Home Politics What to Do When Confronted with the Ugly Lunacy the NRA inflicts on Us? The Yes Men Know.

What to Do When Confronted with the Ugly Lunacy the NRA inflicts on Us? The Yes Men Know.

Teachers with Guns, by Nancy Ohanian
Teachers with Guns, by Nancy Ohanian

If you’re the Yes Men, you meet NRA lunacy head on with the ludicrous. If you don’t know the Yes Men, Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos, from their prior projects beginning in 1996, don’t take no for an answer. They’ve just released a twenty minute film on YouTube that underscores how the NRA’s steam is generated by fear rooted in racism. Included is a segment of their summer appearance at the Reagan Presidential Library in which the “NRA” reveals their Share the Safety project to match every purchase of a selection of guns with a refurbished gun donated to a vetted residence in an inner city of the purchaser’s choice.

Satirical impersonation is a key Yes Men tool, appropriating the identities of their targets, often corporate, providing them “identity correction” free of charge. In this arena, the Russians can only bow down and admit they’re not worthy. From sample projects in the Yes Man Lab, here’s one working over the DNC’s new progressive veneer.

The following info comes from a Yes Men press release with helpful sub-links, including tracking NRA money to those profiles in courage who represent us in Congress while their canned political rhetoric redefines venality.

#WecallBS on the NRA’s Very Existence

New Yes Men film highlights fundamental racism of modern gun lobby

new Yes Men film

In the wake of the Parkland shooting and the inspiring activism of teen survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the National Rifle Association and its Republican partners are facing intense scrutiny for their critical role in the rise of mass shootings and of homicides overall in America.

The NRA’s unhinged rhetoric and utter lack of remorse have been on full display since the horrific gun massacre at Stoneman Douglas two weeks ago. Spokesperson Dana Loesch (notorious for her recent ads that seem to be mustering NRA supporters into a pro-Trump paramilitary) even seemed to blame the media for the shootings, while NRA President Wayne LaPierre spewed more of his usual “arm the teachers” lunacy (promptly parroted by the current occupant of the Oval Office).

A short Yes Men film, completed in August 2017 and launched today on YouTube, uses shock humor to remind us where the NRA’s lunacy and ugliness come from: FEAR — specifically, the profoundly terrified racism of the ’70s. Featuring a Yes Men hoax performed June 22, 2016 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the film tells:

  • how Republicans — in a terrified reaction to the Black Panthers’ performative activism — once promoted the first gun-control legislation;
  • how, once the Black Power movement was crushed, Republicans began calling for looser gun-control legislation, presumably for (white) “defense”;
  • how the NRA, once a moderate organization, became a tool of racist Republican fear when it was hijacked by extremists including LaPierre, its current president; and
  • how fear of a Black uprising partly morphed into the right-wing street’s signature terror of “government” (which in its best form, after all, is just another word for “people power“).

The film communicates how the NRA and the Republican Party, tapping into deep racist fear for their power and profit, have turned America into the most violent high-income country in the world by a truly immense margin, both overall and specifically. (We have 7 times the homicide rate, and 25 times the rate of gun deaths, of the average high-income country — mainly thanks to Republicans and the NRA.)

The film also features a comical encounter with the NRA’s Dana “Paramilitary” Loesch and her sinister, truth-indifferent “debate” techniques that so spectacularly failed at CNN’s Town Hall last week when she tried to use them against Parkland school shooting survivor Emma González.

With this film, the Yes Men wish to join the students of Stoneman Douglas (and many others before them) in calling B.S. on the NRA’s very existence. Please support them, and the nationwide #NeverAgain movement:

Flotsam and Jetsam on the Lure of Guns:

I'm the NRAApplause for the Yes Men. The more exposure the NRA’s bought and paid for mental infirmities gets outside of the safe confines of CPAC and the evermore extremist wings of NRA members, the faster any remaining shreds of credibility will depart. Members who haven’t yet completed their transformation into pod people worshiping at the sacrificial altar of a faux 2nd Amendment might start to drift. Maybe even members of mainstream media will quit prefacing their interviews on gun topics by acknowledging their ready acceptance of recent 2nd Amendment interpretations. If they bother to study up on the 2nd Amendment’s throughout most of this country’s history, before the recent political hucksterism flowing over into the courts altered it, they might instead make mention of it when they interview the instant Constitutional scholars with expertise in the 2nd Amendment, carefully honed over pitchers of beer with like-minded experts who studied at the school of Wayne LaPierre.

And boy, if it pans out the NRA’s fungible dark money millions funneled to the most venal of politicians had sources including not just the usual suspects like the Koch villains but foreign interests as well,  “I’m the NRA” ads may change out stalwart imagery like Roy Rogers for an international villain look. How delicious if the NRA goes down as a bagman.

