It had been a while since we had a new conservative meme, so let's embrace this one: Conservatives are angry that Attorney General Eric Holder plans to make them wear "gun tracking bracelets." Which, as you might expect, he doesn't.
Before a House subcommittee, Holder explained that while the Senate was debating new gun control measures last year, he and the vice president met with people who were working on technological innovations in gun manufacturing. "[W]e talked about how guns can be made more safe," he said, as transcribed by the conservative site Washington Free Beacon. "By making them either through fingerprint identification, the gun talks to a bracelet or something that you might wear, how guns can be used only by the person who is lawfully in possession of the weapon."
Holder was talking about things like the Gun Box, a storage device for firearms that can only be opened when the owner passes a radio frequency ID (RFID) chip over it, the sort of thing in your credit cards that lets you tap instead of swiping. The Gun Box embeds its RFID chip in a bracelet. Need your gun? Wave your hand over your storage box and it opens — but your kids and criminals can't gain access.
That's not the headline the Free Beacon put on its story, as Talking Points Memo noted on Wednesday. Instead, the site went with: "Holder: We Want to Explore Gun Tracking Bracelets." That's the headline that carried over to the conspiracy site InfoWars and to Fox News and to the NRA website. There's no tracking in what Holder referred to, unless you're worried about being tracked by your gun. But if the headline had been "Holder: Let's Make Guns Smarter," all those other sites wouldn't have picked it up.
Over the course of the week, the Holder-wants-to-track-your-guns meme started to take off. The reelection campaign of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted a somewhat awkward image using the "Grumpy Cat" meme — memes on memes on memes. "Eric Holder wants law-abiding Americans to wear 'smart gun' bracelets," it reads. "RT if you agree that's outrageous!" Ten people retweeted it, the low number perhaps the result of people not agreeing that this is what Holder wants to do.
Sarah Palin jumped on Facebook to tell the world about the bracelets she will wear, honoring the military and "independent Americans" and the Bill of Rights. She concludes with a reference to Holder's contentious argument with Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert earlier this week.
Eric, you can replace my identifying bracelets with your government marker when you pry them off my cold, dead wrists.
And, Eric, "You don't want to go there, buddy."
The "your government marker" line there is telling. Conservatives have a deep-seated anger at Holder. In his estimation, as he told an audience on Wednesday night, that stems in part from racial concerns. But more broadly because he is the grinning face of the big, intrusive government seen as hopelessly liberal. Beginning with the botched "Fast and Furious" operation, conservatives have focused on getting Holder out of office. Last year, the House voted to hold him in contempt. So the idea that he might want to track gun owners — to implement some proxy for the dreaded government ID or, from the conspiracy fringes, an implanted microchip — is an encapsulation of a number of fears and irritations on the right.
Which is why the idea that Holder wants to track gun owners probably won't be dislodged any time soon, if ever. It fits so neatly into the conservative narrative that it spurred a conservative website to misunderstand or misrepresent it at the outset. So you might as well go ahead and email this article to your angry uncle in advance. You'll be hearing him make the argument in the future anyway.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.