The National Rifle Association released a pro-Trump commercial on Friday in which spokeswoman Dana Loesch, speaking into the camera over footage of riots and American flags, warns that the president's critics are trying to "drive their daggers through the heart of our future," and that anti-Trump Americans will ultimately "perish in the political flames of their own fire." Although the new NRA's pro-Trump video is clearly going for an apocalyptic theme, many on Twitter found the writing, production and execution of the commercial more amusing than ominous.
"We are witnesses to the most ruthless attack on a president, and the people who voted for him, and the free system that allowed it to happen, in American history," Loesch, standing against a drab blue backdrop, says in the video. "From the highest levels of government to their media, universities and billionaires, their hateful defiance of his legitimacy is an insult to each of us. But the ultimate insult is that they think we're so stupid that we'll let them get away with it."
As Loesch speaks, the video cuts between her and footage of leftist protesters, with some time-lapse video of cities at night and newspaper presses thrown in for good measure.
"These saboteurs," she continues, "slashing away with their leaks and sneers, their phony accusations and gagging sanctimony, drive their daggers through the heart of our future, poisoning our belief that honest custody of our institutions will ever again be possible, so they can then build their utopia from the ashes of what they burn down. No, their fate will be failure, and they will perish in the political flames of their own fires."
There's a lot going on there, so let's just jump right into it. The video opens with Loesch stating that anti-Trump Americans are waging "the most ruthless attack on a president... in American history." That's a mighty, mighty bold claim to make, given that several U.S. presidents have been shot to death by their detractors. It's true that Trump's critics pull no punches in their condemnations of him; however, it's difficult to think of any attack on Trump's presidency that was more "ruthless" than a literal assassination.
Loesch then says that this "ruthless attack" (singular) on Trump is coming from, in part, "the highest levels of government." This is a strange comment, as Trump himself is at the highest level of government, and has appointed or hired many of the officials who help him run the government at this level. Similarly, her denunciation of "saboteurs slashing away with their leaks and sneers" sounds like an attack on the Trump administration itself, since that — by definition — is where all executive branch leaks are coming from.
It's telling that Loesch mentions "leaks and sneers" in the same breath, as if leaking classified information and insulting the president are both equally damaging to Trump. Personal grievance, self-righteous indignation, and victimhood are all recurring themes in the NRA's video ("their hateful defiance of his legitimacy is an insult to each of us," "gagging sanctimony," "poisoning our beliefs"); incidentally, these are all personal qualities of Trump himself, of course, so perhaps it's not surprising to see them in his supporters as well.
Even more telling is Loesch's claim that people who insult or denounce Trump are "poisoning our belief that honest custody of our institutions will ever again be possible." This is a remarkable admission, as Loesch is acknowledging that mere criticisms of Trump are enough to make his supporters question their political beliefs. The idea that Trump's base is so fragile that it must be shielded from any insults or condemnations of the presidents is an admission of weakness, not strength.
It's also, as many folks on Twitter pointed out, the kind of worldview that's readily embraced by authoritarian dictators. Totalitarian regimes regularly prohibit their citizens from vocally criticizing the government in order to stifle any semblance of dissent before it can grow. In North Korea, for instance, insulting the ruling Kim family is a crime punishable by life in prison, and in 2016, the North Korean regime banned sarcasm for fear that citizens were deploying it to sneakily speak ill of the government.
It's probably no surprise, then, that the video ends with Loesch conjuring up a violent image, one of Trump opponents burning to death. In all fairness, she does soften the comment a bit by making stating people who don't support the president will only "perish in the political flames," as opposed to perishing in literal flames. At the same time, the commercial also depicts footage of literal fires moments before Loesch says that, so there's that, too.
On Twitter, criticisms of the NRA video — and there were many — seemed to be equally divided among those who were struck by its fascist undertones and those who were struck by its sub-par script. Even some conservatives criticized the video for mischaracterizing the left and overstating the damage caused by insulting Trump.
But perhaps the most astute observation came from activist Bree Newsome, who became famous in 2015 for scaling the flagpole at the South Carolina statehouse and removing the Confederate Flag hanging on it. Newsome noted that the NRA — ostensibly a gun rights organization — made absolutely no mention of firearms or gun laws anywhere in its ad.
This raises the question: What, exactly, is the NRA's goal as a political organization? Is it to protect Americans' Second Amendment rights? Is it to protect President Trump? Is it to scare leftist protesters into being quiet about their criticisms of a Republican president? Bustle has reached out to the NRA for comment.