Memes Don’t Matter

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Words of wisdom from a skilled firearms instructor.

I’m overwhelmed by all my gun-owning friends posting statistics, facts, and memes to convince the gun grabbers that they are wrong.

Here’s something to consider. Emotional arguments are rarely successfully countered by facts and statistics. The facts are very clear in this case. Do you think that re-stating them endlessly on Facebook is likely to change someone’s mind? I don’t.

Can you think of a single occasion where you have had a major change of opinion after reading a Facebook post or meme? I can’t.

You aren’t going to change a stranger’s worldview by posting more on the internet. Instead, focus your efforts on making positive changes through personal contact with the people who are close to you and who already respect you as a person. Don’t waste your time arguing with strangers on social media.

Instead of posting on Facebook, I taught 27 students how to be safer shooters, more formidable fighters, and better tacticians this weekend. Each of those students will undoubtedly use some of the skills I shared to make their own tribes more robust and resilient.

In the long term, those small, personal changes are the fuel for positive societal evolution. CNN soundbites and Facebook memes are merely annoying background noise.

Do work that matters.

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Forbes Journalist Investigates Firearm Industry

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Forbes contributor Elizabeth MacBride spent six months specializing in the firearms industry, investigating and then summing up what she learned.

Takeaway: The most important influencing factor towards positive coverage of shooters, gun owners, and firearms is a consistent, open dialogue that showcases safe and skillful use, humanizes firearm users, and is inviting to everyone. Much more than political rhetoric, turning positive usage into a story and then consistently telling people about it is the best path forward.

Often, the problem is that negligent and criminal misuse is more sensational and easier to report. This is not the media’s fault as it falls inline with human nature. Skilled firearm users are rare compared to casual gun owners and not vocal enough to maintain a consistent voice.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/elizabethmacbride/2018/06/30/there-is-no-such-thing-as-a-gun-and-8-other-lessons-from-the-gun-business-beat/

I started covering the business of guns in part because the decline of high-quality print journalism in the past two decades means nuance is being lost. I believe nuance is crucial to sustain a pluralistic society, here and abroad. That’s part of the reason I covered the Middle East for three years; we all suffer from many Americans’ inability to see that region without prejudice.

And business, which tends to be a reasonably neutral and thankfully numbers-based lens through which to write, is a good platform for exploring topics on which there are many points of view.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned in my first six months.

1. Most of the gun community is open to fair-minded coverage.

2. The world of gun businesses is far more nuanced than I imagined, and in different ways that I imagined.

3. Marketing, politics and business are almost inseparable.

4. There are no good numbers.

5. It’s a business with a declining customer base.

6. Many more people like guns than I realized.

7. The West is different. Gun owners and gun businesses out West see guns as tools, one element of a practical, inherently nuanced way of existing in the world.

8. Violence marketing is more powerful than we realize.

9. There is no such thing as a gun. The technology has evolved faster than the language, so much so that we have reverted to broader words

Anti-Gun Media Example

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Example of anti-gun bias in the mainstream media as published on Bloomberg.com

U.S. High Schools Embrace Shooting as Hot New Sport
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-09/making-guns-cool-high-schools-embrace-shooting-as-hot-new-sport

Trap shooting is the fastest-growing sport in Minnesota high schools

Competitive musketry dates to 16th century England and has been an Olympic sport since 1896. Today trap, a cousin of skeet and sporting clays, is as popular with Minnesota’s urban boys and girls as it is with their counterparts in rural areas, where hunting’s in the DNA. “It’s just cool, because I get to use a gun,” said Stephanie Petsilis, 17, who shoots for Wayzata High School outside Minneapolis with a $1,430 Browning BT-99 Micro.

No Backlash
To wary educators, Sable stressed his motto — “Safety, fun and marksmanship, in that order” — and strict rules: no firearms allowed on campus. Team members must have state-issued safety certificates, which in Minnesota can be earned at age 11. The league record is clean, with no reported injuries.

A nonprofit supported by fees, donations and sponsorships, the league marketed itself aggressively and developed proprietary score-tracking software. The sport took off.

Facebook is not anti-gun

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Some guy who fondles an inflatable spheroid with his feet gets 23.2 times more love from Facebook than all the fans of the National Rifle Association combined.

Tom McHale had a great write up on Facebook’s policy to delete pages and posts about gun trades and sales from non-FFL holders. He also included a good breakdown of the demographics of shooting and pro-gun involvement compared to more mainstream interests, such as sport ball athletes and movie celebrities.

Facebook doesn’t care about you or your issues. Facebook cares about three things:

  1. How many people use Facebook.
  2. How many hours those people spend on Facebook.
  3. How many dollars marketers will pay Facebook for access to those people.

The same can be said for all media outlets. Replace the name of a broadcast or print media outlet or news program in place of “Facebook” and this is still true. It’s also true for pro-gun publications and websites, even though they are focused on a specific niche and demographic instead of the public at large. After Kim Rhode medalled in six Olympics in a row, some claimed her lack of media coverage was due to media bias. However, USA Today, the New York Times, CBS Sports, SB Nation, NBC, WGN, and the Chicago Tribune published articles about her. Other publications such as Time, Forbes, the Huffington Postand NPR published articles about Rhode’s accomplishments that highlighted her views on the Second Amendment.

This isn’t some nefarious anti-gun plot, it is simply catering to the majority. Gun owners are largely ignorant of organized shooting activity. Non-gun owners are even less aware and interested. This is the simple result of a market in action, not back-room politics trying to steal your guns. If the issue is controversial but of interest to a small minority, it’s probably easier to just avoid dealings and prevent alienating the majority, and especially alienating people and companies buying advertising/marketing trying to reach that general public.

