NRATV, the online streaming service of the National Rifle Association, first impinged upon me in July of last year. There she was one morning, on my computer screen: a dark-haired woman giving off a blue-white afterlife aura, against a black background, chanting a strange and vehement rosary of disdain: “They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler.” The invective accelerated. Scurrying violins were heard, electro doom-clangs. “They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again.” Then a fast-cut, black-and-white montage of societal crisis: broken glass, street scuffles, someone bleeding. “All to make them march. Make them protest. Make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia.” They, they, they; them, them, them. Scorn on her lips, scorn flaming in the hollows of her throat. “To smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law-abiding … The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.” This was pure brimstone. Less a diatribe, or an oratorical flight, than “an invitation”—as the novelist Mary Gaitskill once described the voice of Axl Rose—“to step into an electrical stream of pure aggression.” And who was this swaying, sneering, smolderingly glamorous woman? She looked like the villainess on a daytime soap—the one who steals the baby or pretends to have multiple personalities. “I’m the National Rifle Association of America. And I’m freedom’s safest place.”
That was Dana Loesch, an NRA national spokesperson and currently the raven-winged avatar of NRATV. Launched in 2016 as an expansionist reboot of NRA News, NRATV is a free, very well-designed, and smoothly navigable video-streaming website sponsored mainly by gun and ammunition manufacturers—Mossberg, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer. It offers a spectrum of programming that runs from harmless and hobbyistic gun-nuttery at one end to face-melting propaganda at the other. Fifty percent lifestyle channel, 50 percent gun-lobby orifice, 100 percent tone poem to the radical insecurity of modern American life, it aims to make you purchase firearms.