Sat, Oct 07, 2017 - Page 9 News List

Delay, delay: How the NRA handles a crisis

The association’s Twitter account has been silent since the mass shooting in Las Vegas — part of a strategy to defer discussion and wait for the news cycle to move on

By Jason Wilson  /  The Guardian

Those grassroots efforts can and have unseated politicians — including Republicans — who did not toe the line.

Long-term political organizing thus anchors their responses to crisis.

However, so do long-term communication strategies that link guns and gun ownership with white American identity, and masculinity.

Since the 1970s, the NRA has been transformed, partly by a member-driven insurgency, Dunbar-Ortiz said.

The members who took control of the organization in the wake of 1960s and 1970s civil rights movements “thought that the NRA should not be about sports, but about getting white people armed.”

Since then they have crafted a “white nationalist” message to appeal to those people — especially men — who “see themselves as the carriers of the real America, or of the origins of the US itself.”

In the era of US President Donald Trump, the NRA’s messages have taken a darker turn.

A recent ad from the organization, featuring conservative media personality Dana Loesch, raised the prospect of social chaos caused by an unspecified “them.”

Hollywood and liberal politicians, the ad alleged, conspire to “make them march, make them protest, make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia, and smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law abiding.”

Cassino said there is a straightforward explanation for the ad, which many saw as openly encouraging violence.

It starts from the fact that while the membership gives the NRA its political heft, its money, and priorities, come from weapons manufacturers.

“The NRA does what the weapons manufacturers want,” he said — and that is to sell more guns.

In the years of former US president Barack Obama, the never-realistic prospect of gun-control measures were enough to drive additional sales, especially in the wake of massacres.

In the Trump era, the Republican lock on government means gun control is a non-starter.

“So if the government is not going to take people’s guns, who is?” Cassino said.

The ad provides an answer by “adopting an alt-right viewpoint,” he said.

“It raises the specter of left-wing groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa. Chaos is just over the horizon. You need guns to defend yourself against that chaos,” he added.

In the long term, the NRA might return to pushing this message. In the short term, things might remain tricky.

Dunbar-Ortiz thinks that the killer’s target — a country music festival — presents a particular problem for an organization whose “NRA Country” campaign has conducted specific outreach to fans of country music.

“This is white, rural music,” she said — its fan base overlaps considerably with the most enthusiastic supporters of gun rights. “Ordinary people, even gun lovers, might be shaken by this incident. I am sure the NRA is nervous.”

“There’s a moment here where there is an opening to talk to the people who think of themselves as real Americans about gun violence,” she added.

The question in a nation divided over guns is whether anyone will be organized or nimble enough to take that opportunity before the story fades from view.

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