It’s a bit disingenuous that speakers at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention spent so much of their time railing against the Obama administration and its “war on guns”. After all, in the same breath they could be seen on Fox News and other outlets bragging that this year’s convention would be breaking attendance records or touting strong gun and ammo sales. If Obama was fighting a war on guns, it appears he was working for the other side.
The gun industry has always relied on fantasy to sell their products. That isn’t surprising, nor unique. Many products are marketed by implicitly or explicitly cultivating the consumers deepest fantasies and desires. When you watch a gun commercial, even in my article called “When guns are toys“, you are seeing the world the way the gun industry thinks will encourage you to buy their product. They’ll emphasize personal security and peace of mind:
or play upon men’s desire to appear masculine:
And both of these feed off of fear. The gun industry should be thanking Obama.
Wayne LaPierre, the Vice President of the NRA, has the thankless job of defending gun manufactures full time (even when a boy walks into an elementary school and kills 20 children and the nation seems poised to finally have enough with guns). Stunningly shrewd, his audacity and ability to take the long view, reminds me of a young Karl Rove. The difference being, where Rove wanted to be kingmaker, LaPierre sits on a throne of private industry. I wonder who wields more power. I’m, of course, disgusted by Wayne LaPierre’s apparent indifference to anything but winning (parodied hilariously by the Onion), but admire his Frank Underwood-esque ability to turn even the worst odds in his favor. I wonder how far gun control legislation would have gone if less gun deaths paid better.
During the convention, a gaggle of past and future Republican presidential candidates (and Ted Nugent, because integrity is for Comic Con) one by one took the stage and kissed the ring that could launch their careers all the way to the White House. Of course, words of praise for President Obama were sparse. Instead, most focused on creating an environment of fear that makes the crowd hold their guns a little tighter and their wallets a little looser. Obama. The boogie man.
“People like you all over this country have been standing up for freedom and standing up to the media for decades. And for decades the media and the political elites have lied about us, demonized us and attempted to marginalize our Second Amendment freedom . . . But NRA members have stared those anti-gun elitists straight in the eye,” LaPierre said.
After LaPierre’s heated talk, Rick Perry brought a much-needed gentler tone to the event . . . although the noisy 30-second intro video of the governor shooting a semi-automatic assault rifle certainly got the crowd’s attention.
While he very briefly mentioned his fond memories of hunting as a child, Perry mainly stuck to a safe blend of Lone Star and Second Amendment boosterism.
Sen. Ted Cruz was up next, stepping up to the podium amidst massive applause and cheers of “Cruuuuuz, Cruuuuz” — a chant that sounds like booing at first, not unlike the “Bruuuuuce” cheers you’d hear at a Springsteen concert.
Like LaPierre, Cruz opted for more fiery rhetoric that was aimed largely at Obama’s recent failed efforts to enact stricter gun control laws. Cruz is among a group of senators recently targeted by the Michael Bloomberg-led group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which reports that he received more than $79,000 in contributions from the Washington gun lobby.
No one had as much contempt for the President than Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum — who scorned Obama for saying in 2004 that small-town Pennsylvanians “cling to guns or religion” after years of empty federal promises. Santorum followed with a rather odd tirade about the Europe and the French Revolution.
“Their rights in France didn’t come from a Creator. No, this was a secular, godless, anti-clerical revolution,” he said, noting that Europeans today don’t go to church. “Churches are empty there, owned and operated by the government.”
After another 90 minutes of speeches — including a video message from Paul Ryan, an angry talk by Fox News pundit Jeanine Pirro and a visit from Bobby Jindal — the event closed with the one-and-only Sarah Palin, who came equipped with her usual attacks on the “lamestream media” and Washington careerists.
I don’t doubt they are not fans of Obama, but people like Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan have built their political careers (or in Sarah Palin’s case, entertainment career) off the back of Obama Bashing. They’ve made it a full time job, complete with speaking engagements and best selling books. Sarah Palin, especially, must be at least somewhat relieved that President Obama gave her a chance at four more years of relevance. As she’s proved over the last few years, she is pretty much only good at spinning crowds into frothing frenzy over the “liberal agenda”. It’s as precarious a place as it is lucrative. Remember, a parasite dies if its host dies.
Privately, Wayne LaPierre must also be absolutely smitten with Obama’s re-election. It signals four more years on the gravy train. Recall that a gun manufacturer is most successful when they can harness the power of fear as a key motivator to buying. Add to that fear, the peculiar human anxiety inducer known to psychology of loss aversion that can be exploited for even more profit, and you’ve got a recipe for record sales. Things like Sandy Hook become catalysts for MORE guns, not less.
I’m not surprised that no one in the NRA would publicly admit to the beneficial nature of Obama in the White House, after all, a placebo only works when the ones taking the pill don’t know its just sugar. What I do wonder is what the NRA – and the gun manufacturers who run it – desire for the future. It’s still early but a Hilary Clinton presidency could be another treasure chest. But perhaps they just yearn for the sleepy Bush years when sales were steady but the world seemed safe for arms dealers every where.
If it feels like I’m being too harsh on the NRA and its political spotlight seekers, that’s because I know that they are incapable of taking it personally. If they could be shamed into self reflection it would have happened already. That’s why you get the Sarah Palins, the Rick Santorums, and yes, even the Wayne LaPierres as speakers at this convention, they lost their souls long ago and are cursed to walk amongst the living in a constant fight for attention. As they climb up onto that convention stage and squint into the glare of spotlights, they wonder what they’re doing there. Desperate to stop, but not knowing how, they adjust the mic, and as loud as they can, begin to talk fearing they might hear the doubt in their voice.