The advertising and marketing mag AdAge isn’t something you see cited much in political commentary but this fakakta article likening the NRA to Harvey Weinstein and the Church of Scientology is just too bizarre to ignore.
— Ad Age (@adage) March 6, 2018
This analysis by Simon Dumenco is problematic, partly because his jumping off point seems to already be badly distorted by the media narrative.
The NRA may be a sui generis advocacy group, but the way the media narrative surrounding it has suddenly flipped has some eerie parallels if you look to other fields. Namely, entertainment and religion.
The familiar “flip” here is basically: Seemingly all-powerful group, unstoppable for decades, is suddenly, possibly, no longer all-powerful.
No critical thinker and observer of reality could possibly see the NRA as “all-powerful” or “unstoppable.” That’s something someone might think if all they looked at was the Democrat/media/left talking points meant to instill fear of the organization and accuse them of being wholley culpable for every instance of a bad person misusing firearms.
There hasn’t really been a “flip” in the narrative either. If anything has changed it has been the magnitude of the smear campaign. “Flip” implies change of direction but the NRA has been painted as the boogeyman in every mass shooting going back to Columbine. After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the Democrat/media/left tune hadn’t changed; they just cranked up the volume very quickly.
The really weird part of this take though is the irrational comparisons made to sex offenders and oppressive cults.
We saw this in the entertainment world when, last fall, The New York Times and The New Yorker published exposés of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Though he was long the subject of appalled whispers, no one dared speak out because he wielded so much control. He appeared to possess limitless industry power; many Hollywood stars owe him their careers. But Weinstein also wielded impressive media power. We know now, thanks to further reporting by the Times and The New Yorker, that he basically ran his studio as something of a self-protection racket, manipulating media levers to silence and discredit critics.
The problem here is that Harvey Weinstein actually did do these things. The NRA has not. The NRA has been a civil rights organization dedicated specifically to protecting Americans’ rights enshrined in the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights. They have never appeared to possess limitless power except in the fevered imagination of whomever writes Democrat fundraising letters exploiting the victims of criminals. It’s ludicrous to suggest that the NRA manipulates media to silence and discredit critics. The media is almost monolithically opposed to the NRA. That accusing a Second Amendment advocacy group of literally being guilty of terrorism is not treated in the media as utterly ridiculous is proof enough of that.
Like Weinstein, the Church of Scientology knew how to strike fear into critics—until, one day, it started losing some of that power. Journalistic exposés started it, but the real damage was done from within: by projects out of the entertainment-industrial complex that the church is so cozy with. In 2015, for instance, HBO showed “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” an explosive Alex Gibney documentary based on Lawrence Wright’s book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief.” And in 2016, Hearst and Disney’s A&E started airing “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,” a harrowing docuseries from the actress and former Scientologist.
I can’t remember a time when the NRA struck fear into critics—at least not the extent that critics would be silenced. If Mr. Dumenco has evidence of the NRA organizing attacks on critics remotely similar to those we’ve learned about in Scientology exposés he should have presented it in this article. He didn’t present evidence because he doesn’t have any. He’s begging the question.
Which brings us full circle to the current talk of #BoycottTheNRA—and the two dozen big companies that have severed ties with the group. Mostly that involves things like ending discounts to NRA members, of which there are 5 million—which sounds like a lot, until you consider that a Quinnipiac University Poll released last month revealed, “American voters support stricter gun laws 66 to 31 percent, the highest level of support ever measured.” And support for a nationwide ban on assault weapons is now 67 to 29 percent.
Since there is no objective definition for “assault weapon” and many of those who support banning them believe that they are banning already illegal automatic weapons, the polls don’t really reflect real opinions about guns. The polls reflect opinions about a false narrative. This is why groups like the NRA exist in the first place—to advocate for a right that is Constitutionally protected when ignorant people vote for legislation that infringes upon that right. They also exist to counteract the ignorant among the media who don’t grasp this very basic concept.
The NRA, of course, opposes any such thing. For NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, the realization that the group’s own force field may be faltering is causing him to lash out. After the Parkland school shooting, he declared, “As usual, the opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain. The elites do not care one whit about America’s school system and schoolchildren.”
Multimillionaire LaPierre lashing out at the elites is, of course, vaguely amusing. Increasingly, gun owners have to be realizing that the NRA represents their interests less than those of gun manufacturers, as a HuffPost guest editorial recently argued.
Few would argue that LaPierre is a master of public relations. I wonder if this “vaguely amusing” behavior is what Dumenco equates with “manipulating media levers” or “striking fear into the hearts of critics.” It’s vaguely amusing that Dumenco can’t decide whether LaPierre is an evil mastermind or a disconnected dunce.
Focusing on LaPierre’s net worth makes leftist critics feel “vaguely” superior, I’m sure, but people who head up advocacy groups make big money. Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards is also a multi-millionaire. As are many union bosses, and Senators and Congressmen (who weren’t wealthy when they were first elected), all of whom routinely tout their devotion to the “little guy” with little criticism from the left wing pseudo-intelligentsia.
Bringing up LaPierre’s finances just shows that Dumenco isn’t analyzing the NRA’s situation objectively but with the intent to join the media smear (earning the requisite attaboys and back slaps from left wing colleagues). I’m not an NRA member or even a gun owner but I do support the Second Amendment. I think if anyone wants it changed they should do so by the process outlined in the Constitution, not by cobbling together bad legislation that contradicts the Bill of Rights. I’ve never been particularly impressed by Wayne LaPierre as a persuasive speaker either, to be quite honest. I am far less impressed by the kind of hack analysis contained in Dumenco’s article though.
It really looks like he contrived the Harvey Weinstein and Scientology angles just for search engine key word purposes. He did not demonstrate how the NRA was or is actively doing anything remotely similar to the things for which Weinstein or the Cult of Cruise have been outed.
Dumenco promises to explain how the media has “flipped” on the NRA when it hasn’t. Invoking Harvey Weinstein and Scientology in his failed attempt, Dumenco tells us a lot more about himself than the NRA or the media.