Home Lifestyle Watching NRATV, a Life-Style Channel Built on Instruments of Death, After Parkland

Watching NRATV, a Life-Style Channel Built on Instruments of Death, After Parkland

10 min read

Since the massacre in Parkland,
gun-control activists have pressured Apple, Amazon, and other streaming
platforms to drop NRATV, and thereby join other companies that have cut
ties with the National Rifle Association. The N.R.A.’s twenty-four-hour
digital channel is a remarkable product, marked by an affluent look and
a confident monomania; it keeps up the morale of loyalists primed to
exalt the N.R.A.’s values, and it delights enthusiasts by investing guns
with all of the glamour and valor its producers can muster. The color
scheme of the graphics involves a lot of stark white, matte black, and
gunmetal gray, with accents in a vigilant shade of yellow, evoking
police tape, the border of a National Geographic cover, and the
hoarded hopes of gold speculators.

It is a life-style channel built on instruments of death, and the
reiteration of sound bites intrinsic to this life style spills over from
NRATV’s simulations of a news desk and into a flow of programming in
which film of outdoor recreation, chronicles of Second World War
battles, and adrenaline-pumping self-defense demos all swirl together.
Onscreen, when the letters of the NRATV logo loom into self-promotional
view, we see the text of the Second Amendment running along the logo’s
graphic grooves, like edge-lettering on a coin.

A talk-show-type host arrives onscreen at the top of each weekday hour.
At midday, this is Grant Stinchfield, who wears a 9-millimetre handgun
on his hip as he firmly breathes his messages. (The gun, he says, is
protection in the event that “evil does come calling.”) Stinchfield
favors half-zip pullovers and, like many of the men on NRATV, golf
shirts. Some men, more youthful and less square, wear T-shirts printed
with words like “Honor” and
“Freedom” and “Crush Everything”; in a promo,
Stinchfield himself wears a “Socialist Tears” T-shirt and
safety goggles while taking a sledgehammer to a TV set that had the
temerity to play a John Oliver clip. The men and women of NRATV are
alike in manifesting tasteful manicures; the ladies handle their Glocks
while wearing princess-pink nail polish.

The Parkland shooting has not plunged NRATV into crisis mode, because
its whole philosophy is to be prepared for crises—that’s why
Stinchfield’s packing heat in the first place. On Thursday, he pressed
one in at a difficult angle. President Trump had artlessly blathered
that authorities should “take the guns first, go through due process
second” when dealing with citizens prejudged as dangerous. The host
needed to repudiate that idea, and he did so while the chyron hailed due
process as “the foundation of the Constitution.” Stinchfield assured the
audience that Trump’s seeming apostasy was but a small misunderstanding,
and that the N.R.A. would talk some sense into a President the show
describes—against considerable evidence suggesting otherwise—as “a
reasonable man who respects freedom.” All the while, a screen within the
screen surged with triumphal images of Washington, D.C., in monochrome,
such that its landmarks assumed a severe silver sheen. Between the
scheme of the cinematography and the thrust of the message, the
Washington Monument looked like nothing so much as a
five-hundred-and-fifty-five-foot sniper tower.

To clear the palate, the host pivoted to a segment—the chyron read “Gun
Grabbers Ignorant About Firearms”—that exemplified what NRATV hosts do
best: scoffing at the factual errors of politicians and pundits.
Stinchfield scored rhetorical points with pedantic layups and indignant
dunks when correcting mistakes. His targets ranged from sloppy language
about what constitutes a revolver to silly assumptions about the ability
of women to handle weapons. The tactic, which seeks to disqualify
gun-control activists as worthy debaters, enables NRATV hosts to dismiss
arguments wholesale while allowing them to showcase a proud touch with
fine print. The channel foregrounds its attention to precision at every
opportunity, whether what it is streaming has been constructed on the
model of a talk-news program, a reality show, a History Channel outtake,
an “Antiques Roadshow” appraisal, a fitness video, a tourist-site film
exhibit, or an ad for a hunting-lodge timeshare. It pays all due
attention to paperwork, safety rules, and proper jargon. Meanwhile, it
scoffs at outsiders, such as “left-wing élitists,” in a tone combining
pity and concern.

“Love at First Shot,” an NRA Women production sponsored by Smith &
Wesson, is a reality show depicting, in its third season, three journeys
toward empowerment by way of licensed firearms. Natalie is a tech
executive whose interest in competitive shooting is an outgrowth of her
professional drive. Jasmine is a Dallas-based fashion blogger pursuing a
concealed-handgun license. (A menacing encounter spurred her interest in
personal protection, and her fiancé gave her a weapon as a present; now
here she is in training class, with her Starbucks cup.) Erin, a
practiced fly-fisher, is expanding her interests to include hunting. In
Erin’s first appearance, her instructor hands her an AR-15, and the
student, surmounting intimidation, faces the target and pulls the
trigger. Her instructor describes the gun’s firing as “just a nice,
light ploof of happiness.” “Ploof,” she said! Happiness is a warm gun,
she affirmed, recasting an explosion as a gentle ecstasy.

Only one commercial airs on NRATV; it is for the N.R.A.’s upcoming
annual meeting, in Dallas, and collates footage from last year’s
meeting, with shills, spokeswomen, and laymen reciting a variety of
hawkish slogans. Or, to look at things from another angle, NRATV is
itself an unending commercial. It advertises peace of mind around the

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

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