So, Ted Nugent is shooting off his crazed mouth again, this time explicitly advocating beheading members of Congress and declaring President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be “criminals” and that they must be dealt with like an invading coyote, by shooting. He followed up by stating that if Obama is re-elected, he (Nugent) expects to be “dead or in jail”
before the inauguration within a year, and then further clarified that “I’m a black Jew at a Nazi-Klan rally”.
Now, the obvious implications notwithstanding, I don’t really suspect Ted Nugent actually has the gumption to do anything violent in memoriam of the broken dreams of Mitt Romney, or that he literally means people should re-enact Braveheart by cutting people’s heads off with swords, or that his identification as a black Jew at a Nazi/Klan rally is the product of any deeply considered political analysis. He just likes the way he sounds, saying these things. But you have to admit it sounds pretty crazed, and is unlikely to sound any better even if it were made comprehensible.
The Huffington Post summed up the situation with this masterpiece of non-sequitur:
The Secret Service is reportedly investigating Nugent in the wake of his Saturday tirade at the NRA convention in St. Louis. Nugent’s hits include the 1977 classic “Cat Scratch Fever.” He has endorsed Mitt Romney for president.
Yes, all worrisome facts, to be sure, but it’s the “investigated for assassination threats” thing that gets my attention. Did I mention that Ted Nugent has been a member of the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association for almost 20 years? He’s well-known for his unhinged pro-gun rantings, and for stunts like brandishing assault weapons on-stage at his concerts while insulting Obama and Hillary Clinton and screaming “suck on my machine gun!”. This apparently is accepted behavior at the highest levels of the NRA. It’s certainly popular with the membership. (One source notes that in some elections he received the second-highest vote total of all Board membership candidates.) The remarks above, about beheading “criminals”, were made at the NRA’s national convention this week, speaking in his capacity as an elected official of the organization.
The list of NRA Board members is long and filled with truly frightening levels of insanity. Nugent stands out, though. He has been talking openly for years about violence in the context of how much he hates Democratic politicians. Now he’s making unmistakable veiled threats, or not even threats but clear, if indirect, statements of his own intention to commit violence, and exhortations of others to do the same, against specifically named high officials of the government. Proving that there is at least some final limit to the doctrine of IOKIYAR, somebody finally took notice, and now he’s “meeting with” the Secret Service.
Let’s dwell on that a bit: a long-standing elected member of the Board of Directors of the NRA, and one of their most vocal spokespeople, is being questioned by the Secret Service for implied threats of criminal violence, and open advocacy of murder, directed at the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and unnamed members of the Congress of the United States, issued at an NRA function. The Republican presidential candidate he explicitly endorsed in the course of making those threats refuses to repudiate him. The NRA itself has issued no statement, and certainly taken no action, regarding the fact that one of their Board members is – however implausibly – issuing threats of political assassination and is now under investigation as a threat to the President of the United States. This is OK at the NRA. This is how they are content to conduct their political business, and to be represented by their own officials at their own functions.
Is it imaginable that a governing-board member of any other major political organization could even be suspected of being a potential political assassin? Or that that body would accept that suspicious behavior in its own most visible operations, and take no action to distance themselves from those statements and the person who made them? If one of the board members of the AMA went crazy, began ranting about “socialized medicine” (not in fact unprecedented behavior at the AMA), and then advocated cutting people’s heads off and implied that the highest elected officials and Cabinet members of the administration should be shot like animals, is it likely that the AMA would endorse that as the kind of image they want to present? Would Major League Baseball – about as shameless an organization as you can find – openly hint at assassinating the President? Hell, oil companies don’t even do that. How would the US Chamber of Commerce – whose members no doubt secretly fantasize about exactly the same thing – react if one of them were hauled in by the Secret Service for screaming – at a gun show - that they were going to go on an illegal violent rampage against the election of Barack Obama?
When you think about their behavior in comparison with that of even reasonably normal human beings, you begin to see just how crazy and extremist the NRA is. They have a suspected assassin on their Board of Directors, and don’t care! Of course Nugent’s not really going to shoot Obama. (It’s not impossible some of his addle-headed fans will go over the line, and then of course he’ll declaim all responsibility, but personally he’s probably not a threat.) He’s probably not going to face charges. But he’s enough of a blowhard that he has to be taken seriously as a threat by the people whose job it is to take insane violent people seriously. No normal person gets that far, whether or not they go on to shoot anybody. No normal person makes veiled threats of violence as an expression of political belief. Nugent does it routinely, and has been doing for years. (And so do many others on the right wing. It’s a staple of conservative political rhetoric.) The NRA openly tolerates it, gives him an official platform for it, and refuses to do anything about it. They are an organization that is perfectly content to operate in that role – a role that would be not just unusual but unimaginable for any responsible interest group. That is who the NRA is, and that is the state of the pro-gun faction in the US.