In mid-April, 2012, Ted Nugent summarized his thoughts on the re-election of President Obama when, in front of an NRA Convention crowd he “promised to be “dead or in jail” by the Spring of 2013 if Obama was re-elected.” OK then…
Ted Nugent, an NRA board member fancies himself a spokesman for gun owners; a celebrity talking head for gun rights, a celebrity political activist to bring out the base with his rhetoric and music.
Last April, in the middle of the Republican primaries Nugent endorsed Mitt Romney for President. In and of itself it is a fair, patriotic thing to do, a right of everyone, celebrity or not to endorse someone for office. But this deviated from an endorsement…it escalated to hate filled vitriol obviously intending to inflame rather than promote support. It is a typical, often repeated tact of the right, from Rush to Beck to Hannity to inflame with hate filled wharrgarbl, to use words free of the constraint of fact to instill fear, uncertainly and dread into the base of conservative voters. And because so many of that base only get their information from the right-wing echo chamber…few if any take the time to apply critical thinking to what has been said and why.
Nugent, addressing the milling crowd at the 2012 NRA Convention in St. Louis
“Your goal should be to get a couple of thousand people per person who’s here to vote for Mitt Romney in November.” “If you don’t know that our government is wiping its ass with the Constitution, you’re living under a rock some place. And that there’s a dead soldier, an airman, a Marine, a seaman, a hero of the military that just got his legs blown off for the U.S. Constitution, and we got a president and an attorney general who doesn’t even like the Constitution.”
Nugent continued “We got four Supreme Court justices who don’t believe in the Constitution.” “Four Supreme Court justices signed their name to a declaration that Americans have no fundamental rights to self defense. That sounds like a stoned hippy! That doesn’t sound like a Supreme Court anything. It sounds like a supremely intellectually vacuous punk.”
“And if you want more of those kinds of evil, anti-American people in the Supreme Court then don’t get involved and let Obama take office again. Because I’ll tell you this right now, if Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”
Nugent further urged attendees to get everyone they knew to vote for Romney and against “this vile, evil, America-hating administration” or “we’ll be a suburb of Indonesia next year.” [Video Link]
That is not political speech; it is hate speech, spewed by someone who is mad because his side lost in 2008, mad because his philosophy is so opposed to many in America. Mad because he can’t believe that a majority of American believe differently than he. And, rather than work within the political process, he chose to inflame with hate, try to reduce the debate to a dystopian death-match of good vs. evil, though it is not clear to those who read his words whether he is, as he envisions a noble patriot or as many believe a raving traitor, bent on destroying an America if it can’t be like HE wants it.
Now, nearly a year after a promise to “either be dead or in jail by this time next year,” Nugent is vacillating…caught up in his own vitriolic rhetoric. His goal in saying what he said was ineffective and now he is trying to justify his comments by suggesting they were a metaphor. A year later he says…
And I know it caught a lot of my friends off guard, when I said if this America-hater, if this freedom-hater, if this enemy of America becomes the president again I’ll either be dead or in jail.” He continued “So it’s funny that I might be dead or in jail. And that is so indicative of how callous and disconnected some are, because you are talking about arbitrary, punitive, capricious draconian felonies.” [Video Link]
Really Ted…capricious, draconian felonies? In what paranoid, hate filled parallel universe?
So, why is what Ted Nugent says important? In the political sense, as an endorser for public office it is not…his fiery rhetoric did not contribute to a Romney victory.
Then we look at the current national conversation, that attempt by America to reign in gun violence because too many Americans are tired of not feeling safe in their malls, restaurants, churches, theaters and where they take their kids to learn to be adults. What does Nugent contribute to it? From seeing his comments, and from reading the comments of those who support him, he is contributing greatly to the intransigence that is overwhelming the gun rights side of the conversation. They echo Nugent’s fringe philosophy of hate for this administration; inability to compromise as normal adults are required to do; look to protect their hobby rather than to look for solutions to the gun violence problem.
It is not hard to visualize many of the gun rights enthusiasts standing in the crowd, lighter held high as Uncle Ted riffs on the his paranoid doomsday vision of dystopia…and only his vision can save the day. Of course the crowd cheers for an encore. The echo chamber is just too well refined.
But, is there damage to his words? After all he has a First Amendment Constitutional right to articulate his opinions on his Second Amendment Constitutional right. And that is all well and good EXCEPT, much like the demographic of “gun owner”, while there are a large number of folks that hear him who are responsible, that understand his political rhetoric intended no harm, there is a small percentage of those who listen to him that are unable to apply critical thinking skills to his words and that they should take them figuratively rather than literally. As anger over President Obama’s second term continues and as Americans take a hard look at the 21st Century realities of gun rights, time will tell what that small percentage of enthusiasts will do. Hopefully it will be a non-issue. But if it is not, Nugent has blood on his lips.
I have a good friend of many years who tells me that “Uncle Ted” is a good guy, that, when he and his daughter see Nugent at NRA conventions and other gun show events, that Nugent treats his young daughter like a rock star [and he should]…and the photographs I have seen lead me to believe that to be true. BUT, as long as Ted Nugent spits vitriol, intentionally inflaming gun enthusiasts with fact free rhetoric and paranoid, dystopian hyperbola he will always, to me be “That draft dodging, diaper wearing, poaching, child support avoiding, underage girl dating, feckless has-been NRA board member.” And that hyperbolic opinion is fact based.
One week to go until the year is over…Tic-Toc.
McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.
You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip.