights and political freedom, and claim that a society with guns in private hands prevents freedom from flourishing. They don’t want people to think this all the way through and imagine the horrors of a nation with naked majority rule.
Those of us who understand that majorities can do very evil things know that it’s a good idea to have a “Plan B” of some kind.
The Truth Alone Isn’t a Sufficient Defense
The claims that “mass shootings are spiking” and “guns are dangerous to democracy” are simple. They’re being repeated over and over to get the idea to spread. Someone who’s likely working for Michael Bloomberg probably came up with both of them and distributed the talking points.
To counter this kind of propaganda, you can’t just say “Nuh uh!” or “Ackchually…” and stop there. Even when people know that something isn’t true, they’ll often keep sharing things that they think are good for their position. Almost no one cares about the truth, left or right, when it gets in the way of scoring political points or furthering their agenda.
To really defeat propaganda, you have to understand it so you don’t risk letting the enemy choose the field of battle. Worse, fighting propaganda without understanding it risks causes it to spread further. To understand it, you need to answer the following questions:
- Who is the intended audience?
- What effects do the propagandists desire?
- What effects have they achieved?
- Which other audiences have heard or seen this message?
- What do these messages indicate about an adversary’s perceptions, capabilities, vulnerabilities, and intent?
- What are the intentional or unintentional inaccuracies, inconsistencies, or deceits in the messages that we can exploit?
- What counter arguments can we deploy, to whom, and how?
One thing that often proves very effective is to expose the source of the propaganda. When people know that USA Today’s owners are getting local papers to push basically the same story all across the country, the effects of the articles are minimized in the target audience.
Also, show people examples of obvious propaganda that targets a different audience than them. When they see how the game is played, it will be easier for them to see when it’s being played against them.
This time, let’s share my tweet so everyone can see what the propagandists are up to.
The @USATODAY Network wants to have it both ways. In markets where mass shootings are up, they're up *as* the nation faces a record high. Where they're down, they're down *but* the nation faces a record high.
All by same authors, and during a push for more federal gun laws. pic.twitter.com/0qoHmrBlIy
— Jennifer Sensiba (@JenniferSensiba) March 10, 2021
SO TRUE CAN’T STOP THE CRAZIES SO THEY PICK ON LAW BIDINING GUN OWNERS
Crazy people cannot stop SHOUTING.
There are so many ways to lie and propagandists know how to use each and every one.
Repetition works, preachers use it every Sunday by telling the audience what they are going to preach, then they preach it, followed by telling the audience what they preached.
First, I’m not an idiot. I understand what propaganda is, and how it is used. I am also educated, in so far as knowing the subject matter. I know what the arguments are pro and con, and what was said during the debate of the Constitution with regard to the 2nd Amend. I am also aware of the research done by John Lott and others that show that the 2nd AMend and gun ownership in general is a good thing. The problem is that most people are stupid. They haven’t learned what was said about the 2nd Amend and gun control during the ratification of the Constitution, and they don’t pay a damn bit of attention to the current news. All of which leads me to believe that it will be up to the 1 in 6 of us who, like me, understand the truth of what is happening and promulgate a reveolution like was done in 1776.
There was no intent to call you an idiot.
I thought this was an excellent article. And although I know what propaganda is, this refresher and thoughtful article is much appreciated, especially the research on USA Today! Thank You.
Hey John, do you have a good source that you could recommend, if one were to want to educate themselves on the discourse about the 2nd Amendment, during its ratification? Thanks in advance for your suggestions!
If only the internet or libraries existed…
Apparently they don’t for pathetic history illiterates like you who have to ask Wut.
Aww debbie, you are breaking my heart. U mad cuz your shitposting about jim crow and the same repetitive shit got called out and made no sense one time? Get over it boomer. Not to mention, that was an entirely different thread and article. Grow up. Get over yourself. History illiterates? lol… amazing.
The finest contemporary source on what the public thought of the Constitution is the Federalist Papers. There are several volumes in which all aspects of the Constitution and Bill of Rights are discussed and written about by the founding fathers and people of the time. Also do a Google search on Founding Fathers and the 2nd Amendment. Another good source is the NRA. They have reprints of a lot of the studies and documents on the subject going back all the way to English Common Law and the Magna Carta. The best modern data are the studies done by John Lott of the University of Chicago over the last 30 years.
1 in 6?
Try 1 in 100,000 at least. Probably more like 1 in 500,000.
