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Yes, Gun Control is Still Pretty Much Astroturf

An MSNBC contributor e-mailed me looking for a statement. As a policy, I don’t return e-mail from the Administration’s propagandists, but I figured a public response would do just fine:

You have accused Mayor Bloomberg of being “Astorturf-in-Chief” and the gun control movement of being “astroturf” instead of a grassroots movement.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns now has 1.5 million supporters, and they organizing events in ten cities. The Newtown Action Alliance also held an event today on Capitol Hill.

Does the mean the “astroturf” efforts are becoming a grassroots movement for control? Or does it still just amount to “astroturf”?

What Bloomberg is likely defining as “supporters” are people who have gotten on his e-mail list. How one defines a supporter is quite flexible, but that’s a vastly different animal than a dues paying member. NRA actually has one of the strictest standards for membership of any interest group that plays in DC.

NRA has 5 million members. That’s 5 million people who forked over money, usually 25-35 dollars to become members, and who have to keep paying that every year to remain on the rolls. Voting members, which includes life members (who forked out anywhere from 300-1000 dollars) and people who have been members for 5 unbroken years, number 1.72 million by the number of ballots that went out for the last Board election.

But it’s not just that. Where are the anti-gun blogs? Where’s the anti-gun convention that turns out 82,000 people like NRA did in Houston last month? Why are we able to mobilize bigger protests ad-hoc than they can manage even with professional organizers and slick ad campaigns. If Bloomberg has grassroots why is his bus tour schedule not being made public? Perhaps because he is well aware our people will show up and risk MAIG not getting the media’s undivided attention?

If I wanted to play Bloomberg’s game, just doing a quick query on the blog’s database, I have 7139 supporters in just my small corner of the pro-2A universe. That’s how many unique people have ever commented on this blog. We’ve had 1.9 million unique people who have visited this blog since I’ve been keeping stats. Of those, about 260,000 have returned to the site at least once. The metric I use to determine how many regular readers I have comes out to about 2300 now, and 7000 over the years if I take the data back far enough. We have 520 Facebook fans, and between Bitter and I, we have 2500 followers on Twitter. I am a blog about gun politics, and that’s all I generally blog about. That’s a pretty niche topic, as things go, and I’ve never spent so much as a dime on an ad campaign, or made any effort to compile a list of “supporters.” What could I have accomplished if I had sunk even a million of Bloomberg’s money into marketing?

So yes, I believe the gun control movement is still mostly Astroturf. I am sure millions of Americans are willing to say they support gun control, and some might even be willing to sign up for an e-mail list. But it takes more than that to win in politics. Bloomberg’s 1.5 million doesn’t matter if none of those people are willing to act or vote on the issue. NRA’s 5 million people will act, and will vote, and largely on that one issue. We will crawl over broken glass to defend the Second Amendment. In fact, most of us would do more if necessary.

34 Responses to “Yes, Gun Control is Still Pretty Much Astroturf”

  1. Richard says:

    If there were justice in the world, your wealth compared to Bloomberg would be proportional to your level of support.

    • TS says:

      All we have to do as supports is each send Sebastian and Bitter 3.5million dollars and he’ll be right there with Bloomberg.

  2. Jacob says:

    I called MAIG a fraud on a live interview on NY1 awhile back. OCShooters has details of their funding.

  3. Saratoga says:

    Your response was excellent–and quite inspiring too. Unfortunately, I just signed up for Bloomberg’s bus tour email updates. Does this make me a supporter?

    http://www.nomorenames.org

  4. brobrandonb says:

    Huzzah!

    We are a fluid movement with many leaders spread across many organizations fighting for legislation, awareness and outreach, safety, representation in courts, and efforts focused on local, state, regional and federal reform.

    We don’t have top-down marching orders. We don’t have a billionaire busybody figurehead and a slick Chicago politician financing and directing us what to do, providing talking points, PR firms, and generally holding our hand or paying our way to look “grassroots”.

    Who is the leader of the pro-gun movement?
    Nobody. Everybody.

    If Bloomberg and maybe (up-to) a half dozen other key agitators decided to move to gun-free England and give up the fight here – the anti-gun movement in America wouldn’t have enough energy (or finances) to nail shut the coffin.

    The NRA board could all perish in a freak 20oz soda related accident tomorrow and the movement and fight would continue in a myriad of ways.

    • Alpheus says:

      I remember a computer simulation being done to determine what would happen if we tried to blow up an asteroid that was headed for Earth. The conclusion? It would break up into pieces, but the gravity of those pieces would pull the asteroid back together, and the resulting hit might be even worse: rather than having to worry about one huge object hitting in one spot, we’ll have to deal with lots of little pieces scattering and hitting a wider area.

      If something happened to the NRA, I would suspect that something similar would happen to the members of the community: they’ll pull together, perhaps into a dozen separate organizations, and may even be all the stronger for it!

  5. Whetherman says:

    This crosses over with the other thread today, about NAGR.

    I don’t know for sure and in detail what NAGR does, but I know there are similar groups that count almost any direct contact they get as a “member.” That includes anyone who signs a phony online petition, etc. In some states, I believe doing that gives them extra lobbying privileges. Claiming members as long as they can name the names of contacts wildly inflates their numbers.

    I have no doubt at all MAIG is engaging in some variation of that.

  6. Thirdpower says:

    The Brady Campaign used to do the same thing w/ their email list. They used to claim “150K online grassroots supporters” but couldn’t even get much support on their own blog.

