In efforts to increase sales in the last year, NRA has started using the hate-rhetoric techniques developed by Hitler which, in accordance with research on cognitive dissonance, has caused rapid increases in pro-violent peer pressure appearing on social media, inclining and inciting to terrorism. A study of 400 Tea Party members found half of them already ready to shoot children merely for stealing apples off an apple tree in the back yard. Intense social pressure to support killing and violence creates a ripe picking ground for those seeking to recruit or persuade malcontents to terrorism.
The NRA has a growing problem with trying to sell to people who, on average, already own somewhere between 4 and 8 firearms (see household gun count, Meyer, 2016). One tactic the NRA is actively pursuing is to lower the minimum age to buy a gun, to 12 years old (Sugarmann, 2016). So the NRA has started rewriting fairy stories, for example, Little Red Riding Hood's granny now shoots the wolf with an assault rifle (NRA Family, 2016). However the revenue increase by selling to kids who are not yet even teenagers runs into limits of discretionary income and could reduce later sales, as the kids will have stocked up already by the time they are 18.
With those who want guns owning so many already, it's far more lucrative to make as many kinds of increasingly lethal assault weapons available as possible. That will appeal the most to the violent and anarchistic radicals who want to build an even bigger arsenal--now the gun industry's biggest customers in an over-saturated market.
Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.
- Voltaire, Questions sur les miracles (Paris, 1765)
To this end, the NRA has increasingly turns to hate propaganda, which is markedly different from sales propaganda. When Edward Bernays published the first book about propaganda in the USA, he mostly considered it a good way to help people enjoy the pleasures of consumerism and thus improve the economy (Bernays, 1928). But in Germany, Hitler figured out a totally different approach that was extraordinarily successful in persuading a war-wear Germany to start war yet again: propaganda based on raw anger. Thus it is especially noteworthy how Hitler described himself the way to persuade the public. But due to understandable dislike of him, people do not read it. As a result, those intent on persuading the public with anger (such as Donald Trump and NRA's Wayne LaPierre) are incredibly successful using Hitler's techniques. After all, if you are a unscrupulous businessman intent on winning government control, what better person could there be to emulate? So now ignorant and angry Americans are manipulated just like the Germans were, exactly as Hitler wrote:
"Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people. All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses. The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating mass of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another. The great majority of a nation is so feminine in its character and outlook that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but HAS ONLY the negative and positive notions of LOVE AND HATRED, RIGHT AND WRONG, TRUTH AND FALSEHOOD.
Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favorable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favorable to its own side.
The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These SLOGANS SHOULD BE PERSISTENTLY REPEATED until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.
Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasize the same conclusion. The leading slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula."
- Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler (Berlin, 1928)
In response to this, some complain that I am making an unfair comparison to Hitler. To clarify, I am only comparing the gun lobby's rhetoric to Hitler. Now, now many times have you heard your rights to liberty invoked, to justify the suffering of others? Well, now you can completely appreciate that for what it really is: an emotive manipulation, via anger, to serve the needs of the persuader--not you.
If rhetoric calls to increase conflict,
rather than reduce it,
then you are being manipulated
to break the social contract.
When the social contract is broken then the STATE OF WAR increases; law loses its AUTHORITY; and everyone loses rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
With the pressure to sell into an already oversaturated market, the NRA has increasingly obstructionist to government actions, even publishing hate videos against the government this year. Even five years ago, it was far more cooperative, but now it will not give an inch, modeling insurgent behavior to perfection. This appeals the most to the "gun nuts" who are most likely to buy even more weapons. But it has had the sad side effect of increasing social tension and antagonism throughout the nation, because the NRA has terrorized gun owners into believing any motion to protect life at all is going to render them prisoners to the oppressive regime that the NRA apparently despises, while on the other side of the coin, paying the government under the table every way possible to garner more profit for its gun-industry clients.
