Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Shape of Disinformation

Back when I used to teach businesses how to deal with the media, there was a point in my seminars when I had everyone stand up, raise their right hands and sewear this blood oath: "We will not spin!"

Spin in media is exactly like spin on a cue ball in pool, a little "english" on a news item to make sure it goes the right direction. I used to tell my seminars that there is another word for spin, and that word is, "Lie." Funny how that works.

Spin is the handmaiden of disinformation. Disinformation is false "information" — a lie — released for a specific purpose, essentially the information equivalent of a bullet. The old Cold War Russians were masters of disinformation...I've read declassified papers that evidenced a profound understanding, better than our own understanding, of how media works in a free society.

So what got me to thinking about spin and disinformation on this beautiful Saturday morning? This Washington Post column by industry turncoat Richard Feldman. Here's the "nut graf:"
What we do have, though, is an organization whose senior leadership is dedicated to keeping the gun debate alive and burning in the American consciousness, for its own self-serving and self-preserving reasons. That organization is the National Rifle Association.
Of course, it's a reprise of the theme from Feldman's recent book Riccochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist, which was quite popular with the East Coast intelligencia and no one else. Feldman casts himself as a centerist, the voice of reason in the middle of the gun debate. he is, of course, neither of those things. I have met the man, and his need to be "important," to be somebody, oozes from the pores of his skin. He is Sarah Brady in a cheap suit.

That said, the WaPo story is a masterful piece of disinformation; I seriously doubt Feldman could have constructed this without substantial input from some of Brady's or VPC's professional spinners. There are several preconditions for disinformation to work:

  1. It has to be very close to the truth.
  2. It has to be targeted precisely toward the preconceived notions of the target audeince.
  3. The author of the disinformation must be perceived by the target audience as having standing.
  4. It It needs to have a simple message.
The simple message of Feldman's piece is that the NRA is evil. This message was no doubt constructed because all the other messages from antigunners have feiled. Quite simply, the antigun message has failed failed failed. I agree with the premise that there hasn't been an antigun lobby in the U.S. for a long time...rather, a few northeastern uber-liberals, with the complicity and active participation of the MSM, have presented their antigun beliefs as if they were part of a movement.

Since that message failed, the antigunners need a new message, and Feldman, weasel that he is, has been happy to provide it — the NRA is evil. It's no secret to you guys that I have at times had my differences with the NRA on some elements of policy. However, you all also know that at the same time I unequivocally support the primary mission of the NRA — the protection of the Second Amendment — with which they do a superb job! Given that this is an election year; given that the Second Amendment is before the SCOTUS; given that we are holding onto a slim victory, an attack on the NRA is a calculated attack on all of us. Believe it!

BTW, here's my favorite part of Feldman's perfectly demonstrates the fundamental concepts of disinformation:
I've been down this road more times than I care to count. But the truth is that much of the public debate over gun rights and gun control is disingenuous. Gun owners of every stripe -- liberal, moderate, conservative -- and non-owners alike can and do agree that violent criminals, juveniles, terrorists and mental incompetents have no right to firearms. Federal and state laws, despite poor enforcement by the courts, underscore that. Further, there's no significant debate -- nor should there be -- over private ownership of guns for lawful purposes such as target shooting, hunting, self-protection and collecting.
"No significant debate????" What planet is he living on? Obama is in favor of banning handguns; Mitt in favor of banning "assault weapons;" attacks on firearms ownership still come from every corner. But by phrasing this paragraph the way he did, Feldman implies that the debate is long over, so why would we need an organization like the NRA?

Ah, weasels will be weasels,won;t they?



Anonymous said...

I particularly like the "juveniles" term he throws in. He conveniently overlooks a couple of simple facts suggesting that he isn’t as knowledgeable as he pretends OR just chooses to lie.

1)The federal government begins counting hunters at age 16
2)Most states require a hunting license as early as age 12
3)Kim Rhode won her first Olympic gold medal one week after turning 17
4)KC Eusebio won the World Speed Shooting Championships at age 15
5)Randi Rogers won the Women’s Cowboy Action World Championships at age 15
6)The Scholastic Clay Target Program has 10,000+ junior competitors and teams as young as 5th grade shoot trap, skeet & sporting clays

There are far more examples of “juveniles” using firearms in a lawful and safe manner, Feldman simply chooses to ignore it to spin his story.

Unknown said...

Dear Sir;

In future communiques, we would prefer you find another species to pick on other than the weasel.

As a Weasel-American, I take great offense at your insinuation that vermin such as Feldman should be associated with the weasel, a creature of fine and proud tradition in comparison.

We do not seek to hang a "PC collar" around your neck, but future use of the term "weasel" to describe things such as Feldman will leave us no choice bu to launch a full boycott of this blog, DRTV, Cowboys, and Shooting Gallery.

Edwin F. Roost Raider,
Coalition for Protection of Weasel-Americans.

Anonymous said...

Sad thing is some gun owners WANT to believe this crap. It is a shame how often I have to defend the NRA. And the ones who really piss me off are the ones that say they used to be a member but did not renew because of all the "junk mail" the NRA sends them. What a bunch of wussies. I can just see George Washington quitting because of too much junk mail, can't you?????

Anonymous said...

I would be in agreement with you were it not for the counterpoint of another gunscribe whose opinion I value: Dean Speir.

He makes a good point. The NRA has yet to convince this ex-member that it is more dedicated to protecting my rights than it is to protecting its own existence.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of disinformation, you should have seen the CNN anchor woman try to put a spin on their latest 2nd amendment poll.

You can go here to read the text part of it:

Man! I wish there was a video portion to it somewhere. It was kind of painful and hilarious to watch at the same time.

When that page opens up, at the top right there is a story highlights section, which includes this:
Some say 2nd Amendment means everyone has right to own a gun

Others say 2nd Amendment protects right to form a militia "

Ugghh? CNN could you be just a little more vague with your statistics there?

Then at the bottom it says they polled one thousand and two adults.

If you're going to go to all that trouble of cold calling 1,002 people, I would think you would want more descriptive stats rather than "other" and "some".

Absolutely hilarious! LOL!

I'm also despondently shaking my head at the same time because I know somewhere out there some anti is going to try to twist those "stats" to fit their agenda.

Anonymous said...

To "pdb",
I am often faced with the same feedback from other people regarding the NRA. (That they are "in it for themselves".) For purposes of listening to understand your point, could you please give us a few examples of why you've come to that conclusion? I don't see it that way, but I really would like to understand why some others do.
Life Member

Anonymous said...

How about that every major gun control law in this country since 1934 has passed with the NRA's tacit approval?

How about the way the NRA has never even mentioned the SAF in regards to the New Orleans gun confiscation lawsuits, even though the SAF took the lead on them, and the NRA wasn't going to do a damn thing to help until it became clear that the SAF might just win?

How about that the NRA upper echelons constantly squeeze out victory minded advocates like Neal Knox?

How about the NRA actively trying to derail the best lawsuit we've ever had to get a definitive ruling on the meaning of the 2nd amendment?

I don't think these problems I have are unreasonable nor uncommon. I don't know what the NRA would have to do to get me back, but for right now, the SAF, GOA and JPFO are getting my dollars.

Yuri Orlov said...

I'd be very interested to get Mr. Bane's reaction to this review of the same book by GunWeek Magazine:

Click Here!

It's like they've read two completely different books.

Anonymous said...

Thanks pdb,
Now please bear with me here. I'm obviously not as informed as perhaps I should be. I'm not familiar with SAF, GOA, or JPFO. Who are they? In my state, we also have some "grass-roots" organizations that I hope are really looking out for my rights.
As far as saying that the NRA gave "tacit" approval of all firearms laws passed since 1934 is a bit of a stretch though, isn't it? I don't think that you would agree that you were guilty of tacitly approving legislation, just because you either chose not to fight for it, or even voted against it and it passed in spite of all of your angst, now would you?
In the New Orleans case, I never saw SAF mentioned in any MSM articles, but the NRA was. Did I miss something? If the SAF did bring suit, how could the NRA ever hope to step over that? Any individual can sue and no one can stop them, unless they agree to drop the suit them selves. Who was instrumental in getting the laws changed in not only New Orleans, but in other states as well?
I'm not discouraging anyone from supporting all of the friends that we have in the shooting sports and gun ownership. But I am encouraging all of us to recognize that we need all of these organizations, especially the largest and most influential.
Where am I going wrong?
Life Member

James said...

Notice that Feldman, for all of his lip service to gun rights, not only neglects to mention how the force of the NRA helps keep gun rights safe, but he ignores a vital point to such a degree that even his target audience would disagree.

That is, if the NRA is now bad and should be spurned by its members, then where do they go? He certainly harps on the NRA, but note that he doesn't recommend another group, like the GOA or the SSF. To me, that's pretty much the giveaway that Feldman either:

a) is bitter about his years at the NRA and merely wants revenge.
b) is really in favor of all the gun control stuff he claims to oppose
c) both

Anonymous said...

To all, No organization is going to please everyone all the time. That includes the NRA,GOA,SAF,CCRKBA, or any other pro gun organization I may have omitted. All of these send out an over abundence of junk mail begging for money. The bottom line; they all work for our 2nd Am rights. Support them. For those who are not aware GOA(Gun Owners of America) SAF(Sencond Amendment Foundation) and CCRKBA(Citizen Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms). Life member of all these groups

Michael Bane said...

To be sure, Feldman has his supporters/apologists...I am not among them.

When you agree to become a cat's paw for the very people that you allegedly fought so hard against, you cross over to the other side.
Feldman's (and many of the so-called "middle path" people) idea of "compromise" is for us to give up some rights in order to win the approval of antigun politicians.

I think I'm going to turn this into a regular post...


James said...

Note how Feldman belittles those who aren't in favor of compromise, in the process (accidentally) giving an accurate definition of what "compromise" in the gun debate means: the gun rights people give something up, the gun control people lose nothing.

Michael, just out of curiosity, have you read Feldman's book? I looked through it for a while at the bookstore. Some of the anecotes are amusing, but the guy really just strikes me as a whiner pissed that his faction within the NRA didn't come out on top. He appears to have a delusion of grandeur or two, with this Clinton nonsense, and once again completely neglects to suggest any alternative for the NRA members he supposedly supports.