The NRA’s insane war on the media

The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre appeared on the Meet The Press Sunday to reiterate his call for more guns in every American school, and while he was at it repeated a sentiment he introduced in his Friday press conference: the media is crazy.

“I know there’s a media machine in this country that wants to blame guns every time something happens,” LaPierre told Meet The Press. In his speech on Friday he went further, saying the media not only got it wrong in drawing a connection between guns and shootings, but that its misinformation makes the media “silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators” in mass shootings like Newtown. “They don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said.

Of course the irony is that the media’s job is to seek truth by parsing facts and data, whereas LaPierre doesn’t use any evidence or data whatsoever to argue that more guns is “the one thing that would keep people safe”—just that it’s what “what hundreds of millions of people all over this country believe.” By the way he also cites no statistics for this, and since there are only 314 million people in the country and only some of them are old enough to “believe” anything, it sounds like he’s counting them all in his camp.

But LaPierre is actually doing something ingenious by calling the media crazy—he’s preemptively signaling to supporters, “Don’t pay any attention when everyone calls me crazy, as they surely will—they’re the ones who are crazy, and don’t you forget it.” It’s a little like Gollum’s strategy in “Lord of the Rings,” whispering to Frodo that he can’t trust Sam. When Sam rightly turns on Gollum, it just turns Gollum’s warning into apparent truth.

And turn on LaPierre the media did—majorly. And not only progressive-leaning sites like Salon, that provided a fact-based report on instances when armed security failed to prevent school shootings (Columbine and Virginia Tech for starters), but Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, which proclaimed LaPierre a “gun nut” and a “loon” and called Friday’s press conference a “bizarre rant.”

By attacking their credibility before he even made his call for guns in every school, he helped steel those inclined toward his case against any meddling media, regardless of what facts and actual evidence they may present.

The result is to bolster enthusiasm for gun policies dictated by what our gut tells us about the second amendment rather than by reality. Meanwhile reality shows us that you can’t account for our gun death rate with mental health statistics. Could we use a better mental health program? Absolutely. But reality, if we care to pay attention, shows us a very simple thing about our gun deaths: it’s the guns.