As a novelist, I have a higher soapbox to stand on than most when it comes to talking back to the enemies of liberty. Yet it makes me just as mad when ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, and NPR not only lie consistently and blatantly about the individual right to own and carry weapons, but insert their lies into "news" and programs billed as entertainment.
It's been going on for decades. You know when a politician's lying -- his mouth moves -- but broadcasters lie with a twitch of an eyebrow or the slant of a shoulder. They load questions for the "man in the street" and get the public to lie for them. They even lie by making sure the badguy in a series episode has rifles and game trophies on his wall.
The most infuriating part is that you can't talk back. Broadcasters take advantage of the fact that any amateur, offered a chance to be on TV, is easily made to look foolish. Ask those who've tried: I give speeches where people laugh in all the right places and grown men have wept. The one occasion I tried replying to a TV editorial, I looked like Archie Bunker. Most anti-gun propaganda can't be dealt with in this manner anyway, because the other side's too dishonest to present it as a straightforward editorial.
Since the Bill of Rights protects a broadcaster's freedom under the First Amendment to attack our freedom under the Second, the next thought that occurs to the irate viewer is to get back at propagandists through their wallets, boycotting programs or their sponsors. I've never been impressed with the tactic. True, you deprive the enemy of income; you also deprive yourself of whatever he produces, maybe something you really need. Sometimes it's worth a sacrifice, sometimes it isn't, and individual opinions always differ.
The main problem is that for a boycott to be effective, you must persuade thousands, even millions of others to go along -- a lot of work and usually not very successful. No matter what this country's self-appointed political and religious leaders claim, self-sacrifice has never been what America is all about and it doesn't work as any kind of incentive. Robert Heinlein put it best when he said it's pointless to appeal to someone's "better nature". He may not have one. Better to appeal to his self- interest.
Which is where my thoughts had led me many times (and dumped me out at what seemed the end of the line) when one day I asked myself the right question: if boycotts don't work, what's the opposite of a boycott? Obviously it isn't doing more business with the enemy. How about doing more business with whatever the enemy opposes?
Call it a negative boycott.
Since then, when I find myself subjected to anti-gun drivel disguised as "news" or "entertainment", I drop a quarter (or a dime, a nickel or a penny) into a coffee can I keep beside the chair where I watch TV. Given the rate at which propaganda fills the air, it's no time at all before the can fills up. When enough accumulates, I don't give it to the NRA or any other organization whose policies I neither control nor necessarily approve. I spend it the best way I know, in the free marketplace of ideas -- and hardware -- acquiring another gun I wouldn't otherwise have bought.
Think about it: another gun you wouldn't otherwise have bought.
Many benefits are generated this way with minimal effort and no pain. Appeal to the self-interest of enough gun owners, and hundreds of thousands -- maybe even millions -- of unforeseen gun purchases will occur. This will strengthen the firearms industry relative to the rest of the economy and even put some spine back into outfits who've taken the cowardly, historically discredited route of appeasing an oppressor. It didn't work with Hitler; why does Bill Ruger think it'll work with Hitler's spiritual kin, Howard Metzenbaum?
Spotting anti-gun propaganda could make watching network TV interesting again -- a minor miracle in itself -- and might even develop into an educational game for the whole family. Kids would learn what the public schools never teach and desperately doesn't want them to know: ways to identify logical fallacies, fuzzy or missing verbs, and improperly weighted qualifiers in otherwise authoritative-sounding arguments about homelessness, urban street gangs, acid rain, ozone depletion, global warming, and the war on drugs.
The primary effect will be felt by our opponents as their own soapboxes slowly dissolve under their feet. Even now, each time the greatest sporting-goods sales team in America -- Handgun Control Inc. -- open their mouths about gun control or push for new legislation, thousands of individuals go out and buy guns of all descriptions "before it's too late". Some estimate that the last flurry of semiauto hysteria sold a quarter of a million such weapons in Colorado alone.
Until now, anti-gunners have encouraged the media to keep the public ignorant of this interesting, inconvenient effect. But as word of millions of coffee cans filling up with coins -- and suddenly being emptied -- gets around, an inexorable certainty that anti-gun propaganda actually causes more guns to be bought will put a damper on broadcasters' enthusiasm to saturate the air with lies.
The best part (and most frustrating from the other side's point of view) is that nobody is in a position to think, speak, or act for you. It's your TV, your chair, your coffee can. In your home you're the only judge of what constitutes anti-gun propaganda. You decide how much to drop in the can. You're the ultimate beneficiary.
So let your local TV stations -- and the networks -- know what you are doing. And do it. Then trust in liberal guilt to do the rest.
L. Neil Smith is the award-winning author of 19 books including The Probability Broach, The Crystal Empire, Henry Martyn, The Lando Calrissian Adventures, Pallas, and (forthcoming) Bretta Martyn and Lever Action. An NRA Life Member and founder of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, he has been active in the Libertarian movement for 34 years and is its most prolific and widely-published living novelist.
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