L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 48, June 15, 1999
The New "Provos"
by Andy Barniskis
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Near the end of last week I received (and forwarded to many of you) a
very cogent essay that suggested that "NRA" stands for "Not Relevant
Anymore." Reflecting on that over the weekend led me to the
conclusion that, while I agreed with the spirit of the essay, the
real problem is that, regrettably, the NRA is relevant.
Quite simply, the relevance of the NRA is that it is widely
recognized as the entity authorized to sign our agreements of
I say it is not. I did not authorize a surrender, you did not
authorize a surrender, and, I doubt even a simple majority of the NRA
board of directors authorized an agreement of surrender. But, what
we say at this moment is unimportant. Our "decommissioning" is
underway, and calling it a non-surrender is merely playing with
words, a face-saving that nobody is going to fall for, and that our
enemies are revelling in.
Because it surrendered, and its surrender is being widely celebrated
by our enemies, in that way the NRA most certainly is
(Even if you do not agree with me that it already has surrendered, I
think you must agree that politically, it IS the entity that has been
placed in the position enabling it to issue our surrender. In that,
it is relevant!)
My premise is that our job now is to make it irrelevant.
As I have written in several ways in several venues over perhaps
several years, the NRA as viewed by the public is a largely mythical
organization, in several ways. First, it plays the role for American
liberalism that the mythical "Great Zionist Conspiracy" played for
Adolph Hitler and Nazism -- a mythical monolith that lies behind any
and all resistance to the totalitarians coming to power. There is
scarcely a firearms rights initiative in North America, no matter how
spontaneous or independently organized, that is not credited to "the
NRA." About as close to semantic accuracy as we see is credit to "the
gun lobby," though decades of careful crafting have made that
synonymous with "the NRA," so the effect is the same. (Don't babble
in defense of GOA, JPFO, et al, because I can mount a better defense
of them than you can -- the problem is that roughly 200 million
Americans have not been allowed to know they exist, because there was
political value in maintaining the image of a fearsome, single-minded
The second part of the myth is the continual references by pundits to
the NRA's "radical" and "extremist" policies -- even after, as it did
here in Pennsylvania, the NRA joined arm in arm with HCI in endorsing
"reasonable" anti-gun legislation, or, when it played political
hard-ball to stop major, local pro-gun initiatives such as "Vermont
Carry" legislation in several states. Those instances may have been
testing grounds for the tactics that led to their federal-level
surrender, but that is a subject for another essay. I merely call to
mind that, in Orwell's novel "1984," even the resistance was operated
by Big Brother.
Third -- and this perhaps is a subset of points one and two above --
the NRA for obvious reasons basks (and banks) in these myths, and by
so doing, within the tenuously pro-gun camp of hunters and target
shooters, it remains a credible source of information and opinion on
gun rights and legislation. It filters and spins virtually all
information reaching the trapshooter or birdhunter, so that (for
example) in the fall of the 1995, the adoption of major new gun
control legislation in Pennsylvania earlier that year was presented
to most of its members as one of a list of great "pro-gun victories"
for that year. (The gun control legislation had first been labeled by
them the "Sportsmen's Omnibus Anti-Crime Bill" because, while placing
new restrictions on gun acquisition, use and ownership, it also
imposed strict punishments for violations -- thus becoming
"anti-crime," in the best CrimeStrike NewSpeak.)
If you doubt the fineness of their filter, may I refer you to the
outcomes of the last several NRA board elections? Or the way they
were cheered by the throng for squelching dissent in Philadelphia in
But, I go on too long flogging dead horses. The bottom line is the
result: The NRA is being recognized in song, verse, and political
cartoon as being variously "defeated", "seeing the light",
"overpowered by public opinion", or "moving toward the mainstream".
It recently published full-page advertisements in major newspapers
declaring "we will not surrender on [certain issues] unless we
are given guarantees ..."
In other words, they signaled surrender, and the Senate accepted that
surrender. The Official NRA line now will supply cover for most of
those Senators (and the Representatives who will vote with them) in
coming elections -- as they have now for at least three decades.
