At heart, the NRA is a sort of PR machine for gun manufacturers, helping sell their products for them even as a dwindling percentage of Americans owns guns. After President Trump replaced President Obama, the NRA couldn’t sell the idea of a government takeover — so it had to find another way to inculcate fear among the three percent of the population who own half the nation’s guns.
The new enemy was the left, broadly understood. Grouping together Hollywood, peaceful protesters, news organizations that “assassinate” the truth, and other ordinary nonviolent features of everyday life, the NRA wants to flip the script away from the alt-right domestic terrorism that underlies so much of America’s mass shootings and punch a few hippies instead. Spokeswoman Dana Loesch has created a series of videos set to black-and-white footage of civil unrest that makes it look as though America is on the cusp of another Civil War.
After Loesch spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last month in a speech that was touted as being full of “punk-rock irreverence,” it came out that she always saw herself as made-for-TV-material. (Even if she seems demented and evil, arguing for guns.) She once tried to shop around the idea of a sitcom starring herself, because she believed a physically beautiful right-wing woman would be ratings gold. So says Paul Guyot of NCIS: New Orleans, anyway.
Dana Loesch came to me 10yrs ago pitching a sitcom starring herself: “A hot young mom who does far right radio show.” Said her age & looks would make 1 side hate her & 1 love her so everyone would watch. Was obsessed w the potential fame & money. I turned her down.
— Paul Guyot (@Fizzhogg) February 22, 2018
Like so many other things about the far right, it’s hard to tell where sincerity ends and hucksterism begins. There’s a lot of money to be made conning the marks, and CPAC is all about leapfrogging over previous gold standards for rhetorical craziness. Barely weeks after the conference ended, the right-wing desire for a second civil war hasn’t gone away. In a 2,000-word essay published Monday on the more-respectable-than-4chan site Town Hall, Kurt Schlichter goes there.
It’s not an easy read, partly because of the “keyboard kommando” faux-bravado, cheering on death and destruction from behind a Dell. It’s also saturated with a dense litany of incantatory words and phrases that signal tribal allegiance, like “Democrat Party,” and “Normal Americans” (caps in the original). (If you’ve ever interacted with right-wing trolls on Twitter, they often seem to get off on simply typing nonsense like “elitist lefty lib #maga” at you, eating their way toward the character limit without much argumentation because they think they’re hurling the most shameful insults.)
But this one’s pretty scary. Schlichter takes a sort of O.J.-Simpson, well-what-if-I-did-do-it angle, washing his hands of responsibility for a civil war while making it clear he fantasizes about exactly that. (He’s written a fantasy novel on this theme, in fact. It has the dubious title of Indian Country.) “In California, the leftist government is practically firing on Fort Sumter,” he writes, before laying out a case for a “red-state insurgency.”
There are two Civil War II scenarios, and the left is poorly positioned to prevail in either one. The first scenario is that the Democrats take power and violate the Constitution in order to use the apparatus of the federal government to suppress and oppress Normal Americans. In that scenario, red Americans are the insurgents. In the second scenario, which we can even now see the stirrings of in California’s campaign to nullify federal immigration law, it is the blue states that are the insurgents.
Got that? Refusing to cooperate with the mass deportations of law-abiding residents constitutes oppression, and it’s the moral equivalent of the first Civil War — i.e., maintaining a system of slavery. After that, it’s games out scenarios of rank-and-file cops defying “Democrat-appointed chiefs” and Wisconsin hunters taking on Abrams tanks and the general population of quote-unquote Real Americans self-actualizing as rebels who go to ground and fight the dreaded SJWs. It’s one long fetishistic battle cry, lusting for mass casualties. And of course, one major city is singled out for punishment. Can you guess which one it is? It’s the one whose ICE spokesman just quit.
A red counter-insurgency avoids the problem of a decentralized insurgency and insecure logistical lines. In the case of California, whose secessionist antics are approaching the point where President Trump could legitimately employ his power to crush insurrections, the tactical problem is relatively simple. For example, San Francisco is a hotbed of treason, but the populace is largely unarmed and is trapped in a confined area. You put a brigade on securing the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, then put a brigade on the San Francisco Peninsula to cut off the I-280 and US-101 corridors. Next you go to the Crystal Springs Dam and cut off the water. Then you watch and wait as the tech hipsters run out of artisanal sushi rice and kombucha.
In other words, the intense disagreement the country is having about immigration has spilled out of politics. It’s now grounds for occupying and besieging San Francisco. A city of 875,000 people on a hard-to-escape peninsula, most of them non-gun-fetishists, is simply too inviting a target not to subdue by force, really. (Or maybe the kombucha reference was too inviting, I don’t know.) And I don’t know much about military tactics either, but I don’t think you’d need an entire brigade of 2,000 soldiers to secure the Golden Gate Bridge, Mr. Macho Overkill. Just a couple people could run amok with that zipper truck that adjusts the concrete barriers and we’d be pretty screwed.
Town Hall is not some fringe site where hands-off editors can plausibly maintain they have no control over what people post. It’s not for Proud Boys and other cosplaying children. It’s a 20-year-old media outfit that runs AP stories and commentary from Establishment figures and whose contributors go on TV. And they thought it was cool to run a long read in a time of mass shootings about systematically killing huge numbers of fellow Americans. And is there any coincidence that this is coming out now, on the eve of Trump’s trip to the Golden State. Expect a lot more of this over the next few news cycles — and next time someone tells you “both sides do it,” send them a link.