The 1 in 6 refers to the percentage of the colonial population who actually participated in the fighting during the Revolution. The total population was far smaller then, so it works out to not very many people. If you took 16.6% of today’s population that would likely be more than the total population in 1776. There are more combat trained veterans today than the total population of colonial America. There won’t be any lack of bodies to fill the ranks if things go south and turn into a shooting war. You’ll see the greatest guerilla army in the history of mankind spring up, and the Democrats won’t know what hit them.
Yea ok… we already saw how much fight Americans have in them earlier this year. Sorry to be a party pooper, but I am one of those you are speaking of and I know the majority of those people “amongst our ranks” are fucking cowards and NOT shooters. I know the percentages, and I also know the utopian dream of those percentages actually fighting a government like ours as it exists today. The first drone strike would end the “war”.
“You’ll see the greatest guerilla army in the history of mankind spring up, and the Democrats won’t know what hit them.“
And under the constitution, that guerilla army would be guilty of sedition, just like the confederate states of America was when they attacked the duly constituted government of the United States of America.
To take up arms against the government of the United States of America is prohibited by the constitution.
But what does ‘Ing’ think about this important matter?
…said no one, ever.
Ing’s comments are generally worth reading, actually. So your comment is incorrect.
I have to admit I’m a bit insulted.
My demented little troll isn’t faithful to me anymore.
What does Ing have that I don’t? 😉
The future is now, old man.
Is it starting to sting a bit, little man?
Things that appeal to the emotions rather than logic sells. Anti-gunners sell fear. Fear of crime, fear of loss of democracy, fear of “the mob.” There is a very specific reason that the right wing is castigated in such emotionally driven terms: the left wants you to fear it, to think of it as evil so that you will reject it without thinking. They want you to think of all firearms as “weapons of war” “designed to kill” so that you will fear them and the people who own them. Then throw in some biased research and selective statistics (not disclosing that they are screwing the pooch) hoping you will not notice that you are being played.
You fight Jim Crow Gun Control democRat Party propaganda with The Very Ugly Documented Truth About Gun Control. Unfortunately that Truth was nowhere to be found in your long winded essay on propaganda. If you want to move the ball you need to cut the chase and take the bull by the horns.
So cut to it…
If you have to ask Wut then you need to take up knitting. Here’s how it works with me little man…Either debunk what I post or stfu.
I agree with most of what you post, even if you shitpost regurgitated repetitive trumptard bullshit over and over and over and fucking over again every day… but you made no sense, so again,
no need to “debunk”… this isn’t facebook or a fact checker, wing nut.
“Pro-gunners sell fear. Fear of crime, fear of loss of democracy, fear of “the mob.”
Wow, that reads like a SigArms or Smith and Wesson ad.
Tellingly, the anti-gun nuts often cite:
1) Some gun nut going berserk and shooting the place up and killing folks in a spectacular fashion (something I don’t in any way endorse), and,
2) The tragedies they cite are cited no matter how ancient they may be, 10 – 20 years ago doesn’t seem to phase them one bit, but,
3) They seem to be incapable of citing what are comparatively numerous (to the point of being near endless) and literally YESTERDAY’S and VOLUMINOUS reports of defensive gun use by a licensed gun owner to protect either him / herself, property or family.
That’s how propaganda is made, my friends.
Much of this is emotional. My mother was raised in the oil fields and from a young age saw the “wild west”. Her father sold booze in the 20s and her mother used the opiates of the time. She saw men shot dead, she was thrown into the back of a Buick with bullet holes in the windows at 4years old and they beat feet out of Texas(1925).
Even though she knew better, guns were evil to her, because of what she lived. Children of irresponsible people expect others to be the same.
It was not emotional with Black Americans. It was Jim Crow. From little ones to the big ones bullets went into them, generally put there by the Gun Control military wing of the democRat Party better known as the KKK. As my grandpappy used to say, “There’s always someone out there who has it much worse than you.”
When I was 4 I began learning how to hunt, fight and cook. Never can tell when Jim Crow Gun Control will come around again. After all it is a democRat Party Family Tradition.
Propaganda campaigns are tactics that are a integral and important part of the strategy of warfare. Once you understand that, you will understand that this is a real shooting war we are in. Property has been destroyed and people have been killed, wounded, and imprisoned.
War is important to a Nation. It is a matter of life and death. Act accordingly. There is no substitute for victory.
Them drums say the revolution is near – are you listening?
Are your eardrums open for christening?
“What you gone do when the police state begins
Well it already began but I guess it depends on
What’s really going on, what’s happening, huh
Military target practicing
They finna write another Patriot Act again
The days is short the nights is long
The fight goes on
The pistol and the pipes are drawn”
A nice survey article of propaganda (information/disinformation), but the battle lines are clearly drawn. Anti-gunners rarely back down, regardless of reason and statistics. (Pro-gunners are not immune to ossified beliefs and repetitive declarations that fall on deaf ears).
Wish I had captured it at the time, but someone once wrote something along the lines of, “When two camps of political foes have completely unalterable visions of the future of the nation, the only resolution is armed conflict.” Our nation saw this from about 1850, to 1860; then came the fire.
(have tried to get that quote located via several search engines, to no avail)
That quote(?) is true. Like you, I recall reading similar in the distant past, but don’t recall the author. Could have been any of a number of military or political figures. In any case, history proves it correct “In all panoplies of time”. Pattons “Thru a Glass, Darkly” captures the essence of it perfectly.
John said ” it will be up to the 1 in 6 of us who, like me, understand the truth of what is happening and promulgate a reveolution like was done in 1776.”
I’m glad to hear that you are the 1 in 6.
I, however, am the 1 in 100,000 that realizes that the Bill Of Rights (as is the entire Constitution) is fairly unambiguous in it’s meanings. If you have graduated high school with a decent grade, you can read and understand it without problems.
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
There are no arguments or missed nuances in that statement. It is clear as anything written could possible be. You either follow it, or you delete it, there is no other option.
Incrementalism is the bane of the retarded liberal minds.
2+2=4, and no amount nibbling at the edges will change this concept, used for describing the universe in base 10 mathematics.
It is definitely liberating (pardon the expression) to find that you have discovered an unalterable truth… 🙂
It sure is fun playing with the insanity riddled idiots in the liberal troposphere.
Faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money. 🙂
For something that is so unambiguous, the Democrats have spent much of the last two hundred years finding penumbras and other miracles of interpretation in the Constitution. If it was as transparent and unambiguous as you seem to think it is, there would not be liberals finding “new” meaning in the cracks and crevasses of that document on one side, and strict constructionists like me and Justice Scalia and others on the other.
People today are damn near illiterate when it comes to using the English language properly. They couldn’t put together a coherent argument and present it in correctly constructed English if their life depended on it. Reading and understanding the language used by scholars and educated people of two hundred years ago is beyond the capabilities of probably 80% of the population.
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
A typical cafeteria conservative, picking and choosing from the constitution as if it’s a buffet.
It is telling when you intentionally omit the qualifying preamble of the Second Amendment.
You’d better do some study on how to use the language properly. The second part of the 2nd Amend is not dependent on the first half for its meaning. It can stand alone. Scholars have said that for over two hundred years.
Do this. Just type this into google or some other search engine and look for similarities in the articles.
Phrase: mass shootings surge
Talk about a propaganda media machine for firearm control.
Propaganda ? What iz thiz propaganda you speak of
You’ve not been properly educated.
“Pattons “Thru a Glass, Darkly” captures the essence of it perfectly.”
One of the (many) things I like about that poem is the clumsy meter. The lack of elegance makes the rhyme more forceful, and more illustrative.
“Faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money. ”
Now, there’s a blast from the past. Good memories.
And for many the future portends….old women, cheap beer, Social Security, and wheelchairs…..
While, how much one brings in is certainly an element of the Comfort Equation,
How much one keeps is the bottom line.
The Brits didn’t believe the colonists would fight either. They got a very rude and abrupt awakening on that score. In the run up to WWII, Roosevelt tried for years to provoke the Japanese, and was told the American people wouldn’t fight. So many people tried to sign up after Pearl Harbor that they had to restrict it to draftees. If the US gov’t comes after our guns you’ll find out people won’t stand for it. Never underestimate the American people when they get mad and are pushed into a corner.
Taking up arms against tyranny is NOT sedition. If the people follow the Constitution, tyranny cannot exist, therefore taking up arms against tyranny is not going against the Constitution. The oath that everyone takes when they go into the military says you will defend the Constitution against tyranny, both foreign and domestic. Of course, I wouldn’t expect anyone on the side of tyranny to accept that. The Brits called it sedition as well. They were wrong then, and the Democrats are wrong now.
Dems started the first civil war, they want a lose over!
Large parts of “media”, via their anti gun/anti gun rights propagandizing have flat blown something that is quite important, their credibility.