James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘NRA’

Fear not about race or guns: a BEAFRAID solution

Posted by James McPherson on August 17, 2015

Photo from Twitter @OathKeeper101st

Photo from Twitter @OathKeeper101st

I have refrained from pretending to be someone of another race, at least since picking the losing side in childhood games of “cowboys and Indians” or envisioning myself as Bob Gibson while pitching in Little League baseball games. Still, that obviously can’t prevent me from commenting on issues of race or gender.  (Examples on race can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Examples relevant to gender here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)

So, with the wisdom that is inevitably inherent to all white, middle-class, middle-aged American men, and after careful consideration of recent problems involving racial divisions and gun fights in America, I have managed to come up with an idea that is bound to please beleaguered African Americans and gun lovers throughout the nation.

Actually, I must credit the gun-toting, freedom-loving, birther/truther Oath Keepers for prompting the idea. You may have heard of the Oath Keepers because of their recent unwanted-by-law-enforcement incitement help in Ferguson, Missouri. As described by that liberal rag the Washington Post, “The men — all of them white and heavily armed — said they were in the area to protect someone who worked for the Web site Infowars.com, which is affiliated with talk-radio conspiracy theorist and self-described ‘thought criminal against Big Brother‘ Alex Jones.”

As the National Rifle Association has regularly reminded us, our problem isn’t too many guns; it’s too few. My modest proposal: a group of heavily armed African Americans who would show up at random events to make sure order is being kept. I’ve even come up with a name for the group: Blacks Exercising Armed, Free, Responsible, American Interventional Defense. That’s BEAFRAID, for short.

You’ll notice that I made sure to get the words, “free,” “responsible,” and “American” in the name to enhance the credibility and trustworthiness of the group.

The Oath Keepers have apparently been thinking along similar lines themselves, supposedly offering to arm 50 Ferguson African American protesters with AR-15 rifles. That’s a start, and at $800 or so each, a significant investment. I wonder if they’ll also provide the ammunition. Or if they’ll be able to find 50 black guys willing to openly pack firearms while surrounded by white guys with guns and badges.

Obviously we need to think bigger, with a permanent, heavily armed African American paramilitary force ready to step in wherever the potential for unrest exists. Just think of the places the presence of BEAFRAID could be useful. Some that come immediately to mind: Confederate Flag rallies, NRA meetings, the 2016 Republican National Convention, Rush Limbaugh’s next wedding.

A couple of potential problems come to mind. The first is money. But “life NRA member” Donald Trump is rich and always looking for a good cause or something that will bring him media attention. When his presidential run inevitably ends, perhaps he’ll help out. He may also want to buy the domain name beafraid.com.

The second potential problem is leadership. As a white, middle-class, middle-aged American man with great ideas and at least a couple of black friends, I would naturally be an excellent choice. Unfortunately, with a full-time gig as a professional corrupter of young minds, I don’t have time to do take this on. But I think Rachel Dolezal might be available. And she has her own guns.

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Posted in History, Legal issues, Personal, Politics, Women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments »

Fake hair, white skin & tall tales

Posted by James McPherson on June 20, 2015

The headline above could refer to either Donald Trump, the latest passenger in the Republican clown car, or to serial liar and former Spokane NCAA president Rachel Dolezal, both of whom I commented on via Twitter and Facebook during the past week or so. Below are some of my tweets and Facebook posts from the period:

With Trump declaring his candidacy for president, I noted that I want to see his birth certificate because I don’t believe he’s from this planet. Also on the issue of politics, I commented on Jeb! Bush’s bad logo, and on the fact that President Obama had no objection to changing the name of Mt. McKinley to Denali. “Of course not; McKinley was a Republican,” I tweeted. “And Dinali means ‘Great One,’ so Obama can pretend it’s named for him.”

I commented on dumb complaints by Jerry Seinfeld and Bill O’Reilly about the supposed negative effects of “political correctness.” In a perhaps-related issue I shared a Psychology Today piece about how “Anti-intellectualism is killing America.”

Dolezal prompted widespread discussion about race  even before racist lunatic Dylann Roof killed nine people in a Charleston, S.C., church. The latest American massacre prompted the usual idiocy from the National Rifle Association, the expected cowardice of politicians, the typical dishonest of Fox News, and predictions from Jon Stewart and me that the long-term effect would be exactly zilch. As I noted on one post, “soul. ‪#‎Columbine‬ didn’t matter. ‪#‎VirginiaTech‬ didn’t matter. ‪#‎Aurora‬ didn’t matter. ‪#‎GabbyGiffords‬ didn’t matter. ‪#‎Newtown‬ didn’t matter. ‪#‎Charleston‬ won’t make a damn bit of difference, either.”

On a lighter note, there was one hero in the news this week: a cat named Tara that won a “Hero Dog Award.” I took it upon myself to come up with a quote for Tara: “Deep in my heart, I identify as a dog.”

I also commented on the fact that a woman’s picture will appear on the $10 bill, beginning in 2020. We don’t know which woman. We do know that she’ll be dead, which leaves out Sandra Day O’Conner, Hillary Clinton, Condi Rice and Caitlyn Jenner. I’m leaning toward favoring Eleanor Roosevelt, Sacajawea or Jeannette Rankin.

On the media front, I lamented the state of local journalism and the short-sighted critics who are helping kill it, and forwarded a tweet about the Charleston Post and Courier which put a stick-on advertisement for a gun store on its front page — directly over a huge banner headline stating, “Church attack kills 9.” I noted that the media coverage of the killer might encourage others, and criticized Howard Kurtz — who used to be a credible media critic but who has become just another pitifully biased Fox News shill.

I also shared an excellent Politico story about Bloomberg News. I’ve visited Bloomberg several times with students, who have chuckled over the fact that our hosts brag about the company’s “transparency” right after telling us that specific comments will be “off the record.”

OK, off to the lake for a few days escape from politics, media and home projects. Have a good week, everybody. Don’t shoot anyone.

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 21 Comments »

The cowards among us: killers, legislators and the NRA

Posted by James McPherson on December 15, 2012

A question for parents: How many of you have toy guns or “first-person-shooter” video games nicely wrapped under your Christmas trees as you get ready to celebrate the birth of Christ?

Here in America, of course, that’s just the batcrap-crazy norm, as we go from one supposedly shocking mass killing to another and another and another. Maybe this year the deaths will hit triple digits. And unless you’re related to them, or it involves a member of Congress, you probably won’t remember any of their name  by New Year’s Day.

“They packed the pews to remember, mourn and pray,” wrote CNN’s Dana Ford. “What else can you do?”

What, indeed? Surely we can’t have a serious discussion about gun control, or get members of Congress to stand up to the National Rifle Association for even common-sense legislation. After all, some folks think it outrageous that “government” keeps us from easily owning automatic weapons, machine guns and hand grenades.

We also can’t adequately fund education or mental health care, especially at the risk of raising taxes or cutting military funding. We can’t rationally discuss what it is about US that makes mass murder now commonplace. To do that would be both too scary and too political.

Despite the fact that most Americans, including most members of the NRA, favor some gun laws, we apparently can’t have any millionaires or billionaires stepping up to found an organization with lobbying influence to combat the NRA. No reason they should, since they live behind gates and their kids are in private schools. (Ironically, the chidren of workers for the country’s second-biggest gun lobby could actually be among the Newtown, Conn., victims, considering that the National Shooting Sports Foundation–which offers members a newsletter titled “Pull the Trigger,” boasting such articles as “It’s the Indian, not the arrow“– is within walking distance of the school.)

We can’t have gun-totin’ conservatives admitting that Barack Obama doesn’t really want to take away our guns, or that it’s easier to own a gun today and you can carry one in more places than before he took office. Or that conservative “hero” Ronald Reagan actually supported stricter gun laws than we have today, or than have been supported by any so-called liberal president since. After all, one of the many things Obama and Mitt Romney shared duting the recent presidential campaign was cowardice when it came to talking about guns.

Oh, we can do a few things. We can breathlessly watch the news media report the tragedy as quickly as possible, guaranteeing that they’ll get some things wrong in the process–yet again. We can expect the NRA to somehow use this tragedy as an excuse to fundraise while its followers tell us that it’s “wrong” to use a tragedy to discuss the politics of gun control. And we can continue to have nutjobs such as Spokane city councilman Mike Fagan suggest that we arm teachers or administrators.

After all, what could go wrong having stressed, distracted people in charge of too many children also packing heat? Of course they’d have to lock the firearms away, to avoid letting kids get to them. And if the gun and ammo were locked away, it would probably be useless in an emergency situation–especially because anyone looking to wreak havoc would know to shoot the teacher first, because s/he might be armed.

So what can we really do, other than to remember, mourn and pray? Well, after doing that for a few days (and perhaps for a few minutes on every Dec. 14 for the next few years) we could just let things go back to “normal” until the next mass killing. That’s what I’m betting we’ll choose. After all, it probably won’t be in your kid’s school.

Merry Christmas.

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

The daft and the spurious — another conservative conspiracy theory

Posted by James McPherson on June 21, 2012

One could spend all day trying to debunk just the conspiracy theories promoted on Fox News, and typically it’s not worth the trouble. Most people aren’t crazy enough to buy into the theories (and are too apathetic to pursue them, anyway). But one of the latest goofy theories on Fox News and elsewhere is apparently being promoted by an organization more powerful with legislators than Fox News — the National Rifle Association.

The claim comes from the current controversy over the truly stupid “Fast and Furious” program, which this week prompted House Republicans to recommend holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress (which means something different here than the “contempt of Congress” that most of us have). For its part, the Obama administration is maintaining that it has executive privilege to withhold some documents that House Republicans want. And frankly, I don’t care much about that — George W. Bush and Bill Clinton each successfully asserted executive privilege repeatedly (this is Obama’s first time), and this politically motivated attempt likely will go nowhere, and likely will hurt Republicans more than it hurts Obama.

But the NRA has latched onto a way to make the squabble into yet another way to bleed money from suckers while pressuring Congress to toe its any-gun-any-time line. In a letter to Congress, the organization supported the contempt citation — which, with the number of gutless folks eager to kiss the NRA’s brass, may actually prolong the inane process. It will still go nowhere, but will keep the issue alive for an extended period of time when Congress might instead be focusing on more important issues. And as a result, Obama gets to keep running against a partisan do-nothing Congress.

“Heightening the NRA’s concern — and requiring our involvement — is the White House’s use of this program to advance its gun control agenda,” the NRA letter states. Say what? What “gun control agenda”? It’s now easier to buy a gun in this country, and you can carry one in more places, causing destruction in more ways, than before Obama took office. In fact, Obama has been considerably weaker on the issue of gun control than Republicans Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, phony cowboy George W. Bush, or movie cowboy Ronald Reagan.

But Obama’s failure to try to take away our guns is simply a secret plot, say the NRA, Mitt Romney, and other loonies. He plans to start taking them after he’s re-elected. And while Obama’s re-election is likely, a thinking person might actually wonder … huh? Why would he wait? But if you actually followed that line of thought you’d foolishly be trying to apply reason.

For some of these folks, Obama’s lack of action — the fact that he’s done less to control guns than any president of our lifetimes — actually seems to be the evidence that he’s waiting to spring. They will not be deterred by something so basic as observable fact. The view of conspiracy theorists of all stripes might be well summarized by this paragraph (which is actually about media manipulation):

This manipulation is like one of those optical illusion pictures that you have to stare at until you suddenly see the image. Then, once you see it, you can see it every time you look for it, yet the person standing right next to you will insist there is no image in the picture – just like you did before you learned to see it. That’s what you need to do here: you need to start reading history – real history – until you start seeing how this works. Once you do and you start to see what they are doing to manipulate people and how their methods work, you will feel as though you have just been liberated. You will see it everywhere, and you’ll be right nearly every time. But I warn you, that sense of liberation will soon give way to a state of deep concern as you suddenly realize just how many of your friends are still denying the image in the picture. That’s when you come to understand just how much troublke [sic] we’re actually in.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Supreme Court & NRA may kill 2nd Amendment, aid abortion

Posted by James McPherson on March 2, 2010

Remember when gun nuts were claiming that Barack Obama would take their firearms away? Those paranoid claims bolstered weapon and ammo sales, but in fact gun regulation has decreased since Obama took office, not increased.

It’s easier (though more expensive) to buy a gun now than before Obama was elected, easier than it was under Ronald Reagan (funny how getting shot clarified his mind). Even Yellowstone Park can now boast something scarier than grizzly bears. To be fair, though, those who feel a need to wear a gun just because they can often may not be able to afford new trucks or other traditional mechanical redneck means to public prove their manhood.

Now, in response to a Chicago case, the activist Supreme Court probably will further the Wild West approach to gun ownership favored by the National Rifle Association. Chicago allows homeowners to own shotguns (which are better for home protection that handguns), but not handguns. So how open should it be? As I heard on NPR this morning, ormer Bush administration Solicitor General Paul Clement, representing the NRA in the case, “says a bazooka is probably not even an arm ‘for purposes of the Second Amendment.’ But, he concedes, ‘A machine gun is a more difficult question.'”

I’m not against firearms, by the way. I grew up in Idaho, own a variety of long guns and handguns, and once taught gun safety. That’s how I know that that vast majority of homeowners (and their children) would be safer with a dog at home and pepper spray in their purse or pocket than having guns in either place.

And please forget the tired and inaccurate argument that we’re all safer if more of us have guns and regulation is less strict. As shown here, states that are the most pro-gun tend to have the highest firearms death rates. That would seem to be common sense, but when it comes to the gun debate, common sense often is in short supply. In fact, you’re more than three times as likely to be killed by a gun in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Lousiana, Mississippi or Tennessee than you are in New York.

In the category of unintended consequences, once gun ownership becomes more widespread, and deaths ranging from kids accidentally shooting themselves to Virginia Tech-style massacres to domestic terrorism become more common, expect a backlash. That backlash might even result in a new constitutional Amendment that overturns the Supreme Court interpretation of the current Second Amendment. The NRA may find that it has a much easier time buying off members of Congress than it will controlling an fearful anti-firearms movement that it helped start.

Interestingly, the case could end up being a good thing for liberals in another arena, as well. The Court’s pro-gun decision may also help preserve abortion rights, a result likely to bother many of the same folks who are apparently untroubled by the fact that a few dozen kids are killed each day by guns.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »