“Australia-style gun control CAN happen here”


For whatever reason, my YouTube preroll ads are currently dominated by an NRA video they released about a month ago which is built like a 90s-era PETA-style exposé. It starts with the same sort of ominous-sounding music behind white-on-black title cards, ending with one which reads “The following footage was obtained by the NRA.”, before leading into about three minutes of documentary-style “behind the scenes” footage, and closing with edited footage of Clinton talking and an “it could happen here” warning. The poorly-shot documentary-style footage is even from the mid-90s, really cementing the vibe. Take a look:

Set aside for a moment that my reaction was certainly not the one they were hoping for (“Huh, I didn’t know about that. Sounds like a pretty good idea.”). What really confuses me is what emotional reaction this is supposed to solicit from the intended audience.

When PETA & co. run ads like this, they’re clearly going for a sort of shock value, playing on the revulsion most people (even meat eaters) experience when confronted with the realities of modern industrial meat production. The scenes are typically bloody affairs, depicting various degrees of cruelty and brutality. The producers hope that they can take that very common emotional reaction, tie it to an everyday experience (eating meat, wearing fur, whatever), and influence the viewer’s behavior (and, presumably, get them to join the producer’s organization and send some money). I’m a bit skeptical of the efficacy of this sort of ad, but the logic is easy to understand.

Are there many people who react similarly to animals being slaughtered and chunks of metal being cut in half?

Maybe this isn’t intended as a “conversion” ad, but a rally-the-troops ad aimed at the already-enlisted (which makes it even stranger that YouTube or the NRA would target these ads at me, but okay). Nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t help me understand the emotional angle, though. Even among the NRA faithful, what is the intended emotional response here?

This isn’t a question of “sides”, either. Remember that anti-choice video that claimed to be “behind the scenes” footage from an abortion clinic? We now know it to be fraudulent, but the logic of the producer works pretty much the same way. And I get it. It’s the same pattern: play on a really common emotional reaction to some graphic imagery or language, and try to follow the same chain as the hypothetical PETA video. You can try to interrupt that chain at various points (I was skeptical the video related to anything in real life, which the courts have now confirmed, and even if that makes you feel uncomfortable about aspects of abortion, that needn’t translate to wanting to ban it), but even the strongest pro-choice people I talked about that video with acknowledged the same basic emotional response to the content.

But, again: the NRA video depicts chunks of metal being cut in half, and a crane at a scrap yard dropping them in a compactor. No living thing is suffering or dying. Are there people who have a similar sort of emotional reaction to that as most people do to either the anti-meat or anti-choice videos? I don’t get it.