The results of an 18-month survey of advertisements in the National Rifle Association's (NRA) magazine, America's 1st Freedom, squared neatly with the gun group's own tendency to use to fear as a marketing tool.
Media Matters reviewed advertisements that appeared in the NRA magazine from January 2014 through June 2015 and discovered that they appealed to a wide range of fears, including the threat of starvation due to food shortages, the dread of losing the ability to live independently because of declining health, the prospect of a terrorist attack, and the need to carry a collapsible assault weapon in a briefcase for self-protection.
NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre often uses fear to motivate people to support the NRA or purchase firearms.
In a February 2013 column for the magazine, LaPierre argued that Americans needed to buy guns to ensure their "survival" while warning of calamities including, "Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. [and] Lone criminals." Prior to the 2014 elections, in a special election edition of America's 1st Freedom, LaPierre urged supporters to back the NRA's preferred candidates while raising the specter of several different terrorist attack scenarios, including an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that would kill 9 out of 10 Americans. LaPierre has also warned conservative audiences about the threat of "home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, and rapers, and haters, and campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse our society that sustains us all."
Advertisers in the NRA's magazine often played on the same fears, urging readers to buy their products to protect against one calamity or another. Similar to other conservative media websites, some of the products advertised in America's 1st Freedom were of extremely dubious value, including an "anti-aging" supplement that had not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and expensive jewelry made from low-cost materials. Some products in the magazine were simply bizarre or retrograde, including an accent lamp that celebrates the Confederacy and a watch that allows users to "Tell Time Like a Man."
"The Light Of The South," an accent lamp featuring the likeness of Confederate general Robert E. Lee and several pieces of Confederacy iconography, was advertised in the NRA magazine for $135 under the tagline, "Southern Pride Shines On." The lamp featured several variations of the Confederate flag as well as two CSA (Confederate States of America) emblems and the dates commemorating the beginning and end of the Confederacy.
Gun Owners of America -- a far-right gun group whose leader has been linked to white supremacists and has suggested that mass shootings are staged by the government -- will host Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz to address the group's "activists."
GOA is headed by Larry Pratt, a conspiracy theorist who frequently espouses extreme views on gun regulation. The group is considered to be to the right of the National Rifle Association touts itself as "the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington."
According to an e-mail sent to GOA supporters, Cruz will speak at a "Tele-Town Hall" meeting on May 27. GOA "is surveying and interviewing all of the candidates," but Cruz is the first to agree to address the group:
Cruz, who has received campaign contributions from GOA, previously praised the group as "strong defenders of the Second Amendment."
Although media sometimes ignore GOA's extremism, the group and its leader ascribe to a hard-right ideology. In 1996, Pratt was forced to leave Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign after it came to light that he had spoken at a militia conference alongside leaders of the white supremacist movement. GOA also donated "tens of thousands of dollars" to white supremacy group CAUSE in the 90s.
On the issue of gun violence, Pratt has flirted with the idea that the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting and the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater mass shooting were carried out by the government. Pratt has also suggested that politicians who support gun violence prevention laws should fear being shot and recently claimed that rioters in Baltimore should have been shot on sight. Among Pratt's lowlights:
During a bizarre appearance on The Alex Jones Show, Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested the Obama administration is engaging in "Nazi stuff" by using ethnic politics, and wants to confiscate all the country's firearms and put people "in jail for even having them."
Jones, America's leading conspiracy theorist, believes the government perpetrated mass catastrophes like the September 11 attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, the Boston Marathon bombing, and several mass shootings. Jones has recently been pushing the conspiracy theory that a military training exercise, Jade Helm, is an attempt to create martial law in the United States (it isn't). Jones is an ally of Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul and helped launch his political career.
Fox News executive vice president Bill Shine has dismissed Jones, saying he "wishes he had a platform on Fox News ... That's not going to happen, so he should stick with trying to locate the black helicopters." Some of Carlson's colleagues have dismissed Jones as a "nut job radio guy" who owns a "radical far-right Web site."
Carlson, who is also the founder and editor in chief of The Daily Caller, claimed during the appearance that progressives use ethnic politics and identity politics to divert attention from their "policy failures." He said the strategy is "really dangerous," comparing it to countries where there is a violent ethnic divide. He said of the Obama administration: "They categorize people by race in a way that, you know, you can't even imagine -- 30 years ago you would have said, 'Wait a second, that's like Nazi stuff.'"
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly interviewed a former biker gang leader about a recent biker shootout in Waco, Texas that left nine people dead. O'Reilly's interview with his white guest was a sharp contrast to interviews the host regularly has with African-American guests, where he lectures them about black violence, culture, and family structure.
