I recently criticized the National Rifle Association for allowing the host of their online radio show, Cam Edwards, to make grossly insensitive remarks on the night of the Sandy Hook school massacre.
While the NRA itself remained silent and then issued an appropriately respectful statement after the shooting, Edwards was anything but respectful.
In his broadcast, he blamed the shooting on everything from a lack of "love" in this country, to video games, Hollywood, and song lyrics. Basically, he blamed everything but guns.
Although Edwards emphasized that he is not a spokesperson for the NRA, the mere fact that he broadcast from the official NRA News station implied that the NRA was behind him.
After I wrote my post, I was attacked by conservative bloggers, who argued that I focused too much on only one of Edwards' points: the "lack of love." Well, there were plenty of other things Edwards said that I could have focused on — all of which were equally disrespectful, insensitive, and tone deaf.
But all of that is beside the point. The biggest issue I have with Edwards' broadcast was the timing, just hours after the massacre.
Originally Edwards wasn't going to broadcast that night. He decided to, he said, because he felt a "conversation" needed to happen. Then he launched into an explanation of why this "conversation" needed to happen that night ... because the media would certainly try to blame guns:
We hear a lot and we’ve heard a lot over the last few weeks, about the need to have a conversation about guns. That’s not what the people who say we need to have a conversation about guns want, they want to talk about Gun Control.
I want to have a conversation tonight, but it's not going to be about the gun issue, not gonna be about the violence in video games issue, not going to be about violence in Hollywood issue, or violent lyrics, or any other single issue, because we know we know we know that the issue is not an issue.
Has to be a conversation. I’m not sure where the conversation will go. I have no notes. I have no script on the teleprompter.
Edwards continued his one-man conversation by saying that he believes that what we really should be talking about is the "evil" and "decadence" in our country:
Decadent: when a culture stops caring about itself. It slides into decadence. In a way you could almost call it cultural slovenliness at first. You get sloppy, cultural mores and traditions start to fray around the edges. High culture is replaced by middle brow culture.
Then Edwards somewhat bizarrely referred to Chris Brown beating up Rihanna, and how a comedian who lampooned Brown for the beating was herself set upon by wild fans. This, according to Edwards, reflects on a society in two ways: that "satire" or "mockery" has become the "highest" art form, and that a low-brow American rabble would defend someone like Brown.
Edwards tried to pre-empt to the conversation on gun control, but ended up skirting the issue altogether.
Gun control is a complex issue with several contributing factors. Certainly it can't just come down to gun availability, which hasn't worked too well in the past. It's a discussion we need to have — we just shouldn't have it the same day as one of the worst school shootings our country has ever seen.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, NFL broadcasters opted not to use the terms "pistol" and "shotgun" in their commentating, movie stars edited violence out of their movies, and Fox even decided to pull new episodes of Family Guy and American Dad out of sensitivity to Sandy Hook's lost loved ones.
Even Edwards seemed to acknowledge that the timing was insensitive. "I would prefer the timing be different, but that we've already seen people make this about an issue," he said. But that didn't stop him from taking to the airwaves just hours after the attack to offer up several explanations in the hopes of watering down the assertion that guns were at least partly to blame.
It's not about his conclusions. It's about his affiliation, his agenda, and his timing. Cam Edwards' broadcast the day of the attack wasn't even middle-brow, it was a low-brow attempt to divert attention away from the issue of Gun Control.
It's an issue that will certainly be debated, as Barack Obama indicated, most likely in January. Edwards and the NRA should feel free to open discourse at that time. But until then, keeping silent not only demonstrates a bit more class, it also demonstrates a mournful respect for those whose lives will never be the same.
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