The marketing expertise of Moms Demand Action has created a media campaign to demonize the open carry of long guns, especially in Texas. Shannon Watts, who heads MDA is a longtime professional at creating media campaigns:
She is not just Suzy Homemaker or some low-grade employee at a small company but a heavy Public relations hitter, savvy on the ways of media manipulation and making her clients look good. Basically she “grows” astroturf for a living.
Open carry activism in Texas has become so effective that both Governor candidates have endorsed the legalization of the open carry of handguns, the stated objective of the open carry groups in Texas. The media campaign to demonize open carry is attempted pushback.
The campaign has backfired, though it has managed to deceive some of those in the gun culture who have been predisposed to denigrate open carry.
The primary tool used by those who wish a disarmed population is deception, or more correctly, the creation of a narrative designed to demonize the gun culture without regard to facts. Moms Demand Action demonstrated this with the use of the famous staged photograph in their attempt to portray open carriers as threatening.
Here is the angle that Moms Demand Action used to claim intimidation:
Note that it is the same group in the same pose as the first picture. They are facing away from the restaurant where the Moms Demand Action group was located. The picture was said to have been staged at the request of one of the "moms".
The attempt to create this narrative was continued with the Jack in the Box hoax, where the incident "reported" by the police, never really happened.
The most successful of these attempts to date has been the Chipotles photograph, with the narrative that people in the restaurant were "terrified", and that the open carriers simply walked into the restaurant without any notice. That too is based on falsehoods. As far as I can tell, no one at the restaurant was terrified or concerned. It was all a media campaign promoted by Moms Demand Action to pressure Chipotles.
I talked to Tov Henderson of Open Carry Texas about the incident and the media campaign that has been mounted against the open carry movement in Texas. It is clear that the incident has been completely mischaracterized, and that many in the gun culture have been taken in by those mischaracterizations.
The narrative promoted by MDA is simple: insane yahoos brandishing assault weapons are terrifying the public in retail establishments around Texas. It simply is not true.
In the Chipotle case, the open carriers had asked permission from the establishment to open carry there before they entered. This was and has been standard practice for the group for a long time. The establishment was glad to have their business. No one showed any sign of being "terrified" or complained to the management about the open carriers. Flyers were passed out promoting open carry legislation. This was not the first time they had been in the establishment. The picture is deceptive because of what it does not show. Just outside the frame are two uniformed police officers, looking on, completely unconcerned.
OCT planned an OC meal there, so they checked with the management ahead of time and were given the okay to dine there with their rifles. A much larger group than just the two now famous guys were there. Usually there are women and children present at these events, but I don't know the size or make up of this group, only that it was larger than just these two guys who got their picture taken. The gun-carrying moms and women didn't fit the "narrative" these anti-gunners are trying to spin. While there, they passed out fliers and talked with the other diners. It was actually a good time. Some took pics and this made the news, but the story was totally wrong.
Even though Chipotle corporate issued that statement, the manager of this Chipotle's where this took place is 100% behind OCT, as is the community, and OCT is still welcome to come there with their rifles and dine whenever they want.
The entire story of patrons being afraid and not knowing what was going on was a lie told by Demanding Moms to bully this restaurant and others to ban guns. Just like the lie they told about workers locking themselves up in the walk-in freezer of Jack in the Box. Anyone with two brain cells knows you can't lock yourself in a walk-in. It can only be locked from the outside. And JitB said that story was a lie, too.
The picture illustrates that people in the open carry movement have to be diligent in the images that they present to the public, because the images may be used to foster a narrative completely at odds with what actually happened. Just as important, however, is the necessity of not allowing MDA to control the narrative. There was no outcry, outrage or complaints until the Bloomberg media campaign created a false narrative from the photograph.
Here is a quote form Pliney Gale, who was at the scene and participated in the walk:
"The Dallas group called ahead get permission from the store manager—OCT was welcomed to come eat at Chipotle, weapons and all. At the restaurant, the staff and other guests were friendly and polite. There were even many handshakes and “thank-yous” were given to both OCT and Chipotle. The DPD detective (as well as 2 DART officers who happened to be there on their lunch break) dined in the restaurant and assured that no laws were broken. Photos were taken at the event, and it was a very positive experience. There was quite simply no controversy at all."
The battle for second amendment rights is not being won or lost in these superficial media campaigns. To think so is a false assumption about reality. False narratives promoted by the old media can be harmful, but they are not the key component in this issue. If they were, handguns would have been outlawed decades ago. The Clinton assault weapon ban would never have sunset. Private sales would be illegal, and all guns would have to be registered with the federal government.
Those things have not happened because of the strong, grassroots opposition of the gun culture and the new media that has been created to serve its needs. Concealed carry spread across the nation because of the gun culture and its media, and in spite of the opposition of the old media. An important component of this is how media demonization works to promote long term positive results for the gun culture.
You probably have heard the axiom "There is no such thing as bad publicity". In this case it is mostly true. Negative publicity campaigns, such as is being waged by Bloomberg's proxies, result in very little action by those who know little about the situation, legislation, or the issues. They cause a momentary spike in opposition, but it is short-lived. In this case it seems to have been enough to promote uninformed people on social media to email Chipotles national management. There was no practical effect with Chipotles statement, that I can tell, except to move some customers to more friendly local venues. There was no legislative effect. Promoting a transitory and impulsive emotional effect is completely different from becoming politically active. The campaign has unintended consequences that have much longer lasting effects.
Some people will be interested enough to seek out more information on the Internet. Without question, this results in an increase of support for the gun culture. People become informed that open carry of rifles in Texas is not illegal. This reduces calls to police, which are already rare and decreasing. It is part of the normalization process. Finally, it directs interested parties, who did not know of the existence of the open carry movement, how to get in touch with the organization, increasing the size of their membership. Over time, the number of informed people rises, which is why the polls show a consistent long term reduction of support for restrictions on second amendment rights over the last five decades.
The potentially damaging part of the campaign, in Tov Henderson's view, is when people who are inside the gun culture buy into the false narrative promoted by the MDA, such as what happened with the unnamed NRA staffer. Even this backfired when the NRA quickly retracted the criticism. When someone in the new media, who has credibility with the gun culture, repeats the false narrative, the false narrative gains plausibility. This provides a potential "wedge" that can be used to short circuit reform legislation. A part of the false narrative that I have seen repeated on gun culture sites is that this media narrative is caused by the open carriers. Comments such as "they scored a goal on themselves" have been made. This is explicitly contrary to fact. It is not the fault of open carriers when a false narrative is created about them, just as it is not the fault of concealed carriers when they are portrayed as mad killers about to go off at any time.
I have seen a number of occasions where reforms were set to pass in legislatures, but an apparent "split" in the gun culture was used as an excuse to derail the process.
An interesting point made by Tov Henderson is that in Texas, the vast majority of contacts that the open carry groups have with the public are positive ones. Most people approve of what they are doing. Those who disapprove are a tiny minority, but they have the backing of the old media. Tov estimates that they are less than one percent of the contacts. This has been my personal experience in other states as well. I have been told the same thing by numerous other open carriers.
The entire purpose of the Bloomberg/Moms Demand Action media campaign is to create the illusion that the tiny, vocal minority is the majority, which is simply false.
Open carry reform will likely pass in the coming Texas legislative session. If it fails, it will not be the fault of the open carriers. Their efforts have brought the legislation to the point where it is supported by the candidates for governor of both parties. It will be the fault of those in the gun culture who uncritically accept the false narrative being pushed by the Bloomberg media campaign. That could be perceived as a rift in the gun culture that can be used to avoid the political fallout of failing to back the reform.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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