The NRA's core message takes a turn towards culture-war zealotry

The NRA-ILA Leadership Forum in Louisville, Ky. on May 20, 2016. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)
The NRA-ILA Leadership Forum in Louisville, Ky. on May 20, 2016.

The National Rifle Association released an odd video in June, complaining bitterly about American news organizations, public schools, popular culture, Barack Obama, and progressive activism. The diatribe made no mention of guns or the rights of firearm owners, which was probably not an accident: the NRA's central focus has apparently begun to shift away from its core mission.

This seemed equally obvious on Friday, when the far-right group released a follow-up online video, which also starred spokesperson Dana Loesch, and which also put a spotlight on the NRA's broad, new objectives.

"We the people have had it. We've had it with your narratives, your propaganda, your fake news. We've had it with your constant protection of your Democrat [sic] overlords, your refusal to acknowledge any truth that upsets the fragile construct that you believe is real life. And we've had it with your pretentious, tone-deaf assertion that you are in any way truth or fact-based journalism."Consider this the shot across your proverbial bow. We are going to fisk he New York Times and find out just what 'deep, rich' means to this old, gray hag, this untrustworthy, dishonest rag that has subsisted on the welfare of mediocrity for one, two, three, more decades. We're going to laser-focus on your so-called 'honest pursuit of truth.' In short, we're coming for you."

After the video was released, Loesch said phrasing such as "we're coming for you" shouldn't be seen as a threat of physical violence. Others appear to have had alternate interpretations.

Note, however, that the NRA once again made no mention of guns, ammunition, personal safety, or the Second Amendment, even in passing. Watching the video in isolation, free of context, and one might assume it was created by some far-right media watchdog, not the nation's premier organization committed to firearm ownership.

And that's because in 2017, the lines for the NRA have become blurred.

There's no great mystery here. As we discussed a few months ago, the NRA has found itself in the strange position of having succeeded too much: the group's allies run the White House, Congress, most of the nation's gubernatorial offices, and state legislatures. If the NRA has thrived in recent years by making its members terrified, that window is now closed: even the most paranoid Americans won't believe that federal laws are on the way banning guns.

That sense of comfort, however, won't encourage anyone to grab their checkbooks and send donations to the NRA, so the organization apparently believes a wider focus is necessary. You may not fear the president or Congress, the argument goes, but you should resent major news organizations and the culture you've come to resent.

And the proper way to express that frustration, evidently, is to align one's self with the NRA, which is standing by now to accept your generous contribution.

The NRA's transition from Second Amendment protections to culture-war zealotry happened gradually, and it now appears to be effectively complete.