Gun Lobby, by Nancy Ohanian
Gun Lobby, by Nancy Ohanian

When Gore was running for President, I hosted a forum on gun control issues at the National Press Club. The panel was to include a spokesman from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a couple other experts on violence, and a spokesman from the NRA. The day of the forum, the NRA told me its representative was stuck in a snowstorm in Idaho. When I asked if they would send another person, I was told no. So, I put up an empty chair in the NRA’s place and the panel had a good time working over NRA nutball mythology. Alas, eventually the NRA had the last laugh, taking as much credit as they could for Gore’s loss in various states including his home state of Tennessee, land of Davy Crockett.

Indeed, the NRA is prominent among groups that can claim credit for putting America’s democracy in front of a funhouse mirror. These include the finance/insurance sector, AIPAC, Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Oil, etc…, groups progressives shouldn’t take a nickel from. By comparison, the messages NRA-related groups have flooded the Internet with for years make claims of election impacts from Russian social media mischief a joke. As do many of the hot-button fundraising pleas bombarding our inbox, but gun rights crazy talk is in a divisive league of its own.

My personal experience with guns isn’t extensive, but it’s adequate to know guns can be a blast. When small it was exciting to walk a family farmland with my dad, looking for quail and pheasant. I took note my dad never kept shells in the house, a practice I continued when acquiring the seldom-used shotguns. My first encounter with the NRA was safety-related, back before the NRA had been taken over by extremists in the service of the gun industry. Earning a marksmanship merit badge in Kansas on the march to Eagle had more cachet than, say, basket weaving. Occasional encounters with guns since, from skeet shooting to hunting efforts that probably still have quail telling jokes around their campfires, have been fun. Less enjoyable is the sound of distant gunshots late at night in the middle of Washington, DC, where I live.

The Most Dangerous Game movie poster
Courtesy Photo

When I was a kid every boy had a Daisy BB gun. Back before BB guns could be pumped and pressurized into serious danger, buddies would don protective goggles and we’d have shootouts. Thrilling, until stung. It has me wondering how much of the attraction to guns is primal from eons of hunting for survival. But other countries, including wild and wooly Australia, have responded sensibly to gun tragedies and thus far their citizens’ DNA hasn’t broken apart. Norway is on track to ban semi-automatic weapons, I doubt mankind’s essence will melt down there either.

Perhaps gun enthusiasm might be quenched by paintball. My uncle Jack, a Carlson Raider, was the first Marine atop Mt. Surabachi at Iwo Jima. Silver Star from Howling Mad Smith for leading the reconnaissance that enabled the assault scaling sheer cliffs under withering gunfire, hand to hand combat. Naturally, I figured I’d be a natural. In my first paintball combat, surrounded by the jungles of St. Lucia, I was quickly dispatched by a young girl. Despite that humiliation my daughter and I both thought it a treat. Maybe a gun-buyback program with ample paintball coupons would find success.

I’ve hunted big game in Africa, but I did it with a camera on travel assignments. Thrilling enough for me. In the Okavango Delta, while running backwards I shot an angry flying hippo, my photo trophy ran in Smithsonian magazine. I admit I don’t mind a guide with a rifle waiting in the Land Rover in case wildlife goes wild. You don’t have to go to Africa. The US has ample parks and countryside with wildlife. Take a kid shooting with a camera.

hippopotamus jumping out of the water
Skippo the Flying Hippo, bag him with a camera. Courtesy photo

I’ve friends who are bow hunters and I’ve nothing against hunters shooting for food they consume or contribute to others, particularly when deer overload the ecosystem. One lucky friend enjoys yearly duck hunts in the English countryside, with its own rituals and the camaraderie that’s bedrock for many hunters.

But the idea of executing animals with military weapons and calling it sport turns the stomach.

writer on a gun escapade outside of Williams, Arizona
Preparing to relieve train passengers of their valuables

A favorite gun escapade was outside of Williams, Arizona. Writing a travel whimsy, I was invited to join a gang on horseback to rob a train as it returned to Williams from the Grand Canyon. It’s robbed every day, and still they endure! Fun as hell. Strict rules: though the pistols have no live ammo never point them at anyone, nothing offensive is said even in jest and don’t accept jewelry. Eventually captured and perp-walked by the sheriff (played by the town’s mayor) the length of the train, I kept my share of the loot, 27 beans. People really fork over money and robbers have turned down wedding rings. Below I’m practicing for robbing the train. My life of crime may fire up after banksters and their Senate enablers wreck the economy again.

