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Home / Columns / Stick to your guns, please

Stick to your guns, please

Even as his administration, rightly enough, tries to curtail gun violence in the country, US President Barack Obama was trying to disarm critics by creating an image of a regular American guy by clutching a gun by his side, writes Anirudh Bhattacharyya.

columns Updated: Feb 08, 2013 22:58 IST

Recently, the American magazine The New Republic had this quote from US President Barack Obama: “Up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time.” Soon after, it tweeted an image of the president clutching a gun by his side, apparently post recoil.

The reality was that Obama was having a blast all right — but on the golf course and the gun had been photoshopped to replace a golf club. Which gives an entirely new meaning to the phrase: Shooting a birdie.

Even as his administration, rightly enough, tries to curtail gun violence in the country, Obama was trying to disarm critics by creating an image of a regular American guy. So the White House later issued an actual photograph of the president, barrel blazing.

There’s an obvious element of fakery in this approach since gun rights advocates in America have been targeting him for threatening to subvert the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. In posting that staged shot, the White House was rifling with the affections of America’s trigger-happy majority.

It’s tough to understand why he would do so, since a series of horrific events, the latest the massacre of children in Newtown, Connecticut, have left the gun lobby bleeding from self-inflicted wounds. This may have been the perfect opportunity to let it bleed.

To its credit, the Obama administration is at least proposing measures to curb the gruesome gun culture, but such political posturing blows holes in that message.

Meanwhile, in the fantasyville beyond the Beltway’s boundaries, Hollywood’s been whining over critics giving it the thumbs down for its gung-ho attitude to guns.

But as dream factories conjure the stuff of nightmares, you don’t need 3D glasses to see that when films portray larger-than-life gun battles, there’ll be outsized pushback.

Director Quentin Tarantino considers it “disrespectful” that the smoking gun’s been pointed at Los Angeles’ lalaland for the kill will of Americans, dodging the bullet points of accusations aimed at the industry. His most recent film, Django Unchained, tots up a body count far exceeding the 76 in his 2009 venture Inglourious Basterds.

Though it may even have turned Lincoln into a vampire hunter, this level of fantasy isn’t just Hollywood’s domain, there are plenty of bloodsuckers elsewhere. Sticking to the theme, there’s more Gore, the former American vice-president Al, who is set to earn a cool $100 million from the sale of the little-watched American cable channel Current TV to Qatar’s Al Jazeera.

Gore, who modestly credited himself with “creating the Internet”, ignored the inconvenient truth that he was, in fact, selling out to Big Oil, which fuels Qatar’s wealth. The good Dr Gore may be bound by his hypocrite’s oath.

Gore, too, has protested the charges levelled against him, though his bellyaching may have all the credibility of the Iranian government’s claim of having sent a macaque into space.

But falsity season has sprung in Washington. The nomination of Chuck Hagel as the country’s next Secretary of Defence is one instance of that. The former Republican Senator was as convincing during his confirmation hearings as Pakistan’s claims of fighting terrorism.

Meanwhile, the new Secretary of State John Kerry, already confirmed, announced that the Twitter messages he personally posted would be signed jk, in the way the president uses bo. Unfortunately for Kerry, in social mediaspeak, jk stands for ‘just kidding’, and his announcement prompted an immediate volley of mocking tweets. Perhaps, he just doesn’t want to be taken seriously.

Kerry may have been taking cues from Hillary Clinton, who was questioned on Capitol Hill about the Benghazi bungle that left a US ambassador and four other personnel dead last September, under her watch.

Quizzed about the administration’s earlier claims of how the attack started, she responded, with manufactured outrage: “What difference does it make?”

Perhaps in Washington, amid the cacophony of phoney, they’re just blasé over body counts. It’s time for the faux to pass.

Currently based in Toronto, Anirudh Bhattacharyya has been a New York-based foreign correspondent for eight years
The views expressed by the author are personal