“They use their media to assassinate real news,” the woman’s voice says scornfully. “They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again.”
It may sound like an excerpt from North Korean state television railing against the evil Americans and their corrupt democracy on the far side of the Pacific.
But these are the opening lines of a new recruitment video by the National Rifle Association of America that is headlined by conservative television host Dana Loesch. The Blaze personality and NRA spokeswoman doesn’t hold back, painting a stark picture of the U.S. political climate that some have interpreted as an ad designed to provoke fear, if not incite violence.
This new NRA ad is barely a whisper shy of a call for full civil war. https://t.co/N33s2KyvVz
— Jeff Sharlet (@JeffSharlet) June 28, 2017
The video is just over one minute long, but it has generated more than 3.3 million views, thousands of comments and shares, and lots of controversy.
“I’m an old white guy and a life member, but this BS is disgusting,” Facebook user Eric Eugene Rush commented under the post. “When you spew crap like this, you don’t speak for me anymore. I try to avoid doing things on the spur of the moment, but I’ll be thinking about canceling my membership.”
“Jeeeeesus … it almost looks like you’re encouraging violence against demonstrators,” Steve van der Lacy wrote. “Just let the police do their jobs when or if protests get out of hand.”
The video elicited a strong reaction from Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson, who called the video “an open call to violence to protect white supremacy.”
This NRA ad is an open call to violence to protect white supremacy. If I made a video like this, I'd be in jail. pic.twitter.com/LD65yMUMVn
— deray mckesson (@deray) June 29, 2017
— deray mckesson (@deray) June 29, 2017
Former talk show host Montel Williams also chimed in, saying, “I find it disgusting.”
— Montel Williams (@Montel_Williams) June 29, 2017
Loesch did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment about the video, nor did the NRA.
“I hardly think that condemning violence is inciting violence,” she told the New York Times when asked to comment on the video. “I think the ad is very clear — there are excerpts from actual riots that are included in the ad, and that’s exactly what I’m addressing.”
Lie. No one called for guns. You owe an apology for trying to purposefully incite with such impugnation. https://t.co/Z7xSiBl6Qe
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) June 29, 2017
Critics released a petition calling for Facebook to remove the video, which the petition refers to as “inflammatory.”
“All we have to do is look at the increase in violence since the election to see how unchecked violent rhetoric has real life consequences,” the petition states. “Letting this disturbing video stay on Facebook would be extremely irresponsible and could very well lead to disastrous repercussions.”
“The video tries to create an ‘us-vs-them’ narrative and pit Americans against one another,” the petition, which has garnered about 10,500 signatures, adds. “It paints liberals as liars and as violent, unruly protesters who law-abiding gun owners need protection from.”
In the ad, Loesch accuses “their” ex-president of endorsing “the resistance,” a movement of demonstrators who “smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports — bully and terrorize the law-abiding.”
“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 fist of truth,” Loesch concludes. “I’m the National Rifle Association of America and I’m freedom’s safest place.”
If Loesch’s rhetoric is an attempt to draw battles lines and stoke outrage, she’s feeding into a clearly-defined narrative that exists among right-wing websites on the Internet, one that views a clash between conservatives and liberals in almost prophetic terms.
After James T. Hodgkinson opened fire on Congress members at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., wounding five — including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) — some far-right websites used the shooting as an opportunity to advance the sense of impending doom, according to Washington Post reporter Abby Ohlheiser.
“Within an hour, Infowars.com had published a story headlined, ‘LEFTIST GUNMAN SHOOTS REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN IN MEDIA-INSPIRED TERROR ATTACK,'” Ohlheiser wrote. “The gunman had not yet been publicly identified when the story was published, nor had his motivation or political views.”
“We have been warning for months that the mainstream media’s hysterical anti-Trump narrative and the left’s insistence that Trump is illegitimate will radicalize demented social justice warriors and prompt them to lash out with violence,” Infowars’s Paul Joseph Watson wrote in the article. “It looks like that’s exactly what happened today. The blood is on their hands.”
More recently, conservatives including Newt Gingrich and Eric Trump have criticized what they have called “an increasing hostility on the left,” in clashes at Berkeley, Calif., and Portland, Ore., and from celebrities such as Kathy Griffin.
On the NRA’s Facebook page, one user said the “biggest problem” fueling the impending violence narrative is “the idea of ‘Team’ politics — Red vs Blue.”
“We need to stop believing that our chosen ‘Team’ will always do what is right,” Albert Stroh wrote. “Start researching your elected politicians. Study their voting history, their campaign donors their level of connection and commitment to the communities they are elected to serve.”