Even among those gun owners that are active, activities such as golf eclipse them by a large margin. Again, the market speaks. If more people golf and are willing to pay for it, then more golf courses are built and more golf coverage is seen in the mainstream media because more people are voting with their dollars and feet. Gun owners are simply not as active, even when various reports claim that they are.

This is not an anti-gun plot. Garnering publicity and inspiring public interest is a tough row to hoe for every organization.

Common, accepted estimates place somewhere between 50-80 million Americans as owning at least one firearm. I don’t know why there is such a vast lack of interest in organized shooting events among them but given that there is, shooting will never be a mainstream activity. It’s not politics. It’s not anti-gun policy. It’s the result of the market voting with their dollars and feet.

Read the full article here:
http://www.ammoland.com/the-prying-business-of-facebook-and-guns

Anti-Gun Media Blackout, part 8

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Victory! We broke the media blackout! So, what was the response?!?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

After whining about a media blackout, complaining about a raw deal and then being shown that this was just poor perception and that the local media would work with his shooting range, all interest was lost.

Notice I asked very specific, answerable questions about club size, participation and the like. Not a single answer. This haphazard, complete lack of organization is a major problem. No idea how many members and what sort of interest is being generated. No press releases or links to a web site were offered, or details of any form of organized events, likely because there were none. Any wonder why media people didn’t care? If there is no story to cover and nothing interesting of note, why are we surprised when no story appears?

I did the research. I handed this guy a specific name, title, email and phone number of an editor willing to publish his press releases at the very publication claimed to have a “media blackout” against gun owners. After that, he went silent. I guess he just wanted his blackout to be there, hidden behind an evil cabal. When instead he had the name and contact info of a real person willing to talk, interest ceased. The fact that the club had some controversy made a story even more potentially appealing. But, no. Do nothing, then blame the media for your problems.

Despite myths to the contrary, pro-gun coverage can be done:

Anti-Gun Media Blackout, part 7

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>> The local media has a blackout on *any* shooting information. As in, it refuses to print anything about any shooting events at *any* range *anywhere*. The county newspaper is the best bet for any releases, but they’ve turned anti in recent years. They have told me that by policy they aren’t printing anything relating to shooting or hunting any more.

Yes, that’s your claim. I did a little research and found articles printed about your range’s incident in two papers: The Bainbridge Island Review (the local island paper) and The Sun in Bremerton, Washington (the local county paper.)

Seeing as you said that “by policy they [The Sun] aren’t printing anything relating to shooting or hunting any more” I thought I would ask for myself. Contact info was prominently displayed from a link on top of the home page at their website.

Subject: local sports events

I help run sports clubs and would like to know your policy on printing event notices and press releases for local events and participants. I’m specifically interested in shooting sports, safety and training classes, etc. Thanks! John Buol

Here was their response:

RE: local sports events
Hi John! We’ll gladly run your event notices and other information on our weekly Outdoors page, which hits the streets every Thursday. E-mail any of that type information to our outdoors guru, [name and email withheld for posting]

Thanks for your interest,
[Name, phone, and email withheld for pulic online posting]
Sports Editor The Sun Bremerton, Washington

I don’t know what “policy” prevented notices in the past, but it looks like you have an “in.” Exploit it! Send info on every newsworthy even you run. Create events if you have to.

Hint: “Dinners” and meetings probably are not newsworthy. Matches, classes, and similar events are.

Do it yourself, hire an assistant, or affiliate with an organization that does it for you. Do it for at least eight events a year for the next three to five years.

Victory! We broke the media blackout! So, what was the response?!?

Anti-Gun Media Blackout, part 6

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>> [Pro-gun information] only appears in shooting-related newsletters.

What percentage of area gun owners receive these newsletters? What percentage of these local recipients are members of your club? What percentage of the club members participate in club events regularly?

>> Define “blackout.” As in, it refuses to print anything about any shooting events at *any* range *anywhere*. It is hard to deny that there is bias against the NRA, gun owners and the shooting sports.

Rule of thumb: A statement suggesting something is always true all the time is usually false. True absolutes like this rarely exist. Here’s an an example.

The NRA spent a bunch of money to have the Media Research Center (http://www.mediaresearch.org) conclude that media gun bias exists. The report specifically labelled ABC’s “Good Morning America” and host Diane Sawyer among the worst offenders.

Around the same time this study was conducted a shooting school offering free submachine gun shooting lessons managed to get numerous positive stories aired and printed in mainstream media sources, such as ABC’s “Good Morning America” (with Sawyer herself introducing the piece), NBC’s “Special Edition”, the New York Times, LA Times, London Times, UPN, and the BBC.

That organization turned to media outlets only after the NRA steadfastly refused to carry these same stories in its publications. They earned press by following a process that the NRA doesn’t do for its membership.

The process of effective promotion is:

 

  1. Do something interesting.
  2. Tell people about it.
  3. Repeat.

>> Press Releases are no good if nobody sees them.

Not necessarily. The editor sees it. No publicist gets *everything* published, which is why they think in terms of campaigns. If you’re consistently sending well-written material, at worst, they know you’re serious. Many clubs aren’t taken seriously as a well-run organization because they don’t do anything to appear they are a well-run organization.

If you’ve been promoting things well you’ll have dozens of samples. Why don’t you submit a few samples so we can see what you’ve been up to? Unless you’ve never bothered to promote anything, in which case your lack of pro gun stories is due to failing on one of the three steps above (or all three.)

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