Weaponizing Empathy: You reacted to the outrageous claim that I crafted specifically to outrage you. But I was just kidding. Now you know how I feel when you do rhetoric on me. (Or something.)

NRATV host Collins Idehen Jr (who goes by the name Colion Noir) made what appeared to be a serious call for legislation to restrict the First Amendment — then said he wanted people who were horrified by that call to know “That’s the same feeling gun owners get when they hear people say the same thing about the Second Amendment.”

Here’s part of the transcript (via SFGate):

These kids [shooters] aren’t being inspired by an innate hunk of plastic and metal laying on a table, they’re inspired by the infamous glory of past shooters who they relate to. And no entity on the planet does a better job, whether directly or indirectly, of glorying these killers, and thereby providing the inspiration for the next one, than our mainstream media.

It’s time to put an end to this glorification of carnage in pursuit of ratings, because it’s killing our kids. It’s time for Congress to step up and pass legislation putting common-sense limitations on our mainstream media’s ability to report on these school shootings. Pass a law preventing the media from reporting killer’s name or showing his face.

The speaker went on to emphasize:

I vehemently disagree with the government infringing on the media’s First Amendment’s rights, the same way I don’t think the government should infringe on anyone’s Second Amendment rights.

I won’t go into the (huge) differences between a call for stricter gun control and a call to curtail the freedom of the press (other than to say that the First Amendment says Congress “shall pass no law” that restricts the freedoms of the press or speech, and that the Second Amendment calls for a “well-regulated militia”).

My main point in sharing this detail is noting that, by making what seems to be a serious call for legislative action, this speaker seems to be counting on people to respond angrily to the threat, hiding behind the fig leaf of “I was only making a rhetorical point,” while at the same time stoking the anxieties of those who claim “the media” frequently lies and distorts the truth in order to push a certain worldview.

This strategy reminds me of Trump’s claim of last February that “the media” under-reported instances of terror attacks. After the White House released a list of instances of allegedly under-reported incidents, OCD journalists dutifully logged evidence that they had indeed covered those incidents.

One study turned up an average of more than 1000 news references for each incident on the WH list. If you recall, this was in the wake of Kellyanne Conway’s multiple references to a “Bowling Greene Massacre” that never, in fact, existed.

That segment of the public probably wasn’t terribly motivated to read the follow-up stories in which journalists attempted to prove that Trump’s criticisms were wrong.

The end result was that Trump got “the media” to focus the general public on the topic of international terrorism, while the segment of society that already believes journalists are liars could enjoy the irony that “the media” had been forced to report the criticisms voiced by the president.