Beginning this past Friday, May 3rd, and lasting through Sunday, the Houston NRA expo was ablaze with 70,000 plus people bustling amongst the nine acre gun extravaganza. There was plenty to see beside the political rants, including: manufacturer showcases complete with bra holsters, 1963 Völkswagen microbus complete with hippy peace signs, flowers, and mini Gatling gun mounted on a makeshift sunroof, and everybody’s personal favorite, zombie targets that came in a variety of images, such as: terrorists, Nazis, aliens, zombie kangaroos, clowns and even…presidential! That’s right folks, according to BuzzFeed Politics, the vender, Zombie Industries, “sells a range of three-dimensional ‘life sized’ targets that ‘bleed when you shoot them.’ Obama likeness [were] on display for two days.” The expo only lasted for three, but don’t worry, after an NRA rep asked the vender at Zombie Industries if they’d be so kind and remove the Obama targets, they were notably absent come Sunday morning. When asked why they thought the NRA reps asked them to remove the “Obama” targets, they said “They are just scared some liberal reporter will come by and start bitching,” a worker told BuzzFeed. However, Zombie Industries wasn’t the only booth to display something contentious. Over at the Coonan Inc. booth, a gun manufacture, there was also a similar Obama likeness; an Obama vampire with a stake in his heart, advertising their custom “Zombie silver bullet” set. Yet, these risqué displays were not the only booths at the convention; just the more colorful ones, because for most folks coming to the convention, it’s all about the guns.
Sadly, you cannot have guns without some kind of debate.
The place to be on Saturday evening was the Stand and Fight Rally. As the sun set on Houston, a “patriotic” fervor was being presented for those “lucky” enough to have purchased tickets. The NRA’s emotionally driven Stand and Fight Rally included speeches from Col. Oliver North, Wayne LaPierre, Larry and Brenda Potterfield, and impressionist Frank Caliendo. The main event for the evening was a near two hour impassioned speech given by none other than Glenn Beck, the host of new media network, The Blaze. Beck used his spot light to warn NRA audiences that the “freedom of all mankind is at stake,” according to ABC News. This is the same man who claimed that the Houston George Bush Intercontinental airport shooting was a conspiracy set up by vicious liberals to thwart the NRA expo. You can find that report here. However, according to the NRA blog report, in the end, Mr. Beck “received a standing ovation from the crowd for the inspirational message.”
What was Mr. Beck’s message?
The fear Mr. Beck uses is backed by an overwhelming miss-representation on the issue of gun control, the very same miss-representation the NRA leadership has been clouting over. Some of the key-notes Mr. Beck spoke on include the positive nature of guns (saving lives), defense, and other so called “cold hard facts…rejected by the political elites.” The fear Beck uses is universal, based on a baser instinct. He deliberately manipulates that fear of not being able to defend oneself. Mr. Beck’s performance seems rather orchestrated in drawing out said fear that “big bad government” will come in the night and take away the very symbol of protection in American culture, the gun. The appeal to emotion isn’t just a fallacy, it’s dangerous. Why? Emotional arguments do not require factual evidence. They drive the fear of the mob. Since Mr. Beck is so keen in using Nazi history to describe the U.S. government, allow me to return the courtesy. Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, said that there were two kinds of speakers: rational and emotional. Goebbles couldn’t understand the rational, because to him, emotional speakers were the ones who could “fire up the masses for a great cause.” To Goebbles, Hitler was an emotional speaker who could use nuggets of truth to elicit an emotional response from the crowd who were also equally miss-informed, angry, and afraid. According to Goebbles, in his published book regarding Hitler’s ability to persuade, the Führer’s words could “inspire the heart and have a lasting impact in forming a new international epoch. There is probably no educated person in the world who has not heard the sound of his voice and who, whether he understood the words or not, felt that his heart was spoken to by magical words.” You can find Goebbles’ complete entry here.
Speakers, like Mr. Beck, who use emotional driven speeches with the smallest nuggets of truth, do not require that their audience understand the words they are actually saying, and when we follow the rhetoric of fear to its logical end, it will only bring about tragedy, as it did for Germany during the Third Reich. Mr. Beck’s speech doesn’t just miss-represent the issue on gun control, but also responsible gun advocates. Without a doubt, folks around the world are looking at Mr. Beck and his message and thinking, “Are all gun owners this nuts?” As we reported last Friday, a huge fallacy in the gun debate is when people take the extreme either-or argument as factual; when most folks are actually somewhere in the middle. You can watch Mr. Becks speech yourself here.
The ugliness in all this is in imagining how positive the NRA expo could have been. Instead of getting folks all worked up over a false fear, a more responsible leadership among the NRA could have promoted gun safety awareness, effectual background checks (because remember, 65% of Americans thought that the expanded background checks should have passed legislation), a reasonable pursuit for safer schools, or, at the very least, presented some kind of alternative to the already very moderate bill that was shot down in the Senate. Instead, the NRA leadership promoted fear, fear of big government taking away American rights. Despite the fact that most attended the expo for the simplicity of responsible gun sportsmanship and to view the “goodies”, those folks are being overshadowed by the dogmatic political debacle from ineffectual leadership who seem to be more concerned about gun manufacturer rights than gun owner rights.