    • Sebastian says:

      Yes, which is interesting. Bloomberg is the first real attempt to do this in the 21st century, and with 21st century methods. The Brady folks were never honestly prepared to fight on a 21st century political landscape.

    • Thirdpower says:

      and hell, even my crappy little blog has several hundred regular readers and 400 twitter followers.

  7. P.M. says:

    Please — replace the typo “defense” with “defend” in your last sentence. Otherwise they’ll just quote your sentence with the typo, even though that was a devastating and eloquent takedown. You know I’m right.

  8. P.M. says:

    Second to last sentence, sorry.

  9. stmarks says:

    So the “reporter” asked you a question assuming that his assumption of the number is correct and they are indeed supporters with out a definite explanation on what a “Supporter” is, and demanded that you answer it based on the assumption that he is correct in his number.

    Wow.

    “Yes, Mr Reporter, astroturf is pulling numbers out of one’s behind and use it as fact, like you just did, so yes, gun-control movement is still astroturfing.”

  10. ExurbanKevin says:

    I met you and Bitter back in 2009 at the NrA convention here in Phx, were the Christian Science Monitor did an article on how gunbloggers were STOMPING the anti-gunners in the online world.

    And it’s only gotten more lopsided since then. We have Top Shot, Duck Dynasty and the entire friggin’ Outdoor and Sportsmans Channels.

    They have MSNBC, a 4th rate cable news channel.

    Advantage, us.

  11. Spade says:

    Bloomberg had to help out the CO recall targets by paying protestors and bringing people in from other states.

    All the time they were accusing the recall guys of “AstroTurf”.

  12. Mininerd ISH says:

    If the NRA counted supporters the same way… yowza. Its no secret that there are many folks who were NRA members but for one reason or another our membership has lapsed (I’m one of them) and another sizable group that has, for whatever reason, just never joined … and a few Wookies that think the NRA is too soft so they join something more tactically operated for tactical operators to operate.

    How many “Likes” does the NRA have on the BookFace?

  13. Alien says:

    About those 5 million dues-paying members…I’d wager each of us know, or at least is acquainted with, 4-6 like minded non-NRA members, possibly more. Which is where the real grass roots starts.

    • Alpheus says:

      I’m one person still mulling over the idea of joining the NRA. In some ways, though, I’m not sure if I want to be a member of the NRA per se. I sort-of want to be a member of the NRA-ILA–that is, to pay dues to the NRA, but in such a way that I’m tallied as a supporter of NRA’s *political* agenda.

      In other words, I want it to be clear that I’m not a fuddy-duddy hunter who’s a member of the NRA, but the NRA doesn’t really represent my views. I’d like to make it clear that I’m in FULL SUPPORT of their “extremist” views!

      I haven’t yet made the request to the NRA, though. I think I’ll do that right now.

    • Zermoid says:

      If each of those 5 million official members, who pay to be members, has a family and can influence the vote of say 10 people in his/her family that adds up to one big voting block and political clout.

  14. Roberta X says:

    “Fungible” — “readily exchangable” in the sense of trade, cash money being a prime example of fungability — is probably not the word you’re looking for. “Flexible,” maybe?

    This distracts from an otherwise-brilliant article.

  15. Joe says:

    I’m on MAIG’s email list, and I wouldn’t be surprised if quite a number of 2A supporters are as well – helps keep tabs on the enemy.

    The MAIG events happening in various cities are for the media – people on the MAIG email lists are being notified with only 24hrs advance notice. Why? Because they know that publicizing the event well ahead of time might draw more 2A supporters than gun control supporters. So they hope to get a couple dozen of their supporters, along with the organizers, and a sympathetic media, while avoiding us.

  16. Asdf says:

    You totally just made that MSNBC contributor your bitch. Good show!

  17. SPQR says:

    In addition to the five million active paid NRA members, and the lapsed members mentioned above, there are tens of millions of people who will tell pollsters – incorrectly – that they are NRA members.

    We got the real committed “supporters” who actually “support”.

  18. P.M. says:

    Speaking of grassroots vs. astroturf, I see Nevada’s Gov. Sandoval vetoed the UBC bill there. Team Bloomberg was spending like a faucet to try to flood the phone line the Governor set up to gauge public opinion on the issue. Wonder what the ratio was of pro-veto to anti-veto callers?

    BTW I do not think this sort of telephone polling is generally an appropriate approach to decisionmaking by public officials. Rather, I suspect the Governor was already inclined to veto the legislation and wanted to cleverly preempt claims by antis that this was somehow contrary to the will of the people. Maybe future info will shed light on this?

  19. Earl Harding says:

    As a regular reader I’m not sure if I’ve commented.

    So I’m here just to make sure I’m counted :-)

    Alternatively I could just ask the NSA if I ever posted here I suppose…

  20. OldTexan says:

    Thank you so much and all of the guys and gals who stand up to be counted. I have two younger guys (in their 30’s) in my family with lots of education and good intentions who have crossed over to our side because of the single issue of guns. This one issue has opened their eyes and it has been interesting to watch their transformation, they both live in Colorado and they are becoming active in politics and support of pro gun politicians. Yeah!

  21. NUGUN Blog says:

    Did anyone else shudder like I did at the thought of Bitter being handed $1 million dollars to organize?

    I mean, I’m glad she is on our side…but still, even the thought of her with a $1 million dollar budget equates to something fierce.

    LOL

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