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The NRA Blew It

Well, there’s one thing about apocalyptic predictons: they often become apocalyptic realities. After watching the news conference today, I can conclusively say that the National Rifle Association needs new leaders – from top to bottom – not because of what they said, but because of how they said it, which was one of the most pathetic things I’ve ever witnessed. I thought about cueing up “The Exorcist” while I was watching it at the Wall Street Journal’s website. Max von Sydow would have been refreshing watching Wayne LaPierre today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpyg94OzHK0

The room looked like a funeral home. They were 15 minutes late. They couldn’t get their words together. The timing combined with how they orchestrated it made it seem like they had to push each other into the room and then slink out of the room. Wayne LaPierre looked like he’d been up for four or five days. He was pallid and when he first started speaking he didn’t sound empathetic, he sounded ghastly, like he was announcing the end of the world. He looked like he was in a cold sweat with all the blood drained from his body. David Keene couldn’t even put his words together from behind the rims of his glasses. His introduction was merciful only because it was short. He looked like he’d been up for six days. Longer than LaPierre.

How did Medea Benjamin get a seat in the room? Does anyone at the NRA watch the news and know what Medea Benjamin looks like? What was she doing at this event?

I think somehow they also thought they were going to get applause when they walked in and left the room. The applause in a setting like this always serves to set the tone, and they should have known they weren’t going to get any, but they did the speaker roll-out and exit like they thought LaPierre was going to stroll up there with an enthusiastic audience and leave to at least polite applause. David Keene looked like he really believed he was going to get applause when he introduced LaPierre. These guys are used to preaching to the choir and it was painfully evident. Dead silence.

Then they slunk away into the shadows. NO questions taken or answered? Nobody willing to even speak, ready to face reporters with questions? It looked male-menopausal from one end to the other. There were a few moments at the beginning that I thought LaPierre was just going to have a heart attack and collapse right there at the podium. I really thought he was going to keel over. They had a week to prepare for this and the only thing missing was the background death dirge music.

Worst press conference I’ve ever seen, and not just because they let the protestors sit in the front row.

These people don’t have the slightest idea of how to make their case before a skeptical and increasingly liberal public. They’re washed up and they’re hurting themselves. It’s not their ideas – it’s the presentation of those ideas by these toupeed old white males who are positively hated in this culture right now but they still cannot face the music. Yeah it’s unfair. Yeah, it’s prejudice. But your face and your message and how you present it matters as much as the message itself. It’s ironic that the Washington Post didn’t cover it live on their website because it would have helped the WaPo to stream every minute of it – that’s how bad it was. I had to turn it off several times.

They blew it in just about every way imaginable, and they have more than one foot in the grave. It was a very disappointing thing to watch: the cultural shift has taken place, the apocalypse has come, and these guys just don’t get it. They need some serious media consultancy. They need new thinking, new faces, and a lot better media strategy – with much more articulate spokespeople who are a lot younger. The Old Grave White Men aren’t going to win this time: the culture has changed. And everyone is going to suffer.

Someone needs to come in and do a Harley Davidson on the NRA.

I was very disappointed watching that news conference – which it wasn’t – it was just a painful slog from one end to the other. What LaPierre said in the abstract was helpful, but he really did look and sound like he was delivering the message from a funeral home, as the undertaker of something already dead. The world has changed guys, culturally you are just not the people who are going to make the effective messages any more. At least, not if you keep doing things this way.

Very sad. They’d better straighten themselves out fast.

I don’t think they have anyone in their organization who knows how to present themselves to the media. They shouldn’t just have answered questions – they should have let the Q&A go on for an hour, at least. By slinking away into the back room of their facility they looked like they were retreating into their sarcophagus. I think they did. Wayne LaPierre talked about some substantive things, but this railing on and on about “monsters” and “demons” was just pathetic.

They don’t know how to communicate with the public except for their own captive audiences. When they’re forced to make a statement – which is what this looked like – they do it looking like they have a gun to their heads.

LaPierre seemed to find his footing a couple of times and then it just kept dwindling away. And in the end, watching them leave the podium and slink away into the back room was the dumbest thing they could have done. Really an F minus overall.

Does this sound harsh? It’s nothing like what the NRA is getting from the Left. I expected them to at least have their stuff together today, not to make a “fun and happy” presser by any stretch of the imagination but at least look and sound like they had their act together and they understood they have a constituency out here who needed to see some competency and evidence of aplomb. Instead they let their long-awaited press conference be hijacked by Code Pink and looked like a bad remake of No Country for Old Men.

[Update: OK I'll try to be charitable. A lot of the ideas were good, but setting themselves up against the video game industry was a ding-dong idea. You let OTHER people handle the video game industry, guys. You've got your own problems. I think they were going for sombre and respectful (not respective!!) but what they created instead was a lot different, most importantly because they couldn't even control their own press event. And not being prepared to at least answer a few questions was boneheaded. What you needed was three or four people who seemed to be *eager* and *ready* to answer questions, almost like they were hoping for the chance to answer them. What we got was some guys slinking off stage after their presser was hijacked by Code Pink. We're in big trouble.]

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