Should we consider the NRA a terrorist cult?

This was originally published on Medium on 3/7/18, before I created Issues Unite. So, some of the info is dated but the point remains valid.

Recently, the NRA released a video warning journalists that their “time is running out”. Very intimidating and threatening tone.

If such a video had come from another source, perhaps we, as a people, could laugh it off. But this is the NRA. Realistically viewed, a minority group of people who gather for the near worship of firearms and appear to seek to use those firearms. They routinely use veiled threats of force and various forms of coercion to attain their ends, no matter the cost to society.

Perhaps at this point we should consider declaring the NRA a terrorist group. Or at least spark the comparison and the suggestion of doing so. Because they themselves have made it completely evident that they will not even discuss reasonable gun control measures without the use of political and legal force to bring them to the bargaining table.

For the record, I personally do not suggest the complete disarming of America. I am a veteran and a gun owner. Like so many, I only want to see steps taken in regards to stricter gun laws. Our children and our citizens should have more rights than our guns do. That’s not being unreasonable.

One has to ask why the discussion of arming teachers went directly to firearms, skipping immediately over less lethal options such as Tazers or electromagnetic locks on schoolroom doors.

Back to the subject, let’s compare characteristics of a terrorist cult with the NRA.

They basically worship firearms.
They hold large rallies to reinforce their commitment to guns.
They have their own Bible.
They consider anyone who even questions their teachings a “heretic”. 
Elitist- You are with them or you are an enemy.
They indoctrinate children to their beliefs.
They hold training camps and events involving large numbers of weapons, often in remote, sometimes undisclosed areas closed to the public and media.

They have their own media outlet. Non-members truly have to question what mentality it takes to watch gun-related media on a daily basis. They have magazines, newsletters, websites and mailing lists in addition to their meetings. 
With media coverage, they have preferred sources (aside from their own media). If not approved, media sources are treated with suspicion, contempt or simply not allowed. 
Funded by large private and corporate donors, often covertly.
They enjoy tax exempt status, just like a church. (Which should tell us that our government recognizes them as a religion. They cannot be viewed as a charity or realistically as an educational organization.)
Continuous efforts at political power with many members in elected office. This has been true since their inception.
They basically bribe elected officials via campaign donations and PAC’s. 
Members are a minority of the population, yet speak as though they represent all Americans. If you do not agree, they accuse you of not being a “true American” and make statements to the effect that you do not belong in this country.
They publicly denounce use of violence while defending a large number of violent fanatical members.
Some members are willing to engage in suicide missions and will admit to this publicly.
Some members make death threats to anyone who opposes or exposes them. Rarely if ever are such members ejected or sanctioned by the organization.

So, if using such tactics as this do not constitute terrorism, then what does, short of blatant large scale armed conflict? Is that what this will come down to? From their own words and actions, it seems that way. It is what they infer with such media releases as the ad mentioned above.

If this were a smaller private group the government would have been stepping in to place limits on them long before this point. As far as their own attitude toward the government is concerned, they claim to be completely in favor of the government while also claiming fear of the same government and ready to take up arms against the government if they do not get their way on every single thing they want.

Make no mistake. Many members of the NRA support stricter gun laws. Yet even they become oppressed and intimidated by the more radical members of their organization. It is highly notable that there has not been a general poll of NRA members to ask THEM what they think of stricter gun laws. That is because the NRA does not represent the members nearly as much as it represents gun manufacturers.

I know there are good chances that I myself will receive threats as a result of this article. Anyone who speaks out against the NRA receives death threats. This is not new. Many are afraid to speak out against them for that very reason.

No matter what threats are issued at any level, from personal to economic to political to large scale violence, it is beyond time that we recognize the NRA for what it is. A direct threat to the safety and security of the United States. They have the power to change that but none of us expect them to respond with anything but more aggression and thinly veiled threats.

So bring on the insults, the personal attacks and threats. Tell me I am wrong but present no evidence. It is exactly what is expected from cultists when their belief system is questioned.

The Programming of America, Pt 6- Cult of Personality

As I have detailed throughout this series, the media and the government discourage critical thinking and try to incite emotional reflexes, suppressing critical thinking. This is true from advertising to news to music to movies and TV to political campaigns.