I did not authorize them to surrender. I did not state conditions for
surrender. But how do I -- and the hundreds of thousands like me --
declare our non-surrender?
The little individual symolic acts -- the resignations and switchings
of allegiances to better organizations -- are necessary, but not
sufficient, and can be spun the wrong way by the enemy. Over the
weekend, I heard Schumer claiming that recent NRA member resignations
were because of "dissatisfaction with the NRA's radical
positions" (see above). Nor do I propose what you would call,
strictly speaking, "a new organization," since it could not possibly
offer anything more than our existing, excellent, alternative
organizations, and a new organization would spend months floundering
before it achieved anything worthy of press or legislator attention
-- if ever.
What I -- an NRA Life Member -- would like -- love -- to see,
would be the formation of a "Provisional" NRA, formed by at least a
handful of dissidents from the present board of directors declaring
that the "Official" NRA has become unrepresentative of the wishes of
most of its oldest and (in the past) most faithful supporters.
Let me acknowledge that I am aware of all of the legalistic and
bureaucratic problems attached to such an action. The advantage I see
to it would be to capitalize on the years of propagandists'
conditioning that brings immediate attention to what "The NRA" is
doing. Whether the declaration of a "Provisional NRA" was strictly
adherent to corporate bylaws or not, it would immediately get
attention to the fact that a significant body of significant people
had not surrendered.
There also is the advantage that it would lead at least some of the
uninformed NRA members to questioning where their allegiances should
lie -- since, after all, the protagonists would still be identified
as "NRA," to which knees are conditioned to jerk. Admittedly the
Officials would still have an unchallenged upper hand with the
propaganda channels in the house-organ publications, as they do with
the board elections, but a firm and unambiguous pro-gun position,
reported in the mainstream media, might lead people to think for
themselves, about which faction is truest to pro-gun principles.
It also might lead legislators to doubt whether the Official NRA will
have the ability to cover for them in the future, and might take away
the credibility of Official NRA lobbyists' assurances that if they
vote for this tiny, little, reasonable, anti-gun amendment, that they
will be able to smooth it over with the boys. Hopefully, a goodly
percentage of the boys (and girls) will be listening to alternative
opinions, or at least have greater access to them.
Finally, I am aware that I suggest a deliberately provocative and
metaphoric name for my wished-for dissident group. Perhaps some of
our legislators will be led to doubt the boundary conditions of their
playing field, if "Provisional NRA" representatives approached them
to make their more militant wishes known. Instead of the smiles and
winks and drinks from non-ideological, mercenary lobbyists, they will
need to wonder what levels of discomfort the
Provisionals-not-bearing-gifts will be able to muster against them.
For those who recognize my rather obvious metaphor, taken from the
world political situation, let me explain that some time ago I saw a
little lapel pin originating from that source, with the image of a
phoenix taking flight, and the legend, "Up from the ashes. . . rose
the Provisionals!" Recalling that those other Provisionals have some
very hard-nosed and intransigent people representing their political
position at negotiating tables -- coincidentally taking a "no
disarmament position" against a sea of world propaganda -- while we
have no one representing our political position at any
negotiating tables, anywhere -- I found the sentiment rather
And damn, do we ever need something to inspire us, right now!
By now, surely you all know about the brou-ha-ha over Rosie
O'Donnell, and the subsequent informal boycott of K-Mart (have you
shopped WalMart or Target this week)?
(See: http://www.fulton-armory.com/Rosie.htm -- Webmaster)
What you may not have heard yet is that K-Mart just launched a new ad
campaign for a product so stupid it could only have come from the
inconsistent pea-brains at K-Mart. It's a hose device for your yard
that you can use to water the lawn or entertain the kids. It's in the
form of a cow with a stake that you stick in the ground. The "tail"
is a short length of hose that whips about under water pressure.
And the name of this marketing "hot flash"?
"Hosie Cow". <pause for dramatic effect>
Hosie Cow ... <pause>
Rosie Cow ... <pause>
We think not!
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