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Sandy Hook Promise ran this ad from the Leeerrroyy Jenkins Advertising Agency this week.

(Jokes aside, the ad is actually by BBDO, Sandy Hook Promise's longtime agency. BBDO is one of the top advertising firms in the world, and makes these ads for Sandy Hook Promise for free.)

The fact that BBDO does pro bono gun control work, and that the ad got unquestioning signal-boosts from the ad press and from mainstream news outlets isn't that surprising. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 — when you see a press wave like this, note that it's a can't-miss-it-once-you-know-about-it PR thing that Paul Graham memorably called "the submarine".)

It underlines something interesting though. The ad works in inverse proportion to how much you know about the issue. That's pretty unique. A lot of ads fall apart if you know about what they're selling. But not many work better the less you know.

That comes through in the press coverage. Terms like "the new reality" or "chilling back-to-school video" abound. (Again, note that when you see the same turn of phrase appear in different news articles, that's a telltale sign of a submarine.) The truth, of course, is that violence is at an all-time low in the US, and that school shootings are less common today than they were in the '90s. (See also this data from Northeastern University.) The chances of being shot to death at school are 1 in 6.67 million per year. (And even that number is inflated by gang and personal shootings that are quite different, and much more targeted, than what pops into your head when I say "school shooting".)

The country with the lowest nonzero murder rate in the world is Japan, where people are murdered at a rate of 0.2 per 100,000. That means from a gun murder perspective, US schools are 13 times safer than the safest country in the world.

And yet 57% of teens poll as either somewhat worried or very worried that there could be a shooting at their school. And rather than reassure them — e.g. they're 715 times more likely to die in a car accident, which itself is already very unlikely — groups create ad campaigns telling teens that they're not scared enough. Encouraging parents to scare their kids even more. Bringing consultants into school to conduct fear drills.

The interesting bit is to think about why. These groups have a hard PR problem that we've discussed before — gun control is popular in inverse proportion to how familiar people are with guns and the statistics.

So this is the best way to fix that problem: scare people out of getting familiar. The more you can scare people, the more you can persuade them not to learn (and therefore not to disagree with you), and instead to act on their raw emotions.

Our task is to be better than that. Because here's the encouraging truth that works in our favor: people don't want to be scared. So rather than respond to ads like this on their own terms, we're out there being level-headed, putting our arms around people, and explaining why they can safely ignore the fearmongers.

Fear doesn't help anyone except the people who are telling you to feel it. The more we spread that message, the more we win.


This week's links

Prepared Defender Effectively Repels Home Invaders
A guy grabs his AR-15 when two guys kick down his door. Great stuff from Active Self Protection, plus an interview with the defender.


"When shooting occurred at a school, video games were 8.35 times more likely to be discussed when the shooter was white than when black."
Linking to the /r/science thread, because many of the comments in there thoughtfully break down why the headline might not mean what it seems to at first glance.


The Second Amendment Foundation is reinstated on Twitter
Glad to see 'em back. They were suspended earlier in the week due to erroneous (and possibly malicious) flagging of their account.


Speaking of social media: we're on Twitter and Instagram
Give us a follow if you're a fan of gun porn, memes, and occasionally thoughtful tweets ;)


Why Ballistics Gel Works and Caliber Arguments are Dumb
Good stuff from Lucky Gunner's consistently excellent YouTube channel.

 


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