The next day a fellow train robber took me into a mountain forest. A former LA cop and a champion quick-draw pistol marksman, he brought along a pal who was a craftsman and expert at restoring historic firearms. He brought a single shot muzzle-loaded musket, and he had earned his mountain man attire. I can’t imagine them, particularly a former police officer from the streets of LA, endorsing such perils as arming teachers or loading up the public with military weapons that can fire 120 rounds a minute. The musket was a beautiful work of art and an enjoyment. It was handy to have an expert pour the gunpowder and load for me. Musket balls are like miniature cannonballs. Even just a few shots played havoc blowing a tree stump apart. Good time. I reflected on how in battles long ago, musket-balls were usually lethal even hitting a limb, shattering bone or ripping it off. Grim enough, but my how we’ve improved lethality since militia days.

Some from my generation who go to the mat fighting any gun restrictions have me wondering if they experienced trauma giving up their Disney coonskin caps (I had one as a kid, which I wore inside my miniature tee-pee), and fringed Annie Oakley skirts, so that part of them resides forever in Frontierland. So many gun die-hards just seem like immature kids who don’t know where play ends.

Maybe some have a Red Dawn movie fantasy playing in the back of their craniums. People who really believe their assault weapon gun collections keep government in line would likely meet my definition of the mentally suspect, perhaps earning closer scrutiny for “extreme risk protection orders.”

I once caught a guy breaking into my house. I’m glad I didn’t have a gun, because then the voice in one’s head keeps muttering “gun, gun, gun” as the go-to response. Perhaps that voice too easily crowds out thinking in the minds of some police who are poorly trained or who shouldn’t have been hired. Instead I found another solution to keep him until the police took him away. Frankly, if he’d had a gun, even if I had one tucked away I’d have said here’s my cash. Material possessions aren’t worth a fatal escalation that takes anyone’s life.

Cracks are now widening in the cult reassurance of NRA mythology that allows people to ignore realities of where gun violence is most likely in the home, and not from home invaders. An Illinois gun show banned AR-15’s. Sporting goods stores are revolted by the potential of blood money. Corporate NRA promotional partnerships are now toxic. Kids who survive mass shootings call adults to account. Grand Theft Auto starts to look like aversion therapy. I think more gun proponents will find their way out of their cultural echo chamber and start to wonder what the hell were they thinking. I marvel at the contrast between those inspiring students finding their voice in Florida and the political phonies dancing a public relations cha-cha with the NRA.

Grand Canyon Railway Train Robbery
Train robbers! Quick, arm the tourists!
writer pauses with 'sheriff' at Williams, Arizona
Early release for good acting. Stop me before I rob again.

This is what I know about gun control: There is no comprehensive insurance in life but that’s a poor excuse for inaction. Everything in life is a percentage game. Every improvement we can make in this world is a matter of increasing the odds for better outcomes, wherever and whenever we can. Once that’s accepted, the flimsy reasons opposing gun control measures collapse. Absolutes are hard to come by, but every adjustment of the odds saves lives. As adjustments add up, the odds change in favor of survival, gun mayhem is reduced. A percentage game.

There is no right to risk lives and condemn families to grief for an unfettered right to own any gun one fancies.

Maybe one day the debate chair for the NRA representative will be empty not because of a snowstorm in Idaho but because nobody wants to listen to those mad hacks anymore.

POST SCRIPT: Given the depressed and suicidal mindsets of school shooters, arming teachers might actually attract mayhem. And with the likely difference in firepower, given the guns the shooters likely have, some shooters might even relish the chance of a shootout with teachers that distorted minds might see as authoritarian oppressors. A blazing fantasy  finish like The Wild Bunch. The NRA has a perfect system. Arm potential perpetrators and then use fear of them to sell guns to everyone else.

I know a guy who was at that Congressional baseball practice where a Congressman nearly bled to death, and would have had another player not had a medical background. One bullet in his hip fractured bones and badly damaged internal organs. Three others were wounded before the shooter went down. My friend, a photographer, just missed being shot in the head. He knew everyone well and despite having experienced tough situations around the world he’s still getting over the mayhem at a baseball practice. Collective trauma hits everyone around. I think we have collective national trauma from news accounts, increasing fears for our children. For those distant from mass shootings, even small doses of trauma are cumulative, depressing and desensitizing us. Perhaps a national tipping point has been reached where NRA-coddling politicians will be held to account.

EDITOR’S NOTE: About ten-years ago, I had the unique opportunity to meet William “Bill” Bratton at a Los Angeles event. At that time he was Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. He was a humble, soft spoken man with a distinct Boston accent. I recently saw him on cable news. He was posed the question if he thought school teachers should carry guns. Bratton called President Trump’s proposal to arm teachers “the height of lunacy.” Adding, “Are we also then going to arm school bus drivers and school crossing guards? The #NRA and gun manufacturers would love that.” He called the concept an “ill thought out” political band-aid. Instead, he called for improved background checks and regulations without loopholes.


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