Where political campaigns are concerned, ideas and issues are discouraged. Instead, you are expected to focus on a name. There is a story, a legend, an emotional response created to accompany the name, the face which is packaged and sold to you like toothpaste. “Want whiter teeth and fresher breath? Vote for Joe/Jane Doe!!” It really is no different.

You are sold the idea of fear. Then a candidate promises to keep you “safe”. The threat does not have to be real, only your perception of a threat has to be real. If they keep repeating it, they condition an emotional response in the average person. If the narrative is questioned, no need to respond using facts, just accuse your questioner of “treason”, being “anti-American”, an agent of a foreign government (the outsider/invader), a “coward”, “weak”. Call them “inexperienced” and “naive”. Use blame and state or merely insinuate that they or some cohort they belong to are the reason for every problem the country has. In all cases, use emotion to condition a negative response to any opponent or questioner of the narrative.

The next time you watch a political debate, watch these dynamics in action. When you’re aware of it, the entire picture changes in your perception.

One of the most popular emotional tactics used in politics is the portrayal of a candidate as an underdog, disadvantaged and winning against the odds. Or they portray themselves as an insider who knows all the tricks, all the people to “get things done” and hence their success. The goal being to gain feelings of camaraderie or as someone to be respected and looked up to. That’s not even saying this is a negative, just something to be aware of. Business people and lawyers try and portray themselves as being knowledgeable. Military veterans try and portray themselves as aggressive. Lesser known, female and minority candidates portray themselves as having fought their way up, even when they did not. All of them try and portray themselves as having esoteric knowledge of information which you are not privy to. Of course, they can never convey that knowledge openly because “national security”.

The most interesting part of this is that nothing at all makes this country less secure than does “national security”.

Basically, political candidates try to be more like pop stars than political candidates. You can blame most of this on campaign managers and the media, though many candidates are better at putting on a public show than they are at governing. If they have policies and platforms, they try and hide their true agendas until after the election because most of those agendas are nothing you, the voter, would approve of. In other cases, the only thing they have is their public persona which is devoid of substance. Much like the majority of pop stars. The unfortunate thing is that many Americans would vote for a vapid pop star over a rational and intelligent candidate with genuine policies because too many Americans don’t want to extend the effort to think hard enough to understand what the candidate has to say.

The only way that this country or the world is going to improve the conditions we currently have will be to put empty emotions aside, think objectively, listen critically and ask questions we may wish to avoid because the answers reveal truths that are uncomfortable. We need to seek out less of names and more substance. Less cheer leading and more policy. More truth and less “feel good” messaging. Which means WE have to step up and be brave. These people are our elected representatives, not our “leaders”, not our parents, not our friends. They are applying for a job. Once hired, we need to hold them accountable for doing that job effectively. Stop allowing for human mistakes. They have staffs, advisers and entire government agencies in addition to their constituents to rely on for assistance and information. They have few if any excuses other than intentional misdeeds. Holding their feet to the fire and demanding better is the only way we will ever get better from them.

This is not a pop concert. Stop acting like it is.

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Why Be Offended By The Term “Cult”?

A number of people have been offended by my use of the term “cult”. So, I find it somewhat necessary to delve deeper into my rationale for the use of that term. It is a term less judgmental than an honest analysis of too common behavior.

First, I want to offer a similar viewpoint by Marley K, while she refers to the same phenomenon using the term “groupthink”.In her article, she references the book by Irving L Janus, titled “Groupthink”, published in 1972. So this is not exactly a new observation. https://medium.com/@marleyk/how-social-media-encourages-groupthink-e4b4b2f2a5f8

BTW, Marley is a great writer who you should be following.

The reason for the term “cult/cult thinking/cultism” has a goal associated with it. It’s a simple goal. Spreading personal awareness. To make people examine their own behavior and attitudes critically. If a person finds the term offensive, there tends to be a reason. That they see some aspect of that term in their own behavior. I expect many people to be initially offended by the term. I probably would be, myself.

My own cultist past. The entire reason I understand this is that I have seen it in myself at times in the past on limited subjects. I was pretty much a ferocious cultist for Bernie in 2016 and truly believed. I expected him to contest the convention, which of course did not happen. never expected him to campaign for Hillary. Or do the DNC Unity Tour. Or push Russiagate.

