Sweeping images. Top-notch production values. An omnipresent narrator tediously moving their verbal broadsides forward–calm at first, then agitated, until fury whips the final message all the way home. Fonts plucked from the galaxy brains on Madison Avenue.
Those are features of two ads released by the National Rifle Association (“NRA”) which have garnered a notable amount of controversy. They’re also basically the time-tested features of ISIS recruitment propaganda.
Of course, those four metrics listed above are only superficial similarities. It would probably be fairly simple to find additional examples within either fiction or real life. Trouble is, the similarities don’t end there.
Here’s a full transcript of the first-referenced NRA video. Titled “The Violence of Lies,” the following words spill forth from narrator Dana Loesch like a very upset storm across images of an angry nation riven by legal protest and violence:
They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again. And then they use their ex-president to endorse the resistance. All to make them march, make them protest, make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia and smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law abiding — until the only option left is for police to do their jobs and stop the madness.
The video’s constant repetition of “their” is an obvious allusion to purportedly liberal institutions. The constant repetition of “them” is an even more obvious effort to otherize–and dehumanize–political enemies. This has been commented on to some degree in the past. Liberal groups were appalled and called “unfair” in typically neutered fashion, sure. Various media of various flavors shuddered at the attack leveled against them without pausing to reflect on their own complicity for violence even once, of course.
But what’s perhaps gone unmentioned is that this attack isn’t something simply aimed at liberals, it’s a broadside against American society in general. Those media, schools, movie stars and even ex-President Obama, for better or for worse, are American things. The otherized “them” mentioned in the video are the majority of Americans.
A lot of people asked, “What the hell does this video have to do with guns?” The answer comes in the final seconds.
The camera stops the outrage porn and shows us the face of our narrator. Her face is pained and she’s very serious. As she speaks there’s a rush of red, white and blue:
And when that happens, they’ll use it as an excuse for their outrage. The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.
There it is. The guns are waiting in the wings. Keep up the attacks on President Trump and see what happens. Or something. For all their bravado, the NRA doesn’t actually have the courage enough to say outright what they mean. It’s all dog-whistles for the tribe.
ISIS does basically the same thing. The language in their videos is culled from the same quasi-religious paranoid script and their allusions drip with references to moral degeneration and other sacrilegious offenses of modernity. The decadent West ripples with secularism and lacks the requisite respect for authority. But instead of saying open and honest things about head-chopping and heart-eating, the ISIS narrators just drone on and on about their perverted interpretation of “jihad” while sprinkling in apocalyptic metaphors.
“He moved during the battle like a man who did not know death,” says one ISIS ad aimed at potential Canadian recruits.
Another video, aimed at Muslims in the United Kingdom and Australia, offers a dire interpretation of Western society and frames Jihadi soldiers as the objects of a Sunni Muslim crusade. A narrator says, as the group’s black flag waves in the background, “Send us, we are your sharp arrows, throw us at your enemies wherever they may be.”
Yet another video–released just four days ago–ends thusly:
These saboteurs, slashing away with their leaks and sneers, their phony accusations and gagging sanctimony, drive their daggers through the heart of our future, poisoning our belief that honest custody of our institutions will ever again be possible. So they can then build their utopia from the ashes of what they burned down. No, their fate will be failure and they will perish in the political flames of their own fires. [emphasis added]
Just kidding. That’s not ISIS. That’s the NRA. And only one of those groups is allowed to lobby Congress.
[image via screengrab]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.