Dec 162012

What with the Mayan Long Count Apocalypse just days a way, the president of Egypt behaving like a Pharaoh, Syria in the midst of a protracted rebellion, Israel madder at the Palestinians than an Orthodox rabbi who has caught his wife eating a bacon cheeseburger, the Chinese on the verge of armed conflict with both the Japanese and the Filipinos over various fly-speck islands scattered around the oceans of the Orient, the North Koreans flinging badly designed satellites into orbit, Rwanda raising Hell in the Congo, the dictator of Venezuela checking off the items on his bucket list, Obama and Boehner playing chicken at the edge of the Fiscal Cliff, and the Euro floating until somebody decides to flush it, my business is booming.  As the hoary aphorism so acutely states, it is an ill wind indeed that blows no good for anyone, and here am I, living proof of it, raking in consulting fees hand over fist, as busy as an undertaker at Antietam.   
No surprise, then, that I worked all day yesterday and even several hours today – a Sunday during Christmas season, no less.  But I still had time for an unscheduled emergency appointment with Dr. Colt Remington Winchester Smith-Wesson IV PhD JD CPA MBA FRS and Certified Licensed Gunsmith, chief policy advisor to the National Rifle Association.
“Thanks for meeting me on such short notice,” he opened, as he selected the chair located to the right of my office desk.
“No problem,” I assured him.  “I always have time for appointments with representatives of organizations as illustrious as yours.  What can I do for the NRA today?”
“Well,” he slowly began, “as you know, there were some… unfortunate developments on Friday involving… firearms.  I’ve been asked to coordinate the… preparation of a suitable press release.”
“And you can’t,” I presumed, “think of quite the right things to say?”
“I have to admit,” he ruefully sighed, “that coming up with an appropriate response to the Newtown… incident… hasn’t exactly been easy.”
“Entirely understandable,” I agreed.  “The entire affair is fraught with difficult complications.  While there’s nothing unusual about mass shootings – there have, after all, been twelve others in the United States this year alone – nevertheless, in the Newtown situation, one of the victims apparently legally owned all of the weapons used, and the body count is second only to the Virginia Tech bloodbath…”
“Please,” he politely interrupted, “let’s not use… um… unnecessarily strong… terminology when discussing the… ah… situation.”
“The Virginia Tech… tragedy,” I offered in response, as if I were describing the genre of Euripides’ Bacchae instead of an act which has more in common with Herod’s slaughter of the innocents.
“Yes,” he nodded, “good choice of words.  Our press release should state that we regret this tragedy, as, of course, all decent, moral people do.”
“Actually,” I observed, “as far as decent, moral people are concerned, I think the news of a young man killing his mother, five other adults, twenty children and himself while armed with a Glock, a Sig Sauer and a Bushmaster assault rifle would provoke considerably more outrage than regret.”
“Perhaps,” he allowed, “but I would have a hard time convincing the NRA to use the word ‘outrage’ in a press release.”
“No doubt,” I surmised.  “But why issue a press release at all?  The NRA is under no obligation to comment on this… tragedy, is it?”
Just then, my Linux workstation emitted a soft chime as Gretchen sent me an IM.  “Mr. Collins,” the message warned, “it would be a good idea for you to have a look at the email I just sent you.”
“One moment,” I told my client, “while I check something which could be urgent.”  It was.  “Did you know,” I asked him, “that there is a fake ‘NRA Press Release’ pertaining to… the prevailing circumstances… circulating on the Internet?”
“Oh, my God,” he exclaimed, “things just keep getting worse and worse!  What does it say?”
I printed it out and handed it to him.  Donning his reading glasses, he gravely recited from the hard copy.  “It says, quote, ‘While we at the NRA deeply regret the tragic events in Connecticut, we solemnly hope that this event will not be used as an excuse to try to pursue limitations on personal ownership of firearms.  As tragic as these events are, it is still necessary for true American patriots to be able to defend the white race when the darkies come for all our white women.’  Unquote.”
“At least,” I noted, “they got the part about ‘regret’ right.”