My first use of the term. The first time I used the term “cult” was in reference to Trump supporters in 2016. Then, over time, I stepped back and realized that my own view was limited. That was when I realized that all parties are cults. Then that evolved to the understanding that all names are cultsWhich then became one of my mottoes or most often used statements.

Back to 2016 tactics. Now previous Hillbots have been using the same references they did in 2016, calling me “butthurt” and similar terms, only this time to say I should support Bernie. Because that behavior worked so well in 2016.

A candidate has to earn my vote with policies. Let me say it now. Bernie has no right to my vote. He has to earn it. Yes, you do need the true Progressive vote. So don’t start with the Hillbot behavior of saying, “We don’t need you” or “Beat Trump”. That is not enough and it’s not going to do it. That is cult thinking at it’s finest.

Definition. So let me define this. Cult thinking includes:

The conviction that “nobody is perfect” and using it as a rationale to ignore any danger involved with blindly supporting a candidate. Including such dangers as war with Russia. (Jonestown or Heaven’s Gate, anyone?)Which, as I detailed in my last article, includes the censorship of independent and social media, plus the attacks on Julian Assange. You cannot support a candidate who promotes Russiagate and support Assange, they are directly opposed to each other.

You reject any and all negative points regarding a candidate or party without reading or listening to the points being raised. You consider all negative statements to be untrue, including questions.

You consistently seek out only articles, shows and even memes which support your views.

You limit your social interactions to people that reinforce your views. Even going as far as attacking anyone with differing views. To the degree that if someone says you want to hear from all candidates, not jump into a commitment to a candidate when 2020 is still 10 months away. Not all the candidates who will be running have even announced their campaigns yet. This is a form of declaring someone a heretic for not sharing your belief system. You feel you must convert them or sacrifice them to prove your own True Faith, that you are a Believer.

When someone tries to discuss issues, you divert the subject to personal attacks on the person directly, refusing to stay on topic.

You have cognitive dissonance and may actually know it but don’t care. If someone brings up a point with documented facts, reasonable, rational questions that manage to break through, you can feel your eyes glaze over as you seek something to respond with to reaffirm your faith, not to address the evidence.

You are willing to accept “evidence” which has no proof to back it up. As long as you can quote someone who agrees with your beliefs, that is considered evidence to you and sufficient.

You will give your time, money, effort to your chosen cult without reading the fine print. You don’t need policies. Because you have been promised heaven later for your dedication today.

You quote things which the person never said, cite policies that do not exist, accomplishments which never happened. When asked to name your source, rather than provide it you tell the person asking to look it up for themselves. Because you know that will never happen again, right?

You don’t want to discuss issues. You just want to silence any and all dissent. Then call it democracy.

You are willing to harm other people or close your eyes to harm for your Faith. If someone does not Believe, they deserve what comes to them.

You criticize others for an “us versus them” or “those who are not with us are against us” mindset, yet are guilty of the same thing.

Exaggerated emotional response. Let me repeat that. Exaggerated emotionalresponse. Emotions displace critical thought. Responses from a cultist are based on emotion regarding the cult and most often include only emotion.

Summary. As you can see, people are literally turning political campaigns, parties, candidates into actual religious cults. It is too soon to even adopt a specific candidate when the primaries are over a year away, national election a full 21 months away, barely under two years!!

We already have the longest election cycle of any country on earth. That would be fine if that time were used to announce and examine policies so voters were more informed. Instead, that time is used for personal attacks by candidates and supporters. We don’t choose who is the best candidate, we choose who is the most popular. Which means some high school elections are more valid and fact-based than our official elections.

We cannot keep doing this as a nation. At ground level, this is what is destroying us as a country. If you see cult thinking in yourself, it’s okay if the statement offends you at first, that’s understandable. It’s what you do after that which matters. Watch for cult thinking in yourself and be brave enough to call it out in others when you see it. It’s difficult but necessary. If you have ever been a teacher, a leader, a manager or a parent, you know that correcting harmful behavior is unavoidable. Don’t try to be popular, don’t try to be in the “right group”. Be informed. Discuss issues and policies objectively. That is how we plan for a future.

Final note and reference. If you truly doubt my assessment above, which was written from my own knowledge of cults, then read this from an expert on cults and a former cult member. Then assess again. If you still doubt, do a web search on cult characteristics. If you find something which contradicts what I have to say, I’d be happy to hear it. http://cultresearch.org/help/characteristics-associated-with-cults/