Civic Geek: The NRA’s problems and the future

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

The Parkland student-inspired MarchForLife protests have certainly had an impact. The NRA’s image is obviously tarnished and American opinions on guns have changed. Those bodes ill for the NRA – but also gives us ideas to address other issues where financial interests work against our citizens.

First, let’s look at where the NRA is:

The Parkland Students Got Organized Got Attention

The Parkland students got organized, got attention, and got a protest. This has had an impact, and it’s not going away – even if it fades (and it may) it’s inspired people and gotten them organized.

Two things stand out here:

  • * They were articulate and sympathetic by basically being themselves.
  • * They kept focused (though obviously there’s interest in other issues).

It’s really, really hard to argue with articulate people making the human point “I’d like not to be shot in my classroom.” There’s a message and people you can connect with.

The NRA Went On The Attack

And it looked awful. The NRA’s entirely geared up to be an attack machine (it’s really a PAC) and it responded as it does. When no one backed down, of course, what else can they do? They came of looking unsympathetic and unrelatable (wheres the students were otherwise)

Which brings us to a big issue . . .

The NRA-Adjacent Are Worse

Christ, I couldn’t believe the amounts of personal attacks on the Parkland students from assorted “journalists,” bloggers, and media lack-of-personalities. I mean I expected some of this, but it was far more vicious, petty, and stupid than I expected.

Then you get to the real fringe groups, the people looking for crisis actors and connections to pizza cults. They’ve already easily created or internalized various insane narratives. These both feed more “mainstream” journalists as well as self-reinforcing their own delusions.

The people towing the NRA line, the “NRA-Adjacent” look far worse – and that rubs off on the NRA. I have enough trouble telling Dana Loesch’s rants from someone on Twitter with six followers.

Which means that these people, when they look bad, make the NRA look bad EVEN IF THE NRA WERE TO GO QUIET. Since they can’t shut up, their activities are going to keep making the NRA look bad.

The NRA-Adjacent Are Vulnerable

Look at how fast Laura Ingrham apologized for mocking David Hogg when people went after her advertisers. Consumer revolt is not only helpful – it points out hypocrisy, viciousness, and provides publicity.

Remember how many people make a living providing punditry, and saying whatever pays.

There’s More To Dig Up

The NRA accepts foreign donations and has admitted it. There’s been suspicions for awhile about how they act as a kind of PAC/money laundering operation, and connections to Russia. They’ve got enough questions that additional public scrutiny isn’t going to e good for them.

Now they get to have it. When they and their adjacent advocates can’t shut up while they attack teenagers who don’t want to get shot.  We’re probably seeing a self-exciting system.

What We Can Learn

So what does this teach us about modern politics? It gives us some ideas of how to take on various corrupt groups and government officials – because they often fit the same pattern. They’re beliigerent, only know how to attack, have a “halo” of even more extreme believers, and there’s always something more to dig up.

Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. This means:

  • Be sincere and human.
  • Use the media.
  • Build focused movements.
  • Don’t give in to the attackers, but expect attacks.
  • Let those “adjacent” to corrupt organizations make the organizations look worse.
  • Be sure to use consumer boycotts and awareness against those adjacent to corruption.
  • When you have belligerent corrupt organizations and politicians, there’s usually more dark secrets to dig up.

These Parkland students didn’t just give us advocacy on gun rationality; they point to other ways to take on corruption in the system.

– Steve

Civic Geek: Whew, here we are!

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

Man I haven’t done one of these in awhile!  I’ve scheduled myself to do one a month though.  If you fell off this series, this is where I blog on civic geekery.

Let’s make this more of a catch up.

What am I doing?

  1. I am helping with a country political group.  I’ve been doing this for awhile, running social media.  Most of it is posting links and events, but it does keep people informed – and when elections are around they promise I’ll get busy.  A bit boring, but it keeps me in the midst of events and hard politics.
  2. I print a list weekly of what I want to call my reps on (boy are they gonna get an earful on the California Health Care bill).  Then I kinda do it.  That’s federal, state, AND local.  Bug them all people.
  3. As part of #1 and #2 I also keep on the news, having alerts for all my representatives.
  4. As part of #1 and #2 I follow the news through various forms – Twitter and a newsfeed – as well.
  5. I go to a regular monthly activism meetup that also has regular advice what to do.

I’ve not done as well as I wanted in late May and June, bluntly, as I’ve gotten real busy.  But the regular reminders I set up help and help me stay active.

The only thing I don’t feel is as connected as I’d like.  It’s probably as I’m comparing political involvement to, say, daily work or my professional associations.  So I’m always on the lookout for what more I can do.

A very, very important thing to do here is have that regular weekly plan.  I print it out and check it off every week.

Also don’t knock the power of the various sites that tell you what activism you can do like 5calls.  As you get active you learn ways to be a more engaged citizen.

And now a few findings

  1. When you call representatives, politeness goes a long way.  If they’ve disappointed you, feel free to be civil but with an edge.  I find representatives that are “gone rogue” respond to that.
  2. It really, really helps to meet with people.  I find the less I meet with people the less involved I feel.
  3. You have to keep trying out other groups and organizations to really know what’s going on.
  4. A lot of people do NOT know how government works – probably including you.
  5. I know a lot of people who were in military service, and as I talk to reps I see how many people just keep the country running.  When you see how many people are in the serivce, the government, security, etc. it can kind of make you feel inadequate.

(Oh and if you need some other creative boosts, check out my book on Creative Paths!)

– Steve

Civic Diary 2/13/2017

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

Still haven’t stopped these, though man they need to be more commonly updated.  I got hit with some nasty illness (we have multiple colds here) and apparently got sick twice.  So the last few weeks weren’t fun.

Political Groups And Activist Groups

I’m now helping with social media for a political group in the area – it’s a sort of “test” ground for me and my other ideas, because . . .

Don’t think you can just go to an activist group and say “give me something.”  A lot of them have hierarchies, legal requirements, etc. you have to follow.  I learned that the hard way, so now I’m working my way up.  Still I get to do some good and am going to use this to introduce a few new ideas and cool things.

The great part of being part of an established group is reach.  Nothing like being able to do something to affect a few hundred to a few thousand people.

I’m looking into involvement with my city and possible a few other groups.  I think all you can really do is just keep trying them out until something clicks for you.

TAKEAWAY: Pick at least one activist group to join, but remember it may take time to get a position.  Help anyway.

Do It Yourself

So one of my acquaintances up and created a political group for friends on Facebook where we coordinate.  Might want to give that a go too!

TAKEAWAY: Try a social media group for friends and politics.

Regular Activity

To help me out I’m doing the following

  1. I have a Google Alert for all representatives on the state and federal level, so once a day find out what they’re up to.
  2. I keep my usual news feeds.
  3. Out of that I find what I want to call them on – usually daily or every other day to tell them what they did right and wrong and make specific demands.
  4. This helps you keep up on local information anyway – I’ve had a few surprises, most of them pleasant.

How’s it working?  Not entirely sure as I’m one person, and there’s many voices, but my Congressman’s office now calls me by name when I call before I speak.  So I’m making an impression.

I’ve also decided that is worth following and am calling companies carrying Trump merchandise.  Very inappropriate and an area of ethical concern – especially as of late.

TAKEAWAY: Set up news/alert feeds to tell you who/what to call on each day.


I’ve been updating my civic guide and do need to post it now that I no longer feel terrible.  It’s been pretty helpful!

That’s what I’m up to.  What about you?

– Steve