On May 17, authorities arrested roughly 170 bikers following the deadly shootout between biker gangs and police in Waco, Texas that left nine people dead and 18 wounded outside of a restaurant. According to The New York Times, "Law enforcement officials and gang experts said the conflicts between two motorcycle groups, the Bandidos and the Cossacks, led to the shooting."
During the May 19 edition of his show, O'Reilly interviewed former Bandidos biker gang member Edward Winterhalder to comment on the bloody shootout. During the discussion O'Reilly asked Winterhalder about alleged violence and criminal activity among biker gangs and allowed Winterhalder to explain uninterrupted that "there is a lot of different types of individuals in a motorcycle club" but most are law abiding citizens who "are just regular guys who have jobs, families, and kids ... the only thing they're guilty of is having a little too much fun on the weekends":
From the May 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News falsely asserted that President Obama was disarming police officers by issuing an executive order limiting the transfer of certain military equipment to local law enforcement agencies. But the order merely limits local law enforcement's access to certain types of military equipment by prohibiting their acquisition from the federal government.
National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent attacked President Obama and gun safety advocates for calling attention to the deaths of children from guns, calling such efforts "The Big Lie" -- a phrase associated with Nazi propaganda.
Gun accidents and homicides involving children happen far more frequently in the United States than in other affluent nations.
In a May 13 column posted on conspiracy website WND (World Net Daily), Nugent wrote, "The Big Lie about guns is that innocent kids are being gunned down or are accidentally shooting each other."
Arguing that "very few kids under the age of 10 die or are injured as a result of gun-related accidents," Nugent wrote, "The vast majority of teenagers who die as a result of guns are involved in gangs. They are punks, thugs and street rats who have dropped out of school and let out of their cages over and over again by a so-called 'justice system' gone bad."
Hitler first wrote about "the big lie" in Mein Kampf. The Nazi leader accused Jews of telling "the big lie" to corrupt "the broad masses," who he claimed "more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie." The phrase is also associated with tactics used by chief Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
It's hard to argue that accidental gun deaths involving children are not worth calling attention to, let alone that covering such tragedies is comparable to Nazi-style propaganda. And it is no surprise that accidental shootings involving children receive widespread media coverage, given how shocking and senseless they are.
According to a project of Everytown for Gun Safety, there have been at least 88 incidents just this year "in which a child 17 or under fired a gun unintentionally and someone was harmed as a result." In 2013, the group documented at least 100 accidental shooting deaths of children aged 14 or younger. A Mother Jones report that examined the same time period found 84 fatal gun accidents involving children aged 12 and under, 64 of which involved a child pulling the trigger, killing themselves or someone else, which debunks Nugent's claim that children are not "accidentally shooting each other."
The National Rifle Association's media arm is deliberately misrepresenting a proposed new law in North Carolina that would repeal background checks on private pistol sales, falsely claiming that it would merely shift required background checks from one government system to another.
In reality, the bill would eliminate a pistol permit requirement that currently ensures that buyers of pistols from private sellers at gun shows and online undergo a background check, thus creating a loophole for felons and other persons prohibited by law from purchasing firearms.
Members of the North Carolina House of Representatives are currently considering H.B. 562, a piece of legislation that would repeal a state requirement that anyone who wants to purchase a pistol first obtain a permit from their local county sheriff -- a process that involves undergoing a background check. H.B. 562 has so far passed two House committees, although an effort to fast-track it was recently abruptly canceled.
If the pistol permit requirement is repealed, individuals who buy from private sellers at gun shows or online would no longer have to undergo a background check before completing their purchase.
Right on cue, the National Rifle Association has unveiled its 2016 presidential election conspiracy theory with the baseless claim that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is harboring a secret plan to confiscate Americans' firearms. But Clinton has never endorsed such a plan and in fact has defended private citizens' right to own guns.
In a May 11 article published in the NRA's magazine and on its lobbying website, the gun group wrote, "Whether or not she understands the Second Amendment, Hillary Clinton disdains and distrusts that freedom," and claimed Clinton "wants control over every aspect of your right to keep and bear arms -- so she can deny it at will."
Clinton's own recent statements about "the right of people to own guns" meant the NRA was forced to juxtapose a series of old Clinton quotes -- some dating back to the late 1990s -- and hope that its readers would make implausible leaps of logic to buy into the conspiracy theory that a President Hillary Clinton would confiscate firearms. The NRA ran a similar fearmongering campaign about President Obama during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections that also had zero basis in fact.
In the article, the NRA purports to describe a secret plan by Clinton to confiscate firearms. The alleged starting point for the plan, however, is based on a distortion of the truth.
