Commentary Magazine


Topic: Howard Stern

Guns, Hollywood Hypocrisy, and the NRA

More than 13 months after the Newtown massacre, gun control remains at the top of the liberal agenda. But resistance to more restrictions on gun ownership or more intrusive procedures has frustrated this campaign despite the best efforts of President Obama and the mainstream media. Indeed, as I wrote last month, polls now show even greater opposition to tougher gun laws than existed a year ago. Much of the resistance comes from a public smart enough to understand that the laws the president wants to pass wouldn’t have prevented Newtown. Moreover, many Americans simply don’t trust liberals when they say they just want commonsense laws that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the insane. Though the president and other liberals say they don’t want to take your gun away, the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups have seen their membership rise in the last 13 months because a lot of people think that is exactly what he wants to do. Of course, he also promised that you could keep your doctor too.

More ammunition for those who hold that view was provided this week by one of the president’s leading fundraisers: Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Speaking on the Howard Stern radio show, Weinstein launched into a tirade about his opposition to legal gun ownership and said he was planning to make a movie with actress Meryl Streep about the gun issue that would make the NRA “wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them.” Weinstein also said, “I don’t think we need guns in this country, and I hate it, and I think the NRA is a disaster area.”

While taking seriously anything said by anyone in the movie business  in a political context is probably a mistake, this snippet at least provides a fair representation of the core beliefs of the president and his major supporters. But more than that, since the glorification of gun mania in pop culture is widely believed to be one of the most significant reasons why our country is home to so many weapons-related crimes, when the producer of some of the most violent movies in our history speaks out against guns, it gives new meaning to the word hypocrisy.

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More than 13 months after the Newtown massacre, gun control remains at the top of the liberal agenda. But resistance to more restrictions on gun ownership or more intrusive procedures has frustrated this campaign despite the best efforts of President Obama and the mainstream media. Indeed, as I wrote last month, polls now show even greater opposition to tougher gun laws than existed a year ago. Much of the resistance comes from a public smart enough to understand that the laws the president wants to pass wouldn’t have prevented Newtown. Moreover, many Americans simply don’t trust liberals when they say they just want commonsense laws that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the insane. Though the president and other liberals say they don’t want to take your gun away, the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups have seen their membership rise in the last 13 months because a lot of people think that is exactly what he wants to do. Of course, he also promised that you could keep your doctor too.

More ammunition for those who hold that view was provided this week by one of the president’s leading fundraisers: Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Speaking on the Howard Stern radio show, Weinstein launched into a tirade about his opposition to legal gun ownership and said he was planning to make a movie with actress Meryl Streep about the gun issue that would make the NRA “wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them.” Weinstein also said, “I don’t think we need guns in this country, and I hate it, and I think the NRA is a disaster area.”

While taking seriously anything said by anyone in the movie business  in a political context is probably a mistake, this snippet at least provides a fair representation of the core beliefs of the president and his major supporters. But more than that, since the glorification of gun mania in pop culture is widely believed to be one of the most significant reasons why our country is home to so many weapons-related crimes, when the producer of some of the most violent movies in our history speaks out against guns, it gives new meaning to the word hypocrisy.

As the Washington Examiner points out, Weinstein has done as much, if not more, than anyone to coarsen American popular culture and to fill screens with blazing guns shredding the bodies of victims. Whatever you think about the NRA, the man who brought us such movies as Django Unchained, Inglorious Bastards, Pulp Fiction, and such classics of the cinema as Rambo 4, Grindhouse, Sin City, and the immortal Piranha 3DD is in no position to pose as a critic of America’s gun culture.

But the problem here goes far deeper than the predictable hypocrisy of wealthy Hollywood liberals. Anyone who tries to sell a skeptical public on the notion that liberals don’t want to abrogate their Second Amendment rights must deal with the fact that Americans know very well that people like Weinstein and his political hero Obama want to do exactly that, in spite of the president’s disclaimers. It might be possible to pass more sensible background-checks laws if so many voters didn’t believe, as does the NRA, that they would just be the thin edge of the wedge assaulting the Second Amendment.

It’s also worth noting that one of the things Weinstein was discussing on the Stern show was a project he was working on about a film depicting Jews resisting the Nazis during the Holocaust. When the libertarian-minded Stern asked Weinstein whether it was inconsistent to make a movie about people using guns, the movie mogul replied that such conduct was justified in the context of the Nazis’ genocidal plans. He’s right about that. But while fears that liberals are planning to take away private guns in order to facilitate a totalitarian state are absurd, Weinstein and others who share his prejudices should understand the purpose of the Second Amendment was to preserve the ability of the American people to defend themselves against a tyrannical government. While that may seem far-fetched today in an era when individuals with rifles or pistols pose little threat to modern states, the principle is unchanged.

