Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I don't know how effective Mike Bloomberg's new gun control ads will be. But in the New York Daily News -- the local tabloid that isn't run by Rupert Murdoch and is very much in favor of gun control -- the ads, correctly or otherwise, are being portrayed as having the potential to do more harm than good:
Mayor Bloomberg's $12 million ad blitz to drum up Senate support for background checks on all gun purchases could backfire, Senate strategists said Monday....

The push is causing headaches for Senate Democratic leaders who want to pass the legislation but worry that senators who vote for it could get bounced, which means Democrats might lose control of the Senate next year.

The leaders want to protect Democrats like Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina, who are up for re-election next year in largely rural, gun-friendly states and are among those Bloomberg's ads target....
This could just be the usual cowardice of swing-state Democrats -- or Democrats in general. The ads focus exclusively on universal background checks, which we're told in poll after poll are overwhelmingly popular.

But a big problem here is that Bloomberg has made himself a huge part of the story. He's actually made himself more of the story than Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers have in the battles they've fought -- political junkies know who those guys are, but most Americans still don't. Bloomberg has been very, very public. He's made himself the face of this issue. Everyone in America knows that a victory for gun control would be a victory for him.

And he's a big-city East Coast billionaire. He's the guy who's literally trying to take away New Yorkers' large sodas -- a crusade for which he's been mocked by people across the political spectrum -- and at the same time he's trying to win a gun control victory he can't win unless he persuades heartlanders he's not trying to take away their guns. So he's not exactly the ideal messenger for this.

To me, the ads look reasonable -- but whoever made them apparently didn't notice that the gun owner who's shown calling for universal background checks spends the ads' entire duration with his finger on the trigger of his rifle, a violation of fundamental gun safety principles, and also seems to have the rifle pointed in a way that could threaten the kids playing in the background. All of this is self-righteously noted in a Washington Times op-ed that will surely go viral in the gun culture.

The safety principles in question are principles the NRA promotes, as a fig leaf for its main work of selling guns -- so this is the Real American NRA vs. ignorant big-city gun-grabber Bloomberg. This was an unforced error. If you're going to do an ad like this, you have to ensure that it can't be nitpicked this way. I've been lurking on right-wing Web sites for years -- pointing out logical and factual flaws in what gun control advocates say (they don't know the difference between a magazine and a clip!) is an incredibly effective techniques gunners have to build tribal solidarity and resentment of the outsider.

Bloomberg wants to be the guy who rides to the rescue and saves America from gun violence. Bloomberg wishes he could be president, and knows the polls show he could never win, and his highly visible role in this is his way of saying, See? This is how a president should lead. I'm doing what the president should do.

But what he should be doing is paying for focus groups to find out what might tarnish the NRA's apparently untarnishable luster in the heartland. It doesn't matter whether 90% of the country supports universal background checks if nearly half of that 90% still trusts the NRA, and if a lot of those folks still pay the dues that keep the NRA's propaganda flowing. And Bloomberg should back off -- Adelson and the Koch brothers failed in 2012 because they financed lousy ads, ads they would have found convincing, but swing voters didn't; Bloomberg is at risk of losing on guns because he's massaging his own ego in a different way, by making himself the embodiment of gun control.


UPDATE, THURSDAY, 3/28: As Media Matters notes, the gun isn't actually pointed in the direction of the kids and the finger isn't actually on the trigger. But as Media Matters also notes, this line of attack is spreading -- now it's being pushed on Fox. (Evidence and video at the link.)


Victor said...

Spot on, as usual, Steve!
Unforced error, indeed.

And yeah, Bloomie would be better serving the public if he was undermining the NRA itself, since it has drastically gone off of what it's message was when I was a kid, which was all about safe gun ownership and responsible shooting, and not gun ownership as an end in and of itself.

Pops said...

I dont get it but Wayne La Paranoia is, well, insanely paranoid. He says Bloomberg cant buy the American people on background checks. he does not have to when 85-90% of Americans agree with that. Oh he did not say "a scummy rich NY Jew Heeb" but he sure meant it.

Lawrence said...

Nobody likes you, Bloomberg.

Steve M. said...

Oh he did not say "a scummy rich NY Jew Heeb" but he sure meant it.

No, but this guy did say it.