It’s always tough when a speaker has to alter his or her address at the last minute due to some big change over which they had no control. For instance, imagine what Wayne LaPierre’s speech to the National Rifle Association leadership forum on Friday must have been before right-wing hero Cliven Bundy donned a metaphorical white hood and declared himself a racist cretin in front of the entire nation.
It must have been a rousing cri de guerre summoning up the ghosts of great Americans from Patrick Henry to Wyatt Earp to Charlton Heston to illustrate the patriotism of Real Americans like Bundy. (Well, probably not Wyatt Earp — he was a notorious gun-grabber.) After all, the Second Amendment guarantees their right under the Constitution to declare the federal government illegitimate and threaten it at gunpoint. Or something.
Anyway, one can certainly imagine him laying out the thrilling scenario of a grizzled old cowboy and his friends and neighbors out on the range holding off the government thugs and finally forcing them to retreat rather than risk losing like the lily-livered cowards you just know they are. (I suspect he would have left out the part where Bundy’s armed supporters openly admitted that they had planned to use women as human shields — not to stop the authorities from opening fire, mind you, but so it would be “women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot.”)
He could have concluded with a rave-up finale featuring the image of Cliven Bundy, the Real American Cowboy, vs. city slicker Michael Bloomberg and his filthy 50 million pieces of communist silver. What an electrifying performance it could have been. I’m sure the crowd would have leapt to its feet weeping in ecstasy, cheering and hugging one another in gun-loving solidarity.
Alas, it was not to be. Just as the NRA was poised to claim its greatest victory and spur its members to get out there and start pulling weapons on federal officials like a true red, white and blue patriot should, LaPierre was left with nothing but a big pile of racist cow dung.
But Wayne LaPierre is nothing if not a professional. He knew he had to please this crowd and so he dug into his bag of rhetorical tricks and came up with a truly evergreen theme: the hated liberal media. He went on a tear we haven’t seen the likes of since Newt Gingrich blamed the liberal media elites for the Columbine massacre back in 1999. LaPierre took a page from Newt’s tattered Little Red State Book and thundered:
“Rather than expose government dishonesty and scandal, the media elites whitewash it all…Move on, they tell us, there’s nothing to see here … One of America’s greatest threats is a national news media that fails to provide a level playing field in this country for the truth.”
“We will never submit or surrender to the national media, I promise you that. They still call themselves journalists. They’ve never been honest about the NRA. They hate us just for saying out loud and sticking up for what we believe in our hearts. They try to ridicule us into oblivion or shame us into submission. But their moral indignation should be directed right into their own makeup mirrors. The media’s intentional corruption of the truth is an abomination.”
Then he muttered something about Benghazi and the IRS.
The crowd cheered him on, of course. This is LaPierre, after all. But the right wing railing against the liberal media is like Yankee fans railing against the Dodgers. Sure, there’s an old rivalry there from way back when — but it’s pretty stale. The real rivalry is the one it’s always been: Yankees vs. Red Sox. And in this story the Yankees are the gun owners and the Red Sox are the federal government. These guys who dress up in camo costumes and run around the woods pretending to be Navy SEALs on the weekends probably don’t even know what the liberal media is anymore — they only listen to Rush and watch Fox News. Their world is dominated by conservative media everywhere they look. What self-respecting NRA member is watching “The Ed Show” when they’ve got “The Five” beating the wingnut drums in perfect time to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.”?
LaPierre probably knew all that, but he had no choice. Once Cliven Bundy’s little white slip fell down around his shit-kickers, all LaPierre had to fall back on were the the ancient sacred texts of the conservative movement.
It’s too bad. I think it might have been a clarifying moment. We had been watching U.S. senators and major right-wing media figures openly admitting their affinity for the militia movement. That’s an important thing for the country to know. Another desultory declaration of war against a liberal media that no longer exists (if it ever did) is just a cheap applause line at this point.
The good news is that the toxic racism of the Bundy kind is now considered so extreme that even those who are sympathetic to armed revolution against the U.S. government don’t want to be publicly associated with it. Believe it or not, that’s progress.