A newly expanded version of the National Rifle Association's flagship magazine has already featured racist and sexist content, a claim that gun owners are the victim of "institutionalized discrimination," and other inflammatory commentary.
In recent weeks, the NRA has rebranded its magazine America's 1st Freedom. While the magazine was previously available in a print and digital format, a newly-launched website has more content, including "F1rst Things First" ("The Daily Threat Assessment for Your Firearm Freedoms"), features by a wide range of NRA writers and outside contributors, and material from the NRA's lifestyle magazine NRA Sharp and the NRA News commentator series.
In a May 4 feature that promoted controversial "Stand Your Ground" self-defense laws, former NRA lobbyist Darren LaSorte, who now works for the NRA's ad agency Ackerman McQueen, described a past experience where he would have felt "clearly justified in [his] mind" to push a homeless man who was yelling at him and waving his hands around his waist in front of a bus. As it turns out, LaSorte was actually able to defuse the situation by crossing the street.
LaSorte recounted how "[o]n an evening walk home from work a while back, a mentally ill man picked me out of the crowd for whatever reason and things went south from there." According to LaSorte, the man yelled at him and came "contact-close" while "[h]is hands went from waving wildly in the air to down around his waistline."
He then recalled almost pushing the man into traffic (emphasis added): "I was about to launch him away from me with an explosive and instinctive push to his chest. Just at that moment out of my peripheral vision, I noticed a city bus speeding by in the nearest lane of traffic. I stopped at the last moment and instead moved off a couple of feet to my right. If I had pushed him away from me, I would have been clearly justified in my mind, but the government might have viewed it differently if this man had been severely injured or killed by the passing bus."
Once the traffic light changed, LaSorte wrote that he walked across the street and the man did not follow him. Citing other instances of being approached by "someone suspicious," LaSorte promoted the NRA's work in advancing "Stand Your Ground" laws. These laws actually increase the incidence of homicide, and a primary criticism leveled at such laws is that they needlessly escalate situations, resulting in lethal outcomes.
From the May 11 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
Loading the player reg...
From the May 6 edition of Fox News' On The Record with Greta Van Susteren:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News contributor Rob O'Neil said the thwarted attempted terrorist attack in Garland, Texas was "a prime example of the difference between a gun-free zone and Texas," a state with permissive gun laws. But in fact, civilians were banned from bringing guns to the event where the attack took place.
On May 3, two gunmen armed with assault weapons opened fire outside The Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, wounding a security guard. An armed police officer quickly killed both men. The attackers' target was an event hosted by anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller that featured a contest of cartoon drawings of the Islamic prophet Mohammed.
On the May 6 edition of Fox & Friends, O'Neil, citing the attack on the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo, suggested that the outcome of the Texas attack could have been far worse had the event been held in a "gun-free zone." He also said that the gunmen "were quickly introduced the Second Amendment" when they opened fire, and declared, "People need to realize that the best way to protect themselves from these attacks would be to arm yourself."
Conservative media frequently advance the evidence-free claim that "gun-free zones" -- their term for places where civilians are not allowed to carry firearms -- are vulnerable to mass shootings and invite attacks by terrorists.
The thwarted attack, however, actually did take place in what conservative media would characterize as a "gun-free zone," proving the fallacy of O'Neil's suggestion.
From the May 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
National Rifle Association (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre relied on numerous falsehoods to claim that President Obama will move to ban sales of all firearm ammunition before he leaves office, thus making "the very real nightmare of every single gun owner in this country" a reality.
In the May issue of the NRA's magazine, America's 1st Freedom, LaPierre wrote, "President Barack Obama is setting the table to ban your ammunition -- all of it," and claimed that "the remaining two years of Obama's term pose the greatest threat ever to the Second Amendment and our freedom."
LaPierre imagined a ludicrous scheme where "two fatal turns of events" would lead the EPA to ban all lead ammunition and, subsequently, the Obama administration to ban all non-lead ammunition. According to LaPierre, "The president's bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are partnering with private enviro-radicals to ban lead projectiles -- including all hunting bullets -- as hazardous."
Despite the fact that the EPA has given no indication that it is preparing regulations on lead ammunition, LaPierre insisted that the agency is still seeking a ban.
The facts prove him wrong. In December 2014, FoxNews.com reported that "[i]n a decision favorable to gun enthusiasts," a federal court ruled against environmentalists who argued that the EPA has the authority to regulate lead ammunition. According to FoxNews.com, "The National Rifle Association and much of the pro-gun lobby intervened on the EPA's side in urging the federal appeals court to uphold the dismissal of a lawsuit by 101 environmentalist organizations." (The EPA does not believe it has authority to regulate lead ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act.)