“And,” he pointed out, “the part about ‘tragedy,’ too.”
“Actually,” I commented, “it starts out reading very much like a real NRA press release, until it gets to the part about white patriots and darkies coming to take their women, of course.  That last part makes for a pretty cold punch line.”
“Really?” Dr. Smith-Wesson’s eyebrows rose up skeptically.  “Well, I can assure you, the NRA does not find any part of this… tasteless screed the least bit amusing.”
“It’s a sick joke, to be sure,” I assured him, “but obviously a joke, nonetheless.”
“And it should also be obvious,” he insisted, waving the hard copy at me for emphasis, “that the NRA needs to counter this… this… disgusting, heartless, mean-spirited hoax… and any others like it which might subsequently appear, for that matter, with a genuine press release.  Evil, malicious statements of this nature cannot go unanswered!”
“So,” I concluded, “what you need is advice on the best way to… spin… the, ah… issues associated with this… regrettable tragedy in order to… defuse the potential for adverse repercussions in the future.”
“Precisely,” he confirmed.  “What have you got?”
“Regardless of whether the genuine NRA press release expresses ‘regret’ for the ‘tragedy,’  or not, I would advise that you refrain from any mentions of patriotism, home protection or… family defense.”
“Good points,” he nodded, taking notes on his iPad.  “If that damn hoax press release is good for anything, it’s an excellent example of what not to say, anyway.  And yes, maybe we should go with ‘calamity,’ instead of ‘tragedy,’ and consider using ‘sorrow’ instead of ‘regret.’  More empathetic, don’t you think?”
“Some judicious editing is definitely in order,” I affirmed.  “I suggest you assign an entire team of public relations writers to crafting the best possible set of euphemisms for the hideous, insane, pointless, barbaric murder of five- to eleven-year-old children and the women who care for them with high power firearms.”
“Well worth the investment,” he murmured as he typed, “but do we have time to convene a team?”
“Wait,” I suggested, “not only until you have assembled that team, but also presented at least two alternative versions of the NRA Newtown press release to at least three focus groups and analyzed the results, revised, polished and thoroughly reviewed it before you publish.”
“That could take days,” he objected.
“Yes,” I conceded, “but it could also well be the most important press release the NRA has ever written.  So take your time and get it right – every word, every thought, everything, right down to the punctuation.  Believe me, with the gore-splattered bodies of cute little kids littering the halls of an elementary school, this one has to be completely perfect.”
“Themes?” Dr. Smith-Wesson beseeched, casting about.  “Second Amendment Constitutional Rights?  Individual Freedom?  Countering the Terrorist Threat?”
“‘The Armed Citizen,’” I suggested, “seems to offer the best spin potential.”
“Really?” Dr. Smith-Wesson challenged.  “How do you spin the Newton incident with ‘The Armed Citizen’ theme?”
“You ask the public to consider,” I explained, “how different things could have been, had only one of the adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School been likewise armed with a couple of semiautomatic pistols and an assault rifle of their own.  Remind everyone that if only one person with NRA sharpshooter qualifications had brought their handgun to that cineplex in Aurora, Colorado last July it is quite possible that the only fatal casualty there would have been the deranged maniac with two Glocks, a shotgun and an AR-15.  Tell them that if one objectively examines the circumstances in virtually every case where a similar… catastrophe… has occurred, there have been numerous adult Americans present, and every time, if one of them had just taken out a concealed weapon of their own and dropped that lunatic in his tracks, practically nobody would have been killed.”
“Collins,” he enthused, “that’s brilliant – exactly what I was looking for!  The solution isn’t fewer guns, it’s more guns!  Guns for every honest, law-abiding American citizen!  That’s how to deal with the problem – guns for everyone, everywhere!”
“Or, you could make the perfect the enemy of the good by proposing a huge force of trained, armed guards with one or more of them stationed at every single school in the country.  Either way, ” I quipped, “it looks like where firearms policy is concerned, when Dr. Smith-Wesson speaks, people listen.”
“So they do, Collins,” he chortled, “so they do!”