Longtime National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre Thursday addressed criticism of his organization following the Florida school massacre, and his combative defense included expressions of dog-whistle anti-Semitism reminiscent of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," with descriptions of a powerful plot to destroy America's freedom by "European-style Socialists" who he said had taken over the Democratic Party.
LaPierre vowed that the NRA intends to go far beyond its role as a gun lobby, to warn Americans that all of their individual freedoms are being destroyed by a condescending intellectual elite. "I promise you this - the NRA will not only speak out, the NRA will speak out louder and we will speak out stronger than ever before," with its own television station and expanded media operations to resist "the Socialist corruption of our government."
Again and again in his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland, LaPierre identified the enemies of the NRA, and of America, as Jews - from Karl Marx to Bernie Sanders, from Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor George Soros to former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. LaPierre singled out Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York as one of the Democrats who are "liars to the core."
"History proves it. Every time, in every nation in which this political disease rises to power, its citizens are repressed, their freedoms are destroyed, and their firearms are banned and confiscated. It is all backed in this country by the social engineering, and the billions, of people like [philanthropists of Jewish lineage] George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and more."
LaPierre, who has led the NRA for three decades, outlined a vision of a vast conspiracy led by "European-style Socialists" who, he said, have turned the Democrats into a "party which is now infested with saboteurs" and which has infiltrated and taken over such bodies as the FBI, the U.S. intelligence community, the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service.
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Their goal? "Absolute control, in every corner of our government, is their ultimate dream. These intellectual elites, they think they're smarter than we are. They think they're smarter than the rest of us. And they think they're better than we are. They truly believe it, and you know it, the privileged and the powerful. They think they deserve to be in charge of every lever of power.
"But you know what? The United States Constitution makes it absolutely clear that they are not in charge. We, the People are in charge of this country!"
"As usual the opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain - Saul Alinsky would have been proud," LaPierre said at the beginning of the speech, implicitly linking the vocal survivors of the shooting which killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, to Alinsky, the late community organizer and political activist who was the son of Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Russia.
Some 40 percent of the Stoneman Douglas high school student body is said to be Jewish.
"The shameful politicization of tragedy - it's a classic strategy right out of the playbook of a poisonous movement," which, he went on to suggest, was the Democratic Party.
"During the last decade, the Obama decade, many of those leaders [older Democrats who worked with the NRA] have been forced out, and a tidal wave of new, European-style socialists seized control of the Democratic Party."
Democrats are "a party which is now infested with saboteurs, who don't believe in capitalism, don't believe in the Constitution, don't believe in our freedom, and don't believe in America as we know it," LaPierre declared, his speech interrupted by enthusiastic applause at nearly every sentence.
"President Trump's election, while crucial, can't turn away the wave of these new, European-style Socialists bearing down upon us." First on LaPierre's list - Bernie Sanders.
"They hide behind labels like 'Democrat,' 'left-wing,' and 'progressive,' to make their Socialist agenda more palatable. And that is terrifying.
"And that should terrify every citizen who values the American ideal in this country of individual liberty," he continued. "They've politicized the Department of Justice, they've weaponized the Internal Revenue Service, the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], perhaps crippled the FBI and the intelligence community, and seized and embedded leadership in all of them to advance their agenda.
Many of the student survivors, seeking a ban on assault rifle sales and other gun safety measures, have sought to highlight and cut the ties between politicians and the powerful lobbying group.
LaPierre laid the blame for mass shootings not on the availability of assault rifles and large-capacity ammunition magazines, but on the "failure of school security, the failure family, the failures of America's mental health system, and the unbelievable failure of the FBI."
"It's a bizarre fact that jewelry stores all over this country are more important than our children, our banks, our airports, our NBA games, our NFL games, our office buildings, our movie stars, our politicians, are all more protected than our children at school."
"Do we really love our money and our celebrities more than we love our children?"
LaPierre suggested that background checks could be abused to violate privacy and destroy the foundations of America itself.
"This growing Socialist state dreams of manipulating schoolchildren to squeeze and squeeze information about their parents. They'll be asking your kids if mommy or daddy spanked them, or what mommy and daddy feed them for dinner, they'll want to know what TV shows you watch, what magazines or newspapers you read - and, oh yes, do mommy and daddy own a gun.
"And all that private information will be entered into that ultimate list, that cloud of data storage, that couldn't care less about due process and constitutional freedom, and your privacy as an American citizen - and then it's just a short hop to the systematic destruction of our most basic freedoms in this country.
"And you all know what they are, but let me say them: family, faith, individual responsibility and self-destiny, a free-market economy, patriotism, respect for our national flag and our national anthem, personal liberty, and justice for all."
As it is, LaPierre said, "On college campuses, the Communist Manifesto is one of the most frequently assigned texts. Karl Marx is the most assigned economist."
He reserved particular scorn for the words "Hollywood" and "Washington." In the nation's capital, he said, "no one speaks out, no one challenges authority, everyone keeps their mouth closed and their heads down, and that's exactly how Socialistic societies function."
"Anyone who attempts to resist is smeared into submission," he added. "Yep, you know it. Ah, yes, the Art of the Smear - we do live in the Socialistic age of the Art of the Smear. It doesn't have to be true. It just has to stick somewhere, anywhere. It's designed to degrade, to destroy, and it's all over the national media to serve their agenda, and is a movement that loves a smear - 'Racist,' 'Mysogynist,' 'Sexist,' 'xenophobe' and more."
According to LaPierre, for America's Socialists, "You name a group, and they'll find a way to turn them into victims. They keep their movement growing by finding someone to be offended by something, every minute of every day." Citing the Occupy movement, Black Lives Matter and Antifa, he said they "agitate the offended, promote uncivil discourse, and ignore any sense of due process and fairness, to destroy their enemies."
"Evil walks among us," LaPierre said, "and God help us if we don't harden our schools and protect our kids."