Weinstein’s threats that he will undermine the NRA with his new film aren’t likely to worry the group. Left-coast liberals have every right to use their money to advance causes and candidates they support. But so do the five million members of the NRA, as well as other Americans who, while not gun owners themselves, support its positions. As we have seen in the last year, grass roots support for the rights of gun owners has repeatedly trumped big-money campaigns funded by people such as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others who agree with Weinstein. As long as the political left and its Hollywood ATM machines keep showing their contempt for the Constitution, the NRA has little to fear from Harvey Weinstein or Meryl Streep. 

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Despite Gaffe, Limbaugh Won’t Be Silenced

As James Taranto notes in his Best of the Web column in today’s Wall Street Journal, the left is crowing today about putting Rush Limbaugh on the run. As Taranto writes, “The kerfuffle was no fluke but a left-liberal set piece” in which a concerted effort was made by liberal members of Congress to spin the Obama administration’s attack on the Catholic Church as a defense of women’s rights. But liberals aren’t satisfied with just their success in changing the conversation from one about religious freedom to one centered on the mythical attack on the right to contraception by the church and conservative opponents of ObamaCare. The real prize in this controversy is not the way the left has enabled the president to avoid taking responsibility for the way his signature health care bill will subvert liberty but the chance to take down the most popular conservative talk show host for the last 20 years.

The flight of Limbaugh’s advertisers under the storm of pressure orchestrated against the radio personality is significant. Since Limbaugh’s tasteless comments about Sandra Fluke’s testimony in which the Georgetown University Law student complained about the cost of birth control, nine of his sponsors have pulled their ads from his show. Limbaugh’s belated apology to Fluke was not enough to stop the bleeding because some of those who dumped him did so after his attempt to walk back his foolish and vulgar jibes. But by pushing so hard to knock off the king of talk radio, the liberal chorus of outrage may have gone a bit too far.

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As James Taranto notes in his Best of the Web column in today’s Wall Street Journal, the left is crowing today about putting Rush Limbaugh on the run. As Taranto writes, “The kerfuffle was no fluke but a left-liberal set piece” in which a concerted effort was made by liberal members of Congress to spin the Obama administration’s attack on the Catholic Church as a defense of women’s rights. But liberals aren’t satisfied with just their success in changing the conversation from one about religious freedom to one centered on the mythical attack on the right to contraception by the church and conservative opponents of ObamaCare. The real prize in this controversy is not the way the left has enabled the president to avoid taking responsibility for the way his signature health care bill will subvert liberty but the chance to take down the most popular conservative talk show host for the last 20 years.

The flight of Limbaugh’s advertisers under the storm of pressure orchestrated against the radio personality is significant. Since Limbaugh’s tasteless comments about Sandra Fluke’s testimony in which the Georgetown University Law student complained about the cost of birth control, nine of his sponsors have pulled their ads from his show. Limbaugh’s belated apology to Fluke was not enough to stop the bleeding because some of those who dumped him did so after his attempt to walk back his foolish and vulgar jibes. But by pushing so hard to knock off the king of talk radio, the liberal chorus of outrage may have gone a bit too far.

Most Americans, even those who agreed with Limbaugh about the issue, thought his over-the-top remarks about Fluke being a “slut” because she thought her Jesuit-run law school ought to pay for her birth control costs were way out of line. He’s been publicly spanked for this and rightly so. But the moment the effort to punish him becomes a campaign to destroy him, the nature of the narrative of this issue can change just as quickly as it did last week.

The fact that the outrage over Limbaugh was hypocritical didn’t buy him much slack as he was forced to face the music about his comments. But as soon as this outrage morphed into a crusade to force him off the air, that hypocrisy becomes relevant again. Those who think Limbaugh’s insensitivity to women is such that he ought not to be allowed to broadcast need to be asked why they haven’t signed on to similar efforts to force someone like HBO’s Bill Maher off his well-paid cable perch? He has said far worse about conservative women than Limbaugh’s faux pas.

Of course, the difference here is not that what Limbaugh said was worse, because it wasn’t. It is that he is a conservative who trashes liberals rather than a liberal who trashes conservatives.

In the New York Times Media Decoder feature about Limbaugh’s woes, columnist Brian Stelter points out one of those advertisers who have left his show, Tax Resolution Services, was “put on the map” by their sponsorship of “The Howard Stern Show.” The company’s chief executive Michael Rozbruch says the reason why he bowed to pressure to leave Limbaugh after loyally sticking with a vulgar creature like Stern is due to the increased pressure from “social media.”

It’s true that Facebook and Twitter have given such campaigns a boost, but anyone who thinks political hypocrisy is not at work here is not paying attention. The effort to destroy Limbaugh will fail because the shift from righteous indignation at him to an effort to suppress his voice only serves to remind his huge fan base the reason why Limbaugh and the whole genre of conservative radio had to be created was the liberal monopoly on traditional broadcast outlets. Shutting him down has been a liberal dream for two decades, but his Fluke gaffe won’t serve as an excuse for silencing the movement he has come to exemplify. As Limbaugh promised his listeners today, any advertiser who bolts from his show will be replaced.

Liberals are overplaying their hand on Limbaugh and, as Taranto rightly points out, sooner or later the debate will switch back to the ObamaCare mandate and the way it threatens to dangerously expand government power.

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