Consequently, guns are just as easy to buy as ever, and mass shootings continue to increase; to which the NRA simply says people need to buy more weapons to protect themselves, especially from an increasingly evil administration. Meanwhile, everyone else who doesn't want to live in a Wild West saloon surrounded by gun hicksters everywhere they go, would rather not permit the sale of weapons to sociopaths, terrorists, and the mentally ill. So the NRA has far exacerbated the problem. Every time another lunatic goes on a killing spree, it takes even more advantage of fear, hatred, and rejection of authority to sell even more lethal hardware, while fighting assault-weapon bans tooth and nail.
But it has to maintain a public facade that it cares. So as of 2016, the NRA CEO, Wayne LaPierre, states the solution to firearm fatality is to "take every felon with a gun, drug dealer with a gun and criminal gangbanger with a gun off the streets tomorrow and lock them up for five years or more" (NRA, LaPierre Episode One, 2016).
In 2010, ~20 million had felony convictions, projecting to 26 million this year, or about 1 in 10 adults (Suede, 2014). A third of all Americans have a gun, and there is no way to say which are going to kill someone (see Household Gun Count, Meyer, "Gun Rights Destroy National Power and Incite Terrorism," 2016). So LaPierre is demanding locking up 1 in 30 of all adults, and criticizing President Obama for not doing so. But let's put that aside. The more important issue, even if it were feasible at all, is that it would make virtually no difference whatsoever to the number being killed by firearms anyway. Let's assume ALL robbers and thieves are incarcerated who would otherwise kill. But Crime caused only 6% of firearm fatalities in 2014. Compared to deaths caused by felonious crime, twice as many were due to involuntary manslaughter and acts by children. Three times as many were due to personal disputes. And twelve times as many were due to suicides.Of those locked up by LaPierre, about half of those 6% would still be arrested again, according to federal data on recidivism (Markman et al, 2016). Let's optimistically say only half those recidivists don't shoot someone, and get convicted for another crime. That's a total reduction in firearm fatalities by 3/4 of 6%, or one life out of every 22 currently killed by a gun.
of locking all felons up for five years, at best,
would save one in twenty
of those killed by guns.
So according to NRA,
the other 95%
whose lives would have been saved by gun-control legislation
will just have to die.
But it does not matter how many times one repeats this fact to those who have already been programmed by NRA propaganda to hate, kill, and resist all government authority, as LaPierre further demands. In this next 60-second sample, 'freedom' is invoked five times (including the title), 'fear' three times, and various kinds of violence four times. The emotive link: freedom equals violence. There is a lot more where this came from (NRA, LaPierre Episode Three, 2016).
The greatest irony with the anger propagandists is that they are always most vicious when attacking others who are like themselves; just as the tiny and scrawny Hitler nobilified 'tall blonde Aryan Germans,' calling for people with his Jewish physique to be persecuted. As a final example, in this news video, NRA's CEO scorns politicians as 'elites', saying "They work together in some newsrooms and boardrooms, and Washington back rooms, and star-studded champagne fundraisers, to decide for the rest of us...These elites threaten our very survival, and to them we say: We don't trust you, we don't fear you, and we don't need you. Take your hands off your future" (NRA, LaPierre Episode Nine, 2016).
After finishing in the newsroom persuading the armed to spite authority even more, in the NRA boardrooms and Washington backrooms, in star-studded champagne boondoggles paid for by the gun industry, Wayne LaPierre then himself dishes out millions to the politicians he scorns, on condition they vote only as he directs. Anger propagandists are always most vicious when attacking others who are like themselves.
Even since the war in Iraq, there has been serious sociological research on rhetoric. The scientific model to explain the susceptibility to persuasion against reason is called Cognitive Dissonance, which refers to how individuals resist accepting facts that are contrary to those preferred by peer pressure. Even with direct sensory evidence we are wrong, out of three of us will deny the evidence of our senses rather than contradict peers.
In the absence of direct human interaction, desensitization to the feelings of others progresses as horrifying speed. Milgram (1961) first found that unsupervised volunteers would administer potentially lethal shocks to others merely because they had been told to so. You can see them doing it. It even happened if the lab supervisor had left the room. By this time, the results were captured on film, because of pervasive disbelief in Asch's findings, even though they have been replicated many times.
Later research as Stanford demonstrated that peer pressure in an authority group can even cause torture, during the Stanford Prison Experiment. It found that volunteers acting as prison guards started to torture other volunteers acting as prison inmates within two weeks (Zimbardo, 1971; Zimbardo, 2007; and prisonexp.org). Zimbardo has also made a rather bowdlerized movie portraying the experience, below (there are videos of the original experiment, but they were so horrifying, they were banned in this country. I did see the original film in Oxford while at college. You could search for them on youtube, but don't say I didn't warn you).
The above findings combined into the modern theory of cognitive dissonance, which states that most people will deny even the evidence of their senses in order to conform socially, and will generally be unware they are even doing so. In 1999, Kruger and Dunning found that people with lower IQs tend to over-rate their intelligence. Logically then, people with lower IQs are also more likely to over-rate the value of their beliefs after being persuaded by rhetoric. Prasad et al. (2004) found that people with lower IQs believed Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, without being able to cite any reason why they believed it. Nisbet and Garrett (2010) found that people would continue to believe nasty rumors about activities in an Islamic mosque even after learning facts proving the rumors wrong. And the actual situation is further worsening, because an increasing number of Americans, especially the younger generations, rely on hearsay on social media for all their news. While in the past there were many reputable magazines and newspapers, which provided educated opinions within the context of an editorial bias, the new media has decimated quality journalism.
Moreover, social media has allowed the aggregation of hostile and bigoted groups in ways not before possible, cutting across social strata with anonymity. Perhaps in absence of any guidance otherwise, the desensitization is evolving into a callous hatred of anything which remotely 'infringes' (a popular word) on a misconceived right to violence and control, so deeply rooted in gan-seller propaganda that it rejects any reasonable reply outright, no matter how sensible the statement.
At first I did not believe that people's minds could be so twisted. So while working on this topic, I asked 400 people in Tea Party groups if they would shoot a suspected robber merely for breaking and entering ("American Delusions 1: the Right to Murder", Meyer, 2016). Of the 400, over 90% not only said they would, even though all law requires an actual threat to be present before armed self defense is justified. If I asked how they knew the law, 75% simply said "the 2nd amendment give me the right (to kill)" and knew nothing more about it. If I asked where they had learned this or what books they had read on the subject, stating my own schooling in a friendly way, I was almost invariably told something like "only idiots go to college, and only morons read books. I am much smarter than you." I would say, there are more definitions than one of natural rights, such as by Grotius, Hobbes, Locke, Jefferson, Rawls, and Hare. How do you know your definition of your rights is better than theirs?" That usually ended the conversation.
For others, the very prospect of being able to use their guns in self defense even thrilled them with vigilante zeal, often coupled with religious statements about God protecting the holy from evil. For them and others, I ignored the profanity often littering such statements and continued to determine the depth of their determination to kill. While I asked how big a threat would cause them to kill, ~10% lead other respondents in congratulated themselves and others on their enthusiasm to defend themselves, further profanely rebuking any doubt or hesitation.
I asked if they would look to see it it was a child first. Over half stated they would kill at once, without even looking if it were a child.
They stated they had a right to kill anyway, so why should they care how old the person was that they were killing. One in ten argued extensively that they had a right to murder anyone infringing on their property without qualification, even children in their back yard picking apples of one of their trees. I patiently repeated over a 100 times that constitutional rights result in many other contrary situations where rights of each other are infringed. Taking the life of a hungry teenager who is taking an apple off a tree in your back yard is depriving them of rights too--the gun toters were just losing an apple. The child was losing their life. It made no difference, no matter how many ways I tried to say it. To the contrary, more than several even accused me of being a coward because I would not immediately shoot someone breaking into my property. By refusing to shoot a child, they said I was proving myself their inferior. Glowingly commenting on their own bravery, they stated my refusal to shoot a child proved them my better, and any further debate with stupid cowards is pointless.
By angrily scorning refusal to shoot a child
Pro-gun activists are desensitizing each other
from aggressive action,
enabling insurgency, revolution, and terrorism
Thus, via social media for the Tea Party and 2nd Amendment forums, while gun activists vociferously support each other for agreeing to kill without hesitation, just as in the Stanford Prison Experiment, they are urging each other to even greater inhumane travesties. It is a ripe ground for those seeking to find support for insurgency, revolution, and terrorism. The peer pressure to kill indiscriminately has already desensitized 10%-50% of gun activists to the point where they are ready for proactive violence, rather than just self defence.
Maria Konnikova wrote of this kind of phenomenon "All else being equal, we act as we think we're expected to act, especially if that expectation comes from above. Suggest, as the Stanford setup did, that we should behave in stereotypical tough-guard fashion, and we strive to fit that role" (Konnikova, 2015). Just as in the Stanford Prison Experiment she was describing, gun owners are expected to be tough guards, and just as in the Stanford Prison Experiment, they will tire of the limits imposed, and seek greater aggression.
In the past, people might have talked about shooting children with actual human beings, like their parents, who should rapidly indicate they are being sociopathic. But with anonymous social media as peer support, the tough can only get tougher. They callously argue about statistics, objecting to every single measure one might attempt to save lives, ignoring how they are complicit to innocent deaths, and with total oblivion to their inhumanity. How small a step it is from such attitudes to outright militant aggression, while the gun lobbies continue to block any restriction on their sales within their power.
- Asch, S. Effects of group pressure on the modification and distortion of judgments, In H. Guetzkow (Ed.), Groups, leadership and men (Pittsburgh, 1951).
- Bernays, Edward. Propaganda, (New York, 1928).
- Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf (Berlin, 1925-1926). Trans. James Murphy .
- Konnikova, Maria. The Real Lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment, New Yorker (Jun 12, 2015).
- Kruger, Justin, and David Dunning. Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (7.6, 1999).
- Milgram, Stanley Behavioral Study of Obedience, Abnormal and Social Psychology (67.4, 1963).
- Markman, Joshua, and M Durose, R Rantala, A Tiedt. Former BJS StatisticianRecidivism of Offenders Placed on Federal Community Supervision in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010, U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics (Jun 2016).
- Meyer, Ernest . American Delusions 1: the Right to Murder (Yofiel, 2016).
- Meyer, Ernest . Crime Caused only 6% of Firearm Fatalities in 2014 (Yofiel, 2016).
- Meyer, Ernest . Gun Rights Destroy National Power and Incite Terrorism (Yofiel, 2016).
- Nisbet, Erik, and Kelly Garrett. Belief in rumors Hard to Dispel: Fact checking easily undermined by images, unrelated facts, Ohio State University (2010).
- NRA Family. Little Red Riding Hood (Has a Gun) (14 Jan 2016).
- NRA News. Demons at our door. LaPierre Episode Three (2016).
- NRA News. The truth about background checks LaPierre Episode Five (2016).
- NRA News. We don't need you. LaPierre Episode Nine (2016).
- Prasad, Monica, and A.Perrin, K.Bezila, S.Hoffman, K.Kindleberger, K.Manturukand, and A. Powers. There Must Be a Reason: Osama, Saddam, and Inferred Justification, Sociological Inquiry (29.2, May 2009).
- Suede, Michael. What Percentage of The US Adult Population Has a Felony Conviction? Libertarian News (5 Jun 2014).
- Sugarmann, Josh. Ten Gun Industry and NRA Quotes About Selling Guns for Children, Huffington Post (23 Feb 2016).
- Zimbardo, P. The power and pathology of imprisonment, U.S.Committee on the Judiciary (1971).
- Zimbardo, P. The Lucifer Effect: understanding how good people turn evil, Random House (2007).
- Zimbardo, P. The Stanford Prison Experiment, Website.
I am a retired scholar and Master Freemason in The Wild of the 16th-century lodge of Devonshire (UK). I was born in Washington DC, studied philosophy and psychology at Oxford University, and now live in Sacramento, California. I am not paid for this work, and this is my personal website, which is named after the archangel of divine beauty. In the past, I worked to further pluralism and multinational cooperation to create a better life for all in Silicon Valley, California. I worked on specifications for the Pentium I (for Intel), the first 802.11 wireless internet protocol (for AT&T), the HTML/CSS/DOM interface for digital TV (for Comcast, Rogers, Shaw, and others), and the iPad microprocessor (for Apple). Prior to engineering work, I worked as a journalist in New York.