A new advertisement put out by the National Rifle Association — which calls on conservatives to fight the left with a “clenched fist of truth” — has the Women’s March demanding an apology, activists calling it an “open call to violence” and a propaganda expert labeling the video “sinister.”
The video, which was published on the NRA’s Facebook page on June 12, begins with talk radio host Dana Loesch criticizing the media and the way liberals use it to “assassinate real news.” It calls out liberals in the public school system for teaching “children that their president is another Hitler,” Hollywood for progressing “their narrative” and for using their “ex-President to endorse the resistance.”
Loesch goes on to say all these venues are a means to create reasons for protest, “to scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia. To smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law abiding,” all said alongside video clips of people marching and exhibiting violent behavior.
“The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with a clenched first of truth,” she said, closing out the advertisement saying, “I’m the National Riffle Association of American and I’m freedom’s safest place.”
A New York University professor, whose research has focused on modern propaganda, called the video irresponsible and said he could “safely say the (video) is a textbook example of propaganda.”
“It’s actually an example of propaganda when it’s most sinister,” Mark Crispin Miller of NYU told TPM. “It’s extremely hostile, takes a dark view of dissonance and protest and lauds the police as our only protection against this unprecedented threat.”
The advertisement takes on the classic method of creating a “they” mentality, he said, while saluting police power.
“What it basically does is create this nightmarish image of an all-powerful ‘they,’ which would be protesters, it would be Democrats and liberals and Hollywood, the media. They’re all the same, one big monolithic entity and the goal of that entity is to destroy not just the Trump presidency, but the whole country,” he said. “The images suggest chaos and violence and brutality by an undifferentiated mass of malicious actors. … It’s aimed at resentful denizens of ‘fly-over states.’ It suggests that there’s a kind of malevolent group that’s in control of everything and trying to destroy the rest of us, the good people and our president.”
While Miller called the video a “sinister” form of propaganda, Paul Baines, a professor of political marketing at Crainfield School of Management in the UK who studies propaganda from terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda, said the advertisement was “weak propaganda” and a potentially “dangerous” method for building up the NRA’s membership.
“It’s weak in terms of its fervor. ISIS uses a similar approach, reduces the world into a binary place where the alternative is disgusting and they tend to dehumanize the others. … It potentially is dangerous if they move down that avenue. It could incite members to respond to the far left with agitation. It’s not particularly clever to build up membership in this way because it could cause sufficient concern, where people could follow through with this message and create problems,” Baines said. “These (groups) often use a fear-based appeal. … That in itself is problematic. They’re essentially saying, ‘the far left is causing problems and the only thing you can do to save yourself is to buy a gun. The only way to reduce this fear is buy a gun.’”
The Women’s March group, which organized a massive protest in Washington after President Donald Trump was inaugurated, sent a letter to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, calling on the organization to “immediately remove the recent irresponsible and dangerous propaganda videos” and issue an apology for the advertisement that “suggests armed violence against communities of color, progressives and anyone who does not agree with the (Trump) administration’s policies.”
The advertisement comes as groups across the U.S. have called out the NRA for not making a statement about the not guilty verdict for the Minnesota police office who killed Philando Castille, a gun owner who was reaching to show an officer his gun registration when he was shot.
The message behind the video was disturbing enough to push politicians and activists to tweet about the video, with Sen. Chris Murphy saying he thinks “the NRA is telling people to shoot us” and Black Leaves Matter leader Deray McKesson calling it an “open call to violence to protect white supremacy.”
And while some are outraged by the video, Jonathan Auerbach, who teaches English at the University of Maryland and is a co-author of “Weapons of Democracy: Propaganda, Progressivism and American Public Opinion,” called the video “pretty standard” for a group like NRA.
“(It’s a) routine example of propaganda designed to recruit new members by rousing indignation against a perceived enemy,” he told TPM in an email. “Not especially innovative or nuanced, but perhaps effective for a brief clip since (there’s) no need to address the substance of ‘the enemy’s accusations.”