Friday, March 8, 2013

Taking The Heat

Last evening The Rachel Maddow Show had an absolutely brilliant piece detailing the extents to which two of the biggest death merchants in the history of this country will go to avoid answering for their actions.

For decades the tobacco industry produced a product specifically designed to create an addiction in their users for that product.  Nicotine levels were purposefully manipulated to guarantee that the vast majority of their users would be unable to stop.  The industry was less than subtle when it came to advertising their product to children, knowing full well that the younger you can get a smoker hooked, the more likely you will have a customer for life, even a life that will be significantly shortened by use of the product.

With the full cooperation of the popular media, especially Hollywood, the tobacco industry made sure their product was portrayed as an essential part of American life, a birth right to which everyone was entitled.  It was turned into a symbol of class, glamour and sophistication.

But when medical and scientific evidence began to mount concerning the link between smoking and many of the most severe health issues affecting the population, Big Tobacco began to get nervous.  Through the courageous actions of pioneers like former Surgeon General C. Everett Coop (recently deceased), the harsh spotlight of public attention was being shone on the cigarette makers, and not in a flattering way.

It was starting to get hot, so the tobacco industry decided they needed a "heat shield" to protect themselves from this increasingly aggressive scrutiny, so they created and funded a bogus organization which they called the National Smokers' Alliance.

Ostensibly cast as a spontaneous, "grass roots" organization of fine, upstanding Americans who were seeking nothing more than the freedom to exercise their god-given right to get cancer, the NSA received millions of tobacco dollars to act as national apologists for the tobacco industry.  They came up with completely preposterous pronouncements such as "Accommodation and common courtesy would solve this problem," meaning that the answer to all the health concerns is for everyone to mind their own business and pretend nothing bad is happening.

But it was hard to ignore the huge costs of tobacco addiction, and a number of high-profile, big-dollar lawsuits against the tobacco makers were beginning to get a lot of attention.  And some of that attention came from a Senate investigating committee, which at one famous session summoned a number of top tobacco executives to answer for many years of lying to the American public.  The gig was up for the phony National Smokers' Alliance, and it quickly disappeared from the national scene.

This was an example of a "heat shield" that did not work.  Now, an example of a heat shield that DOES work:

The corporations that make and sell guns found themselves in a similar situation to the tobacco industry.  Their product is produced solely for the purpose of murdering people.  Guns can't be used for anything else than that.  Knives kill people too, but knives have other legitimate uses.  You can kill someone with a baseball bat, but bats can be used for their intended purpose, in a baseball game.  Guns have one and only one use.

The gun industry did not want to have to deal with the messy business of gun violence and the carnage it wreaks on American society.  The daily slaughter of innocent people of all ages was something they did not want to rationalize.  They needed something to take the heat for them and deflect the public anger away from them, to provide cover for the continued sale of their product and rake in many millions of dollars of profit.  Enter the National Rifle Association.

The NRA would like you to believe they are comprised of four million stalwart American citizens who seek nothing but the ability to defend their family and property from vast legions of vicious, bloodthirsty criminals, undocumented immigrants and an increasingly Fascist government that wants to invalidate the Constitution.  The NRA just wants to make sure the Second Amendment stays firmly in place and every obese, ignorant hillbilly who wants to have a half-dozen automatic rifles in their filthy double-wide should be afforded that opportunity.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution contains exactly 27 words and was written at a time when the newborn country was just getting on its feet.  Those 27 words have been mangled and stretched beyond recognition, and I am certain the Founding Fathers could not dream that it would someday cover mass-produced, insanely powerful weapons like the AR-15 or the AK-47.

The truth is, the NRA receives an enormous amount of funding from their "corporate partners," a veritable who's-who of gun manufacturers.  Their decrepit zombie of a CEO, Wayne LaPierre - purposefully as repellent and obnoxious as humanly possible - acts as a very effective lightning rod for the all the criticism coming at the gun makers.  The NRA has one of the most powerful lobbying machines in Washington to make sure that cowardly members of Congress remain firmly in their back pocket and resist any sort of gun control legislation.

The NRA also relies on the ignorance of their own members, who have been duped into thinking that the NRA is really interested in defending their Second Amendment rights from all the socialist Muslims who want to do heinous, vile and un-American things like ban high-capacity magazine clips or close ridiculous loopholes in gun sales.  In reality, the NRA could not care less about gun rights, beyond the extent that gun rights can be used to maintain and increase their sales margins, and it exists only to make sure there will be an insatiable market for more and more guns in this country.

But, NRA members seem to be perfectly happy and content with being stooges, dupes and idiots, blatantly manipulated by gun industry proxies and being played like cheap violins.  No doubt they are laughing insanely in the NRA board room at how easy it is to make really stupid people do exactly what you want them to.

No doubt the National Rifle Association has learned well from the example of the National Smokers' Alliance on how to be an effective heat shield.  Whether or not it is going to save them from the same fate as the Smokers' Alliance remains to be seen.  We are starting to see little cracks in the NRA heat shield today.  We can only hope that these cracks will grow and eventually, the NRA will be seen as the cruel, cynical scam that it has always been.

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